or should that be Wednesday!?

Sir Colin Humphreys a Material Science Professor at Cambridge University claims discrepancies in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke as compared with John arose because they used an older calendar than the official Jewish one.  He suggests, therefore, that the Last Supper was on Wednesday, 1 April AD33, according to todays standard Julian calendar.

The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) clearly state that the last supper was a passover meal (e.g. Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22), whereas John’s gospel makes clear that the last supper was the day before passover (e.g. John 13) – thus having Jesus crucified when the passover lambs are slaughtered.

The way I understand Prof. Humphreys findings is that Jesus and his disciples were eating a passover meal a day before the widly accepted date at the time (preferring an old adapted Egyptian calender dating to the time of Moses).  This type of phenomena may not be unheard of, for example, the Qumran community of the dead sea scrolls advocated yet another calendar and thus also celebrating passover on an alternative date.

A full account is given in his new book The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus and a shortened article in The Bible and Interpretation or alternatively read the reports on the BBC and in the Guardian.

Update: A brief critic is provided by NTBlog (based on the press releases and summary articles).

Further update: Two scholarly reviews of the book have been published by Review of Biblical Literature and are available online here.

Professor Humphreys is not a new comer to this kind of activity, previously he has used astronomy, science and textual methods to determine the dates of Jesus’ birth and the crucifixion, as well as ‘explanations’ of the Exodus miracles and the star of Bethlehem.  You can find audio seminars/lectures by him on some of these matters at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and I give a list of his publications in Science and Religion below.

  • Humphreys, C.J. and Waddington, W.G.-“Dating the Crucifixion” Nature, 306, 743-746, 1983.
  • Humphreys, C.J. – “The Star of Bethlehem – A Comet in 5 BC – and the date of the birth of Christ” Q.Jl. R. Astr. Soc., 32, 1991, 389-407.
  • Humphreys, C.J. – “The Star of Bethlehem – A Comet in 5 BC – and the date of Christ’s birth”. Tyndale Bulletin, 43, 1992, 32-56
  • Humphreys, C.J. and Waddington, W.G. – “The Jewish Calendar, a lunar eclipse and the date of Christ’s Crucifixion”, Tyndale Bulletin, 43, 1992, 331-351.
  • Humphreys, C.J. – “The Star of Bethlehem”, Science & Christian Belief, 1993, 5, 83-101.
  • Humphreys, C.J. and White R.J. – “The eruption of Santorini and the date and historicity of Joseph”. Science and Christian Belief, 7, 1995, 151-162
  • Humphreys, C.J. – “The number of people in the Exodus from Egypt: decoding mathematically the very large numbers in Numbers I and XXVI”, Vestus Tesatmentum XLVIII, 1998, 196-213.
  • Humphreys, C.J. – “How Many People Were in the Exodus from Egypt?” Science & Christian Belief, 2000, 12, 17-34
  • Humphreys, C.J. – “The numbers in the Exodus from Egypt: a further appraisal”. Vetus Testamentum, 50, 2000, 323-328.
  • Humphreys, C.J. – “How many thousands did Moses pilot across the Red Sea?” Manna, 69, 2000, 20-21.
  • Humphreys, C.J. – “The Miracles of Exodus – A Scientist’s Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes Underlying the Biblical Stories”, 362 pages, Harper San Francisco, USA, and Continuum, UK, 2003, hardback and 2004 paperback..