When Should Pentecost
Really Be Observed?
Why is there such great controversy about WHEN to observe God’s
annual Holy Day of Pentecost? Why do the Jews observe it one day
but many churches of God observe it on a different day? Could the
Jews, who have observed it for millennia, be wrong after all this time?
The correct counting of Pentecost remains a volatile issue in the minds
of some who insist that when all is said and done, Pentecost must be
counted from the weekly Sabbath, not the 16th of Nisan, as the Jews have
done for millennia. They insist that the word translated “Sabbath” in Levi-
ticus cannot refer to “week,” as the Jews claim.
Who is right? What is the truth? Can we determine this matter, once and
for all? Are YOU willing to STUDY this subject, personally, carefully,
and OBEY GOD?
William F. Dankenbring
When should Pentecost be observed? Does it matter? Can people do as they please? Solomon wrote, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs ). The apostle Paul told the Athenians, “While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, NOW he commands all people everywhere to REPENT, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness . . .” (Acts 17:30-31, NRSV).
Should Pentecost be kept fifty days after Passover, as the Jews do every year?
Or should it be calculated fifty days from the Sunday which occurs during the Days of Unleavened Bread? This would present problems. For example: If Passover fell on a Sunday, this would remove the beginning of the fifty day count to the next Sunday, beginning the day AFTER the days of Unleavened Bread. If Passover fell on a Saturday or weekly Sabbath, then the fifty days would be counted from the very next day, Sunday. Thus the number of days between Passover and Pentecost would vary every year! And some years, it would be a mystery as to which “Sunday” to count from? Different churches disagree.
Why so much confusion and controversy?
Most of the controversy revolves around the usage of the word “Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:15-16. The single verse of Leviticus 23:16 has been used by proponents of the Sadduccean Pentecost counting method to justify their "Sunday" or even a "Monday" Pentecost. This, they claim, is their "conclusive proof' that Pentecost should not be counted from the day after the fixed first annual holy day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
According to these people, the Hebrew word shabbat means exclusively the seventh day of rest -- and can never mean "week." For example, if you look up the word “Sabbath” in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, you will find that in the overwhelming number of cases it refers to the weekly Sabbath. On a few occasions it refers to a high holy day or annual Sabbath. In a few cases, it refers to the sabbath-year of rest, every seven years.
Now, some Bible translations translate it as “week” or “weeks” in Leviticus 23:15-16, but others do not. Merely quoting Bible translations, in this case, does not prove one way or the other how the word ought to be translated. According to critics, those who translate the word as “week” or “weeks” are simply wrong!
Were the Pharisees Wrong?
The Pharisees, whom Jesus Christ described as the guardians of the law of God (Matt. 23:23), understood the "Sabbath" of Leviticus 23:11 to refer to the first day of Passover or the first day of Unleavened Bread, the 15th of Nisan, which was a high Sabbath day of rest (Ency. Judaica, vol. 14, pp. 13-19).
The apostle Paul, who was also a Pharisee before his conversion, still acknowledged that he was a “Pharisee” years after his conversion. He cried out to a council of religious leaders, approximately 60 A-D., 26 years after his conversion in 34 A-D., “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee” (Acts 23:6). Paul also said that as a Pharisee he was, “as touching the law, a Pharisee,” and that as “touching the righteousness which is in the law, BLAMELESS” (Phil 3:5-6).
Does this sound as if the Pharisees were wrong in the way they counted Pentecost?
If the Pharisees were wrong in the way they counted Pentecost, since they counted from the first day after the annual Sabbath, as Josephus, the famous Jewish historian of the first century shows beyond any doubt, then Jesus Christ, the Messiah, our Savior, would not have said to His disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe, and DO. . .” (Matt 23:2-3).
Consider for a moment. The Pharisees very plainly said that people should count the days till Pentecost beginning with the day after the 15th of Nisan – beginning with the 16th of Nisan. Jesus said that His followers should DO whatever the Pharisees bid them observe, concerning the law of God. Therefore, He was telling them very plainly that they, too, should count Pentecost from the 16th of Nisan!
According to some modern churches, therefore, Jesus either made a mistake, or He contradicted Himself! Because they teach that Pentecost must be counted from the day after the WEEKLY SABBATH, not the day after the HIGH HOLY DAY that begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread!
Who is right? These “self-appointed experts”? Or Jesus Christ, and the Pharisees, whose teaching in this regard He endorsed and supported?
These things are not mere “academic” issues of nothing but intellectual importance. These things involve OBEDIENCE TO THE LAWS OF GOD! We are either RIGHT, or we are WRONG! There is no “middle ground” on this issue. There is no room for compromise!
The Hebrew Word “Shabbat”
Obviously, Jesus would not tell us in one place that the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, and that we should DO what they tell us to observe, and then turn around and contradict Himself somewhere else! Our Messiah was, and is, PERFECT! He did not he, or make mistakes. He was a perfect “sin offering” for us, without blemish, without spot, without sin! (Heb. 5:9, , 26-28).
What, then, about the word “Sabbath” which some make such a huge point over? Can we prove that it also means “week” or “weeks”? What is the truth? The fact that in the vast majority of cases, a word is used one way, does not mean that it cannot sometimes have another meaning. A scientist studying “bats,” small nocturnal flying mammals, would most often be thinking of them when using the word. However, a baseball player in the major leagues, upon hearing the word “bat,” would almost always think immediately of a baseball bat, a slender, carved piece of wood with a handle, smoothly sanded and polished, which he uses to hit the ball. One word – two totally different meanings!
Now, as I have shown in other places, one way we can come to understand the Biblical usage of word is by studying related passages of Scripture, where the same subject is being discussed Let us do this, for a moment, concerning the word “SABBATH” as used in Leviticus 23:11, and 15-16.
First, notice what Moses was inspired to write in Leviticus, word for word:
“And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the SABBATH, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; SEVEN SABBATHS shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the SEVENTH SABBATH shall ye number fifty days. . .” (Lev. 23:15-16, KJV).
Now the Jewish Scriptures, called the Tanakh, render these verses this way:
“And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering – the day after the Sabbath you shall count off seven WEEKS. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the SEVENTH WEEK fifty days” (The Holy Scriptures, the New Jewish Publication Society Translation according to the Traditional Hebrew Text).
Obviously, the King James Version says one thing; the official Jewish Scriptures, based on the Massoretic or Traditional Text of the Old Testament, says clearly “weeks” and “WEEK” when the King James Version says “Sabbath” and “Sabbaths.”
If it were merely a matter of opinion, we could chose whoever we wanted to believe, I suppose. But human opinion has nothing to do with it!
Many Bible scholars and translators admit that “weeks” and “week” could be used in these verses – as well as “Sabbath” and “sabbaths.” Some few today however, claim that ONLY “Sabbath” and “Sabbaths” can be used – that “weeks” and “week” are totally incorrect! Do such men have even a shred of evidence to prove their contention, which flies in the face of all scholarship?
Years ago, a church leader named Herbert W. Armstrong wrote a booklet entitled “Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days – Which?”, he admitted in that booklet:
is of very grave importance that we figure the right day. This day, and this day only, is made holy by
the Eternal Creator. Suppose at the same
That is a good question! CHAOS would have been the result! Confusion!
Pentecost – “Feast of WEEKS”
The parallel Scripture which tells us HOW to count “Pentecost,” is found in Deuteronomy 16:9. We read: “SEVEN WEEKS [gUcJ, SHAVUAH] shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the SEVEN WEEKS from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the FEAST OF WEEKS. . .” (Deut. 16.9-10, KJV).
Says the Jewish Holy Scriptures, the Tanakh:
“You shall count off SEVEN WEEKS; start to count the SEVEN WEEKS when the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall observe the FEAST OF WEEKS to the Lord you God” (same verses).
It should be perfectly obvious to anyone, I believe, that these verses clearly show that the “seven Sabbaths” referred to in Leviticus , and the “seventh Sabbath” actually refer to SEVEN WEEKS, and the SEVENTH WEEK! This passage of holy Scripture, inspired by God in the book of Deuteronomy, leaves us no room for doubt or questions. It PLAINLY says “SEVEN WEEKS”! The word translated “WEEKS” here is shavuah, and all commentators admit and agree that it always refers to WEEK and WEEKS, and not the Sabbath day!
Gesenius’ Hebrew Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, says of the Hebrew word "SHABBAT" the following:
“Shabbat – 1) to rest, to keep as a day of rest . . . The primary idea appears to be that of to sit down, to sit still . . . 2) to cease, to desist, to leave off. . . 3) to celebrate a Sabbath. . .
