Was the Passover like the Superbowl?

Michael H. Burer's picture

The NET Bible has some of the best readers in the world. We received this question recently concerning Matthew 26:18. I thought it was great, primarily because of the picture it left in my mind! I've edited it slightly to shorten it a little:

The phrase πρὸς σὲ ποιῶ τὸ πάσχα μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν μου "I intend to observe the passover [with] you with my disciples" struck me as odd. Most my life I've envisioned this scene with Jesus commandeering this poor sap's house and giving him the boot for the week. Almost like the Superbowl, where locals vacate their houses in order to rent it out to visitors at a premium. It is clear that Jesus and his disciples will use this man's residence. What I think the translation "at your house" does not convey clearly is that they will do so with this certain person. Might an alternate translation of the phrase, such as "by your side" or "among your household" better convey that the man (and kin!) will too be there?

Perhaps I am being influenced too much by French here, but at this point I agree with the traditional understanding of this phrase as referring to the man's residence. French uses chez for this all the time, and even though it is always followed by a personal word (pronoun or occupation), it simply refers to the location, the residence, without implying the people who live or work there. My strong hunch without doing a lot more digging is that the same notion is in play here. LSJ references the LXX on this score and gives the same nuance: "ἀπῆλθε πρὸς ἑαυτόν returned to his home, LXX Nu.24.25." Coupled with the use of μετα with the disciples, which clearly indicates connection and association in the activity, I think it is safe to say that neither the man nor his household were included by Jesus in his celebration of the Passover; Jesus does as a matter of fact commandeer his residence, but without any of the negative connotations implied by the Superbowl analogy. Ancient standards of hospitality were quite different, so I'm inclined to think the man very graciously offered his residence to Jesus and the disciples, and they very graciously and respectfully used it. So I think the traditional interpretation/translation is appropriate here, referring only to the house. This is also what all the English translations I could presently check did, so the NET Bible is in good company.

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