[This week’s review of the Watchtower study (w13 12/15 p.17) has been
provided by one of the forum members following a good deal of research.]
It would appear that some feel the calculation the Organization has been using for decades to establish the date each year in the Gregorian calendar for the Jewish date of Nisan 14 is questionable. It would also appear that sufficient doubt has been raised to motivate the publishers to devote the better part of two study articles to the matter. This is the first of them.
Par. 3 to 7 – This section of the article gives only the most elementary details of the Passover; that it takes place on Nisan 14, followed by seven days of unleavened bread. The Revised NWT reads:
(Exodus 12:1-18) Jehovah now said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 “This month will be the beginning of the months for you. It will be the first of the months of the year for you. 3 Speak to the entire assembly of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth day of this month, they should each take for themselves a sheep for their father’s house, a sheep to a house. 4 But if the household is too small for the sheep, they and their nearest neighbor should share it between themselves in their house according to the number of people. When making the calculation, determine how much of the sheep each one will eat. 5 Your sheep should be a sound, one-year-old male. You may choose from the young rams or from the goats. 6 You must care for it until the 14th day of this month, and the whole congregation of the assembly of Israel must slaughter it at twilight. 7 They must take some of the blood and splash it on the two doorposts and the upper part of the doorway of the houses in which they eat it.
8 “‘They must eat the meat on this night. They should roast it over the fire and eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter greens. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, cooked in water, but roast it over the fire, its head together with its shanks and its inner parts. 10 You must not save any of it until morning, but any of it left over until morning you should burn with fire. 11 And this is how you should eat it, with your belt fastened, sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you should eat it in a hurry. It is Jehovah’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt on this night and strike every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from man to beast; and I will execute judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am Jehovah. 13 The blood will serve as your sign on the houses where you are; and I will see the blood and pass over you, and the plague will not come on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
14 “‘This day will serve as a memorial for you, and you must celebrate it as a festival to Jehovah throughout your generations. As a lasting statute, you should celebrate it. 15 Seven days you are to eat unleavened bread. Yes, on the first day you are to remove the sourdough from your houses, because anyone eating what is leavened from the first day down to the seventh, that person must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you will hold a holy convention, and on the seventh day, another holy convention. No work is to be done on these days. Only what every person needs to eat, that alone may be prepared for you.
17 “‘You must keep the Festival of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day, I will bring your multitudes out of the land of Egypt. And you must keep this day throughout your generations as a lasting statute. 18 In the first month, on the 14th day of the month, in the evening, you are to eat unleavened bread until the 21st day of the month, in the evening.
“As Jews under the Mosaic Law, Jesus and his apostles shared in the annual Passover. (Matt. 26:17-19) The last time they did so, Jesus instituted a new event that his followers thereafter were to keep annually—the Lord’s Evening Meal. But on what day were they to observe it?” (From par. 7)
The footnotes and references of the article point to considerable confusion and differences of opinion as to when the meal of the slaughtered lamb was eaten, whether on the night of the 14th at the beginning the day, or whether after the conclusion of the 14th, in the early darkness hours of the 15th.
Another factor not revealed clearly in the publications is that Jesus instituted this Passover observance a full day before the Jewish nation observed it. This permitted Jesus to later that same Nisan 14 sacrifice himself becoming the Passover lamb for the Jewish Nation, which observed a “great Sabbath.”
(John 19:31) Since it was the day of Preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the torture stakes on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath day was a great one), the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away.
Great Sabbaths occurred when Passover (Nisan 15) fell on a Saturday.
There are two factors that help us resolve the question of when did the disciples share this final meal with Jesus: (1) Travel was restricted on the Sabbath.
(Exodus 16:28-30) So Jehovah said to Moses: “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 Take notice of the fact that Jehovah has given you the Sabbath. That is why he is giving you the bread for two days on the sixth day. Everyone must stay where he is; nobody is to leave his locality on the seventh day.” 30 So the people observed the Sabbath on the seventh day.
Therefore, we have to fit the arrival of the crowds in Jerusalem for the Passover festival and the movements of Jesus around Sabbaths on Nisan 2nd, 9th and 16th.
A Second factor that helps is the reconstruction by NASA and the US Naval Observatory of 5000 years of ancient calendars, based on reconstruction of ancient eclipses for the purpose of historical analysis.
So we can combine the Julian Calendar date of the new moon eclipse of March of 33 C.E. with the scriptural records of the Sabbath.
Chart of Events for 33 C.E.
Next week, we’ll continue this discussion, bringing it forward to our day to see if April 14th is truly the correct day for the commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ. This may turn out to have significance to many who, like us, recognize both the need and the danger of partaking within the present climate of the Organization.
Par. 16 – “Yes, young and old alike should be confident that Jehovah was a Deliverer not just in the past. As he delivered his people in Moses’ day, he will deliver us in the future.—Read 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10”
(1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10) For they themselves keep reporting about our first contact with you and how you turned to God from your idols to slave for a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from the heavens, whom he raised up from the dead, namely, Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
Now I have no problem in calling Jehovah our deliverer in general terms. However, when we do this by quoting a Scripture which explicitly names Jesus as our deliverer, I fear we are missing the point which Jehovah himself is trying to make. It’s like we are saying, “Yes, Jehovah, we know you’ve named Jesus as is our deliverer, and that’s all well and good, but we just want to focus on you, okay?”
Par. 18 – “Christians who hope to live forever on earth depend on that same blood for preservation. They should regularly remind themselves of the assurance: “By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.”—Eph. 1:7”
Again we have a misapplication of Scripture. We are taking verse 7 out of context and applying it to a group of people we have not proven even exist—a vast flock of so-called other sheep with an earthly hope. Consider now the context:
(Ephesians 1:5, 6) . . .For he foreordained us to be adopted as his own sons through Jesus Christ, according to his good pleasure and will, 6 in praise of his glorious undeserved kindness that he kindly bestowed on us by means of his beloved one.
The adoption as sons through Jesus applies to anointed Christians who all have a heavenly hope. (Romans 8:23)
There can be no denying that this is going to be a challenging study to sit through for those of us who have come to see that full extent of the hope for heavenly life extended to all those who put faith in the Christ.