“Shabbath, const. state . . . 1) Sabbath, the seventh day of the week . . . 2) PERHAPS A WEEK, LIKE THE SYRIAC AND GREEK (Matt. 28: 1) Lev. ; compare Deut. 16:9.” (p. 804).
This same authoritative lexicon says of the word shavua, in Deuteronomy 16:9:
“Shavua. Dan. 9:27, Gen. 29:27, should be rendered the week of this woman) . . . a hebdomad, septenary number . . . 1) of days, a week, Gen. 29:27, 28. Daniel 10:2, 'through three weeks' . . . the feast of (seven) weeks, Pentecost, so called from the seven weeks which were counted from the Passover to this festival, Deut. 16:9 . . .” (p 800).
This word always means weeks and never means “Sabbath.” Therefore, when this word, and the word “Sabbath,” are used in precisely the same way, in similar sentences, it is very obvious to all but the most blind that shabbat in the Hebrew can also refer to a “week,” or “weeks.” As Gesenius points out, in both the Syriac and Greek languages, the word “Sabbath” can also be translated “week.”
For example, in Matthew 28.1, we read, “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the WEEK. . .” The Greek word for “WEEK” here is SABBATON, THE VERY SAME WORD TRANSLATED “SABBATH” in the first part of this very verse!
The emphasis of Pentecost is on “weeks.” It is called in the Scriptures, the “Feast of Weeks.” The emphasis is not on “Sabbath days,” at all, but WEEKS! As God instructed the Hebrews, “Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the Lord, AFTER YOUR WEEKS BE OUT, ye shall have an holy convocation . . .” (Num. 28:26, KJV).
“On the day of firstfruits, when you present to the Lord an offering of new grain during the FEAST OF WEEKS, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work” (ibid, NIV).
In this verse, the word “Shabbat” must refer to “weeks,” for it does not make any sense for “Sabbaths” to “be out”! Weeks can be “out,” that is, “completed,” but hardly could “Sabbaths” be “out.” This is speaking of weeks being fulfilled or completed.
Biblical Usage of “Shabbat”
Since this is a very controversial point to some few churches, let us draw on the Scriptures themselves to prove that the word “SHABBAT” can refer to other than the weekly Sabbath or an annual Sabbath!
Turn to Leviticus 25. We read here of the “Sabbath year” of rest for the land (verses 1-4). Notice what God says:
“But in the seventh year shall be a SABBATH unto the land, a Sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vine” (Lev.25:4, KJV).
Now notice verse 8: “And thou shalt NUMBER SEVEN SABBATHS OF YEARS unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven SABBATHS OF YEARS shall be unto thee forty and nine years.”
Here, plainly, “sabbaths of years” must mean “WEEKS OF YEARS”! There is no other way to understand it! A “Sabbath” of years would simply be “seven years” – or a complete “week of years”!
In this verse, the word “Shabbat” obviously CANNOT refer to the Sabbath day! It plainly refers to the number SEVEN, or WEEK. “Seven SABBATHS of years” means seven weeks of years, or seven sevens of years –the identical meaning that seven SHAVUA of years would have!!!
Thus in Hebrew, just as in Syriac and in Greek, the word “Shabbat” can also refer to week or weeks – there is simply no skirting, avoiding, or getting around this fact!
How plain! Yet some people are like those depicted by Winston Churchill, who once said that some people walk along, stumble across the truth, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and continue on as if nothing had happened to them!
Other people, when confronted with the truth of God, tend to get all confused in their mind. When the truth does not conform to what they have previously believed, or what they have assumed to be true, they react with dismay, consternation, bewilderment. The error in their minds, like a pea-soup fog, blocks their minds from seeing the crystal clarity of the new truth!
Others have the attitude, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.” Still others say, “Leave me alone. I’m content with what I’ve always believed. Don’t disturb my slumber.”
I think of the minds of such people as being like a cement mixer, churning up sand, rocks, cement, and water to make concrete. Once the concrete is poured out, and the sun bakes it for a while, and it dries, it becomes permanently set. The minds of such people are like that concrete – all mixed up, and permanently set!
From the Ambassador College Correspondence Course
It is very interesting to me that one of the groups which insists that Pentecost must be counted from the weekly Sabbath, as the Sadducees counted it, and who dismiss the teaching of the Pharisees totally, is the Worldwide Church of God. Yet, in an old lesson of the Ambassador College Correspondence Course, the authors admitted that the word “Sabbaths” meant “weeks” and not Saturdays. Notice this remarkable admission:
“3. How many days were the Levites to count? Lev. 23:15-16.
“Comment: The phrase ‘seven Sabbaths’ does not mean to count seven Saturdays, but ‘SEVEN WEEKS,’ as Hebrew scholars admit. The word ‘Sabbath’ here comes from an original Hebrew word which can mean 'weeks' (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance). The Greeks who translated the word into ‘Pentecost’ clearly understood that it meant weeks, and that they should number, not seven Saturdays, but seven weeks and a day – or fifty days! Now turn to Numbers 28:26. Here you will find the expression ‘After your weeks be out.’ The Hebrew word here can mean only weeks, not Sabbaths” (Lesson 35, original Bible course).
Yet today, that church has abandoned all God’s annual Holy Days!
Another Authority Speaks Out
The Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M'Clintoch and Strong, volume VIII, published in 1877, says about Pentecost:
“Pentecost, the second of the three great annual festivals on which all the males were required to appear before the Lord in the national sanctuary, the other two being the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles. It fell in due course on the sixth day of Sivan, and its rites, according to the law, were restricted to a single day . . . The time fixed for the celebration of Pentecost is the fiftieth day reckoning from 'the morrow after the Sabbath' of the Passover (Lev. 23:11, 15, 16). The precise meaning, however, of the word [shabbat] in this connection, which determines the date for celebrating this festival, has been a matter of dispute from time immemorial. The Boethusians and the Sadducees in the time of the second temple (Mishna, Menachoth, x, 3), and the Karaites since the 8th century of the Christian era, took [shabbat] in its literal and ordinary sense as denoting ‘the seventh day of the week,’ or ‘the Sabbath of creation,’ and maintained that the omer was offered on the day following that weekly Sabbath which might happen to fall within the seven days of the Passover, so that Pentecost would always be on the first day of the week. But against this it is urged
“(a) That Joshua 5:1 1, where [the morrow after the Passover] is used for [the morrow after the Sabbat] shows that [shabbat] in Lev. DENOTES THE FIRST DAY OF PASSOVER, which was to be a day of rest.
“(b) The DEFINITE ARTICLE in [ha-shabbat, or 'the Sabbath'] in Lev. 23:11 REFERS TO ONE OF THE PRECEDING FESTIVAL DAYS.
“(c) The expression ['shabbat]is also used for the Day of Atonement (Lev.23:32), and the abstract [‘shabbat’] is applied to the first and eighth days of Tabernacles (ver. 39) and the Feast of Trumpets (), as well as to ‘WEEK’ (; 25:8); hence this use of sabbaton in the N.T. (Mark 16:2, 9; Luke ).
“(d) According to Lev. the seventh week, at the end of which Pentecost is to be celebrated, is to be reckoned from the Sabbath. Now if this Sabbath were not fixed, but could happen on any one of the seven Passover days, possibly the fifth or sixth day of the festival, the Passover would in the course of time be DISPLACED FROM THE FUNDAMENTAL POSITION which it occupies in the order of the annual festivals.
“(e) The sabbatic idea which underlies all the festivals, and which is SCRUPULOUSLY observed in all of them, shows that the reckoning could not have been left to the fifth or sixth day of the festival, but must have FIXEDLY BEGUN ON THE 16TH OF NISAN. Thus, each Sabbath comes after SIX EVEN PERIODS:
“1. The Sabbath of days, after six days
“2. The Sabbath of months, after six months
“3. The Sabbath of years, after six years
“4. The Sabbath of sabbatic years, after six sabbatic years
“5. The Sabbath of festivals = the Day of Atonement, after six festivals; hence the SABBATH OF WEEKS, i.e., PENTECOST, must also be at the end of six common weeks after Passover, which could be obtained ONLY by reckoning from the 16th OF NISAN, as this ALONE yields six common weeks; for the first week during which the counting goes on belongs to the Feast of Passover, and is NOT common.
“(f) The Septuagint, Josephus, Philo, Onkelos, and the synagogue have understood it in this way and acted upon it, and most Christian commentators espouse and defend the traditional interpretation . . . It is therefore EVIDENT THAT THE JEWS, WHO DURING THE SECOND TEMPLE KEPT PENTECOST FIFTY DAYS AFTER THE 16TH OF NISAN, RIGHTLY INTERPRETED THE INJUNCTION CONTAINED IN LEV.23:15-22” (Cyclopeifia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M’Clintoch and Strong, vol. VII, p.924-925).
