The Count to Pentecost Click here for our full-length study Facing the Pentecost Controversy.
Countering Master Key Magazine’s “Counting the Omer”
Response to Master Key Magazine’s article “How to Count to the Feast of Weeks (Counting the Omer)”
By Larry and June Acheson
e are told that long, long ago, some ancient Jewish rabbis were engaged in a squabble known as the “Pentecost controversy.” This ongoing dispute, which was well apparently underway at least as early as the first century CE, primarily involved two sects of Jews who couldn't agree on the correct way to count to the feast of Pentecost. One sect, known as the Boethusians, believed that the count to this holy day should begin on the morrow after the “Creation Sabbath,” whereas the other sect (the Pharisees) believed that the count should begin on the morrow after what is known as the “Festival Sabbath,” a reference to the first holy day that falls within the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The record of this dispute comes from an historical source known as the Talmud. People don't generally accept information from the Talmud because many of its teachings are clearly unscriptural. However, this ancient source does serve as an historical reference validating the fact that, indeed, the question of when to begin the count to Pentecost is not a recent one. Here’s an excerpt from that erstwhile rabbinical dialogue:
R. Jose says, On the morrow of the Sabbath means on the morrow after the Festival, but perhaps it is not so, but rather on the morrow after the Sabbath of Creation!1
Personally-speaking, I'm not sure the above commentary can be regarded as a "debate," but for the sake of argument, we'll go along with the majority of scholars who use the above commentary as their basis for believing it was a "debate" that raged between the sect of the Pharisees and the sect of the Boethusians, also known as the Sadducees. Although the Talmud wasn't compiled until the 4th century, it contains the written record of discussions that took place centuries earlier, and one of those discussions, as noted above, centers around when we should begin the count to Pentecost, which is also known as the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot in Hebrew. Those involved in the above recorded discussion lived prior to the destruction of the temple. Some of the rabbis participating were Rabbi Judah b. Bathyra, Simeon b. Eleazar, Jose b. Judah, Rabbi Ishmael, and others, as recorded in the Tractate Menahoth 65a - 66a of the Talmud. This discussion most likely took place during the time that the Apostle Shaul was alive, as it can be shown that Rabbi Bathyra was alive before the destruction of the temple.2 In view of the alleged fact that this ancient controversy was apparently not resolved among the ancient Jewish scholars, who certainly knew Hebrew, it is interesting that in today’s modern times, many groups claim to know, without question, the truth of the matter based on their understanding of the “true meaning” of Hebrew words. What is the truth? What was the Jewish rabbis’ decision? Does their decision have any bearing on how Pentecost was reckoned during the days prior to the destruction of the Temple?
Unlike those who so boldly present their view without acknowledging any other possibilities, June and I strive to examine all the arguments in unbiased fashion, weighing each line of reasoning based on its merits and/or lack thereof. We really try to not be dogmatic, antagonistic or otherwise harsh towards those who do not agree with our religious beliefs, unless Scripture is so clear on a certain topic that we are unable to grasp how anyone could believe differently. In our estimation, how to count to the Feast of Weeks is not something that we believe is clearly spelled out in Scripture, so we are persuaded that this is one of those discussions that challenges us to go the “extra mile” in exhibiting a high level of patience, understanding and respect for those who do not arrive at the same conclusion that we do. As the title of our study suggests, some groups do not exhibit any level of understanding or respect of differing views and they present their findings about the count to Pentecost in a heavily biased manner designed to persuade their readers that there is no need to look any further. It is to these authors that we have decided to direct our response. They may not be listening to our plea for understanding and respectful sharing of ideas with an unbiased presentation of information, but hopefully you, the reader, will keep this very important item of consideration in mind as you continue reading.
What is the Feast of Weeks?
Just in case you are not already familiar with the Feast of Weeks, you can read about it in Leviticus 23:15-21. The majority of those verses, at least in our opinion, do not apply to believers today. That’s because during the days of the Levitical priesthood, most of those instructions pertained to the priests. For example, although the people were instructed to bake two loaves of leavened bread from fine flour, those loaves were to be waved before Yahweh by the priest. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with baking two loaves of bread on this day, but we highly doubt that you will find a qualified priest to wave it before Yahweh. Baking the bread would be the easy part. It would not be as easy for most of us to bring seven unblemished lambs of the first year, along with one bullock, two rams, a kid of the goats and two lambs of the first year for the peace offerings.
Since we believe Yeshua, as our high priest, fulfills the Feast of Weeks offerings and sacrifices, as well as all animal sacrifices, by the sacrifice of Himself once for all, we do not incorporate the sacrificial aspect of feast observance into our celebration. We are persuaded that the Levitical system of animal sacrifices was meant to foreshadow the once-for-all sacrifice of Yeshua as the ultimate means of our reconciliation with Yahweh. Under the Levitical system, sacrifices merely “covered” sins, but Yeshua's sacrifice takes them completely away (Heb. 7:27, 9:12, 9:25-28). Many individuals, unable to separate sacrifices and offerings from other aspects of feast observance, have little or no regard for such festivals as the Feast of Weeks. In fact, even though there were always sacrifices involved with Sabbath observance, many Sabbatarians, such as Seventh-Day Adventists, have no difficulty in resting and worshipping on the Sabbath, even though they understand that the sacrifices associated with the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9-10) no longer apply to believers. Nevertheless, these same Sabbatarians often avoid observing Shavuot because of the sacrifices associated with that day.
Just as the absence of sacrificial offerings doesn’t hinder us from observing the weekly Sabbath, in the same way, we look forward to the annual celebration of the Feast of Weeks. If you are among those few who celebrate the Feast of Weeks, you have most likely already been exposed to what is known as the Pentecost controversy. The Pentecost controversy has nothing to do with observing the Feast of Weeks, but it has everything to do with counting to the Feast of Weeks, and that brings us to our purpose on composing this study.
As alluded to earlier, we are persuaded that the discussion of how to count to Pentecost is one of those topics that, at least as far as the two primary arguments are concerned, warrants an exhibition of mutual respect. For the first fifteen years of our feast observances, June and I somehow managed to avoid any major disagreements over the Scripturally-approved method of counting to Shavuot. We even fellowshipped with believers on the day they observed Pentecost and they would occasionally celebrate it with us on the day we observed it. It was refreshing to enjoy such times of mutual love and respect for each other and for each others’ methods of reasoning. Sadly, not everyone shares this perspective.
My first encounter with an individual who exhibited a total lack of respect for the way June and I count to Pentecost was in the year 2001, when the believer, upon learning that we did not count to Pentecost the way he did, exclaimed, “You cannot have Yahweh’s Spirit and count to Pentecost the way you do!” His adamant rejection of not only my reasoning, but also my relationship with the Father, led me to compile our research findings into a presentation that we titled Facing the Pentecost Controversy. That presentation was later modified to become a study that we make available to anyone with Internet access. Regrettably, the information that we present is so detailed that it is possibly the longest study on this topic you will ever read. On the one hand, this is a blessing because we cover most, if not all, the bases, addressing virtually all the arguments that we have ever heard. On the other hand, few people will take the time to read it because we live in an age of such “information overload” that everyone wants the proof in abbreviated, encapsulated and condensed format.
