The Date Of The Passover Sacrifices And Mark 14:12 -- By: Maurice Casey

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 048:2 (NA 1997)
Article: The Date Of The Passover Sacrifices And Mark 14:12
Author: Maurice Casey


The Date Of The Passover Sacrifices
And Mark 14:12

Maurice Casey

It is usually thought that Jews sacrificed their Passover offerings in the Temple during the afternoon of 14th Nisan. There is, however, evidence that many people sacrificed on the 13th Nisan and the morning of the 14th Nisan. We begin with Zebahim 1:3:

הַפֶּסח שֶׁשְּׁחָטוֹ בַּשַּׁחֲרִית בָּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר שֶׁלֹּא לִשְׁמוֹ
יְהוֹשֻעַ מַכְשִׁיר כְּאִילוּ נִשְׁחַט בִּשְׁלֹשָה עשָשָׂרְ בֶּן בְּתֵירָא פּוֹסֶל
כְּאִילוּ נִשְׁחַט בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם

The Passover [victim] which they slaughter in the morning on the fourteenth [of Nisan] which [is] not [sacrificed] under its [proper] name, R. Joshua declares it valid as if it were slaughtered on the thirteenth. Ben Bathyra declares it invalid as if it were slaughtered ‘between the evenings’.

In this passage, the problem posed is that of the validity of a Passover victim slaughtered on the morning of 14th Nisan, rather than at the official time during the afternoon of 14th Nisan—an interpretation of the biblically appointed time ‘between the evenings’ (Ex. 12:6). The victim has been sacrificed under a different heading. Ben Bathyra’s judgement (‘invalid’) is what we might expect (cf. also M. Pes. 5:3). But R. Joshua’s judgement takes it for granted that Passover victims slaughtered on 13th Nisan were also valid. The Sitz im Leben of this judgement cannot be after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., but it makes excellent sense at the end of the Second Temple period, when Jerusalem was packed with pilgrims. It follows that everyone knew that many victims were sacrificed on the 13th Nisan, and that this was accepted practice. R. Joshua’s judgement likewise only makes sense if many victims were actually sacrificed on the morning of the 14th Nisan. He may be identified as Joshua ben

Hananiah, a relatively liberal rabbi who lived in Jerusalem before its fall, as did Ben Bathyra.

We can now interpret the opening of the Mishnaic tractate Zebahim in 1:1.

כּל־הַזְּבָחִים שֶׁנִּזְבְּחוּ שֶׁלֹּא לִשְמָן כְּשֵׁרִים, אֶלָּא שֶׁלֹּא עָלוּ
לַבְּעָלִים לְשֵׁם חוֹבָה, חוּץ מִן־הַפֶּסַח, וּמִן הַחַטָּאת, הַפֶּסַח
בִּזְמַנּוֹ, וְה...

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