Passover (Christian holiday)

Some Christians observe a form of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The practice is found among Assemblies of Yahweh, Messianic Jews, and some congregations of the Church of God (Seventh Day). It is often linked to the Christian holiday and festival of Easter. Often, only an abbreviated seder is celebrated to explain the meaning in a time-limited ceremony. The redemption from the bondage of sin through the sacrifice of Christ is celebrated, a parallel of the Jewish Passover's celebration of redemption from bondage in the land of Egypt.[1]

Christian Passover ceremonies are held on the evening corresponding to 14 Nisan (e.g. April 5, 2012) or 15 Nisan, depending whether the particular church uses a quartodeciman or quintodeciman application. In other cases, the holiday is observed according to the Jewish calendar on 15 Nisan, which is also used by Samaritans.

Meaning in Jewish ChristianityEdit

The passover is a memorial of the redemption of The Exodus from Egypt and rejoicing in God's salvation. The gospels portray the Last supper as done in accordance with the command to observe the passover on the 15th of Nisan according to Exodus 12. It would have been a passover meal,[citation needed] to which Jesus gave an additional meaning without denying or replacing its primary meaning, and certainly without abrogating the command to observe it at its appointed time. Celebration of the resurrection of Jesus does not supersede the passover, and since it took place some days later, both can be celebrated.

Typological meaning in post-Nicene ChristianityEdit

The main view of Nicene Christianity is that the Passover, as observed by ancient Israel as well as Jews today, was a type of the true Passover sacrifice that was to be made by Jesus.[2] This typological interpretation is consistent with the doctrines of supersession of the Jewish people and Sinai Covenant, and Abrogation of Old Covenant laws, which became church doctrine at the First Council of Nicaea and future ecumenical councils.

As the Israelites partook of the Passover sacrifice by eating it, Nicene Christians commemorate Jesus' death by taking part in the christian ritual of Eucharist, claiming that it is an enactment of what Jesus is said to have instituted at the Last supper. (1Corinthians 11:15–34, Luke 22:19–20). Most Protestants see the elements as symbolic of Jesus' body or as symbols of the presence and or as a memorial to quicken and confirm a faith already held, while Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians hold that the elements are changed into Jesus' body and blood, which they then eat and drink. The Orthodox prefer to use the term, meteousis (change) rather than transubstantiation which is a Western philosophical term applied to a doctrinal concept. Lutherans describe the presence as sacramental union which means that the body and blood are "in, with, and under" the bread and wine. Anglicans believe that the bread and wine are outward and visible symbols and that "The inward and spiritual grace in the Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people, and received by faith," that is as an objective presence and subjective reception. (BCP 1976. p 859). This definition most closely approximates the words of St. John of Damascus, "the bread and wine are the visible symbols of a spiritual reality."[citation needed]

The spiritual theme of Passover, according to this interpretation, is one of salvation by the atoning blood of a perfect, spotless sacrificed lamb.[citation needed] For many Christians, this is the spiritual pattern seen in Passover which gives it its eternal meaning and significance. The theme is carried on and brought to its ultimate New Covenant fulfillment in the sacrificial death of Christ as the promised sacrifice.[3]


Most Christians don't celebrate the Passover, since it is seen to belong rather to a Jewish or Old Testament tradition which they believe to be no longer necessary.[citation needed] Among those Christians who do observe the Passover, there are some differences in how this is done. Some follow the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples at the time of his last meal before he was crucified, and share instead of roasted lamb, bread (usually unleavened) and wine.[4] In the Christian Passover service the unleavened bread is used to represent Jesus' body, and wine represents his blood of the New Covenant (Luke 22:19–20). These are a symbolic substitute for Jesus as the true sacrificial Passover "Lamb of God" (John 1:29). It should also be noted that Passover day is followed in the Scriptures by seven days of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:1–15Leviticus 23:6). These days have a great dual significance to the observant Christian. Just as leavening causes bread to be puffed up, so sin causes Christians to be "puffed up" with the sin of "malice and wickedness," and therefore must "purge out" that "old leaven" and replace it with "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (King James Version - 1Corinthians 5:1–15). Therefore, in the Christian Passover service Christ's body is represented[original research?] by unleavened bread symbolizing his sinless life, for he alone had no sin (1Peter 2:21–22). Since these Scriptures indicate that during the seven days of unleavened bread, leavening represents sin and unleavened bread represents righteousness, when Christians remove leavening during these days they are reminded to put sin out of their lives.[original research?]

In some traditions, the ceremony is combined with washing one another's feet,[4] as Jesus did for his disciples the night that he suffered (John 13:5–14).

Other Christians celebrate the Passover as the Jews celebrate it. They roast and eat lamb, bitter herbs, and the unleavened Matza.[5]

Many Adventist, Sabbatarian Churches of God, Messianic Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses (who call it the 'Memorial of Christ's Death') and other groups observe a Christian Passover — though all do not agree on the date(s) or the related practices.

