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.

Some Christian groups incorporate Jewish holidays into their religious practice, typically altering and reinterpreting their observation to suit a supersessionist theology.

Supporters point to Jesus' Jewish roots, and to the tradition that he and the Apostles observed Jewish holidays.[1][2] Though some early Christian sects like the Jewish Christian did maintain elements of Judaism, the phenomenon is decidedly modern, originating in 20th century Evangelical movements like Hebrew Roots, Messianic Judaism, and Armstrongism. Many of the Jewish practices appropriated by these groups originated in modern rabbinic Judaism, long postdating early Christianity.

Such Christian observances have been described by some as an offensive form of cultural appropriation and a misinterpretation of Jewish traditions.[3][4][5] Within Christianity, critics question the practice's theological consistency and its potential to harm interfaith relationships.[6][7]


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 is 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 the root of a global, cross-denominational movement called Messianic Judaism, and of its offshoot known as Hebrew Roots.

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,[8] that Jesus himself kept God's holy days during his ministry,[9] and that the Apostles observed the same feasts after they were called "Christians".[10] 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 has 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.[11] Jesus was not only declared the "Lamb of God" by John the Baptist,[12] 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).[13] 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]

It is not common for mainstream Christians to celebrate Passover. Some regard Passover 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. As well, there are mainstream Christians from historic liturgical traditions (i.e., Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etc.), who celebrate the Passover meal in order to provide historical and cultural background for Maundy Thursday, part of the Paschal Triduum, during Holy Week.

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.[14]

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, Haymanot and 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.[15]

Christian 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".[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is said to be fulfilling such prophecies of the day.[20]

Christian Day of Atonement[edit]

It is not common for mainstream Christians to celebrate Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). The New Testament refers to the Day of Atonement in Acts 27:9,[21] but does not specify whether or not Christians were celebrating it.[22]

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."[23] Children and those with medical conditions for whom fasting could be detrimental are not expected to participate.[24]

Many groups affiliated with Messianic Judaism have provided instruction describing the evangelical significance for observance of this day.[25][26][27]

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]

Early church history[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.[28][29]

In the 2nd century, Jewish Christians certainly kept the Feast of Tabernacles, according to 20th century Catholic scholar Cardinal Jean Danielou,[30] 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.[31] Cardinal Danielou also saw references to the Feast of Tabernacles in the Shepherd of Hermas,[32] 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.[33]

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."[34]

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.[35]

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.[36] 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,[37] as did St. Jerome in the 4th and 5th Centuries,[38] who notes that these Christians also gave the feast a millenarian significance.[39]


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 [40][41] They considered themselves as converted gentiles who had inherited from the Jews the eternally binding law, which God had given.[42] 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,[43][44] and Apollo Quiboloy's Kingdom of Jesus Christ church in the Philippines,[45] as well as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).[46] 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.[46][47]

Modern practice[edit]

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.[24] 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]

Some critics of Christian observances 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.[48]

Some Christians, like the popular evangelist John Hagee believe that the observance of Jewish holidays by Christians is educationally valuable, but they do not believe that it is obligatory.[citation needed] Others[who?] fear that the observance of Jewish holidays by Christians inevitably leads them to slide into Judaism, but there is little evidence to justify their fear.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Matthew 26:17, John 5:1, John 7:4, 37, 10:22, 11:56, 12:12, 13:1, 29.
  2. ^ Acts 18:21, Acts 20:16,Acts 27:9
  3. ^ Stevens, Ashlie D. (April 2, 2021). "For many in the Jewish community, so-called 'Christian Seders' are '100% cultural appropriation'". Salon. Retrieved October 13, 2023.
  4. ^ Berlatsky, Noah (September 26, 2022). "America has a serious problem with evangelical Christians pretending to be Jews". The Independent. Retrieved October 13, 2023.
  5. ^ Klein, Amy (April 14, 2022). "Many Jews are fed up with Christians hosting Passover seders of their own". New York Post. Retrieved October 13, 2022.
  6. ^ Hummel, Dan (August 19, 2019). "Why many evangelical Christians now celebrate Jewish holidays". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ "Do Christians hold Seder Meals?" (PDF). Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. January 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 5, 2014.
  8. ^ Luke 2:41
  9. ^ Matthew 26:17, John 5:1, John 7:4, 37, 10:22, 11:56, 12:12, 13:1, 29,
  10. ^ [Acts 18:21, Acts 20:16,Acts 27:9]
  11. ^ 1 Corinthians 5:7
  12. ^ John 1:29
  13. ^ Matthew 17:4
  14. ^ "The United Church of God". Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  15. ^ "Rosh haShanah explained, Yom Kippur, Tabernacles #1". September 7, 2018.
  16. ^ The Feast of Trumpets at the Restored Church of God website.
  17. ^ "Rosh Hashanah: The Start of the Jewish New Year".
  18. ^ "The Golden Plates and the Feast of Trumpets".
  19. ^ McConkie, Promised Messiah, 432-37; Read, "Symbols of the Harvest," 35-36.
  20. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-29. Retrieved 2014-10-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 506.
  22. ^ "As the Day of Atonement was over, navigation was considered dangerous due to possible winter storms"
  23. ^ Roderick C. Meredith, The Holy Days—God's Master Plan at
  24. ^ a b 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.
  25. ^ "Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement".
  26. ^ "Yom Kippur / The Day of Atonement - Chapter 8".
  27. ^ "The Fall Feasts of Israel". Archived from the original on 2010-12-29. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
  28. ^ Lewin, Thomas, Fasti Sacri, Or A Key To The Chronology of The New Testament, Longmans, 1895, p. 300
  29. ^ Lewin, Thomas, The Life And Epistles of St. Paul, Vol. 2, G. Bell and Sons, 1878, p. 343.
  30. ^ Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Transl. by John A. Baker. The Westminster Press, 1964, pp. 343, 345.
  31. ^ Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Transl. by John A. Baker. The Westminster Press, 1964, pp. 345-346.
  32. ^ Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Transl. by John A. Baker. The Westminster Press, 1964, pp. 341-345.
  33. ^ Migne JP Argumentum Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415 - 1542A, pp. 922, 930.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ Dacy, M.J., Sukkot, pp. 170 - 172.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ 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. (
  38. ^ Migne JP Argumentum Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415-1542S, pp. 922, 930
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ 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
  41. ^ The Feast of Tabernacles at the Restored Church of God website.
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ From the Fringe to the Fold (Armstrongism),
  44. ^ "The Church of God, Ministries International - Feast of Tabernacles 2019".
  45. ^ Davao sect draws top politicos Archived 2009-11-09 at the Wayback Machine (Kingdom of Jesus Christ)
  46. ^ a b "International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem: About the Feast". Archived from the original on September 9, 2009.
  47. ^ "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
  48. ^ John Chrysostom, Homily 1 in Adversus Judaeos