Gospel Contradictions of the Last Supper

Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral
Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral. Godong/Stockbyte/Getty Images

There are good reasons why Jesus’ “last supper” with his disciples has been made the subject of so many artistic projects over the centuries. Here, at one of the last gatherings attended by all, Jesus delivers instructions not on how to enjoy the meal, but how to remember him once he is gone. Much is communicated in just four verses. Unfortunately, it is difficult to say with any precision what happened at this supper because the gospel accounts all differ so much.

Was the Last Supper a Passover Meal?

The idea that the Last Supper was a Passover meal celebrating the sacrifice of a lamb to save the Hebrews while they were in captivity in Egypt is regarded as an important connection between Christianity and Judaism. Not all gospel authors agreed on this, though.

  • Mark 14:12, Matthew 26:17, Luke 22:7 - The Last Supper occurs on the first day of Passover
  • John 19:14 - The Last Supper occurs the day before, and Jesus is crucified on the first day of Passover

Jesus Predicts His Betrayal During the Last Supper

It’s important that Jesus is betrayed to his enemies, and Jesus knows this, but when does he tell the others?

  • Mark 14:17-21, Matthew 26:20-25, John 13:21-30 - Jesus predicts his betrayal before the communion portion of the Last Supper
  • Luke 22:21-23 - Jesus predicts his betrayal after the communion portion of the Last Supper

Order of Communion During the Last Supper

The establishment of the communion celebration is perhaps the most important aspect of the Last Supper, so why can’t the gospels agree on the order?

  • Mark 14:22-25, Matthew 26:26-29 - The order of communion: bread, then wine
  • Luke 22:17-20 - The order of communion: wine, then bread
  • John - There is no communion during the Last Supper

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial During the Last Supper

Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus is an important aspect of the gospel stories, but none of the stories agree on what Jesus predicted he would do.

  • Mark 14:30 - Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him before the cock crows twice
  • Matthew 26:34, Luke 22:34, John 13:38 - Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him before the cock crows