Christian observances of Jewish holidays

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

Christian observances of Jewish holidays (Yamim Tovim) is a practice evidenced since the time of Christ. 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.

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, Pentecostals and a variety of Church of God groups instruct their members to observe the religious holidays described in the Tanakh, but interpreted, they believe, in the light of the New Testament. Some Seventh-day Adventists have also adopted the Jewish holidays against the wishes of the denominational leaders.[citation needed] 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 God's holy days,[1] that Jesus himself kept God's holy days during his ministry,[2] and that 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."

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 Paul the Apostle confirms this view by linking Jesus' sacrifice to the fulfilment of the Jewish feast of Passover.[4] Jesus was not only declared the "Lamb of God" by John the Baptist,[5] 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.

The Eucharist 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).[6] 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.

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. 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.[7]

Among congregations of the "Churches of God", Passover (also referred to as "New Testament Passover") is considered a time of deep spiritual introspection, observed by an annual Eucharist, followed by ceremonial foot washing, based on Christ's example in John 13. It is held that work is permissible on Passover day following the memorial service. This is followed by a seven-day observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread, prior to which all leavening agents are removed from one's house and property, including bread products made with yeast, sodium bicarbonate or baking powder. These are believed to symbolize sin during this time period. Members also eat unleavened bread, which is believed to be a spiritual picture of living a Christlike life by partaking of the "true Bread of life" and avoiding sin. 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" held as a special memorial of the Exodus from Egypt and believed to picture deliverance from one's past sinful lives.[8]

St Thomas Syrian Christians (Nazranis) in the malabar coast of India (Kerala) have a customary celebration of Pesaha at their homes. On the evening before Good Friday the Pesaha bread is made at home. It is made with unleavened flour and they use a sweet drink made up of coconut milk and jaggery along with this bread ( can be compared to Charoset). On the Pesaha night the bread is baked or steamed in a new vessel, immediately after rice flour is mixed with water and they pierce it many times with handle of the spoon to let out the steam so that the bread will not rise ( this custom is called " juthante kannu kuthal" in the Malayalam language meaning piercing the bread according to the custom of Jews). This bread is cut by the head of the family and shared among the family members after prayers. In some families, a creamy dip made up of jaggery and coconut milk is used along with the Peasha bread. If the family is in mourning following a death, Pesaha bread is not made at their home, but some of the Syrian Christian neighbours share their bread with them. This custom may have its origin in their probable Jewish ancestry since many other Jewish customs like separating the sexes at church, praying with veil in their heads(women), naming conventions in line with the Jewish customs, kiss of peace( kaikasthoori) in their Holy Quorbono (mass), presentation of their babies on the 40th day after birth in the church and ceremonial bath of the dead bodies. Unlike other Christians, in their weddings the bride stands on the right side of the groom resembling the Jewish custom and during the wedding a veil is given to the bride.[9]

Christian Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)[edit]

The traditional Christian holiday of Pentecost is based on the Jewish holiday of 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 Festivals laid out for the Torah observant Jews, which was the reason for the huge gathering of Jewish believers in Jerusalem on that same day.

Christian Feast of Trumpets[edit]

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated by a number of Christian denominations and unincorporated house church groups within the United States, including: Assemblies of Yahweh, Messianic Jews, some congregations of the Church of God (Seventh Day), some evangelical Protestant churches (mainly Baptist), as well as Seventh Day Pentecostals in Eastern Europe. This day of resounding is also known in Judaism by the name "Yom Teruah" and in Christianity as the Feast of Trumpets.[10]

Christian Gentile and Messianic Jewish 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 4:16, Revelation 1:10).

Some say this "pivotal event of all human history to which the Feast of Trumpets points is the Return of Christ".[11] Some evangelical television channels call Rosh Hashanna eve the "Feast of Trumpets", for example at CBN TV that marks the Jewish New Year with a staff gathering for Rosh Hashanah.[12]

Latter Day Saint movement[edit]

Joseph Smith is said to have received the golden plates (which became The Book of Mormon) on the Rosh Hashanah on 22 September 1827.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is said to be fulfilling such prophecies of the day.[15]

Christian Day of Atonement[edit]

Mainstream Christians do not celebrate Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). The New Testament refers to the Day of Atonement in Acts 27:9,[16] but does not show Christians celebrating it.[17]

Assuming an apostolic practice of observing Yom Kippur, a small number of evangelical Christians observe it today. Among congregations of the Churches of God, the Day of Atonement is observed as an annual Sabbath where members fast in observance of Leviticus 23:27-29. Most, like Roderick C. Meredith, former leader of the Living Church of God, also believe that the Day of Atonement "pictures the binding of Satan at the beginning of the Millennium and the world becoming at one with God."[18] Children and those with medical conditions for whom fasting could be detrimental are not expected to participate.[8]

Many groups affiliated with Messianic Judaism have provided instruction describing the evangelical significance for observance of this day.[19][20][21]

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 been lost and sailing was now dangerous, because even the Fast had already gone by, Paul advised them".