Pesaha Bread (പെസഹാ അപ്പം)

St Thomas Syrian Christians ( Nazranis) in the Malabar coast of India (Kerala) have a customary celebration of Pesaha at their homes. On the evening before Good Friday (called Pesaha Vyazham or Pesaha Thursday) the Pesaha bread (also called Pesaha appam) is made at home. It is made with unleavened flour mixed with certain herbs and condiments and they use a sweet thick drink made up of coconut milk and jaggery along with this bread (can be compared to Charoset of the Jewish seder). On the Pesaha night the bread is baked or steamed in a new vessel, immediately after the flour is mixed with water and they pierce it many times with handle of the spoon to let out the steam so that the bread will not rise (this custom is called "juthante kannu kuthal" in the Malayalam language meaning piercing the bread according to the custom of the Jews). This bread is cut by the head of the family and shared among the family members after scripture reading from the Book of Exodus narrating the Passover incidence, and prayers, by traditionally dipping it in the Charoset-like drink, used along with the Pesaha bread. The Pesaha bread, especially the first baked bread of the lot, is not shared with non-Nazranis. If the family is in mourning following a death, Pesaha bread is not made at their home, but some of the Syrian Christian neighbours share their bread with them. The Pesaha tradition may have its origin in their likely Jewish ancestry since they are Christians whose roots can be traced back to the first century AD apostolic missions in Persia and India. Their Pesaha observance is in line with many other Jewish customs, like their traditional church architecture and interiors that resemble a synagogue, separate seating arrangement for the sexes at the Qurbana in church, praying with veil on their heads (for women, and in olden times men too), naming conventions in line with the Sephardic Jewish customs, kiss of peace (kaikasthoori) in their Holy Qurbana (mass),[citation needed] purification of the mother and presentation of their babies on the 40th day after birth, in the church, and ceremonial bath of the dead bodies and burial with frankincense. Unlike other Christians, in their weddings the bride stands on the right side of the groom (a practise less common today due to western influence), the drinking of wine by the groom and bride, the bridal canopy (similar to the huppah tradition of Jewish weddings), etc. resembling Jewish customs and during the wedding a veil is given to the bride[6]


Some differences between when groups observe passover are:

  1. Disputes over reckoning of the 24-hour day, for example, the modern western 24-hour day begins at midnight(12:00 A.M.), whereas the biblical 24-hour day is generally reckoned to begin at sunset.[7]
  2. Disputes over which day Jesus was crucified on: according to John 19:14 and the Gospel of Peter, it was the "day of preparation for the Passover", Nisan 14, also called the Quartodeciman. (John nowhere identifies the Last Supper as a Passover meal, and John 18:28 has the priests preparing to eat the Passover meal in the morning after the Last Supper.) According to many other interpretations of the Synoptic Gospels, it was the day of Passover, Nisan 15.[8]
  3. Some Christians observe the celebration on the day before Passover, at the same time that Jesus held his Last Supper, while others observe it at the same time that the Passover was sacrificed, that is, the time of Jesus' death, which occurred "at the ninth hour" of the day (Matthew 27:46–50, Mark 15:34–37, Luke 23:44–46), or approximately 3:30 p.m, according to the Synoptic Gospels. (see evening and Time for technical reference on time).
  4. Still others celebrate it after sunset, at which time it would be the 15th of Nisan, the time in which the Israelites ate the Passover meal (for example see Exodus 12:8).
  5. Some Christians, out of deference for traditional Gentile Easter dates, choose to celebrate Passover, or hold Seders, on the Thursday before Easter, known as Maundy Thursday, or the Last Supper observance. These dates vary among Hebrew, Gregorian, and Julian calendars, and they vary between Western (e.g. Roman Catholic) and Eastern Orthodox (e.g. Greek Orthodox) traditions.

It was a question of defilement that gave rise to the words: “They themselves did not enter into the governor’s palace, that they might not get defiled but might eat the passover.” (Joh 18:28) These Jews considered it a defilement to enter into a Gentile dwelling. (Ac 10:28) This statement was made, however, “early in the day,” hence after the Passover meal had taken place. It is to be noted that at this time the entire period, including Passover day and the Festival of Unfermented Cakes that followed, was at times referred to as “Passover.” In the light of this fact, Alfred Edersheim offers the following explanation: A voluntary peace offering was made on Passover and another, a compulsory one, on the next day, Nisan 15, the first day of the Festival of Unfermented Cakes. It was this second offering that the Jews were afraid they might not be able to eat if they contracted defilement in the judgment hall of Pilate.—The Temple, 1874, pp. 186, 187

Christian history regarding the PassoverEdit

Christian tradition - the Passover finishedEdit

Apollinaris and Melito of Sardis were both 2nd century writers that wrote about the end of Christian celebration of the Jewish Passover.

