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Pentecost Counting in 2005

The Rule does not change!

                    COUNTING TO PENTECOST

             WHEN THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD

                      BEGINS ON SUNDAY


                             by

                       John Ritenbaugh
                   with added comments by
                         Keith Hunt

                          Part One

     In our February issue, we ran an article titled, "When Does
the Countdown Begin?" We asked questions about and sought input
concerning this year's calendar date for the wavesheaf offering,
the day to begin counting to determine when to observe Pentecost.
     It is of special interest this year because Passover fell on
a weekly Sabbath, presenting us with the infrequent situation of
the Days of Unleavened Bread beginning on Sunday and ending on
the weekly Sabbath.
     Although this may occur twice within three or four years,
its normal average throughout history is about once every nine
years. Within the Church of God, there are differences of belief
about whether one should begin counting from within or without
the Days of Unleavened Bread when this situation arises - and so
we sought your counsel on this matter.
     We received many helpful suggestions from you. They were all
undoubtedly sincerely held beliefs into which you were so kind to
research to confirm it to yourself and then share for all to
benefit. We thank you just as seriously and sincerely for making
the effort to contribute. It has been most helpful to us. We now
feel ready to tell you what we sincerely believe the research
into Scripture and history reveals.
     When Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized and John
demurred. He replied. "For thus it is fitting for us to fulfil
all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). Since the offering of the
wavesheaf is not required of a Christian, it is not unusual to
find no record of Jesus or the New Testament church involved in
the ritual activities of that day. It was not and is not a
requirement in fulfilling all righteousness.
     However, the day is far from useless to the Christian. It
remains the starting point for counting to Pentecost, and we find
irrefutable evidence of Jesus and the first-century church
keeping the festivals of God, including Pentecost. The only way
to arrive at the correct Pentecost date is to follow God's
instructions and count. beginning with the wavesheaf offering.

PENTECOST KEPT BY JESUS AND THE CHURCH

     There is no disagreement revealed in the Bible between Jesus
or His apostles and the Jews about whether the festivals are to
be kept. Indeed, the subject is approached assuming they will be
kept. Conybeare and Howson confirm the early New Testament church
kept them:

     The festivals observed by the Apostolic Church were at first
     the same with. those of the Jews: and the observance of
     these was continued, especially by the Christians of Jewish
     birth. for a considerable time. A higher and more spiritual
     meaning, however, was attached to their celebration. (The
     Life and Epistles of Saint Paul, p.346.)

     Referring to the apostle Paul, the same authors write, "Nay
more, he himself observed the Jewish festivals" (p.574).

     The Bible clearly shows Jesus observing the Feast of
Tabernacles and Last Great Day with the Jews in John 7. In John I
11:55-57 the Jews standing in the Temple questioned whether He
would come to the feast, as though this would break a customary
habit. Regarding Pentecost, some feel that the Bible records
Jesus keeping it with the Jews. apparently in agreement as to the
proper day, in Luke 4:16. This is the Sabbath on which Jesus, in
His home town, formally stated the purpose of His ministry.
Luke does not say it is Pentecost. just that it is a Sabbath, He
customarily kept. The evidence derives from what He read from the
Scriptures. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, under the
article "Triennial Cycle -(a three-year plan for the public
reading of the Old Testament, attributed to Ezra), the portion of
the Law to be read on Pentecost in the second year of the cycle
was Exodus 20. The reading from the Prophets was the very section
Christ read, Isaiah 61:1-2! That Christ turned to the assigned
lesson for Pentecost is confirmed in the Jewish Quarterly Review,
vol. VI, pp.1-73 in an article by Dr.Buehler. Remember Christ's
ministry was three and one-half years long. He was crucified in
the spring of AD 31 (actually 30 AD - Keith Hunt) so this Sabbath
(possibly Pentecost) would have occurred shortly after He began
His ministry. 
     (This is all weak evidence of Luke 4 being Pentecost, for
Jesus could read from whatever prophets He liked, IF HE so chose
to do, as there is NO LAW of God saying what MUST be read on any
day, Sabbath, feast, or other day of the weak - such laws would
only be man made traditions, even if some did come from Ezra.
Ezra would be the first to admit, what he may have instituted was
not a LAW of God - Keith Hunt).

