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

The tradition of Christians celebrating Jewish holidays, which would be better termed "Biblical Holidays" or the "Lord's Feasts" as they are designated in the Book of Leviticus chapter 23, transcends any church or denomination. All Christians agree that Jesus' parents kept the Lord's Feasts,[1] Jesus Christ Himself kept the Biblical Holidays during His ministry,[2] and the Apostles observed the same feasts after they were called "Christians".[3] The Book of Acts chapter 2 records that the start of the Christian Church began on a Biblical feast day: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."

Christians believe that the intended purpose of all Biblical Holidays is to foreshadow or point to the identity of Messiah. The Apostle Paul confirms this view by linking Jesus' Sacrifice to the fulfillment of the first Jewish Feast "Passover".[4] Jesus was not only declared the "Lamb of God" by His forerunner,[5] a reference to the Passover Lamb which saved the Jewish nation, but Christ was also presented as the Lamb in Jerusalem on 10 Nissan, then four days later was crucified on precisely the day Jews celebrate Passover on 14 Nissan.

Christian communion was instituted the night of the Passover Seder which Jesus and the apostles were celebrating. The transfiguration occurred while Jesus, Peter, James and John were celebrating the Feast of Sukkot (aka Tabernacles or Booths).[6] Prominent Protestant leaders such as J.R. Church, Chuck Missler, Sid Roth, Mark Biltz, Perry Stone and John Hagee advocate the return to the first century walk of faith and Christianity's connection to its Hebrew roots.

Christians from various Christians denominations currently celebrate the Biblical holidays in addition to the popular and virtually secular holidays of Christmas and Easter. As a group these Christians form non-denominational alliances such as Christians for Israel and Christians United for Israel; they also form a global, cross-denominational movement called Hebrew Roots or Messianic Judaism consisting of Christians and Jews. 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 (Church of God) groups - have officially mandated their members to 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) and the W.W.J.D. MOVEMENT - 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.[7]

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 the Scriptures, Pentecost is always seven weeks after the day after the Sabbath day which always occurs during Unleavened Bread (*Unleavened Bread is a seven day holy day which immediately follows Passover. Those of Rabbinic Jewish persuasion avoid celebration of Shavuot on the day after the Sabbath (the first day of the week). However, Karaite Jews and those of the W.W.J.D. MOVEMENT, celebrate by this holy day according to Scriptural mandate on the day after the Sabbath. This Sunday celebration, in Christian tradition, is calculated as 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. However, Shavuot, is one of the three pilgrimage feasts laid out for the Torah observant Jews, which was the reason for the huge gathering of God-fearing Jewish believers to be in Jerusalem on that same day. 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 W.W.J.D. MOVEMENT, 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".[8] 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.[9]

Latter Day Saint theology[edit]

Joseph Smith is said to have received the golden plates (which became The Book of Mormon) on the Israelite Rosh ha-Shanah on 22 September 1827.[10] Biblical references and interpretation by Jewish sages through the centuries set this day as the day God would remember his covenants with Israel to bring them back from exile. On this day ritual trumpet blasts signify the issuance of revelation and a call for Israel to gather for God's word of redemption. Set at the time of Israel's final agricultural harvest, the day also symbolizes the Lord's final harvest of souls.[11] Furthermore, it initiates the completion of the Lord's time periods, the Days of Awe, and signifies the last time to prepare for final judgment and the Messianic Age.[12] The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is said to be fulfilling such prophecies of the day.[12]

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,[13] but does not show Christians celebrating it.[14]

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."[15] Many groups affiliated with Messianic Judaism have provided instruction describing the evangelical significance for observance of this day.[16][17][18]

One rationale for celebrating the Day of Atonement is that the Apostle Paul celebrated it and would not miss it during a storm on a ship. The Book of Acts chapter 17 verse 9 records, "Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them". The word "fast" is preceded by the definite article "the"; "the fast" is an idiom for the Biblical holiday of Day of Atonement as it is the one day of the year all believers were required to fast and humble themselves. This was not "a fast" but "the fast".