June and I somehow ended up on the mailing list of an organization that, every spring, dedicates a portion of one of their newsletters to educating their constituents on the importance of counting to Pentecost the way they do. Of course, their article is brief, which I’m sure those readers who do not take the time to do more in-depth research on their own, appreciate. On the other hand, those who, like me, want to probe beyond the surface level, have very little regard for the anonymous author’s research efforts. It is to that end that I have decided to try something that I’m hoping will serve to not only abbreviate our own previous writing on this topic, but will also serve as a response to the organization’s contributing author.
By the way, you may be aware that I am on record as taking issue with anonymous authors. For those who are not aware, I will briefly explain that when I at first expressed dissatisfaction with those authors who shield readers from their identity, the comeback was that he chose to be “modestly anonymous,” as in he didn’t want anyone to think he was trying to draw attention to himself. Such a nice thought, but what this decision actually does is allow the author remove himself from having to take responsibility for his words. In other words, whoever wrote the article doesn’t want to be held accountable, at least not by men, for the words he writes. As Director Shepard, on an episode of the television drama NCIS, put it, “Anonymity deflects more bullets than body armor.”3 When even the secular media exposes the less-than-stellar motives that spawn anonymity, it behooves us as believers to ask ourselves why we would want to pursue such a course. The author’s anonymity also makes it impossible for me to tell my own reading audience who it is I’m quoting! For an organization that lays such heavy emphasis on knowing and using our Heavenly Father’s name, it is indeed ironic that its authors shield readers from their own names.
The name of the article I’m referring to is “Counting the Omer,” and in addition to appearing in this organization’s Beginning Anew newsletter, we later learned that it also appears on pages 6-7 of the May/June 2013 issue of their signature magazine, The Master Key, which they make available online for those with Internet access. This magazine is published by Yahweh’s Assembly in Messiah, Rocheport, Missouri. Over the years, we have made the acquaintance of several individuals from that organization, and they are generally very friendly and hospitable, teaching obedience to the ways of Yahweh with the focus on His love for mankind, culminating in the death of His Son, Whose shed blood provides the atonement for our sins. We agree with many of this group’s teachings, so it is truly saddening that our areas of disagreement are punctuated by insensitive and extremely biased comments unbecoming of believers from whom we expect at least a fairly high level of understanding and a sincere attempt to examine all aspects of a teaching before attempting to discredit it and maligning those who practice it. I believe you have a right to read the article in its entirety, so click HERE if you would like to read a scanned copy of the article as it appears in the June/July issue of their Beginning Anew newsletter. The article only consists of two pages; it will obviously take more than two pages to answer two pages of arguments, but at least this response is by far shorter than our full-length study. If you should happen to feel that I omit or otherwise gloss over an argument without sufficiently addressing it, may I suggest reading Facing the Pentecost Controversy before prematurely concluding that I left out important information?
The anonymous author of The Master Key’s “Counting the Omer,” to whom I will henceforth refer as “Anon,” gets off on the wrong foot with me right away by inferring that he is one of the few who understands the true significance of Pentecost. He writes, “But few understand the Old Testament importance of this day—how to count to the ‘omer’ or the great significance it has in the New Testament.” Anon’s comment that “few understand” suggests that he is among the few that do, and the naïve reader will accept this subliminal suggestion and proceed to be subjected to Anon’s “education.” Is it a lesson based on a foundation of truth? Let’s take things one paragraph at a time and find out.
Continuing with the Anon’s authoritative approach, he strongly advocates believing that, of the three pilgrimage festivals, Pentecost is that one that best represents our covenant relationship with Yahweh:
Yahweh’s annual observances represent a covenant between Him and His people. Perhaps of all commanded memorials, none characterizes our covenant relationship better than Pentecost.
The above author goes on to explain why he is persuaded that Pentecost best characterizes our covenant relationship. He mentions that the covenant between Yahweh and Israel was ratified on the day of Pentecost, citing Exodus chapter 20 and expounded on in chapters 21-23. But where in any of those chapters do we read that the covenant between Yahweh and Israel was ratified on the day of Pentecost? June and I thought that maybe we must have missed something from previous Bible readings, so we re-read those chapters to see if we could find any reference to Pentecost being the day on which the covenant between Yahweh and Israel was ratified. Please don’t get me wrong: The law was given during the third month of the year (Ex. 19:1), which is the month during which Pentecost always falls. However, unless we missed it with our review of Exodus 20-23, there is nothing in any of those chapters or in any other chapter of Scripture supporting Anon’s claim that the covenant between Yahweh and Israel was ratified on the day of Pentecost.
Anon is by no means finished with making unsubstantiated claims. Not only does he associate the Old Testament ratification of the Covenant between Yahweh and Israel with the day of Pentecost, but he claims that the New Covenant was also ratified on the day of Pentecost:
About 1500 years later, the New Covenant was put into effect, again at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The New Testament (covenant) assembly of Yahweh’s chosen was born that day, when the Holy Spirit was given to enable man to better keep the covenant law.
When evaluating and critiquing erroneous and otherwise misleading articles, the most challenging task is often sifting out the truth from the error. The above comment has a grain of undeniable truth: There is no denying that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers assembled in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and there is no denying that those who have Yahweh’s Spirit are enabled to keep the covenant law. That much of the above commentary is true; however, where do we read in Acts 2:1-4 that the New Covenant was put into effect on the day of Pentecost? Moreover, where do we ever read anywhere in the New Testament that the New Covenant was put into effect on the day of Pentecost? If I properly understand the author of the book of Hebrews, when the New Covenant is officially “put into effect,” there will no longer be a need to teach others to know Yahweh, for all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest. Shown below is Hebrews 8:10-13:
10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Yahweh; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a Mighty One, and they shall be to me a people:
11And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know Yahweh: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
13In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Has the above prophecy been fulfilled yet? Do all, from the least to the greatest, know Yahweh? Clearly, based on our observations of the world in which we live – a world that has all but completely turned its back on Yahweh – we cannot in this day and age be enjoying the fulfillment of the New Covenant prophecy as presented by the author of Hebrews. When all, from the least to the greatest, truly know Yahweh and embrace His ways, then we will agree that New Covenant has been “put into effect.” As understood by the author of the book of Hebrews in verse 13 above, the old covenant is “ready to vanish away.” Does that mean it has already vanished? Had it vanished on or before the date on which he penned his words? No, it had not, and he wrote those words many years after the events described in Acts 2:1-4. We thus see that, again, Anon takes undue liberties with Scriptural texts, applying his own unsubstantiated interpretation, leading to what we believe is a false conclusion.
We have already endured an unsatisfactory introduction to Anon’s article and we haven’t even read his reasoning for counting to Pentecost the way he is persuaded it should be done. Let us now turn our attention to his primary motivation for writing his brief two-page commentary.
By now, we are all hopefully aware that the key passage for determining how to observe the Feast of Weeks is found in Leviticus 23:15-21. However, those verses do not tell us how to count to the Feast of Weeks. For determining how to count to the Feast of Weeks, we really need to start with Leviticus 23:4-16. The verses at the heart of the Pentecost controversy are verses 11 and 15. To give you some context, what follows is Leviticus 23:4-16 as found in the New Revised Standard Version:
4These are the appointed festivals of Yahweh, the holy convocations, which you shall celebrate at the time appointed for them.
