Jn 19:14 & Mk 15:25 Reconciled
- Jn 19:14 & Mk 15:25 Reconciled. Historical Analysis of
Time Reckoning in the Gospel Accounts Regarding Friday
14 Nisan and the Hours of Day.
The following is a private discussion with Jack
Pilato, an author and researcher who is a member of
John-Lit. We have been corresponding in my review of
his manuscript and Jack has given his gracious
permission to post this letter with my replies to him
since I felt that several issues were critical for all
list members. A little over 2 years and 8 months ago
I thought I had clarified the issues of the debate
regarding the date of the Last Supper, crucifixion and
resurrection, but in dialogue with Jack I came to
realize that I had not supplied sufficient data to do
that. The discussion we have been having brings keys
issues to the fore, which are here more fully
explained than in my previous posts.
From: "Jack C Pilato" <pilatojc@...>
For the moment, I would like to concentrate on point
six the 14th vs. the 15th of Nisan as the date of the
Crucifixion/or Supper (not whether Friday is the day
of the week). At the end of the discussion is my
initial statement, with the follow-ups. This is
followed by the Catholic Encyclopedia�s discussion of
this debate. I add this only to show its
acknowledgement of the problem. I believe, however,
that there is no substantive disagreement between John
and the Synoptic Gospels on this issue and will
present case below.
I have restated point six below. The basis for this is
5In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is
the LORD�S passover. 6And on the fifteenth day of the
same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the
Exodus 12:10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain
until the morning; and that which remaineth of it
until the morning ye shall burn with fire. 11And thus
shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on
your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall
eat it in haste: it is the LORD�S passover
The Passover lamb is sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan
in the afternoon, after the burnt offering, which
occurred at about 2:30 pm. The Passover meal began at
twilight, just before sunset, which then becomes the
start of the evening of the 15th of Nisan and leads
into the Feast Day Celebration in the morning. While
the evening is technically part of the 15th of Nisan,
it is not considered part of the feast day. The feast
day is separate and distinct from evening before. The
evening before (which is the supper) is the solemn
anticipation of the angel of death�s mission while the
feast is the celebration of their release from bondage
and the result of God's power.
Let�s start with the verses in Mat, Mark and Luke,
which corroborate each other and state the Passover
meal is on the 14th Nisan.
Mat 26:17 asserts that it is the first day of the
feast of unleavened bread when all leaven must be
removed from the house. This occurs at evening on the
14th of Nisan.
No, it is the 13th day of Nisan, not the 14th. I have
cited this link below, which contains a highly
detailed bibliography and citations for this.
The key text is reposted here so you will understand.
Before the common meal on Passover eve, the day was
filled with preparation for the even. A full
contingent of priests -- twenty-four divisions instead
of the usual one--came early to the Temple. Their
first task was the burning of the hametz, "leaven,"
which had been searched for by candlelight in each
home the night before and then removed for burning the
next morning (Mishnah, Pesahim 1-3).
Note, Jack, the last sentence says the night before
(13 Nisan). Matthew 26:17 clearly says Thursday 13
Nisan when he states, �But on the first day of the
feast of unleaven bread approached . . . � Passover is
a tridium 13, 14, 15 Nisan. The 13th of Nisan is the
hametz search by candlelight (see Mishnah, Pesahim
1-3). The first day of hametz falls on a Thursday
(however, technically since it is evening it is
Friday) and each day is a Passover is celebrated with
its own distinctive meal. The first day of
preparation (Thursday) is the day when they search for
the hametz (yeast) by candlelight, signifying
nighttime, hence Friday! This was the day clearly
stated by Matthew as the eve -- Pesach Eve Seder when
the Last Supper took place. There was no lamb served
at the Last Supper except Jesus Christ the Lamb of
God, which the apostles ate in the Eucharist, which
Jesus consecrated and gave to them to eat!
Technically, the Last Supper although Thursday was the
evening, hence, Friday, a day that is always
considered sacred as the Sabbath eve since the High
Holy Day began about 5:30-6:00 pm on Friday Passover
Proper the next evening (see Lev 23:5). Saturday the
15th day of Nisan was the days of unleavened bread
(matzah �see Lev. 23:6). I hope you now understand
this Jewish chronology. It is very confusing to
non-Jews since Passover comprises 3 days, but the
first two days are called the first day of the
unleaven bread, since hametz is collected Thursday
evening, which is begins Friday and that day is the
day of slaughter during the afternoon beginning about
2:30-3:00 pm. And the third day, which is the Sabbath,
or Day of the Unleaven bread. Hence, you will note 2
days are preparatory days (Erevim � Eves or vigil
days) and the third day (Sabbath) is the High Holy
Mt 26: 17Now the first day of the feast of unleavened
bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him,
Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the
Mark asserts even more emphatically it is the 14th of
Nisan when they kill the Passover.
12And the first day of unleavened bread, when they
killed the passover, his disciples said unto him,
Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou
mayest eat the passover?
