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Was Jesus a Torah Jew?

Jesus' Passover, part 2

by Tom Wise


3. REQUIRED OBJECTS.

(a) Torah requires a lamb to be killed and eaten, and this lamb is itself the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:2, 6-7).

Concerning whether Jesus and/or the apostles killed the lamb personally, Jesus commanded Peter and John, “Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat” (Luke 22:8; also Matthew 26:19, without naming John and Peter), and they did so (Luke 22:13).

Concerning whether Jesus and His apostles ate this Passover lamb, He said, “With desire, I have (heartily) desired to eat this Passover” (Luke 22:15).  Did Jesus and His apostles not eat?  They did eat (Mark 14:18).

Concerning whether the lamb was roasted, the Gospels do not say, but we invoke “the two foundations” here because all else of the lamb was accomplished.

One thing I have discovered is that Christ and His apostles did not put blood on the lintel and posts of the door, nor were they constrained to eat with loins girded or with shoes on the feet, as prescribed in Torah (Exodus 12:7, 22). 

Those instructions only applied to the first Passover, as explained by the 13th century Sage, Ramban: “The extrinsic injunctions relating to those that consume it, such as the necessity for loins girded and shod feet, or the placement of the blood upon the portal, applied only to that first Pesach of Egypt.  This distinction is clearly indicated by the rite of the so-called ‘Second Passover’ that is to be observed by those who in future generations are unable, due to ritual unfitness, to celebrate the sacrifice at its proper time (see Bemidbar 9:1-14).”  Supporting this explanation is the fact that nowhere else in Torah are these “extrinsic injunctions” mandated.  Accordingly, there is no mention made in the Gospels that Christ expected or did such things.  In fact, we find that Christ girded himself after the supper (John 13:4), and that He and the apostles probably were barefoot at the time (13:5).

We must be aware that Christ was not averse to Torah (nor even Talmud).  To the contrary, He was quite zealous of it.  Recall that He pressed His disciples to do all that the Pharisees bid them to do (Matthew 23:3), and this not for show or safety concerns but to be clear that his complaint was with Pharisaical doctrine and hypocrisy, not with God or His Law.  If one should wonder why Christ would follow this commandment to kill and eat a Passover lamb when modern Jews do not, the answer is that the Temple at Jerusalem was in Christ’s time still standing, so every ordinance of animal sacrifice applied.  Christians will argue that the death of Christ put an end to such things, but 1 Corinthians tells us that even Paul kept this feast (5:8).  If one says that Paul did so differently than Torah, it should be recalled that Paul took a vow to affirm his own adherence to Torah (Acts 21:24-26).

(b) Torah requires unleavened bread (matza) to be eaten at the Passover meal (Exodus 12:8, Deut. 16:3).

The Gospels tell us that Jesus and His apostles were keeping the feast (or the day) of the unleavened bread (Matthew 26:1, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7).  The text does not explicitly say they ate matza, but what else are we to believe? 

The stronger argument in favor of Christ eating matza at His Passover involves the “breaking of bread.”  We do not say that “breaking” indicates the crispiness of matza since “breaking bread” is a common Biblical term which merely signifies eating, and not necessarily bread.  Instead, it is the order of doing (Seder) which proves that they were eating matza.  The Haggadah, the official book of the Passover Seder, was compiled sometime between 150 and 300 AD, but the individual Talmudic renderings which comprise it were written well before then, so it is certain that Christ knew about such things, given His extraordinary Torah foundation and application.  According to Haggadah, matza is first eaten after the second cup of wine is drunk, which itself follows the retelling of the Passover story.  This occurs before the meal (Shulchan Orech).  After the meal comes the final matza (Afikomen), broken and distributed communally.  This also happens to be the last bit of food permitted to be eaten that night (this prohibition against eating anything further is, according to the Jerusalem Talmud, a way for Jews to distinguish their Passover Seder from the pagan rituals of other nations).  After Christ blessed the bread, broke it, and distributed it, He said, “I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 22:16; note that Christ does not say such words in any other Gospel).  This language is indicative of Afikomen procedure.

Historically, however, this causes a dilemma, for the Gemara tells us that the Afikomen is a substitute for the Passover lamb, that is, was established after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  This means Christ preceded the use of Afikomen. However, before the use of Afikomen, there was still a Seder, and the last bit of food permitted to be eaten in Christ’s era (the Temple still standing) would have been the Passover meal itself, which Torah (Exodus 12:8) commands to be the lamb eaten with matza and bitter herbs. Thus, we can say with some certainty that the “bread” which Christ proclaimed as the last bit of food He would eat (either before His arrest or before His death) not only contained matza but also followed a Seder.

