When Was the Last Supper?

The Last Supper is typically celebrated on what is known as Holy Thursday. One would think that this should make it an open-and-shut case. But some believe it may have actually been Wednesday when he observed the Last Supper with his disciples.

Borrowed Light
Updated Apr 06, 2023
When Was the Last Supper?

The Last Supper refers to the final meal that Jesus had with his disciples before His crucifixion. It is also this meal that provides biblical support for the observance of the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist, or Holy Communion).

This meal is mentioned in all four gospels as well as 1 Corinthians. It is at this meal that Jesus will predict not only the betrayal of Judas but also the abandonment of the other disciples —including Peter.

It is also at this meal when Jesus washed the feet of the disciple and gave what is known as the Farewell Discourse in John 14-17.

This is a significant moment in the story of Jesus’ passion. But when did it actually take place?

A Quick Word of Caution

It is necessary to give a quick word of caution before venturing into estimating an exact date. First, it is worth noting that our handling of history is different than the first century. We handle history like a game of Jeopardy. We memorize locations and dates in exactitude.

It’s a bit different when it comes to the Bible. At times, biblical writers write with precision in mind. At other times they throw off chronology for the sake of the story. As an example, in Luke 3:23, Luke says, “Now Jesus himself was beginning at about the age of 30.”

He’s not intending to be exact here but simply telling us that Jesus met the qualifications for when a male could begin temple service (Numbers 4:23).

Luke is making the point that Jesus was qualified by both age and genealogy to fulfill what God set for Him to accomplish. He is not concerned with giving us an exact date.

It is important for us to remember this because we can have a tendency to get unnecessarily heated when we debate specific dates of when something happens.

We do this because we think it means being biblically accurate. But perhaps we are attempting to be more precise than the Bible cares to be.

What matters here is that there was a Last Supper. And what this Last Supper points towards. We might not be able to nail down a precise date. Or maybe we can. But what is important is that we live the words of that Farewell Discourse — to love one another.

With that being said…let’s try to see if we can pin down a precise date.

What Year Was It?

When I first became a Christian, I thought this was a pretty easy question to answer. I knew that Jesus was born on zero — because that’s why we divide history as we do. (Yes, I know that’s not logically possible). And I knew he died at the age of 33. Therefore, it had to be A.D. 33.

Not so fast.

First, there is actually some debate about when Jesus was born. It is believed that Herod died in 4 B.C. Since Matthew tells us that Jesus died in the “days of Herod the King,” that means he couldn’t have been born after 4 B.C. There is a record of a census by Quirinius in 6 B.C. It’s likely then that Jesus was born sometime around 6 B.C.

Secondly, as noted earlier, Luke isn’t telling us that Jesus was precisely 30 years old when he began his ministry. We do know, though, that he began his ministry shortly after John the Baptist, and Luke gives us some precision here.

John the Baptist’s ministry started “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar…” But there is some debate on when to start his reign. If one takes a Judea-centric view, then it likely begins in A.D. 13.

If you take a Roman-centric view, then his reign would start at the earliest in A.D. 14. Pending on how you count the “15” years, this would place the ministry of John the Baptist beginning either in A.D. 27 or somewhere between A.D. 28–29.

We also know that Jesus ministered for about three and a half years. And it’s centered on Jewish festivals. We have the location of Jesus during three different Passovers. All of this helps us to narrow down our dates.

The two most likely years for Jesus’ crucifixion, and thus, the Last Supper, are A.D. 30 and A.D. 33. And this would have made him around 35-38 years of age at the time of his death.

What Day Was It?

The Last Supper is typically celebrated on what is known as Holy Thursday. One would think that this should make it an open-and-shut case. But some believe it may have actually been Wednesday when he observed the Last Supper with his disciples.


The issue here is that the Gospel of John seems to be inconsistent with the Synoptic Gospels. John 13:1-2, John 18:28, and John 19:13-14 seem to indicate that the Last Supper happened before Passover. And it seems that Jesus dies as the Passover lamb. While the Synoptics seem to place it as the Passover meal.

Others who hold to a Wednesday meal do so because they believe there are too many events that would have to take place. He would have been arrested, tried, and then crucified at 9 a.m. the next morning.

One would need to squeeze in a sham trial before the Sanhedrin, an appearance to Pilate, a journey to Herod, a second visit to Pilate, and then being crucified.

Though it seems difficult to fit all of that into such a narrow window, it is not impossible, though. And others will point to Mark 15:42 as evidence of a Friday crucifixion.

It clearly says that Jesus was crucified “the day before the Sabbath.” And thus, it was on the night before (Thursday) that he had this meal with his disciples.

Most hold that the traditional Friday crucifixion and Thursday meal are consistent with the scriptural record, though a bit tricky to navigate. While others believe that a Wednesday meal and a Thursday crucifixion actually fit the narrative even better.

Thankfully, all believers are in agreement that he died, was buried, and on Sunday, he rose from the grave. We just aren’t exactly certain of which day.

A Few Interesting Historical Side Notes

There are a couple of interesting side notes that are worth mentioning here. First, a group of scientists did a geological survey of seismic activity in the Dead Sea. 

What they found was that there was indeed a significant earthquake somewhere between A.D. 26 and 36. They placed the specific date on April 3, 33 A.D. This, they say, is the exact date of Jesus’ crucifixion. This means that the Last Supper would have been on April 2, A.D. 33.

The problem, though, is that they took that specific date by looking at Passover calendars from A.D. 26-36.

What is interesting is that if you take the view that events of the Passion happened in the year A.D. 30, the Passover calendar would fit nicely into a Wednesday and Thursday chronology. An earthquake between 26-36 would have fallen within this window as well.

Once again, we seem to be stuck between A.D. 30 or A.D. 33 as the year. But now, in my estimation, if you believe the date is best at A.D. 30, then you likely need to take a Wednesday/Thursday view. If you believe it to be A.D. 33 when Jesus was crucified, then you’ll take a Thursday/Friday view.

What Does This Mean?

Personally, I see validity in both dates. There are problems, like Mark 15:42, which lead me to be unconvinced by a Wednesday/Thursday view.

But there are also some things here that have merit. It does seem to make a bit betters sense of the Gospel of John and harmonizes with the Synoptics a little better.

I’m also not entirely convinced by some of the arguments for it being A.D. 33 and Thursday/Friday. I’ve always thought it seemed a bit of a reach for so many events to have taken place so quickly on that Friday. But not entirely implausible.

I wish I could pinpoint the exact date for you. But I think I have narrowed it down to two.

The Last Supper was either on April 2, 33 or April 5, 30.

For further reading:

What Happens to Judas in the Bible Story of the Last Supper?

What Was the Symbolism of the Last Supper?

Why Did Jesus Wash the Disciples' Feet at Passover?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/rudall30

Mike Leake is husband to Nikki and father to Isaiah and Hannah. He is also the lead pastor at Calvary of Neosho, MO. Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and Jesus Is All You Need. His writing home is http://mikeleake.net and you can connect with him on Twitter @mikeleake. Mike has a new writing project at Proverbs4Today.


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