The Hebrew Shavuot vs. the Greek Pentecost
On the day of Pentecost, according to the Christian tradition and theology, in the upper room of apostle Peter, a new religious entity called “the Church” was born apart from Israel. The “proof text” the Christian theologians find is in Act 2:1-2, as we read from KJV translation.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. (Act 2:1-2 KJV)
Was it so? And what was “the upper room”? But we keep on reading. On that day and afterwards new Christians were added to the Church,
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Act 2:41 KJV) (See also Act 2:47)
There were added unto them? Added to what?
If we examine the events of Acts 2, we find that at that event if people were “added”, supposedly, to “the Church”, “the Church” had to have already existed at that time.
So, what did really happen on the day of Pentecost?
In order to find the answer we need to do a textual criticism of the first two chapters of the Book of Acts of the Apostles and try to restore the sequence of events to the best of our ability.
We studied in the article “The Appointed Times of YHVH: the First-fruits and the Messiah” from the series The Appointed Times of YHVH, that Yeshua was raised from the dead on the First-fruits (Heb. HaBikkurim).
After the resurrection He was with His disciples forty days teaching them regarding the Kingdom of His Father. And He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, which they had heard from Him (Act 1:4). (See also Luk 24:49, Joh 14:16 and Joh 14:26)
One day, they asked Him, ‘Master, would You at this time restore the reign to Israel.’ (Act 1:6) And He said to them, that it was not for them to know times or seasons which the Father had put in His own authority. (Act 1:7) But they should receive power when the Set-apart Wind (Hebrew Ruach HaKodesh) had come upon them, to be His witnesses in Jerusalem and to the end of the earth. (Act 1:8) And having said this, He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. (Act 1:9)
And as they were gazing into the heaven as He went up, two angels who stood by them said, “Men of Galil, why do you stand looking up into the heaven? This same Yeshua, who was taken up from you into the heaven, shall come in the same way as you saw Him go into the heaven.” (Act 1:10-11)
That happened on the fortieth day of the resurrection counted from the First-fruits.
We also studied that from the day of the First-fruits, we count seven complete Sabbaths and the fiftieth day is the Festival of Shavuot (the Weeks). In Greek that day is known as Pentecost (the fiftieth).
Then the disciples went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives to the upper room: Kepha (Peter) and Ya’akov the brother of Yeshua (James) and Yehudah the other brother of Yeshua (James), Yochanan (John) and Andri, Philip and T’oma, Bartholomi and Mattithyahu (Matthew), Ya’akov the son of Alphai and Shim’on the Zealot together with the women and Miryam the mother of Yeshua. (Act 1:12-14)
They cast lots to replace Yehudah who betrayed the Messiah, and the lot fell on Mattithyahu who was numbered with the eleven. (Act 1:26)
And on the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And a sound as a rushing wind came from heaven and filled all the house where they were sitting. (Act 2:1-2) And there appeared to them tongues like as of fire that on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with (with does not appear in the Greek text) other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Act 2:3-4 KJV)
And there were a multitude of Jews from every nation (Act 2:5) that heard them speak in their own language. (Act 2:6) And they were all amazed and marveled, because the disciples being Galileans spoke their languages (Act 2:7-8). We should recall that for the Festival of Shavuot all males are required to appear before YHVH in Jerusalem.
This multitude of Jews who came to Jerusalem for Pentecost were Parthians, Medes and Elamites, and from Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and Libya about Cyrene, and from Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians (Act 2:9-11). The multitude mocked the disciples thinking they were drunk.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice said to them, ‘You men of Judaea, and all you in Jerusalem, for these are not drunken, as you suppose, because it is the third hour of the day’. (Act 2:14-15)
So, it appears that forty days after the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah, on Pentecost, the disciples, the women, and the mother, and all multitude of Jews and proselytes from all over the known world were gathered in “the upper room” of Peter. We should recall that Peter was a poor fisherman.
This is the sequence of events according to the Christian theology of Pentecost. On that day “The Church”, a new religious body, was established, the fortieth day after the resurrection of the Messiah.
However, is this so?
A Torah observant believer in Yeshua will note immediately that there is something wrong in the above interpretation of the first two chapters of Acts.
To start with, we need to clarify something important. When the translations speak of “church”, it is the Greek word ἐκκλησία, ecclesia. This word is used in the Greek translation of the Tanak (LXX) to simply mean “assembly” referring to Israel, but in the Apostolic Writings it is translated as “church” as if referring to a new religious body apart from Israel.
Had the translators and theologians be consistent and faithful to all the Scripture, they should have referred to Israel in the Tanak and the first believers in Yeshua either as assembly or as church. In other words, Israel is the assembly or the church of Yeshua, not the other way around.
In the present author’s view, this is a clear sign of the Replacement Theology of the Church, false theology that has been around since the establishment of the organized religion by the Roman emperor Constantine.
Then, the Torah observant believer in Yeshua will note immediately that Shavuot (Pentecost) cannot be the fortieth day, but the fiftieth of the resurrection, according to Leviticus 23. Hence, the Greek word πεντηκοστή for Pentecost means the fiftieth [day].
Therefore, the issue with the Christian interpretation of Acts 1 and 2 is that we come short of ten days. In other words, ten days are unaccountable, if we hold that theology.
