Friday, April 22, 2011

Dating the Last Supper a Day Early?

BBC News reported earlier this week on an interesting seasonal story about the date of the Last Supper:

Jesus Christ's Last Supper 'was on a Wednesday'

The gist of the story is that Colin Humphreys, a metallurgist and materials scientist at the University of Cambridge, claims that Jesus and the Synoptics were working with one (older) calendar, according to which Passover fell that year on the Wednesday, while John was working with the standard calendar, according to which Passover fell that year on the Friday evening / Sabbath.

The story made it into the L.A. Times (link courtesy of Jim Davila, who also reports an email comment from Geza Vermes) and there are fuller versions at Cambridge University's research pages, The Penultimate Supper? and in an article written by Humphreys himself in Bible and Interpretation, The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Last Days of Jesus. These articles are all advertising Humphreys's new book, The Mystery of the Last Supper, now out from Cambridge University Press.

This is an ingenious proposal that attempts to squeeze every element in the Gospel Passion chronology into a harmonized whole.  If I have understand the case properly, and I have not yet had a chance to read the book, the effective timetable, on Humphreys's scheme, looks like this:

Wednesday evening: Last Supper (Old Passover: Synoptics; before the Official Passover: John)
Thursday: Trial before the Sanhedrin
Friday: Trial before Pilate and Crucifixion
Sabbath: "Official" Passover (John)

This scheme of contrasting Passovers attempts to resolve the conflict over the date of the crucifixion.  It attempts to harmonize all the varying statements in the Gospels.  When the Synoptics talk about Jesus eating the Passover, they are talking about Passover on an old calendar.  When John talks about events before Passover , he is talking about Passover on the "official" calendar.  So both types of statements, eating the meal before the Passover and during the Passover, can be harmonized.

It is a neat solution and I'll have to read the book to get the detail but on the basis of the sketch, let me outline my problems with the proposal:

(1) One of Humphreys's primary concerns is to avoid the idea that the Gospels "contradict themselves".  The concern is one that characterizes apologetic works and it is not a concern that I share.  Nevertheless, if it is to be a concern, then it needs to be reiterated that as they stand, the Gospels do "contradict themselves" and this proposal does not succeed in avoiding the contradiction.  What the Synoptics are calling "the Passover" is set on a different day from what John is calling "the Passover".  The Synoptics do not distinguish the Passover that Jesus is celebrating from the Passover that everyone else was celebrating (e.g. Mark 14.1-2) and John shows no awareness of an alternative Passover date.  What Humphreys's proposal does is to try to explain the contradiction in the light of a proposed underlying history;  it does not remove the contradiction.

(2) It is not just Jesus and his disciples in the Synoptics who think that it is Passover.  It is Pilate and the crowds too (Mark 15.6,8).

(3) Proposals that attempts to harmonize discrepant accounts usually end up placing strain on the narrative(s) at other points.  This proposal is no exception.  The pay-off, for Humphreys, in the Wednesday evening Last Supper is that this allows more time for the trials to take place.  But according to Mark, the trial before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin took place on the same night as the Last Supper and not the next day.  It receives a marked emphasis:
Mark 14.30: καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἀμὴν λέγω σοι ὅτι σὺ σήμερον αύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ πρὶν ἢ δὶς ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι τρίς με ἀπαρνήσῃ

Mark 14.30: Amen I say to you: Today, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.
Peter's denial in Mark is famously intertwined with the trial before the High Priest -- it is taking place at night, that night, before the cock crows (Mark 14.53-72).

(4) The clear indication is that the events of Mark 15 follow straight on from the end of Mark 14, beginning "Early" (πρωΐ,15.1) without an additional unmentioned day intervening.

(5) Humphreys is concerned that a night trial before the Sanhedrin would be illegal.  It is true that this concern is often repeated in the literature, but the basis for it is weak.  The authoritative work on Mishnah Tractate Sanhedrin by Jacob Neusner concludes that that tractate is not a useful guide to what obtained in Jerusalem in the pre-70 period.  It is an idealized re-imagination of what went on before 70.

(6) Humphreys is also concerned about the rushed timetable that is implied. I don't share this concern for two reasons, historical and liturgical.  The historical concern: we should be wary of importing our own ideas of what a "trial" ought to include.  In the ancient world, these "trials" were often summary, ad hoc, ruthless affairs.  The liturgical issue: If early Christians were remembering the Passion as they celebrated Passover, it is easy to imagine how the retelling compressed the narrative.  The apparently tight timetable is more about liturgical remembering than historical memory.

