Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Paschal Lamb

By Stephen Andrew Missick


Jesus in his life fulfilled the Law.

As a child, Jesus relived the Exodus. As a child, Jesus had a sojourn in the land of Egypt and made an exodus from Egypt back to the Promised Land (Matthew 2).

At the Mount of Transfiguration-Jesus' transfiguration most likely occurred as the Jewish feast of Sukkot-or Tabernacles-was nearing, Luke's Gospel says that the Apostles heard Jesus, Moses and Elijah discussing Christ's "Exodus"-which would soon take place. The New American Bible translates Luke 9:30-31 as follows, "And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem."

So, Jesus was literally fulfilling the Exodus in his life.

In John's Gospel-John cries out, "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29).

We tend to think of the Atonement as the fulfilling of the Yom Kippur –or Day of Atonement, but a lamb wasn't offered on the Day of Atonement. That sacrifice was a bull and a goat. Jesus' atonement fulfilled the Passover. According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Christ's work in heaven now is fulfilling the role of the High Priest and the Day of Atonement. Of course, the entire sacrificial system was a prophetic type of the sacrifice of Christ and was fulfilled by Jesus in his death and resurrection.

The Passover lamb-could be a lamb or a goat kid. At the time of Jesus the lamb had to be slaughtered in the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem. The Samaritans still carry out the sacrifices. Muslims perform animal sacrifices on a huge scale-actually in a similar manner to the way Passover was originally observed. Each Muslim household sacrifices a goat (mostly), sheep or even a cow in their annual "feast of the sacrifice."

Early "Jewish Restoration" movements

In the New Testament, the Greek word used for the bread of the Passover observed by Jesus is artos, which literally means "Leavened Bread." For this reason, the Coptic Christians use leavened bread during mass, as do the Assyrians of the Church of the East. In fact, they have a tradition, that the very bread they use contains leaven from the Last Supper. However, before the Passover the Jews purge leaven from their house. Jesus used leaven as a type for sin (Matthew 16:5). In addition to that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5: 6-8, "Don't you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." So here, Paul appeals for Christians to keep the Passover-and connects Christ with the symbolism of the Unleavened Bread-of the Passover. The Roman Catholic Church does not use Leavened Bread for Communion-as does the Eastern Churches. This is probably due to an early "Jewish Roots Restorationism" movement.

Also, Joachim Jeremias, a scholar who grew up in the Holy Land and focused on the Jewish roots and on Hebrew/Aramaic found that Aptos was often used in Greek for bread in a general sense and did not necessary always mean just unleavened bread.

The Quatrodeciman Controversy

The word Quatrodeciman is the word for "14." This refers to the 14th of Nisan, the date when the Passover falls. Quatrodecimans were early eastern Christians who observed Passover and celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus on the 14th of Nisan. Polycarp was the disciple of John the Apostle. Ireneaus was the disciple of Polycarp. People looked at this as being an unbroken link with the apostles. Polycarp and his followers claimed that John the Apostle had taught them to observe the Passover on the 14th of Nisan.

Of the disputes about the date when Christian Pasch should be celebrated, disputes known as Paschal/Easter controversies, the Quartodeciman is the first recorded.

In the mid–second century, the practice in the Roman province of Asia was for the pre-Paschal fast to end and the feast to be held on the 14th day (the full moon) of the Jewish lunar month of Nisan, the date on which the Passover sacrifice had been offered when the Second Temple stood, and "the day when the people put away the leaven". Those who observed this practice were called Quartodecimani, Latin for "fourteenthers", because of holding their celebration on the fourteenth day of Nisan.

The practice had been followed by Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (c. 69 – c. 155), one of the seven churches of Asia, and a disciple of John the Apostle, and by Melito of Sardis (d. c. 180). Irenaeus says that Polycarp visited Rome when Anicetus was its bishop (c. 153–68), and among the topics discussed was this divergence of custom. Irenaeus noted:

Neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him.

It is not known how long the Nisan 14 practice lasted. The church historian Socrates knew of Quartodecimans who were deprived of their churches by John Chrysostom, and harassed in unspecified ways by Nestorius,both bishops of Constantinople. This indicates that the Nisan 14 practice, or a practice that was called by the same name, lingered into the 4th century.



The Didache (Composed circa 70 AD-120 AD)

First, concerning the cup:

We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..

And concerning the broken bread:

We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..

Melito of Sardis

Melito of Sardis (died c. 180) was the bishop of Sardis near Smyrna in western Anatolia, and a great authority in Early Christianity: Jerome, speaking of the Old Testament canon established by Melito, quotes Tertullian to the effect that he was esteemed a prophet by many of the faithful.

