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Jerusalern: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat Lake xxii. 10.
thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of
Epiphanius, Hær. 51. cum anim adv. Petavi, on the other hand, broadly asserts that the Jews, in our Saviour's time, followed the calculations of a faulty and inaccurate lunar cycle, by means of which they anticipated, in the year of his crucifixion, the proper period for the celebration of the passover by two days, Petavius defends this opinion ; and he and Kepler have both, with much labour, endeavoured to draw out a set of tables upon the principles which Epiphanius has laid down; but there is so much obscurity, and even contradiction, in the passage in which that father treats upon the subject, that it would be quite impossible to say whether they are right or wrong in their conclusions.
The rabbinical doctors (and Maimonides in particular) have referred to a third method, and stated that the ancient Jews reckoned the beginning of their months from the phasis of the moon, and that their present mode of calculation was not introduced until after the final dispersion of the nation. Before that period, they assert, that there were in Judæa several ovvéopla, or committees, (as we should term them,) under the general superintendence, and, as it were, branches of a central committee fixed at Jerusalem. The members of this committee were in possession of certain tables, containing calculations of the motions of the moon, which being inspected, it was thence determined when the new moon ought and would most probably appear. They sent out some approved and steady persons to observe whether the moon did appear at the time at which they expected her appearance, or not. If these persons beheld the phasis on the night after the twenty-ninth of the current month, they immediately proclaimed the new moon; thus determining what would otherwise have been the thirtieth day of the current month, to be the first of the succeeding one. If the watchers did not return with intelligence of the observation of the phasis before the night after the thirtieth day of the current month, they fixed the commencement of the succeeding month on the following day, making the current month consist of thirty days. In other words, they determined the current month to consist of twentynine or thirty days, according as their watchers did, or did not return with intelligence of having seen the new moon before the conclusion of the thirtieth day.
After the central committee had thus fixed the day of the new moon, messengers were sent to the several cities within the distance of a ten day's journey from the metropolis, to announce the fact. The council at Jerusalem, however, did not settle for themselves, and their own practice, whether the intercalary month should consist of twenty-nine or thirty days, until the conclusion of that month and the appearance of the new moon of the succeeding month Nisan, had pointed out which number of days it ought to consist of. Hence it is evia dent that there might, and would sometimes be, a difference between the members of the Jerusalem council and the rest of the Jews, in their mode of reckoning the first day of the month Nisan. If the council announced to the nation at large an intercalary month of twenty-nine days only, and afterwards found out that they were wrong in their calculations, and that it ought to have consisted of thirty days, it is evident that in that year the persons composing and adhering to the practice of the council, would differ from the rest of the Jews in counting
Luke xxii: 17. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and Jerusalem...
said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves :
the first, and therefore the fifteenth day of Nisan. What was the fifteenth of Nisan to the one, would be the sixteenth to the other; and perhaps some circumstance of this nature, at present unknown to us, may have occasioned the difference, if there really was any difference, amongst the Jews, as to the day of the celebration of the passover in the year of our Lord's crucifixion. Perhaps from this very cause we may explain why, as is supposed by many, our Saviour and his disciples, and the generality of the Jews, sacrificed the paschal lamb on the evening of the Thursday, and the Scribes and Pharisees, and others, not until that of the Friday in Passion week; in other words, why our Lord considered the Friday, and others the Saturday, as the fifteenth day of Nisan ; but, without insisting further upon this, it is plain that the proclamation of the time of the new moon's appearance did not always determine the Jews in fixing the first day of the month, and more especially that it did not always do so with regard to Nisan. This is sufficient to shew, that we are still in such a degree of ignorance with regard to the method of calculating the Jewish months and years, as to prevent our deciding with absolute certainty upon the day on which the passover took place in the year of our blessed Saviour's crucifixion.
