Purpose: To summarize the questions and difficulties which have arisen both inside and outside the Worldwide Church of God regarding the proper observance of the Pentecost Holy Day.
Pentecost (Greek, "fiftieth [day]"), called the Feast of Weeks, or of Harvest, or of Firstfruits in the O.T., is the second great "Pilgrim Festival" of three commanded annual times (Ex. 23:14-19; Lev. 23:10-21; etc.). Since, as Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong pointed out, these Feasts of the Eternal are intended to remind man of God's Plan of Salvation, the Church has faithfully kept all seven annual Sabbaths (grouped into three "times" or seasons) since its inception.
After learning of God's Sabbaths from the Bible, Mr. Armstrong turned to the Jews for basic knowledge of the Sacred Calendar — a calendar which he felt was included in the "oracles of God" (Rom. 3:1-2), and which was demonstrated by the undeniable physical fact that the Jews were keeping Saturday on the same day for lo these many centuries worldwide!
Using the Bible as his guide, Mr. Armstrong studied the Jewish Encyclopedia — accepting the laws of the calendar but rejecting traditions which did not seem to square with the Bible. Those calendar laws clearly date all Feasts except Pentecost, which must be counted: "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; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord."
Traditionally Jews have counted the 50 days of Pentecost inclusively, and modern Jewish practice derives from the Pharisees who counted From the annual Sabbath OF Unleavened Bread (16 Nisan). Therefore Jews now keep it on a fixed calendar date, Sivan 6. Studying further, Mr. Armstrong found the priestly Sadducees had counted from the weekly Sabbath (which usually Falls within the two annual Sabbaths) and had observed a Sunday. At this point he discarded Jewish practice and established Monday as the proper day.
The Case for MONDAY
As culled from our writings back to 1943, the main points for Monday are:
1. The English idiom "one day from today" is obviously tomorrow. Counting fifty days the same way (exclusively) "from the morrow after the Sabbath" (Sunday), we begin with Monday as day one. later is Monday.
Difficulties: First, English itself is ambivalent — it can be either inclusive or exclusive even when counting. Ex. "Count from one to ten"; we obviously include the number one. Also: " from A to Z, "from head to toe, "or" from the least to the greatest."
Second, the original Hebrew does not allow exclusive counting, Our English idiom differs from most modern European languages and certainly has nothing to do with the original Hebrew. Notice Ex. 12:15: for whosoever eats leavened bread from [Heb. min, as in Lev. 23:11, 15, 16] the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off..." Lev. 23:16 itself shows inclusive counting for Pentecost with the expression in Hebrew "Even unto ON [here Hebrew adds min, "on," left untranslated] the morrow after the Sabbath." More scriptures will be cited under "The Case for Sunday."
2. God's Holy Day should not fall on Sunday, which is pagan.
Difficulties: First, the annual High Days of Unleavened Bread do fall on Sunday (contrary to what we used to believe).
Second, Christ's ascension, as we explained in our writings, occurred on a (pagan) Sunday. Christ was fulfilling the type of the Wave Sheaf offering, which also took place sometime on Sunday — admitted by all hands.
3. Historically, the Samaritans and the Sadducees counted from the weekly Sabbath, thus giving us historical precedent.
Difficulties: First, while it is true that the Samaritans and Sadducees counted from a weekly Sabbath, as did the Karaites of the 8th century (who incidentally strove to get back to the Bible as opposed to tradition), it is also true that the Pharisees, the Falashas, and the Essenes counted from various other points than the weekly Sabbath. But here is the main problem people find when they check up on our sources: ALL THESE SECTS COUNTED INCLUSIVELY. In the past we have only cited part of the evidence — the rest of the evidence goes against us.
4. "Sabbaths" of Lev. 23:15-16 means "sevens" or "weeks," as shown by Moffatt and the use of the Greek word sabbaton for "week" in the N.T.
Difficulties: The word shabbat is not translated "week" anywhere in the King James Bible. As Lange's Commentary points out, this word took on the meaning "week" in later rabbinical Hebrew or Aramaic, but did not have that meaning in any O.T. book (Vol. I, Leviticus, p. 172, note on v. 10). The great authority, Brown-Driver-Briggs, will admit the definition of "week" only on an uncertain" basis. See more under "Case for Sunday.
