Author Topic: The Pope suggests that Jesus celebrated an Essene Passover acc to the Essene Calendar  (Read 5020 times)

Offline hpj0828

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Dear Daves and Rick,



On Holy Thursday, 2007, Pope Benedict made a fascinating suggestion:

Perhaps Jesus celebrated the Last Supper Passover Seder according to the Essene solar

Calendar, rather than the rabbinic lunar calendar.



This suggestion resolves certain longstanding issues:

1. John's gospel has Jesus crucified on the day the lambs were slain, that is, the day before Passover.  While the synoptic gospels show us Jesus celebrating the Passover with his disciples.  How do we account for this apparent discrepancy?

2. At some point in history, the afikomen was substituted for the lamb in the seder celebration.  Who did this, and when?  

3. Jesus' seder does not contain any reference to lamb.  Why?  This fact, along with the dating issue has made some scholars suggest that Jesus' Last Supper wasn't a passover seder at all, despite the clear statements in the synoptic gospels that it was.



If Jesus celebrated an Essene seder on the date of Passover according to the Essene calendar, this could explain all these points.

1. Jesus was crucified on the day the lambs were slain according to the Temple lunar calendar.

2. Jesus celebrated an Essene seder, which could not have contained lamb, since they were estranged from the Temple establishment and did not offer sacrifices at the Temple.  

3. The Essene seder could have been celebrated the day before Passover, if this was the date indicated on the Essene calendar.

4. The Essenes may be the origin of the afikomen ritual, since they would have needed a substitute for the Passover lamb from their break away from the temple in 150BC.  The Therapeutae, an Alexandrian sect mentioned by Philo, based upon his description of their customs, seem to have been Essenes.  Since Alexandrian Jews were Greek speaking, they could have had a Greek language seder which could be the origin for the Greek word afikomen from afikomenos--the Coming One from afar (heaven).  Afikomenos comes from apo-from afar and erkomenos--the Coming One.  The erkomenos is a Messianic Title appearing in Septuagint version of Ps. 118:26, Daniel 7:13 and Habbakuk 2:3.

5. If so, Jesus could have explained his role as Passover sacrifice by referencing the afikomen which could have been at that time an existing Essene custom, 2 centuries old.



Do you know how I would research his sources on this?  Can they be found on a Vatican website?  Is there some RC scholar I could contact on this?



Note that I have found the homily in which the Pope makes this suggestion at:



Click here for source



For reference, the text of the homily is below.





HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of St John Lateran
Holy Thursday, 5 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Reading from the Book of Exodus which we have just heard, the celebration of the Passover of Israel is described, just as in Mosaic Law it found its definitive form.

At the outset, it might have been a spring feast for nomads. For Israel, however, it was transformed into a commemorative feast of thanksgiving and, at the same time, hope.

The centre of the Passover meal, regulated by specific liturgical provisions, was the lamb as the symbol of Israel's redemption from slavery in Egypt.

For this reason the paschal haggada was an integral part of the Passover meal based on lamb: the narrative commemoration of the fact that it had been God himself who set Israel free by "stretching out his hand".

He, the mysterious and hidden God, had shown himself to be stronger than Pharaoh, in spite of all the power that Pharaoh could muster.

Israel was never to forget that God had personally taken the history of his People in hand and that this history was based permanently on communion with God. Israel must not forget God.

The words of the commemoration were surrounded by words of praise and thanksgiving taken from the Psalms. Thanking and blessing God reached its culmination in the berakah, which in Greek is eulogia or eucaristia: praising God becomes a blessing for those who bless him. The offering given to God comes back blessed to man.

All this built a bridge from the past to the present and toward the future: Israel had not yet been liberated. The nation was still suffering, like a small people, in the sphere of tension between the great powers.

Thus, remembering with gratitude God's past action became at the same time supplication and hope: Bring to completion what you have begun! Grant us freedom once and for all!

It was on the eve of his Passion that Jesus together with his disciples celebrated this meal with its multiple meanings. This is the context in which we must understand the new Passover which he has given to us in the Blessed Eucharist.

There is an apparent discrepancy in the Evangelists' accounts, between John's Gospel on the one hand, and what on the other Mathew, Mark and Luke tell us.

According to John, Jesus died on the Cross at the very moment when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the temple. The death of Jesus and the sacrifice of the lambs coincided.
However, this means that he must have died the day before Easter and could not, therefore, have celebrated the Passover meal in person - this, at any rate, is how it appears.


According to the three Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper of Jesus was instead a Passover meal into whose traditional form he integrated the innovation of the gift of his Body and Blood.