Now it may be that some of my concerns are dealt with in the book, which I hope to read in due course.  But on the basis of the press releases and summary articles, I think the proposal is flawed for these reasons.

31 comments:

Gilgamesh said...

For a bit of history concerning Humphreys, he has previously written articles and books concerning the day of the crucifixion (which made it into Nature), the identity of the Star of Bethlehem, and the miracles of the Exodus story. It would be accurate to characterize him as a modern Heinrich Paulus (though he hasn't explained the Resurrection as a natural event as far as I know).

Richard Fellows said...

Thanks, Mark. Some provisional tentative thoughts:

Assuming that the official Passover was on the sabbath, there are some possible (not all mutually exclusive) explanations for why Jesus would have celebrated a passover meal earlier:
1. He used another calendar and ate it on the Wednesday (so Humphreys).
2. He ate it on the Thursday as a compromise between those who wanted it on the Wed and those who wanted it on the Fri.
3. He ate it early because he did not expect to live to Friday evening (so Ratzinger).
4. He ate it early for security reasons. The meal had to be arranged in secret and the 12 probably feared that the Romans would arrest the whole group in a single raid if they found out where and when the meal was to be held. Bringing the meal forward to an unexpected day would help to wrong-foot the opponents. Scholars so often overlook security considerations.

If Jesus did eat a Passover early (for whatever reason) it would be understandable for the collective memory to forget that it was not on the official Passover, and this might explain some of Mark's wording. Is that your point too?

Mark, here are some comments on your six numbered counter-arguments:

In point 6 you suggest that liturgical retelling compressed the narrative. Doesn't this actually enable Humphrey's position? Doesn't it make it plausible that there was an extra day between the supper and the crucifixion? Doesn't this negate your points 2 and 3, or am I missing something? Concerning Humphrey's missing day, we will have to wait until we can access his book, as you say, but it occurs to me that Mark does not say that the crowing of the cock (Mark 14:66-72) was after all the trial events of Mark 14:55-65. Mark may have wanted to complete his account of the trial before recounting the simultaneous cock crowing event. You have always been reluctant to assume that texts are narrated in a strict chronological order, haven't you?

The first part of your point 1 does not engage with the issues, but speculates about motives and is therefore out of bounds.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Gilgamesh.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thank for your thoughtful comments, Richard. I am inclined to think that the precise history / chronology is now lost to us and that we can only approximate to the basics. The liturgical issue is something that generally gets forgotten. But yes, it is something that could play into a compression of a narrative that might have told about events over a longer period. In my response, I am trying to engage Humphreys's thesis on its own ground, but also subsequently to suggest why I am not entirely on board with that general approach.

Re. point 1, I am trying to deal with Humphreys's own obsession with the Gospels contradicting themselves, not a concern I have. I am trying to point out that they still contradict themselves on his reading; it's just that he thinks that he can do something special with the underlying history.

TonyTheProf said...

Humphrey also states "all four Gospels agree on the date and nature of the Last Supper". As John has virtually no last supper narrative that compares with the Synoptics, this is a sweeping statement.

Moreoever, Luke follows Paul with the breaking of the bread within the meal, and "after the meal" Jesus taking the cup; by omitting this, Matthew and Mark give the impression the wine immediately follows the bread (as of course it does in liturgical actions).

What to me is more significant is that if it was a passover - whenever dated - Jesus would have been left with the wine of Elijah and the bread of affliction put to one side, and fashioned his actions from those items left over at the end, within Jewish tradition, rather than if it was an ordinary meal, in which case it seems he is creating something with no roots in Judaism.

Peter Kirk said...

Given the date that Humphreys gives for the Last Supper, I couldn't resist suggesting that the whole thing is an April Fool.

Mark Goodacre said...

Haha -- very good.

Richard Fellows said...

Mark,

I am surprised that you would want to endorse Peter's post. See my comment on it. This is not the kind of thing that we should encourage in biblical studies. Ideas should be challenged with logic, not ridicule.

Mark Goodacre said...

Fair enough, Richard. I stand corrected. Sometimes I have so many emails that I just don't pay them the attention that would give me the opportunity to assess them fairly. You are right that Humphreys deserves a fair hearing, something that you and I are trying to give him.