The Evidence from Joshua
The reference cited above mentions the evidence from the book of Joshua that the “morrow after the Sabbath” of Leviticus must refer to the first annual Sabbath of Passover. Let us look at this verse in Joshua more closely. Notice:
“On the evening of the fourteenth day of
the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of
Remember, the Israelites were not permitted to eat of the grain of the harvest UNTIL the “wave sheaf offering” had been presented on “the morrow after the Sabbath” (Lev. ). God commanded, “You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, UNTIL THE VERY DAY you bring this offering to your God” (Lev. ).
Since the Israelites ate that grain on the morrow AFTER THE PASSOVER and remember, the Passover was slain on the 14th of Nisan, but EATEN on the 15th of Nisan therefore, this “morrow” would have to be the 16th of Nisan!
Therefore, “the day after the Sabbath” of Leviticus 23:11 must be the same day as the “DAY AFTER THE PASSOVER” of Joshua 5. 11!
Remember, the Bible interprets its own symbols and figures of speech, and makes its own puzzles plain. All we need to do is “SEARCH THE SCPJPTURES” and we will find the answer to these enigmas which have stumped theologians for years!
Sadly, many are still befuddled and perplexed by these questions!
Follow the Sadducees?
Some insist that we must observe the same
day as the Sadducees of Jesus’ time. But
who were the Sadducees? As we have
already seen in the works of Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first
century, they were a Hellenizing sect which was subservient to the Pharisees in
terms of practice. The people all
followed the Pharisees. Although many of
the priests were Sadducees, this did not mean they governed the set times for
holy days, or regulated
Should we follow the capricious teachings of the Sadducees, as some continue to suggest? Let us look into the Bible itself and see. What does Jesus say about their knowledge of the laws of God, and His commandments?
When a group of Sadducees came to Jesus asking Him a “technical question,” Jesus rebuked them. Notice the account:
“That same day the SADDUCEES, WHO SAY THERE IS NO RESURRECTION, came to him with a question. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’
“Jesus replied, ‘YOU ARE IN ERROR BECAUSE YOU DO NOT KNOW THE SCRIPTURES OR THE POWER OF GOD. . .’” (Mat. 22:23-29, NIV).
Does this statement of the Messiah Himself, Jesus Christ, sound as if we should look to the doctrines of the SADDUCEES for our beliefs?
Be honest with yourself! Confess it! Do you really believe that? If the Messiah Himself blasts the Sadducees, and rakes them over the coals, and makes a broad, sweeping denunciation of their teaching, saying THEY KNOW NOT THE SCRIPTURES, nor the POWER of God, would you then go to THEM for spiritual "enlightenment" as some insist today on doing?
How amazing! How dumfounding! How flabbergasting!
True, many Sadducees were priests. But most of the priests of that time were reprobates, renegades, disobedient to God, and used their priestly power to serve the king, not God. They were clever politicians, seeking political favor and handouts, and did not really serve God at all. Jesus roundly condemned them in scathing language, many times.
Josephus tells us that the high priesthood during those times was a game of musical chairs, with the priests subservient to the king, who appointed them to office according to HIS pleasure. King Herod had the priests slavishly seeking his favor and pleasure, as he was the one who appointed the high priests. We read:
“Herod was then made king by the Romans, but did no longer appoint high priests out of the family of Asamoneus; but made CERTAIN MEN TO BE SO THAT WERE OF NO EMINENT FAMILIES, BUT BARELY OF THOSE THAT WERE PRIESTS. . .
“Archelaus also, Herod’s son, did like his father in the appointment of high priests, as did the Romans also, who took the government over the Jews into their hands afterward.
“Accordingly, the NUMBER OF THE HIGH PRIESTS, from the days of Herod until the day when Titus took the temple and the city, and burnt them, WERE IN ALL TWENTY-EIGHT; and the time also that belonged to them was A HUNDRED AND SEVEN YEARS” (Ant., XX,x, 1).
high priests only reigned for about 3.8 years, on the average. They were shuttled in and out like an express
elevator. Originally, however, God had
appointed this office to be for life, and it was hereditary, through the sons
of Aaron – not an office to be held at the whim of a pagan or heathen king or
despot! (see Exodus 28:1;
40:12-15). But by the time of Christ,
the office of high priest had degenerated into disgrace, disrepute, and
disregard. Says the
“The chief priests who are mentioned in the N.T. were the officiating high priest, former high priests still alive, and members of their families. They were AN ANOMALY OF THE TIMES. The law that regulated the succession to the high priesthood HAD COME INTO ABEYANCE THROUGH POLITICAL CONFUSION AND FOREIGN DOMINATION. HIGH PRIESTS WERE MADE AND UNMADE AT THE WILL OF THE RULERS” (article "Priests," p.764).
Are these the kinds of men we should look to for leadership and determination of God's commandments, the figuring of dates of God's holy days, and spiritual guidance and enlightenment? GOD FORBID!
Any who would look to the Sadducean priests for spiritual truth and guidance must have rocks in their heads! You figure it out!
Why can’t grown men, supposed to be ministers of the Most High God, see this plain and stark truth? Or are they, too, blind, like the “king who had no clothes,” and didn’t know that he was stark naked?
Bo Reicke, in The New Testament Era, wrote:
“When he became king, however, Herod repressed both the patricians and the priestly aristocracy, turning the Sanhedrin into a DOCILE INSTRUMENT FOR CARRYING OUT HIS POLICIES . . . Ananus 1, or Annas, held the office of high priest from A.D. 6 to A.D. 15. He was the head of a priestly family that, upon his accession, began to supplant the family of BOETHUS, WHICH WAS RELATED TO THE HOUSE OF HEROD and had hitherto dominated the priesthood . . .” (p.142).
Boethus, who was related to the house of Herod, was himself a Sadducee. These high priests were completely confused spiritually; they dwelt in a spiritual wasteland. They had perverted the ways and truths of God. Their spiritual degeneration was so gross and despicable that Jesus went so far as to tell them pointedly, “You DO NOT KNOW THE SCRIPTURES” (Matt. 22:29, NIV).
What about the Samaritans?
There was one other renegade, heretical group during the time of Christ which also counted Pentecost from the day after the weekly Sabbath during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. They were the infamous “Samaritans.” Who were they? Should we respect and follow their reckoning in this matter?
Rather than give you my own personal
opinion, notice what Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had to say about the
Samaritans. One time when Jesus was
going through the countryside of
“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For JEWS DO NOT ASSOCIATE WITH SAMARITANS)” (John 4.7-9, NIV).
through the history of
we look to pagan Samaritans, who adopted some of the beliefs of the northern
Himself answers this question. Later on
in this same chapter of John, He tells the woman from
“YOU SAMARITANS WORSHIP WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW, we [Jews] worship what we DO KNOW, for SALVATION IS FROM THE JEWS” (John 4.22).
If you want to follow someone who doesn't even know what he is worshipping, such as the SAMARITANS, then that would be your decision. But as for me and my house, we will follow the Lord God and His Word (Joshua 24:15).
“This Is My God”
Famous novelist Herman Wouk, himself a Jew, discusses Pentecost in his book This Is My God. According to Wouk:
“On the morning
of the second day of Passover [Nisan 16], in olden times, the community brought
a measure called an omer of barley into the Temple for a ceremony hailing the
earth’s awakening fertility . . . with
this omer the annual harvest actually began; new produce was never eaten in
Palestine until after the barley rite . . . From the day the measure of barley
came to the Temple, seven full weeks were told off. On the fiftieth day the nation celebrated the
summer festival Shavuos . . . The Talmud calls it Atzeres, or Last Assembly
Day, implying that the holiday is the end of a single religious observance that
starts with Passover. Leaving
“The Rabbis found, analyzing the narrative texts of Exodus, that the revelation at Sinai occurred fifty days after the second day of Passover, the date of Savous. The summer festival therefore became the feast of Sinai revelation . . .” (This Is My God, p.74).
Another Commentary, called Aid to Bible Understanding, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, says concerning Pentecost:
“A later name used to denote the festival of harvest or festival of weeks, called also ‘the day of the first ripe fiuits’. . .-It was to be celebrated on the fiftieth day from Nisan 16, the day that the barley sheaf was offered (Lev.23:15,16). In the Jewish calendar it falls on Sivan 6. It was after the barley harvest and the beginning of the harvest of wheat, which ripened later than the barley. Ex. 9:31,32.
were not allowed to begin the harvest until the firstfiuits of the barley had
been presented to Jehovah on Nisan 16.