     Stronger yet is the evidence from acts 2 that the newly
forming Christian church was sharing the day of Pentecost with
the Jews in Jerusalem. Acts 2:1 clearly states that this occurred
on the day of Pentecost. Furthermore, verse 5 calls the Jews who
witnessed the Pentecost occurrences devout."The Christians and
Jews were in the same general area for religious reasons.
In addition, verses 7-11 indicate here were visitors from other
areas, both Jews and proselytes to Judaism. Here is a typical
comment:

     Certain "God-fearing Jews" who were residing in Jerusalem
     from many parts of the Diaspora, together with a number of
     Jews and proselytes who had returned to Jerusalem as
     pilgrims for the Pentecost festival, were "in bewilderment."
     "utterly amazed." and "perplexed" by the miraculous coming
     of the Spirit (vv.6-7,12). (Expositor's Bible Commentary.
     vol.9, p.272.)

     Where did this activity take place? No one can pinpoint with
absolute certainty the exact location. The final verse of Luke
records briefly what the apostles did after Jesus' ascension.
"And were continually in the Temple praising and blessing God"
(Luke 24:53). We find them in Acts 13 in the "upper room"
somewhere Jerusalem. Acts 2:2 mentions them being in a house when
the Pentecost miracles began. No commentator that have found
disagrees that the house and upper room were the same place, and
very probably, near the Temple where devout people would
assemble, especially on a festival day. Concerning Acts 2:6,
Expositor's Bible Commentary reads:

     The verb for "hear" (ekouon) is in the imperfect tense,
     suggesting that their hearing took place over a period of
     time - perhaps first in the upper room itself, then in
     adjacent lanes and courtyards, and finally in the temple
     precincts. (vol.9, p.272.)
  
     Acts 2:46 also tends to show the disciples sharing Pentecost
day in the same place with the Jews: "So continuing daily with
one accord in the temple."  "Continuing" means "to tarry" or "to
remain close to." The disciples remained near the Temple,
continuing a practice begun after Jesus' ascension.
     Acts 20:16 shows the apostle Paul "hurrying to be at
Jerusalem, if possible on the Day of Pentecost." He apparently
made it, for Conybeare and Howson conclude that the episode
involving Paul and the four men under a vow (Acts 21:23-26)
occurred on Pentecost (p.574). Finally, Paul states before the
Jewish leaders in Rome, "Men and brethren, though I have done
nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers
..."(Acts 28:17). "Customs" includes festivals.

SADDUCEAN METHOD USED

     The internal evidence from the Bible and from religious
researchers (except the well-documented Passover difference)
indicates Jesus, the Christian church and the Jews who were
responsible for setting the festival dates agreed about when
Pentecost and other festivals were to be observed. 

     Who among the Jews was responsible? Whoever controlled the
Temple. The overwhelming evidence from history is that during
Christ's ministry and the beginning of the church, the Sadducees
controlled the Temple. Scholars disagree as to the exact year
control passed from the Sadducees to the Pharisees, but almost
all authorities say it was after AD 55, others 66 and some even
say 70. When the Pharisees finally did gain control of the
Temple, the date for the observance of Pentecost definitely
changed to the fixed-date method....
     The Pharisees, a revolutionary party consisting mostly of
intellectual laymen, had managed to capture the hearts of the
people and were thus influential with them. They enjoyed such
prestige that to all appearances they sat firmly in Moses' seat
and were from time to time able to force religious changes (e.g.,
Passover). But they were outrageously audacious in elevating oral
tradition, gathered through the centuries, to equality with the
written Word. Jesus says they nullified the law of God through
their traditions (Mark 7:7-9).
     As a party, the Sadducees actually arose about 200 BC, about
a century after the Pharisees. Apparently, they formed to combat
what they considered the Pharisees' heretical notions and to
prevent their takeover of the Temple. Consisting mostly of the
aristocracy and priests, they represented the views and practices
of the written law and the interests of the Temple and
priesthood. They were probably less popular because of people's
envy of their social position and man's natural enmity to God's
law (Romans 8:7).
     The Sadducees tended to be scriptural literalists, but by
contrast, Jesus lambasted the Pharisees in Matthew 23 as blind
guides and hypocrites. Though the Sadducees were not always
correct - Jesus said to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees
and Sadducees" (Matthew 16:11) - they were more likely to be
biblically correct in doctrine because of their literalism than
the Pharisees.

