The Seder That Wasn't

Jesus' Last Supper as recorded in the New Testament was not a seder as Jews know it today. So do interfaith seders make sense?

BY: Arthur Magida


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An interfaith group in town is holding a Jewish-Christian seder. My church has held a Christian seder for several years, but I've never heard of a seder being jointly held by the two faiths. Any idea how common this is and what I should expect if I go?

A joint Jewish-Christian seder can give members of both faiths a chance to understand each other's traditions and beliefs--literally on the spot and possibly through each other's eyes. Jews can see how--and maybe why --Christians equate their Savior with the blood of the lambs that saved the ancient Israelites on the eve of the Exodus; Christians can see how--and maybe why--Jews observe the full seder, one whose basic forms have been passed down from generation to generation starting near the end of the first century, C.E.--forms which are still evolving and still adapting to new and contemporary interpretations of the Passover story.

But let's set the record straight: The Last Supper, an event that according to the New Testament occurred circa 30 C.E., did not resemble the seder as Jews know it today: a meal with several important elements that are eaten in a certain way for certain symbolic reasons. The seder as we know it today didn't even begin to develop until after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E., about 40 years after Jesus was crucified.

In fact, even in the gospels, there are timing discrepancies regarding Jesus and Passover. Mark, for instance, says Jesus and the apostles had a Passover meal the night before his crucifixion; at the meal, Jesus interpreted the bread and wine served as his body and blood. But in his gospel, John mentions only a supper at which Jesus washes his disciples' feet. He also places the crucifixion before Passover.

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