Josephus tells us in Antiquities XX 10:1 that there were 28 High Priests during the reign of the Herodians from Herod the Great until the destruction of Jerusalem (37 BC–AD 70), and indeed there were (if we discount the “2nd terms of office”):
|1||Ananelus||37-36 BC (1st term)|
|2||Aristobulus III||36 BC|
|Ananelus (see 1)||36-30 BC (2nd term)|
|3||Joshua ben Fabus||30-23 BC|
|4||Simon ben Boethus||23-5 BC|
|5||Matthias ben Theophilus||5-4 BC|
|6||Joazar ben Boethus||4 BC|
|7||Eleazar ben Boethus||4-3 BC|
|8||Joshua ben Sie||3 BC-AD 1|
|9||Joazar ben Boethus||AD 1-6|
|10||Ananus ben Seth||6-15|
|11||Ishmael ben Fabus||15-16 (1st term)|
|12||Eleazar ben Ananus||16-17|
|13||Simon ben Camithus||17-18|
|15||Jonathan ben Ananus||36-37 (1st term)|
|16||Theophilus ben Ananus||37-41|
|17||Simon Cantatheras ben Boethus||41-43|
|18||Matthias ben Ananus||43|
|19||Elioneus ben Simon Cantatheras||43-44|
|Jonathan ben Ananus (see 15)||44 (2nd term)|
|20||Josephus ben Camydus||44-46|
|21||Ananias ben Nebedeus||46-52|
|23||Ishmael ben Fabus (see 11)||56-62 (2nd term)|
|Joseph Cabi ben Simon||62-63|
|24||Ananus ben Ananus||63|
|25||Joshua ben Damneus||63|
|26||Joshua ben Gamaliel||63-64|
|27||Mattathias ben Theophilus||65-66|
|28||Phannias ben Samuel||67-70|
Deut. 16:16 states:
“Three times a year ALL your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place He will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles.”
"The place God chose" was taken to be the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, cf. 1 Ki. 9:25:
“Three times a year Solomon sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar he had built for the LORD, burning incense before the LORD along with them, and so fulfilled the Temple obligations.”
Since "ALL men" had to attend, this obviously included the priests as well, and we can only assume that, with so many people pouring into Jerusalem at those times of year, their priestly duties would have been quite heavy – the High Priest needed all the help he could get!
Tradition has it that on the Day of Atonement no less than 500 priests assisted in the services. On other feast-days even more must have been engaged, as it was a Rabbinical principle ‘that a man should bring all his offerings, that were either due from him or voluntarily dedicated, at the solemn festival that cometh next.’ [Source: "Temple - its Ministry and Services", by Alfred Edersheim, published 1874]
The generally accepted idea is that no specific priests were assigned to do specific jobs during the three major Jewish festivals. During the sacred holidays there would have been so many people in Jerusalem that many, many priests would have been needed to offer incense; the normal number of appointed priests just would not have been enough!
If you think about the Hebrew calendar, the idea that the priestly cycle was interrupted makes sense, because in a normal Hebrew (non-leap) year there were 12 months and 51 weeks (in a Hebrew leap year there were 13 months and 55 weeks). Since there were 24 divisions of priests, each could serve twice in the 48 normal weeks, and this left three weeks over, which just happens to match the three festival weeks. If the cycle continued through these weeks as well, it would not begin at the beginning of the cycle again at the New Year.
It is not known what happened in leap years, but since there were four extra weeks to fill and the 24 divisions are indeed divisible by four, it can be assumed that one-sixth of those divisions served every time there was a leap-month.
Such a way of doing things would make more sense than just having a continuously rolling cycle as it would enable the priests to set aside the same weeks every year for their work instead of having to have a complicated diary system! Surely each division would have been more likely to have served during the SAME weeks of each year.
Jesus calls Himself this (Rev. 22:16) (note that link to the wedding again in v.17), though this doesn't mean that He is inferior to David (Lk. 20:41-44). Nevertheless, He is a son of David (Mt. 1:1) because Joseph (Yosef in Hebrew) was a descendent of David (Lk. 1:27, 2:4-5). A beggar recognised Jesus as such (Mk. 10:48) and, later, so did many others (Mt. 21:9).
