Keith Hunt - How many Lambs slain at Passover? Restitution of All

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How many Lambs slain at Passover?

How many Lambs slain in the Temple?

                    COMPILED AND WRITTEN 
                         Keith Hunt

Those who think that Jesus died on the cross just WHEN they were
killing the first Passover lambs in the Temple, and think it was
all so "kinda prophetic" (but no OT prophecy ever stated this
would be the case), and that this all took place at 3 p.m. in the
afternoon of the 14th day.......Wellllllll,  they better read
carefully the following study. All CAPITAL WORDS are mine
throughout for emphasis.

"God's Festivals - part one - The Spring Festivals"

Quote from pp. 42-43

Passover in the Temple Days

Passover became most important to the Jews during the
intertestament period (c.400 B.C. to A.D. 50), when they
experienced persecution and oppression by their Gentile
conquerors. These conditions spurred them to renewed spiritual
fervor. During the period of the Roman occupation, the Messianic
hope flared up and the Jews believed that deliverance from Roman
oppression would occur MIRACULOUSLY at PASSOVER as had their past
deliverance from Egypt.

Hayyin SCHAUSS notes that: 'The Jews began to believe that the
Messiah would be a second Moses and would free the Jews the
selfsame eve, the eve of Pesach (Passover). So Pesach became the
festival of the SECOND as well as the first REDEMPTION; in
every part of the world where Jews lived, especially in
Palestine, Jewish hearts beat faster on the eve of Pesach, beat
with hope that this night the Jews would be freed from
the bondage of Rome, just as their ancestors were released from
Egyptian slavery  (Hayyan Schauss, Guide to Jewish Holy Days:
History and Observance - New York, 1962, pp. 46-47).

This belief helps us understand WHY Passover BROUGHT MORE

'Jerusalem was NEVER  so CROWDED as DURING Pesach (Passover)
holiday.  EVERY inn was FILLED to OVERFLOWING, and whoever had a
BIT of room in his house made it available to the visiting
pilgrims, never accepting any payment. It was customary,
however, for the pilgrims to offer their hosts the skins of the
animals they had sacrificed in the Temple. Many of the pilgrims
set up tents in the squares and open places of town, living there
during the entire pilgrimage. Jerusalem was so crowded at this
period that the every fact that everybody was able to find
accommodation somehow, somewhere, was declared to be on of the
miracles of God' (Ibid., pp. 48-49).

End Quote

I shall now move to Dr. Sam's second chapter in his
aforementioned book, pages 64 to 66.

He has just stated that there is some evidence (Philo,
DeSeptenario 18),  that the slaughter of the lambs began SOON
AFTER NOON (especially if Nisan 14th fell on a Friday). Then he
follows with:


The problem I see with this objection is that it ASSUMES that by
anticipating the BEGINNING of the slaughtering of the paschal
lambs about TWO HOURS, that is, moving it up from about 3: 30
p.m. to 1: 30 p.m. there would have been AMPLE time to slay all
the lambs in the Temple court BEFORE the Sabbath began (Edersheim
himself assumes this in his authoritative study on 'The Temple,
Its Ministry and Services' - London, 1874, p. 190).

Such an ASSUMPTION does not take into consideration the ACTUAL
NUMBER of the lambs slaughtered in the Temple court and procedure
that was followed there.

JOSEPHUS informs us that the syrian Governor Cestius Gallus
requested the high priest to take a census of Jerusalem to
convince Nero of the importance of the city and of the
Jewish nation. The method used by the high priest was to COUNT
the NUMBER of lambs SLAIN at Passover, namely, 256,500.  Then he
multiplied that number by 10, the average number of persons
served by each lamb. At the LOWEST computation of TEN person
per lamb, this would give a population of 2,565,000 or, as
Josephus himself puts it, 2, 700, 200 persons (Josephus, Jewish
Wars 6, 9, 3). On an earlier occasion, Josephus computed the
number of Jews present in Jerusalem at Passover to be not fewer
than 3,000,000 (Ibid., 2, 14, 3).

