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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:
Epistle to Gregory and Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John.: Chapter XI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

11.  Why the Passover is Said to Be that of the “Jews.”  Its Institution:  and the Distinction Between “Feasts of the Lord” And Feasts Not So Spoken of.

“And the passover of the Jews was at hand.” 5018   Inquiring into the accuracy of the most wise John (on this passage), I put myself the question, What is indicated by the addition “of the Jews”?  Of what other nation was the passover a festival?  Would it not have been enough to say, “And the passover was at hand”?  It may, however, be the case that the human passover is one thing when kept by men not as Scripture intended, and that the divine passover is another thing, the true passover, observed in spirit and truth by those who worship God in spirit and in truth; and then the distinction indicated in the text may be that between the divine passover and that said to be of the Jews.  We should attend to the passover law and observe what the Lord says of it when it is first mentioned in Scripture. 5019   “And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month is to you the beginning of months, it is the first for you among the months of the year.  Speak thou to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, On the tenth of this month shall every man take a sheep, according to the houses of your families;” then after some directions in which the word passover does not occur again, he adds, 5020 “Thus shall ye eat it, your loins girt and your shoes on your feet, and your staves in your hands, and ye shall eat it with haste.  It is the passover of the Lord.”  He does not say, “It is your passover.”  And a little further on He names the festival again in the same way, 5021 “And it shall come to pass, when your sons say to p. 388 you, What is this service?  And ye shall say to them, It is the sacrifice, the passover of the Lord, how He guarded the houses of the children of Israel.”  And again, a little further on, 5022 “And the Lord spake to Moses and Aaron, saying, This is the law of the passover.  No alien shall eat of it.”  And again in a little, 5023 “But if a proselyte come to you, and keep the passover of the Lord, every male of him shall be circumcised.”  Observe that in the law we never find it said, “Your passover;” but in all the passages quoted the phrase occurs once without any adjunct, while we have three times “The passover of the Lord.”  To make sure that there is such a distinction between the passover of the Lord and the passover of the Jews, we may consider the way in which Isaiah speaks of the matter: 5024   “Your new moons and your Sabbaths and your great day I cannot bear; your fast and your holiday and your new moons and your feasts my soul hateth.”  The Lord does not call them His own, these observances of sinners (they are hated of His soul, if such there be); neither the new moons, nor the Sabbaths, nor the great day, nor the fast, nor the festivals.  And in the legislation about the Sabbath in Exodus, we read, 5025 “And Moses said unto them, This is the word which the Lord spake, The Sabbath is a holy rest unto the Lord.”  And a little further on, “And Moses said, Eat ye; for to-day is a Sabbath unto the Lord.”  And in Numbers, 5026 before the sacrifices which are offered at each festival, as if all the festivals came under the law of the continuous and daily sacrifice, we find it written, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, Announce to the children of Israel, and thus shalt thou say unto them, My gifts, My offerings, My fruits for a smell of sweet savour, ye shall observe to offer unto Me at My festivals.  And thou shalt say unto them, These are the offerings which ye shall offer unto the Lord.”  The festival set forth in Scripture He calls His own, not those of the people receiving the law, He speaks of His gifts, His offerings.  A similar way of speaking is that in Exodus with regard to the people; it is said by God to be His own people, when it does not sin; but in the section about the calf He abjures it and calls it the people of Moses. 5027   On the one hand, “Thou shalt say to Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness.  But if thou wilt not let My people go, behold, I will send against thee and against thy servants, and against thy people and against thy houses, the dog-fly; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of the dog-fly, and on the land on which they are, against it will I send them.  And I will glorify on that day the land of Gesem, on which My people are; on it there shall be no dog-fly, that thou mayest know that I am the Lord, the Lord of all the earth.  And I will make a distinction between My people and thy people.”  To Moses, on the other hand, He says, 5028 “Go, descend quickly, for thy people hath transgressed, which thou leddest out of the land of Egypt.”  As, then, the people when it does not sin is the people of God, but when it sins is no longer spoken of as His, thus, also, the feasts when they are hated by the Lord’s soul are said to be feasts of sinners, but when the law is given regarding them, they are called feasts of the Lord.  Now of these feasts passover is one, which in the passage before us is said to be that not of the Lord, but of the Jews.  In another passage, too, 5029 we find it said, “These are the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall call chosen, holy.”  From the mouth of the Lord Himself, then, we see that there is no gainsaying our statement on this point.  Some one, no doubt, will ask about the words of the Apostle, where he writes to the Corinthians: 5030   “For our Passover also was sacrificed for us, namely, Christ;” he does not say, “The Passover of the Lord was sacrificed, even Christ.”  To this we must say, either that the Apostle simply calls the passover our passover because it was sacrificed for us, or that every sacrifice which is really the Lord’s, and the passover is one of these, awaits its consummation not in this age nor upon earth, but in the coming age and in heaven when the kingdom of heaven appears.  As for those feasts, one of the twelve prophets says, 5031 “What will ye do in the days of assembly, and in the days of the feast of the Lord?”  But Paul says in the Epistle to the Hebrews: 5032   “But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to ten thousands of angels, the assembly and church of the firstborn, who are written in heaven.”  And in the Epistle to the Colossians: 5033   “Let no one judge you in meat and in drink, or in respect of a feast-day or a new moon, or a sabbath-day; which are a shadow of the things to come.”



John ii. 13.


Exod. xii. 1-3.


Exod. 12.11.


Exod. 12.26.


Exod. 12.43-48.


Exod. 12.48.


Isa. i. 13.


Exod. 16.23.


Num. 28.1.


Exod. viii. 21-23.


Exod. xxxii. 7.


Levit. xxiii. 2.


1 Cor. v. 7.


Hosea ix. 5.


Heb. 12:22, 23.


Col. 2.16.

Next: Chapter XII