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Counting to Pentecost

The Stewarton Bible School observes Pentecost on the 50th day after the Passover Sabbath; counting - as do the Jews -   from the morrow after the first day of unleavened bread.

As is well known, Pentecost occurs seven complete weeks after the consecration of the harvest by the offering of the wave sheaf of first ripe barley. This sheaf was waved on "the morrow after the Sabbath".

Lev. 23:11 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.

Note the words "on the morrow after the Sabbath." Several opinions are held as to which Sabbath is meant here, so I will begin by quoting the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible on this subject and then go on to give a few scriptural verses which have influenced us to count as we do. Article Feast of Weeks (page 633)

  1. The Boethusians (associated with the Sadducees) interpreted this Sabbath as meaning the weekly Sabbath which occurred during the festival of unleavened bread; and some modern scholars have adopted this view.
  2. The opinion has even been held that it denotes merely the weekly Sabbath which fell immediately before the harvest.
  3. The older and better opinion is that it denotes the 1st day of the festival of unleavened bread. The Greek translators understood it so. (Lev. 23:7,11 LXX) as did those who directed the services of the 2nd Temple (Jos. Antiq. iii, 10, 5); this 1st day was kept as a Sabbath: no work was done on it and there was a holy convocation; and such rest days, no less than the 7th day of the week, were called Sabbath. (Lev.23:32, 25:2) on the morrow after the Passover the new grain was used, which could not be eaten until the sheaf had been waved before the Lord (Lev.23:14, Josh.5:10,-11,R.V.) The festival fell on the 50th day after the waving of the sheaf, which gave rise to its name Pentecost or 50th day (Acts 2:1)."

The critical question now is, "which of these three opinions is the correct one?" for though SBS, like the Jews and the Westminster Dictionary, favours the third alternative, that does not necessarily mean that it is the correct one. In this letter, therefore, I will give you scriptural reasons why we count to Pentecost from the morrow after the first day of unleavened bread - the method mentioned at point 3 above. I will do this because I fully realise that even the best authorities can be wrong. Besides, we should base our opinions on the Scriptures alone. On this subject we find that Leviticus 23:11-14 states that the harvest was not to be eaten till after the wave sheaf and the food and drink offerings had been presented to God.

Lev.23:11-14 And ye shall eat neither bread, not parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God.

The statutory progression of events was as follows:

  1. First came the Sabbath. (the one we are trying to identify)
  2. Then on the next day the wave sheaf and the meat and drink offerings were presented to God.
  3. And AFTER that Israel was allowed to eat bread, parched corn or green ears.

It is this third point, the eating of the bread, parched corn or green years, that gives us the clue as to which Sabbath triggers the 50th day count to Pentecost. We read further in the book of Joshua that the children of Israel, in obedience to the regulations laid down in Leviticus 23:11-14 ate the corn of the land "on the morrow after the Passover."
Note the words "on the morrow after the Passover".

Josh.5:10-12 And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the Passover, unleavened cakes and parched corn on the selfsame day.
Looking at this passage closely and comparing it with the one in Leviticus 23, we cannot help but conclude that Joshua (a type of Christ) was here faithfully carrying out the instructions given in Leviticus 23, and that "the morrow after the Sabbath" in Leviticus 23 and "the morrow after the Passover" in Joshua 5 were in fact referring to the same day. And so, though, we still haven't identified the Sabbath of Leviticus 23:11, we now know that in the book of Joshua that same Sabbath was called "the Passover". The inevitable question now becomes: and what day is the Passover held on - which in Leviticus 23:11 is simply called "the Sabbath"?

The answer is, the Passover is held on the first day of unleavened bread, which is also a Sabbath day. Yes, the Passover is held on the first day of unleavened bread (15th.Abib) Here is the proof.

Matt.26:17 Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus saying unto him, where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover.
Mark 14:12 And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover.
Luke 22:7 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed.

These three texts prove that the preparations for the Passover took place just before the first day of unleavened bread - that is, at the end of the 14th Abib. This is in complete agreement with Yahweh's instructions as recorded in Exodus 12 where we see how the Passover Lamb was slain towards the evening or end of the 14th Abib - the period which immediately preceded the first day of unleavened bread. (Exodus 12:5-6) For further evidence see our leaflet entitled The Passover - When?

The inevitable conclusion, therefore, is: that Joshua must have kept the Passover on the first day of unleavened bread and then gone on to eat the corn of the land on the morrow after it.
In other words, Joshua's 50 day count to Pentecost must have begun on the morrow after the first day of unleavened bread, which is a Sabbath day.

By way of summary we may say that we in Stewarton count to Pentecost from:

  1. The morrow after the Sabbath. (Lev. 23:11) which elsewhere is referred to as
  2. The morrow after the Passover (Joshua 5:11), which elsewhere is identified as
  3. The first day of the feast of unleavened bread.

Concerning the wording of Leviticus 23:15-16, Hebrew scholars admit that the words "seven sabbaths" and the "seventh Sabbath" in these verses do not necessarily mean seven Saturdays but rather "seven weeks". Even the Greeks who translated this as Pentecost understood it to mean 7 weeks - not 7 Saturdays. Using a calendar which is not distorted by manmade regulations and traditions we count to Pentecost each year, because it does not always fall on the 6th day of Sivan every year as some incorrectly suppose. Because the first and second months do not have fixed lengths Pentecost must be counted to.

In the present Jewish calendar months have fixed lengths - and this is not strictly scriptural. Abib, for instance could be 30 days or 29 days in length. Likewise the second month, it may be 29 or 30 days in length. This affects the count - so Pentecost is counted to, because it does NOT always fall on the 6th day of Sivan.

Our method is by no means a new one; it was used long, long ago and was used by the Pharisees and, as the Westminster Dictionary puts it, "by those who directed the services of the 2nd Temple," the one the Saviour walked in. He recommended that we listen to the Pharisees in this matter (Matt.23:2-3).

The Boethusian way of counting 50 days from the Sunday during the week of unleavened bread is, nevertheless, worthy of consideration. You will need to contact other groups who use that method. We in Stewarton also keep a close watch for the SIGNS in the sun, moon and stars on the Sunday that is arrived at by that method of counting. As it is a non-working day in Britain, we have no trouble doing this. No doubt a SIGN in the sun or moon, as indicated in Genesis 1:14, would settle the matter as to which counting method is correct.

There has been centuries of dispute over the 'count to Pentecost,' and no doubt this will continue till the Master returns. Meanwhile my advice to all is to keep an open mind on it and respect the opinions of other believers. Above all we cannot afford to pontificate on the subject, because it is not as clear cut as some think.

By far the greater issue is the one about the distorted calendar that so many festival-keeping Christians are currently using. That error alone causes millions of believers to inadvertently keep over half of Yahweh's festivals on the wrong dates in two out of three years. For further details see Question 6.


Elder: David B Loughran

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June 1999
Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland