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Memorial of the Death of our Lord Jesus Christ

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Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate Christ's death as a ransom or "propitiatory sacrifice" by observing the Lord's Evening Meal, or Memorial. They celebrate it once per year, noting that it was instituted on the Passover, an annual festival. This is the only celebration the Bible commands Christians to observe.
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Of those who attend the Memorial, a small minority worldwide partake of the unleavened bread and wine. This is because Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the majority of the faithful have an earthly hope. Only those who believe they have a heavenly hope, the "remnant" (those still living) of the 144,000 "anointed", partake of the bread and wine. In 2014, the number of persons who partook worldwide was 14,121, whereas the number who attended was 19,950,019.

The Memorial, held after sunset, includes a talk on the meaning of the celebration and the circulation among the audience of unadulterated red wine and unleavened breadJehovah's Witnesses believe the bread symbolizes Jesus Christ's body which he gave on behalf of mankind, and that the wine symbolizes his blood which redeems from sin. They do not believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation. Because many congregations have no members who claim to be anointed, it is common for no one to partake of the bread and wine.

See also: What is the meaning of the bread and the wine served at the Memorial?

Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Memorial after sundown on Nisan 14, according to the reckoning of the Jewish calendar that was common in the first century. The Jewish day begins at sundown and extends until the following sundown. So Jesus died on the same Jewish calendar day that he instituted the Memorial. The beginning of the month of Nisan was the sunset after the new moon nearest the spring equinox became visible in Jerusalem. The Memorial date is 14 days thereafter. (Thus the date for the Memorial may not coincide with that of the Passover kept by modern-day Jews. Why not? The start of their calendar months is set to coincide with the astronomical new moon, not the visible new moon over Jerusalem, which may come 18 to 30 hours later. Also, most Jews today keep the Passover on Nisan 15, not on the 14th as did Jesus in harmony with what was stated in the Mosaic Law.)

Memorial is always held on the first full moon after March 21st. It's always a full moon because Memorial is always held 14 days after the new moon. Hebrew months start on the new moon (the new month). Therefore Nisan 14 is always a full moon (+- 24 hours).

Song 8 - The Lord's Evening Meal

 

Why is it observed annually?

Latest posts tagged Memorial

Talk: The Last Hours of Jesus Christ

Particularly beginning in the 1930’s, prospective members of the “great multitude,” or “great crowd” of other sheep, began to manifest themselves. (Rev. 7:9, 10, KJ; John 10:16) These were at that time referred to as Jonadabs. For the first time, in its issue of February 15, 1938, The Watchtower specifically invited them to be present at the Memorial, saying: “After six p.m. on April 15 let each company of the anointed assemble and celebrate the Memorial, their companions the Jonadabs also being present.” They did attend, not as partakers, but as observers. 

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1 hour ago, Cheeto said:

Nissan 15 falls on April 22 this year. So why was the memorial a month early this year?

I would simply point you to this discussion however it is not a concise answer to your question:

I will ask @JW Insider to see how he would phrase a simple answer to that question.

(Although be prepared for supporting documentation to follow ;)

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I called Headquarters and they wouldn't say why it was in Adar, and not Nissan. I am aware of how they have counted the times for eons. As a witness,  I studied it also. But EVERY sorce I went to showed it was at the incorrect time for the Memorial.  I just want an answer!  Not a refference to another place in the publications that proves again, that it was on the wrong date. 

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@Cheeto

Hi. I'll try to answer your question fairly simply.

SIMPLE ANSWER

The basic reason is a difference in methods for when an extra lunar month needs to be added. In general every lunar calendar must add about 1 extra month every 3 years to match back up to the seasonal, solar calendar. In fact it's actually not 1 out of every 3 (which is the same as 6 out of 18), but it's 7 out of 19. If it were exactly 1 out of 3, you probably wouldn't see much of a problem because it would be easy to always match up to the Jewish calendar. We'd always know exactly when the leap month was going to be added. But a 7 out of 19 pattern could be done several different ways. The first table below, shows only three of a dozen different methods that could be used, and every one of them would be exactly right again after 19 years.