Zech. 12:8 associates the Angel with the Line of David and says that He is "like God". Who is like God but Jesus? (Jn. 1:1, 8:19, 2 Cor. 4:4, Col. 1:15). Note that "the Word" in Jn. 1:1 is God the Father's Son (Jn. 1:14) who created all things (Jn. 1:2, Col. 1:16). In addition, Zech. 3:1-4 describes the Angel of the Lord as One who takes away guilt and provides clean clothes. Again, who can this be but Jesus? It is He who takes away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29) so that we are no longer condemned (Rom. 8:1). Only He can forgive our sins (Mk. 2:5, 7, 10).
John 1:29 refers to Jesus by this name. What does this mean? As prophesied in Is. 53:7, Jesus was sacrificed like a lamb (1. Pet. 1:19) at Passover (Jn. 19:14, 30-31, Mt. 16:2), just as a real lamb was sacrificed at the first Passover (Ex. 12:21). The Scriptures clearly state that Christ was our Passover Lamb (see Jn. 1:29, 1 Cor. 5:7, 1. Pet. 1:18-19 and Rev. 5:12).
The bridegroom is Christ (Jn. 3:29, Mk. 2:19-20) the "Lamb" (Rev. 19:7-8). The bride is the new, heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, cf. Is. 62:1, 4-5, Ezek. 16:2, 8-14). Gal. 4:26 tells us that the new Jerusalem represents those who are free, while Rev. 3:12 tells us that the citizens of the new Jerusalem will be those who are victorious. Who are the free? Those who believe in Christ and know the truth (Jn. 8:31-32). Who are the victorious? We are, because of what Christ has done for us (Phil. 4:57).
The bridegroom is perfect (Heb. 5:9); the bride must therefore be perfect too (Heb. 10:14). In Is. 64:6, filthy rags represent sin (this is why the man is not allowed to attend the wedding in Mt. 22:11-13). In contrast, the bride's robe represents salvation in Is. 61:10, while Rev. 19:8 tells us that clean clothes represent righteous deeds.
The bible does not explicitly state that Jesus died on a Friday, only that it was the day before a Sabbath (Jn. 19:42), which has led to the widespread tradition that the crucifixion was on a Friday. Few seem to have noticed that there was also a special Sabbath to mark the beginning of the Passover feast (Lev. 23:5-7, Jn. 19:31), and this could fall on any day of the month.
There is a discrepancy between the accounts of Jesus's promise to return from the grave. On the one hand, He said it would happen "on the third day" (Lk. 9:22, 18:33) and that He would be raised "in three days" (Jn. 2:19), yet He also said He would be "three days and three nights" in the tomb (Mt. 12:40). Both cannot be right.
Some have suggested that Jesus may actually have died on a Wednesday or a Thursday (being raised on either the following Saturday or Sunday, respectively) in order to account for this. However, the Hebrew calendar has been arranged so that Yom Kippur cannot fall on a Friday or a Sunday, and the seventh day of Sukkot (Tishri 21), known as "Hoshana Rabbah", cannot fall on Shabbat. All of this means that Passover Eve (Nisan 14) can only fall on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday. So, if Jesus died on Passover Eve, this could not have been a Thursday (since Passover Eve is never on a Thursday), and the only years around this time when Passover Eve fell on a Wednesday were:
Thus, the only day of the week that really fits the facts is the traditionally accepted Friday. (Of course, this then begs the question "Was Jesus really raised from the dead on a Sunday?")
Whereas John's gospel states that Jesus died on Passover eve (Jn. 19:14, 31), the other (synoptic) gospels state that the Last Supper took place "on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread" (Mt. 26:17, Mk. 14:12, Lk. 22:7), i.e. (apparently) at Passover itself, and that Jesus was crucified the following day. These accounts seem to be irreconcilable, unless three facts are considered:
Thus we see that certain ways of translating "Passover eve" would allow the phrase to mean the same as "the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread".In fact, careful examination of the scriptures shows that the Last Supper could not have been a Passover meal. Certainly, none of the four Gospels mentions a lamb being eaten at the Last Supper, and the bread that was eaten is not described as being unleavened. To fully understand this topic, let’s examine the gospel reports of Jesus’s final meal.