5. The Jubilee cycle of Lev. 25 shows Hebrew shabbat = "(any) period of seven" rather than the meaning "sabbath," and since Saturday parallels the 49th or Sabbatical year and Sunday parallels the 50th or Jubilee year and the new cycle starts with year 51, we would not count Sunday as day one, just as we did not count year 50 as new cycle, year one.
Difficulties: Only by using the second Jubilee cycle can we establish the Monday parallel. If we use the first Jubilee cycle, beginning with year one and day one, that would be Sunday, and the Jubilee year would also therefore be Sunday.
Secondly, if the Jubilee parallel is continued, the second time around would be Monday, but using Monday as "50," the Jubilee parallel would force a Tuesday Pentecost; the following one would then be Wednesday, and so on. Thirdly, there is evidence from the pre-Christian Book of Jubilees that cycles were counted inclusively, so that the Jubilee year 50 could equal year one of the next cycle — not that we feel this is the only way to count.
6. Jer. 5:24 says "the appointed weeks of harvest," not "sabbaths."
Difficulties: "Weeks" is a correct translation, but it is not established whether these "weeks" are normal Bible weeks (the more natural explanation) or non-Bible, non-calendar weeks.
7. Deut. 16:9: "Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn." "Weeks" here is Hebrew shabua, and means any seven days.
Difficulties: The same applies here as to Jer. 5:24 above. The word is correctly "week," but "week" can also be a Bible week of seven days, Sunday through Saturday. It remains to be proved that these "weeks" should interpret the shabbatoth of Lev. 23:15-16 (which would normally be considered the primary text on the subject).
8. Moffatt says in Lev. 23:15, "count seven - weeks. II
Difficulties: The argument from Moffatt falls to the ground when we read the whole verse, where he translates "after the seventh sabbath." Moffatt obviously took "week" here to be the Bible week and took the counting to be through Saturday, with the 50th day on Sunday!
9. The analogy of interest due on a bank loan — not calculated the same day, but tomorrow is the first day of calculation.
Difficulties: This is still based on the English language, having no reference to Hebrew. Some banks give 10 days free interest — following that would put us ten days late!
10. The famous Law (the Ten Commandments) announced by God from Mt. Sinai was given on the Day of Pentecost, as explained in the Correspondence Course, No. 35, pp. 11-16.
Difficulties: The scriptures are not so clear as to establish one day over another — a Monday and not a Sunday. Other groups use the same texts to establish Sunday!
Secondly, we ourselves count inclusively (CC, #35, p. 15, #13) by saying it is a Saturday Sabbath when God says "be ready for the third day," which we say is Monday. Three days for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday is INCLUSIVE.
11. Since there is no biblical instruction on what hour to offer the Wave Sheaf within that "morrow after the sabbath," and since a harvest more logically begins in the morning when the dew has dried off the wheat, we should conclude that the Wave Sheaf was cut perhaps around 9:00 A.M. Sunday morning. Relying on Deut. 16:9, which says, from such time as you begin to put the sickle to the corn," we would come to 49 days, complete at 9:00 A.M. Sunday morning seven weeks later. Since we have to keep a whole day for Pentecost, we should begin that day with sundown on Sunday. Thus, we keep our days "whole"; thus, we keep Pentecost on Monday.
Difficulties: First we are reinterpreting biblical days and making them into "disembodied days" — that is, 24-hour days which begin independent of sunrise, sunset, or any other usual mark. Further, we end up Sunday morning with a most awkward period of 9 to 10 hours which for some reason apparently does not count.
Would it not be more logical to use whole Bible days, and if the harvest begins in the morning, that is still the day Sunday, so why not count Sunday as a whole day?
12. Finally, but not least, we often hear the argument that the Monday Pentecost must not be wrong since the Church has been blessed for lo these 40 years.
Difficulty: While it is true that the Church has been blessed, it does not logically follow that we could not have made a mistake on Pentecost. According to several obvious Bible principles, God only holds people responsible for that which He reveals, and He can "wink" at minor or major "ignorances" of His flock, etc. So that argument is not necessarily logical nor scriptural.