Therefore, in Deuteronomy 16:9, 10 the instructions are: 'From when the
sickle is first put to the standing grain you will start to count seven
weeks. Then you must celebrate the
festival of weeks to Jehovah your God.' . . . The Jews traditionally hold that
Pentecost corresponded to the time of the giving of the law at Sinai, when
Pentecost and Josephus the Jewish Historian
It is well known that the Pharisees observed Pentecost on Sivan 6. It is also well known that Josephus, Jewish historian of the first century, who was himself a priest, a famous general in the war against the Romans in 70 A.D., was a Pharisee as well. He writes about Pentecost:
“But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them . . . . They also at this participation of the first fruits of the earth sacrifice a lamb, as a burnt offering to God.
“6. When a week of weeks has passed over after this sacrifice, (which weeks contain forty and nine days,) on the fiftieth day, which is Pentecost . . . they bring to God a loaf made of wheat flour” (Antiquities, III, x, 5-6).
Observing this day was the customary practice of the Jews in the time of Christ. Josephus tells us that ALL THE MULTITUDE followed the teachings of the Pharisees in this respect. He tells us: “. . .the Pharisees, who are one of the sects of the Jews . . . These have SO GREAT A POWER OVER THE MULTITUDE, that when they say anything against the king or against the high priest, they are presently believed” (Antiquities, XIII, x, 5).
Concerning the Sadducees, the other sect of the Jews, which included some of the aristocracy and some of the high priests, who counted Pentecost from the day after the weekly Sabbath which fell during the Days of Unleavened Bread, Josephus tells us: “. . . the Sadducees are able to persuade NONE BUT THE RICH, and have not the populous obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the MULTITUDE ON THEIR SIDE. . . “ (Anti., XIII, x, 6).
Who Were the PHARISEES?
Since the Pharisees were very important during the time of Christ, and He had many “run-ins” with them, it behooves us to know as much about them as possible. Who were they? What did they believe?
In his book The New Testament, Bo Reidke describes the origins of the sect known as the Pharisees, who Jesus said “sat in Moses’ seat.” Reidke writes:
“At the beginning of the Maccabean revolt in 167 B.C., we read of a group of Hasidim or Pietists (Hebrew singular Hasid, ‘Pious’) who had pledged themselves to obey the law and consequently opposed the Hellenizing policies of Antiochus IV and joined the Maccabean movement (I Macc. 2:42). In 161, some outstanding scribes belonging to this group were deceived by Alcirnus, the Hellenistic high priest (I Macc. -18); this forced them once more into association with the Maccabees. Scholars are wont to consider these Hasidim the predecessors of the Pharisees, or even a parallel or particular group of them. This view is in harmony with the Pharisees’ appearance at the end of the century as a school still closely associated with the house of the Hasmoneans . . .”
“Both in the New Testament and in Josephus, as well as in the overwhelming majority of the Rabbinic passages, the Pharisees appear as the very opposite of an isolated sect: they are a most expansive popular party, with highly developed social relationships and structures. In Rabbinic literature, the context in which the name appears suggests a meaning such as ‘Puritan,’ a zealous proponent of ritual purity . . . Since this interpretation agrees with the passages from the New Testament and Josephus (such as Matt. 15:2; Josephus Ant. XVIII, 12-15), we may assume the same meaning for the preChristian and early Christian period. The basic concept was therefore not that of separation from the rest of the people . . . but rather separation ‘from the polutions of the peoples of the land’ (Ezra 6:2 1; 9: 1; I 0: 11; Neh. 9:2; ) and 'from the nations of the world with their abominations' (Mekilta Exod. 19:6, 71a). In this sense the Pharisees may be thought of as PURITANS . . . God had revealed the norms of purity through holy Scriptures, traditions, and scribes: The Pharisees sought to develop this revelation and make it applicable to society, so that every Jew could realize the ideal of the covenant people . . . To preserve and develop the purity of this Levitical covenant people, the scribes had to master and interpret the commandments and statutes EXACTLY, according to the model of Ezra and his Levites” (Neh.8:7-9; 13).
Reicke goes on, describing the exacting attitude the Pharisees had toward the law:
“IN SCRUPULOUS DETAIL the Pharisees analyzed and discussed the books of the Bible, which provided the legal norm . . . Pharisaism, then, was an attempt to transfer concretely to the covenant people the PURITY revealed by God through Scripture and tradition . . . Among the obligations of the Pharisaic brethren were strict observance of cultic purity (Mishna Dem ii.3), such as the washing of hands (Mat. 15:2 and parallels), as well as THE SCRUPULOUS OBEDIENCE TO THE COMMANDMENTS” (see The New Testament Era, Bo Reicke, Fortress Press, Phila., 1981, p.156-161).
The Apostle Paul and Pentecost
The apostle Paul also admitted to being a Pharisee, which tells us he also observed Pentecost on Sivan 6, counting fifty days from the 16th of Nisan. There is no indication in all the New Testament, or in any of Paul’s letters, that he ever discontinued this practice.
Paul himself observed Pentecost (Acts ). Being
a Pharisee, he must have observed it at the very same time as the other
Pharisees. When he arrived in
“You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and ALL OF THEM ARE ZEALOUS FOR TIHE LAW. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses . . . What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites, and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in those reports about you, but that YOU YOURSELF ARE LIVING IN OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW . . .” (Acts -24, NIV).
The next day Paul went to the
Some of the Jews recognized Paul, and spread the word that he was a rebel against God's laws, stirring up a mob against Paul. When they were about to stone him, Roman soldiers intervened, and rescued him, and gave him leave to speak to the crowd. In his defense, Paul declared:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city under GAMALIEL [a leading teacher or “Rabban” among the Pharisees]. I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today” (Acts , NIV).
Paul knew the laws of God. He had been thoroughly grounded in the teaching of the Torah by Gamaliel, one of the leading and most prestigious rabbis in the land. It is very obvious, therefore, that he observed Pentecost on THE SAME DAY Gamaliel and the Pharisees observed it, and ALL the multitude did – on SIVAN 6!
Later, in his defense before Felix the governor, Paul declared:
can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to
an absence of several years, I came to
had come to
Paul, who had been taught the truths of God from the Pharisees, since he was a child, and who was very meticulous as to the laws of God, would not have made an error and been observing Pentecost on the wrong day. He certainly would have had nothing whatever to do with those reprehensible Sadducees! But he was keeping Shavuot, with the rest of the Jews, on the same day that the Pharisees had always taught it should be observed!
Why “Count” Pentecost?
Why does God command that we “count fifty days” each year from Passover till Pentecost? Some have assumed that this was because the date had to be reckoned from the weekly Sabbath that fell on different days during the Passover week. This assumption, however, is simply not true. We read in the M'Clintoch Encyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature:
“The interval between the Passover and Pentecost was evidently regarded as a RELIGIOUS SEASON. The custom has probably been handed down from ancient times, which is observed by the modem Jews, of KEEPING A REGULAR COMPUTATION OF THE FIFTY DAYS BY A FORMAL OBSERVANCE, BEGINNING WITH A SHORT PRAYER ON THE EVENING OF THE DAY OF THE OMER, AND CONTINUED ON EACH SUCCEEDING DAY BY A SOLEMN DECLARATION OF ITS NUMBER IN THE SUCCESSION, AT EVENING PRAYER, while the members of the family are standing with respectful attention . . . As above noted, in accordance with the injunction in Lev. 23:15, 16, the Jews regularly count every evening the fifty days from the SECOND DAY OF PASSOVER until Pentecost, and they recite a prayer over it . . . As the counting of these fifty days, on the first of which the sickle was brought out for cutting the corn, and on the last of which it was laid up again because the harvest was entirely finished, is not only a CONNECTING LINK between Passover and Pentecost, but may be regarded as PREPARATORY for the feast of Pentecost . . . Maimonides, who remarks: ‘Pentecost is the day on which the Law was given, and in order to MAGNIFY THIS DAY, the days are counted from the first festival (i.e., Passover) to it, just as one who is expecting the most faithful of his friends is accustomed to count the days and hours of HIS ARRIVAL; for this is the reason of counting the omer from the day of our Exodus from Egypt to the day of the giving of the Law, which was the ultimate object of the Exodus. . .’” (Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, pp. 926-928).
The day of the giving of the Law on
Are you, personally, “counting the days”? For more information on this much neglected subject, write for our articles, “The Meaning of Counting the Omer Revealed!”, “How To Count the Omer,” and “Sefirat Ha Omer – the Key to Overcoming!”