Time Needed to Sacrifice Passover Lambs

How long would it take to slaughter a quarter-million lambs in
the restricted area of the Temple court?  The slaughtering took
place in the so-called Court of the Priests and the court of
Israel. The COMBINED SURFACE area of the TWO courts was LESS than
10,000 square feet. 'The Court of Israel was 135 cubits long and
11 cubits wide. Next was the Court of the Priests of the SAME
SIZE as the Court of Israel ' (W. F. Stinespring, 'The
Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible - Nashville, 1962, vol. 4,
p. 554).

Since a cubit corresponds to about 20 inches, each court was
approximately 225 feet long and 18 feet wide. Allowing 2 1/2 
feet per person, the Court of Israel could accommodate at MOST a
HUNDRED Jews at a time up shoulder to shoulder with their lambs.

To estimate how long it would take for a hundred Jews to
sacrifice their paschal lambs in the Temple Court, one must
understand the elaborate ritual that was followed.
EDERSHEIM offers us an INFORMATIVE description of the ritual.

' Each division (group of Jews allowed in the Temple Court at one
time) must consist of not less than thirty persons (3x10, the
symbolic number of the Divine and of completeness). Immediately
the massive gates were closed behind them. The priests drew a
threefold blast from their silver trumpets when the Passover lamb
was slain. Altogether the scene was most impressive. All along
the Court up to the altar of burnt-offering priests stood in two
rows, the one holding the golden, the other, silver bowls. In
these the blood of the Paschal lambs, which each Israelite slew
for himself (as representative of his company at the Paschal
Supper), was caught up by a priest, who handed it to his
colleague, receiving back an empty bowl, and so the bowls with
the blood were passed up to the priest at the altar, who jerked
it in one jet at the base of the altar. while this was going on,
a most solemn hymn of praise was raised, the Levites leading
in song, and the offerers either repeating after them or merely
responding.....This service of song consisted of the so-called
Hallel, which comprises Psalms 113 to 118.....Next, the
sacrifices were hung up on hooks along the court, or laid on
staves which rested on the shoulders of two men (on Sabbath they
were not laid on staves), then flayed, the entrails taken out and
cleansed, and the inside fat separated, put in a dish, salted,
and placed on the fire of the altar of burnt-offering. This
completed the sacrifice.....the service being in each case
conducted in precisely the same manner' (Alfred Edersheim - The
Temple, Its Ministry and Services'  - London 1874, pp. 191-193). 

Assuming that it took ONLY TEN minutes to fulfil this elaborate
sacrificial ritual (a rather CONSERVATIVE estimate), means that
in one hour ONLY SIX groups of a hundred Jews could be admitted
in the Temple court. Thus ONLY SIX HUNDRED lambs could be slain 
PER HOUR.....the slaying began earlier, at about 1: 30 p.m., and
lasted until about 6: 00 p.m., FEWER THAN 3,000 lambs could be
SLAIN in the Temple court in FOUR-AND-A-HALF HOURS. If the figure
given by Josephus of 256,500 lambs slaughtered as Passover in the
Temple Court is correct, IT WOULD TAKE OVER 417 HOURS (OVER 17
DAYS) NONSTOP to slaughter that many lambs. OBVIOUSLY this could
NOT be accomplished in ONE AFTERNOON.

We have reason to believe that the figures given by Josephus are
HIGHLY INFLATED.....SUPPOSING the ACTUAL number of lambs slain at
Passover was ONLY ONE TENTH of Josephus' figure, that is, ONLY
25,000, it would STILL TAKE OVER 40 HOURS to slaughter that many
lambs in the Temple court at the rate of SIX HUNDRED lambs per

OBVIOUSLY, again, even 25,000 lambs COULD NOT be slain in ONE

End of quote from Dr. Bacciocchi

Dr. Sam  goes on to say that in the year Jesus died, they could
well have started to slay the Passover lambs the day BEFORE the
14th of Nisan, in other words on the 13th day of Nisan. 

As to Josephus' computations of the population of Jerusalem and
surrounding area being as high as 3,000,000 at Passover time,
Edersheim has a foot note in his book "The Temple - Its Ministry
and Services"  that says: "These computations, being derived from
official documents, can scarcely have been exaggerated. Indeed,
Josephus expressly guards himself against this charge."

