Many people try to discredit the Gospels by pointing out several chronological difficulties where John tends to seem at variance with the Synoptic Gospels, and people have attempted harmonizations of the Gospels since Tatian’s Diatessaron(the first work that tried to put the Gospel events together in one document in chronological order) in the second century. Now a scientist claims to have pinpointed the day of the Last Supper based on historical, astronomical, and biblical research, to Wednesday 1 April, AD 33.1 He argues that this is evidence that the date for the celebration of Easter should be fixed to the first Sunday in April. He argues that Jesus, along with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, followed an old-fashioned calendar adopted by the Jews at the time of Moses (by which reckoning the supper would be the Passover), while John was using the official lunar calendar (by which reckoning the supper would be before the Passover).

This interpretation, however, is far from new, and was promoted most notably around 50 years ago by Annie Jaubert in a book entitled The Date of the Last Supper. Many commentators over the years have suggested that John and the Synoptics were using different calendars. But this is a convoluted explanation for which there is no evidence. Furthermore, it is unnecessary, because an informed reading of the text reveals absolutely no contradiction, without needing to appeal to calendar differences.

There are seven places in the Last Supper/Passion narrative where John has chronological markers that seem to be at variance with the Synoptics. There are a variety of ways that scholars have tried to harmonize the accounts, some better than others. But when read in the context of the first-century world, there is no need to resort to convoluted explanations to harmonize the accounts.

‘Problem’ texts

John 13:1 has a chronological marker “before the Passover feast”. The chronological problem occurs when that is taken as a heading to chapters 13–17. But it is just as plausible to take it as an introduction to just the footwashing,2 and this easily resolves any problems of chronology….

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