Pentecost, the reaping of the first (spring) harvest, pictures the entire CHURCH OF GOD, MADE WHITE, AND GLORIOUS, BECOMING THE LITERAL “FIRST FRUITS” OF GOD’S KINGDOM AND BECOMING THE BRIDE OF THE LAMB OF GOD FOR ALL ETERNITY!
Think about that! Let its awesome splendor sink into your mind. What a GLORIOUS FESTIVAL! The Christian’s journey out of sin, pictured by Egypt, and out of bondage to Satan, pictured by Pharaoh, requires a “journey through the wilderness,” and continual intervention and miracles by Almighty God, to get us to our destination where the Laws of God become written upon our hearts and minds, at the resurrection, and at the coming of our Lord to RESCUE His bride from the wrath of Satan and the destruction and devastation of the world!
What a JOYOUS FESTIVAL this ought to be to those of us who truly seek to obey God, and keep His commandments! How wonderfully vital and deeply significant it is for us to observe this holy festival of Almighty God! How important it is that we observe it on the right day – the “wedding day” – and not at some other time – at the “appointed time” – so that we don't miss our own future “Wedding”!
M'Clintoch and Strong continue:
“. . .So intimately connected are the beginning of the harvest at Passover with the termination of it at this festival (Pentecost), that Pentecost was actually denominnated, during the time of the second temple, and is called in the Jewish literature to the present day, ‘THE CONCLUSION,’ or, ‘THE TERMINATION OF PASSOVER’. . . It was, as we have seen, ESSENTIALLY LINKED TO THE PASSOVER – that festival which, above all others, expressed the fact of a race chosen and separated from other nations. It was not an insulated day. It stood as the CULMINATING POINT of the Pentecostal season” (p.928-929).
Says M'Clintoch and Strong, further:
“Those early fathers who were best acquainted with the Jewish tradition testify to the same thing, that the law was given on Pentecost, and that the Jews commemorate the event on this festival. It was therefore on this day, when the APOSTLES, IN COMMON WITH THEIR JEWISH BRETHREN, WERE ASSEMBLED TO COMMMORATE THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE GIVING OF THE LAW FROM SINAI, and were engaged in the study of Holy Writ, in accordance with the CUSTOM OF THE DAY, that the HOLY SPIRIT DESCENDED UPON THEM. . .” (ibid., p.929).
Notice! The apostles observed Pentecost on the same day as their Jewish brethren. “In common with their Jewish brethren,” who were also assembled in Jerusalem at that very same time to observe Pentecost, from regions throughout the Middle East, The apostles “were assembled to commemorate the anniversary of the giving of the law from Sinai,” and were studying the Scriptures, as was “the custom of the day”!
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
Luke writes in the book of Acts, about that first Pentecost, when all the brethren were gathered together, in Jerusalem: “When the day of Pentecost CAME, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). At this very same time, devout Jews from around the world were assembled in Jerusalem.
“Now there were STAYING IN JERUSALEM GOD-FEARING JEWS from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5, NIV).
What were all these Jews doing staying at Jerusalem? Why were they there? The answer is obvious: They were there, like the apostles, to CELEBRATE THE FEAST OF PENTECOST! These were “God-fearing Jews” – not ungodly Jews, who had the wrong day! They were keeping Pentecost, just like the apostles were, ON THE VERY SAME DAY!
Let's face it. The evidence is absolutely overwhelming that Pentecost should be observed on the same day as the Jews keep it, the 6th day of Sivan, 50 days after the Passover festival begins! There is absolutely no evidence otherwise. But there is even clear NEW TESTAMENT proof as well!
We read a very mysterious passage in the gospel of Luke which has confounded ministers and laymen alike. Various opinions have been offered to explain this passage. But let’s just take a careful look ourselves, and see if we can understand it!
Luke writes, “Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grain fields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. And some of the Pharisees said to them, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?’” (Luke 6:1-2, NKJV).
Believe it or not, hidden in this passage is the KEY that unlocks the truth about from what day to count to Pentecost! What is this mysterious expression, “the second Sabbath after the first”? It has perplexed scholars for generations.
Notice first of all that this event occurred at the time of the harvest of grain. This would place the time as early to late spring. In Israel, the two major grain harvests are at the beginning of spring, or Passover, and the festival of “first fruits” – that is, Pentecost. Passover occurs March-April, and Pentecost falls in May or June. Passover begins the barley harvest, and Pentecost begins the wheat harvest.
Which harvest is this? Matthew records this same event in chapter 12. In Matthew’s account, we simply read, “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat” (Matt.12:1). In this passage, the simple word “Sabbath” is used, showing that this would be a normal weekly Sabbath day – not an annual holy day. That same day, He entered their local synagogue (Matt.12:9), and healed a man on the Sabbath (verses 10-11). He thus showed it is all right to heal and do good on the Sabbath, thus showing that some of the Jewish Sabbath traditions and rules were in grievous error. The whole emphasis here was that it was the weekly Sabbath day that was involved!
Yet Luke adds that this particular weekly Sabbath day was also “the second Sabbath after the first.” How are we to understand that significant statement? What could he mean by such an expression?
The Greek-English Interlinear has it this way: “And it happened on the second chief Sabbath.” Literally, “And it was on a Sabbath, the second chief.” The Greek expression here is sabbaton dueteroproton and means, literally, “Sabbath, the second chief,” or “sabbath the second first,” that is, “the second first (or chief) Sabbath.”
Now notice two vital elements to this puzzle. First, it was during the grain harvest. Secondly, this was a weekly Sabbath, and yet it was unique – a “second” “chief” Sabbath. This could not be during the fall Feast of Tabernacles – that festival occurs AFTER the harvest has been completed! There is only one “chief Sabbath” at Pentecost, since it is a one-day festival. The only other time when there would be two “chief Sabbaths” in a row would be during the spring Passover/Days of Unleavened Bread.
During the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, we actually have THREE CHIEF SABBATHS. That is, the first day of Unleavened Bread, the weekly Sabbath which occurs DURING the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and the FINAL day of Unleavened Bread. Both the first and last days of Unleavened Bread are “annual festivals” or “Sabbaths.” God says: “On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight [evening] is the LORD’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it” (Leviticus 23:5-8). Between these first and last annual Sabbaths is the weekly Sabbath during the Festival (Lev.23:3) – sanctified by being the seventh day of the week, and also because it occurs during the seven-day festival, it is very special.
When we look at this passage in Luke closely, therefore, we see that we have three unique Sabbaths during the days of Unleavened Bread, in all years except where the first or last day of the Feast falls on the weekly Sabbath.
It is clear that the Sabbath in Luke 6 must have been a Sabbath during the week of Passover. At no other festival are there two chief Sabbaths, or three. And at no other festival is the harvest of grain occurring, except Pentecost, which is a one day festival.
Therefore this passage must be discussing the Sabbath which occurred during PASSOVER and the Feast of Unleavened Bread! The passage says this was the “second chief Sabbath,” not the third – therefore it was the second Sabbath of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The account in Matthew simply refers to it as a weekly Sabbath, giving no indication it was an annual holy day. Therefore, this Sabbath must have been the WEEKLY SABBATH!
What, you may ask, does this have to do with determining from what day we are to count the days (counting the “omer”) until Pentecost?
The Leviticus Legislation
Let’s notice how this would relate to the counting of the omer until Pentecost. Again, we read in Leviticus 23:
“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come
into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall
bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall
wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on
the day AFTER THE SABBATH the priest shall wave it” (vs.10-11).
Notice! This is the famous “wave sheaf offering.” It was commanded to be waved on the first day AFTER “the Sabbath.” But which Sabbath? Was it the weekly Sabbath which occurred during the days of Unleavened Bread, as the Sadducees taught, and as many end-time remnant churches teach, which came out from the Worldwide Church of God, as well as some Messianic groups? Or is this Sabbath the Passover Sabbath, Abib 15, the First Day of Unleavened Bread?
Orthodox Jews and mainstream Judaism teaches that this refers to the First Day of Unleavened Bread. That is also what the ancient Pharisees taught. The ancient Sadducees claimed it refers to the weekly Sabbath. Which is correct?
Before showing you how the New Testament passage in Luke is involved in this great controversy, let’s notice three very important things:
1. As to the beliefs and teachings of the Sadducees, Jesus Christ declared in no uncertain words, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt.22:29). These people did not even believe in a spirit world, the existence of angels, or the resurrection from the dead! (see also Acts 23:6-8). They were teaching error and were in great ignorance of the Scriptures. Should we base our beliefs on their vain and foolish teachings?