Melito was a Quartodeciman (Fourteenther), observing Easter on the Jewish Passover date of 14 Nisan, as did Polycrates of Ephesus et al., writing On the Passover and other works, which were destroyed after Easter observance was fixed on Sunday and they were declared heretics.

He visited the famous theological library of Caesarea Martima, which had the "Hebrew Matthew, "The Hexapla," and many other important ancient Christian books in its collection of 30,000 volumes. The library of Caesarea was destroyed by the Muslims.

Melito's Canon is similar to that used by the Jews. Melito says, "Accordingly when I went East and came to the place where these things were preached and done, I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to thee as written below. Their names are as follows: Of Moses, five books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Jesus Nave (meaning "Joshua/Jesus the Son of Nun"), Judges, Ruth; of Kings, four books; of Chronicles, two; the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job; of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah; of the twelve prophets, one book ; Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras (Ezra). From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books."

Melito's "On the Passover"

Peri Pascha (English title On the Pascha) is a 2nd century homily of Melito of Sardis written between A.D.160 and 170 in Asia Minor. "Peri Pascha" has been described as a "Christian Passover Haggadah." The homily was initially pronounced during "Easter" festival night celebrated, according to the custom of Quartodecimans, together with Jewish Passover on the 14th of Nissan.

The text is inspired by the Jewish Haggadah of Pesach, especially in the following, " It is he-Jesus that has delivered us from slavery to liberty, from darkness to light, from death to life, from tyranny to eternal loyalty" ("On the Pascha, 68).

In "On the Pascha," Melito rebukes Jews for rejecting their Messiah-however, it seems that Melito was a Jewish Christian himself-thus, scholars have pointed out this modern misreading of the text, that of Melito being an anti-Semite, and do not consider that Melito encouraged any form of anti-semitism, especially since he advocated Quartodeciman beliefs. As Hanneken stated, "In conclusion, we find Melito to be closer to the Prophets and the Sages than modern anti-Judaism. [There are many passages in the Bible, in which Israel is rebuked, that if the reader didn't know that the passages were from the Old Testament, would assume were anti-Semitic statements.] Melito identifies himself within the same tradition as those he criticizes, and he calls them to repentance with compassion." He preaches the victory over death achieved by Jesus having been himself led as a lamb. He clothed death with shame because he arose from the dead, and raised up mortals from the grave below (n. 67-68, cf. 100). In the context of Jesus' death and resurrection Melito preaches forgiveness. Christ speaks of himself as of the one who is forgivness itself:

I, he says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I, he says, am the Christ. Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand. (Peri Pascha 102-103).




Additional Resources


Joachim Jeremias "The Eucharistic Words of Jesus"


Was Easter borrowed from a Pagan Holiday? By Anthony McRoy


Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper by Brant Pitre


Was Jesus' Last Supper a Seder? By Jonathan Klawans






Stephen Andrew Missick


Reverend Stephen Andrew Missick is the author of The Assyrian Church in the Mongol Empire, Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church in India, and Socotra: The Mysterious Island of the Church of the East which were published in the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies (Volume XIII, No. 2, 1999, Volume XIV, No. 2, 2000 and Volume XVI No. 1, 2002). He is the author of The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic: Discovering the Semitic Roots of Christianity, Mary of Magdala: Magdalene, the Forgotten Aramaic Prophetess of Christianity, Treasures of the Language of Jesus: The Aramaic Source of Christ's Teaching, Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth and Christ the Man. He is an ordained minister of the gospel. He graduated from Sam Houston State University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rev. Missick has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived among the Coptic Christians in Egypt and Aramaic Christians in Syria. He also served as a soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004. While serving as a soldier in Iraq he learned Aramaic from native Aramaic-speaking Iraqi Assyrian Christians. Rev. Missick is the writer and illustrator of the comic book "The Assyrians: The Oldest Christian People," the comic strip Chronicles: Facts from the Bible and the comic book series The Hammer of God which are available from The Hammer of God comic book series dramatizes the stories of Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel. He has also served as a chaplain in the Army National Guard in Iraq during his second deployment in 2009 and 2010. He participated in an archeological excavation of Bethsaida in Galilee in 2011 and went on a missionary trip to Uganda in 2012 and to India in 2013.

PO Box 882, Shepherd, Texas, 77371




King of Saints Tabernacle: Messianic Congregation

2228 FM 1725

Cleveland, TX 77328


No comments: