When was Easter?
An article by our newsletter co-ordinator, David Clarke
Richard Dawkins is quoted as saying that while the Da Vinci Code is modern fiction the Gospels are
ancient fiction. I have read both and the Gospels have the ring of truth the Da Vinci Code lacks.
The Da Vinci Code takes its hero to places that don’t exist. The Gospels are rooted in geography
and in time. In his book The Mystery of the Last Supper – Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus
(pub Cambridge University Press 2011) Colin Humphreys goes into the detail of the gospel
accounts of the period from Palm Sunday to Jesus death. He considers what the Gospels tell us,
which is not completely clear on initial reading – when, for example, was the Last Supper? If it was
on Thursday evening was there sufficient time for the Sanhedrin to legally condemn Jesus? Did
Jesus die on Good Friday? When then was Easter? Humphreys looks at the historical perspective –
when were the ‘Big Beasts’ of the Jerusalem political scene, Pilate, Caiaphas and Tiberius around.
When were the astronomical features compatible with the Gospel (The Passover takes place on the
first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox. This can be traced back.) How did the calendars in use at
the time, both the the official Jewish calendar of the day and the pre-Babylonian Exile Jewish
calendar, then still in use in Galilee link in? What light, if any, can the Dead Sea Scrolls, Tacitus or
Josephus cast? Drawing all together, Humpreys reaches the conclusion that the Last Supper was
on the Wednesday and Jesus died on the Friday. The evidence for Jesus death is essential. Without
proof of death there can be no proof of resurrection and without that we would be, as St Paul
commented, the most miserable of all people. Jesus did die, however, at 3:00pm on Friday, 3rd April, AD 33. He rose again on the morning of 5th April AD 33.