     (While the above is correct in its basics, we need to
realize the whole truth as written and practiced in Jewish
history. The Pharisees may have taken-over the Temple at a
certain date in a LITERAL way, from the literal ritualistic
services of the Sadducean priests. But even as the author points
out, the Pharisees had much "popular" following, they so were
able to institute "changes" such as the time to celebrate the
Passover. I have covered in great detail from Scripture the
correct date for the Passover and the incorrect date when
the Pharisees observed it, one day later, as they do to this very
day, remembering that most modern religious Jews are
"spiritually" and "theologically" descendants of the Pharisees.
     The Pharisees were able to pressure, by popular following,
the Sadducean priests of the Temple, to accommodate their
"theological views." Hence the wave sheaf cut by the Pharisees
after the first holy day of the feast of Unleavened Bread WAS
waved in the Temple on the 16th of Nisan. There would have been
in the time of Christ, those (the popular majority of religious
Jews) celebrating Pentecost on Sivan 6th, as taught by the
Pharisees. 
     Then there would have been those who would have agreed with
the Sadducean counting to Pentecost. Probably quite a few from
Palestine itself and from the "diaspora" - those in lands outside
Palestine. 
     I believe it is significant that Luke recorded Pentecost in
the second chapter of Acts as, "When the day of Pentecost was
FULLY come...."

     The Pharisees Pentecost would have been some days EARLIER,
as they started to count 7 x 7 or 49 days from Nisan 16th, The
day after the first Sabbath or 15th of Nisan of the Unleavened
Bread festival. The Sadducees started to count from the first day
of the week after the weekly Sabbath during the UB feast. In 30
AD when Jesus was crucified, the 16th of Nisan was a Friday {the
14th a Wednesday, the 15th a Thursday}, and the first day of the
week after the weekly Sabbath was Nisan 18th, a Sunday. There was
a few days difference then in that year, from the Pentecost of
the Pharisees to the Pentecost of the Sadducees. Hence Luke wrote
in Acts 2, "When the day of Pentecost had FULLY come..."
     Some have other thoughts as to why Luke wrote this way, but
I find what I have explained the most probable, when you consider
the few days difference with the Pentecost counting from the
Pharisees to the Sadducees, in 30 AD - Keith Hunt).
  
    For some time before and after the ministry of Christ, the
high priests were Sadducees (Bo Reicke,The New Testament Era, pp.
143-144). Annas held the post until AD l5, but continued to
exercise control over the office until his death in AD 35. During
this time, the high priest had important duties because of his
traditional religious significance and political position. He
represented all the Jews before the God of Israel, especially at
the annual festivals, and supervised the temple worship, the
sacrificial system, priests and Levites. During the first
procuratorship (AD 6-41), the high priest was the most powerful
man in Idumea, Judea and Samaria, after the procurator.

     The enormous influence of the Pharisaic party on the
     religious life of the Jewish people in Palestine is thus
     clear: and it undoubtedly operated in the time of Jesus and
     the apostles....Apparently, however, the Pharisees did not
     secure full control of the Temple ritual till the two
     decades that preceded the destruction in AD 70. Thus, in the
     time of Jesus the Temple services were still mainly
     conducted in accordance with the old priestly traditions....
     Both the Sanhedrin and the Temple were still dominated by
     the priestly aristocracy. (Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion
     and Ethics. vol.9, pp.834-835)

