Here is a diagram of the two different sequences of events found in the Gospels for Passover:
The Synoptic Calendar of the Passion:
THURSDAY: Last Supper (Vigil of Passover), Arrest, and Court, FRIDAY (Passover): Trial Before Pilate, sent to Herod Antipas, Crucifixion and Death, SATURDAY: Tomb, and SUNDAY; Resurrection.
The difficulty with this particular dating of events is that the trial and crucifixion would have taken place during Passover. (Pope Benedict XVI, 107).
Gospel of John’s Calendar of the Passion:
THURSDAY: Last Supper and Arrest, FRIDAY: Pilate, Crucifixion, and Death, (Vigil of Passover) SATURDAY: Tomb, and SUNDAY: Resurrection.
The Passover is noted to be on Friday in the particular year of Jesus’ death. What is tricky about the issue in the sequence of events is whether the Passover began Thursday evening and ran through Friday to the evening or it began Friday evening and ran through Saturday to the evening. Most of the sequence matches up, the main difference is Jesus is crucified when the lambs are being prepared (day of preparation) for the Passover, as John’s treatment is to show Jesus as the Lamb of God. (Pope Benedict XVI, p. 108)
Pope Benedict makes this argument by writing in regards to the Synoptic chronology, “This chronology suffers from the problem that Jesus’ trial and crucifixion would have taken place on the day of the Passover feast, which fell on a Friday. True, many scholars have tried to show that the trial and crucifixion were compatible with the prescriptions of the Passover, But despite all academic arguments, it seems questionable whether the trial before Pilate and the crucifixion would have been permissible and possible on such an important Jewish feast day.”(Pope Benedict XVI, 107).
The difficulty that I have with Pope Benedict’s argument here against the Synoptic Chronology is that it’s a supposition—not an argument with positive evidence against the Synoptic Gospel’s Chronology. In fact, Pope Benedict seems to argue against scholarly evidence by merely dismissing their work with the phrase, “despite all academic arguments…” Pope Benedict does seem to use Mark’s narrative that illustrates the chief priests’ concern about crucifying Jesus on the Passover by quoting the Gospel,”not during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 108).
My counter to Pope Benedict’s point here is the concern with the reaction of the crowd could have been shaped by the Chief Priests’ ability to control the mob to their advantage. In fact, the Gospels’ indicate this is what happens, in which Pilate’s decision to execute Jesus is based on the tumult created by the Chief priests with the mob.
9 And he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 ¶ But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” RSV Mk 15:9–13.
4 Pilate went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.” Jn 19:4.
Pope Benedict asserts his claim that the Gospel of John’s chronology is the more likely to be the “video-camera” account opining, “Today, though it is becoming increasingly clear that John’s Chronology is more probable historically than the Synoptic Chronology.” (Pope Benedict XVI,109)
The difficulty that I find is that having studied the methods of historiography and how people write history in different periods of time, Pope Benedict didn’t convince me of his argument with good counter-evidence. When all practical purposes it is a long-standing tradition that John’s gospel is the more theological treatise on Jesus Christ than the Synoptic Gospels which fit into the genre of ancient biography. Some of the most basic historical works on the historical Jesus indicate the Synoptics are our best sources on Jesus like The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide by Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz.
Nonetheless, on a side note, I am becoming more convinced there is no contradiction between the two chronologies. As I am becoming more skeptical of biblical criticism, I am looking at theories that bridge that gap between apparent contradictions. Pope Benedict XVI explains one of these particular theories, “Frequent attempts have been made, therefore, to reconcile the two chronologies with one another. A most important and indeed fascinating attempt to harmonize the two traditions was made by the French scholar Annie Jaubert, who developed her theory in a series of publications starting in 1953. We need not go into the details of this proposal here; let us confine ourselves to the essentials. (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, 109.)