[Naturally, we understand that Christ’s words have some underlying spiritual principle beyond the necessity for procedure, but we leave this for later]

Following the final bit of food, Christ then distributed wine, saying, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come” (Mark 14:25) [Note that in Matthew and Mark, the bread and wine clearly come in this order, but in Luke they appear to be reversed – this is not so, and this alleged discrepancy will be discussed further below].  The relevancy is that once the meal is concluded, only drink is permitted on Passover night.  And, concerning wine, only the third and fourth cup of the Seder is allowed.  Therefore, Christ’s pronouncement on the wine furthers the reality of a Seder in His midst, and that the “bread” before the wine must (or should) have included matza.

Even Paul makes it clear that this feast is not to be kept with leaven but with unleavened sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:8), and that being unleavened is a Christian goal while being leavened is not (5:7). Consequently, the Christian “communion” most commonly utilizes an unleavened wafer (this has in churches been supplanted at times by leavened bread, but I do not know if this is or is not in rebellion to the Hebraic mindset, that is, purposely against Jews).  While these metaphors leave something to be desired when discussing a relationship to Torah, they make a good argument for the idea that, after Christ ascended, Christians ate unleavened bread at Passover. 

(c) Torah requires bitter herbs (maror) to be eaten at the Passover meal (Exodus 12:8).  Specifically, the Passover lamb dipped in the maror.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus and His apostles dipped.  During the meal, Jesus commented, “He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me” (Matthew 26:23, Mark 14:20).  The present tense “dippeth” indicates this took place duringour Seder, conducted according to Haggadah, in an era when the Temple in Jerusalem is inactive, includes two dips, a first called Karpas (green vegetable and salt water), which is not commanded, and a second called Korech (matza and maror), which is commanded, but without the Passover lamb, which may only be eaten when the Temple is active; both these dips of the modern era take place before the meal in order to avoid simulating too much what cannot be truly achieved until the Temple is once again active]

John’s Gospel is somewhat different, claiming that after “supper being ended” (13:2), Jesus dipped a “sop” and gave it to Judas Iscariot (13:26).  Does this break a technicality of Torah?  John does not say Jesus or Judas ate this sop, so that restriction, we presume, stood firm.  Perhaps Jesus handed this "out-of-order" sop to Judas as a symbolic poke.

4. SOME PROCEDURAL INQUIRIES.

(a) In Matthew, Christ breaks bread during the meal (26:26).  However, unlike Luke, Matthew does not indicate that this is the bread which will no more be eaten.  Following this, Christ passes a cup (or cups) of wine, and says, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (26:29).  This final cup is, according to Haggadah, the fourth cup of wine.  If we were to be critical, we might say that following the meal with the final cup of wine is preposterous, but this is according to our given Haggadah, not Torah, and we know not what order Christ may have followed which was equally lawful.  If we wished to be charitable, we could say the text doesn’t say explicitly that Christ’s final cup of wine came during the meal, or even directly after it, so there may have been a brief lapse between events here.

In Mark, the story is the same, with no discernible differences.

In Luke, it is unknown when the bread and wine are given.  At first glance, it looks to be at the onset of the meal, but this is speculation.  It then appears that Christ gives the apostles the last cup of wine before the bread (22:17-18).  However, it soon becomes clear that the wine first mentioned is not the final cup, for Christ gives that final cup after the bread (22:20), and this is the correct order.

John is silent on this matter.

(b) Following the meal, they sang a hymn, literally a psalm (Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26).  According to Haggadah structure, hymns or psalms usually follow the third cup of wine, but there is no prohibition against singing after the fourth cup. 

(c) Christ and His apostles then went for a walk.  Torah tells us that one should not travel until the next morning after the Passover (Deut. 16:7).  In fact, there is a commandment not to leave the house until the morning (Exodus 12:22).  However, though we may be tempted to condemn Christ on this matter, it is evident that other Jews, in fact, lawful authorities, were also outside at the same time, for Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:57) before the cock crowed (Matthew 26:69-75), but not for walking (this charge was not made).  Furthermore, Peter was not arrested, though he was walking with Jesus (and in plain sight cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant!) (John 18:10).  Knowing these things (and taking into account “the two foundations”), we must conclude that Jesus broke no commandment by taking a walk after the Passover meal.

5. SOME MEANINGS.

(a) Why did Jesus say of the bread, “This is my body” (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22), or “This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19)?