This contradiction seemed unsolvable until a few years ago. The majority of exegetes were of the opinion that John was reluctant to tell us the true historical date of Jesus' death, but rather chose a symbolic date to highlight the deeper truth: Jesus is the new, true Lamb who poured out his Blood for us all.

In the meantime, the discovery of the [Dead Sea] Scrolls at Qumran has led us to a possible and convincing solution which, although it is not yet accepted by everyone, is a highly plausible hypothesis. We can now say that John's account is historically precise.

Jesus truly shed his blood on the eve of Easter at the time of the immolation of the lambs.
In all likelihood, however, he celebrated the Passover with his disciples in accordance with the Qumran calendar, hence, at least one day earlier; he celebrated it without a lamb, like the Qumran community which did not recognize Herod's temple and was waiting for the new temple.


Consequently, Jesus celebrated the Passover without a lamb - no, not without a lamb: instead of the lamb he gave himself, his Body and his Blood. Thus, he anticipated his death in a manner consistent with his words: "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (Jn 10: 18).

At the time when he offered his Body and his Blood to the disciples, he was truly fulfilling this affirmation. He himself offered his own life. Only in this way did the ancient Passover acquire its true meaning.

In his Eucharistic catecheses, St John Chrysostom once wrote: Moses, what are you saying? Does the blood of a lamb purify men and women? Does it save them from death? How can the blood of an animal purify people, save people or have power over death? In fact, Chrysostom continues, the immolation of the lamb could be a merely symbolic act, hence, the expression of expectation and hope in One who could accomplish what the sacrifice of an animal was incapable of accomplishing.
The Lamb and Temple


Jesus celebrated the Passover without a lamb and without a temple; yet, not without a lamb and not without a temple. He himself was the awaited Lamb, the true Lamb, just as John the Baptist had foretold at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1: 29).

And he himself was the true Temple, the living Temple where God dwells and where we can encounter God and worship him. His Blood, the love of the One who is both Son of God and true man, one of us, is the Blood that can save. His love, that love in which he gave himself freely for us, is what saves us. The nostalgic, in a certain sense, ineffectual gesture which was the sacrifice of an innocent and perfect lamb, found a response in the One who for our sake became at the same time Lamb and Temple.

Thus, the Cross was at the centre of the new Passover of Jesus. From it came the new gift brought by him, and so it lives on for ever in the Blessed Eucharist in which, down the ages, we can celebrate the new Passover with the Apostles.

From Christ's Cross comes the gift. "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord". He now offers it to us.

The paschal haggada, the commemoration of God's saving action, has become a memorial of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ - a memorial that does not simply recall the past but attracts us within the presence of Christ's love.

Thus, the berakah, Israel's prayer of blessing and thanksgiving, has become our Eucharistic celebration in which the Lord blesses our gifts - the bread and wine - to give himself in them.
Let us pray to the Lord that he will help us to understand this marvellous mystery ever more profoundly, to love it more and more, and in it, to love the Lord himself ever more.


Let us pray that he will increasingly draw us to himself with Holy Communion. Let us pray that he will help us not to keep our life for ourselves but to give it to him and thus to work with him so that people may find life: the true life which can only come from the One who himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.


Edited to shorten link
HPJ

Offline Annie

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I just "googled" "Jesus celebrating the essene passover" and got lots of hits.

This is a common belief among the "search for the historical Jesus" people. As a Methodist, I had heard pastors say that Jesus was probably an Essene but had no idea where the pastors got that idea. Presumably it was taught at their seminary (MeTheScO, the Methodist Theological School of Ohio).

I had heard this from other sources as well to explain the timing discrepancy. The timing was explained away by one (evangelical) source as saying that some people simply celebrated Passover over several days but this made no sense, given the instructions in the Bible as to how and when to celebrate it.
Annie
Ora et labora

Offline Annie

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i found pages of this on the web, looks interesting:

Click here.


Edited to shorten link
Annie
Ora et labora

Online David W. Emery

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I’ve heard rumblings of this theory over the years, Henry. Mostly it was a vague reference to the use of “different calendars,” without mentioning the Essenes by name.

It is curious, however, that Jesus is through this idea linked to the Essenes, for I do not see where he had ties with any of the sects. Why should he? He is the Son of God and therefore above sects and opinions. He had proclaimed that the Scribes and the Pharisees “sat in Moses’ chair,” so that the people should respect and obey them, but he excoriated them nonetheless. There is no biblical mention of the Essenes, and although John the Baptist may have been raised among them, he is not, it seems, “claimed” by them as one of their own. Nor is there any evidence of contact between John and Jesus until they both embarked upon their public ministries. On the other hand, I cannot say that any of these links is “impossible.” So the theory lives on.