5In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight [Heb. between the two evenings], there shall be a passover offering to Yahweh,
6and on the fifteenth day of the same month is the festival of unleavened bread to Yahweh; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
7On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations.
8For seven days you shall present Yahweh’s offerings by fire; on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation: you shall not work at your occupations.
9Yahweh spoke to Moses:
10Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.
11He shall raise the sheaf before Yahweh, that you may find acceptance; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall raise it.
12On the day when you raise the sheaf, you shall offer a lamb a year old, without blemish, as a burnt offering to Yahweh.
13And the grain offering with it shall be two-tenths of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire of pleasing odor to Yahweh; and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin.
14You shall eat no bread or parched grain or fresh ears until that very day, until you have brought the offering of your Mighty One: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your settlements.
15And from the day after the Sabbath, from the day on which you bring the sheaf of the elevation [wave] offering, you shall count off seven weeks; they shall be complete.
16You shall count until the day after the seventh Sabbath, fifty days; then you shall present an offering of new grain to Yahweh.
We are told in verse 11 that the priest “raises” or waves the sheaf of the harvest before Yahweh on the “day after the Sabbath.” This phrase is rendered the “morrow after the sabbath” in the King James Version. This is when the priest waves this offering before Yahweh. Then, according to verse 15, it is from this “Sabbath” that we are to begin numbering the seven-week count to Pentecost. On the surface, this command seems very clear. Since the “day after the weekly Sabbath” is always Sunday, it appears obvious that we are to begin numbering the weeks beginning on a Sunday. Furthermore, verse 16 tells us to count fifty days. If we begin numbering our count to Pentecost on a Sunday, day 50 will also be on a Sunday. Thus, many understand that Pentecost should fall on a Sunday every year. However, even with basic research, we can see that the words “weekly Sabbath” do not appear in the above passage.
If we do more than just “surface research,” we find that this issue is more complicated than it appears at first glance. In our introduction, we pointed out that, at least as early as the first century c.e., Judaism was debating whether or not the word translated “Sabbath” in verses 11 and 15 should be understood as the “Creation Sabbath” or the “festival Sabbath,” i.e., the holy day Sabbath of Abib 15, which is always a special holy day. The rabbis concluded that the answer is “festival Sabbath.”4 In fact, the Septuagint, in referring to this first holy day of the feast, doesn’t use the word “Sabbath” at all in verse 11. The Septuagint refers to this day simply as “the first day.” However, Anon doesn’t seem to recognize or acknowledge the existence of the Septuagint translation, which was in vogue during the days when Yeshua the Messiah walked among men. We address this very important contingency in detail within our full-length study.
Anon, in his exposé, quotes the primary Scriptural texts associated with the Pentecost controversy, Leviticus 23:11 and verse 15. Again, we need to be careful and do more than just “surface research,” because if we aren’t careful, we may fail to distinguish truth from error. It is great that Anon quotes Scripture, but, regrettably, he makes an errant turn when he offers his explanation of why he feels the word “Sabbath” cannot refer to the “high day” Sabbath that begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Can you spot the flawed reasoning from his commentary below?
How do we know when Pentecost occurs? Let’s go back to Leviticus 23 where the holy days are mentioned in detail. Leviticus 23:4 instructs us, These are the feasts of Yahweh, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons. Verse 11 reads, And he shall wave the sheaf before Yahweh, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. Here we find that on the morrow after the Sabbath, the wave sheaf is to be offered to Yahweh. It is also the day that we begin our count to Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22). Verse 15 instructs, And you shall count to you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete.
The Jews and others contend that the Sabbath being referred to is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is Abib 15, the first holy day of the year (Leviticus 23:6-7). If this is true, would not Yahweh have given an exact date for Pentecost, as He does for Passover, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles? If the Sabbath is the holy day starting the Feast of Unleavened Bread, your count for Pentecost would always end up on the sixth day of the third month, according to the Jewish calendar. Why give detailed instructions on how to calculate Pentecost when all you need to do is to wait until the third month and sixth day? Verse 16 of Leviticus 23 goes on to say, Even to the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days. By giving us this method of calculating, Yahweh tells us that, although the morrow after the weekly Sabbath (within the Days of Unleavened Bread) may be a different date within Abib, we are to observe Pentecost exactly 50 days from that day. (Emphasis his).
Anon asks what he obviously feels is a valid question. He understands it’s a given that if one begins to count to Pentecost on the day that follows the weekly Sabbath, day #50 will always fall on a Sunday, but the calendar date will be different from year to year, unlike holy days such as the Day of Atonement, which falls on the tenth day of the seventh month every year. On the other hand, if the “Sabbath” referred to in Leviticus 23:11 and 15 is the first “high day” Sabbath of the feast, which can fall on any day of the week, then someone like Anon might wonder, “Wouldn’t Yahweh have given us an exact date for Pentecost, as He does for Passover, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles if He knows it will always fall on the sixth day of the third month?” In a word, the answer to this question is an unequivocal, emphatic, “NO!” Here is why: The way June and I count to Pentecost, when reckoned with Yahweh’s Scriptural calendar (based on new moon sightings from Israel), it can fall on any of three days of the third month, which is the Hebrew month Sivan: the 5th, 6th or the 7th. We explain how this happens in detail in our full-length study, but here is a chart illustrating the dates on which Pentecost fell from the years 2005 – 2017, a thirteen-year period:
We ask you, presuming you are an unbiased reader, if Pentecost, the way we count to it, fell on the same calendar date each of the above-listed years. We hope you are able to see that in seven out of 13 years, Pentecost fell on days other than Sivan 6. In fact, if there had been just one additional "certain" new moon sighting over Israel on May 26, 2017 there would have been a Sivan 7 Pentecost that year, making it eight out of 13 years. Nevertheless, Anon goes on to write:
If the Sabbath is the holy day starting the Feast of Unleavened Bread, your count for Pentecost would always end up on the sixth day of the third month, according to the Jewish calendar. Why give detailed instructions on how to calculate Pentecost when all you need to do is to wait until the third month and sixth day?
If you carefully read Anon’s commentary above, you will find a craftily-embedded “disclaimer.” He writes that if the “Sabbath” referred to in Leviticus 23:11, 15 is the holy day that begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then our count will always end up on the sixth day of the third month – ACCORDING TO THE JEWISH CALENDAR. Anon most likely understands that very few, if any, of his Sacred Name reading audience follow the modern Jewish calendar. June and I most certainly do not, nor do any of our feast-keeping acquaintances. This is why, the way we count, Pentecost most certainly does not always fall on the sixth day of the third Scriptural month. June and I go by the ancient Jewish calendar, which Judaism admits was based on new moon sightings, whereas the modern Jewish calendar is based on calculation of the moon’s conjunction. It is not based on the sighting of the new moon crescent; rather, it is based on the invisible conjunction. We trust that those who are inclined to reckon Yahweh’s festivals choose to go by the Scriptural calendar instead of a modern, altered calendar.
