Parasceve (Gr. paraskene) seems to have supplanted the older term Greek: prosabbaton, used in the translation of Judith, viii, 6, and in the title—not to be found in Hebrew—of Ps. xcii (xciii). It became, among Hellenistic Jews, the name for Friday, and was adopted by Greek ecclesiastical writers after the writing of “The teaching of the Twelve Apostles“.Apparently it was first applied by the Jews to the afternoon of Friday, then to the whole day, its etymology pointing to the “preparations” to be made for the Sabbath, as indicated in the King James Bible, where the Greek word is translated by “Day of Preparation”. That the regulations of the Law might be minutely observed, it was made imperative to have on the Parasceve three meals of the choicest food laid ready before sunset (the Sabbath beginning on Friday night); it was forbidden to undertake in the afternoon of the sixth day’ any business which might extend to the Sabbath; Augustus relieved the Jews from certain legal duties from the ninth hour (Josephus, “Antiq. Jud.”, XVI, vi, 2).
Parasceve seems to have been applied also to the eve of certain festival days of a sabbatic character. Foremost among these was the first day of the unleavened bread, Nisan 15. We learn from the Mishna (Pesach., iv, 1, 5) that the Parasceve of the Pasch, whatever day of the week it fell on, was kept even more religiously than the ordinary Friday, in Judaea work ceasing at noon, and in Galilee the whole day being free. In the schools the only question discussed regarding this particular Parasceve was when should the rest commence: Shammai said from the very beginning of the day (evening of Nisan 13); Hillel said only from after sunrise (morning of Nisan 14).
The use of the word Parasceve in the Gospels raises the question concerning the actual day of Our Lord’s crucifixion. All the Evangelists state that Jesus died on the day of the Parasceve (Matt., xxvii, 62; Mark, xv, 42; Luke, xxiii, 54; John, xix, 14, 31), and there can be no doubt from Luke, xxiii, 54-56 and John, xix, 31, that this was Friday. But on what day of the month of Nisan did that particular Friday fall? St. John distinctly points to Nisan 14, while the Synoptists, by implying that the Last Supper was the Paschal meal, convey the impression that Jesus was crucified on Nisan 15. But this is hardly reconcilable with the following facts: When Judas left the table, the disciples imagined he was going to buy the things which were needed for the feast (John, xiii, 29)—a purchase which was impossible if the feast had begun; after the Supper, Our Lord and his disciples left the city, as also did the men detailed to arrest Him—this, on Nisan 15, would have been contrary to Ex., xii, 22; the next morning the Jews had not yet eaten the Passover; moreover, during that day the Council convened; Simon was apparently coming from work (Luke, xxiii, 26); Jesus and the two robbers were executed and were taken down from the crosses; Joseph of Arimathea bought fine linen (Mark, xv, 46), and Nicodemus brought “a mixture of myrrh and aloes about an hundred pound weight” (John, xix, 39) for the burial; lastly the women prepared spices for the embalming of the Savior’s body (Luke, xxiii, 55)—all things which would have been a desecration on Nisan 15. Most commentators, whether they think the Last Supper to have been the Paschal meal or an anticipation thereof, hold that Christ, as St. John states, was crucified on the Parasceve of the Pasch, Friday, Nisan 14.
CHARLES L. SOUVAY