What are some Jewish Passover customs that connect to the Christian Passover?
The Jewish Passover was celebrated by early Jewish-Christians and their festival was known as "Pasch", which was taken from the Hebrew word "Pesach", meaning "to pass over". Some Jewish Passover customs that connect to the Christian Passover include: (1) The offering of the wave-sheaf. According to certain Christian theology, Jesus was presented to the Father (G-d) as the wave-sheaf offering on the Sunday after the Sabbath during the Passover week when the wave-sheaf was traditionally offered. (2) Another Jewish Passover custom that relates the Jewish Passover to the Christian Passover is the custom of sacrificing the paschal lamb for the Jewish Passover holiday. Originally, The Apostles maintained the celebration of Easter on the same day in the Jewish calendar that the Jews sacrificed their paschal lamb which was on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, for the start of the Jewish Passover holiday on the 15th day of Nissan. The reason is that they maintained that Jesus was crucified or "sacrificed" on the 14th day of Nissan just as the paschal lamb of the Jewish people was sacrificed on the same day. In Christian theology, all Christians acknowledge that as the Apostle John said, Jesus was that antitypical Passover Lamb which taketh away the sins of the world (John 1:29). For Christians, this calendrical connection was meant to show the historical continuity between the Old Testament and The New Testament, although all the Gospel accounts show that Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover the night before he was crucified. In I Corinthians 5:7 in the New Testament, it says that "Jesus was our Passover lamb", since in addition to the word "Passover" meaning "to pass over", the Jewish people also referred to the paschal lamb as the "Passover", which derived from an ancient pre-Passover of Egypt festival practiced by Middle Eastern peoples of sacrificing a lamb to mark the arrival of Springtime, known as the "Passover". So Jesus's "sacrifice" of his life was given a symbolic connection with the sacrifice of the paschal lamb for the Jewish Passover festival. (3) Still another Jewish Passover custom that influenced Jesus and as a result Christianity, are what Christians today celebrate as the Eucharist, Communion, and Lord's Supper. These customs were instituted by Jesus at his last Passover. (4) Yet another of many Jewish Passover customs that were adopted and theologically adapted by Christians include Jesus's substitution of the symbolism of the lamb and bitter herbs of the Jewish Passover Seder meal which symbolized the Hebrews' being saved from the death of the first-born son in each Hebrew family in Egypt and the hardships of slavery in Egypt, respectively, with bread and wine, where the bread symbolized the body of Jesus and the wine symbolized the blood of Jesus, which represented Jesus as the "lamb of God" (referenced in: John 1:29; Acts 8:32; I Peter 1:19; and Revelations 5:6) and hence synoymous with but replacing the paschal lamb of the Hebrews. The reason for these substitutions according to Christian interpretations was that "just as you did it in memory of your salvation from slavery and death by the blood of the Passover lamb in Egypt; now you are to eat and drink in memory of your salvation from slavery to sin and death through the blood of the Lamb of God to eternal life". (5) Jewish Passover customs in the area of observing the eating of unleavened bread for 7 (or 8) days are connected by Christians with verses in the New Testament, specifically in John 6. In John 6, it states that Jesus calls himself the "Bread of Life" and equates that with eternal life. According to some Christian interpretations, since Christians are redeemed by Jesus's death but only saved by his resurrected life, the Unleavened Bread represents Jesus's resurrection. So the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread have both the death and Resurrection in it. To cite a source for this explanation, Paul says in I Corinthians 15 that if Jesus is not resurrected, Christians are still in their sins. These are but some of the many connections between the ancient Jewish Passover and the Christological meanings adopted and adapted for the Lord's Supper in Christianity. The earliest Christians continued to keep observing their adapted Jewish Passover on the 14th day of Nissan, which was then renamed the Christian Passover. Moreover, the earliest Christians kept all the Jewish festivals, not just Passover. Eventually, the observance of the Christian Passover on the 14th day of Nissan was replaced by the Roman Church at the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. with the observance of Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The name "Easter" came from an old Anglo-Saxon term "Eastre" (also: "Ostera" or "Eostre"), which was the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Springtime of which a pagan festival for marking the beginning of springtime I.E. the vernal equinox was celebrated by the Anglo-Saxons.
Was the Jewish Passover originally celebrated on the same date as the Christian Passover?
Yes. Before 135 C.E., there was both a Jewish Passover ("Pesach" in Hebrew) and a Christian Passover called "Pasch". Both were celebrated on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. Both had similar rituals but different interpretations. Hadrian, a Roman emperor, passed legislation prohibiting Jewish practices. He changed the Sabbath to Sunday and Passover became Easter Sunday.
How did Jewish Passover customs come to be connected with Christian Passover customs?
