Chapter 7. Special Usage in the Feast Name of the Gospel of John
The Synoptic Gospels followed the Jewish custom in calling the name of the feasts. They called the annual feasts of first time as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In the previous chapter, we confirmed the use of their expression; “the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed”, “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb”, and “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?'”
However, the Gospel of John, referred to as the Fourth Gospel, has different characteristics from the Synoptic Gospels in the name of the feasts. The Gospel of John uses the name ‘Passover’ when calling the first time feasts, such an expression is a very different use than the Synoptic Gospels, that called the first time feasts as the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
【John 2:13】 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
【John 6:4】 The Jewish Passover Feast was near.
【John 12:1】 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany
【John 13:1】 It was just before the Passover Feast
【John 19:14】 It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week,
In the scene where the Synoptic Gospel should have been described as “the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread is near,” the Gospel of John expressed, “The Jewish Passover Feast is near.” In this way, the Gospel of John shows characteristics different from other Gospels in the use of the feast name. It is because John wanted to emphasize the Passover as the truth of eternal life.
Let’s take a moment to look at the background of John’s Gospel that is different from the Synoptic Gospels.
First, the Synoptic Gospels were written shortly after Jesus’ death, but the Gospel of John was recorded after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The Gospel of John was written much later than the Synoptic Gospels. After the ascension of Jesus, the early Church of God was considered a branch of Judaism. The apostle Paul was invited to the synagogue to preach Jesus Christ. Even if the Gentiles regarded the early Church of God as a branch of Judaism, there was no great difficulty in preaching the gospel.
But the atmosphere of the people about Judaism was changed completely hostile after the destruction of Jerusalem. Because they thought the destruction of Jerusalem was due to the Jewish revolt against Rome. Therefore, the Church of God had to change their mission strategy. The destruction of Jerusalem forced the early church to proclaim that the church is not a part of Judaism. Because of the changed empire’s atmosphere after the fall of Jerusalem, the Gospel of John was recorded somewhat free from Judaism. The Gospel of John was written with more attention to the concept of Greek philosophy than to Jewish tradition.
Second, the concept of salvation in the Gospel of John used a temporal concept. On the other hand, the heaven of the Synoptic Gospel is a spatial concept. Heaven is expressed in the Gospel of John as a temporal concept of eternal life. The concept that separates the kingdom of God from the world is a spatial concept. The Synoptic Gospel described salvation as going to heaven. However, the Gospel of John used the concept of dividing it into this world and the next. The Gospel of John described salvation as a temporal concept of eternal life. Eternal life means the coming generation, the next generation. It is in the same context that John 1 attempted to explain God as the concept of the Greek philosophy of logos (the Word).
Thus, the Gospel of John did not evenly record the three-year course of Jesus Christ. Jesus visited Jerusalem every year on the Passover, and the Gospel of John mainly wrote the Gospels, focusing on Jesus’ actions in Jerusalem. Because John believed that Jesus’ action in Jerusalem was the most important.
Third, in order to achieve the above-mentioned purpose of the author, the Gospel of John unfolds with the focus on the Passover of the new covenant among the works of Jesus Christ.
【John 20:30-31】 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The main concern of the Gospel of John is Jesus Christ himself and the eternal life to be given through him. Due to the concern on the eternal life, the Gospel of John records two long Passover sermons. One sermon is recorded in John 6 and the other sermon is recorded in John 13–16. Those are very unique record not found in the Synoptic Gospels. The longest Passover sermon recorded in chapter 6 and the last Passover night sermon from chapter 13 to 16 is a unique record not found in the Synoptic Gospel. The stage of the Gospel of John is mainly performed during the period of Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts. In particular, it records the actions and words shown at the Passover each year in detail.
John was a disciple who realized that the new covenant Passover was the most important among the messages that Jesus had given for three years. John said that it was the first sign that Jesus made water become wine in Chapter 2. There are records in the Synoptic Gospels that Jesus has performed so many miracles. But John claimed the event the first sign. It is because of John’s unique view of the Passover. In chap 15, there is a record that Jesus has explained the the principle of the Passover bread and wine through the verse “I am the vine”. We can find such a record in the Gospel of John only.
The purpose of the Gospel of John was to convey the divinity of Jesus and the eternal life given through him. Therefore, John would have wanted to highlight that the new covenant Jesus Christ gave at the last Passover was the essence of the gospel. At the time of the writing of the Gospel of John, the object of evangelism was not Jews, but Gentiles. It was for good reason that John tried to highlight the new covenant by calling the first feast name Passover, rather than calling it the Feast of Unleavened Bread according to Jewish customs.
Once you have fully understood the characteristics of the Gospel of John, you will know exactly what the day of the preparation of the Passover Week” in John 19:14 meant.
【John 19:14】 It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
The Gospel of John expressed the dawn of the 15th day of the first month, when Jesus was sentenced to be crucified, as the day of Preparation of Passover Week. Here, the Passover Week does not mean the 14th day of the first month only, but should be considered as the representative name of the first time feasts, including both of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
And here, ‘the day of Preparation’ refers to Friday that prepares the Sabbath. In the New Testament, the word ‘the day of Preparation’ which is “Parasquee(Παρασκευὴ)” in Greek means Friday always. Such use can be found in the same chapter as follows.
【John 19:31】 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
【John 19:41-42】 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
All other Gospels have the same record that Jesus was tried in Pilate’s court and died on the cross on Friday, “the day of Preparation.”
【Mark 15:42-43】 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body
【Luke 23:52-54】 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
【Matt. 27:61-62】 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.
John 19:14 refers to the day when Jesus was tried in Pilate’s court as ‘the day of Preparation of Passover Week’. It was true that the day was Friday, the day of Preparation. As mentioned above, the Passover Week means the entire feast period from the Passover to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the day of Preparation means Friday in the period. It would be appropriate for the NIV Bible to translate this verse into ‘the day of Preparation of Passover Week.’
Incidentally, the Passover is celebrated at night, so there is no need for a separate day to prepare the Passover. The Israelites slaughtered the Passover lamb at twilight on the 14th, and on that very night they kept the Passover.
The apostle John was a smart and young disciple whom Jesus loved.
He was the disciple who leaned on Jesus’ lap on the Last Supper and ate and drank the Passover bread and wine. Do you think that John might not have properly remembered the series of events about Jesus’ death? It is foolish to imagine that John would have recorded the date Jesus died differently from the Synoptic Gospels.
Nevertheless, today theologians around the world are leading Christianity to the way in defending the tradition of Roman Catholic who has abolished the Passover. They use the false interpretation of the Gospel of John in their own way. It is truly a pity.
The Passover debate between the Eastern and Western churches in the days of the Fathers was derived from a provocation of Roman Catholic ignoring the apostolic tradition. Roman Catholic ignited the Passover debate constantly to have hegemony over the Eastern church. However, even Protestant theologians are in a position to advocate the Catholic tradition of abolishing the Passover. Furthermore, they have placed a position to undermine even the authority of the Gospel of John. It looks very sad situation