David

Offline JillD

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Are these two dates always separated by one day?  If not, and considering this possibility, would it lend itself to determining the actual year of Christ's death and resurrection?  I have read that 33 AD is not absolute. 

Jill
"I praise you, for I am wondrously made.  Wonderful are our works!  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret."   Ps 139
"Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men."  Ps 140

Online David W. Emery

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I have read that 33 AD is not absolute.

Scholars are generally agreed, based on correlation of the dating of known historical figures, that Jesus of Nazareth was born between 4 and 7 BC and died probably in 30 AD. The current numbering of years (1 AD being the “zero point” when Jesus was born) was made in the 6th century and is based on pre-scientific data. The idea that Jesus died in 33 AD is an assumption based on the biblical statement that he began his public ministry when he was “about 30 years of age” and died about three years later. (Even this is an approximation in the biblical text — St. Luke’s gospel — but it is inexplicably taken as exact by almost everyone). But if he was born between 4 and 7 BC, and there is no zero AD, then the figures are at least three years off to begin with.

David

Offline hpj0828

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Hi everyone,

Thanks for your help!  I liked the book link to Charlesworth's book on the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It is an edited version of the papers given in the 1997 DSS conference at Princeton Seminary.  I was thrilled to be there at that conference in my first year as a student at PTS.  I was there when these papers were originally presented.  I had the opportunity to help as a kind of student "gofer" for the conference.

As to the death of Jesus in 33 AD rather than 30 AD, the main reason some scholars go for this date is astronomical.  Acts 2 refers to the prophecy of Joel who states that the sun will be darkened and the moon turn to blood on the day of the Lord.  Peter follows this citation by reminding his listeners, most of whom are pilgrims who typically stayed in Jerusalem from Passover through Pentecost to take in both pilgrim holidays, since they were making the trip, that they were eyewitnesses of these phenomena.

The sun turning dark for three hours is a little mysterious astronomically, since, though there was a solar eclipse on the Friday before Passover week in 33AD, it would not have created a three hour blackout in Jerusalem.  On the other hand, several Greek pagan sources mention this blackout in 33AD.

The moon turning to blood has a clear astronomical solution.  On the Friday before Passover in 33AD, the moon rose in full lunar eclipse creating what the ancients called a "blood moon".

33 AD is the only date that explains these astronomical phenomena.

Henry
HPJ

Online David W. Emery

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As to the death of Jesus in 33 AD rather than 30 AD, the main reason some scholars go for this date is astronomical.

Agreed. But this assumes that the darkness, etc., was a natural phenomenon, which is unproved. There is no reason why it could not have been miraculous, especially considering the difficulty presented by the naturalistic explanation, which you have described as “mysterious” and an astronomer would consider “impossible.” Solar eclipses do not last three hours, period.

David

Offline hpj0828

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Dave,

Good point.  But, the issue is not the cause of these astronomical events (whether "natural" like a lunar eclipse, or "supernatural" like the phenomenon of 3 hrs of darkness may have been), but rather whether we have reliable evidence about when these phenomena may occur.

In the case of the 3 hours of darkness, Eusebius quotes a pagan 2nd-century historian Phlegon of Tralles that during the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (AD 32/33) "a great eclipse of the sun occurred at the sixth hour that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea".

Chronicle, Olympiad 202, trans. Carrier (1999).

In the case of the lunar eclipse, we have astronomical evidence of a blood moon at Passover 33AD.

So, regardless of how you explain these phenomena, the issue of dating seems to be confirmed.

Unless, someone can show me similar sources for 30 AD, I would stick with 33AD.

H.
HPJ

Offline JillD

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Henry,

In my days worshiping - how do you phrase this when you're not Jewish? - as a "Messianic Jew,"  I recall some interesting conversation about Jesus' age when he died.  Since there are so many 40's in Scripture, we talked about how, if He were born in 7 BC, or so, and died in 33 AD, He would have been 40.  Am I stretching things a bit here?  I just find it an elegant confirmation of the consistency of Scriptural events.

Jill
"I praise you, for I am wondrously made.  Wonderful are our works!  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret."   Ps 139
"Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men."  Ps 140

Online David W. Emery

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Quote from: hpj0828
But, the issue is not the cause of these astronomical events (whether "natural" like a lunar eclipse, or "supernatural" like the phenomenon of 3 hrs of darkness may have been), but rather whether we have reliable evidence about when these phenomena may occur.

