Memorial: When is Nisan 14 in 2016?
It came to my attention last night that there is this huge debate about when precisely Nisan 14 is in relation to our Gregorian calendar this year. This debate exits primarily within the Jewish circles, as this has a direct impact on when they celebrate Pesach (the “Passover”). The over-arching furore is: is it March 22, or is it April 22.
Did you notice? March 22… or April 22. And when did the Watchtower celebrate the Memorial this year? Yep, March 23!
I’m just gonna leave that here.
 It’s worth noting that man-made traditions may be at play here; there’s an argument about a leap year this year, 2016, which essentially means that everything gets pushed one (lunar) month later.
It’s worth noting, also, that the bible speaks of certain individuals who would be “scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years,” this, at the overall expense of Christian principles. (Galatians 4:10) Again the bible instructs Christians to “let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath, for these things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.” (Colossians 2:16) [Italics mine].
It could be argued that the way Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Memorial fundamentally conflicts with the aforementioned cautions, that is, as respects scrupulously observing days and months and years, and also as respects eating and drinking and festivals and observance of new moon etc. It may very well.
Which got me thinking: is it absolutely necessary that the Memorial should be commemorated only once a year? Is it absolutely necessary that it should be celebrated on what is believed to be the same evening that Jesus instituted it? I do not know; one cannot really say definitively. But if “principle” was my priority, then, I would not be inclined to be jealous about a particular date or time.
What is more, consider the wording of Jesus’ statement when he instituted the Memorial, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:25. After distributing the wine, he allegedly said: “Keep doing this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” [Italics mine] And then, in verse 26, the apostle Paul qualifies Jesus’ statement by adding: “For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.” [Italics mine] So this “often-ness” that is spoken of here relates both to the bread and the wine – self-evidently the Memorial.
So, a most fitting question then is: how often is this “often?” Is it annually? The Witnesses (the “Governing Body”) make the argument that, well, Jesus instituted the Memorial on the Passover, and the Passover was an annual thing, and the Memorial (allegedly) replaces the Passover, and, so, the Memorial is to be observed only once a year on Nisan 14. (See What Does the Bible Really Teach 2005, page 206).
That’s one argument. It may very well be so.
However, in fairness, it must be accepted that the bible doesn’t specifically say, one way or the other. And in light of the warning scriptures we’ve just indulged, that is, about this fixation with days and seasons and new moons and this-and-that, it would not be implausible to say that the specific day or time or “often-ness” of this observance is largely immaterial, that is, of course, to the extent that it doesn’t betray the basic idea of “often.” And, besides, is it really possible for a Christian to “over-remember” the sacrifice of Christ, to the point where it could be said: “No, man, you’re overdoing this; this is too damn often, quit over-remembering would ya?” [laughing] Reasonableness should be liberated.
The bible is not definitive, this divine authour didn’t see fit to clarify this matter, and, so, I see no legitimate reason – or irrefutable scriptural grounds – to insist on any particular view. (1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Timothy 3: 16, 17) And as they say in Latin: nulla poena sine lege (“no penalty without a law”) Hence, it would be unconscionable if a Christian – or any person – should be punished for an instruction that was not clear.