As I said above Thursday evening technically begins
Friday hence the day they slaughter which took place
15 hours later!!
Finally, Luke is even more definite, if that is
7Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the
passover must be killed. 8And he sent Peter and John,
saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may
eat. 9And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we
Jack, this is completely consisted with what I have
been saying all along. Thursday eve = commences
Friday, the day they slaughtered the lamb.
Now let us turn to the passages in John, which
supposedly contradict this position.
In John 13:1, Passover is being used in the generic
sense (i.e. Passover vs. Pentecost or Tabernacles)
As Josephus says in Ant.xvii:9,3 �The feast of
unleavened bread which we call the Passover�
John 13:1 Now before the feast of the Passover, when
Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should
depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved
his own which were in the world, he loved them unto
the end. 2And supper being ended,...
Therefore the verse above places our Lord on the eve
of the Feast day at the end of the Paschal supper.
This simple explanation puts us in perfect agreement
with the synoptic Gospels.
Jack, this is correct. John being a good Jew knew very
well that the Thursday evening began the Friday the
day the lamb was slaughtered! That is why John 13:1
specifies �before the feast of the Passover�. However,
v.2 does not say the supper being ended it says: KAI
DEIPNOU GINOMENOU, This can be translated in various
ways: (And the supper taking place = And during the
supper = And while [they were] at supper = When during
the supper = Then during the supper). Note the last
three are in correspondence to the Semitic
coordinating conjunction �w�, that includes: then and
when, which may be closer to the intended meaning of
Further on in the same chapter, Jesus tells Judas to
do what he was going to do and the apostles speculated
in John 13:29 as to what Jesus meant by the statement.
John 13:29For some of them thought, because Judas had
the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those
things that we have need of against the feast; or,
that he should give something to the poor.
The issue is brought up: could Judas have bought
anything on a day designated as a Sabbath? The simple
answer is that it was not a Sabbath. The feast day,
which started in the morning is a Sabbath day and is
separate and distinct from the evening before which
was not part of the feast but is considered part of
the Passover meal. Therefore, shops could be open late
since buying on the feast day would be unlawful.
Now let us consider John 18:28, where the apostles
refuse to go into the Judgment Hall because they would
defile themselves and not be able to eat the Passover.
That they would defile themselves by entering a
gentile establishment during Passover is self-evident.
But are they referring to the Passover meal of the
14th of Nisan? Or can any meal during the Passover be
John 18:28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the
hall of judgment: and it was early; and they
themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they
should be defiled; but that they might eat the
The answer is seen in Deuteronomy 16: 1Observe the
month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the LORD thy
God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought
thee forth out of Egypt by night. 2Thou shalt
therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD thy
God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the
LORD shall choose to place his name there. 3Thou shalt
eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou
eat unleavened bread therewith�..
It says that the Passover is to be sacrificed on each
an every day with unleavened bread for seven days.
Again we have a simple explanation for the objection.
Equally we see that the synoptic gospels place the
crucifixion on the day of the feast, which is the 15th
of Nisan. Verses below:
15Now at that feast the governor was wont to release
unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16And
they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas
Mk 15:6 Now at that feast he released unto them one
prisoner, whomsoever they desired. 7And there was one
Luke 23:17 (For of necessity he must release one unto
them at the feast.) 18And they cried out all at once,
saying, Away with this man, and release unto us
In light of all these verses, it appears all four
gospels are united that Christ observed the Passover
meal on the 14th of Nisan and was crucified on the
15th of Nisan.
This is incorrect as I already noted above. It was the
14th day of Nisan, and Jesus was crucified at the very
same time that the Jews began to slaughter their lambs
in the Temple.
However there is one verse in John that defies
explanation and that is John 19:14.This verse at best
is suspect for there are two diverse translations both
of which have a time conflict with the Mark 15:25 as
to the time of the crucifixion. I have discussed this
conflict in my paper at length.
This is incorrect. The problem is due to
misunderstanding of the reckoning of time in
antiquity. In the Hellenistic culture the 24-hour
cycle was divided into 8 quarters, each containing
three hours. Dia (daytime light hours) has 4
quarters: prima (6am-9am), tercia (9am-12pm), sexta
(12pm-3pm), nona (3pm-6pm); Noctis has 4 quarters also
called vigilae: Vigil-I (6pm-9pm), Vigil-II
(9pm-112am), Vigil-III (12am-3am), Vigil IV (3am-6am).
