How is the Jewish Passover Seder connected with the Christian Passover Seder?
The Jewish Passover Seder was celebrated by Jesus when he had his final meal with his 12 disciples before his crucifixion according to all four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - as well as I Corinthians. This final meal is often called the "Last Supper", a term later given to the Jewish Passover Seder that Jesus hosted just before his crucifixion. Today, in the "Holy Week" in the Christian calendar leading up to Easter or Pascha/Pashka Sunday, Jesus' Last Supper is observed on Thursday, better known in the Holy Week Christian calendar as "Maundy Thursday" [literally "Commandment Thursday", where "Maundy" means "Commandment" and is from the root word in Latin, "Mandatum", meaning "commandment". "Maundy Thursday", according to some Christians, refers to Jesus's commandment at the Last Supper “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34). Other Christians believe that it refers to Jesus's commandment to his disciples at the Last Supper to "do this in memory of me", meaning to eat the bread and drink the wine in memory of Jesus]. According to Christians, the Exodus that the Jewish Passover celebrates was the great redemptive act of the Old Testament and Jesus' Passion is the great redemptive act of the New Testament. As well, Christians believe that the same way in which God's people were rescued from captivity in Egypt, Jesus rescued Christians from their captivity to sin and death. In other words, the early Judeo-Christians made a theological connection that just as the Hebrews were saved from slavery in Egypt and from the angel of death by the blood of the Passover lamb as told in the Jewish Passover story, so too are all people saved from slavery to sin and death by the blood of Jesus, the "Lamb of God" ("Angus Dei" in Latin). According to the New Testament, Jesus said, "Do this as my memorial." In other words, "Before when you ate unleavened bread and drank the cup of thanksgiving, you did it in memory of the Passover; now you are to eat the bread and drink the cup in memory of my death and resurrection." Christians believe that at the "Last Supper" of Jesus that Jesus held up the Cup of Sanctification (the Cup of Sanctification or "Kiddush" cup in Hebrew is the first cup of wine of four cups of wine traditionally used in the Jewish Passover Seder. Some Christians believe it was the third cup of four cups of wine traditionally used at the Jewish Passover Seder that Jesus held up to his disciples) and told His Jewish followers that from that time on that the Passover wine would speak of a New Covenant and the shedding of Jesus' blood for the forgiveness of sins. According to Christians, Jesus also took the unleavened bread at the Jewish Passover Seder table, broke it, and said that it was his body. There are also diffrences in Christianity as to what foods were on the table at the Lat Supper. Some believe that the food consisted of a simple peasant meal of bread, water, and porridge, while others believe that there was a feast of roast lamb, wine, and matzah for the Jewish Passover Seder meal. In the New Testament, Mark 14 and Matthew 26 describe the Jewish Passover Seder meal of Jesus' Last Supper.
The modern Jewish Passover Seder was not fully developed into a ritualized structure in Jesus' time. It began to be fully developed into a ritualized structure of 15 steps about 2 centuries after Jesus' lifetime. Therefore, the "Last Supper" was a form of an evolving Jewish Passover Seder that culminated in what we know today as the Jewish Passover Seder. Nevertheless, wine, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, foods that are used in the modern Jewish Passover Seder, were most likely used by Jesus at his Last Supper.
According to Christian theology, the Jewish Passover Seder is connected with the Christian Passover Seder through the "Last Supper" of Jesus, which was believed by many to be a Jewish Passover Seder. The early Christians continued to celebrate the Jewish Passover Seder as well as all the Jewish festivals and on the same dates observed by the Jewish people. This changed when the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. adopted the name Easter as representing the events of Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection and by observing Easter on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox, or in other words, the date when Springtime begins. The Palestinian historian Epiphanius (315 C.E. - 403 C.E.) says that the 15 Jewish Christian bishops who administered the Jerusalem Church until 135 C.E. observed Passover on Nisan 14. In The Apostolic Constitutions, an early Christian document, the following rule is laid out: "You shall not change the calculation of the time, but you shall celebrate it at the same time as your brethren who came out of the circumcision (the Jews). With them observe the Passover." The Catholics who hold stoutly to Apostolic succession must reckon with the fact that The Apostolic Constitutions forbids any change of the time, which they later changed (to the Easter festival at the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E.).