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.[19] The group were later absorbed into Judaism during the 1930s.

The Feast of Tabernacles was formally celebrated in 1900 by the Southern Baptist's at Falls Creek Encampment. There are pictures of the original Falls Creek Tabernacle with the blowing of the shofar to call to service. It was also celebrated heavily among those in the south, known as Bush Arbors, as late as the 1960s. From this movement came the history of tent revivals, which birthed the world-wide evangelist Billy Graham.

Today, The Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles or SUKKOT is celebrated by a growing number of groups, including Messianic Jews, and the W.W.J.D. MOVEMENT. Also among those who celebrate this holy day are churches affiliated with Armstrongism[20][21] or the Apollo Quiboloy's 'Kingdom of Jesus Christ' church in the Philippines,[22] as well as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).[23] 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.[23][24]

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."[25]

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.[26]

Rebuttal to Criticism[edit]

Little dispute exists over the spiritual application of Passover and Pentecost to Christians. Without the shedding of the true Lamb's blood commemorated at each Passover, there would be no redemption or remission of sins. In several unrelated languages, Easter is still called by its original name Passover or some variant of Pesach or Pascha. Pentecost is universally accepted among Christians. Several of the fastest growing Christian denominations call themselves "Pentecostal", a direct reference to the fourth feast fulfilled by the Holy Spirit's descent upon believers.

Dispute remains over whether or not Christians must observe all the holidays mentioned in the Bible. Since all Biblical holidays point to the Messiah, leaders of the Hebrew Roots movement see no basis to prefer one holiday over another. In addition to the fact that Jesus, the Apostles and Early Church Fathers celebrated Biblical holidays, a strong argument in favor of Christians keeping these holidays is found in the apocalyptic Scriptures which refer to the future.

The Book of Zechariah chapter 14 verse 16 speaks of Gentile nations remaining after the "Lord is king over all the earth": "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles." In both Jewish and Christian eschatology, this scripture refers to a time when the Messiah will come to physically rule in Jerusalem. This reference gives confirmation that future Gentiles are required by the Lord to keep at least an additional feast to Passover and Pentecost: the Feast of Tabernacles.

Christian scholars such as Chuck Missler, Mark Davidson, and Perry Stone argue that the first four feasts have been fulfilled by Christ's first coming, therefore the final three feasts will also be fulfilled around the time of Christ's second coming. The Biblical holidays find their meaning in Messiah, and either commemorates what He has done or what He will do. They are therefore eternal holidays for believers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Luke 2:41
  2. ^ Matthew 26:17, John 5:1, John 7:4, 37, 10:22, 11:56, 12:12, 13:1, 29,
  3. ^ [Acts 18:21, Acts 20:16,Acts 27:9]
  4. ^ 1 Corinthians 5:7
  5. ^ John 1:29
  6. ^ Matthew 17:4
  7. ^ The United Church of God
  8. ^ The Feast of Trumpets at the Restored Church of God website.
  9. ^ Rosh Hashanah: The Start of the Jewish New Year
  10. ^
  11. ^ McConkie, Promised Messiah, 432-37; Read, "Symbols of the Harvest," 35-36.
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 506.
  14. ^ "As the Day of Atonement was over, navigation was considered dangerous due to possible winter storms"
  15. ^ Roderick C. Meredith, The Holy Days—God's Master Plan at
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ The Feast of Tabernacles at the Restored Church of God website.
  20. ^ From the Fringe to the Fold (Armstrongism),
  21. ^ Worldwide Church of God and the Feast of the Tabernacles
  22. ^ Davao sect draws top politicos (Kingdom of Jesus Christ)
  23. ^ a b International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem: About the Feast
  24. ^ "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
  25. ^ John Chrysostom, Homily 1 in Adversus Judaeos
  26. ^ Lieske, Bruce J. "Jewish Feasts in Gentile Congregations"