Besides, God can allow an aberration of this nature in order to bring the whole Church to a test. If the body is alive and well, it can pass the test and make the needed change.
COMMENT: But what would happen if this case should prove to be false and the case for Sunday to be true? If we changed, would we lose many people?
There is much evidence to show we would not lose a great number of people — rather we would go a long way toward reviving and galvanizing our people around our beloved leader on earth, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.
The Case for SUNDAY
1. The Hebrew expression around which the counting argument turns is MIMOHORATH, which occurs 28 times in the O.T. Twenty-seven times it is translated "on the morrow."
Only once, which is in Lev. 23:15, is this same — exact same — Hebrew expression rendered in the King James Bible "from the morrow."
The strongest point that this "from" is incorrect is found, of course, in the other 27 occurrences, but especially in the occurrences of this very passage:
"And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it" (Lev. 23:ll).
This shows that the Hebrew expression mimohorath is used INCLUSIVELY in the discussion of the wave sheaf/Pentecost!
Another very strong proof of this very passage is Lev, 23:16, where the Hebrew word mimohorath occurs but is not translated "on" or "from" in English. The King James says:
"Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days...."
It literally reads "Even unto ON the morrow."
How can the inclusive count in these two verses surrounding our questionable verse be denied?? Further proof is found on either side of Lev. 23. For example, Lev. 22:27:
"When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam; and from the eighth day and thenceforth it shall be accepted for an offering made by fire unto the Lord."
The fact that only seven days are meant, and the "from the eighth" (using the same Hebrew preposition, min, but not of course the full expression mimohorath) means that on the eighth day the offering is acceptable; this is confirmed by Ex. 22:30, which uses another Hebrew preposition, ba, which means "in [or] on the eighth day" the same animal is acceptable to God.
Going forward to Lev. 27, we have several examples using the same Hebrew min in the sense of counting, which are clearly INCLUSIVE. Lev. 27:3 reads:
"...the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old..."
"And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old... (v. 5)"
"And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be... (v. 6)"
"And if it be from sixty years old and above... (v. 7)"
In all cases, the Jews and the commentaries, and the normal logical sense of the passage would be to include the first age, the first limit.
Further, Lev. 27:17, still speaking of valuations and dedications, reads:
"If he sanctify his field from the year of jubile, according to thy estimation it shall stand."
"But if he sanctify his field after the jubile, then the priest shall reckon unto him the money according to the years that remain, even unto the year of the jubile, and it shall be abated from thy estimation" (v. 18).
The normal understanding of this passage, confirmed by the best Hebrew lexicons, is that "from the year of jubile" includes any time during the Jubilee year. This seems to be demonstrated by the expression in verse 18 "after the jubile." Clearly in the book of Leviticus we have only inclusive reckoning in matters of counting with the Hebrew preposition min.
Leaving the book of Leviticus and going to Exodus 12':15, we read:
"Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel."
Obviously, "from the first day" here must be inclusive counting with the Hebrew preposition min. There are two supporting scriptures, one in Exodus and one in Leviticus which also show that min is always used INCLUSIVELY in counting situations.
"And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives. And it came to pass on the third day in the morning..."
"It shall be eaten on the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire. And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted."
In English we often say "today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow." Hebrew, and for that matter, Greek, says "today, tomorrow, and THE THIRD DAY." THIS IS INCLUSIVE RECKONING.
Speaking in the N. T., Christ also reckons inclusively in Luke 13:32-33:
"And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem."
Verse 33 explains what the "third day" is — it is the day following tomorrow — or, in other words, our "day after tomorrow." That is inclusive reckoning.
The fact that Christ rose "the third day" must also be understood with the other expressions of "three days and three nights" and "after three days" (Mark 8:31 and 9:31, which should be translated "AFTER the third day"). In other words, the question of the resurrection is in truth a special case. Several different kinds of expressions are used so that we will not lose track of that critical time. Still and all, in no case is this exclusive reckoning! Neither it is inclusive reckoning. The time period of Christ's death and resurrection is, for lack of a better term, absolute reckoning.