Richard Fellows said...

Thanks, Mark.

Peter Kirk said...

Mark, to start with I seriously thought this was an April Fool type hoax. It is absolutely typical of the BBC to jump on any idea quoted by someone like a Cambridge professor, despite him having no qualifications in the field in question. I do think there is a need to challenge the way in which the media often publicises ridiculous ideas from fake experts. I have now changed my mind on this particular matter, but agree that the proposal is flawed, with the same caveat that I too have not read the book.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Peter; right. I do think that this proposal received far, far more attention in the media than it would have done if it had not been from a Cambridge prof. But then, CUP did publish it too so one assumes that it must have gone through some kind of peer review.

Richard Fellows said...

Yes, the media seems to love anything that is written from an Oxbridge professor. At the same time, many seem to be biased against anything in biblical studies that comes from someone who is outside the guild. This means that those of us who are not a professor in anything, never get a hearing.

I actually think that we need more scientists to be involved in biblical studies. I think that they can bring a logical rigor that is often lacking. I have found that NT specialists are particularly weak in statistics and his is a problem because it is an important part of what we do.

Peter, who would you say are the experts in biblical chronology? Whose opinions on this specialist sub-discipline would you take seriously?

Mark Goodacre said...

Good points, Richard. I hope to post on Bauckham's numbers again this week.

TonyTheProf said...

I would certainly agree with that regarding statistical analysis.

Coming from a mathematical background, I have find that often arguments are cited regarding authorship, for example of Pauline letters that the author uses different vocabulary and grammar, on very flimsy grounds.

(a) this never seems to involve anything like a null hypothesis, involving random samplings of vocabulary between letters, and

(b) double bind tests, where people given analyses of vocabulary are not told where they come from, whether from Paul or elsewhere.

Statistical tests can be highly technical - see the paper on a newly discovered poem and possible authorship by Shakespeare, in which several different technicques are used to assess this:

http://statistics.stanford.edu/~ckirby/techreports/BIO/BIO%20111.pdf

Instead, what tends to happen is selection by Biblical scholars of evidence to prove a hypothesis, often on a relatively small subset of available vocabulary.

Moreoever the absence of double-blind procedures means that there is no control on the prejudice of the person adducing evidence.

Peter Kirk said...

Richard, you ask a good question. I suppose on such a matter I would trust more a collaboration between a biblical scholar and a scientist, or the work of someone (like myself!) who is qualified in both fields.

Michael Barber said...

Mark:

Thanks for this post. Great comments.

Humphrey of course is pretty much just offering a rehash of Annie Jaubert's hypothesis, put forward in her book, The Date of the Last Supper (trans. I. Rafferty; Staten Island: Alba House, 1965 [1957]). I'm surprised no one is mentioning this.

It is interesting to note that Jaubert's theory involves a clear appeal to the unhistorical nature of certain elements of the Markan narrative. If Humphrey's starting point is that the Gospels do not contradict each other and are completely historically reliable, he would have to deal with Mark 14:12, which indicates that Jesus ate the Passover the same day everyone else did.

Jaubert dismisses this as a "secondary gloss" (p. 97). She suggests that "the glossator. . . no longer knew which Pasch was in question” (p. 98). I don't think Humphrey would go here.

Incidentally, have you seen Barry Smith's work on the date of the Last Supper? His book, "Jesus' Last Passover Meal" (Mellen, 1993) demonstrates a great familiarity with primary and secondary sources. He also has a shorter article here:
http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/chronology_smith.pdf

I think his work is respectable and every bit as plausible as other approaches. Certainly, while he does argue that the Synoptics and John should not be seen as contradictory, he doesn't approach the data as a fundamentalist.

In particular, I think his argument that the term "pascha" was used ambiguously is hard to ignore. One cannot simply equate "pascha" with "the passover day." Indeed, Luke appears to identify the entire feast of Unleavened Bread as "pascha" (Luke 22:1). In fact, other first century sources bear witness to this use of the term (e.g., Josephus, Ant., 14:21; 18:29; m. Pesah. 9:5).

Unfortunately, his work is almost entirely overlooked, which, in my view, is unfair. I'm most definitely not saying Smith has solved the problem entirely, but the way scholars fail to engage his arguments is disappointing. They usually just relegate his position to a footnote, without any substantial treatment of his approach.

