The Relationship Between Mk. 14.2 and Jn. 18.28: Studies in Mark, Pt. 78

My last two posts have focused on both the “time of day” that Jesus was crucified and the actual “day” of His crucifixion. In this post, I want to piggyback on some of my thoughts there and think here, about the religious leaders and two of their hesitancies: 1) Their fear of riots (Mk. 14.2) and, 2) Their fear of not being able to participate in Passover events (Jn. 18.28). It is my contention that if we can square these two passages, the things that I have said so far, become even clearer.

Here are the two passages: Mk. 14.2 says: “For they said, ‘But not during the Feast or the crowds may riot.’” Jn. 18.28 says: “…But it was morning and they did not want to enter into the Praetorium in order that they did not become ceremonially unclean (for) they wanted to eat the Passover."

In these two passages, the players are the same: the Jewish religious officials. While they have two concerns (mentioned above), these concerns focus on the same thing: Passover Week. Now, I have argued repeatedly (see posts #76 and #77) that in the Gospel accounts (with the exception of, perhaps, Matthew), the words “Feast (of Unleavened Bread)” and “Passover” can almost always be used synonymously. I have already given numerous examples in both the NT and OT where this is the case, so, I will not do that here.

So, there is one way in which these two verses reach consensus: They are not talking about the Passover meal proper but rather, the entire week, that is, all 7 days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, also known as Passover Week. Another place they connect, which has not been given its due among scholars is that in both passages, there is a tentativeness that exists. This is where I suggest that it is entirely possible that, while the religious had their plans, they did not necessarily work out exactly how they wanted them to. Back in 1881 Milligan and Moulton started in this direction but ended up going a different way.

Just as well, they did not consider some of the evidence in Mk. that helps this assertion. For instance, they overlooked the fact that in Mk., the religious leaders are constantly plotting to arrest, try and kill Jesus but repeatedly things do not work out as they wish. Furthermore, they overlook the fact that in Mk. 11-14, much of the point in having Jesus “show up” the religious leaders is to show both how wrong they can be and that things don’t always go their way; indeed, Jesus makes them and their plans look foolish time and time again. The fact is: things didn’t always go the way they had hoped or planned.

The same can be said of Mk. 14.2: While they didn’t want to carry things out during the Feast (of Unleavened Bread) they did; certainly, when Judas made his move, they were forced to. When it comes to Jn. 18, the issue is not whether they will be able to eat the Passover proper but whether they will defile themselves and thus be excluded from the week of festivities.

This is where Mk. 14.2 helps us a lot. The word “εορτη” whether translated here as “Feast” or “Festival” should be seen as referring to the ongoing Feast / Festival that has already started. This is what they do not want to mess up (either by causing riots or becoming unclean). However, when Judas hands Jesus over, they must arrest and try Him under the cover of night (or there is a very great chance that riots will ensue). On the one hand, they didn’t get what they wanted (to wait for the festivities to be over) but on the other hand they did (to remain clean and to try Jesus).

In the end, Jesus, who is killed during Passover, is viewed as the Passover sacrifice. Just as well, the Gospels give a succinct account of how these things happened and I find both terribly fascinating and accurate.


  1. Michael,

    I still find this sort of reasoning entirely unconvincing. Basically, no one had the ability to define anything definitely of singularly. Nisan 14 was Nisan 15 so it's all the same. See my comment on last post that apparently I should have saved for this one.

    There is one thing I am in agreement with you however: "In the end, Jesus, who is killed during Passover, is viewed as the Passover sacrifice."

  2. Scott,
    You're right that your last answer (in the previous study) would have probably gone better here.

    I am not at all suggesting that the people were incapable of defining things singularly, that is to miss the point of what I'm saying.

    But I feel like you are ignoring the overwhelming amount of both OT and NT evidence that shows that "Passover" and "Feast of Unleavened Bread" were used synonymously.

    Further, as I noted and James also picked up on, it is clear that "Preparation Day" was often used in two ways (which also muddles things). Could there have been 2 preparation days, you may be onto something there. But even this shows that things weren't always defined singularly, though they sometimes were.

    I have said time and time again, too, that Mt. is the one account that doesn't use the FOUB & Passover synonymously. So, I am well aware that this can happen. Even in John's work, it is not always used synonymously.

    But if I were to be honest, I feel like you're overlooking strong evidences that the terms were used as one in the same. Sure, not always, but certainly, sometimes. What I am suggesting, then, is that in this case, it makes sense that they were used synonymously.

    As to why it is "entirely unconvincing" to you, I do not know. But (and please, take this with a grain of salt as I am not attacking you or anything like that) it seems to me that you lean towards the more rigid view that you were accusing me of in the beginning. I have admitted that there are numerous ways to view the problem but that this one holds up the best (in my view).

    I have yet to hear you say anything like this. Of course, you can remain unconvinced and that's all fine and good but I feel like you're just blowing off the suggestions I'm making (like many staunch evangelicals that I know would; not that you are one of them or even close to one of them but I'm just saying that's how the discussion is feeling as of late).

    The last three posts have all been attempts to work through the issue and arrive at the conclusion I find most suitable. What I have written so far encompasses that. Please, keep challenging and pushing the conversation. Thanks, Scott. By the way, are you going to SBL?


  3. Here's where I think the problem is: the solution to this problem is not an either/or answer but a both/and answer.

    In the same way that we can think of a 7 day period as a week but also comprehend the different 24 hour time periods within this week so also I believe the Jewish people could conceive of (and talk of) Passover as a week, but also recognize that on Nisan 15 they ate the actual feast of unleavened bread.

    Of course the trick is to establish in any one context how the author is using the phrase. In the case of John 18:28 I think it is very hard to ignore "but that they might eat the passover" not as generally referring as some obscure cipher to the whole week but as the actual act of eating the Passover lamb.

    I would be surprised to find evidence that suggested eating was an extended metaphor for festival ritual cleanliness, but you never know.

    No SBL for me. it's unfortunate as it would be kind of cool to go back there, and I would assume, it will be the only time in my lifetime that SBL is going to be in the city I played NHL hockey in. Oh well, life goes on. I'll probably get there next year, or maybe I'll wait until they have it in K-zoo.