Melito's Peri Pascha ("On the Passover") is perhaps the most famous early document concerning the Christian non-observation of Passover.

For indeed the law issued in the gospel–the old in the new, both coming forth together from Zion and Jerusalem; and the commandment issued in grace, and the type in the finished product, and the lamb in the Son, and the sheep in a man, and the man in God...For at one time the sacrifice to the sheep was valuable, but now it is without value because of the life of the Lord. The death of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the salvation of the Lord. The blood of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Spirit of the Lord. The silent lamb once was valuable, but now it has no value because of the blameless Son. The temple here below once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Christ from above… Now that you have heard the explanation of the type and of that which corresponds to it, hear also what goes into making up the mystery. What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–"to celebrate the passover" (to paschein) is derived from "to suffer" (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer...This one is the passover of our salvation.[9]

Apollinaris wrote:

There are, then, some who through ignorance raise disputes about these things (though their conduct is pardonable: for ignorance is no subject for blame — it rather needs further instruction), and say that on the fourteenth day the Lord ate the lamb with the disciples, and that on the great day of the feast of unleavened bread He Himself suffered; and they quote Matthew as speaking in accordance with their view. Wherefore their opinion is contrary to the law, and the Gospels seem to be at variance with them. … The fourteenth day, the true Passover of the Lord; the great sacrifice, the Son of God instead of the lamb, who was bound, who bound the strong, and who was judged, though Judge of living and dead, and who was delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified, who was lifted up on the horns of the unicorn, and who was pierced in His holy side, who poured forth from His side the two purifying elements, water and blood, word and spirit, and who was buried on the day of the passover, the stone being placed upon the tomb[10]

Excommunication for celebrating passoverEdit

Christians who kept the biblical Passover were considered Quartodeciman because they kept Passover on the 14th day of Nisan. Polycrates of Ephesus, was a late 2nd century leader who was excommunicated (along with all Quartodecimans) by Pope Saint Victor for observing the Christian Passover on the 14th of Nisan and not switching it to a Sunday resurrection celebration. He, Polycrates, claimed that he was simply following the practices according to scripture and the Gospels, as taught by the Apostles John and Philip, as well as by church leaders such as Polycarp and Melito of Sardis.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, neither Jesus Christ nor the early church leaders changed the Passover celebration to Easter, "In fact, the Jewish feast was taken over into the Christian Easter celebration."[11]

Jewish reactionsEdit

Jews have cited Christian seders as a form of cultural appropriation, among other criticisms.[12][13][14][15][16][17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The United Church of God". Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  2. ^
  3. ^ John 1:29
  4. ^ a b How Should Christians Celebrate the Passover?
  5. ^ "Women for Faith & Family". Archived from the original on 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  6. ^ Sunish George J Alumkalnal, Pesaha celebration of Nasranis: a sociocultural analysis. Journal of Indo Judaic studies No 13, 2013 pages 57-71
  7. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Day: "The day is reckoned from evening to evening—i.e., night and day—except in reference to sacrifices, where daytime and the night following constitute one day (Lev. vii. 15; see Calendar)."
  8. ^ John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew, vol. 1
  9. ^ On The Passover, by Melito of Sardis — vs. 7, 44, 46, 69a
  10. ^ "Apollinaris." From the Book Concerning Passover. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby.
  11. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Easter
  12. ^ Safyan, Michael (2021-02-28). "Dear Christian Friends, Please Do Not Host a Seder: Why Christian Seders Are Deeply Offensive to…". Medium. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  13. ^ "Why is this Night Different? The Problem of the Christian Seder". Politics/Letters Live. 2019-04-17. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  14. ^ Caplin, Sarahbeth (2018-08-29). "How Christians Mistake Honoring Jewish Culture With Appropriating It". Sojourners. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  15. ^ "Opinion | Please do not host a "Christian seder"". The Forward. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  16. ^ Correspondent, J. (1997-04-18). "Christians and Messianics appropriating Passover seder". J. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  17. ^ Moyaert, Marianne (2016). Is there a Judeo-Christian Tradition?: A European Perspective. De Gruyter. p. 138. ISBN 978-3-11-041659-6.

Further readingEdit

  • Edward Chumney. The Seven Festivals of the Messiah. Treasure House, 1994. ISBN 1-56043-767-7
  • Howard, Kevin. The Feasts Of The Lord God's Prophetic Calendar From Calvary To The Kingdom. Nelson Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7852-7518-5
  • Rosen, Ceil and Rosen, Moishe. ""Christ in the Passover: Why is This Night Different"". Moody Publishers, 1978. ISBN 0-8024-1392-7