The learned Cudworth, in his admirable treatise on the Jewish passover, has proved, from the Talmud, Mishna, and some of the most reputable of the Jewish Rabbins, that the ancient Jews, about our Saviour's time, often solemnized as well the passovers as the other feasts, upon the ferias next before and after the sabbaths. And that the Jews in ancient times reckoned the new moons not according to astronomical exactness, but according to the paois, or moon's appearance; and, as this appearance might happen a day later than the real time, consequently there might be a whole day of difference in the time of celebrating one of these feasts, which depended on a particular day of the month; the days of the month being counted from the paols, or appearance of the new moon. As he describes the manner of doing this, both from the Babylonish Talmud, and from Maimonides, I shall give an extract from this part of his work, that my readers may have the whole argument before them.
“In the great, or outer court, there was a house called Beth Yazek, where the senate sat all the 30th day of every month, to receive the witnesses of the moon's appearance, and to examine them. If there came approved witnesses on the 30th day, who could state they had seen the new moon, the chief man of the senate stood up, and cried vipa, mekuddash, “it is sanctified ;” and the people, standing by, caught the word from him, and cried mekuddash! mekuddash! But if, when the consistory had sat all the day, and there came no approved witnesses of the phasis, or appearance of the new moon, then they made an intercalation of one day in the former month, and decreed the following one and thirtieth day to be the calends. But, if after the fourth or fifth day, or even before the end of the month, respectable witnesses came from far, and testified they had seen the new moon, in its due time: the senate were bound to alter the beginning of the month, and reckon it a day sooner, viz. from the thirtieth day. • “As the senate were very unwilling to be at the trouble of a second consecration, when they had even fixed on a wrong day, and therefore received very reluctantly the testimony of such witnesses as those last mentioned, they afterwards
For I say unto you, I will not drink of the Lukexxii, 18. fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.
made a statute to this effect-That whatsoever time the senate should conclude on for the calends of the month, though it were certain they were in the wrong, yet all were bound to order their feasts according to it. This, Dr. Cudworth supposes, actually took place in the time of our Lord, and “ as it is not likely that our Lord would submit to this perversion of the original custom, and that following the true paois, or appearance of the new moon, confirmed by sufficient witnesses, he and his disciples ate the passover on that day; but the Jews, following the pertinacious decree of the Sanhedrim, did not eat it till the day following." Dr. Cudworth further shews from Epiphanius, that there was contention, Oópvbos, a tumult, among the Jews about the passover, that very year. Hence, it is likely that the real paschal day observed by our Lord, his disciples, and many other pious Jews, who adopted the true paous, phasis, was only the preparation or antecedent evening to others, who acted on the decree of the Sanhedrim. Besides, it is worthy of notice, that not only the Karaîtes, who do not acknowledge the authority of the Sanhedrim, but also the Rabbins themselves grant, that where the case is doubtful, the passover should be celebrated with the same ceremonies, two days together; and it was always doubtful when the appearance of the new moon could not be fully ascertained."
In corroboration of this opinion, Bishop Pearce supposes, that it was lawful for the Jews to eat the paschal lamb at any time, between the evening of Thursday, and that of Friday; and that this permission was necessary, because of the immense number of lambs which were to be killed for that purpose, as in one year there were not fewer than 256,500 lambs offered. See Josephus, War, b. vii. c. ix. sect. 3. In Matt. xxvi. 17. it is said, “ Now the first day of the least of unleavened bread (Tŷ dè a púty tūv áfújwv) the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?” As the feast of unleavened bread did not begin till the day after the passover, the fifteenth day of the month (Lev. xxiii. 5, 6. Nuin. xxviii. 16, 17.) this could not have been properly the first day of that feast: but as the Jews began to eat unleavened bread on the fourteenth day, (Exod. xii. 18.) this day was often termed the first of unleavened bread. Now it appears that the Evangelists use it in this sense, and call even the paschal day by this name. See Mark xiv. 12, Luke xxii. 7.
