Psalm 34:20

The Anti-Missionary’s Charge:

John tries to make Jesus the perfect, sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and then he tries to relate this to the Jewish Passover. He even makes Jesus die on Passover while the other Gospels say Jesus died the day after. John 19:32-36 tells of soldiers breaking the legs of the crucifixion victims to hasten their deaths, yet sparing Jesus because he was already dead. John then quotes the Hebrew Scripture saying,

“For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, a bone of him shall not be broken.” (The New Testament also refers to Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12, and Psalm 34:20.)

Notice how conveniently John changed the entire meaning by simply changing the word “it” to “him.” Exodus 12:46 refers to the Passover offering, “…and you shall not break a bone in it (the animal).” Numbers 9:12 again refers to the Passover offering, “…nor shall they break a bone of it.” Psalm 34:20 refers to David saying no one becomes truly righteous and great without his share of mishaps. The verse says, “He guards all his bones, even one of them was not broken.”

There is no indication that this psalm is intended as prophetic or applying to Jesus. And Jesus was physically disqualified as a Passover sacrifice because the female lamb had to be “without blemish.” Jesus was wounded, whipped and mutilated.

HaDavar’s Response:

Please refer to the comments regarding The Four Ways the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) Uses the Hebrew Scriptures. John 19:32-36 is an example of Literal Prophecy plus Typical Fulfillment (Remez).

As with Hosea 11:1 (see Matt. 2:15) this is not even a prophecy as such. Hosea 11:1, Exodus 12:46, and Numbers 9:12 all refer to a literal, historical event. However, as a first century Messianic Jew, John understands the literal, historical event to prefigure something greater. The literal Passover lamb prefigures the greater Lamb, the Messiah. John is communicating his understanding of the significance of the Passover lamb. The redemption from Egypt points to a greater redemption-from sin. He is asking the reader to look at the Passover lamb from a philosophical, symbolic point of view. He is not trying to deceive anyone. He is simply operating within the accepted interpretive norms of his society. This type of thing is not unusual for the rabbis to do.

Remez is accepted as a valid approach to scripture. John is directing the reader to consider Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12 which are acceptable verses to guide the reader to. We agree with the anti-missionary in regards to Psalm 34:20. There is no direct reference by the New Testament to Psalm 34:20. John 19:36 is a direct reference to Exodus 12:46 and/or Numbers 9:12, but it is not a quote of Psalm 34:20. John might have Psalm 34:20 in mind, but it is not necessary to his argument.

The cross reference that an editor of a modern English version supplies is not inspired and always needs to be evaluated for validity. Some people get real wild and loose in the area of Messianic prophecy and make statements that are simply not justifiable. However, Psalm 34:20 could possibly be applied to Jesus, if it was considered as an example of Literal Prophecy plus Application (D’rash). Because of one point of similarity, the verse could be homiletically applied to Jesus. He was the epitome of a righteous man, and His bones were not broken. We would not object to a person making that link, but it is not necessary and perhaps not even part of John’s argument.

We have to disagree with the anti-missionary when he says that Jesus was physically disqualified for being the Passover Lamb. First of all, a male lamb was specified in Exodus 12:5 unlike the anti-missionary’s statement that a female was specified. The lamb was selected on the 10th of Nisan and inspected and evaluated for blemishes until the 14th when it was sacrificed. Note that the lamb was unblemished until it was killed. The act of sacrificing the lamb, slitting its throat, would have definitely blemished it.

Parallel to that, Jesus entered Jerusalem as the perfect Passover Lamb on the 10th of Nisan (Matt. 21, Mk. 11, and Lk. 19) and was hailed as the Messiah. Then He underwent testing and evaluation for blemishes by the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Herodians until the 14th of Nisan. By answering all their questions and objections, Jesus showed that He was without blemish in regard to doctrine and character. Then, Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples and after that the process of execution began. Just as the Passover lamb was without physical blemish until the process of death began, so Jesus was without physical, character, or doctrinal blemish until the process of killing Him began.

Most definitely the process of killing Him involved wounding, whipping, and mutilating. The slitting of the lamb’s throat is parallel to the mistreatment He suffered that culminated in His death. There has been much controversy generated over the alleged difference between the Synoptics and John’s Gospel regarding the day of Jesus’ death. We feel the best position is that taken by the great Messianic Jewish scholar, Dr. Alfred Edersheim, in his classic work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. He establishes the point that all four accounts are in harmony. Jesus observed the Passover.

The point of concern centers around the fact that the Synoptic Gospels appear to state that Jesus died on the 15th of Nisan while John’s Gospel appears to state that He died on the 14th of Nisan. Dr. Edersheim tackles the controversy head on in the following quote:

“It is recorded that they who brought Him would not themselves enter the portals of the Palace, ‘that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.’