Christian Feast of Tabernacles[edit]

Jesus observed the Jewish Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles or Festival of Booths) during his ministry (see John 7:1–52). Referring to Paul the Apostle, 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 which feast this refers to, but Protestant scholar Thomas Lewin concluded that Paul was referring to the Feast of Tabernacles.[22][23]

In the 2nd century, Jewish Christianity certainly kept the Feast of Tabernacles, according to 20th century Catholic scholar Cardinal Jean Danielou,[24] where its celebration was tied to millenarianism as it is with many Christians who observe it today. Its observance was centered in the Asiatic environment to which both Papias and Cerinthus belonged.[25] Cardinal Danielou also saw references to the Feast of Tabernacles in the Shepherd of Hermas,[26] which would indicate that around that time some in Rome also observed it, though he believes that later on they transferred it to become something else. According to Saint Jerome, Polycarp also kept the Feast of Tabernacles in the 2nd century in Asia Minor.[27]

Saint Methodius of Olympus (died c. 311) taught that Christians should observe the Feast of Tabernacles, and he also tied it to the teaching of the millennial reign of Christ: "For since in six days God made the heaven and earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, so by a figure in the seventh month, when the fruits of the earth have been gathered in, we are commanded to keep the feast to the Lord, which signified that, when this world shall be terminated at the seventh thousand years, when God shall have completed the world, He shall rejoice in us."[28]

Didymus The Blind (c. 313-398) also enjoined the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, and cited 2 Peter 1:14 and 2 Cor. 5:4, where he identified the temporary dwelling with the human body, saying that only those who preserve the purity of their bodies and spirits will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, and that Sukkot will be celebrated in the next world at the resurrection, when the saved will rise into an incorruptible body, rising up in power and glory to become a sacred dwelling.[29]

After the rise of Emperor Constantine, Christian observance of the Feast of Tabernacles became increasingly viewed as heretical by the developing Catholic church. In the 4th century, Epiphanius discusses Nazarene Christians who kept the Jewish Holy Days in various locations in his time, a practice which he considered heretical.[30] John Chrysostom (of Constantinople) commented that people who professed Christ in his area were also observing the Feast of Tabernacles, which he also considered heretical,[31] as did St. Jerome in the 4th and 5th Centuries,[32] who notes that these Christians also gave the feast a millenarian significance.[33]

Nevertheless, a small number of Christian groups continued to observe the Feast of Tabernacles outside of the sphere of the Catholic Church. In 1588, the Szekler Sabbatarians of Transylvania united under the unitarian nobleman András Eőssi, observed Christian versions of all of the biblical Jewish Holy Days including the Feast of Tabernacles. They also rejected the observance of Christmas, Easter, and New Year's Day. Within a decade, they grew to be represented in many towns and villages, mainly centered in the towns of Szekely-Keresztur (today the Romanian town of Cristuru-Secuiesc) and Koropatak (today Bodoc), and a number of Hungarian villages. They developed a hymn book with songs specifically for Christian observance of the Jewish Holy Days [34][35] They considered themselves as converted gentiles who had inherited from the Jews the eternally binding law, which God had given.[36] By 1637, there were believed to number between 15,000 and 20,000, until they attracted the attention of the Hungarian parliament. In 1600 a decree was passed which allowed their estates and properties to be confiscated, and in 1618, a decree was passed in Cluj with the approval of Prince Bethlen to solve the "Jewish Christian Problem" by giving them one year to rejoin one of the reorganized churches. Soon afterward, their books were confiscated and burnt. By the end of the mid 17th century, they still were represented in at least eleven towns and villages in Transylvania, but by 1865 only about 170-180 members remained in the town of Bozod-Ujfalu (near Gyula Feheruar). The group was later absorbed into Judaism during the 1930s.

In 1900, the Feast of Tabernacles was formally celebrated 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, Church of God groups,[37][38] and Apollo Quiboloy's Kingdom of Jesus Christ church in the Philippines,[39] as well as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).[40] 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.[40][41]

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, participate in special meals, music, and worship services, and give alms. 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. As with many Christians who have observed it in the past, it is tied to Christ's millennial reign on earth, believed to be a time of great spiritual and physical blessing for all mankind.[8] Members are instructed to save a tenth of their income as part of a Second tithe to spend on themselves and their families in order to have the means to observe all the holidays, but particularly the Feast of Tabernacles.