One last note. My good friend Brant Pitre is currently finishing up a massive book on the Last Supper for Eerdmans. This book is virtually exhaustive, looking at just about every possible issue relating to the Last Supper. Frankly, I think his treatment on the date of the Last Supper is going to blow people away.

dmw said...

Could it be that all references to the Passover in John's gospel are actually referring to Christ as the Paschal Lamb?

Could John, if written after the Apocalypse and after 1 Corinthians (gar to pascha etuthe Christos), be simply placing Jesus in the role of the sacrificial Passover Lamb?

Considering John's systematic replacement of Jewish feasts and institutions with Jesus's (cf. R. Brown), has anyone considered the above proposal?

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks for your comments, Michael. I had forgotten about Barry Smith's article so it's useful to be reminded. I look forward to Brant Pitre's book.

DMW: Yes, I think the idea of Christ as paschal lamb is key in John.

Gilgamesh said...

I have had the chance to skim his book, and in particular I was looking at how he dealt with Mark 15:6 as you mentioned above. The verse, or the equivalent in Matthew, is never mentioned and the problem never addressed. Considering that it is detrimental to his thesis of what calendar Jesus may have used, that seems like a significant failing.

As for the research on calendars, this is probably a useful resource book since it bring together a lot of sources. However, a number of points he refers to his work which is itself rather questionable yet never deals with negative opinions (i.e. the day of crucifixion contra Beckwith, Calendar and Chronology, Jewish and Christian which Humphreys cites in support for other parts of his book).

Richard Fellows said...

I have now read the book. Michael, Jaubert suggested that the synoptics followed the Essene calendar, but Humphreys is proposing a pre-exile calendar.

He points out that Mark 14:12 implies that the passover lamb was eaten on the same day that it was sacrificed, which means that Mark was not following the official Jewish calendar, in which each day started at sunset. I don't think this verse implies that everyone else ate the Passover on the same day as Jesus. Mark may here be simply explaining to his Gentile audience what Passover is. Similarly, I might say to a Martian, "I Skyped my mum across the atlantic on mother's day, which is the day when people honor their mothers". This does not indicate whether it was mother's day according to the British or the north American calendar.

Since Barabbas was released (Mark 15:6) on Friday morning and the Jerusalemites ate their Passover meal in the evening of the same day. Therefore the events of Mark 15:6 took place on the first day that the Jerusalemites celebrated the festival. So it cannot be argued from this verse that the festival must have begun on the previous day. To make that case you would have to assume that Mark began each day at sunset, wouldn't you?

Humphreys addresses Goodacre's points 3 and 4 by pointing out that the final cock crows need not have occurred after the Sanhedrin trial that is described in the preceding verses in Mark. Indeed, Humphreys mentions that Luke places the Sanhedrin trial after the cock crows.

Humphreys' believes that the synoptics use a pre-exile calendar that he tentatively suggests was favored in Galilee, while John uses the official calendar used in Jerusalem. He should have made the point that this would make sense since Mark is supposed to be based on the memories of Peter, a Galilean, and focusses on Galilee; and John has a Jerusalem focus.

I have some concerns with the hypotheses. I find it difficult to put Humphreys' extra night in Luke 22:60-23:1. Also, I was not convinced by his criticism of Jaubert's Essene calendar hypothesis. I would need more details of various issues before I am able to make an assessment.

The book is very readable and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the last supper or biblical chronology.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for the interesting comments, Gilgamesh and Richard. I look forward to getting a look at the book at some point. It sounds like a problem if he does not deal with 15.6. I am not quite following your point on this one, Richard. Isn't Humphreys's case that the Jerusalem Jews kept an offical Passover from sunset to sunset? So when they say that it is Passover, they have been celebrating it since the previous evening? The point about the cock crow sounds flaky too, but clearly I'll have to read what he says there.

Richard Fellows said...

Mark, Humphreys' view, I think, is that the synoptics consistently use the pre-exile calendar. Mark 5:6 is therefore not a problem for him. On the pre-exilic calendar the Friday morning was after the Passover meal was therefore during the festival. I don't understand why you assume that 5:6 must refer to a calender that Pilate or Jerusalemites followed.