Exactly. You go on to quote Phlegon of Tralles about a “great eclipse of the sun” which supposedly occurred in AD 32/33. Yet the places he mentions — Tralles, Bithynia and Nicaea — are in present-day Turkey, quite some distance from Jerusalem. Total solar eclipses are not widespread. If it was total where he was, it would have been only partial in Jerusalem. In any case, there is no evidence that the darkness experienced in Jerusalem was widespread and likewise no evidence that the darkness in Turkey lasted three hours. So we are not forced to link the two occurrences.

Further, who says that we have to have independent confirmation to accept that something occurred? It’s nice when we have it, but many biblical events have to be taken on faith, according to the inspired word of God. Considering the other corroborating historical events that would place Jesus’ death in AD 30, I do not see how either side of the question has enough evidence to be convincing.

Understand, Henry, that I am playing devil’s advocate here. My own opinion is this: We can speculate all we want, and we are free to believe whatever is reasonable, but there is still not enough evidence to say for sure whether one or another natural phenomenon is being referred to or whether the event in Jerusalem was or was not of the natural realm — let alone what the exact dates were.

Quote from: JillD
I recall some interesting conversation about Jesus' age when he died. Since there are so many 40's in Scripture, we talked about how, if He were born in 7 BC, or so, and died in 33 AD, He would have been 40. Am I stretching things a bit here? I just find it an elegant confirmation of the consistency of Scriptural events.

Yes, Jill, I think this is a bit of a stretch. We know from St. Luke’s gospel that Jesus began his public ministry at approximately the age of 30. If he died at age 40, he would have had a decade of public ministry. Yet the chronology in the gospels shows that it lasted about three years.

The three year figure is also by far the more plausible, given the pressure being applied both by the Jewish authorities and the civil government to contain the zeal and disruption caused by that ministry. That Jesus lasted so long is a wonder, as he himself points out on several occasions — that the Father is controlling events, and that all will be completed in due course in spite of the tightening noose of the authorities.

David

Offline hpj0828

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There is an explosion of new knowledge in the area of Biblical studies from archaeology and textual analysis.  Every day, our knowledge increases in these areas.  Many areas of Biblical knowledge that yesterday were merely areas of speculation are today areas of historical knowledge.

For example, a hundred years ago, no one knew to whom Jesus referred in the sermon on the Mount when he said:  "You have heard it said that you shall love your neighbor, but hate your enemy.."  Knowing only rabbinic sources, no one could be identified who taught this doctrine of hatred for one's enemies.  Prominent 1st C Pharisees taught the opposite!

Now that we have 1QS, the Community Rule from Qumran, we have identified that the Essenes taught this doctrine quite explicitly.  So, a 2 thousand year old mystery that was the subject of much speculation for centuries has moved into the area of certain historical knowledge.

I'm interested in the expanding boundaries of this area of knowledge through scholarly research and debate.

If the Bible tells us that there was a massive outage of the sun and a blood moon, someone saw this, whether it was "an eclipse" as 21st C science understands it, or "an eclipse" as a 1st C observer would understand this.  Peter's Pentecost sermon implies that his audience were all eyewitnesses to these "signs in the heavens" to use a "miraculously neutral" phrase.  Since there were eyewitnesses to this event, there may very well be evidence from other sources that help complete our understanding of how it took place.

The Pope is apparently of the opinion that the problem of the chronology of the Last Supper may be moving in the direction from speculation to knowledge.  He was confident enough about this to include it in a homily on Holy Thursday of 2007.

This kind of thing gets my attention.  I want to learn what scholarship his proposition is based upon.  I would like to learn what new information has moved the debate in this direction, even though it has not yet reached closure.

I've just been to the Princeton Seminary Library doing a little digging.  Bargil Pixner, O.S.B. is an archaeologist who has been digging in the Southwest corner of Jerusalem in the Mount Zion area.  He details evidence from mikvaot, gravesites, and synagogues/worship structures that suggest that Essenes and Jewish Christians lived in the same Essene quarter of the city.  I'm currently weighing his argument from this evidence that it increases the likeliness of the Last Supper being celebrated according to Essene calendar.  Along with several other sources of varying opinion, I'm looking into whether there is now more evidence, one way or the other.

cf. Mount Zion  in Jesus and Archaeology, ed. James H. Charlesworth, (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI) 2006, p. 309-322.

The way which the church moves forward in scholarship comes from the contributions of individual scholars.  I simply don't believe in looking backward at what the church has already proclaimed and taught, as though the earth still had 4 corners!  As new knowledge and revelation come to her, her understanding of her past and its meaning will increase.

H.
HPJ

Online David W. Emery

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The Pope is apparently of the opinion that the problem of the chronology of the Last Supper may be moving in the direction from speculation to knowledge. He was confident enough about this to include it in a homily on Holy Thursday of 2007.