Well for sure we know there would have been at least a FEW
HUNDRED THOUSAND people added to the population of Jerusalem at
Passover time, all coming from not only Palestine but from all
areas of the Roman Empire where Jews were living.  If we go with
Dr. Sam's suggestion of about only 25,000 lambs slain in the
Temple, we are talking about 250,000 persons (using 10 persons to
share one lamb, being the overall average) that would have been
in Jerusalem that observed the Pharisees teaching of slaying the
lamb in the Temple and eating it at the beginning of the 15th of
Nisan. 250,000 is certainly conservative for the number Jews from
all parts of the Roman Empire, who were members of the Pharisees
sect, and who would have been in Jerusalem for any given
Hence going with Dr. Sam's thought of 25,000 lambs slain in the
Temple at Passover time, is very realistic. And with what we have
found from Edersheim, on how the Passover lamb was ritually slain
in the Temple by the priests, and giving as Dr. Sam says 10
minutes for each lamb, they would have HAD to START slaying the
lambs at least by the 13th of Nisan......and remember that would
be NONE STOP, day and night, from the 13th day to about 6 p.m. on
the 14th day.

If we want to try and put the slaying of 25,000 lambs into the
time frame of 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the afternoon of the 14th day,
then they would have ritually slain 5,000 lambs AN HOUR, and you
can soon figure how many wound had to have been ritually slain
every running your Video or DVD movie on fast
speed, all the way through.

Given all these historic facts, we can now see that the idea of
saying the slaying of the lambs started at 3 p.m. on the
afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, the time that Christ is by
many said to have died, is just not founded on any solid
foundation at all, and is in truth a misguided idea that has
sprung up from misinformed people, who themselves were
probably parroting  the misguided idea of some misinformed person
who was misinformed by not knowing the historical facts of the
whole numerics of the 14th Passover day, especially as taught and
physically PRACTICED by the Pharisees and the priests in the

All this just simply points out even in more detail, how the
traditions of the Pharisees had got to the point where Jesus
stated what He did in Mark 7: 1-13. They had first started
a tradition of teaching the PRIESTS had to be a part of the
ritual of slaying the Passover lamb, then adding to that, the
tradition of saying the Passover lamb HAD TO BE SLAIN
in the TEMPLE.  
Neither of the two above can be found to be required laws of the
Passover in the books of Moses or the first five books of your

When we understand the Passover lambs were slain in small PRIVATE
groups (as Jesus and His 12 disciples did in Jesus' last Passover
on earth), at the BEGINNING of the 14th day, in the evening of
the 14th day of Nisan, WITHOUT having to go through ANY Temple
ritual in the Temple, that included having a priest perform part
of the ritual, THEN we could understand that Josephus may have
been very correct in stating that the population of Jerusalem on
the Passover day (the 14th) had in some years, reached as high as
3,000,000 people.

Of course I realize the counter argument could say that most did
not bother to go to the Temple and have their Passover lamb slain
in a ritual manner, but did it themselves at the beginning of the
15th. This of course would mean they rejected, at least in part,
the teaching of the Pharisees. Yet, even allowing for this
argument, Edersheim still says in his aforementioned book on the
Temple, that they moved up the evening sacrifice to about 1 p.m.
and then immediately started the Passover lamb slaying.

I guess you could argue that with all the private lambs slain in
small groups at the beginning of the 14th and beginning of the
15th day (if you followed the Pharisees teaching) and who ignored
anything to do with Temple ritual of slaying those lamds, you
could get over 200,000 lambs slain within a 24 hour period, BUT
that would not jive with Josephus claiming 256,000 plus lambs
were slain in the TEMPLE court ritual itself. Josephus may have
just mixed it all together and claimed it was all done in the
Temple court, which as Dr. Sam has noted could not possibly be
the case as it would have taken over 17 DAYS to kill that number
of lambs in the Temple ritual, as outlined by Edersheim.

This study is to merely show that the idea that the Passover lamb
slaying in the Temple started at 3 p.m. when many state (no
specific NT proof can be found - see my study called "How the NT
uses 'hours'") Jesus died (just as they killed the first lamb in
the Temple), has no basis in fact.  Such an idea is a myth....may
sound real nice, as if fulfilling some OT prophecy or "typology"
type symbol (which is also not found in any part of the OT). But
it is still a myth nevertheless.

The truth of the matter is not always easy to admit, but as Jesus
said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you
free".....of course you must want to be set free, to be free.
Many are happy to remain in their deceived bondage. I hope you
are not one of them.


January 2003

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