Even if 5:6 does refer to the calendar used in Jerusalem, it would be problematic for Humphreys only if we assume that Mark was pedantic about what time period constituted the festival. However, Humphrey's observations about 4:12 would suggest that Mark was not a pedantic follower of the official calendar. Why should we expect more precision than we apply to the term "Christmas"?

Mark, what were your thoughts on Bauckham's statistics that you mentioned in your earlier comment?

Mark Goodacre said...

I'm not following you on this one, Richard, and I suspect we may be at cross purposes, so let me try to clarify my point and then you may be able to explain to me where I am missing or misunderstanding Humphreys's point.

(1) It looks to me like Humphreys is saying that Jesus and the disciples celebrated Passover on Wednesday evening. The Synoptic evangelists agree with Jesus and the disciples in calling this the Passover; John does not agree with them and locates Passover on the "official" date on the Sabbath.

(2) Mark 15.6, 8 appears to be a problem for this view because the narrator identifies this day (Friday) as the Passover, and not the Wednesday evening. And the Jerusalem crowd agree with the narrator.

If Mark actually thought that the Passover was on the Wednesday, why does he not here clarify the point here in 15.6, 8 by saying, e.g. "For this was the day when the Jews in Jerusalem were celebrating the Passover"? These verses suggest that Mark in fact did not think that the Passover began the previous Wednesday.

Rather, Mark thinks that the Passover began on the Thursday evening, when Jesus ate his supper with the disciples, and it continues now, on the Friday.

Richard Fellows said...

Thanks, Mark, for the clarification. You have understood Humphrey's position. I think I understand your position much better now. You assume that the term ἑορτή (festival) in Mark 15:6 refers to the 24 hour period of Nissan 15th, which began at sunset (correct me if I am wrong).

My assumption was (and I think still is) that ἑορτή (festival) refers to the entire period of the festival of unleavened bread, which began on Nissan 15th and lasted 7 days. Michael Barber helpfully mentioned Smith's work, here, which has a good discussion of the terminology, especially on pages 33-35. The only other time that Mark uses the word ἑορτή is at Mark 14:1-2. Here it seems to refer to the extended festival period. The chief priests' reluctance to arrest Jesus during the festival would not be worth mentioning if the festival lasted only one day.

So, I would say that Mark 15:6 identifies the Friday as part of the festival week, but not necessarily as part of the Passover day. I'm willing to be corrected, though.

I still don't understand why you assume that "the Jerusalem crowd agree with the narrator". Why so?

Does this help, or are we still at cross purposes?

Colin Humphreys said...

I am Colin Humphreys, the author of the book aboiut the Last Supper. Many thanks for all your comments. If I may, I would like to post a series of short comments answering specific points that have been made. In this first message can I say that although I am a Materials Scientist, I have published two papers in Vetus Testamentum, written a book about the Exodus and published a paper in the leading scientific journal Nature on the date of the Crucifixion, which is widely referenced in books by some leading biblical scholars. In addition, my book on the Last Supper was read by some leading biblical scholars before puplication. So I hope you will take me seriously.

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks, Colin, for your comments. I would love to hear your responses to my points. I hope that there was nothing in my post that suggested that I was not taking your proposal seriously.

Colin Humphreys said...

Mark, Many thanks. Let me first rsspond to the comment: "One of my main concerns is to avoid the idea that the Gospels contradict themselves."

In fact, I started out with an open mind as to whether the Gospels contradicted themselves or not. For example,I have considered the four main possible interpretations of the date and nature of the Last Supper, including that the Synoptics are right and John is wrong, and vice versa. Using newly reconstructed ancient Jewish calendars, and other information,I have managed to rule out three of these four interpretations, leaving one interpretation which I suggest is the correct one. My analysis shows that the Gospels accounts of the period between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion are in remarkable, but not perfect, agreement. The disagreement is in the timing of the cockcrows. I will focus on this disagreement in my next message.

Colin Humphreys said...

I would like to reply to the comment: "Peter's denial in Mark is famously intertwined with the trial before the High Priest - it is taking place at night (Mark 14:53-72)."

The problem is this. Peter's denials in Mark (14:66-72) are, in fact, AFTER the trial by the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53-65). Matthew agrees with Mark. On the other hand, Luke places the denials by Peter (Luke 22:54-62) BEFORE the trial by the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66-71). John interweaves his account of the denials by Peter with the night-time interrogation by Annas.

