Historical Evidence to Support a Passover Sacrifice at the End of Abib 14

The Book of Jubilees – (2nd Century B.C.E.) –

“Remember the commandment which the Lord commanded thee concerning the Passover, that thou shouldst celebrate it in its season on the fourteenth of the first month, that thou shouldst kill it before it is evening, and that they should eat it by night on the evening of the fifteenth from the time of the setting of the sun.”

“Let the children of Israel come and observe Passover on the day of its fixed time, on the fourteenth day of the first month, between the evenings, from the third part of the day to the third part of the night, for two portions of the day are given to light, and a third part to the evening.”

“This is that which the Lord commanded thee that thou shouldst observe it between the evenings. And it is not permissible to slay it during any period of the light, but during the period bordering on the evening, and let them eat it at the time of the evening until the third part of the night, and whatever is left over of all its flesh from the third part of the night and onwards, let them burn with fire.” (Each ‘part’ was approximately 4 hours long). ‘Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English’ by R.H. Charles, chapter 49.

This shows that, as early as two centuries before Messiah, there were Jews who believed the Passover was to be sacrificed at the end of Abib 14 and eaten on the 15th. This also shows that this practice did not begin after the destruction of the second temple in 70 C.E.

Philo – (early 1st century C.E.) –

“After the New Moon comes the fourth feast, called the Crossing-feast, which the Hebrews in their native tongue call Pascha. In this festival many myriads of victims from noon till eventide are offered by the whole people … The day on which this national festivity occurs may very properly be noted. It is the 14th of the month …” ‘De Specialibus Legibus, 2,’ 145, 149.

Again, these offerings took place at the end of the 14th. Philo wrote from about 20 B.C.E. to 45 C.E. So this would have been the practice in Messiah’s day.

Another treatise ascribed to Philo, ‘Quasestiones et Solutiones in Genesin et in Exodum,’ states the time of the Passover sacrifice to be after 3 p.m.

Josephus – (late 1st century C.E.) –

“… accordingly, on the occassion of the feast called Passover, at which they sacrifice from the ninth hour to the eleventh hour , [3 p.m. to 5 p.m.] and a little fraternity, as it were, gather round each sacrifice, of not fewer than ten persons” War 6.9.3.

Josephus also wrote about the time of the evening sacrifice that was offered between the evenings as was the Passover.

“…but did still twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour [3 p.m.], offer their sacrifices on the altar;” Antiquities of the Jews 14.4.3

This was the practice in the days of Pompey (65 B.C.E.). It continued this way until the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E.

Writing on the subject of offering incense as it was practiced in Moses’ time, Josephus says;

“… but incense was to be offered twice a day, both before sunrising and at sunsetting .” Antiq. 3.8.3.

The phrase “at sunsetting” has led some to believe that incense and the evening sacrifice were offered originally at sunset, but later changed to mid-afternoon. Note that Josephus does not say “sunset” or “sundown”, but “sunsetting.” To a Jew, the sun is setting from noon until it disappears below the horizon. Even to an American today, the sun is continually descending until sundown. So Josephus does not contradict himself, nor does he teach that a change was made.

Septuagint – (3rd Century B.C.E.) –

Leviticus 23:5 gives a literal translation of the Hebrew “ben ha-erebim” (Greek: anameson ton hesperinon = “at between the evenings.”) However, in Exodus 12:6,12 and Numbers 28:4,8, ben ha-erebim is translated as “toward evening,” (Greek: pros hesperan). Exodus 29:39,41 translates ben ha-erebim as ‘to deilinon’ in Greek meaning “in the afternoon” or “toward evening.”

This shows that the Hebrew phrase ben ha-erebim was understood to mean the evening at the end of the day approximately 300 years before Messiah.

Ezekielos – (approx. 90 B.C.E.) –

Ezekielos was a Jewish dramatist who composed a tragedy in Greek on the theme of the Exodus. He writes;

“And let them be kept until the fourteenth day is bright ; then sacrificing them towards evening (you will eat them) all roast, together with (their) entrails.”

Irenaeus – (120 – 202 C.E.) –

“Of the day of His passion, too, he was not ignorant; but foretold Him, after a figurative manner, by the name given to the passover; and at that very festival, which had been proclaimed such a long time previously by Moses, did our Lord suffer, thus fulfilling the passover. And he did not describe the day only, but the place also, and the time of day at which the sufferings ceased , and the sign of the setting of the sun, saying: “Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any other of thy cities which the LORD thy God shall choose that His name be called on there, thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, towards the setting sun .” Ante-Nicean Fathers, Vol.1, pg.473.

Although this source testifies from about 100 years after the temple was destroyed, I feel it is important. This was written at a time when weak Christians were avoiding persecution by forsaking the appearance of anything Jewish such as Sabbath observance. If the practice of sacrificing the Passover before sunset was a Jewish invention after 70 C.E., it most certainly would have been forsaken by Messianic believers at that time. But there is no evidence of that in Irenaeus’ account.

Rabbinic Literature can also be added to this list of historical evidence, but since they are accused of changing the time of the Passover sacrifice, they won’t be included.

All of the sources listed are unified in their support of “between the evenings” meaning at the end of the day. I have yet to see any historical documentation supporting a beginning of the 14th Passover. Most of the extra-Biblical support for that position comes from modern commentaries and translations written by people who did not understand Jewish thought on this subject.

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