The lamb is a prescribed sacrifice, embodying that God smote the Egyptians for the sake of the Jews’ freedom.  The matza is a symbol of the haste in which the Jews left Egypt.  The maror is a symbol of the bitterness of slavery.  As we have already examined, Christ and His apostles ate of all three at their Passover.  If the “bread” which Christ called His “body” was of any particular element, or mixture of elements, we know not.  Assuming it was matza, His “body” is that which was prepared quickly, for the enemy was approaching, and that evening Jesus would be arrested.  Interestingly, Christ’s message to His captors would be the same as Moses’ to Pharaoh: “Let my people go!”  If what Christ distributed as His “body” included maror, that bitterness may correlate to the heavy burdens, the yoke of the Pharisees, a slavery to regulation which was unnecessarily oppressive, especially while Jerusalem was under Roman rule.  But if what Christ distributed as His “body” was or included lamb, this would not be sensible, for though Christ’s correlation as the Passover lamb works as a metaphor, it does not as a reality.  For the Passover lamb was not to have a blemish (Exodus 12:5) or a broken bone (12:46), but Christ was bruised before His crucifixion (and it is unclear whether or not the bones in His hands or feet were split by the nails of crucifixion). 

The “body” can also be seen as the Jewish people, a body broken by the Pharisees (not by God’s Law) so that some Jews became lost sheep.  The proof of this charge is the destruction of the Temple, which the Talmud says was caused by “sinat hinam” (literally, "baseless hatred" of Jews hating Jews).  This attitude is illustrated in the unlawful manner that Christ was treated and tried by the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin.

A more literal interpretation is that “my body” refers to His crucifixion, which was surely on His mind, for He had determined not to back down until either the Pharisees heeded Him or He was dead. 

Interestingly, Christ as a prefigure of the Afikomen can be seen, for (like the Afikomen) He was broken, buried, disappeared, then reappeared for a reward.

Concerning “given for you,” we know its doctrine in Christianity, that Christ is supposedly the vicarious sacrifice for the sin of another, but this has no Passover meaning, for the lamb is not a vicarious sacrifice, but was at the first Passover commanded to be slain for its blood so that the “destroyer” (a.k.a. the Angel of Death, but in reality it was God) would not kill, but pass over, those houses which utilized its blood.  This is akin to the brazen serpent, as previously examined herein.  Nothing in this clause should be construed as meaning that Christ takes the punishment for your sins.  What is more evil than the intentional victimization of another, even if that person desires it? 

Concerning “this do in remembrance of me,” what does it mean?  Certainly, Christ’s heroic actions deserve memorial.  Certainly, remembering Him would be the cornerstone of the church, which was Jewish until Paul came forward with his “bill of rights” for non-Jewish Christians. Paul, however, took this memorial “bread” (and erroneously added memorial “blood”) and instituted a “communion” among his Gentile converts, making the memorial into a pseudo-sacred ritual.  When Paul saw that allowing non-Jewish Christians to mimic the Passover in this manner only brought pagan elements to contaminate it, he made the communion of much negative connotation for doing it incorrectly and of no positive effect for doing it correctly, effectively cutting off non-Jews (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).  This was a correct reaction (though he was instrumental in creating that chaos).  Paul said he would set the rest in order (indicating even more problems) but, after this, no one ever again mentions communion in the entire New Testament.

(b) Why did Jesus say of the wine, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28)? [Note that Mark 14:24 says only “shed for many” with no reason, and Luke 22:20 says only “shed for you” with no reason]

When He says “this is my blood,” He does not mean it literally, for no right-minded Jew would break Torah to drink (or eat) blood (Leviticus 7:26-27).  The confusion surrounding Christ’s statement is one reason why the Council at Jerusalem felt compelled to reiterate to non-Jewish Christians the prohibition on drinking blood (Acts 15:20).  In so saying, the Christian doctrines of transubstantiation and consubstantiation fail. 

The wine which Christ called His blood has specific Haggadah meaning.  The third cup of wine signifies “I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments” (Exodus 6:6).  On the face of it, this seems to fit well with Christian doctrine, but only if one omits that such redemption comes by God’s might and the terribleness of His signs and wonders (Deut. 26:8).  This is a physical redemption from slavery, not a spiritual redemption from sin.  Allusion to redemption from the “slavery of sin” is pertinent in some respects, but is not the main message.  This is first and foremost a rescue and reclamation of the Jewish people.  Secondly, it is a conversion from Egyptian paganism back to Hebraic mindset, and finally into Torah at Mt. Sinai.  In the Gospels, Christ speaks of redemption only once, in conjunction with the end of days and the return of the Messiah (Luke 21:28), and this is quite similar to the Torah verse.  At the Passover meal, on the other hand, Christ spoke of remission of sins, which has little or nothing in common with the Torah verse at hand.

The Haggadah meaning for the fourth cup of wine is “I will take you to me for a people and I will be to you a God” (Exodus 6:7).  This also seems to meet Christian doctrine concerning Christ, but (again) no right-minded Jew, including any of His disciples, would (or should) have accepted Christ as “a God.”  Instead, this final cup of wine regards the Jews as the chosen people.

