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Scholar Challenges Thursday Date of Last Supper

LONDON (RNS) A top British scientist claims his biblical, historical and astronomical research shows Christians have been observing Jesus’ Last Supper on the wrong day of the week.

Cambridge University Professor Colin Humphreys says Jesus’ final meal with his disciples actually was eaten on the Wednesday before the Crucifixion — one day earlier than has been traditionally accepted.

The mix-up, Humphreys concludes in his new book, The Mystery of the Last Supper, may be because Jesus and disciples Matthew, Mark and Luke used one calendar, but fellow disciple John used another.

Humphreys notes the Gospels attributed to the first three claimed the last meal coincided with the Jewish Passover, whereas John’s Gospel says the meal took place “before” Passover.


Eminent biblical scholar F.F. Bruce once described that contradiction as “the thorniest problem in the New Testament,” but Humphreys said, “if we use science and the Gospels hand in hand, we can actually prove that there was no contradiction.”

Humphreys theorizes that Jesus employed an age-old Jewish calendar — perhaps dating back to the Exodus from Egypt — rather than the official lunar calendar popular at the time.

That, Humphreys said, would put the Passover and Last Supper meals on the Wednesday rather than Thursday, and means Jesus’ arrest, interrogation and trials were not all crammed into a single night but were instead spread over a longer period of time.

Humphreys based his project on earlier research he conducted with Oxford University astrophysicist Graeme Waddington 28 years ago, which established the date of the Crucifixion as Friday morning, April 3, 33 A.D.

– AL WEBB, Religion News Service

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    I understand Christmas is way off. And I wouldn’t think it really matters much. But I suppose it does to some.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    nnmns, first thing I thought of when I read the article too, was that Christmas is no where near when JC was probably born–so who cares if the Last Dinner is one day or 100 days off? The RCC and Orthodox Catholics can’t even agree when Easter is!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    The Gospel “writers” (compilers? editors?) were not all that concerned with the precise timing and coordination of events. They were using the narrative as a way to make theological points. Expecting the narrative to be consistent from one writer to the other is not very reasonable or likely. The flow of the story, from Passover to the garden to the arrest to the “trial(s)” is more important than what happened in each hour. That sort of literalistic attitude leads to idolatry of the story and loss of sense of Spirit that enables the reader and writer to breathe the same air (metaphorically speaking – of course they/we cannot literally breath the same air. I just thought I ought to be clear here). The question to ask is, Does this extra day have an effect on the intent of the narrative? I think there are more interesting points to ponder than narrative threads dangling like fringe on a bookmark.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment interpreter

    The professor is right. That means the crucifixion was on Thursday. That agrees with the facts. John tells us that the next day is not the Sabbath, but a high Sabbath, meaning Friday, the first day of the passover. There was also a solar eclipse on Thursday in 30 AD (April 10th if I remember right)as recorded in the Gospels on the day of His crucifixion, and verified by any star-tracking software. Plus Jesus prophesied that He would be dead for 3 days and 3 nights (which only could have happened if Jesus was crucified on Thursday).

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment stargazer

    A solar eclipse can only occur during a new moon. Passover begins at the full moon in the Hebrew month of Nissan (Nissan 15). Astronomically, there could have been no solar eclipes. But if you believe in miracles….

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Katie Angel

    Which, by definition, Christians do…….

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    I have often wondered about this. So the “eclipse” – darkness at noon – was another of many metaphors. I read somewhere that some scholars (I don’t know if they were astronomers) stated there was an eclipse April 3, 33 CE. It is from that statement that people have projected Jesus’ death in the year 33. If he were born in the year 6 BCE – year 1 of Tiberius reign and the year Herod broke ground for the new and improved Temple complex (could this birth year be another metaphor?), that would make him 39 years old at his death. (Some folks assume Jesus was born in the year 1, thus making him 33 years old at his death).

