Sir Colin Humphreys—The Mystery of the Last Supper
Professor Sir Colin Humphreys, the Goldsmiths’ Professor of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge, is a metallurgist and materials scientist who claims in a book, The Mystery of the Last Supper, to have solved what F F Bruce once hyped as “the thorniest problem in the New Testament”. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke say that the Last Supper coincided with Jewish Passover, a Thursday, while John claims it was the day before, a Wednesday. Astronomical data, textual research and the emergence of a miraculously ancient Jewish calendar handed down by none other than Moses have convinced this Cambridge academic that Christ was actually crucified on 1 April, 33 AD—the greatest April Fool’s day of all time.
Humphreys says we can use “science and the gospels hand in hand” to prove that there is no contradiction in the two Last Supper days. His answer is a different calendar, but that is far from a new idea. Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls various scholars have realized that the Essenes of Qumran, assuming that the scrolls are theirs, used a solar calendar different from the lunar-solar one used by the Jewish temple authorities. Since there is a mass of evidence that suggests that Christ was an Essene by culture, it seems quite likely that the apparent difference in the day when the Last Supper was held in the Synoptic Gospels and John offered a likely solution to F F Bruce’s thorny problem. Arguments were put forward in The Hidden Jesus, and on the AW! website, addressing questions like these, and the date of the crucifixion—which was actually in 21 AD! Even the pope in 2007, was ready to believe Jesus may have followed the solar calendar of the Qumran community. Humphreys says:
The problem with this is that under that system Passover would have fallen a week later, after both the Last Supper and Christ’s death
It seems that Humphreys knows details of the Essene solar calendar unknown to mortals. But then he is a Christian, and Christians have the gift of sudden certainty! Whatever suits their interpretation of their Christian belief system suddenly becomes certain! The Essene calendar turns out to be no use, so can certainly be discarded, the great scientist has decided. Instead, he suggests for the first time that another calendar was also in use, making three in use simultaneously!
The official Jewish calendar at the time of Jesus’ death seems to have been the one still used by Jews today, a lunar system in which days run from sunset to sunset. This was the calendar brought in by the Persians who colonized Yehud from Babylon in the fifth century BC. Working out quite how the Essenes and the Temple worshipping Jews managed to co-ordinate their lives when they had a calendar each is hard enough, but now a third one has emerged, it is getting rather silly.
Sillier still, Humphreys thinks it was “adapted from Egyptian usage at the time of Moses”. The Book of Exodus in the Old Testament says God instructed Moses and Aaron to start their year at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. Humphreys argues that this system would have been an adaptation of a lunar calendar used by the Egyptians, in which the start of the year was changed to be in the spring, and conveniently it dates Passover in 33 AD to the Wednesday of Holy Week, already decided upon by Humphreys and his chum, Oxford astrophysicist, Graeme Waddington, in 1983. This then identified the date of Jesus’s crucifixion as the morning of Friday, 3 April 33 AD, which has since been widely accepted by Christians. If Jesus died on 3 April, the standard Jewish calendar of 33 AD would have placed his crucifixion on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. The Passover meal, however, falls on the 15th, supporting John’s account, but not those of the other gospels.
Plainly, this is God at work. It is a miracle. A calendar was handed down in a mythical story by a mythical being around 1300 BC, and suddenly pops up being used by the reincarnated God and his chums in the very week of his death just as he was about to cross into the promised land of God’s kingdom. Who could fail to be a Christian now?
It seems that by choosing the Wednesday of the Passover, Jesus was identifying himself with Moses. He then died on Nisan 14th, just as the Passover lambs were being slain according to the official Jewish calendar as well. Humphreys says with Christian assurance:
These are deep, powerful symbolisms and through the use of this calendar they can be based on objective, historical evidence.
So this is objective historical evidence of a mythical man, the preservation of a calendar over the astonishingly long time of a thousand years by illiterate slaves, who gave rise to a mythical empire, mythical kings, and then disappeared with scarcely a trace for hundreds of years before turning up in Persia! Professor Humphreys is a scientist and ought indeed to be capable of objective work, but he is first and foremost a Christian, a man brought up as a young earth creationist who confessed he was shocked to learn, only at university, that the earth was not young! He was chairman of Christians in Science from 1994-2001, and is associated with the Templeton Foundation.
Of course, all his best chums and coreligionists support him in his skulduggery. Alan Millard of Liverpool University gurgles:
By linking scientific knowledge with biblical study, Colin Humphreys gives a welcome demonstration of a way apparent contradictions in the gospel texts may be reconciled.
That is obviously so, were it true. Another chum and coreligionist, Hugh G M Williamson of Oxford University says these…
…suggestions are likely to have a significant impact both on scholarly appraisal and on the regular Christian appreciation of these climactic events of the faith.
Ah! This is more like it. Nothing here to do with scientific knowledge, objective or historical evidence, just an appreciation of these climactic events of faith.
No doubt professor Humphreys will get a Templeton prize for this, but many things remain puzzling, not least how a mythical being, Moses, was able to devise a calendar that was still in use 1500 years after his nominal lifetime—a double miracle to begin with. What is it about religions that saps people’s brains and sucks away any principles they ought to have had? Didn’t Humphreys think any lessons were worth taking from his discovery that the earth was not 6000 years young, and the author of Genesis was wrong. Christians think it is God, don’t they? Suddenly, they have to help the poor old chap out. He is a bit old, after all!
Science, as yet, has no way of turning myth into objective truth and history, so Humphreys’ theory can only be bunkum. The book, in short, cannot be worth reading. Even so, to help you make up your own mind, here are the chapter headings:
- Three mysteries of the last week of Jesus
- Dating the crucifixion – the first clues
- The problem of the last supper
- Can we reconstruct the Jewish calendar at the time of Christ?
- The date of the crucifixion
- The moon will be turned to blood
- The Passover puzzle and the calendar of Moses
- Did Jesus use the solar Passover calendar of Qumran?
- The date of the last supper: the hidden clue in the synoptic gospels
- Was the Moses calendar used in Israel at the time of Jesus?
- The Galilean Passover and the date of the last supper
- From the last supper to the crucifixion
- The last days of Jesus: an overview