Since 1929, inclusive, we (JWs) have always followed the exact method in the "Christendom" column. (Always produces the same week as Easter.)  Prior to 1929 we (JWs) always used the exact method represented in the "Jewish" column.

The column in "Method 1" is just for comparison, although it's a well-documented method that has been used by many persons who find it simpler to remember a "1 out of 3" pattern for 18 years, and then correct it with an extra in the 19th year. The problem is that the method is too erratic and unnecessarily makes Spring about 5 weeks late in the 19th year. If these "leap months" are spread out more evenly, as in the "Jewish" method, then Spring will start no more than about 17 days early or 17 days late. In fact, the "Christendom" method effectively starts "Nisan 14/15" at the first full moon after the vernal spring equinox, so that the range is no more than 15 days before, or 15 days after.) 

Every range of 19 years in the following table should contain 7 years with 13 lunar months rather than 12.

Year# Method 1 Jewish Christndm Actual Yr
1 12 lun 13 lun 12 lun 1997
2 12 lun 12 lun 13 lun 1998
3 13 lun 12 lun 12 lun 1999
4 12 lun 13 lun 13 lun 2000
5 12 lun 12 lun 12 lun 2001
6 13 lun 13 lun 12 lun 2002
7 12 lun 12 lun 13 lun 2003
8 12 lun 12 lun 12 lun 2004
9 13 lun 13 lun 12 lun 2005
10 12 lun 12 lun 13 lun 2006
11 12 lun 12 lun 12 lun 2007
12 13 lun 13 lun 12 lun 2008
13 12 lun 12 lun 13 lun 2009
14 12 lun 13 lun 12 lun 2010
15 13 lun 12 lun 13 lun 2011
16 12 lun 12 lun 12 lun 2012
17 12 lun 12 lun 12 lun 2013
18 13 lun 13 lun 13 lun 2014
19 13 lun 12 lun 12 lun 2015
20 12 lun 13 lun 12 lun 2016
21 12 lun 12 lun 13 lun 2017
21 13 lun 12 lun 12 lun 2018


 

MORE COMPLICATED ANSWER

As you know, our calendar year is usually 365 days and sometimes 366 days, so that the average is about 365.25 days. So we divide it into months of either 28, 29, 30 or 31 days. So, our average month is therefore about 30.4 days. 

But if you measure each month by the time it takes the moon to cycle through all it's phases, then the average "lunar month" is 29.5 days. That means that if you start each lunar month when you see that first sliver of a "new moon," then it could be about 30 days until the sighting of the next new month, then 29 days the next new month after that, then 30, then 29, etc.

But that means that by the time you go through 12 lunar months, you will have a "year" of only 354 days. (12x29.5=354)  That's about 11 days shorter than a standard solar year. So if you want to stay matched up to the solar seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, WInter) you will have to add an extra lunar cycle (i.e., an extra 29 or 30-day month) about every three years. Otherwise, if you keep losing 11 days every year, then in a few years you will find yourself trying to pick summer fruits in the middle of winter, which doesn't work very well in Israel's climate, or almost any climate in the northern hemisphere.

Also, if you work it out more exactly, you will see that you it isn't exactly 1 extra lunar month for every 3 years, but 7 every 19 years. But even if it was always as easy as just 1 out of 3, and the pattern repeated continually, there is still no absolute reason to count every three years from the same starting years. The one out of three method works out to mean that you follow a pattern of -11, -11, +19, (repeating), which will be explained below. But there is no reason that one the pattern could not be chosen as -11, +19, -11, (repeating), or +19, -11, -11 (repeating). It's as if in the following example, you arbitrarily picked 2018 or 2019 as the FIRST YEAR and started repeating the cycle in that year, instead of 2017. 

Assume the current year is correct for when it starts the month of Nisan. (2016)

  • FIRST YEAR: Subtract 11 days to start Nisan next year (2017)
    • 11 days, because 12 lunar months are 354 days and this is 11 days short of 365.
  • SECOND YEAR: Subtract 11 more days to start Nisan the year after that (2018)
    • 11 days short again, same reason.
  • THIRD YEAR: Add 19 days to start Nisan the year after that (2019)
    • 19 days, because 12 lunar months is still -11 (354) but you add a 30-day month (a second Adar) so that this year will be 384 days long.384-365=19; 30 minus 11 equals 19.
  • REPEAT CYCLE for another 3 year cycle: -11, -11, +19.  (Ths can work for up to 18 years before you will need an extra adjustment.)