2. As to the practice of the apostle Paul, he said, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee” (Acts 23:6). He declared, further, before king Agrippa: “According to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee” (Acts 26:5). Paul also declared, “I am indeed a Jew . . . brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law” (Acts 22:3). Paul clearly told the Philippians that he was “concerning the law, a Pharisee” – not a Sadducee (Phil.3:5). In so saying, he added, “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (verse 6). What do all these candid admissions prove? Simply this: As a Pharisee, Paul must have observed Pentecost on the day observed by the Pharisees – and that day was arrived at by counting from the day after the First Day of Unleavened Bread!
3. Jesus Christ Himself declared that it was not the Sadducees but the Pharisees who sat in Moses’ seat. That is, they had authority to teach the people, as the representatives of Moses, as it were. He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatsoever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not according to their works; for they say, and do not” (Matt.23:2-3). In other words, we are to follow their teachings so long as they are in accord with the Word of God, and the teachings of Moses. Jesus never once found fault or criticized the Pharisees on how they counted Pentecost, or regarding what day on which they observed it!
How then does this relate to the point at issue here?
Back in Leviticus we read the following key piece of divine legislation relating to the wave sheaf offering, which was offered on the day after a “Sabbath”:
“You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain
UNTIL THE SAME DAY that you have brought an offering to
your God. It shall be a statute forever throughout your gener-
ations in all your dwellings. And you shall count for yourselves
FROM the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought
the sheaf of the wave offering . . .” (Lev.23:14-15).
Now let’s get this straight. The people of Israel were not to partake of ANY grain from the new grain harvest in Israel until after the omer was offered. And the omer was to be waved before the LORD on the day following the “Sabbath.” It had to be either the Sabbath known as the First Day of Unleavened Bread, or the weekly Sabbath during the Feast. Which was it?
Luke 6:1 provides the clear, unambiguous answer! Notice clearly! It was the second Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread – “the second chief Sabbath.” It was a weekly Sabbath (Matt.12:1-2; Mark 2:23-24). And here we find the very disciples of Christ PLUCKING HEADS OF GRAIN AND EATING THEM! Obviously, the “wave sheaf offering” had to have already been offered! Here it was the weekly Sabbath, and THEY WERE ALREADY “HARVESTING THE GRAIN”! But such an act was strictly FORBIDDEN until AFTER the Wave Sheaf Offering!
This is PROOF POSITIVE that the Omer had already been offered – on the day after the First Day of Unleavened Bread.
According to the Sadducees, and those churches which follow them, the “wave sheaf” would not be offered until the day FOLLOWING this weekly Sabbath. Therefore, according to their reasoning, the apostles were SINNING AGAINST GOD’S LAW – in violation of a strict commandment in the Torah!
Now I ask you – candidly. If this had been the case, why did the Pharisees not jump all over the disciples of Christ, and find fault with them for violating this strict injunction of God’s Law? Why did they ignore such a gross offence, for which one could be cut off from Israel, and not mention it at all – and simply regard their offence as being one of plucking grain on a weekly Sabbath, violating their tradition?
The situation we find in Luke 6 plainly shows us that on this “second Sabbath” during the Feast of Unleavened Bread the wave sheaf offering had already been performed by the High Priest, on the day of Abib 16, the second day of the Festival, and therefore the disciples were free to eat the “new grain” from the harvest!
What do Commentaries have to say about the account in Luke 6, and the expression used only there regarding the Sabbath day?
The Matthew Henry Commentary says regarding the account in Luke, chapter 6: “This story here has a date, which we had not in the other evangelists; it was on the second Sabbath after the first (v.1), that is, as Dr. Whitby thinks is pretty clear, the first Sabbath after the second day of unleavened bread, from which day they reckoned the seven weeks to the feast of Pentecost; the first of which they called Sabbaton deuteroproton, the second deuterodeuteron, and so on” (p.1418).
Dake’s Annotated Bible explains this passage as follows: “These six words (the second Sabbath after the first) are from only one Greek word deuteroprotos, the second-first Sabbath, the ordinary weekly Sabbath following the special Sabbath that began the feast regardless of what day of the week it fell on. That is the feast of unleavened bread of 7 days always started on the 15th day of Nisan or April, regardless of what day of the week it was (Lev.23:6-8). If it happened to be on Wednesday the regular weekly Sabbath or the second Sabbath of the feast would be 3 days later. The last day of the feast, being also a Sabbath, or the third Sabbath of the feast, would be on Tuesday or three days after the weekly Sabbath. The 1st and 7th days of the seven-day feast were special Sabbaths and the regular weekly Sabbath was between the two, being the second Sabbath of the feast. That this was a weekly Sabbath is clear from Matthew 12:1-8.”
The Adam Clarke Commentary declares as to this passage: “The Vulgate Latin renders deuteroproton, secundo-primum, which is literal and right. We [in English] translate it the second Sabbath after the first, which is directly wrong; for it should have been the first Sabbath after the second day of Passover. On the 14th of Nisan, the Passover was killed; the next day (the 15th) was the first day of the feast of unleavened bread; the day following (the 16th) the wave sheaf was offered, pursuant to the law, on the morrow after the Sabbath: Lev.23:11. The Sabbath, here, is not the seventh day of the week, but the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, let it fall on what day of the week it would. . . .
“This Sabbath, then, on which the disciples plucked the ears of corn , was the first Sabbath after that second day. Dr. Lightfoot has demonstrably proved this to be the meaning of this sabbaton deuteroproton, and from him F. Lamy and Dr. Whitby have so explained it. This Sabbath could not fall BEFORE the Passover because, till the second day of that feast, no Jew might eat either bread or parched corn, or green ears (Lev.23:14).”
Now let’s get this! Notice! Adam Clarke then explains:
“Had the disciples then gathered these ears of corn on any Sabbath before the Passover [or, before the wave sheaf offering!!!], they would have broken TWO LAWS INSTEAD OF ONE: and for the breach of these TWO LAWS they would infallibly have been accused; whereas now they broke only one . . . which was that of the Sabbath” (volume 3, page 404).
How plain! Here it has been, lying right beneath our feet, as it were, all these years. The mystery of counting Pentecost has been solved, by the most unusual piece of detective work. As Sherlock Holmes might say, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
But how many will listen? How many will observe the growing evidence for a Pentecost based on counting from Passover – and change their ways? Will you?
Evidence from 250 B.C.
The dispute over Pentecost and the date of the wave sheaf offering was between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Both of these religious parties sprang up out of the strife in Judea which arose during the time of the Maccabees and the Syrian conquest of Judea by Antiochus Epiphanes, from 167-164 B.C. The Jews who followed the Torah strictly became known as “separatists,” or “separated ones,” from whence we obtain the term “Pharisee.” The priestly group, who entertained the ideas of Hellenism, and compromised the religious teachings of Torah to ingratiate themselves with Antiochus Ephipanes, became known as “Sadducees.”
In the struggle to dominate the religious life of the Jews, following the Maccabean wars, the Sadducees sometimes acceded to office, as priestly kings; but as time went by, the Pharisees became more and more powerful, until about 100 B.C. they became the dominant religious party. Josephus tells us that the Sadducees could do nothing without the approval and agreement of the Pharisees. He wrote in Antiquities of the Jews, “the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side” (Bk.12,10,6). Josephus says further, “Moreover the Pharisees are friendly to one another, and are for the exercise of concord and regard for the public. But the behavior of the Sadducees one towards another is in some degree wild; and their conversations with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were strangers to them” (Wars of the Jews, Bk.2,10,14).
The Pharisees were dominant during the time of Christ. Therefore it was with them that most of His disputes occurred, and they were among His chief critics. Nevertheless, He never rebuked or took them to task for changing the method of counting to Pentecost!
Yet, interestingly, some 250 years before the time of Christ, before the sects of the Pharisees or Sadducees were even formed, in the wake of the Maccabean wars, we discover that king Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt desired the Jewish nation to provide him a translation of the Scriptures into the Greek language for his world renowned library in Alexandria, Egypt. The Jewish nation, about 250 years before Christ, acceded to his wishes – the whole account is given in the letter of one Aristeas. Suffice it to say, the result was the Septuagint Version of the Scriptures, the first authorized translation of the Holy Scriptures into a foreign language. For more information about this amazing translation, read my articles “A New Look at the Septuagint” and “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint.”
What does this authorized translation, used in all the synagogues throughout the Roman Empire, tell us about the counting of Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks?