This kind of thing gets my attention. I want to learn what scholarship his proposition is based upon. I would like to learn what new information has moved the debate in this direction, even though it has not yet reached closure.

I think this puts us in agreement.

Quote
I simply don't believe in looking backward at what the church has already proclaimed and taught, as though the earth still had 4 corners!  As new knowledge and revelation come to her, her understanding of her past and its meaning will increase.

On the other hand, after more than 50 years of reflection on the mysteries of the Christian faith, it is clear to me that the old wine is good.

Science will always be working to advance, but enthusiasms come and go. The faith, however, was given once for all to the saints (cf. Jude 3, 5); in this sense, there is no “new revelation.” But I understand what you mean: that through the gift of the Holy Spirit we grow in our understanding of what we have, just as we grow in grace and virtue. I’ve seen this in my own life. In fact, just a few days ago I was given new insight on a question that had long plagued me about baptism in the Holy Spirit.

So you must not doubt that I appreciate the discoveries you speak of. I am mainly concerned about two things: first, rash judgment as to the value of each individual discovery, for it is the sum of them that speaks truly; and second, the tendency to cling to the new in such wise that the old is discarded. For the most part, I mistrust the either/or mentality, having embraced fully the Catholic preference for both/and. Accepting new insights while continuing to hold to the time-honored understanding as worthy bestows the best of both worlds on the faithful soul.

David

Offline In the cloud of unknowing

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Hi everyone! I lurked for months but is time to stop lurking:

The subject of the relationship between the Essenes and the Early Christians is fascinating.

While most experts do not believe Jesus was a Essene, many do believe that John the Baptist and some of the Apostles, like John has ties to the sect. 

Points in common between the Essenes and the Early Christians:

1. Baptism.

2. Communal meal with bread and wine.

3. Reconciliation before the meal.

4. Priests that act like go in between with the Messiah. What the Cohen (priest) blesses in earth, the soon to be coming to Israel Messiah will bless in Heaven.

5. Celibate, monastic members along with members that live regular lives.

6. A solar calendar that give Sunday a lot importance.

7. The monks wear a woolen tunic with a leather belt in the middle, like John the Baptist and many monastics of today.

8. A expanded Bible canon that gave a lot of importance to the deuterocanonicals books, especially Wisdom and Ben Sirach. In fact the first Dead Sea Scroll to be found was Ben Sirach, in Hebrew no less.

9. A dislike for some of the Pharisees teaching on the Law and the canon of Sacred Books.

10. A challenge to the Zadokites (Saduccees) on the legitimacy of the Sacrifices of the Temple.

11. The Episcopal system of Goverment of Bishop (the used the Aramaic word for inspector), priest (Cohen) and equivalent of a Deacon.

Of course they were differences, Jesus was correcting some of the teachings of the Manual of Discipline in the Sermon of the Mountain. And there were some veiled comments on them by Jesus on the bread of the Pharisees and the bread of the Herodians (they main monastery was in Judea, in Herod territory).

But in my opinion the Dead Sea Scrolls reafirm the case of the Catholic Church and the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches on the Christian beliefs vs the Protestant position.

Many of the beliefs and practices of Apostolic Christianity that the Protestants say has a pagan origin has now proven to be Jewish in origin and well know to Jesus. The fact that Jesus critizised the Essenes much less that the Pharisees and the Saduccees means that He aproved most of their beliefs, who latter were adopted by the Early Church and confirmed by Paul, a former Pharisee.

About the Pope´s opinion:

Hershel Shanks's compilation book:

Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reader From the Biblical Archaeology Review (Paperback)
by Hershel Shanks (Editor) 
http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Dead-Sea-Scrolls-Archaeology/dp/0679744452/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210349332&sr=1-6
 
Has a chapter developed to the the issue to early Christianity and the Essenes and who explain well the Calendar issue discrepancy between the sinoptic Gospels and John's. They support the idea that John was using the Essenes calendar.
 
In my opinion the Dead Sea Scrolls support the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox positions vs the Protestant position all the time. The Reformers commited the mistake of thinking modern Rabinnical Judaism was like the Judaism of Jesus's times and was not. Judaism in Jesus times was more diverse and the Early Christians looked more at the Essenes and of course Jesus and the apostles teachings that to the Pharisees. :waving:
 
 

 

CajunRick

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Hi everyone! I lurked for months but is time to stop lurking:
Hi, Ricardo, glad to have you here with us, and sorry about the problems you had activating your membership.  I'm happy we were able to get the issue resolved.