When should Pentecost or Shavuot be celebrated? I received an email from a Messianic Jewish group (who sends me wonderful Shabbat messages), wishing me a blessed Shavuot on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. I was told by a Christian pastor that Pentecost will be on Sunday, May 19, 2013. So who is correct, or are either of them correct?
It seems that paganized Christianity and Rabbinic Talmudic Judaism have led to Pentecost or Shavuot, as it is known in Judaism, being celebrated on different days other than when God intended it to be celebrated.
First we need to look at Christianity to see the problem. Shavuot (or Pentecost) is determined by when Passover occurs, not by any paganized Christian holiday. Instead of celebrating Passover as the Lord did, Christianity opted to drop the Jewish feast in favor of celebrating just the day Christ arose, renaming it after the pagan goddess Eastre. The problem with this is not that it is only the day Christ arose which is celebrated, and that the rest of the feast is ignored (Gentiles are under no obligation to have to celebrate the feasts), but that the way we determine the date of Easter or Resurrection Day (which is a better way of addressing it) is not that it fall on the Sunday during the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but that it is determined by the vernal equinox. Easter falls on the Sunday after the full moon after the equinox. As the Jewish calendar can change (some years have thirteen months) there have been times when Easter occurs an entire month before Passover. Obviously something is wrong with the way Christianity calculates the date of Resurrection Sunday. So that is a major problem in determining the date of Pentecost. As the original outpouring of the Holy Spirit was on Shavuot, which occurred at the end of the Counting of the Omer, Pentecost must be fifty days from the Feast of Firstfruits during Passover, (according to Lev. 23:15-16) not from when Christianity celebrates Easter. Many times this may work out and Pentecost may fall on the correct day, but there are times when it will not.
Now looking at how Judaism (the Judaism with which everyone is familiar) calculates Shavuot, we look at what they teach. The problem comes in the way in which Rabbinic Judaism (which takes its instruction from the traditions of the Talmud, not the Word of God) counts the fifty days. Most Jewish communities (with the exception of the Karaites who stick strictly with the Word of God and deny the Babylonian Talmud) start counting the omer on the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread or the sixteenth of Nissan. This means that Shavuot can fall on any day of the week, depending on which day Passover falls. But is this Scripturally correct?
Let us look at what the Bible says about this celebration. There is not much directive given, but there is one thing that is very clear that makes it certain as to exactly when this holy day should be celebrated.
Leviticus 23:15-16 “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. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.”
The Rabbinic tradition teaches that because it says that the omer should start being counted from the morrow after the sabbath, and that the sabbath being spoken of is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread or the fifteenth of the month of Nissan, that this would make the sixteenth the morrow after the Sabbath or the first day of the Counting of the Omer and therefore the fiftieth day after that, regardless of what day of the week it falls on would be Shavuot or Pentecost.
One might be able to argue the point that it is the sabbath of the fifteenth that is being spoken of here, if it were not for the following clarification. “Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days.” They are to count seven weekly Sabbaths, then the morning after the seventh Sabbath is Shavuot. The problem comes in, there is no Sabbath festival day scheduled the day before Shavuot so that it might fall on any day of the week. The only way there can be a Sabbath the day before Shavuot or Pentecost is for the fiftieth day to always fall on Sunday, so that the day before is a weekly Sabbath. There simply is no alternative to this. It is speaking strictly of weekly Sabbaths, not of feast day sabbaths.
Logical deduction does the rest for us. Going backwards from this Sunday would then mean that the wave offering of the firstfruits would also have to occur on the morrow after the weekly (Saturday) Sabbath after the Passover, or the Sunday after the Pesach meal (no matter what day it is on). This is the only way there can be fifty days from the Feast of Firstfruits to Shavuot which must be on the day after the Sabbath or Sunday. As there is only one Sunday during the seven day week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (God ordained only a seven day festival, not an eight day one as Rabbinic Judaism has created), there is only one Sunday in which this could occur. If the fourteenth were on Saturday, and the meal that night, then the firstfruits would be brought the next morning, even though it was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in order to be on Sunday and within the seven days of the week of the festival. If the fourteenth fell on Sunday, then the Passover meal would be on Sunday night (Monday by Jewish calculation) and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread would actually begin on Monday, which means the following Sunday would be the Feast of Firstfruits. And thus for any other day of the week. This was why Christ rose on Sunday.
Contrary to popular opinion in Christian circles, God did not have Christ rise on the first day of the week because He was changing the Sabbath. It had nothing to do with the Sabbath. It had everything to do with fulfilling the Feast of Firstfruits, as He had fulfilled the Passover. 1 Corinthians 15:20 “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Sunday was when the wave offering of firstfruits was offered. Christ was the firstfruits of the resurrection, thereby fulfilling this feast. It is from the Sunday of Firstfruits (as counted by God's calendar, not paganized Christianity's calendar or Rabbinic Judaism which uses lunar calculations instead of looking at the barley harvest to determine the start of the month of Nissan) that one starts Counting the Omer according to Scripture. Therefore Pentecost or Shavuot will always be on a Sunday, fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits (which is on Sunday after the Passover), according to God's calendar (which does not always jive with either Rabbinic Judaism or Christianity.)
So who is correct this year? Well, it so happens that if we check when the barley harvest was and when Passover should occur and count fifty days from the Sunday during that week, we find that this year Christianity or at least western Christianity got it correct. It is on Sunday, May 19, 2013.