A Question I Was Asked:

Why Does John Seem to Disagree on the Last Supper Timing?

The Question:

It bothers me a little that John seems to place the Last Supper at a different time to the other Gospels. What is your explanation for this?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Frankly, I don't get involved in such arguments. Why should it even worry us? All the main facts about the Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection are there for us but God has obviously allowed these gospel accounts to be the work of four genuine witnesses to these vital events.

I would simply state it this way: The law stated that,

'By the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every matter be established.' (Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1).

The Gospel accounts go one better: there are four witnesses! God may well have simply allowed one account of the Last Supper timing to, at least appear to be different. Why should it worry us? Although, actually, all the gospel accounts differ in some ways. They often list events in different ways. John's account goes much deeper - spiritually-speaking - than the others, and the apostle John quickly grasped the international scope of the Gospel. Mark's 'witness,' on the other hand, is very basic and straightforward; Luke shows a particular interest in the place of women, and reveals himself to be a meticulous gatherer of information; Matthew gives a gospel account which is primarily intended for the Jews. Our God intended these accounts to vary; there is no doubt that God's Spirit wanted it this way. These, then, are genuine witnessed accounts, reflecting each writer's style, even though all inspired by the Holy Spirit. Why did God deem this to be so important? Because the Bible always insists that every claim - especially where accusation, or the establishing of some truth is concerned - must have two or three witnesses. There is a very good reason for this:

Many years ago a murder was committed. The police only discovered the truth when it was found that every single witness agreed 100% on every detail of what had happened. The police knew by long experience that not every single witness ever agrees in every single detail - it just does not happen!! So the police learned that there was a conspiracy and that all the witnesses had carefully rehearsed an exact account of the murder. If the four Gospels had agreed in every single detail would not Bible critics say, "There must have been a conspiracy to agree on every single detail!" Can't you just hear these people screaming that?
So, although all inspired by the Holy Spirit, God nevertheless allowed the four gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to be genuine witnessed accounts of the ministry of Jesus. This fully supports the truth and authenticity of Holy Scripture. The principle of 'witness' is so important that it is even possible that John's memory played a slight trick on him which the Spirit allowed (rather than corrected) because of this vital importance of witness.

In contrast to that, there are many occurrences within human history which no one now doubts to be factual - even though the accounts are often only based on the testimony of a single witness with very, very poor manuscriptal evidence. The accounts of the ministry of Jesus have four good witnesses and a huge number of manuscripts to support them.

And I think that is the best explanation one could ever offer.
Robin A. Brace. May 7th, 2011.