What Day Of The Week Was The Last Supper?

by oaeen

The Last Supper is one of the most significant events in Christian theology, marking the final meal Jesus Christ shared with his apostles before his crucifixion. This event, which instituted the Eucharist, is a cornerstone of Christian liturgy and doctrine. The exact day of the week on which the Last Supper occurred has been a topic of considerable scholarly debate, intertwining historical, religious, and astronomical evidence. This article aims to explore these various facets comprehensively to determine the most likely day of the week for the Last Supper.

The Biblical Account

Synoptic Gospels vs. the Gospel of John

The New Testament provides two primary accounts of the Last Supper: the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and the Gospel of John. These accounts differ in their chronology of events leading up to the crucifixion.

Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-39 describe the Last Supper as a Passover meal. According to these accounts, the meal took place on the evening of Nisan 14 (the first month of the Hebrew calendar), with Jesus being crucified the following day, which would be Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Gospel of John: John 13:1-30 presents a different timeline, suggesting that the Last Supper occurred before the Passover festival. John 19:14 indicates that Jesus was crucified on the Day of Preparation for the Passover, which implies that the Last Supper took place on the evening of Nisan 13, with the crucifixion on Nisan 14.

Reconciling the Accounts

The discrepancy between the Synoptic Gospels and John has led to various interpretations and attempts to reconcile the accounts. One prominent theory suggests that Jesus and his disciples followed a different calendar than the official Jewish calendar of that time. This theory posits that Jesus may have celebrated the Passover a day earlier according to an alternative calendar, such as the Essene calendar.

Historical and Astronomical Considerations

The Jewish Calendar and Passover

The Jewish calendar is lunar-based, with each month beginning with the new moon. Passover begins on the 15th day of Nisan, which means the festival starts on the full moon. The Day of Preparation, when leaven is removed from homes, is on Nisan 14.

Astronomical Calculations: Astronomical data can help determine the dates of Passover around the time of Jesus. Using the phases of the moon and historical records, scholars have identified potential dates for the crucifixion, which can, in turn, help pinpoint the day of the Last Supper.

Possible Years for the Crucifixion: The most commonly proposed years for the crucifixion are AD 30 and AD 33. Astronomical calculations indicate that Passover in AD 30 began on the evening of Thursday, April 6, and in AD 33 on the evening of Friday, April 3.

Determining the Day: If the crucifixion occurred on a Friday (as traditionally held by Christians), and considering the Last Supper was the evening before, it suggests that the Last Supper would have taken place on a Thursday evening.

Calendar Discrepancies

The differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars must also be considered. The Julian calendar was in use during Jesus’ time, while the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582. Converting dates between these calendars involves adjusting for the ten-day difference that had accumulated by the 16th century.

Theological Interpretations and Implications

Significance of the Last Supper

The Last Supper holds profound theological significance. It is commemorated in Christian traditions as the institution of the Eucharist, a sacrament central to Christian worship. The meal symbolizes Jesus’ sacrificial love and the establishment of a new covenant between God and humanity.

Liturgical Practices

Different Christian denominations celebrate the Last Supper in various ways. The Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and many Protestant churches observe Maundy Thursday during Holy Week to remember this event. The differing accounts in the Gospels have influenced how these traditions interpret and commemorate the Last Supper.

Historical and Religious Scholarship

Early Church Fathers

Early Christian writers and Church Fathers also grappled with the chronology of the Last Supper. Their writings provide insights into how early Christians understood and reconciled the Gospel accounts.

Eusebius of Caesarea: In his “Ecclesiastical History,” Eusebius discusses the different Gospel accounts and the early Church’s interpretation of these events.

Saint Augustine: Augustine’s works often addressed apparent contradictions in the Scriptures, offering allegorical and theological explanations.

Modern Scholarship

Contemporary biblical scholars continue to debate the timing of the Last Supper. Advances in historical research, textual criticism, and archaeological findings contribute to ongoing discussions.

Raymond E. Brown: In his book “The Death of the Messiah,” Brown analyzes the Passion narratives, providing a detailed examination of the Last Supper’s chronology.

N.T. Wright: Wright’s historical Jesus research often addresses the cultural and religious contexts of Jesus’ life and the events of Holy Week.

See also: What Is The 7th Day Of The Week In The Bible?

Cultural and Historical Impact

Artistic Representations

The Last Supper has inspired countless works of art, most notably Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” These artistic representations often reflect the theological and cultural understandings of the event.

Leonardo da Vinci: Painted between 1495 and 1498, da Vinci’s mural captures the moment Jesus announces that one of the disciples will betray him. The composition and symbolism have been extensively analyzed for their theological implications.

Other Artists: Many artists, from Giotto to Salvador Dalí, have depicted the Last Supper, each bringing their own interpretation and cultural context to the scene.

Literature and Film

The Last Supper has also been a subject in literature and film, further cementing its significance in Western culture.

Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”: Brown’s novel popularized the notion of hidden messages within Leonardo’s painting, although these claims are widely disputed by historians and art critics.

Biblical Films: Movies like “The Passion of the Christ” and various adaptations of the Gospels portray the Last Supper, often reflecting contemporary theological debates and interpretations.

Interfaith Perspectives

Jewish Views

From a Jewish perspective, understanding the Last Supper involves recognizing its roots in the Passover Seder. Scholars examine how first-century Jewish practices influenced the events described in the Gospels.

Passover Practices: The Seder meal, with its rituals and symbolism, provides a framework for understanding the Last Supper’s significance within a Jewish context.

Historical Jesus Studies: Jewish scholars contribute to the historical understanding of Jesus as a Jewish teacher and the implications of his actions during Passover.

Islamic Views

In Islam, Jesus (Isa) is regarded as a prophet, and the Last Supper is viewed differently. The Qur’an mentions a meal shared with disciples, but it lacks the Eucharistic connotations found in Christianity.

Qur’anic Account: The Qur’an references a table spread with food (Ma’ida) in Surah 5:112-115, emphasizing themes of faith and divine provision.

Comparative Theology: Islamic scholars often engage in comparative theological studies to understand the differences and similarities between Islamic and Christian narratives of Jesus.


Determining the exact day of the week for the Last Supper involves a complex interplay of biblical interpretation, historical context, and astronomical calculations. While the traditional Christian view holds that the Last Supper occurred on a Thursday evening, discrepancies in the Gospel accounts and different calendar systems add layers of complexity to this conclusion.

The Last Supper remains a pivotal event in Christian theology, with profound implications for liturgy, art, culture, and interfaith dialogue. Its enduring significance continues to inspire scholarly inquiry and religious devotion, underscoring the richness and depth of this historical and spiritual milestone. Through ongoing research and exploration, the quest to fully understand the Last Supper’s timing and meaning remains a vibrant and dynamic field of study.

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