We read: “These are the festivals for the Lord – holy, set days, which you shall proclaim in their set times. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the two evenings, is the Passover for the Lord. And on the fifteenth day of this month beginneth the festival of unleavened bread for the Lord. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. Now the FIRST DAY shall be a holy, set day for you. You shall do no sacrificial service, but offer whole burnt offerings to the Lord seven days, and the SEVENTH DAY shall be a holy set day for you. You shall do no sacrificial service.
“Moreover the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say unto them, When you are come into the land which I give you, and are about to reap the harvest thereof, you shall bring a sheaf, as the first fruits of your harvest, to the priest, and he shall offer up the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you ON THE MORROW AFTER THE FIRST DAY, the priest shall offer this up” (Lev. 23:4-11).
How interesting and plain this makes this controversial verse of Leviticus 23:11, which some claim tells us to offer the wave sheaf on the day after the weekly Sabbath. NOT SO! The Septuagint very plainly says, “on the morrow after the FIRST DAY,” and there is no way you can interpret the “first day” to ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE FIRST DAY OF THE FEAST! It clearly does not refer to the weekly Sabbath – the weekly Sabbath is the “SEVENTH DAY,” by its own definition!
To be sure you understand this point clearly, notice that verse 7 of this chapter identifies the “first day” for us and plainly tells us “THE FIRST DAY” IS THE FIRST DAY OF UNLEAVENED BREAD!!!
This passage in the LXX, therefore, makes the truth incredibly plain and clear as crystal. It ought to END the controversy over Pentecost, and PUT TO SILENCE the obstinate voices of shrill critics. But will it? Let each individual look deep down into his or her own heart, and examine their own personal motives. Will we recognize and admit the truth? What does it take? How much “PROOF” is required?
Was This “Honest”?
In his 1974 booklet entitled “God’s Festivals and Holy Days,” Herbert Armstrong attempted to “prove” that the count to Pentecost should begin from the weekly Sabbath during the days of Unleavened Bread. A subsequent edition published in 1986 (the year of his death) used the same language. Prior to that time, he taught the count should begin from Monday, the day following the day after the weekly Sabbath!
In his booklet, Armstrong quoted from the Mishnah, saying, “The Boethusians say: ‘The cutting of the sheaf does not take place at the end of the day of the feast [Passover day, Abib 15] but only at the end of the next regular Sabbath” (Menahoth 10,3).
But wait a minute! Who were the Boethusians? Why did he quote them as an authority? Is the Mishnah citing them as an authority we should follow? Not at all! Let’s read this in its actual context! Talking about the waving of the Omer, the passage says:
“How was it made ready? The messengers of the court used to go
out on the eve of the Festival-day [just after sunset, following the
Passover celebration on the First Day of Unleavened Bread] and tie
the corn in bunches while it was yet unreaped to make it easier to
reap; and the town nearby all assembled there together that it might
be reaped with much pomp. When it grew dark, he called out, ‘Is
the sun set?’ and they answered, ‘Yea!’ ‘Is the sun set?’ and they
answered, ‘Yea!’ ‘Is this a sickle?’ and they answered, ‘Yea!’ ‘Is
this a sickle?’ and they answered, ‘Yea!’ ‘Is this a basket?’ and they
answered, ‘Yea!’ ‘Is this a basket?’ and they answered, ‘Yea!’ On
the Sabbath [if this was on a weekly Sabbath] he called out, ‘On this
Sabbath?’ and they answered, ‘Yea!’ ‘On this Sabbath?’ and they
answered, ‘Yea!’ ‘Shall I reap?’ and they answered, ‘Reap!’ ‘Shall
I reap?’ and they answered, ‘Reap!’ He used to call out three times
for every matter, and they answered, ‘Yea!’ ‘Yea!’ ‘Yea!’ Where-
for was all this? Because of the Boethusians who who used to say:
The Omer may not be reaped at the close of a Festival day.”
In other words, the Boethusians, who were a family of Sadducees, taught that the Omer should be reaped after the weekly Sabbath, not the day after the Passover Sabbath, which was the Festival-day of the First Day of Unleavened Bread! They were considered as heretics! The Mishnah was certainly not endorsing their point of view! Rather, in this passage the Mishnah explains why the Jews went to these elaborate steps to show the people that the Omer should be reaped according to the teaching of the Pharisees. Says a footnote in my copy of the Mishnah regarding the “Boethusians,” it declares, “In rabbinical terminology synonymous with Sadducees.”
Says Alfred Edershem in The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, on this matter:
“The expression, ‘the morrow after the Sabbath’ (Lev.23:11), has
sometimes been misunderstood as implying that the presentation
of the so-called ‘first sheaf’ was to always be made on the day
following the weekly Sabbath of the Passover-week. This view,
adopted by the ‘Boethusians’ and the Sadducees in the time of
Christ, and by the Karaites Jews and certain modern interpreters,
rests on a misinterpretation of the word ‘Sabbath’ (Lev.23:24,32,
39). As in analogous allusions to other feasts in the same chapter,
it means not the weekly Sabbath, but the day of the festival. The
testimony of Josephus (Antiq. 3.248-249), Philo (Op. ii, 294), and
Jewish tradition leaves no room to doubt that in this instance we
are to understand by the ‘Sabbath’ the 15th of Nisan, on whatever
day of the week it may fall” (page 204).
Why Herbert Armstrong lifted a short passage out of the Mishnah, which referred to the doctrine of Boethusian heretics, and quoted it as if the Mishnah itself was endorsing the teaching, is a question he will have to answer for in the resurrection.
In his booklet, Herbert Armstrong, using the Boethusians as his authority, goes on to say: “Starting then to count from the offering of the wave sheaf, with that Sunday as day number one, we will always come out on another Sunday – but not on the same day of the month. It is something that must be counted each and every year. Quoting again from the Mishnah, and speaking about the traditional practice that had been followed in Jerusalem before the Pharisees took complete control, [The Boethusians say:] Pentecost always falls on the day after the Sabbath” (Chagigah, 2,4).”
Is that right? Once again, let’s explore this section of the Mishnah, and prove this matter for ourselves – lest we be misled on a very important point of Biblical truth and obedience to the laws of God! The Mishnah actually says:
“If the Feast of Pentecost fell on the eve of a Sabbath, the School
of Shammai say: ‘the day for slaughtering’ is after the Sabbath.
And the School of Hillel say: It needs no other day for slaughtering.
But they agree that if [the Feast] fell on a Sabbath, then the day of
slaughtering is after the Sabbath. The High Priest may not put on
his high-priestly vestments, and mourning and fasting are permitted,
To lend NO SUPPORT TO THOSE THAT SAY, ‘PENTECOST FALLS
ON THE DAY AFTER THE SABBATH’” (Mishnah, Chagigah 2:4).
Again, I must wonder why Herbert Armstrong took this passage out of the Mishnah and quoted it totally out of context! It seems a very dishonest and self-serving attempt to bolster his theory of a Sunday Pentecost, nothing more, nothing less!
I suggest that those who refuse to check up on the teachings of Herbert Armstrong, including his doctrine regarding the counting of Pentecost, and the wave sheaf offering, ought to reconsider their ways! They could be making a HUGE mistake! The Word of God says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish” (Psalm 146:3-4).
Whom do you trust? God, and His plain word? Or a man, who apparently was either very confused, or caught up in his own mystique, overly authoritative, but lacking in true, humble, straight-forward, honest scholarship?
Many believe that a Sunday Pentecost and Sunday waving of the wave sheaf offering are supported by Jesus’ statement to Mary Magdalene, after His resurrection, when He said to her, “Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father” (John 20:17). They claim that Jesus was the “wave sheaf” offering, and He had not yet been accepted by the Father, and therefore this supports the Sunday wave sheaf theory.
But wait a minute or two or three! What was really going on here? The New King James Version has this verse: “Do not CLING to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father.”
The Phillips Translation has Jesus saying, “No! Do not hold me now.” According to Moffatt, “Jesus said, Cease CLINGING to me.” “Do not hold on to me,” says the Good News Bible. Obviously, there was more involved here than mere “touching.” The Amplified Bible says, “Do not CLING to me [do not hold me].”
The Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary points out, “Not knowing the change which had passed upon Him, she hastens to express by her actions what words failed to clothe: but she is checked. . . Old familiarities must now give place to new and more awful, yet sweeter approaches; but for these the time has not come yet. This seems the spirit, at least, of these mysterious words, on which much difference of opinion has obtained, and not much that is satisfactory been said.”