The argument that your count to Pentecost will always end on the sixth day of the third month according to the (modern) Jewish calendar is what is known as a “red herring” argument. A red herring argument is when an irrelevant line of reasoning is presented in order to divert attention from the actual issue. Since we have never met a single “Sacred Name” adherent who has any regard for the modern Jewish calendar, introducing this contingency only confuses the issue, effectively diverting a naïve reader’s attention from the actual topic while feeding him a false impression of the calendar we use. Let’s get back to the real issue by asking this question: “For those who go by the ancient Jewish calendar, if we count to Pentecost from the morrow after the first high day Sabbath each year, will Pentecost always fall on the same calendar date?” Notice that this is not the question that Anon asked and he most likely did not phrase his question this way because he knows the answer is no. Since counting to Pentecost from the morrow after the “high day” Sabbath does not result in this day falling on the same calendar date every year, it is not reasonable or even correct to explain to others that it does, falsely listing it as a reason to not begin the count on the morrow after the “high day Sabbath.”
Although this study was originally composed in 2013, in 2014 I decided to add a brief additional commentary as it pertains to Anon's "Sivan 6 Pentecost" approach. In his 2014 update renamed "How to Count to the Feast of Weeks," Anon incorporated a few modifications and moved one paragraph to another spot in his mini-study. As expected, he did not change his commentary about your count always ending on Sivan 6 if your count begins on the morrow of the weekly Sabbath and if you go by the modern Jewish calendar. That (deceptive) commentary stayed the same. I do not pursue communication with members of Anon's group; however, we do have a friend who has family members that attend. After having read Anon's updated Pentecost article in the June/July 2014 issue of Beginning Anew, I texted the following to my friend:
The Rocheport assembly has published their annual DECEPTIVE "How to Count to Feast of Weeks" article. I cannot help but wonder if their reference to Pentecost always falling on the sixth day "according to the Jewish calendar" is made in ignorance of the fact that few (if any) of their readers put any stock in the Jewish calendar or if they intentionally (and deceptively) hope their readers will fail to make the distinction between the Jewish calendar and Yahweh's calendar. Sadly, I am persuaded that it's the latter.
My friend replied, "I think your analysis is correct, sadly. Their annual publication(s) on the issue are annoying."
To which I added an additional grievance:
I just have an intense dislike of intentional, subtle deception & I was hopeful that they were above this approach because, as we should all know, this is Satan's approach. Someone really needs to bring this to their attention, but at the same time, I have to wonder if their firmly-entrenched stand, combined with pride, would allow them to even have a clue of what they're doing wrong.
In his response, my friend summarized his feelings with a somber reminder of how virtually impossible it is to persuade someone of something when they don't want to be persuaded: "Yup, I understand what you're saying. I have a feeling it might be one of those situations where, try as one may to lay the case out, the response would not indicate comprehension."
I could only end the texting session with the following: "Agreed!"5
Summarizing our point here: Anon introduced a “red herring” argument by inferring that those who don’t count to Pentecost the way he does base their calendar on the modern Jewish calendar. This is a fallacy because very few, if any, Sacred Name adherents have the slightest regard for the modern Jewish calendar. Since we go by the ancient Jewish calendar, our count to Pentecost will not necessarily fall on the sixth day of the third month. In fact, the year of this writing (2014), for the fourth consecutive year, Pentecost fell on the fifth day of the third month. Therefore, if the Sabbath referred to in Leviticus 23:11 & 15 is the “high day” Sabbath of Abib 15, the count to Shavuot will not always fall on the same calendar date each and every year. Anon’s argument is therefore shown to be irrelevant, fallacious and deceptive.
What Anon omits from his argument: It is true, as Anon points out, that the intended meaning of the word “Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:11, 15 is at the heart of the Pentecost controversy. What Anon doesn’t tell his readers is that the Septuagint text of Scripture, which can be shown as having been the text most often quoted by New Testament writers, renders the phrase “morrow after the Sabbath” as “morrow after the first day,” with the understanding that “first day” is a reference to the first day of the feast. Anon can argue to his heart’s content that “first day” is a mistranslation, but that will not change the fact that this was the understanding of normative first-century Judaism. We delve into this aspect of the Pentecost controversy much more deeply in our full-length study. We also cite first-century Jews Philo and Josephus, both of whom freely wrote “how it was done” without any axes to grind. These details present important contingencies that have direct bearing on this issue, yet Anon dismisses them both, omitting each one from his commentary.
When we count from the morrow after the “high day” Sabbath (Abib 15), this in turn means that we count from Abib 16, regardless of the day of the week on which this date falls. Abib 16 will therefore always be “day 1” of the count to Pentecost, at least the way June and I count. Since our count to Pentecost can begin on any day of the week, Pentecost can likewise fall on any day of the week. According to Anon, this method poses a conflict because of the Scriptural requirement in Leviticus 23:16 that we count until the morrow after the seventh “Sabbath.” From Anon’s perspective, there is a problem if “day 50” doesn’t fall out to be the day following the weekly Sabbath. Here is how he presents what he feels is the enigma faced by those who count from the morrow after the High Day Sabbath:
Clearly, we are to count seven Sabbaths and the day after the last Sabbath, which would always be Sunday. When we tell our children to count from 1 to 10, do they begin with the number 1 or do they skip 1 and start with the number 2? Obviously, the number 1 is included. So the word “from” includes the starting day.
If we were to begin our count the day after the High Sabbath rather than after the weekly Sabbath during the feast, the 50th day could fall anywhere between the second and the seventh day, and not on the first day of the week or the “morrow after the seventh Sabbath,” as Scripture clearly prescribes. The word translated “morrow” is the Hebrew “mochorath,” #4283 in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Hebrew dictionary, and is translated in 25 other places as “morrow,” or “day after.”
In Hebrew reckoning (or true scriptural reckoning), a week is complete as the Sabbath ends. The first day of the week is, therefore, always the “morrow after the Sabbath.” Leviticus 23:15 also says that seven weeks or Sabbaths of weeks shall be complete. The morrow after the weekly Sabbath (“Sabbath” is #7676 in Strong’s which is the weekly Sabbath, not #7677, “Shabbath-on”—a special holy day) is always Sunday. Seven full weeks of seven days each brings us to the 49th day—the seventh Sabbath. Thus, on the very next day—Sunday—we arrive at Pentecost.
Believe it or not, the above explanation includes reasoning that June and I appreciate, which is why we personally attempt to convey respect for the way Anon counts to Pentecost, even though we are not in agreement. There are two reasons that we do not lean towards accepting Anon’s explanation. First, Judaism has traditionally understood “morrow after the seventh Sabbath” to mean “morrow after the seventh week (period of seven).” This is why lexicons such as The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew English Lexicon present word #7676 as meaning week in addition to “Sabbath.” Secondly, in keeping with this feast’s Hebrew name (Feast of Weeks), according to the Septuagint’s reading of Leviticus 23:16, we are to count to the morrow after the “seventh week” (Greek hebdomadas, “periods of seven”), not the morrow after the seventh “Sabbath.” When this information is combined with the fact that normative Judaism understood that the count to Pentecost always begins on Abib 16, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls, it becomes clear that, at the very least, Anon owed it to his reading audience to at least share the above information, even if he doesn’t appreciate its logic. When we add to this evidence the fact that the Messiah never took issue with the Jews’ method of counting to Pentecost, the scales tip in favor of that method being to start the count to Pentecost on the morrow after the “high day” Sabbath that falls during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Anon goes on to malign Judaism’s method of counting to Pentecost on the basis that they rejected Yahshua the Messiah as the Redeemer of Israel:
The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911 Edition) under “Pentecost,” page 123, reads in part: “The Hebrews’ numeration always included the day which is the terminus a quo (starting point), as well as that which is the terminus ad quem (ending point).” If the Jewish calendar has Passover on the wrong day, then they will not be keeping Pentecost on the correct day. Those who follow this line of reasoning will fail to receive the blessings and benefit of these days. The Jews have rejected Yahshua as the Redeemer of Israel; therefore, they are not aware of the spiritual intent and meaning of Yahweh’s plan of salvation embodied in His feast days.
