Encyclopedia of The Bible – Preparation Day
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Preparation Day

PREPARATION DAY (ἡ Παρασκευή, preparation, provisioning [cf. Matt 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14, 31]). As observed in Judaism, the Day of Preparation immediately preceded the sabbath. The development during the Gr. period of a serious threat to the integrity and existence of the Jewish way of life had led the Sadducees and Pharisees to impose strict conditions upon sabbath observance. According to Josephus (Jos. Antiq. XVI. vi. 2) the people began to make preparations for the sabbath well before the sunset with which the observances actually began, suspending normal business and social activity and preparing all food in advance.

The gospels record that the crucifixion of Christ took place on a Day of Preparation. It is mentioned as the day before the sabbath (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54), and both evangelists equated the Last Supper with the Jewish Passover meal of the preceding evening (Matt 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7), which indicates that it would have fallen on the first complete day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. John 13:1, however, placed the Last Supper in advance of the Passover feast, whereas the crucifixion was assigned to the “day of Preparation of the Passover” (John 19:14). As with the sabbath, the day which preceded the celebration of the Passover was a time of intensive preparation, and at the turn of the Christian era had become known as the “Passover eve.” The Passover was prescribed for the fourteenth day of the first month (Lev 23:5), followed the next day by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jews of the 1st cent. a.d. other than Sadducees identified the day of the Passover feast as a “sabbath” (cf. Lev 23:11). The Qumran MSS have shown the use of divergent calendars in heterodox Judaism, and it may thus appear that both dating traditions in the gospels are correct, with Jesus using a Pharisaic date for the Passover and John employing a Sadducean calendar for his gospel.

Bibliography A. Jaubert, La date de la Cène, Calendrier biblique et liturgie chrétienne (1957); J. Jeremias, JTS (1959), X (131-133).