Monday, January 5, 2009

The Final Week of Jesus: A Chronology

Since we have begun our series on the Last Week of Jesus, I thought that I would propose a possible chronology of some of the major events that took place during that week. This will be helpful for us as we walk through the last week of Christ day by day for the next couple of weeks.

It should be noted, first, that there is no general consensus as to the exact order of events during this week. We know more about this week than about any other time in the life of Christ. However, given the different motives, purpose, and theological emphasis of each Gospel writer, it is virtually impossible to say for certain that the following chart is absolutely correct. We, as faithful Christians, have been given the task of looking at the Biblical evidence and try to figure out what the chronology of the last week is. But it must be made clear that the Gospel writers were not necessarily trying to give us a play by play historical sketch of this last week. Each of their own motives and purposes for writing and thus write in the order that they do (for example, Mark is ordered by geography).

The following chart is taken from Robert Stein, "Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ," 197-198.

Palm Sunday - Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (Mk 11:1-11)

Monday - The cleansing of the temple (Mk 11:12-19)

Tuesday - Jesus teaches in the temple and answers questions (Mk 11:20-13:37); and Judas's plan to betray Jesus (Mk 14:1-11)

Wednesday - Jesus rests

Thursday - The Last Supper, Gethsemane, Judas's betrayal, Jesus' arrest (Mk. 14:12-52)

Friday - The trial, crucifixion and burial

Saturday - Jesus in the tomb

Easter Sunday - The resurrection

After giving this chronology, Stein points out that such a tidy list is problematic. Perhaps the biggest problem is concerning Wednesday. Many scholars, and I am inclined to agree with them, that we have no idea what happened on Wednesday. I wish Stein had chosen something rather than "Jesus rests" but the point is fairly clear: we are unaware of what happened. Likewise, the placing of the cleansing of the temple is also uncertain. Some of the Gospel writers seem to place it on Monday while other suggests that it happened immediately or soon after the triumphal entry.

These does not mean that the Gospels are contradictory, but rather each have their own theological and methodological purpose behind their composition. Therefore, their orders and wordings are going to be slightly different, even among the Synoptics. Let us not forget that John puts the temple cleansing towards the beginning of his Gospel (chapter 2) while the others put it at the end. The question is, is this the same cleansing or a different one (though I am no expert at answering this question, I lean towards the latter; there are 2 cleansings).

So I hope this helps, more than confuses, everyone as we walk through the last week of Christ's life and ministry.

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