The above commentary represents another “red herring” argument from Anon. From his perspective, if you don’t like or agree with a certain Jewish custom, maligning Judaism as a whole for having rejected the Messiah will add weight to whatever belief you want to uphold that goes against the grain of Jewish understanding. We have even had this same style of argument presented to us by those who attempted to dissuade us from observing the weekly Sabbath. This argument is reminiscent of Constantine’s admonishment to observe Easter instead of the Jewish Passover so as to “Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews.”6 Based on the wording of Anon’s commentary above, he seems to be in tune with Constantine’s aversion of practicing anything that can be labeled “Jewish.” In keeping with Constantine’s expressed revulsion for anything associated with Judaism, Anon chooses to use the Jews’ rejection of the Messiah in an attempt to bolster his own position that Judaism must therefore incorrectly count to the Feast of Weeks. It should be noted, however, that post-Messianic Judaism’s rejection of the Messiah cannot be used to explain how or why Jewish scholars of the 2nd century bce (before Yeshua was born) translated the Septuagint so as to read that the count to Shavuot ends on the morrow after the seventh “week” (not Sabbath) and that the count begins on the morrow after the “first day” of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Had those 2nd century bce Jews pre-rejected the Messiah?
Adding to Anon’s irrational slam against Judaism’s rejection of Yeshua as a reason for not believing that the count should begin on the morrow after the first “high day” Sabbath is the fact that, in the very next paragraph of his argument, he goes on to explain why he agrees with the Sadducees’ method of counting. But weren’t the Sadducees also Jewish? Didn’t the Sadducees reject Yeshua as the Redeemer of Israel? In fact, was it not a Sadducean high priest who condemned Yeshua to die? If we must “pick on” one of the Jewish sects for its rejection of Yeshua, I suggest reading the account of Peter and other apostles who were brought before the high priest and charged with teaching in the name of Yeshua. This story is found in Acts chapter 5. Upon hearing Peter’s testimony, the Sadducees took counsel and decided to slay them (Acts 5:33). However, in the very next verse, we read of a wise Pharisee named Gamaliel, who advised the Sadducees to release the men, saying, “Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of the Almighty, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against the Almighty.” For the record, it was a Pharisee who secured the release of the apostles that day; it was Sadducees who advised their execution. Nevertheless, Anon’s glowing, yet heavily biased, report favors the Sadducees as the ones we can trust for the correct method of counting to Pentecost. Please keep in mind that we do not recommend choosing one method over another method based on the actions of any individuals or groups; however, we will point out that if we should gauge our decision on a group’s actions, we would certainly not choose the Sadducees over the Pharisees.
Finally, as previously mentioned, Anon offers no explanation as to why there is no New Testament record of Yeshua engaging any Jews – Pharisees or Sadducees – about a perceived incorrect method of counting to Pentecost. Since, from all appearances, whatever method was used by Judaism during Yeshua’s day met with His approval, the question becomes, “Whose method prevailed – the Pharisees’ or the Sadducees’?”
Anon, as we just read, took the time to issue a scathing indictment of Judaism’s rejection of Yeshua as Redeemer of Israel, listing it as a reason to avoid whatever method they used when counting to Pentecost. Anon apparently intended to specifically target the Pharisees, since it is their method which is at odds with his method. What Anon doesn’t tell his readers is the fact that the group he is about to endorse, the Sadducees, also rejected Yeshua as Redeemer of Israel. Don’t get me wrong, the Pharisees certainly had their share of hang-ups, as Yeshua forthrightly pointed out both to them and to others; however, the problems He had with the Pharisees were not centered on doctrinal disputes. The focus was on their application of Torah, not how to interpret it. For example, in Mark 7:1-13, Yeshua exposes the Pharisees’ finding a way to circumvent the fifth commandment by designating their financial resources to go towards Temple funds instead of using them to meet their parents’ needs. It wasn’t that the Pharisees taught disobedience to their parents; rather, they found a way to circumvent this law in what would appear to be, on the surface at least, a pious exhibition of faith while simultaneously neglecting the needs of their parents, thus effectively violating the fifth commandment. It wasn’t that the Pharisees didn’t understand truth; they were just hypocritical in how they applied it to their lives. On the other hand, the Sadducees simply didn’t know Scripture (Matt. 22:29), thus leading them to err. However, there is something about the Sadducees that Anon likes, and that is apparently the fact that they counted to Pentecost the same way he does. With such a positive attribute in their favor, how could Anon possibly find a way to criticize the Sadducees? Answer: He doesn’t! Here is Anon’s glowing report on the Sadducees:
At one time, the Sadducees were the priestly house. Because the offices were inherited, the Sadducees represented an older, more biblical heritage. The Jewish Encyclopedia article on the Sadducees reads: “They (Sadducees) contend that the seven weeks from the barley sheaf offering to Pentecost should, according to Leviticus 23:15-16, be counted from the day after the Sabbath, and consequently that Pentecost should always be celebrated on the first day of the week.”
Please notice that Anon does not offer any documentation to support his contention that the Sadducees represented an “older, more biblical heritage.” This comment is certainly up for debate because both the Sadducees and Pharisees have the same “biblical heritage” that traces to Abraham. Obviously, at some point in time, the two sects emerged from this biblical heritage and eventually a difference of opinion arose on such matters as how to properly count to the Feast of Weeks. The question about which view is the originally-understood or “older” view is precisely what this discussion is all about. Did Moses intend for Israel to understand that the count begins on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath or did he want them to understand that it begins on the morrow after the “high day” Sabbath?
Also notice that Anon follows up his ringing endorsement of the Sadducees with a quote from an encyclopedia article that explains how they counted. The encyclopedia article does not mention anything about the Sadducees representing an “older, more biblical heritage,” but something tells me Anon wishes it did. I believe the name given to Anon’s approach here is “Virtue by Association,” or more accurately (in this instance) “Attempted Virtue by Association.” He attempts to present the Sadducees (yes, the ones who condemned Yeshua to death) in a virtuous light (representing an “older, more biblical heritage”), then he uses a credible reference to explain how those “virtuous” Sadducees counted to Pentecost. Once again, a naïve reader, not recognizing Anon’s approach, will take the bait.