Jewish Passover customs came to be connected with Christian Passover customs because the early Christians were in fact, Jews who kept the observances of all the Jewish festivals and on the same dates in the Jewish calendar as the Jewish people celebrated them. The early Christians substituted traditional Jewish symbolisms and interpretations for the Passover Seder or festive meal and the Passover holiday as a whole with their own version of symbolisms and interpretations. In the New Testament, instructions are given concerning observing the Passover festival. These instructions are found in I Corinthians 5:7-8: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast (of unleavened bread, which always followed Passover, since in the Hebrew Bible the Passover of Egypt festival was originally a combination of two pre-Passover of Egypt festivals observed by early Middle Eastern peoples: a one-day festival of sacrificing a paschal lamb followed by a seven-day festival of eating unleavened bread)". Initially, Easter was celebrated on the same day as the Jewish Passover due to Jesus being crucified on the day of the Jewish Passover on the 15th day of Nissan in the Jewish calendar. It was only during the ecumenical council of Nicea in 325 C.E. that the patriarchs of the Roman Church decided that Easter would always fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring (the vernal equinox), no sooner than March 21st (meaning the first full moon appears on or after March 21st, the vernal equinox) and no later than April 25th. For Orthodox Christians who refer to Easter as "Pascha" or "Pashka" or the "Orthodox Easter", there is an agreement with the Roman church concerning when Easter should be celebrated, meaning on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring or vernal equinox, but with the exception that Pascha or Pashka always occurs on the first Sunday after the Jewish Passover because the the gospels say Jesus died the day after eating the Passover Seder and rose from the dead on the following Sunday. Furthermore, when it comes to calculating the dates of Easter and Pascha or Pashka, there are differences between followers of the Roman church and followers of the Orthodox church. Followers of the Roman church calculate the dates of Easter based on astronomical occurrences that generally happen between March 21st and April 25th each year. Furthermore, followers of the Roman church (later split into Catholics and Protestants) use the Gregorian calendar to fix the date of Easter, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, while followers of the Orthodox Christian church use the pre-Gregorian calendar, known as the Julian calendar, introduced by the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar in 45 B.C.E., to calculate and fix the date of Pascha or Pashka. Orthodox Christians also base their calculations on key decisions made in the First Ecumenical Council of the Church in 325 C.E., held in the ancient city of Nicea located in Asia Minor (now Turkey). So Easter for followers of the Roman Church occurs no sooner than March 21st and no later than April 25th while Pascha or Pashka for Orthodox Christians according to the Julian calendar - and keeping in mind that it always occurs on the first Sunday following the Jewish Passover - occurs no sooner than April 4th and no later than May 8th. In other words, Orthodox Easter (or Eastern Orthodox Easter or Pascha/Pashka) is the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox and following the completion of the full eight days of the Jewish Passover, as calculated from the Julian calendar. An exception is if the first full moon after the vernal equinox actually falls on the first Sunday, then Pascha or Pashka must occur on the following Sunday. These differences in calenders and calendrical calculations usually make Orthodox Easter or Pascha/Pashka fall either one, four, or five weeks after the Easter of the Roman or Western churches, although there are years when both dates may fall on the same day. Although in the 1920's, most Orthodox churches in Eastern Europe, including the Greek and Romanian Orthodox churches, adopted the Gregorian calendar used by the Roman or Western Churches (with the exception of the Russian Orthodox Church and a few other Orthodox churches), to keep unity with their Orthodox brethren in countries such as Russia, Orthodox churches that switched to the Gregorian calendar decided to keep one very important observance -- Pascha or Pashka -- under the Julian calendar so that all Orthodox Christians would celebrate their greatest holy day on the same Sunday.
In a nutshell, early Christians believed that just as the Hebrews were given redemption and physical liberation by G-d from slavery and oppression in Egypt as told in the Passover story, Christians were given redemption and liberation through Jesus, who represents their God in human form.
The two early Spring festivals of the sacrificing of a paschal lamb and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were meant to placate the unknown and were performed out of a fear of not knowing what would be. The transformation of the primitive spring festivals into the Jewish Passover, and then the Christian Easter, marked a profound shift in emphasis. The heart of the celebration becomes centred on human conduct and conscience, not the whim of natural forces outside of human control. In Judaism, Moses leads his people to freedom from tyranny, and divine justice is ministered to the hard-hearted Pharaoh. In Christianity, an innocent Jesus dies on the Cross, betrayed by his friends and by the state. His resurrection offers the prospect of forgiveness and human redemption. True, both stories offer divine grace. Yet both imply we are also complicit in our own destiny. With that spark of intuition is born the seductive idea we can change destinies if we but make the right choice. From there the modern world is born: the idea that we can make a better tomorrow.
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