Within Christianity[edit]

Within mainstream Christianity, the practice of observing Jewish holidays has received varying degrees of support and criticism. Although much more common in the early church, Christian observance of Jewish holidays is generally viewed as unnecessary or legalistic by the majority of mainstream Christian Gentiles.

Some critics of Christian observance of Jewish holidays have echoed the comments of the 4th 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.[42]

Some, like popular evangelist John Hagee believe they have educational value, but does not believe their observance is obligatory. Others fear their observance leads to an inevitable slide into Judaism, though there is little evidence for this.

Within Judaism[edit]

Within Judaism, the opinions are much less varied. Many Jewish people see the practice as in poor taste due to the millennia-long persecution of the Jewish people by Christians.[citation needed]

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". Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  8. ^ a b c Editors of Beyond Today Magazine (2016, March–April), Questions and Answers, Beyond Today, p. 29. A publication of the United Church of God, an International Association.
  9. ^ Sunish George J Alumkalnal, Pesaha celebration of Nasranis: a sociocultural analysis. Journal of Indo Judaic studies No 13, 2013 pages 57-71
  10. ^ "Rosh haShanah explained, Yom Kippur, Tabernacles #1". September 7, 2018.
  11. ^ The Feast of Trumpets at the Restored Church of God website.
  12. ^ "Rosh Hashanah: The Start of the Jewish New Year".
  13. ^ "The Golden Plates and the Feast of Trumpets".
  14. ^ McConkie, Promised Messiah, 432-37; Read, "Symbols of the Harvest," 35-36.
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 506.
  17. ^ "As the Day of Atonement was over, navigation was considered dangerous due to possible winter storms"
  18. ^ Roderick C. Meredith, The Holy Days—God's Master Plan at
  19. ^ "Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement".
  20. ^ "Yom Kippur / The Day of Atonement - Chapter 8".
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-29. Retrieved 2010-07-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ Lewin, Thomas, Fasti Sacri, Or A Key To The Chronology of The New Testament, Longmans, 1895, p. 300
  23. ^ Lewin, Thomas, The Life And Epistles of St. Paul, Vol. 2, G. Bell and Sons, 1878, p. 343.
  24. ^ Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Transl. by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, pp. 343, 345.
  25. ^ Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Transl. by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, pp. 345-346.
  26. ^ Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Transl. by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, pp. 341-345.
  27. ^ Migne JP Argumentum Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415 - 1542A, pp. 922, 930.
  28. ^ Methodius, Banquet of The Ten Virgins, Discourse 9, Transl. by William R. Clark, From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6, Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, Buffalo, New York, Christian Literature Co., 1886. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.
  29. ^ Dacy, M.J., Sukkot, pp. 170 - 172.
  30. ^ Epiphanius. The Panarion of Ephiphanius of Salamis: Book II (sects 1-46) Section 1, Chap. 19, 7-9. Frank Williams, editor. Publisher BRILL, 1987, p. 117-119.
  31. ^ John Chrysostom. Homily I Against The Jews 1:5; VI: 5; VII:2. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 A.D., Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Fordham University. (
  32. ^ Migne JP Argumentum Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415-1542S, pp. 922, 930
  33. ^ Bagatti, Bellarmino., Transl. by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, pp. 202, 297, 298.
  34. ^ Die Sabbatharier in Siebenburgen (The Sabbatarians in Transylvania), Ihre Geschichte, Literatur und Dogmatic (their story, literature and doctrines) ein Beitrag zur Religions und Kulturgeshichte der Juengsten Drei Jahrhunderte (a contribution to the religious and cultural history of the last three centuries) by Dr. Samuel Kohn, printed in Leipzig, Germany, 1894., pp. 62-67. Samuel Kohn was Chief Rabbi of Budapest
  35. ^ The Feast of Tabernacles at the Restored Church of God website.
  36. ^ Die Sabbatharier in Siebenburgen (The Sabbatarians in Transylvania), Ihre Geschichte, Literatur und Dogmatic (their story, literature and doctrines) ein Beitrag zur Religions und Kulturgeshichte der Juengsten Drei Jahrhunderte (a contribution to the religious and cultural history of the last three centuries) by Dr. Samuel Kohn, printed in Leipzig, Germany, 1894., p. 116.
  37. ^ From the Fringe to the Fold (Armstrongism),
  38. ^ "The Church of God, Ministries International - Feast of Tabernacles 2019".
  39. ^ Davao sect draws top politicos Archived 2009-11-09 at the Wayback Machine (Kingdom of Jesus Christ)
  40. ^ a b "International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem: About the Feast". Archived from the original on September 9, 2009.
  41. ^ "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
  42. ^ John Chrysostom, Homily 1 in Adversus Judaeos