Book: The Day Jesus the Christ Died

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APPENDIX A - “The First of the Unleaveneds”

This phrase has caused some confusion. It is certain that this phrase does not refer to the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins after, not before, the Passover. As recorded in the Gospels, “the first of the unleaveneds” was the day that the lambs were killed. Those who obeyed God’s ordinances in Exodus 12 and kept the domestic Passover killed their lambs at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan, just after sunset. Those who followed the traditions of Judaism killed the lambs at the temple on the afternoon of the 14th. The Gospel writers were clearly referring to the 14th, and not to the 15th, as “the first of the unleaveneds.” In New Testament times, this term was commonly used for the 14th day of the first month.
“In the first century, it was commonly known that ‘the day of the unleaveneds’ in Luke 22:7 was the 14th Passover day. G. Amadon, in an article entitled, ‘The Crucifixion Calendar,’ pointed out the error of those translators who translated this verse to read ‘the first day of the festival.’ [The following words are cited from this article.] ‘But on what authority should the Hebrew translators, as Salkinson and Delitzch, introduce the word chag [a Hebrew word for “feast”] into these texts when the corresponding Greek has no word for “feast,” and speaks only of the “first of the unleavened bread” —a common expression for the Jewish 14th with practically all first century writers’ ” (Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. LXIII, 1944, pp. 188-189, emphasis added).
When we understand the duties that were required to be performed on the Passover day, it becomes clear why that day was called “the first of the unleaveneds” (a literal translation from the Greek). According to Jewish law, all leaven in all residences and properties owned by Jews was to be searched out on Nisan 13. The unleavened bread for the Passover was to be made and ready by 3 p.m. on Nisan 13. The leaven was then gathered and burned by 10 a.m. in the morning on Nisan 14. No one was to eat leaven in any form after 11 a.m. These required practices clearly show why Nisan 14 was referred to as “the first of the unleaveneds”: because on that day leaven was removed and burned. Hence, Nisan 14 was the first unleavened day of the year.