And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.John 6:4 (KJV)
If you’re at all familiar with the chronology of the ministry of Christ, this verse should cause some hesitation. It doesn’t align with the rest of the gospels, ie. Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And yet this one verse is the basis for the belief that Yeshua’s ministry was 3.5 years long. It all hangs on this one verse. So obviously, we should dig into this a bit more.
Eusebius referring to Matthew, Mark, and Luke:
For it is evident that the three evangelists recorded only the deeds done by the Saviour for one year after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, and indicated this in the beginning of their account.Eusebius, Church History, Book III, Chapter XXIV, 8
There are six feasts mentioned in the gospel of John. These include:
- John 2:13 – The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
- John 5:1 – After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
- John 6:4 – Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
- John 7:22 – Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.
- John 10:22 – At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem.
- John 13:1 – Now before the Feast of the Passover.
So we begin with Passover, the first feast of the year. The next one is the unnamed feast from John 5:1. I believe this was Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) and will explain in a second. Continuing through the list, we come back to Passover, then make a huge jump to Tabernacles (Sukkot), and then Dedication (Hanukkah), which finally ends on Passover of the following year. If we based the timeline of Yeshua’s ministry solely on the gospel of John, we’d conclude that Yeshua’s ministry expanded over the course of 3 Passovers. This roughly adds up to 3.5 years. This is from where that belief originates.
However, if we pull out John 6:4… Yep, that’s right, crazy, I know, but if we remove that verse from the Bible, the gospel of John begins to align better with the other three gospels. And the chronology no longer follows a sporadic jump through history (ie. Passover to Tabernacles, skipping months in between), but instead remains consistent with a year’s timeline of God’s feasts. This is how the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), is explained as the feast mentioned in John 5:1. There are only 3 feasts that require all Hebrew men to travel to the temple in Jerusalem every year; Passover, Feast of Weeks, and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-17). So if Jesus was going up to Jerusalem as the law dictates, so that He didn’t transgress the law and sin, then this must be one of the three pilgrimage feasts. And this way the chronology covers a year’s time in sequential order.
Now with that knowledge of the pilgrimage feasts, let’s take another look at John 6:4 and the surrounding verses.
1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.John 6:1-5
2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.
4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
Notice that Yeshua is up in the Galilee area, far North of Jerusalem. If it’s the Passover, Yeshua would be traveling to, or already in Jerusalem. This is the first oddity. Second, we read in verse 5 that the multitude is hungry and didn’t bring any food. This is extremely out of place. If the pilgrimage to Jerusalem is happening, people would be equipped with food and supplies for the long journey through the wilderness. None of this, in context to verse 4, is adding up.
An early church father struggled with this as well. John Chrysostom despised the Jews and couldn’t understand why Christians would attend synagogues in the early centuries. He comments on this verse saying,
“How then,” saith someone, “doth He not go up unto the feast, but, when all are pressing to Jerusalem, goeth Himself into Galilee, and not Himself alone, but taketh His disciples with Him, and proceedeth thence to Capernaum?” Because henceforth, He was quietly annulling the Law, taking occasion from the wickedness of the Jews.John Chrysostom ca. 349-407
Mr. Chrysostom’s justification for this is that Yeshua was disobeying the law to prove its irrelevance. This would be considered sin according to 1 John 3:4. If Yeshua did this, than He was not a perfect sacrifice. So this antisemitic interpretation from Mr. Chrysostom must be wrong.
The 3rd problem with John 6:4 shows up further down at verse 17.
And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.John 6:17
So after Tiberias, Yeshua heads toward Capernaum. This is even further North along the Sea of Galilee. Yeshua is essentially traveling farther away from where God’s law states he should be going.
And finally, what does Yeshua find in the synagogue at Capernaum? He finds a synagogue full of Jewish people listening to His teaching. These are the same people that should be traveling to Jerusalem as well for Passover, if indeed it was truly Passover at hand. Nothing is making any sense at this point in John 6. And it won’t make sense until you remove verse 4. If that one verse is removed, everything falls in line: chronology, alignment with the other gospels, situational events concerning the pilgrimage feasts – everything. And Yeshua’s ministry falls within a 70 week (~16 months) period instead of 3.5 years. This will no doubt cause some paradigm shifting and shake a few cages, so I encourage you to investigate further.
It’s good to point out that this isn’t a random thought of mine. Scholars for over 400 years have been questioning the validity of this verse. This post is pulled strongly from a panel discussion of this verse. You can watch it below beginning at time
Yeshua is the lamb without blemish. He could not transgress Torah and still be considered worthy of this task. If John 6:4 is true, than we have a huge problem. Yeshua is not partaking in Passover, and instead partakes with a large group of other people leading them to also transgress Torah. That isn’t the example of the Messiah. Yeshua kept the law obediently, He proved that man can overcome and keep it too, and set forth the example as the worthy Son of God.