When Was The Last Supper?

September 27th, 2013 by Oleg Kostyuk

The Last Supper according to John

On our last episode of Cross Connection we launched a new segment titled Hidden Treasures. In it we presented that, according to the Gospel of John, the Last Supper took place before the Passover Meal and revealed why this was so significant. After the show we received questions from viewers asking us to explain the differences in when Last Supper took place between the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and the Gospel of John. Perhaps you have the same question, so let’s investigate this together.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that the fact that there are a few minor deviations in the Gospel accounts is not something that renders them illegitimate. If anything, it adds a layer of authenticity. For instance, if you were to get four witnesses of an event together to recall what happened, you would most likely get the same message with perhaps a few discrepancies in the minor details: such as one person may remember someone as wearing a blue shirt and another may remember it as purple. But the basic message would be consistent, and this is true of the Gospels as well. There are only a few minor differences, but the message is remarkably consistent. One of these minor differences is the exact day of the Last Supper.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all clearly state that the Last Supper took place during the Passover. This means that Jesus and his disciples had their evening meal on the day when the lambs were slaughtered in the Temple. In fact, each of the Synoptic Gospels has an almost exact wording of the following verse, “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, ‘Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?'” (Mark 14:12, cf. Matthew 26:17, Luke 22:7). So, according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke,  the Last Supper clearly took place on the first day of Passover. However, when we get to the Gospel of John, the Last Supper takes place on a completely different day. John 13:1 states that the last Supper took place “before the Feast of the Passover.” He includes more allusions to this, such as – during the Last Supper – the disciples thinking that Judas went out to “buy those things needed for the feast” (John 13:29). To emphasize this point even further, John states that the Pharisees and those who arrested Jesus did not enter the Praetorium “lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover” (John 18:28). John’s Gospel clearly deviates from the other three Gospels to state that Jesus was actually crucified on the first day of the Passover: the very same day when the lambs were slaughtered in the Temple.

So which is right, the Synoptic Gospels or the Gospel of John? Of course, it’s impossible for us to know for certain. It would most likely make sense to assume that the Synoptic Gospels present the more historically-accurate date of the Last Supper, since they are all three in accord and were all written closer to the date of the Last Supper than the Gospel of John was. But here’s what we do know, and it leads us to the most important point: John’s Gospel was written around 90 A.D., about 60 years after the Last Supper took place. By that point, accounts of the life of Jesus had already been written, such as Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As we discussed in a previous article, the Gospels represent a very unique brand of literature that is a fusion of both history and theology. But, ultimately, the most important goal was to present a theological message; and this is especially true of John. If John details the Last Supper as only a day off from when it really happened, we can forgive him for it because he was writing six decades after the fact. You see, if he waited that long to record his Gospel, it’s fair to assume that 100% historical/chronological accuracy was no longer his main concern. No, John’s chief goal was to tell us who Jesus really was; and that’s why his detailing of the Last Supper taking place the day before the passover is so significant. It means, according to John, Jesus was crucified on the day of the Passover; the day the sacrificial lambs were slaughtered and then eaten. This cements the point that he makes throughout his Gospel, starting in the very first chapter when he writes that Jesus is “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29).
For more on why this date is so significant to John’s Gospel, check out this Hidden Treasures video:

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4 Responses to “When Was The Last Supper?”

  1. On September 27, 2013 at 10:43 pm Mozart Desrosiers responded with... #

    Jesus’ ministry on earth was an amalgamation of sacrifices. First one was that He emptied Himself of His Glory in heaven. In fact Phil 2:5-8 encapsulated the sequence of all the sacrifices He made. Through the last supper, He humbled himself to the feet of he which betrayed Him. His example is indeed indelible!

  2. On September 28, 2013 at 11:54 pm Melissa responded with... #

    From what I understand, the other Gospels do not state that the Jesus ate Passover feast as the last supper.

  3. On September 29, 2013 at 6:21 am Willem Thierry responded with... #

    Dear Brother.
    The Bible is accurate , the simple question we must ask is: When did the next day begin? My answer is at sunset. John was right in all accounts, and to suggest otherwise, is very wrong.

  4. On May 28, 2014 at 10:12 am Rick responded with... #

    The feast of unleavened bread and the Passover are 2 different feasts. The feast of unleavened bread pre dates Passover, celebrated at the beginning of Harvest season in Hebrew culture. The harvest time fell around spring time, Moses was commanded to celebrate Passover at spring time, through the 1st and 2nd Temples ,the 2 celebrations became one, celebrated together. The Seder Passover is the celebration Jesus used as the background ( I have longed to eat this meal with you) for instituting the new covenant. Jesus fulfilling Gods plan of Salvation reformed and instituted a new priesthood (ez 34) and restored the throne of David by an unbroken line of faith from Adam to Joseph and making a covenant /kingdom /church on earth with the apostles as the stewards, St. Peter the vicar of that kingdom(Solomon),establishing Heaven on earth and a new covenant with the world. Jesus is the eternal high priest /king (ps110) so there are no successors, but a vicar. The last supper was instituted as the beginning of our exodus from sin. Jesus the new Moses leads the world, and as Moses was given the memorial institution of Passover, Jesus gives us the new Passover,breaking of bread, The Eucharist. A perpetual renewal of the covenant. And as we see in the Gospel road to Emmaus, the risen Jesus will not be seen in word alone, but in the breaking of bread,later called the Eucharist but Mass celebrated from the ascension to present ,and referenced by St Paul in his epistles. The Gospels are accurate, but most importantly show the institutions of the priesthood and testament with a memorial commandment to the Apostles, which is STILL being faithfully observed in the Church of Christ, the Church that is Everywhere. (iklessia katolike)

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