Adam Clarke's Commentary explains: “Verse 17. Touch me not. Cling not to me. Apromai has this sense in Job 31:7, where the Septuagint use it for the Hebrew dabak, which signifies to CLEAVE, CLING, STICK, OR BE GLUED TO. From Matthew 28:9, it appears that some of the women held him by the feet and worshipped him. This probably Mary did; and our Lord seems to have spoken to her to this effect: ‘Spend no longer time with me now: I am not going immediately to heaven -- you will have several opportunities of seeing me again: but go and tell my disciples, that I am, by and by, to ascend to my Father and God, who is your Father and God also. Therefore, let them take courage.’”
The Greek word for “touch” in this passage is haptomai, and literally means “to cling, or attach oneself to.” Says Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, the definition is “to fasten to, make adhere to, spec. to fasten fire to a thing, to kindle, set on fire.” Thayer says of the passage in John 20:17, the meaning is, “Do not handle me to see if I am still clothed with a body; there is no need of such an examination.”
Jesus did not want to be hugged, groped, or clung to, in this manner. It was enough! He had things to do, work to perform, and could not be delayed. So He said to her, “But go to My brethren, and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17, last part).
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains: “In reply to her action, Jesus said, ‘Do not hold me.’ He was not refusing to be touched, but was making it clear that she did not need to detain Him, for He had not yet ascended to the Father. He planned to remain with the disciples for a little while [forty days!], she need not fear that He would vanish immediately. Ultimately He would return to God, and He urged her to tell the disciples that He would do so.”
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words tells us about this word “touch”:
“1. hapto (681),primarily ‘to fasten to,’ hence of fire, ‘to kindle’
. . . ‘to cling to, lay hold of,’ John 20:17; here the Lord’s prohi-
bition as to clinging to Him was indicative of the fact that com-
munication with Him would, after His ascension, be by faith, through the Spirit” (p.638).
Did Jesus “ascend” to God the Father in heaven, THAT VERY DAY, SECRETLY, and then RETURN? There is no evidence anywhere in the Bible that such is the case. Rather, Luke informs us, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, UNTIL THE DAY IN WHICH HE WAS TAKEN UP, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being SEEN BY THEM during FORTY DAYS and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And, being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me” (Acts 1:1-4).
Luke continues, “And when He had spoken these things, while they watched, HE WAS TAKEN UP, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven AS HE WENT UP, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was TAKEN UP FROM YOU INTO HEAVEN, WILL SO COME IN LIKE MANNER as you SAW HIM GO INTO HEAVEN’” (Acts 1:9-11, NKJV).
This was the ascension of Jesus into heaven! From the point of His resurrection Sabbath afternoon till forty days later, He had NOT ascended to heaven and returned. Rather, He stayed on earth, and continued to show Himself alive from the dead, for a period of FORTY DAYS, with numerous “infallible proofs.” THEN He ascended into heaven, in the sight of all His disciples! There was nothing secretive about it.
Therefore, the apostle Paul could write with great plainness of speech, “So Christ was ONCE OFFERED to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall HE APPEAR THE SECOND TIME without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). The next coming of Christ will be HIS SECOND COMING -- not His “third” coming, which it would be if He had gone to Heaven and returned to earth that “Sunday morning”!
Jesus was OFFERED ONCE, not on the Sunday morning following His resurrection, but when He “Himself BORE OUR SINS in His own body on the tree” (Heb.9:28, New King James Version). While on the cross, He was “offered.” His sacrifice for our sins was accepted by God the Father when it was completed. Not three days later, after His resurrection when He supposedly zipped up to heaven for a brief encounter with the Father.
The “wave sheaf” offering had nothing directly to do with Christ’s sacrifice. It was accepted immediately, when He died on the stake. Rather, the wave sheaf offering, was symbolical of the entire barley harvest, sanctifying the whole of the harvest to follow. It was not a “first fruit” – singular. It consisted, as Edersheim points out, of MANY grains of barley – not just one!
Says Edersheim on this point: “Though one ephah, or ten omers, of barley was cut down, only one omer of flour, or about 5.1 pints of our measure, was offered in the Temple on the second Paschal, or 16th day of Nisan” (The Temple, p. 205). Edersheim goes on, “The ears were brought into the Court of the Temple, and thrashed out with canes or stalks, so as not to injure the corn; then ‘parched’ on a pan perforated with holes, so that each grain might be touched by the fire, and finally exposed to the wind. The corn thus prepared was ground in a barley-mill, which left the hulls whole. According to some, the flour was always successfully passed through thirteen sieves, each closer than the other” (p.204-205).
What does this represent? The omer was the “FIRSTFRUITS” of the harvest! It represents TRUE BELIEVERS in Christ – TRUE CHRISTIANS who follow Him – the “firstfruits” of God’s spiritual harvest! We are “a kind of firstfruits,” James writes (James 1:18). As Paul wrote, we are those who “have the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Rom.8:23). I Corinthians 15:23 does not say, in the original Greek, that Christ is the “firstfruits,” but rather, “firstfruit” – singular!
John, in the book of Revelation, clearly explains who the “firstfruits” are. He says, “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. . . . These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were REDEEMED from among men, BEING FIRSTFRUITS to God and to the Lamb” (Rev.14:1-4).
As Christians, we are undergoing our “test” and qualifying period for “salvation” NOW! We are undergoing trials and tests, and being prepared to be the TRUE “FIRSTFRUITS” of God’s harvest! We are being “parched,” touched by the fire of testing and tribulation, we are being winnowed, sifted, corrected by being “thrashed” on occasion, yet not so as to be injured spiritually, but for our own good; we are also being exposed to the “wind” of false teachings, heresies, and doctrines, that we might be proved to be faithful to the end (Eph.4:14). Read my article entitled, “The Amazing Truth about the Wave Sheaf Offering!”
Even as ten Omers are reaped from the harvest, but only ONE Omer (5..1 pints of grain) is used, even so, Jesus Christ tells us, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt.22:14).
Only the overcomers will inherit eternal life and the Kingdom of God (Rev.21:7). Will you be one of them?
When all is said and done, it becomes perfectly clear that Pentecost should be observed fifty days after the First day of Unleavened Bread. It is directly tied to the Passover. The count begins the second day of the Passover festival. The disciples of Christ ate of the new grain harvest on the Sabbath during Unleavened Bread because it was perfectly all right to do so as the Omer offering sanctifying the new crop had already been waved before the Lord and accepted.
The Omer offering itself does not picture the sacrifice of Christ – rather, it pictures the people of God, being purified, sanctified, set apart, and approved by God, as the “firstfruits” of the spiritual harvest. The sacrifice of Christ makes the Omer offering possible! Without the original sacrifice of the Lamb – picturing Christ – for our sins, there would have never been an Omer offering, or “firstfruits”!
What a rich symbolism! What a glorious Plan God has in store for His people!
Jewish literature shows us that Pentecost is actually the conclusion of the spring festival of Passover. It is much like Shemini Atzeret, the Holy Day which follows the Feast of Tabernacles. It is an entirely separate Festival, yet its very name means “Eighth Day.” It is the concluding day of the Feast.
Even so, Pentecost is the “eighth day” of the Passover celebration – and entirely new Feast, and yet linked or bridged to the Passover itself by the 50-day “omer” counting!
This rich symbolism only works if we count from Nisan 16, the day after the first Passover Holy Day! Counting from a “Sunday” which falls on various days of the Passover Feast, depending on how far removed “Sunday” is from the day of the Passover in any given year, would destroy this intimate, unvarying, unique, and close relationship.
The incredible relationship between these two connected Holy Days is very revealing. There is a definite “bridge” between Passover and Pentecost. It pictures the Christian life, from accepting Christ as our Passover Lamb (first Holy Day of Passover when we partake of the Passover seder, the evening following the afternoon when the lambs were sacrificed on Nisan 14, when Christ Himself – our Passover Lamb – was also killed), putting leaven (sin) out of our lives immediately thereafter (days of Unleavened Bread), passing through the Red Sea (last day of Unleavened Bread), a picture of baptism (I Cor.10:1-4), then journeying through the wilderness, through trials and tests (the Christian life of overcoming, enduring to the end), and finally appearing at Mount Sinai and receiving the Ten Commandments from God Himself, becoming the “bride” of God – a type of our marrying Christ as His Second Coming, when He appears once again on the Mount of Olives, in a new eternal marriage covenant!
How sad for those who fail to see the difference and fail to grasp the incredible, awesome significance of the TRUE observance of Pentecost, on the right day, and understanding the real meaning!
Write for our other articles, “How Should We Count Pentecost?”, “Pentecost – the Final Answer,” “The Incredible Truth about Pentecost,” and “The Whole Story about Pentecost – Its Saga and Meaning.”