2. Returning to what is most critical, the O.T., we find that the Bible establishes inclusive reckoning for the Hebrew preposition min always when there is a counting situation.
This second argument is that all the Hebrew lexicons confirm inclusive counting! Thus, if some reader of our literature checks up on our use or explanation of "from" = "a way out of" they find that we are "wrong." How do we counter the argument when it comes from Bible usage? How do we counter the argument when it comes from such a noted authority as Dr. Whitehouse, past Head of the Department of Hebrew at Cambridge University?
Referring to our problem verse, remember it is the only case translated "from" out of 28 occurrences in the O.T; Lev. 23:15 is expounded by Dr. Whitehouse thusly:
"We must bear in mind that Hebrew enumeration ALWAYS INCLUDES THE DAY which is the terminus a quo [the starting day] as well as that which is terminus ad quem [the last day]" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., Vol. 21, p. 123).
Or, as another example, the more modern Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 4, p. 642-43 (no mean authority), says:
"The biblical conceptions of time and their terminology can be adequately understood only if one takes care not to assume unconsciously our modern Western scientific or philosophical interpretation of time in the Bible or to carry it over into the Bible."
3. "English doesn't count!" — To be sure, one day from today is tomorrow in the English idiom, but the Oxford concise dictionary certainly proves that the English word "from" is ambivalent, not to say ambiguous. Nothing much can be proved from the English word "from" one way or the other.
Why then did the King James translators choose the word "from" instead of "on"? Simply because there is an English idiom which we all use with counting. It seems ludicrous to say "Count from on the morrow" or "Count on the morrow unto..." It Both the Bible and the lexicons indicate that the translation SHOULD BE "beginning with." We have several letters from top rabbis showing the same conclusion.
"4. Logically, we have a problem with our explanation one day from today is tomorrow." The Bible doesn't say that. It says "one day from THE DAY AFTER."
One day from today = tomorrow.
One day from yesterday = today.
One day from after yesterday is still today.
Thus, if we take the whole English expression, both "from" and "after" are TIME EXPRESSIONS. Both words must be included, and don't we logically come to today?
5. The versions and foreign language editions — the Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Dutch, etc., etc. — all lead the average reader to the conclusion that Pentecost is on Sunday — not to mention the English Bible. All those translations and probably others make it clear that Pentecost is to be on Sunday. We have to write special letters to our Spanish members explaining that their Bible does not mean what it appears to say. Moreover, most of these European languages have the expression "today in eight days," meaning "next week on the same day as today." That is, if today is Saturday and we wish to meet some one next Saturday, we say in Spanish and French, "See you today in eight days, meaning next Saturday. THIS IS INCLUSIVE COUNTING.
Our people in South America who have been keeping Pentecost since 1896 on Sunday have proved willing to change, placing their faith in our Church government!
6. All the groups who had some experience keeping Pentecost (and granted there are some aberrant ones) — Sadducees, Pharisees, Samaritans, Karaites, Essenes (Qumran) — count inclusively.
When our people read the encyclopedias, they find this evidence and bring it back to us. How do we answer it? Should we say they are all wrong?
7. Why is it that in the N.T. we find no discord, no disagreement, no correction, no change concerning the day of Pentecost? According to the Good News article of May, 1959, p. 11, Christ was keeping Pentecost in the Nazareth synagogue with the Jews (Luke 4:16; Greek: "on the day of the weeks"). Even though the Greek has not usually been interpreted to refer exclusively (no pun intended!) to Pentecost, the context and message preached, plus the chronology of Luke, strongly support the Pentecost explanation.
We also find Pentecost hidden in the text of Acts 13:14 and 16:13, where the inspired Greek is the same as in Luke 4:16 — "the day of the weeks." But even if that be not allowed, we have Paul clearly wishing to observe (Greek, ginomai) at Jerusalem the Day of Pentecost (Acts 20:16). At another time Paul spent the Day of Pentecost in Ephesus, a Gentile city (I Cor. 16:8).
