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Christian observance of Passover 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.
Christian Passover ceremonies are held on the evening corresponding to 14 Nisan or 15 Nisan, depending whether the particular church uses a quartodeciman or quintodeciman application. In other cases, the holiday is observed according to the Hebrew calendar on 15 Nisan, which is also used by Samaritans.
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 — although all do not agree on the date(s) or the related practices.
Among those Christians who observe Passover there are some differences in how it is done. Some Christians celebrate Passover as the Jews celebrate it. They roast and eat lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened matzo. Others follow the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper before he was crucified, and share bread (usually unleavened) and wine instead of roasted lamb. In some traditions, the ceremony is combined with washing one another's feet, as Jesus did for his disciples the night that he suffered (John 13:5–14).
Saint Thomas Christians (Nazranis) in the Malabar coast of India (Kerala) have a customary celebration of Pesaha (Passover) 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 pierced 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. 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 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.
Some differences between when groups observe Passover are:
- Disputes over when a day begins. The modern western day begins at midnight (12:00 A.M.), whereas the biblical day begins at sunset.
- 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. (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.
- 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 as the Passover sacrifice, that is, the time of Jesus' death, which occurred or approximately 3:00 o'clock (Matthew 27:46–50, Mark 15:34–37, Luke 23:44–46).
- 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).
- 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.
Replacement by EasterEdit
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.
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
Polycrates of Ephesus was a late 2nd century leader who was excommunicated (along with all quartodecimans) by Pope Victor I for observing Easter on the 14th of Nisan and not switching to a Sunday resurrection celebration. 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.
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- How Should Christians Celebrate the Passover?
- 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)."
- John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew, vol. 1
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Easter
- On The Passover, by Melito of Sardis — vs. 7, 44, 46, 69a
- "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.
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- "Why is this Night Different? The Problem of the Christian Seder". Politics/Letters Live. 2019-04-17. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
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- Howard, Kevin. The Feasts Of The Lord God's Prophetic Calendar From Calvary To The Kingdom. Nelson Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7852-7518-5
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