Let’s start with John’s gospel. Jn. 13:1-2 clearly places the Last Supper before the Passover feast. In addition, in Jn. 13:26-30, Jesus’s invective to Judas Iscariot during the supper (“What you do, do quickly”, v. 27) is interpreted by the disciples to mean “Buy those things we need for the Feast” (v. 29), plainly indicating that the Passover Feast itself had not yet begun.
Now let’s take a look at the synoptic gospels’ accounts of the Last supper. Mt.26:17 states that the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him where He wanted them to make preparations to eat the Passover on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Now, since in modern usage the phrase “the Feast of Unleavened Bread” refers to the entire Passover festival, from Nisan 15 through to Nisan 22, but excludes the “Day of Preparation” on Passover Eve (Nisan 14), it appears that this event took place on the first day of Passover itself (Nisan 15). However, there is a hint in that word “preparations” that Matthew could actually be referring to the Day of Preparation (Nisan 14).
The equivalent passages in Mark and Luke’s gospels make things clearer. Mk. 14:12 and Lk. 22:7 both explain that Feast of Unleavened Bread is when the Passover lamb was sacrificed. Ex. 12:6 tells us that the Passover lambs were to be killed “between the evenings” on Nisan 14. The Jews have traditionally interpreted “between the evenings” to mean “in the afternoon”, and so the Jews at the time of Jesus killed the Passover lambs on the afternoon of Nisan 14. In The Wars of the Jews, Josephus records that in the 1st Century, the Passover lambs were slaughtered “from the ninth hour till the eleventh”, which corresponds to 3 p.m.–5 p.m.
Obviously, the day which the synoptic gospels call the “first day of Unleavened Bread” is actually Nisan 14 – the same day that John calls the “the Preparation Day of the Passover” (Jn. 19:14). Lk. 22:7 begins “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread...”, suggesting that the disciples came to Jesus just as the Preparation Day (Nisan 14) was beginning, which would have been at sunset. This then places the Last supper during the evening of Nisan 14.
As shown in Mt. 27:59-62, Mk. 15:42, Lk. 23:53 and Jn. 19:31, 42, all four gospels confirm that Jesus was crucified on the Preparation Day. All of this means that the events of the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the trials, crucifixion and burial of Jesus all took place on the “Day of Preparation”, Nisan 14, which ran from the Thursday evening through to sunset on the Friday. The last meal that Jesus and the disciples ate together was obviously some type of preparatory meal, not the Passover meal itself.
But what about Lk. 22:15? This says:
And he said to them: 'I have longingly desired to eat this Passover with you before my suffering.'
Surely this implies that the Last Supper was a Passover meal? No! Look at the verse immediately following:
'However, I tell you that I shall not eat it any more, until it can be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.' (Lk. 22:16)In other words, Jesus is saying, “I really want to eat this coming Passover meal with you, but I can’t” — because He was destined to be sacrificed as our Passover Lamb at the very time when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered, on the afternoon before the Passover meal. But He also says that He will once again eat that meal with us — at the wedding supper of the Lamb (see Lk. 22:30, Rev. 19:9).
Remember that Christ was crucified at Passover (Jn. 19:31) and that this was Friday April 1st, AD 33. Jn. 12:1 tells us that Jesus came to Bethany "six days before the Passover festival" (i.e. on Saturday March 26th, AD 33) and that "the next day" (Jn. 12:12) Jesus was greeted with palm branches as He entered Jerusalem (i.e. on Sunday March 27th, AD 33).
The 360-day year dates right back to the time of Noah’s flood. This can be determined from Gen. 7:11 where we are told that the flood started on the 17th day of the 2nd month, while Gen. 8:4 tells us that the flood ended on the 17th day of the 7th month, so the flood lasted for exactly 7-2=5 months. On the other hand, Gen. 7:24 says that the flood lasted for 150 days. Thus, according to Genesis, 5 months is 150 days, so one month (at that time) was 150/5=30 days and a year was 30*12=360 days.