    We need to appreciate the metaphors and allow they to live and breathe as we live and breathe. Attempts to lock in scientific coincidences with theological purposes accomplishes little and only causes the chasm between science and religion to widen and deepen.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Interesting conversation. Professors, Astronomers, like to research and prove. It makes them happy. I don’t think people of faith will spend much time being concerned about it.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment stargazer


    I agree. The eclipse, earthquake, torn Temple curtain, the dead leaving their crypts, the centurion’s confession, dare I say, the empty tomb on the third day — all metaphors. I’m happy to leave them as such. But if a scientific/historic fact is used to try to prove the veracity of a biblical passage, scrutinity is called for. Personally, I love the gulf between religion and science — may it stay wide and deep — as the the old chestnut would have it: “One tells you how to go to heaven, the other how the heavens go.” And Henrietta22, is right: this all means nothing to the believer.(Speaking of old chestnuts: I want “I can swear there ain’t no heaven, and pray there ain’t no hell” on my grave stone.) To you and to everyone, Happy Pesach, Happy Easter. May sin and death be no more and next year in Jerusalem.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Amen, Stargazer. Happy Easter.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    “God bless the child … that got his own”.
    I agree about that chasm as long as thems what resides on one side does not try to denigrate thems what camps on the other (and it happens often from both sides). Extra blessings on all who float the balloons from one side to the other, and who walk the tight rope twixt the two sides.

    Joyous Easter, wondrous Passover, happy Spring Break, and have a good weekend, one and all.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    When you get to the place where you make your own assumptions about the bible then you are way beyond knowing Christ it is a myth and metaphor to you, you are way above faith or belief more into the realm of your own imaginations. Too bad, no Christ no miracles, no resurrection, just you, not far from an atheist. Good luck with that.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jestrfyl

    Happy Easter friend!

    Miracles without purpose leave only a magic show or a show of force. Neither of those fits the story. So I choose the Good Portion Jesus shared with Mary, and let the flash and funk of the miracles grab the attention of people who have not yet heard The Word that became flesh and dwelled among us. It’s all about The Word. Let those who have ears hear!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    Happy Easter, Jestrfyl!

    cknuck, I have a feeling that there are many who make their own assumptions about that book, those that minister and those that listen to those ministers. Taking things with a grain of salt and questions should never be discouraged. There is never just ONE answer.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    jest, “flash and funk” pagan I understand why your theology and jests come in alignment, also I understand why my theology does not and is offensive to you both.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Did you say alignment, maybe it’s about astrology that we disagree. The planets have a strange pull on humans they say.

    Happy Easter Rev. Jestrfyl! Wish we could have been at your service.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    word association H? a little simple minded, I would wish you happy Easter but I don’t know what it means to you.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    cknuck—What’s with the nasty statement to H22? Having a bad Easter day?

    Flash and funk pagan? What the heck does that mean? And why in this wide world would your theology be offensive to me? (can’t speak for jestrfyl) Do I disagree with your version? Sure, but that is not offensive, it might be classified as disagreement, but it sure as H*** isn’t offensive. Annoying maybe, but not offensive.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    pagan re-read before you mount your high horse the flash funk was a quote from jest, and the the word association is wheat it is re-read H’s post referring to my post. annoying or offensive is a mirror of you guys comments to me; a person of a different opinion. Any time a person posts here with a different opinion that your little crew you guys leap to the offensive and try to force your brand of then you get mad when I don’t buy and feed it back. lol

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    I wish people Happy Easter, Merry Christmas, Happy National Day of Prayer, etc., ck, without knowing what they mean to the people I’m wishing well. But you are probably right not to wish me Happy Easter since all you feel anytime for me is judgement.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    H you have no idea what I feel about you if you asked I would have told you but you assumed. Just because I have an difference of opinion does not mean I feel anymore judgment for you than you feel for me, your tactic does not work because I can see right through it.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    OK, cknuck, misread. To clarify I don’t get mad when I write things here—-that would be a waste of time, and energy. Life’s too short to get angry over some things that are in many ways trivial.
    So I’m back on a “low horse”. As to leaping TO the offensive—I state what I think—as do you. IMO that’s called disagreement—sometimes more disagreement than at other times.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    that’s true my friend, I appreciate your continued civility

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    Welcome, cknuck. Hope your Easter was a good one.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rick

    If astronomy can prove that the Last Supper occurred on Wednesday, that is fine: However, the Scriptures already prove that. The Last Supper was on Wednesday, the crucifixion was on Thursday prior to sundown, and the resurrection took place on Saturday night, prior to sunrise Sunday morning. Christ died on Thursday prior to sundown – this is day one. Thursday night is night one. Friday is day two, followed by Friday night which is night two. Saturday is day three, following by Saturday night which is night three. Since He rose prior to sunrise on Sunday morning, then we need not be concerned that there was a day four in contradiction to the teachings of the Bible. I do not know of a church or denomination that teaches this correctly. It may not be an important point to some of the commentators here: However; this sequence proves the veracity of the Scriptures.

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