Mr. Benson's profound and sagacious reasoning on the time of our Lord's crucifixion, can only be appreciated by those who are acquainted with the difficulties of this subject, and have followed his argument through all its ramifications. It is to be regretted, that the learned men who have endeavoured to decide this point, have not sufficiently examined the data, which enabled Mr, Benson to come to his very satisfactory conclusions. That the reader may perceive the discrepancies to which I allude, I here subjoin from Bowyer the various decisions of former chronologers.
" It has been computed," he observes, “ that from the twentieth to the fortieth year of Christ, the only passover full moon which fell on a Friday, was April 3, A.D. 33, in the year of the Julian Period 4746. And yet Mr. Mann, in support of his hypothesis, computes it to have been so likewise March 22, Jerusalem.
MATT. xxvi. part of ver. 20. 20 Now-he sat down with the twelve.
A.D. 26, Julian Period 4739. Differences there will be, while some calculate by astronomical full moons, others by cycles; and while we know not whether the Jews kept the true or the mean full moons; or what cycle they followed. That which prevailed in the time of Epiphanius, Dodwell observes, De Cyclis, p. 429, was different from the Calippic, the Hippolytan, and from what the Jews now follow; from which last, however, Scaliger and Mr. Mann compute, And even, if we knew the cycle, what certainty could we expect when Maimonides, and other writers, tell us, that in a backward season they occasionally in, tercalated a month, that the harvest might be ripe enough to have the first fruits of it offered on the second day of the passover (a)?
“ Sir Isaac Newton, in his Observations on Prophecies, p. 163, mentions an, other Jewish rule for calculating the time of the passover. To avoid the inconveniences of two Sabbaths together, which prevented burying their dead, and making ready fresh meat, &c. they postponed their month a day, as often as the third of the month Nisan was Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday; and this rule they called 178 Adu, by the letters x, 7, 1, signifying the 1st, 4th, and 6th days of the week, which days we call Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday.
“ Postponing therefore (a day in) the passover months above, the 14th day of the month Nisan, (which, A.D. 31, fell on Tuesday, March 27,) will fall on Wednesday, March 28.
“ In A,D. 32, (which fell on Sunday, April 13,) will fall on Monday, April
“ In A.D. 33, (which fell on Friday, April 3,) will fall on Friday, April 3, likewise.
“In A.D. 34, (which fell on Wednesday, March 24, or rather, for the avoiding the equinox, which fell on the same day, and for having a fitter time for the harvest, on Thursday, April 22,) will fall on Friday, April 23.
“In A.D. 36, (which fell on Tuesday, April 12,) will fall on Wednesday April 13.
" In A.D. 36, (which fell on Saturday, March 31,) will fall likewise on the same day."
Here the 33rd and 34th are both years on which the passover fell on a Fri. day; and Sir Isaac Newton determines for the 34th, two years after 32, when the passover fell very late.
I shall subjoin the several computations of the paschal full moons, by Roger Bacon, in his Opus Magnum, p. 131, Jos. Scaliger and Nic. Mann, De veris, annis N. D. Jesu Christi, &c. p. 239. R. Dodwell, De Cyclis, p. 848. Mr. Ferguson in his Astronomy, Sir Isaac Newton on the Prophecies, and Lamy in his Harmony, by which the reader will judge with what variety they have all been certain.
(a) Vide Dr. A. Clarke on the Eucharist, second edit. 1814, p. 9-15. Benson's Chronology of the Life of Christ, p. 222, &c.-Bowyer's Critical Conjec. tures.-Clarke's Commentary on the passages in St. Matthew, in which the account of the last passover is given.-Cudworth's Treatise, printed at the end of the Intellectual System.-- Jackson's Chronology, vol. ii. p. 19.
April 18. 2 38
April 8. 5.58 Mat.
And supper being ended, [come]
LUKE xxii. 24—28. JOHN xiii. 2—17.