A Better Understaning of Passover
Were the Jews Observing the Wrong Day?

by: Jim Rector

March 2006


The Jews, under the leadership of Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel, rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem. Later, under Ezra and Nehemiah, the city was raised back up and the faith restored.  Were the Jews of the exile perfect?  No.  Were mistakes made?   Yes, of course.  But nothing that transpired could possibly account for the Jews of our Savior’s day to have been in gross error with respect to the timing of the holydays themselves.

It is clear in the gospel accounts that Christ observed the festivals right alongside His Jewish brethren of the first century. He never questions the calendar that was utilized.  He never tells the leadership that they are calculating things wrong.  He never gives any indication whatsoever that the Jews had somehow erred in their understanding of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened.  It is a fact that the New Testament affirms that the Messiah kept the Passover and other annual feasts with everyone else and at the precisely same time.

When we are given insight into Christ’s life at the age of 12, we find Him in Jerusalem that year at Passover. He had accompanied His family on this annual pilgrimage. Notice how the Scriptures describe things:

“Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the CUSTOM OF THE FEAST. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew not of it” (Luke 2:41-43).

This statement concerning Christ and His family is very telling, and is convincing evidence in itself that the Jews were not in some kind of egregious error in their observance of Passover.  He and His family clearly went along with the custom of the feast, just as the other pious Jews of that time.

In saying this, please don’t get the idea that I am exonerating the Jews for the sins and mistakes that they actually did commit, which were many. There is, however, no doubt whatsoever that they were accurately figuring the holydays, and that the Messiah knew that and approved of it.

The main reason that the notion of Jewish error concerning Passover has been inserted into the discussion has to do more with the New Testament language and description than anything else. The gospel accounts provide enough information to show that the Savior’s death occurred at the time of Passover. The whole city of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas were filled with throngs of people who had come up for the spring festival.