WHY DO WE FIND NO EVIDENCE OF CHRISTIANS AND JEWS MEETING ON DIFFERENT DAYS?
Returning to Luke 4:16, it is strange that Christ could read the special passage from the Haftorah assigned to the Day of Pentecost in the year 28 A.D. before the Jews in the synagogue at Nazareth (a special center where priests congregated), if He was not meeting on the same day as the rest of the Jews! If we can believe that the Law was being read in three-year cycles, as Acts 13:15 and 13:27 and 15:21 seem to say, and if we can believe Dr. Gilding of Sheffield University in his impressive work, The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship, and the Jewish Encyclopedia ("Triennial Cycle"), then we find that the very section Christ reads in Luke 4:16 was the section assigned by the cycle for the Day of Pentecost! (See also the Jewish Quarterly Review, Dr. Buchler, Vol. 6, pp. 1-73.)
8. We have assumed that no Christians after Acts kept Pentecost. That is not true. ALL Christians kept a Pentecost — and ALWAYS on Sunday. We need not argue about whether they kept it right, or whether they were converted people. The fact remains that they always celebrated a period of 50 days from the Wave Sheaf Day (which they renamed the Day of Christ's Resurrection, and later, Easter). The Sunday at the end of the period — the fiftieth day — became known as Whitsunday. Note that this day was reckoned by inclusive counting.
Says J. van Goudoever (Biblical Calendars, p. 182):
"The Christians of the first century counted the fifty days from Sunday to Sunday. In this custom the old Israelite priestly calendar is continued....a fragment of a lost book about Passover by Iranaeus [speaks of] 'the Pentecost, in which we do not bend our knees, because it has the same value as the Lord's Day. This custom started in apostolic times.'... It is Tertullian who gives us most details about this period. 'We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord's Day to be unlawful. We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Pentecost Day.'"
9. Now the question of the Sadducees vs. the Pharisees. Who was in charge of the Temple and the Festival rituals in N.T. times? The N.T. seems decisive on this:
"And as they [apostles] spoke unto the people, the priests and the captain of the Temple, and the Sadducees came upon them...and laid hands on them and put them in hold unto the next day..." (Acts 4:1-3).
"Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees, and were filled with indignation" (Acts 5:17).
We also read in Acts 23:6 ff. that the Sanhedrin was split between the Pharisees and Sadducees. Further, the High Priest during Christ's trial is admitted to be a Sadducee; the Sanhedrin was dominated by the Sadducees, and the whole trial was dominated by Sadducean priests, since the Pharisees stayed out of the Pavement, or the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled and not be able to eat the Passover (John 18:28).
Furthermore, history seems to favor Sadducean control of the Pentecost ritual until sometime shortly before the fall of Jerusalem. (See Appendix V.)
10. If the wave sheaf starts the harvest, as all admit, then why not start counting with that first harvest day?? Or, put another way, what separates the wave sheaf day from other harvest days so that it should not be counted? Logic would show that it should be counted, and the Bible would indicate it should be counted as a whole day. But what about counting parts of days from, say, about 9 or 10 o'clock Sunday morning when the wave sheaf might have been offered? We have no Bible precedent for doing that, especially in light of the phrase "seven sabbaths shall be complete [Heb. unbroken, whole, entire, perfect]." That brings us to the next point.
11. Do we in the Church have the authority to re-interpret Bible terms? A Bible day is from even to sunset (Gen. 1; Lev. 23:32, etc.). A Bible week as revealed in the scriptures is from Sunday through Saturday. Though we don't like to look at it this way, we are in fact readjusting and reinterpreting Bible terms in order to come up with parts of days for counting Pentecost, or even whole days from starting somewhere in the middle of a Bible day. And we are reinterpreting Bible weeks on what seems to be a shaky foundation of implying that the Hebrew shabua or "week" cannot mean a Bible week! Or on the basis (also shaky) of starting from an unknown daylight hour when the Wave Sheaf was cut, thus creating a new "day" which straddles parts of light and darkness.
Secondly, can we reinterpret the Bible way of counting by quoting kingly reigns or chronological context? The context of Leviticus by itself is sufficiently clear. We do not need to go to kingly reigns.