     (This is true in part only. Although the priestly Sadducees
were the ones working in the Temple, with the rituals etc. The
fact is the Pharisee sect was the popular every-mans religious
party. The Pharisees governed the local synagogues, and they had
the most influence over the people at large. Hence the Pharisees
teaching of WHEN to cut the wave sheaf, at the end of the first
Sabbath or 15th of Nisan in UB feast, would have been carried
out, and so the waving of that sheaf in the Temple on the morning
of the 16th, would have been demanded by the Pharisees and the
people, who in the main were followers of the Pharisees. There
would have been a Pharisee Pentecost, as they count from the fist
Sabbath day of UB feast, and come out with a fixed Calendar date
of Sivan 6th.
     The Sadducees went along with the demands of the common
popular religious party of the people, that of the Pharisees,
BUT, that did not mean the Sadducees did not STILL adhere to
their beliefs on the matter of when to cut and wave the wave
sheaf and when and how to count to Pentecost. The Sadducees still
taught their points on these matters, and still could and would
observe their views even in the Temple rituals. For instance, who
is going to see the cutting of the wave sheaf and the waving of
it in the Temple? Just about no one in the cutting of it, and
certainly ONLY the Sadducean priests in the Temple, as they ALONE
did the rituals of the Temple.
     What we see then from history is that the Temple worship had
DIFFERENCES in the performing of certain rituals, to accommodate
the popular every-man's religious party - the Pharisees, and the
much smaller religious sect, {with some followers of it} - the
Sadducean priesthood party - Keith Hunt).
      
     Neither the Bible nor extra-biblical history suggests any
disagreement between Jesus or the true church and the Sadducees,
who operated the calendar and set the festival dates, about when
to observe the festivals. Except for Passover, the evidence is
clear that Jesus and the church kept them at the same time as
most of the Jews.
     (Let's put it this way, Jesus never disagreed with the
Sadducean priestly party over WHEN the wave sheaf was to be cut
or waved in the Temple, and when the count should start for the
day of Pentecost to be observed on. Jesus DID - OFTEN - condemn
the Pharisees for disregarding the commandments of God in order
to hold their traditions - see Mark 7 for one example - Keith
Hunt).

     Recent research on John 19:28 shows that even concerning
Passover, Jesus and the Sadducees agreed. The Pharisees had by
the time of Jesus' crucifixion managed to force the late 14th
Passover observance at the Temple, but the Sadducees were still
privately keeping Passover at the beginning of the 14th, the same
time Jesus did.

WHY COUNT?

     Using common logic, we can tell that God could easily have
given a set calendar date for Pentecost, even as He did for all
the other festivals. He could have instructed us to keep it on
Sivan 6, but He did not. Therefore the Pharisees, modern-day Jews
and even some who call themselves Christians are wrong to keep it
on Sivan 6 year after year unless God's method of counting ends
there.
     He instructed us to count, but any count that begins on a
fixed date will end on a fixed date, something He apparently did
not want because He did not give us a fixed date. No valid reason
for counting exists except the one given in the Bible. The
scholars ideas are nothing more than fanciful opinions. Setting
Pentecost beginning on a fixed date and thus ending on a fixed
date makes void God's instructions for counting. We count because
God commands us to count!
     
     This makes determining the starting date for the count
critically important. Leviticus 23:11,13 both tell us to begin
counting "the day after the Sabbath." If this was a holy day
Sabbath, it would be telling us to count from the day after a
fixed date, on either Nisan 16 or 22. This would mean that
Pentecost would fall on either Sivan 6 or 12. Why did God not
simply set one of those dates in the first place?

     The weekly Sabbath falls on different calendar dates and
therefore so does the day after the weekly Sabbath. Understand
why this is so. According to the Hebrew Calendar rules, Passover,
the 14th of Nisan, can fall on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or
weekly Sabbath. Thus, the First Day of Unleavened Bread can fall
on either a Tuesday. Thursday, weekly Sabbath or Sunday, as it
did this year. The Last Day of Unleavened Bread, just like the
Passover, can fall on either Monday, Wednesday, Friday or weekly
Sabbath, as it did this year.
     If the Passover, the 14th of Nisan, falls on a Monday, the
date of the weekly Sabbath will be the 19th. If it falls on a
Wednesday, the weekly Sabbath date will be on the 17th. If it
falls on Friday, the weekly Sabbath date will be the 15th and
also the First Day of Unleavened Bread. If it falls on the weekly
Sabbath, the next Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread
will be the 21st.
     We can see that the date of the day after the weekly Sabbath
that falls during the Days of Unleavened Bread will also move
about because of the weekly Sabbath's relationship to the day of
the week on which Passover falls. This ensures that Pentecost
will be on one of four dates in Sivan, and forces us to count
(unless we just took at a correctly prepared chart).