The question that really needs to be answered when it comes to the Pharisees versus the Sadducees is, “Who was in charge?” That, in itself, is a controversial topic. We address it head-on in our full-length study, but we can summarize it here by quoting first-century historian Josephus’ understanding. In his commentary, Josephus describes the events of 76 bce that led to Queen Salome Alexandra’s restoration of authority in doctrinal matters to the Pharisees:
So she [Alexandra Salome] made Hyrcanus high-priest because he was the elder, but much more because he cared not to meddle with politics, and permitted the Pharisees to do every thing; to whom also she ordered the multitude to be obedient. She also restored again those practices which the Pharisees had introduced, according to the traditions of their forefathers, and which her father-in-law, Hyrcanus, had abrogated. So she had indeed the name of the Regent; but the Pharisees had the authority; for it was they who restored such as had been banished, and set such as were prisoners at liberty, and to say all at once, they differed in nothing from lords.7
Alexandra Salome became queen upon the death of her husband, Alexander Jannaeus, in the year 76 bce, and as Josephus explains, when she began ruling, she restored to the Pharisees those traditions handed down by their forefathers (could that include Moses?), which her Sadducean father-in-law had abrogated. One of those traditions was the method of counting to Pentecost, and we have every reason to believe that this same method continued as the norm during and following the days when Yeshua the Messiah walked this earth as a man.
We are aware that those who do not appreciate Josephus’ understanding of history will “pull all the stops” in an attempt to discredit him. We address these attempts in our full-length study as well.
We understand that one of the statutes of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was the requirement that no produce be eaten until the Wave Sheaf Offering was offered up to Yahweh. What does this requirement have to do with the count to Pentecost? The answer is nothing -- unless you try reconciling the Masoretic Text reading of Joshua 5:11 with Leviticus 23:14. Although Anon never mentions the book of Joshua in his mini-study, he nevertheless introduces the requirement about not eating "bread, parched corn, nor green ears" until the Wave Sheaf Offering is presented to Yahweh. Here is what he writes:
Leviticus 23:14 says, And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that you have brought an offering to your Elohim: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. The mention of bread, parched corn, and green ears refers to the fact that they were not to eat any of the new grain harvest until after they had made the offering to Yahweh. They would, of course, have bread of the old harvest to use for Passover and the first High Day, because we have been commanded to eat unleavened bread beginning with Abib 15. They used their old grain until “the morrow after the Sabbath.”
Anon does not explain how the commandment to not eat the new grain harvest until the Wave Sheaf Offering has been brought to Yahweh validates counting to Pentecost from the morrow after the weekly Sabbath. It is likely that he has in mind the account of Joshua 5:10-11, where Joshua and the Israelites ate the “old corn of the land” on the morrow after the Passover. If the weekly Sabbath coincided with Passover that year, falling on Abib14, and if the Wave Sheaf Offering was commanded to be offered on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath, then they would have been free to eat bread, parched corn and green ears at the conclusion of the Wave Sheaf Offering on Abib 15. Shown below is a calendar depicting this potential scenario:
The above calendar has Joshua and the Israelites eating the produce of the land on Abib 15, which happens to not only coincide with the morrow after the Passover, but is also the morrow after the weekly Sabbath. Certainly, in such a scenario, the Israelites fulfilled the command to not partake of bread, parched corn and green ears until the wave sheaf offering had been presented on the morrow after the (weekly) Sabbath that followed Passover. Presuming that Anon's intent was that of harmonizing Leviticus 23:14 with Joshua 5:11, perhaps it would be more helpful to quote someone who more adequately addresses and explains the apparent dilemma.posed for "Any-Day Pentecosters" by attempting to reconcile these two verses. Karaite Jew Nehemia Gordon, in his online article “The Truth About Shavuot,” explains why, in his estimation, Joshua 5:11 validates the above calendar scenario as the only possible means of reconciling that verse with Leviticus 23:14:
When Joshua 5:11 describes the eating of “unleavened bread and parched grain… on this very day” it is using almost the precise wording of Leviticus 23:14 “and bread and parched grain… you will not eat until this very day.” The new produce of the land was forbidden until the Omer offering was brought. Joshua 5:11 is saying that when the Israelites entered the Land for the first time, they observed this commandment and waited until the terms of Leviticus 23:14 were fulfilled. In other words, they waited for the Omer offering before eating the grain of Israel. This has been widely recognized by Jewish Bible commentators throughout history, such as the 11th Century rabbi Rashi who explains on Joshua 5:11, “morrow of the Passover is the day of the waving of the omer.”
Joshua 5:11 is saying that the first Omer offering in the Land of Israel was brought on the “morrow of the Passover.” Immediately after this, the Children of Israel were permitted to eat of the new crops of the Land. For the first time, the Israelites pulled out their sickles and ate of the good bounty of their new homeland.8
In his study, Mr. Gordon proceeds to confirm that “morrow after the Passover” can only be a reference to Abib 15. He then puts it all together for his readers:
What all this means is that the first Omer offering in Israel took place on the 15th day of the First Hebrew Month. The first year that the Israelites entered Canaan, the 14th of the First Hebrew Month must have fallen out on a Sabbath so that the 15th of that month was a Sunday. In that year, the “morrow of the Passover” happened to also be the “morrow of the Sabbath,” what we call “Sunday morning.” This proves the Pharisee interpretation of Leviticus 23:15 to be wrong. According to the Pharisees, the Omer offering could only be brought on the morning of the 16th of the First Hebrew Month, but in the year that the Israelites entered Canaan, they brought the sacrifice one day earlier.9
We thus see that, in the estimation of “Sunday-Only Pentecoster” Nehemia Gordon, the above potential calendar scenario/illustration represents the only workable method for harmonizing the text of Joshua 5:10-12 with Leviticus 23:14, and we respect his reasoning. In a nutshell, if Joshua and the Israelites waited until Abib 16 to offer the wave sheaf offering, then they violated the command of Leviticus 23:14 when they ate the produce of the land on Abib 14. Here is a calendar illustration of the problem that Nehemia Gordon and other "Sunday-Only Pentecost" advocates perceive with how Joshua and the Israelites would have violated the command of Leviticus 23:14 if they waited until the morrow after the "high day Sabbath" (Abib 16) to offer the wave sheaf offering:
The above scenario depicts Joshua and the Israelites eating the produce of the land on the morrow after the Passover, but since they didn't present the wave sheaf offering until the morrow after the "high day Sabbath," and since Leviticus 23:14 mandates that no bread, parched corn or green ears be eaten until the wave sheaf offering is waved, the above calendar illustrates a clear violation of Torah.
Of course, Nehemia Gordon doesn’t really believe that Joshua and the Israelites violated the commandment of Leviticus 23:14 because he is persuaded that Passover coincided with the weekly Sabbath that year and that the Israelites offered the wave sheaf offering on the morrow of the weekly Sabbath (as depicted in the first of the above two calendar illustrations). However, if the Israelites practiced offering the Omer offering on the morrow of the high day Sabbath, then you can be sure that Nehemia Gordon would regard their eating produce on the morrow of the Passover a violation. In view of the available facts pertaining to the Masoretic Text's rendering of Leviticus 23:14 and Joshua 5:11, we can certainly respect Mr. Gordon's reasoning that the only proper way to reconcile these two verses is to conclude that Joshua and the Israelites only ate the produce of the land after the wave sheaf offering had been performed on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath.
The Septuagint and the Joshua 5 Controversy
Sunday-Only Pentecost advocates tend to avoid citing or even referring to the Septuagint translation like the plague. On those rare occasions when they do happen to acknowledge the existence of the Septuagint (also known as the LXX), it's often an attempt to discredit it. In our full-length study, we go to fairly great lengths to demonstrate that New Testament writers quoted more from the Greek Septuagint than they did from what is considered the standard Hebrew text. While we’re not about to suggest this means we should abandon the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, we do believe it sends a strong signal that those who go to such great lengths to discredit the Septuagint do so unjustifiably. We have to wonder how writers of the New Testament would regard their attempts to slam the Septuagint.
Some folks, who tend to jump to conclusions instead of taking the time to carefully examine our reasoning, will invariably consider our favorable review of the Septuagint as signifying our rejection of the Hebrew text. In response to such claims, we can only state that we are hopefully all searching for what is called the Vorlagen, or the original Hebrew manuscript from which other Hebrew manuscripts were copied and from which the Septuagint was translated. This text has not (yet) been found. They have found pre-Masoretic Hebrew manuscripts, but they haven’t found anything pre-dating the Septuagint. Interestingly, the pre-Masoretic Hebrew manuscripts seem to agree more with the Septuagint than they do with the Masoretic text. However, with regard to the controversial passage found in Leviticus 23, both Hebrew versions seem to agree. Nevertheless, this does not invalidate any of the information we have already shared, as the testimony of two well-known Jews (Philo and Josephus), coupled with the fact that New Testament writers quoted from the Septuagint, goes a long way towards conveying the understanding that Jewish practice and belief was based upon the rendering found in the Septuagint.
This brings us to the reading of Joshua 5:11 as found in the Septuagint. As it turns out, the Septuagint is completely removed from the controversy, as the crucial phrase “morrow after the Passover” is not found within its text. Notice the Septuagint's rendering of Joshua 5:10-12:
10And the children of Israel kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, to the westward of Jericho on the opposite side of the Jordan in the plain. 11And they ate of the grain of the earth unleavened and new corn. 12In this day the manna failed, after they had eaten of the corn of the land, and the children of Israel no longer had manna; and they took the fruits of the land of the Phoenicians in that year.10
Unlike the Hebrew text of Joshua 5:11, the Septuagint does not tell us when they ate of the grain of the earth. Was it on the “morrow after the Passover”? Or could it have been some other day? We aren’t told. All we know is the manna ceased after they had eaten from the produce of the land. Not being given a specific date or time reference, any implications offered in this passage can only be subject to conjecture.
One thing is certain: Since first-century Jewish believers Philo and Josephus both used and respected the Septuagint translation, neither of them would have interpreted Joshua 5:11 as even remotely implying that the children of Israel ate the produce of the land on Abib 15. We should also add that Joshua 5:11 is completely absent from the scrolls of the book of Joshua found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, leaving plenty of room to speculate as to whether or not “morrow after the Passover” was ever in the original text of Joshua 5:11.11
In spite of the fact that the Vorlagen of Torah has yet to be found, it is nevertheless noteworthy that two first-century Targums (or Targumim) translate Leviticus 23:11 in agreement with the Septuagint model. The Targums were early translations and explanations of the Torah from Hebrew to Aramaic, the common language of that time period. The authorship of Targum Onkelos is attributed to Onkelos, a famous convert to Judaism in Tannaic times (c.35–120 CE). Here’s the English translation of how Leviticus 23:9-14 is presented in Targum Onkelos:
And the Lord spake with Mosheh, saving: Speak with the sons of Israel, and say to them: When you have entered into the land that I will give unto you, and you reap its harvest, you shall bring an omera of the first of your harvest unto the priest, and he shall uplift the omera before the Lord to be accepted for you: after the day of the festivity (yoma taba) shall the priest uplift it. And you shall perform on the day of your elevation of the omera (the sacrifice of) an unblemished lamb of the year, as a burnt offering before the Lord. And the mincha12 thereof shall be two-tenths of flour mingled with oil, an oblation to be accepted before the Lord; and its libation, wine, the fourth of a hin. Neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears shall you eat until this day when you bring the oblation of your God; an everlasting statute unto your generations in all your dwellings.13
The other Targum is attributed to first-century Mishnaic sage Jonathan Ben Uzziel. Here is his translation of Leviticus 23:9-14 (which is in turn translated from Aramaic into English):
And the Lord spake with Mosheh, saving: Speak with the sons of Israel, and say to them: When you have entered into the land which I give you, and you reap the harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest unto the priest; and he shall uplift the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you. After the first festal day of Pascha (or, the day after the feast-day of Pascha) on the day on which you elevate the sheaf, you shall make (the sacrifice of) a lamb of the year, unblemished, a burnt offering unto the Name of the Lord: and its mincha, two-tenths of flour, mingled with olive oil, for an oblation to the Name of the Lord, to be received with acceptance; and its libation, wine of grapes, the fourth of a hin. But neither bread nor parched corn (of the ripe harvest) nor new ears may you eat until this day, until the time of your bringing the oblation of your God: an everlasting statute unto your generations in all your dwellings.14
The Targums’ support of the Septuagint’s “morrow of the first day” rendering of Leviticus 23:11 is significant and the fact that the Targums are traced to the first century certainly lends credence to the understanding that normative Judaism recognized that the “sabbath” of verse 11 identifies the “high day Sabbath” instead of the weekly Sabbath.
For his final argument, Anon offers that Yeshua’s post-resurrection encounter with the women proves that the Wave Sheaf Offering was always on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath, and, in fact, they claim that Yeshua fulfilled this Wave Sheaf Offering on that very day. Here is his commentary:
In John 20, Yahshua was speaking to Mary Magdalene after He rose from the grave. Take special note of verse 17, Yahshua said to her, “Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren, and say unto them, ‘I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My El, and your El.’” From John 20:1, we see that it was dark, dawning toward the first day of the week. The count toward Pentecost had begun. Notice that Yahshua had told Mary not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father, to be accepted by Him. He was to be the Firstfruits, the wave offering. But now is Messiah risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: MESSIAH THE FIRSTFRUITS; afterward they that are Messiah’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). His sacrifice fulfilled the symbolism of the wave sheaf.
Following His resurrection, Yahshua had to appear before the Heavenly Father to be accepted. In the same way, the Old Testament high priest had to wave the sheaf of barley to be accepted of Yahweh before the spring harvest could commence (Leviticus 23:10-12). The offering of the wave sheaf was to begin the count toward Pentecost and was waved “on the morrow after the Sabbath” (Leviticus 23:11). Yahshua fulfilled this prophecy and ascended to the Father the “morrow” after the weekly Sabbath. He could not have ascended to the Father the day after the High Sabbath (which is the first day of Unleavened Bread) because He was in the tomb that day. He had to be in the tomb three full days and three full nights (Matthew 12:40). When evening and morning, or day and night, are used together, a 24-hour period is denoted (Companion Bible, appendix 144).
The morrow after the weekly Sabbath is the only day that Yahshua could have ascended to the Father. Counting 50 days from that day brings us to another first day of the week—Pentecost (or Firstfruits). When Yahweh said that Pentecost would be observed on the day after the Sabbath, it would then always fall on the first day of the week—Sunday. It should be clear when we harmonize Scriptures that the morrow after the weekly Sabbath is the day to begin our count. Yahweh set all the Sabbath days according to His plan, rather than man’s reckoning of time.