12. John 20:1, 19 establishes the fact that Christ's breathing upon the eleven Apostles occurred on Sunday. Attempts have been made to put this day into Sunday evening so that the type prefiguring Pentecost would be on Monday by God's reckoning (evening to evening). This cannot be done since the Bible makes it plain it is "the same day, the first of the week" and John's Gospel makes it plain he is using Bible time, not Roman (see 1:39; 4:6; 4:52; 9:11). Though His breathing on the Apostles occurred late in the day (before sundown), it was Sunday. Though it is only supportive and not direct proof, it is awkward for us to explain why the type occurred on Sunday and not on a Monday.
13. We have to face the fact that all history is against us. In answer to the often-asked question "Has anyone ever kept a MONDAY Pentecost?" — the answer is NO!
14. Then must we finally admit that the Church was founded on Sunday? Not necessarily. The Church was founded when Jesus was incarnated; the Church was founded when Jesus was born; the Church was founded when Jesus entered His ministry; the Church was founded when the Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus Christ; the Church was founded when Christ called His Apostles; or when He announced that Peter was Cephas; or when Jesus died; or when He was resurrected. Most certainly when He was resurrected, the Church was built and founded. The Church was built in another sense when He ascended; and, finally, the Church was built on the Day of Pentecost, which, if it was on a Sunday, as the evidence indicates, was certainly not a pagan day but a great annual Holy Festival of Almighty God. Correction: the Church was not "built" completely at any time yet; according to Eph. 2:20 we are "built," but in v. 21 the building is "being fitly framed" and "is growing," while in v. 22 we are "being builded together" (Greek present). The Church is still being built!! The Church is being built by the efforts of the Worldwide Church of God.
So we should not tremble or shrink before finding Pentecost on a certain day which might have pagan overtones. Outside the Bible, all days have pagan patron deities, whether Sunday, Monday, or Saturday. Stated another way, the pagans have appropriated Sunday — a day out of God's week — for their religion.
Another Critical Problem
The chief problem which the Worldwide Church of God faces this year at Pentecost has nothing to do with the above. This separate problem involves whether we count Pentecost for 1974 from within or without the Days of Unleavened Bread. The last time we faced this particular calendar configuration was 1054 when our knowledge of the calendar was not so complete as it is now.
This year (as again in 1977 and 1981) the Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath. The next day, the first annual Holy Day, is Sunday and would normally be used to count "away from." But we have thought it best to wait till the following Saturday (which is the final High Sabbath as well), so that the next day, Sunday, could be a work day, and thus start the work of harvesting. Depending on which Sunday we count from this year, Pentecost VARIES BY A WHOLE WEEK.
Some brethren are concerned over this alleged "arbitrary" decision, especially since Joshua 5:10-11 seems to show the Israelites counted that Pentecost from Sunday, the High Day within Unleavened Bread. More study is needed and more is being done.
The Final Difficulty
The Church has certainly been blessed. But II Chron. 30:17-20 proves that God accepts our attempt to serve Him even if it is not done exactly according to the letter of the Law. How much more would we be blessed if we see that we should change and we do so! So the final difficulty with the case for Sunday does not lie in the case — it lies in the consequences. It will require stalwart courage and an unselfish love of truth to publicly change... but the rewards would also be great!
This may be a supreme test for the end-time Church of God. The Church can and will survive its trials and tests as Jesus said: "For the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Sunday Pentecost Tradition
Do you realize that according to long-established tradition in the Christian Churches, the first New Testament Christian Pentecost occurred on a Sunday, and is so commemorated (in a wrong manner, of course) to this very day?
Someone will ask: "But what does that prove? Aren't the professing Christian churches wrong in just about all of their main doctrines?"
Think for a moment. The Christian-professing churches keep Sunday instead of Sabbath, but they know, both from the scriptures and from secular history, that Jesus Christ kept the Sabbath.
Notice this frank admission in the Biblica Cyclopedia. It says that if "he [Christ] was crucified on the 14th, the Sunday of the Resurrection must have been the day of the omer, and Pentecost must have occurred on the first day of the week — Smith" (Biblica Cyclopedia, 1877 ed,, Vol VII, by McClintock and Strong).
