JOHN 5:1, The Feast of 28 A.D.  


JOHN 5:1

The Feast of 28 A.D.

As usual, William Hendriksen provides a good analysis.
From the NEW TESTMENT COMMENTARY, The Gospel of John, pages 188-89.

Hence, we do not know just when the great miracle on which our attention is fixed in this chapter occurred. We do know that it was when there was a feast of the Jews; but this indication, too, is rather indefinite. To which feast does the author refer?

In discussing this question the following Table of Jewish Festivals which require consideration in this connection may be helpful. The names of the months are, of course, approximate; i.e., they do not correspond exactly to those of the Jewish religious calendar. The period covered extends from Christ's baptism to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

MARCH           APRIL        MAY      OCTOBER        DECEMBER
                    During the Year 26 A.D.


                    During the Year 27 A.D.

Purim         Passover     Pentecost   Tabernacles    Dedication
               2:13,23                                cf.

                    During the Year 28 A.D.

Purim         Passover     Pentecost    Tabernacles   Dedication

                    During the Year 29 A.D.


Purim         Passover     Pentecost    Tabernacles   Dedication
                6:4                       7:2, 37     
10:22, 23

                    During the Year 30 A.D.
Purim          Passover    Pentecost

             12:1; 13:1;    Acts 2:1


By glancing at this Table it is immediately obvious that the feast indicated in 5:1 cannot belong to the year 26 A.D. or even to the year 27 A.D., for 4:35 already carried us to December of 27 A.D.

It has been suggested that the Passover mentioned in 6:4 is that of 28 A. D., and that, accordingly, the feast of 5:1 is Purim of that year.

Against this view we present the following objections:
(1) Having left Judea for the reason stated in 4:1-3, 43, 44, Jesus would not have returned to that region so soon afterward unless it would be for the purpose of attending one of the three pilgrim feasts.

(2) Purim was not a pilgrim feast. It was celebrated in the local synagogues where for that occasion the book of Esther was read amid great joy.

(3) The Passover mentioned in 6:4 carries us to the close of the Great Galilean Ministry. Now if that Passover occurred in 28 A.D., this entire lengthy ministry, during which so very many events occurred, would be crowded into a period of four months. This will never do.

Now if the feast of 5:1 was not Purim of 28 A.D., and if (as is clear from 6:1: after these things) it cannot be the Passover of 6:4, then the latter must be dated in the year 29 A.D.

We arrive at the conclusion, therefore, that the feast of 5:1, if it was one of the three Jewish pilgrim feasts,(111) must have been either Passover or Pentecost or Tabernacles of the year 28 A.D.

Of these three the term feast of the Jews (5:1) is used elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel to indicate either Passover (6:4) or feast of Tabernacles (7:2). In both cases, moreover, the original has the definite article preceding the noun feast. Accordingly, the omission of that article here in 5:1 according to the best textual evidence, does not decide the question either way.

We conclude, therefore, by stating as our opinion that this unnamed feast a. was one of the three pilgrim feasts; b. must be dated in the year 28 A.D.; and c. was, in all probability either Passover or feast of Tabernacles (without ruling out the possibility that it was Pentecost). In favor of the Passover two additional arguments are sometimes presented: 1. this is supported by the tradition of Ireneus, and 2. this was the only feast which the Israelites were required to attend. However, the evidence is not entirely conclusive.

(111) It is hard to believe that at this time Jesus would have gone to Jerusalem to attend one of the lesser feasts, such as that of Wood-offering or even that of Trumpets, though these too are favored by some commentators.


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