Luke records when the main trial by the Sanhedrin started: it was at daybreak (Luke 22:66).

There is therefore a contradiction. I suggest we need to ask which of these writers cared more about having the denials by Peter and the Sanhedrin trial in the correct order.

Eusebius quotes Papius as saying that Peter wrote things down accurately, but not in ordered form. In addition, ONLY Luke tells us explicitly when the Sanhedrin trial started: it was at daybreak. He then consistently places the night-time denials by Peter before this daytime Sanhedrin trial. This totally agrees with John, who has the denials by Peter running in parallel with the interrogation by Annas.

Very tentatively we can explain this as follows. When Mark and Matthew wrote their Gospels perhaps neither they not their audience were concerneed about whether the denials by Peter were before or after the trial by the Sanhedrin. However, perhaps questions were then asked and so both Luke and John decided to clarify the situation.

If the above interpretation is carrect, then the main trial by the Sanhedrin started at daybreak, and may well have lasted for several hours. (The Gospels give no indication that the trial was rushed. On the contrary, MANY false witnesses came forward: Matthew 26:59-60).

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks for your thoughtful and helpful comments, Colin. I apologize that they have only just appeared. For some reason, my spam filter keeps catching them and I have only just noticed that they were there.

I hope to comment in due course.

Paul Tanner said...

In point #3 above, Mark writes, “Proposals that attempts to harmonize discrepant accounts usually end up placing strain on the narrative(s) at other points. This proposal is no exception.” I disagree. One of the reasons that I find Humphreys’ proposal so convincing is that, in my estimation, it reconciles many (but not all) of the apparent discrepancies in a way that is both natural and unstrained. Of course, it also helps that I think that his reconstruction is supported by the evidence.

I think that one of most important points of discussion for supporters and critics of Humphreys’ proposal has to be about what we make of the trial(s) of Jesus before the Sanhedrin.

Humphreys argues that there were two separate trials before the Sanhedrin on two separate days (i.e., Thursday and Friday).

I agree with him.

I recommend a careful reading and consideration of the argument that is contained in End Note #28 on pages 225 and 226 in Humphreys’ book The Mystery of the Last Supper.

End Note #28 says:
Some scholars may object to my analysis, arguing that there was only one Sanhedrin trial and not two. Such scholars would argue that Luke 22:66–71, my first Sanhedrin trial at daybreak, is in parallel with Matthew 27:1 and Mark 15:1, my second trial at daybreak, and that all three gospels are reporting one and the same trial. I disagree for the following reasons. Luke 22:67 reports the Sanhedrin asking Jesus if he was the Christ, which is in parallel with Matthew 26:63 and Mark 14:61. Luke 22:68 then reports Jesus replying that he will be seated at the right hand of God, in parallel with Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62. Luke 22:71 further reports the Sanhedrin asking ‘Why do we need any more testimony?’ This is in parallel with Matthew 26:65 and Mark 14:63. Hence Luke 22:66–71 is in parallel with Matthew 26:57–66 and Mark 14:53–64, and not with Matthew 27:1 and Mark 15:1.

Matthew 26:57–66 and the parallel Mark 14:53–64 describe a trial by the Sanhedrin which comes to a clear end. Mark 14:64 states: ‘They all condemned him as worthy of death’, and Matthew 26:66 repeats this. The trial has finished and the death sentence has been passed. Immediately following sentencing, Jesus is handed over to the guards, who beat him (Mark 14:65). Matthew and Mark then separate this trial from a second Sanhedrin trial by placing the denials by Peter between the two trials (Matthew 26:69–75; Mark 14:66–72). Although I have argued that these denials by Peter are not narrated in their strict chronological position by Matthew and Mark, nevertheless in Matthew and Mark they serve to separate the two trials by the Sanhedrin, and Matthew and Mark use them in this way.

Mark 15:1 and Matthew 27:1 then describe how the Sanhedrin met very early in the morning and reached a decision. R. T. France states that they met ‘to ratify formally the result of the night’s proceedings’ (France, The Gospel of Mark, p. 627). However, according to Luke, the first trial had started at daybreak and was not at night (Luke 22:66). Mark and Matthew are describing here, in only one sentence, a short Sanhedrin trial, at daybreak, confirming the decision of the main Sanhedrin trial, which also started at daybreak. Since both trials started at daybreak, the two trials were necessarily on successive days.