Since the last hour of each quarter of the daylight
hours gave its name to the respective quarter of the
day when an ancient author says, for example, tercia
they mean its final hour 11am-12pm. If they meant a
specific hour other than the last hour it would have
been stated as prima hora in tercia signifying
Night vigilae also had its specific names to specify
an hour in particular: (1) crepusculum is dusk or
twilight (Ovid, M. 14,122), (2) vesperum is the
evening time well attested to, (3) lucernarium is the
time when lamps are lighted (Aug. ap. Reg. Cleric.),
(4) The night was originally divided into three
watches for the Jews (Lam 2:19; Judges 7:19; Ex 14:24;
1 Sam 11:11), but the Romans had it divided into four,
as we find them cited in the New Testament (Mt 14:25;
24:43; Mk 6:48; 13:35; Lk 12:38), (5) the porter�s
watch at the gate (Mk 13:34; see Mishnah, Tamid. i. 1,
2; Herzfeld, vol. i. p. 419; ii. p. 57); (6) Jewish
Temple watches led by the commander of the Temple
(Acts 4:1); (7) concubium is the first watch of sleep
(Cicero, Div. 1,27,57), (8) conticinium is the dead of
sleep (Plaut. As. 3,3,95), (9) the courtyard fires
were lighted during the final vigil hours between
3am-6a for the night watch and at cockcrow ate
breakfast or jentaculum (AKRATISMA) preparing the
cakes of meal usually prepared for breakfact on the
fire; (10) intempestum is the dead of night around
midnight (media nox) also called intempestas noctis
(Cicero, Phil. 1.3), (11) gallicinium is the cockcrow
from 4am-8am which signals in the dawn (Petronius,
Cana Trimalchionis 62,3), (12) matutinum is the early
rise of the dawn (aura ante lucano) also called primu
mane (Ovid,5,545), (13) diluculum is daybreak or ad
meridem (Plaut. Am. 2,2,105). .
(see Guglielmo Cavallo. Pavone Canavese, eds., Rabano
Mauro 'De rerum naturis', Codex Casinensis 132,
(1023): Archivio dell' Abbazia di Montecassino.
(Priuli et Verlucca, 1994.) -- Rabanus Maurus, De
rerum naturis, 10.7 �De septem partibus noctis� vide
409b-410b; Francolinus, "De tempor. horar.
canonicar.", (Rome, 1571): xxi; P. Paola Acquistapace,
P. Angelo Albani, P. Massimo Astrua (Mons. Enrico
Galbiati, ed.) Il Vangelo di Gesu, trans. by Jos� F.
Guijarro as: El Evangelio de Jes�s (Istituto S.
Gaetano, Vicenza, 1972; MIMEP, Milano): 28; Gerhard
Delling, �WRA� in TDNT 9.680, and nos. 34, 35).
The Jews had their own system for reckoning the
24-hour cycle calling them by numbers where the first
hour begins at 6am and is identical to the first hour
within the first quarter of daylight called prima.
Hellenistic Jews could use both the Graeco-Roman
system of reckoning time as well as the numerical
number designating the hour specified. Numerical hours
were always applied to the vigilae even when a Jewish
author uses the Graeco-Roman system of daylight hours
called according to their respective quarters: prima,
tercia, sexta, nona. For example, the 11th hour would
be 7pm-8pm. As I have said earlier above the Jews
reckoned the end of day at sunset, which like the
workday was moveable season to season since the sun
sets earlier in the winter and latter during the
summer. The significance of sunset was important to
the Jews since it signalled the new day and the end of
the previous one.
Now let us return to your question concerning Jn 19:14
and Mk 15:25. As we examine the Gospel of John�s
Passion Narrative (PN) in chapters 18 and 19 we
observe various indications of tempus horae: (1) Jn
18:5 notes the Temple guards on night watch and the
lucernarium (see vigilae, no. 3 et 6 supra); (2) Jn
18:16 the porter on watch (see vigilae no.4 et 5
supra); (3) Jn 18:18 the fire in the courtyard (see
no. 9 supra); (4) Jn 18:27 gallicinium (see no. 11
supra); (5) Jn 18:28 it was early morn (see no. 12
supra); (6) Jn 18:28 Pilate was in his headquarters
implies daybreak circa 6am (see no. 13 supra); (7) Jn
19:14 it was the 6th hour by Jewish reckoning, not
referring to sexta or 3pm, but the 6th hour of
daylight, or 6 hours after Jesus was brought into see
Pilate at daybreak in Jn 18:28. This would make it
noontime, or about 12pm when Jesus was handed-over to
be crucified. (8) Jn 19:42 implies the lateness of
day about evening and the need to bury Jesus nearby so
as to not violate the Sabbath.
Mark 15:25 concurs with John 19:14 but reckons the
hour using the Hellenistic system of the quarter of
the day tercia the second quarter of daylight so named
by the last hour of the quarter, and like John he
agrees they crucified him.
I submit to you, that unless you have a suitable
rational explanation for all the other verses that the
preponderance of evidence lies with the 14th and 15th
Well, Jack, I hope this matter has been finally
cleared up once and for all and for time immemorial.
Yours in Christ Jack
With best regards,
John N. Lupia, III
31 Norwich Drive
Toms River, New Jersey 08757 USA
Phone: (732) 341-8689
Editor, Roman Catholic News
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