     This illustrates why the Sabbath mentioned in Leviticus
23:11,15 must be a weekly Sabbath as the Sadducees of the first
century and Herbert W. Armstrong believed, not the First Day of
Unleavened Bread Sabbath as the Pharisees believed, nor the Last
Day of Unleavened Bread as the Essenes and Falashas (Ethiopian
Jews) kept. All these groups, however, count from a Sabbath,
either a weekly Sabbath or a holy day, within the bays of
Unleavened Bread, regardless of when wave-sheaf day falls.
     A second reason that this is a weekly Sabbath is the
appearance of the definite Hebrew article "ha" preceding
"Sabbath." This designation is almost unanimously reserved for
the weekly Sabbath (about 95 percent of the time in the Bible).
"Sabbath" appears ten times in Leviticus 23 and "Sabbaths" twice.
Twice the article "ha" appears before "Sabbath," and both times
it refers to the weekly Sabbath. Two other times it appears
concerning the Sabbath in question (verses 11,15). Once it
appears before "Sabbaths," and this too refers to weekly
Sabbaths.
     It was mentioned above that it is not surprising that we
find no reference to Jesus or the early church involved in the
wavesheaf ritual. However, they were very much aware of it, and
it clearly shows in the accounts of Jesus' resurrection.
     In almost all translations. John 20:1 is rendered, "On the
first day of the week..." In the Greek this phrase is "te mia ton
sabbaton." Sabbaton can be used in a singular or plural sense to
designate "Sabbath" or "Sabbaths" or "week" or "weeks."
     Notice what Ethelbert W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible
says about this Greek phrase:

     The first day of the week = "On the first (day) of the
     Sabbaths" (pl). Gk - Te mia ton sabbaton. The word "day" is
     rightly supplied, as "mia" is feminine, and so must agree
     with a feminine noun understood, while "sabbaton" is neuter.
     Luke 24:1 has the same. Matthew reads, "towards dawn on the
     first (day) of the Sabbaths, and Mark (16:2), "very early on
     the first (day) of the Sabbaths." The expression is not a
     Hebraism, and Sabbaths SHOULD NOT BE RENDERED "WEEK" as in
     the A.V. and R.V.A reference to Lev. 23:15-17 shows that
     this "first day" is the first of the days for reckoning the
     seven Sabbaths to Pentecost. (p.1520. Emphasis ours.)

     (This idea of Bullinger is challenged by many Greek scholars
today. Bullinger must be read with great care, while sometimes he
is correct, there are times when he is very wrong indeed. I
believe he is wrong on this point. The simple understanding,
taken from all the Gospels, is that it was "On the first day of
the week" or "towards the dawn of the first day of the weeks" the
ladies were coming to the tomb. It is true that in this year of
30 AD the Passover fell on a Wednesday - Jesus celebrated it with
His disciples on Tuesday evening, was crucified on Wednesday,
placed in the tomb Wednesday evening and rose three days and
three nights later, on what we call Saturday evening. The wave
sheaf was cut by the Sadducees that Saturday evening, and waved
in the Temple the morning of Sunday, or the first day of the
week. It was then also the first day of the weeks - plural - of
the 7 weeks to count to Pentecost. Seven sevens would bring you
to 49 days, and a weekly Sabbath, the day after would be the 50th
day or Pentecost. See my other studies for details on all of this
counting - Keith Hunt).

     Other researchers have also written on this possible
translation, conceding that the phrase is capable of the above
alternative. However, they have opted for the "first day of the
week" translation. Undoubtedly prejudiced by their belief in a
Sunday resurrection. But our understanding of the importance of
the wavesheaf in relation to both Christ's acceptance and the
counting of Pentecost should lead us to see that the Gospel
writers were clearly establishing the exact day of Christ's
acceptance. 
     (Which was on a Sunday morning, the first of the week, or
first of the days of weeks, 7 x 7, leading to Pentecost on the
50th day. The truth is that Jesus was resurrected on the
first of the week. He was resurrected Saturday evening AFTER
sunset, just as the wave sheaf was cut by the Sadducees AFTER
sunset on the first day of the week, as God counts days, from
sunset to sunset. This is WHY there was no DISCLAIMER by the
early church and by old John the apostle, in ANY written church
history, to disclaim the teaching that Jesus was resurrected on
the first day of the week, which many used in the second century
to move away from 7th day Sabbath observance to Sunday
observance, claiming as they did, that Jesus was resurrected on
the first day of the week. And indeed that is very true, but not
on Sunday morning, as most now think, but on Saturday evening,
after the weekly Sabbath had ended, and as the wave sheaf was
cut, to be ready to wave before the Lord in the Temple, the next
morning, Sunday morning, and the first day of the 49 days to
count to Pentecost, the 50th day then being a Sunday - Keith
Hunt).
 