I made a table of all the Memorial dates since the Watchtower started in 1879 up to the present. The following table includes includes only the years 1997 to 2018. These can be used to check the years that were effectively given a 13th month (second Adar). These are the years when Memorial is about 19 days later in the year than the previous year, rather than about 11 days earlier in the year. I bolded them. Notice that Easter is always the Sunday after our Memorial. Passover is always within a day or two, or within a day or two, plus an entire month.

YEAR MEMORIAL EASTER PASSOVER
1997 3/23/1997 3/30/1997 4/22/1997
1998 4/11/1998 4/12/1998 4/11/1998
1999 4/1/1999 4/4/1999 4/1/1999
2000 4/19/2000 4/23/2000 4/20/2000
2001 4/8/2001 4/15/2001 4/8/2001
2002 3/28/2002 3/31/2002 4/28/2002
2003 4/16/2003 4/20/2003 4/17/2003
2004 4/4/2004 4/11/2004 4/6/2004
2005 3/24/2005 3/27/2005 4/24/2005
2006 4/12/2006 4/16/2006 4/13/2006
2007 4/2/2007 4/8/2007 4/3/2007
2008 3/22/2008 3/23/2008 4/20/2008
2009 4/9/2009 4/12/2009 4/9/2009
2010 3/30/2010 4/4/2010 4/30/2010
2011 4/17/2011 4/24/2011 4/19/2011
2012 4/5/2012 4/8/2012 4/7/2012
2013 3/26/2013 3/31/2013 3/26/2013
2014 4/14/2014 4/20/2014 4/15/2014
2015 4/3/2015 4/5/2015 4/4/2015
2016 3/23/2016 3/27/2016 4/23/2016
2017 4/11/2017 4/16/2017 4/11/2017
2018 4/1/2018 4/4/2018 4/1/2018

 

 

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On 3/31/2016 at 10:47 PM, Cheeto said:

I called Headquarters and they wouldn't say why it was in Adar, and not Nissan. I am aware of how they have counted the times for eons. As a witness,  I studied it also. But EVERY sorce I went to showed it was at the incorrect time for the Memorial.  I just want an answer!  Not a refference to another place in the publications that proves again, that it was on the wrong date. 

As I'm sure you already know, the whole purpose of adding a second Adar is so that Nisan continues to start as closely as possible  to the vernal equinox. (Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.) When the lunar year starts slipping back behind the solar year, the Jewish method tends to correct the year with a leap month, one year before it's really necessary to meet the goal of keeping Nisan as close to the beginning of Spring as possible. So this results in a wider range of possible dates that's closer to a 5 week range of dates that includes the equinox, when it's actually possible to keep it slightly more accurately to within nearly a 4 week range of dates that includes the equinox. By correcting the year to align the equinox with Nisan a year before it was really necessary, they (the Jewish method) added the second Adar one year prior to when "Christendom's" method would have added it. But "Christendom's" method is slightly more accurate, astronomically. And it's a bit simpler to calculate, and a little more consistent. You'll notice in the last chart of my last post that Passover usually aligns with Memorial, and the 6 times that it didn't, it was always because Jewish "leap-year" Adar was a year earlier than the method we follow.

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This is fine. I understand that. Yet the why the memorial is a MONTH before Passover leaves out the point that Jesus spent his last meal with the Apostles at Passover.  So regardless of when spring equinox falls on whose calender, the Passover meal WAS part of the meal Jesus had withe them. Passover HAS to be when the crops are green, etc. because of this being a lunar calendar they went by. No matter how the GB chooses to do it, Passover will ALWAYS be figured correct.  The memorial WAS at the wrong time. Not at Nissan 14, But Adar. You said what I knew, but have NOT answered the WHY Adar 2 is ignored.  Spring is spring. Adar 2, or leap year. Same=same.  Passover will NEVER change, just like God doesn't change. 