The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that "at the time of Jesus Christ two opinions touching the exact day of the feast were held" (Cath. Ency., 1911 ed., Vol. XI). Then follows an explanation of the Pharisaic and Sadducean way of reckoning the fifty days to Pentecost.
This same encyclopedia also has an interesting comment: "Whitsunday, OR PENTECOST, a feast of the universal Church which commemorates the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the 'feast of weeks' or Pentecost (Ex. xxxiv,22; Deut.xvi,10).... Whitsunday, as a Christian feast, dates back to the first century, although there is no evidence that it was observed, as there is in the case of Easter; the passage in I Corinthians (xvi,8) probably refers to the Jewish feast [of Pentecost]. This is not surprising, for the feast, originally of only one day's duration, fell on a Sunday" (Cath. Ency. , 1911 ed., Vol. XV, "Whitsunday")
Here is another startling statement: "It was on the feast of Pentecost that the Holy Ghost descended in the miraculous manner, related in Acts 2. It fell on the first day of the week — Watson" (Ency. of Religious Knowledge, 1852 ed., by B.B. Edwards).
Here is another eye-opener: "In the Christian Church the importance of Pentecost was continued, and its significance emphasized, by the outpouring of the Spirit on that day (Acts 2). The day of the week on that occasion is traditionally represented as Sunday" (Dict. of the Bible, 1906 ed., Vol. III, by James Hastings).
Here is still another revealing quote: "The date of the feast came to be firmly fixed only in later Judaism. It was now dated on the 50th day after the Passover. Opinions varied as to the significance of the 'day after the Sabbath' mentioned in Lv. 23:15. The Boethuseans (Sadducees) took this literally and counted from the first regular Sabbath (Saturday) after the first day of the Passover, so that Pentecost would always fall on a Sunday. The Pharisees, however, took the sabbath of Lv. 23:15 to mean the first day of the Passover, the 15th Nisan, and thus counted seven full weeks from the 16th..." (Theol. Dict. of the New Testament, by Kittel, p. 46).
When Was Pentecost Changed?
When did the Sadducean way of reckoning the fifty days from the Sunday of Unleavened Bread give way to the Pharisaic way of counting from the first annual Sabbath, the 16th of Nisan?
"Like the offering of the first sheaves, this harvest festival (Pentecost), fifty days later, was to be held on the morrow after the Sabbath (Lev. xxiii.11.15-16), and consequently on the first day of the week. In Josephus' time, the offering of the first sheaves was fixed on the sixteenth day of Nisan" (Ency. of Relisious Knowledqe, 1910 ea., Vol. VIII). Josephus lived from 37 A.D. to about the end of the century. This shows that the fixed Pentecost (6th of Sivan) was "fixed" after 37 or 38 A.D. — at least several years after 31 A.D.!
Since the Sadducees were in control of the Temple ritual in 31 A.D., Pentecost must have been observed on a Sunday, and not on the sixth of Sivan as would have been the case had the Pharisees been in control. Apparently, all of the Jews acquiesced to the Sadducees' reckoning and kept the same day. Whoever controlled the Temple, its rituals and ceremonies, would have controlled the offering of the wave sheaf — thereby setting the date for Pentecost!
All in the Church of God agree that the New Testament apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ would not have been keeping Pentecost on the wrong day. Neither would they have been assembled on the same day as the Jews at the Temple — unless the day they were all keeping in 31 A.D. was the correct day.
We, therefore, know that the Pharisaic way of reckoning, and the Essene way of reckoning, using fixed calendar dates for Pentecost could not have been correct. Neither of these erroneous days were selected by God as a day on which to send the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit.
This only leaves one other manner of reckoning Pentecost among the Jewish religious bodies of the Apostles' day — that of the Sadducees: and it so happened that they were in control of the Temple. They always figured inclusively from the Sunday of Unleavened Bread. Seven full, complete, whole, perfect weeks and seven sabbaths later, they arrived at the end of their seven-week period to Pentecost. The fiftieth day brought them to a Sunday, as we have seen demonstrated by history.