     All these factors taken together point conclusively to the
wavesheaf day as being on a Sunday, the day following the weekly
Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread.

SYMBOLISM

     Symbolism is an effective teaching tool and the Bible uses
it extensively.

     It can be used to hide clear understanding for a time, or
clarify it when the time comes, according to the Creator's
purpose. Taken by itself, the symbolism within the wavesheaf
offering is clear. But its relationship to other instruction is
not always understood.

     To which festival is the wavesheaf offering most closely
related, Passover, Unleavened Bread or Pentecost? On the calendar
it is most closely associated with Unleavened Bread because it is
observed either within it or adjacent to it. Because each in its
place plays a part in His purpose, all of God's holy festivals
and rituals have a relationship with each other. But some
festivals and rituals have a closer relationship with some than
they do with others. For instance, the Lamb slain on the 14th has
a direct and powerful relationship to Passover - in fact,
Passover revolves around it. But its relationship with the other
festivals, seen in the focus of the teaching on them, begins to
become more distant, though still essential.

     Thus it is with the wavesheaf offering. Although it is
observed in or near the Days of Unleavened Bread. Its purpose and
symbolism are directly tied to Pentecost fifty days away.
Symbolically, it has a less direct relationship to Unleavened
Bread than to Pentecost.
     Passover and Unleavened Bread, though next to one another on
the calendar, do not teach us the same things. The same is true
of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. Proximity on the calendar
is not a true indicator of the closeness of the symbolic
relationship.

     Passover pictures Christ crucified for the forgiveness of
our sins and the means and cost of redemption from Satan, sin and
this world. Unleavened Bread depicts our liberation and what God
does to make this possible. It also shows our continuing
responsibility to keep ourselves free by striving not to sin and
overcoming by the power of God. The symbolism and instruction of
these two are clearly related, but much different.
     The wavesheaf offering pictures the firstfruits of the first
harvest of the year offered before God for His acceptance.
     Spiritually, it pictures Christ, the firstfruit of God's
first spiritual harvest of souls, ascending after His
resurrection to be accepted before God as the offering for our
forgiveness and as our High Priest, enabling Him to administer
the Spirit of God and mediate for us before God.
     Pentecost pictures the giving of God's Holy Spirit to
impregnate us as God's children, to form the church, give us
power to overcome sin and enable us to be resurrected (born
again) as firstfruits into the Kingdom of God as part of the same
spiritual harvest that began with Christ. Both the wavesheaf and
Pentecost depict a harvest. One event begins it, the other ends
it. The wavesheaf begins the count, Pentecost ends it. If Christ
had not been resurrected - nor His sacrifice accepted, there
would have been no Holy Spirit sent to mankind, no church and no
reason for Pentecost to be observed by Christians.

     Conclusion'? The wave sheaf offering has a direct connection
to Pentecost and nearly a direct one to Passover, but only an
indirect one to Unleavened Bread. The harvest symbolism and the
fact that wavesheaf offering day begins the count that ends at
Pentecost nearly detach the wavesheaf from Unleavened Bread but
firmly attach it to Pentecost.

1994

     This year (when Ritenbaugh wrote this study - Keith Hunt) 
with Passover falling on the weekly Sabbath, we have a relatively
infrequent occurrence. The holy days of Unleavened Bread are the
next day, Sunday, and the following weekly Sabbath. The question
then arises, from which Sabbath do we begin the count? 

                              ..............

TO BE CONTINUED

Entered on this Website 2005


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