There are many references to the resurrection of Jesus taking place on the “third day” (Mt. 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, 27:64, Lk. 9:22, 18:33, 24:7,46, Acts 10:40, 1 Cor. 15:4). There are other passages referring to Jesus rising again “after three days” (Mt. 27:63, Mk. 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, Jn. 2:19-21), and, depending on the translation you are using, these two phrases are often used interchangeably, e.g.:
For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, ‘The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.’ (Mk. 9:31, King James Version)
He was teaching his disciples. He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ (Mk. 9:31, New International Version)
It is usually assumed that Jesus died on a Friday (Good Friday) and rose on the following Sunday (Easter Sunday), because all four gospels appear to say that he rose on the “first day of the week”. [Sunday is the first day of the week because the Sabbath (Saturday) is regarded as the seventh day of the week, when God rested (Gen. 2:2-3, Ex. 16:26,29-30, 20:10-11, 23:12, 31:15-17, 34:21, 35:2).] For example, the New International Version’s translation of Mt. 28:1 says:
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
The usual way to reconcile Sunday with being “on the third day” is to assume that the phrase was being used in the Roman “inclusive” sense, whereby the Friday, Saturday and Sunday are all included in the three days, even though both the Friday and the Sunday were only part-days. This seems highly unsatisfactory, especially when you consider that the women supposedly went to the tomb “at dawn” on the Sunday (i.e. as early as possible on that day), meaning that Jesus must actually have risen on the Saturday! In addition, the phrase “after three days” would actually surely seem to suggest “on the fourth day”!
We can resolve these problems if we recognize that the phrase “on the first day of the week” is not a literal translation of the Greek text. Young's Literal Translation of Mt. 28:1 says:
And on the eve of the sabbaths, at the dawn, towards the first of the sabbaths, came Mary the Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre.
It can be seen that the phrase “the first of the sabbaths” has usually been translated as “the first day of the week”, but there is an alternative possibility. The Mt. 28:1 passage also contains the phrase “on the eve of the Sabbaths”, which the NIV translates as “after the Sabbath”, but which actually seems to suggest “the day before the Sabbaths” (as Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas). “The Sabbaths” (plural) seems to suggest there may have been a two (or more)-day festival coming up, while “towards the first of the Sabbaths” seems to suggest “just before the first of these special Sabbaths”.
We know that the crucifixion took place at Passover, so the question is, "Are there any sabbaths following soon after Passover? Passover is an eight-day festival. Apparently, only the first two and the last two days of this festival are regarded as “sabbaths”. (The middle four days of the eight-day holiday were known as “Chol Hamo'ed”, referred to as the “intermediate days” – i.e. Nissan 17 to 20; on which work could be done.) Could it be these last two sabbaths of the Passover festival that Matthew is referring to here? Let’s examine Passover week in the year in which we now know that Jesus was crucified – AD 33:
|Hebrew date||Festival||Sabbath?||Day of week||Gregorian date|
|Nisan 14||Erev Pesach (Day of Preparation)||No||6th day (Thursday/Friday)||March 31/April 1|
|Nisan 15||Pesach (1st day of Passover)||Yes (High Sabbath)||7th day (Friday/Saturday)||April 1/2|
|Nisan 16||Pesach (2nd day of Passover)||Yes||1st day (Saturday/Sunday)||April 2/3|
|Nisan 17||Chol Hamo'ed (Intermediate Day 1)||No||2nd day (Sunday/Monday)||April 3/4|
|Nisan 18||Chol Hamo'ed (Intermediate Day 2)||No||3rd day (Monday/Tuesday)||April 4/5|
|Nisan 19||Chol Hamo'ed (Intermediate Day 3)||No||4th day (Tuesday/Wednesday)||April 5/6|
|Nisan 20||Chol Hamo'ed (Intermediate Day 4)||No||5th day (Wednesday/Thursday)||April 6/7|
|Nisan 21||Acharon shel Pesach (Last Day 1)||Yes||6th day (Thursday/Friday)||April 7/8|
|Nisan 22||Acharon shel Pesach (Last Day 2)||Yes (High Sabbath)||7th day (Friday/Saturday)||April 8/9|
As we can see, Mt. 28:1 could be read as:
On the day before the Acharon shel Pesach sabbaths (i.e. on Nisan 20), at dawn, before the first of these sabbaths, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
Since it says “at dawn”, this means that the women went to the tomb on the Thursday morning (April 7th) of Nisan 20. Since this was almost a week after Jesus had died, you may be thinking, “How come they didn’t visit the tomb sooner?” The point is, they may well have visited the tomb earlier in the week as well, but this earlier visit was not recorded in the gospels because nothing remarkable occurred on that occasion – Jesus had not yet risen!
