Christian observances of Jewish holidays
Christian observance of Jewish holidays (referred to as "God's holy days" or the "Feasts of the Lord" in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 23) is a practice evidenced since the time of Christ which transcends any one particular church or denomination. Today, the practice includes Messianic Jews, members of the Hebrew Roots Movement, and a number of independent churches which observe them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways, with a variety of interpretations. Some merely observe them for educational purposes; others, for example, those in the Restorationist Movement, are motivated by a desire to return to what is believed to be the true, original practice and beliefs of the early Apostolic church, and believe that Christianity has since been corrupted by tradition, anti-Semitism, Gnosticism, and Greco-Roman philosophy.
Specific practices vary among denominations: these 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. 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. Most of these denominations also eschew the observance of Christmas and Easter, believing them to be later, pagan corruptions.
Most point to the tradition that Jesus' parents kept the Jewish holy days, that Jesus himself kept the Jewish holy days during his ministry, and that the Apostles observed the same feasts after they were called "Christians". 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."
Many of these Christians believe that the intended purpose of all of the biblical holy days is to foreshadow or point to the identity of the Messiah, citing that the Paul the Apostle confirms this view by linking Jesus' sacrifice to the fulfilment of the Jewish feast of Passover. Jesus was not only declared the "Lamb of God" by John the Baptist, a reference to the Passover lamb, but was also presented as the Lamb in Jerusalem on 10 Nisan, then four days later crucified on precisely the day Jews brought the Passover sacrifice, 14 Nisan.
Christian communion was instituted on 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 (Tabernacles or Booths). Prominent Protestant leaders such as Chuck Missler, Sid Roth, and John Hagee advocate the return to the 1st century walk of faith and Christianity's connection to its Hebrew roots.
Most Christians traditionally do not celebrate Passover, regarding it as superseded by Easter and the Passover lamb as supplanted by the Eucharist. But there are Christian groups, the 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 seems to present the Passover meal, which was held on the night before Jesus died, also named Last Supper, as the Evening of New Covenant, and Christians generally agree that was on Thursday being observed at Church.[clarification needed] The Christian view also seems to present the Day of First Fruit, which was held according to Jewish law on the day 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 1st 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.
Among congregations of the "Churches of God", Passover (also referred to as "New Testament Passover") is observed by an annual Eucharist, followed by ceremonial foot washing. This is followed by a seven-day observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread, prior to which all leavening is removed from one's house and property. The first and last days are observed as holy days, with a congregational meeting and meal of unleavened food. Traditionally, there is also the observance of a special meal the evening before the first day, referred to as the "Night To Be Much Observed", or the "Night To Be Much Remembered".
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. Pentecost is always seven weeks after the day after the Sabbath day which always occurs during the feast of unleavened bread. Rabbinic Jews avoid celebration of Shavuot on the day after the Sabbath (the first day of the week). However, Karaite Jews celebrate 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.
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 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.
Christian Feast of Trumpets
Rosh Hashanah celebration in Christianity is done by the 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 to the First Epistle to the Thessalonians and the Book of Revelation, 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". 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.
Latter Day Saint theology
Joseph Smith is said to have received the golden plates (which became The Book of Mormon) on the Rosh Hashanah on 22 September 1827. 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. 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. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is said to be fulfilling such prophecies of the day.
Christian Day of Atonement
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 Epistle 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 Day of Atonement in Acts 27:9, but does not show Christians celebrating it.
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." Many groups affiliated with Messianic Judaism have provided instruction describing the evangelical significance for observance of this day.
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. Acts 27:9 reads, "Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them". "The fast" is an idiom for the Biblical holiday of Day of Atonement.
Christian Feast of Tabernacles
Jesus observed the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (or Festival of Booths, Hebrew Sukkot) during his ministry (see John 7:1-52). Referring to the Apostle Paul, Acts 18:20-21 states: "When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; but bade them farewell, saying, I must keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again to you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus". Scholars debate whether the "feast" referred to in this verse refers to the Feast of Tabernacles, Pentecost or the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
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. The group were later absorbed into Judaism during the 1930s.
The Feast of Tabernacles was formally celebrated in 1900 by the Southern Baptists 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, churches affiliated with Armstrongism or Apollo Quiboloy's Kingdom of Jesus Christ church in the Philippines, as well as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). 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.
Today, actual observance practice varies. Churches may construct a communal sukkah, on church property or elsewhere, in which services are held and meals eaten, and in some congregations, dancing. In some congregations, individuals may construct their own booths which may be slept in, or where only meals may be eaten. Some members may send or exchange greeting cards prior to the event. Among congregations of the "Church of God" tradition, church leadership selects a Feast site designed to serve a large geographic area which includes a rented hall for congregational meetings and various amenities. Members travel and stay in tents at local campgrounds or (more commonly) stay in a hotel where they may attend daily worship services and participate in recreation, fellowship, sight-seeing, and church activities for eight days.
Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day of Assembly)
Also referred to by some as "The Last Great Day". Some Christian eschatology connects celebration of the three fall feasts of Israel (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles) to the Rapture. In this setting, Shemini Atzeret, the "Eighth Day of Assembly", would occur on the 22nd day of the saints being in Heaven, at which time the Great Separation of The Sheep and the Goats would occur (Matthew 25:32-46).
Within mainstream Christianity, the practice of observing Jewish holidays has received varying degrees of criticism. Although much more common in the early church, their observance is now generally viewed as either legalistic or merely unnecessary by mainstream Christianity, and many tend to echo the comments of the Fourth Century theologian John Chrysostom who 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.".
Others, like popular evangelist John Hagee believe they have educational value, though do not believe their observance is obligatory. Even within Messianic Judaism, there is a varying degree of criticism and support.
- Luke 2:41
- Matthew 26:17, John 5:1, John 7:4, 37, 10:22, 11:56, 12:12, 13:1, 29,
- [Acts 18:21, Acts 20:16,Acts 27:9]
- 1 Corinthians 5:7
- John 1:29
- Matthew 17:4
- The United Church of God
- The Feast of Trumpets at the Restored Church of God website.
- Rosh Hashanah: The Start of the Jewish New Year
- McConkie, Promised Messiah, 432-37; Read, "Symbols of the Harvest," 35-36.
- F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 506.
- "As the Day of Atonement was over, navigation was considered dangerous due to possible winter storms"
- Roderick C. Meredith, The Holy Days—God's Master Plan at www.tomorrowsworld.org.
- The Feast of Tabernacles at the Restored Church of God website.
- From the Fringe to the Fold (Armstrongism),
- Worldwide Church of God and the Feast of the Tabernacles
- Davao sect draws top politicos (Kingdom of Jesus Christ)
- International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem: About the Feast
- "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
- Orlowski, David (2011), Our First 22 Days in Heaven, Two Trees Publishing, Phoenix.
- John Chrysostom, Homily 1 in Adversus Judaeos