“Remission of sins” was preached by John the Baptist, and this remission is accomplished by repentance (Luke 1:4).  In exactly the same way, Christ states “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47).  “In his name” is yet another indicator of memorial, Christ’s fervor and determination for the lost sheep and for Torah never to be forgotten.  In such, we have our eternal example of courage and loyalty to God in the face of persecution, ostracism, torture, and death.  The remission of sins is not accomplished by Christ’s blood, only by the repentance of many who are touched and reached by His sacrifice.  The blood which Christ shed has no magical or supernatural qualities, but only the power to command respect and to shame those who fall short of such Torah perfection.  Our evidence of this perfection is that Christ was resurrected, and this is a Jewish concept.  It might be argued that if repentance is the only manner for remission of sins, animal sacrifices have no effect.  This is only partly so, for though Torah has prescribed the only sacrifices which are lawful, God has made it abundantly clear that the repentant heart is the key (Micah 6:6-8), so that blood sacrifice without repentance is nearly useless, but repentance without blood sacrifice is acceptable when such sacrifice is not possible (that is, when the Temple in Jerusalem not active).  Therefore, repentance being greater than blood for the remission of sins, the blood that Christ shed has no property either for remission of sins. 

The Christian doctrine that “remission” equals “remittance” (that is, payment for sins) is not strong, for the blood of the Passover lamb does not work in this manner.  The blood of the Passover lamb was that which protected believers from death, but the lamb’s blood did not cause remission of, or payment for, sins.  That miracle requires the Yom Kippur goat, but this goat is not intentionally killed and its blood is never used for any purpose.  The Christian doctrine of Christ’s blood is thus a mixture of Jewish ideas, with added pagan aspects.

The blood of the Passover lamb caused death to bypass certain houses.  The shed blood of Christ ought to likewise cause the death of apathy (rather than death by apathy).  The blood He shed was His final battle cry, “I am willing to die so that you will repent!” 

The blood “shed” was not only His own, but also that of the prophets before Him, for He said that the Pharisees were murderers of those messengers also (Matthew 23:29-32).  To stand against corruption is the highest calling, and Christ is the leader in this field. He shed His blood because the Pharisees would not relent.  His blood was shed for this, but it does not pay for anything, not the sin of the Pharisees or any other. 

Christ gave His blood voluntarily, but not to overturn Torah or to establish Himself as some type of sacrifice.  It was the destruction of the Temple some 37 years after His death which caused the Jews to suspend the animal sacrifices. Before the Temple fell, Jewish Christians continued zealous in the Law (Acts 21:20-21), and were not incorrect for doing so.  

When Christ said, “for you,” He meant “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:13-14).  Christ lays down His life only for His friends, and these are defined as the obedient, and this obedience is to commandments.  Do we believe that Christ made any commands contrary to Torah?  Of course not.  His blood is thus shed only for those who convert to Torah.

The “testament” was a will (something He left behind).  This will was written in His actions, in the stand He took which will live forever.  It was a “new” testament alongside the “old” testament of those who before Him died also for Torah.  Christ's testimony is that He was willing to die for the Law of God against those who would make the Law their own pot for power and wealth. 

Today, we have the same problem with our politicians that Jesus had with the Pharisees.  The government goes beyond and against that which was written by the founding fathers in the Constitution of the United States.  In the same way, the Pharisees went well beyond Torah, increasing heavy burdens on the congregation (citizens), and even against Torah, being hypocrites to it, saying and not doing.  The limited government envisioned by the framers has expanded to gargantuan proportions, and this is the same as the Pharisees multiplying their seats (expanded government) from one (Moses’ seat) to many (a Sanhedrin).  As the Jews were then, Americans today are asleep, forgetting their duties, and trading freedom in favor of comfort and convenience.  Christ was betrayed likewise by His own people’s ignorance as well as their willing sheepishness.  This is human nature: as long as people are left alone and given “goodies” (special favors, special interests), they fall into line. 

The doctrine of free salvation is yet another goodie to claim, and is the height of arrogance. The Law of God (the Word) did not die on the cross.  But if it did, it was resurrected!  The Word, Torah, Jesus, is always with us.  This Word, Torah, saves us by causing us to recognize just how awful we are, so that we will repent in front of the only Savior, God.  The Christian claim, that such repentance doesn’t count unless you call God only by the name of Jesus or Christ, is a mistake, for God’s name is Jealousy, and He shares not His throne or His glory with any other.  As Christ said, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me" (John 8:54).

CONCLUSION.

Jesus Christ performed His Passover according to Torah and strict Jewish guidelines.  He also appears to have had a Seder (an order).  His messages are of hope but not for those who dream of free gifts.  Christ did not give His life for others to be lazy or callous.  Christ’s identity is furthered by the Passover, but Christian doctrine attempts to mix Yom Kippur concepts to create an incorrect, and ultimately dangerous, magic potion.

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