In order to solve this problem, the present author suggests two possible scenarios of what has happened between Yeshua’s ascension and the appointed time of YHVH Shavuot (aka Pentecost); between the fortieth and fiftieth day of the counting of seven complete Sabbaths (weeks) from the day of First-fruits (HaBikkurim).
Scenario 1: Per this scenario, there is a ten-day gap between Act 1:11 and Act 1:12 and the plausible order of events appears thus.
After the two angels assured the disciples that Yeshua shall come in the same way as they saw Him go into the heaven in Act 1:10-11, ten days came to pass, and then they came back to Jerusalem as we read in Act 1:12 where they gathered in Peter’s upper room to elect the twelfth disciple. And the Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) came, when they were filled with Ruach HaKodesh (Set-apart Wind) and started specking in various [spoken] languages to a multitude of thousands of thousands of Jews and proselytes.
Scenario 2: Per this scenario, there is a ten-day gap between Act 1:26 and Act 2:1 and the plausible order of events appears thus.
In Peter’s upper room they cast lots to replace Yehudah with Mattithyahu (Act 1:26). Ten days came to pass and on the Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) they were filled with Ruach HaKodesh and started speaking in the languages of the multitude.
Which scenarios is the true one?
In order to find the answer to this question, let us use the method of elimination of the least plausible scenario.
To start with, we should see the weak points in Scenario 1 (a ten-day gap between Act 1:26 and Act 2:1).
When the two angels assured the disciples that Yeshua shall return in Act 1:10-11 and ten days came to pass, they came back to Jerusalem for Pentecost, where they gathered in Peter’s upper room to elect the twelfth disciple. And the multitude was … there. As we recalled, Peter was a poor fisherman.
And if Peter was poor, we need to ask the question as to how a poor fisherman like Peter would have been able to afford a two story mansion large enough to accommodate not only all disciples, but also the innumerous multitude that came in Jerusalem for the Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost).
Because, if this scenario is the one, then following the order of events we have to come to the conclusion that the gathering of the thirteen disciples, the women, and the mother of Yeshua in Peter’s “upper room” coincided with the gathering of the multitude on the day of Pentecost or the Festival of Shavuot. Hardly, we could see this scenario as plausible.
We should see the weak point in Scenario 2 (a ten-day gap between Act 1:26 and Act 2:1).
In Peter’s upper room they gathered to elect Yehudah (Act 1:26). Because, ten days came to pass and then on the Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) they were filled with Ruach HaKodesh in front of the multitude of people, we can conclude that these are two different events.
If this is the case, then what was the weak point of Scenario 1, in Scenario 2 this weak point is eliminated. In the case of two separate gatherings, one in Peter’s big house and the other for the day of Pentecost, it is very plausible for the thirteen disciples, the women, and the mother of Yeshua to fill even a small house of a poor fisherman like Peter.
Then on the Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost), ten days later, they gathered again at the upper deck of the Temple (not the upper room of Peter) to fulfill the command of the festival to gather in. There they were filled with Ruach HaKodesh and spoke in the languages of the multitude. Let us again say that those were spoken, real, languages, not gibberish.
Actually, we see that in this scenario, there is no weak point.
Therefore, using the method of elimination, we came to the only possible scenario that might have taken place: Scenario 2.
How does that help us find the answer to the question, “What did really happen on Pentecost?” A lot!
The twelve disciples went to the Temple not to create a new religious body, called “the Church”, and a new religion, but because they were Torah-observant believers in the Messiah Yeshua, they gathered to celebrate the Festival of Weeks in the fulfilment of the Torah all males to gather in at the Temple in Jerusalem.
When Yeshua told them to await a revelation in Jerusalem, they could not have possibly known when the Promise of the Father would come. That is why Yeshua commanded them not to leave Jerusalem (Act 1:4).
They gathered at the Temple as they had always done it for the Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost). And when they gathered for the festival at the Temple, as per the command in the Torah, there they were given the gift to speak foreign languages (the languages of the nations). Why? In order to fulfill their mission to spread the Good News of the resurrection to the Jews and to the gentiles.
And one more thing to consider. In Act 2:15 Peter said that the hour was ‘the third hour’ (that is nine in the morning), when the morning sacrifice was brought. But the preparations for it must have commenced a couple of hours earlier.
Possibly, we may say, the disciples might have gathered to join in the prayer “at the time of incense” (Luk 1:10). This may explain how on the day of Shavuot (Pentecost) such a huge multitude of Jews and proselytes from around the world could have come together on the Temple Mount, where they heard in their languages the wonderful works of Elohim.
In conclusion, we see that no “Church” was established on the Festival of Shavuot during the Temple service.
But, if the Christian still believe that the apostles established “the Church” on the Festival of Shavuot at the Temple, should they not also accept the Torah of YHVH who established this festival?
And last but not the least. The first believers in Yeshua and those who were added to the assembly never called themselves “Christians” and their congregation “the Church”, but The Way, as we read thus,
And this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the Elohim of my fathers, believing all that has been written in the Torah and in the Prophets, (Act 24:14)
They called it “The Way” most evidently after the words of Yeshua, who said to them,
I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me
This article is a part of series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH and how His Messiah Yeshua has fulfilled them. For the rest of the set-apart days of the Creator, please, visit The Appointed Times of YHVH.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days