However, the women could not possibly have gone to visit Christ’s tomb on the Sunday morning after His crucifixion. This is because, as we have seen, Nissan 15, 16, 21 and 22 were all regarded as sabbaths. This means that both the Saturday and the Sunday morning after the crucifixion would have been sabbaths, and the women would not have been allowed to tend to the grave on either of these days according to Jewish custom. The only days on which they would have been allowed to visit the tomb would have been on the “intermediate days” from Nissan 17 to 20. Therefore, the women could have visited the tomb only on the Sunday evening or on the following Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. We can now construct a possible scenario.
Let us assume that they were keen to visit the tomb as early as possible (a reasonable assumption), and that they went there on the Sunday evening, as soon as the first pair of sabbaths was over. They found Jesus’s body still there and they applied the spices to it. The gospel writers did not record this unremarkable event. Knowing that a second pair of sabbaths was coming up, the women re-visited the tomb later in the week, at dawn on the Thursday morning. This time, they discovered that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and this is the event that the gospel writers record. Now, if this is the case, it is clear that the resurrection must have taken place either on the Monday, the Tuesday or the Wednesday.
One passage that has always caused scholars problems is Mt. 12:40:
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
This is why some have suggested Jesus died on a Wednesday and rose on the following Sunday, but if Jesus died on a Friday (which seems more likely) and rose on a Tuesday, this would also fit with being buried for “three days and three nights” (i.e. He was in the grave on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday). But Tuesday is the third day of the week! So the two phrases “on the third day” and “after three days” would then actually both be true!
Thus, we can now construct a timetable for the “Resurrection week” in AD 33 (dates are Gregorian):
We have seen that Jesus was crucified on Friday April 1st, AD 33 (according to the Gregorian calendar), aged 37 (assuming He was born on September 25th, 6 BC). There are two other places in scripture where a period of 37 years seems to be important.
Firstly, there is the story of Abraham and Isaac. Gen. 21:5 tells us that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. Gen. 17:17 tells us that Abraham was 100 years old when Sarah was 90 years old. Thus, Sarah was 90 years older than Isaac.
The very next thing to happen after Isaac’s sacrifice in Gen. ch. 22 was the death of his mother Sarah. Gen. 23:1 tells us that Sarah was 127 years old when she died. This means that Isaac was 127–90 = 37 years old. Since Sarah died immediately after Isaac’s sacrifice, the sacrifice must have also taken place when Isaac was 37 years old.
So if Isaac’s sacrifice is somehow symbolic (a prophecy?) of Christ’s sacrifice, the fact that Jesus and Isaac were the same age is surely significant. This seems especially so when we remember that Isaac is often seen as a “type” of Christ. This is because:
The second prophecy of significance is Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (Mt. 24:1-2; Mk. 13:1-2; Lk. 21:5-6). In Jn. 2:19-21, Jesus relates this destruction of the Temple to the destruction of His own body. We know that Jesus was crucified in AD 33, 37 years after He was born (in 6 BC). Now, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 – which was 37 years after the temple of Jesus’s body was destroyed on the cross!
Jesus’s ministry on Earth can be divided into what He said (His words) and what he did (His works).
Jesus’s words are symbolised by the word of God (the Bible), and the words of the One who is the Word are best represented by His parables. He told 39 of these – the exact same number as there are books in the Old Testament (which was the whole of scripture at the time).
Jesus’s life’s work is symbolised by His life of 37 years, and the works of Jesus are best represented by His miracles. How many did Jesus perform? Yes, you’ve guessed it – 37!
So the words of Jesus are reflected in the word of God, while the works of Jesus’s time on Earth are reflected in the actual time that He spent on the Earth!
Next page: Appendix: Information about calendars >>