Christian observances of Jewish holidays

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Over 15,000 members of the Worldwide Church of God attend a Christian Feast of Tabernacles observance in Big Sandy, Texas in 1978

A small number of Christian denominations - including the Assemblies of Yahweh, Messianic Jews, some congregations of the Church of God (Seventh Day), the World Mission Society Church of God, Hebrew Roots, as well as a variety of COG groups - observe religious holidays inspired by Jewish observances or derived from the Hebrew Bible. The original Jewish holidays may be honored in their original form in recognition of Christianity's Jewish roots, or altered to suit Christian theology. Symbolic and thematic features of Jewish services are commonly interpreted in a Christian light, for example, the Paschal Lamb of the Passover Seder being viewed as a symbol of Christ's sacrifice.

Christian Passover[edit]

Most Christians traditionally do not celebrate Passover, regarding it as superseded by Easter and the passover lamb as supplanted by the Eucharist, Holy Communion.

But there are Christian groups - again Assemblies of Yahweh, Messianic Jews, Hebrew Roots, and some congregations of the Church of God (Seventh Day) - that celebrate some parts of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The main Christian view seem to present the Passover meal, that was held on the night before Jesus died on on the official lunar calendar of same year, also named Last Supper, as the Evening of New Covenant and generally agree that was on Thursday being observed at Church. The Christian view also seem to present the Day of First Fruit (First day of omer), that was held according the Law in the morrow after Saturday during the feast of unleavened bread, as Resurrection Sunday (also known as Easter). Christian Passover is a religious observance celebrated by a small number of First Century Believers instead of, or alongside, the more common Christian holy day and festival of Easter. The redemption from the bondage of sin through the sacrifice of Christ is celebrated, a parallel of the Jewish Passover's celebration of redemption from bondage in the land of Egypt.[1]

Christian Pentecost[edit]

Main article: Pentecost

The traditional Christian holiday of Pentecost is based on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost (Hebrew Shavuot) celebrated seven weeks after the start of Passover. Pentecost is part of the Movable Cycle of the ecclesiastical year. According to Christian tradition, Pentecost is always seven weeks after Easter Sunday; that is to say, 50 days after Easter (inclusive of Easter Day). In other words, it falls on the eighth Sunday, counting Easter Day (see article on Computus for the calculation of the date of Easter). Pentecost celebrates the birth of the Church, when thousands of Jews were in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot, and heard Peter and the disciples speaking in their own language.

Pentecost falls in mid- to late spring in the Northern Hemisphere and mid- to late autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.

Feast of Trumpets[edit]

Main article: Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah celebration in Christianity is done by Assemblies of Yahweh, Messianic Jews, some congregations of the Church of God (Seventh Day), some Evangelical Protestant or Neo-Protestant Churches (mainly Baptist) in United States and usually by Seventh Day Pentecostals in Eastern Europe that celebrate some parts of the Jewish holiday. This day of resounding is also known in Judaism by the name "Yom Teruah" and in Christianity as Feast of Trumpets.

Christians and Messianic believers connect hearing "the sound of the trumpet" or shofar, according the First Epistle to the Thessalonians and the Revelation of John, with the events that occur at the Resurrection of the dead ("For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God. And those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first."1Thess 4:16Revelation 1:10).

Some say this "pivotal event of all human history to which the Feast of Trumpets points is the Return of Christ".[2] Also some evangelical television channels call Rosh Hashanna eve: "Feast of Trumpets" for example at CBN TV that marks the Jewish New Year with a staff gathering for Rosh Hashanah.[3]

Day of Atonement[edit]

Christians traditionally do not celebrate the Jewish holiday of the Day of Atonement (Hebrew Yom Kippur). Although the Day of Atonement has theological significance in the New Testament, where the Letter to the Hebrews views the death of Christ as a completion once and for all of the Atonement sacrifice. The New Testament refers to the Jewish Day of Atonement in Acts 27:9,[4] but does not show Christians celebrating it.[5]

Assuming an apostolic practice of observing Yom Kippur, a small number of evangelical Christians observe it today. Roderick C. Meredith, leader of the Living Church of God, believes that the Day of Atonement "pictures the binding of Satan at the beginning of the Millennium and the world becoming at one with God."[6] Many groups affiliated with Messianic Judaism have provided instruction describing the evangelical significance for observance of this day.[7][8][9]

Feast of Tabernacles[edit]

During his ministry Jesus observed the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (or Festival of Booths, Hebrew Sukkot) in John 7:1-52, but the feast does not occur again in the New Testament and Christians traditionally make no observance of this feast.

The Szekler Sabbatarians of Transylvania, followers of unitarian nobleman András Eőssi, were one of the few Christian groups to observe Jewish holidays in the pre-modern era. A history by Samuel Kohn, chief Rabbi of Budapest (Sabbatarians in Transylvania, 1894) notes that Sabbatarians in Transylvania observed the Feast of Tabernacles in the early 17th century.[10] The group were later absorbed into Judaism during the 1930s.

The Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated only by a small number Christian groups,[11] among them churches affiliated with Armstrongism[12][13] or the Apollo Quiboloy's 'Kingdom of Jesus Christ' church in the Philippines,[14] as well as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).[15] They cite God's and the prophets' injunctions in the Old Testament that the Israelites observe the holiday, and accounts in the New Testament of how Jesus and his apostles kept this commandment.[15][16]

Criticism of Christian observance of Jewish holidays[edit]

By Christians[edit]

4th century theologian John Chrysostom said, "The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now."[17]

Such a strong expression of this view, especially if associated with Anti-Judaism, is not common in the contemporary church. However, it is an exaggeration to claim that Christians in general tend to adopt and adapt Jewish festivals.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The United Church of God
  2. ^ The Feast of Trumpets at the Restored Church of God website.
  3. ^ Rosh Hashanah: The Start of the Jewish New Year
  4. ^ F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 506.
  5. ^ "As the Day of Atonement was over, navigation was considered dangerous due to possible winter storms"
  6. ^ Roderick C. Meredith, The Holy Days—God's Master Plan at
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Feast of Tabernacles at the Restored Church of God website.
  11. ^ Feast of Tabernacles celebrations, 2010, USA
  12. ^ From the Fringe to the Fold (Armstrongism),
  13. ^ Worldwide Church of God and the Feast of the Tabernacles
  14. ^ Davao sect draws top politicos (Kingdom of Jesus Christ)
  15. ^ a b International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem: About the Feast
  16. ^ "Today there are still Christians faithfully observing the same festivals Christ kept. These annual occasions were instituted to keep God's people, in all ages, aware of the key aspects of the mission and work of the true Messiah." Good News magazine, September/October 1997
  17. ^ John Chrysostom, Homily 1 in Adversus Judaeos
  18. ^ Lieske, Bruce J. "Jewish Feasts in Gentile Congregations"