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@Cheeto  I don't understand why you say Passover will never change. It's as if you believe there is only one correct way to determine when to add the leap month called "Adar II." Here is some evidence that the method is sometimes arbitrary.

[BTW, I just noticed a typo in the Passover date for 2010: It was 3/30 not 4/30.]

In my lifetime +/- a couple of years, according the Jewish calendar method, Passover has fallen on April 7 about 4 times.

  • Whenever Passover fell on April 7th, it means that the month Nisan had started on March 24th, which was very close to the vernal equinox on about March 21st..
  • For every one of these 4 different years, the calendar NEVER added the leap month of Adar 2 at the end of that Jewish year (as an adjustment for the following year) even though, if they didn't, it would mean that the start of the month of Nisan was definitely going to slip back behind the vernal equinox in that next year.
  • As you might expect, if Passover fell on April 9th, they also never did add it.
  • As you might expect, if Passover fell on April 5th, they always did add the Adar II as the last month of that year.

So you might get the impression that April 7th was the cut-off point for the earliest that Passover could fall before it became necessary to add the Adar II. In fact, if you check April 6th 1985, they did add it, and after Passover on 4/8/1982 they did not add it.

So with just this info you would have:

  • April 5th, ADD IT
  • April 6th, ADD IT
  • April 7th, DO NOT ADD IT
  • April 8th, DO NOT ADD IT
  • April 9th, DO NOT ADD IT

So it might look like there is a uniform process that makes April 7th the cutoff, and any Passover that falls before 4/7 is an indicator that Adar II must be added to the end of that year, so that Spring and Passover doesn't come too early the next year.

But here is the problem with that:

  • April 6th, 1993 (and 1917, 1936) was a Passover date, and they did NOT add Adar II to the end of that year.
  • April 6th, 1985 (and 2004) was a Passover date, and they DID add Adar II to the end of that year.
  • So, although they never added after a 4/7 date, they sometimes DO and sometimes DON'T add one for a 4/6 day.

Those exceptions made "Spring" start more than a month later in 2012, than it did in 1994. In other words, Passover does change. It can be more than a month later (or earlier) in some years.

I think that the Watchtower acknowledged this very well all the way back in the yearly Memorial issue for 1908 where Russell said (pps. 35-36; Reprints pps 4127-8:

From the foregoing it will be seen that, with every endeavor to reach exactly the date specified in their Law for the Passover, the Jews have difficulty, and often there is of necessity a choice between two days equally appropriate. However, they follow the guidance of their leaders in this matter and have a uniformity of celebration, instead of each one trying to fix the date and celebrating according to his personal knowledge, convenience or preference. And this measure of subserviency to leaders was endorsed by our Lord, who said, "The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat; whatsoever therefore they bid you observe, that observe and do." (Matt. 23:3.) The Apostle indicated the same course to the Gospel Church. (Heb. 13:17.) Two essential features of the celebration of the Passover were: (1) uniformity, and (2) that it begin as exactly as possible at the full of the moon--which symbolized the fullness of favor to Israel.

 

So, one way of looking at it is: that by one person's reckoning the 14th of Adar (or Adar II) on one calendar is actually the 14th of Nisan  on the calendar of another person. Both are equally appropriate. One uses a certain method, to keep the start of Nisan as close as possible to the vernal equinox and another uses a different method. Most years, both methods will fall on the same date, , but some years, they won't. In those years when they don't fall on the same date, they are back in sync again the following year. Neither method is due to a Biblical command or injunction; both methods were developed and turned into a pattern over time, through some trial and error.

 

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I do see what everyone means. Someone asked what I meant about Passover not changing. What I was meaning was that the Passover was to always come after the spring equinox.  Things are supposed to be a certain way for it to be counted.You all sure gave me more information than anyone else and I thank you all for that. Peace to you all! 

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I see three typos, in my last post. One of them was where I even spelled "typo" wrong ("type"). None of it changes the overall point, but if there are any questions on any specifics, feel free to ask. Unfortunately, I keep clicking enter when done, and then when I come back to see what I wrote, it's too late to edit it. :$

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