What are some Jewish Passover Seder customs that were transferred to the Christian Passover Seder?
The lamb eaten at the Jewish Passover Seder was eaten after sundown on the 15th day of Nissan in the Jewish calendar and according to the New Testament, St. Paul refers to "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" while the gospel writer St. John says "Behold the Lamb of God". Furthermore, just as the Jewish Passover celebration is a celebration of the freedom of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt, The Passion of Christ is considered by Christians to be a "Passover" and a deliverance from the bondage of sin.
The paschal lamb and bitter herbs of the Jewish Passover Seder is replaced by the bread and wine of the Christian Passover Seder. Whereas the paschal lamb and bitter herbs represent being saved from death (of the first-born Hebrew sons) and the hardships of slavery respectively, the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Jesus, who according to Christians was and is the representation of the "sacrificial lamb" whose death and resurrection represent salvation and liberation to them as well as salvation and liberation for all peoples. According to the New Testament, Jesus said the broken bread and the wine were to also recall his broken body and shed blood for the remission of sins. Although the paschal lamb and bitter herbs of the Jewish Passover Seder were replaced by the bread and wine of the Christian Passover Seder, the Jewish Passover Seder also has a custom for blessing wine at the Jewish Passover Seder known in Hebrew as "Kiddush", which means "sanctification", and refers to sanctifying G-d. Saying "Kiddush" means to acknowledge the day as a holy day. There is also a custom to bless bread at the Jewish Passover Seder table, known as "Motzi" in Hebrew, where "Motzi" literally means "bread". While saying "Kiddush" is reserved for holidays meals and Shabbat or Sabbath meals, the blessing for bread is said at the start of meals every day. In other words, it is simply "Grace Before a Meal".
The hard-boiled or roasted egg found on the Passover Seder table was also found on the Christian Passover Seder table. While the hard-boiled or roasted egg represents many things in Judaism, such as the paschal lamb, the destruction of the Second Temple, the rebirth of Springtime, and the offering brought to the Temple in Jerusalem in biblical times, in the Christian Passover Seder, the roasted or hard-boiled egg represented the time at which the death and resurrection of Jesus occurred.
The three matzahs that are placed on the Jewish Passover Seder table symbolize the historical groupings of the Jewish people: one matzah symbolizes the Kohanim, or priests of biblical times, the second matzah symbolizes the Levi'im, or assistants to the priests (both Kohanim and Levi'im make up the Hebrew tribe of Levi), and the third matzah represents the remainder of the Hebrew tribes, collectively known as the Israelites. The early Jewish-Christians re-interpreted the Jewish representations of the three matzahs on the Jewish Passover Seder table to mean that the three matzahs symbolize the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Regarding the Four Cups of Wine, there are no real descriptive names for each of the Four Cups of Wine in Judaism. They are simply called, the First Cup ("Kos Rishon" in Hebrew), the Second Cup ("Kos Sheni" in Hebrew), the Third Cup ("Kos Sh'lishi" in Hebrew), and the Fourth Cup ("Kos Revii" in Hebrew). There is also a 5th Cup of wine for Elijah The Prophet ("Kos Eliyahu" in Hebrew), and in some Jewish Passover Seders, there is a 6th Cup for the Prophetess Miriam (Moses' sister. Miriam's Cup is called "Kos Miriam" in Hebrew), but it is filled with water in memory of the well filled with water that G-d created to reward Miriam's saving of her younger brother Moses by watching over him when he was an infant floating in a basket of reeds in the Nile River. This well filled with water followed the Hebrews through their wanderings in the Sinai Desert and stayed with the Hebrews until Miriam's death. However in the Christian Passover, there are descriptive names for each of the Four Cups of Wine which vary depending on the Christian denomination. Some Christian denominations refer to the Four Cups as: (1) Cup of Holiness; (2) Cup of Deliverance; (3) Cup of Promise; and (4) Cup of Hope, while other Christian denominations refer to the Four Cups as: (1) Cup of Sanctification; (2) Cup of Plagues; (3) Cup of Redemption; and (4) Cup of Praise. Still other Christian denominations replace the name "Cup of Deliverance" or "Cup of Plagues" for the Second Cup with "Cup of Instruction", and still other denominations have their own names for the Four Cups of Wine based on their own particular Christian theological interpretations of the Jewish Passover story.
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