“Few expressions have given rise to more earnest controversy than this. On two things at least we can speak with certainty. Entrance into a heathen house did Levitically render impure for that day-that is, till the evening. The fact of such defilement is clearly attested both in the New Testament (Acts 10:28) and in the Mishnah, though its reasons might be various[a]. A person who had so become Levitically unclean was technically called Tebhul Yom (‘bathed of the day’). The other point is, that, to have so become ‘impure’ for the day, would not have disqualified for eating the Paschal Lamb, since that meal was partaken of after the evening, and when a new day had begun. In fact, It is distinctly laid down that the ‘bathed of the day,’ that is, he had been impure for the day and had bathed in the evening, did partake of the Paschal Supper, and an instance is related, when some soldiers who had guarded the gates of Jerusalem ‘immersed,’ and ate the Paschal Lamb. It follows, that these Sanhedrists could not have abstained from entering the Palace of Pilate because by so doing they would have been disqualified for the Paschal Supper.


“The point is of importance, because many writers have interpreted the expression ‘the Passover’ as referring to the Paschal Supper, and have argued that, according to the Fourth Gospel, our Lord did not on the previous evening partake of the Paschal Lamb, or else that in this respect the account of the Fourth Gospel does not accord with that of the Synoptists. But as, for the reason just stated, it is impossible to refer the expression ‘Passover’ to the Paschal Supper, we have only to inquire whether the term is not also applied to other offerings. And here both the Old Testament (Deut. 16:1-3; 2 Chron. 35:1, 2, 6, 18) and Jewish writings[b] show, that the term Pesach, or ‘Passover,’ was applied not only to the Paschal Lamb, but to all the Passover sacrifices, especially to what was called the Chagigah, or festive offering (from Chag, or Chagag, to bring the festive sacrifice usual at each of the three Great Feasts). According to the express[c] rule the Chagigah, was brought on the first festive Paschal Day.[d] It was offered immediately after the morning-service, and eaten on that day-probably some time before the evening, when, as we shall by-and-by see, another ceremony claimed public attention. We can therefore quite understand that, not on the eve of the Passover, but on the first Paschal day, the Sanhedrists would avoid incurring a defilement which, lasting till the evening, would not only have involved them in the inconvenience of Levitical defilement on the first festive day, but have actually prevented their offering on that day the Passover, festive sacrifice, or Chagigah. For, we have these two express rules: that a person could not in Levitical defilement offer the Chagigah; and that the Chagigah could not be offered for a person by some one else who took his place.”[1]

To summarize Dr. Edersheim’s argument, all the Gospel accounts record Jesus being crucified on the 15th of Nisan. The confusion comes from commentators who are unfamiliar with Jewish terminology and the Temple services. The mistake lies in not recognizing that the term “Passover” in John 18:28 is a generic term referring to all the Passover sacrifices including the Chagigah. The reference in John 18:28 is in regard to the Chagigah. The Chagigah was offered on the 15th of Nisan and eaten by the priests later that day. The Chagigah is the offering that concerns them, not the Passover Lamb (the Pesach in Hebrew).

With that understanding in mind, the apparent conflict is resolved. Jesus died on the 15th of Nisan. All four Gospels agree. Jesus paralleled the Passover lamb. The Passover lamb was a male, selected on the 10th of Nisan, evaluated until the 14th of Nisan, found to be without blemish, and killed. Jesus too was a male, presented to Israel on the 10th of Nisan, evaluated by the political and religious leadership until the 14th of Nisan, found to be without blemish, and killed.

No wonder the Messianic Jews of the first century, who wrote the New Testament, considered Him the true Passover Lamb -Acts 8:32ff; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation chapters 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21; 1 Corinthians 5:7ff.

  1. ^ Marginal note: Ohol. xviii. 7; Tohar. vii. 3
  2. ^ The subject has been so fully discussed in Wieseler, Beitr., and in Kirchner, Jud. Passahfeier , not to speak of many others, that it seems needless to enter further on the question. No competent Jewish archaeologist would care to deny that “Pesach” may refer to the “Chagigah,” while the motive assigned to the Sanhedrists by St. John implies, that in this instance it must refer to this, and not to the Paschal Lamb.
  3. ^ Marginal note: Chag. i. 3
  4. ^ *But concession was made to those who had neglected it on the first day to bring it during the festive week, which in the Feast of Tabernacles was extended to the Octave, and in that of Weeks (which lasted only one day) over a whole week (see Chag. 9 a; Jet. Chag. 76 c). The Chagigah could not, but the Paschal Lamb might, be offered by a person on behalf of another.
  1. ^ Edersheim, Alfred, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (electronic ed., 2002, E4 Group), p. 593