This is yet another argument that we examine in-depth in our full-length study. As the argument goes, the women mistook Yeshua as the gardener (Jn. 20:15) because He was “apparently” holding a sheaf of barley (even though we are told no such thing in the text), then they use this “wishful thinking” approach as further “proof” that He fulfilled the Wave Sheaf Offering that day. Moreover, when Yeshua told Mary Magdalene to not touch Him because He hadn’t yet ascended to the Father (verse 17), they believe this proves that He ascended to the Father later that same day, making Him the “firstfruits of them that slept” that same day as well. All in all, it’s a mixture of truth and supposition without Scriptural foundation apart from men’s interpretations of events. Their explanations, on the surface, may seem neat and plausible; however, we are right in questioning why, if their reasoning is true, did the NT authors leave out such an amazing explanation. Below is a summary of the concerns we have about the teaching that John chapter 20 proves that Yeshua ascended on the Sunday following his crucifixion, taken from our full-length study:
In considering the reasoning that Yeshua, as the Firstfruits of the resurrection, was raised on the day of the wave sheaf offering, there are several items to consider, all of which contribute towards making the “Yeshua Ascended in John 20” view very dubious:
1) IF the first day of the week represents the day of the wave sheaf offering each year, then I certainly do not believe Yeshua was raised on that day. I believe He was raised prior to the onset of the first day of the week.
2) IF the reason Miriam mistook Yeshua for the gardener is because He was carrying a sheaf of barley, why didn‘t the Apostle John incorporate such a significant piece of information into his account? Why did he leave it up to his reading audience to “read between the lines”?
3) IF Yeshua ascended to heaven shortly after His encounter with Miriam Magdalene, why did the Apostle John omit this very important detail from his account? Why did he leave it up to his readers to “just figure out” that this is what happened? Moreover, in the one ascension described in the New Testament (Acts 1:9-11), why didn’t Luke mention it as representing Yeshua’s second ascension?
4) This, then, leads to the other teaching, wherein we are taught that Yeshua was “accepted” as the firstfruits offering on the first day of the week. Please note that nowhere in the text of John chapter 20 does it ever state that Yeshua was “accepted by Yahweh” on that day. Once again, we are expected to believe that the Apostle John left it up to his reading audience to “read between the lines.”
As you can (hopefully) see, adopting the belief that Yeshua ascended to heaven on the Sunday following His crucifixion raises more questions than it answers, and when it becomes evident that this doctrine actually exists for the primary, if not the sole, purpose of validating the “Sunday Only Pentecost” position, it becomes all too clear that this teaching is simply an example of what is known as eisegesis.15
Here is a brief overview of our response to the arguments raised by The Master Key’s article “Counting the Omer”:
·We have seen that each argument raised by the anonymous author of “Counting the Omer” is not only without merit, but in many cases he applies interpretational spins of sorts to make his reasoning “fit.” His flawed criticism of the way we count specifies that Pentecost must always fall on the sixth day of the third month. This scenario can only occur for those who choose to adopt the modern Jewish calendar, whereas we use the ancient Jewish calendar. Using this calendar has resulted in Pentecost falling on a day other than Sivan 6 six out of the past 10 years.
·We have expressed appreciation for Anon’s reasoning that our count does not end on the morrow of a “seventh Sabbath” as mentioned in Leviticus 23:16; however, the word translated “Sabbath” in that verse can also be understood in terms of “seventh week,” and this is how the Hebrew scholars who translated the Septuagint understood the wording of this verse.
·We have demonstrated that it really isn’t fair or reasonable to reject a certain Jewish sect’s method of counting to Pentecost on the basis that they had rejected Yeshua as the Redeemer of Israel, while simultaneously commending another sect for the way they count, knowing full well that the latter sect also rejected Yeshua.
·We have emphasized that it is certainly debatable as to which sect’s method of counting to Pentecost was recognized during the first century c.e. (and earlier), pointing out that unless someone can produce an alternative historical account, in 76 b.c.e. Queen Salome Alexandra granted authority for the Pharisees to conduct rites and ceremonies in accordance with their practice and belief. There is no record that this authority was taken away from the Pharisees.
·We have shown that the issue of whether or not Joshua and the Israelites ate the produce of the land on the morrow after the Passover was irrelevant to first-century believers who studied from the Septuagint version of Scripture because the crucial phrase "morrow after the Passover" does not appear in Joshua 5:11 of that text. Moreover, the 1st century Aramaic Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan ben Uzziel agree with the Septuagint's rendering of Leviticus 23:11, which has the priest waving the wave sheaf offering on the morrow of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread instead of the morrow of the Sabbath.
·Finally, we addressed the fact that those who teach a “Sunday-Only Pentecost” while simultaneously promoting the view that Yeshua ascended to the Father on the Sunday following His resurrection expect their constituents to “just accept” some key esoteric items, in spite of John’s omitting details about Yeshua’s actual ascension on that Sunday and his not sharing information about Yeshua carrying a sheaf of barley as being the reason Mary Magdalene mistook Him for the gardener. They also leave us to wonder why the only actual ascension that any NT writers present is the one described in Acts 1:9-11. Why isn’t it referred to as Yeshua’s “second ascension”?
1 Quoted from Tractate Menahoth 65b, as found on pages 387-388 of The Babylonian Talmud, Vol. 1, Seder Kodashim, published by The Soncino Press, London, 1948. Note: We do not normally recommend reading the Talmud, except for gleaning historical information.
2 You can read about Rabbi Judah b. Bathyra in the Jewish Encyclopedia (article #2). The article can be accessed at the following URL: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=429&letter=B#1325.
3 Quote taken from television show NCIS, episode titled “Blowback,” original airdate 02/06/2007, by director Jenny Shepard, played by Actress Lauren Holly. CBS Studios Inc., ©2007.
4 Here is how the first-century rabbis’ conclusion is officially worded: “Does Scripture say, ‘On the morrow after the Sabbath that is in the Passover week’? It merely says, ‘On the morrow after the Sabbath’; and as the year is full of Sabbaths, then go and find out which Sabbath is meant. Moreover, ‘Sabbath’ is written below, and ‘Sabbath’ is written above; just as the former case it refers to the Festival, and indeed to the beginning of the Festival, so in the latter case, too, it refers to the Festival, and indeed to the beginning of the Festival.” Quoted from Tractate Menahoth 65b, as found on pages 387-388 of The Babylonian Talmud, Vol. 1, Seder Kodashim, published by The Soncino Press, London, 1948. Note: I find the rabbi’s reference to “Sabbath is written below” and “Sabbath is written above” to be very interesting. It appears that the first-century rabbis may have had access to a text that no longer exists because in the extant Masoretic Text version, the only “Sabbath” written “above” is found in verse three, and the “Sabbath” in verse three is clearly a reference to the weekly Sabbath, not the “Festival.” Is it possible another “Sabbath” was specified in the original text, possibly in verse seven? If the reference to the “first day” in verse seven originally designated that day as a “Sabbath,” this would make it the “Sabbath above,” providing a contextual clarification of which “Sabbath” is referred to in verse 11.
5.This texting session took place on June 1, 2014. In this instance, I decided to take a cue from "Anon" and not identify my friend by name.
6 Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, A Historical View of the Council of Nicea, “Another Letter by Constantine,” translated by C. F. Cruse, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 2000, p. 424.
7 From Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, xvi., 2.
8 Nehemia Gordon, “The Truth About Shavuot,” posted June 3, 2014 at the following web address: http://www.nehemiaswall.com/truth-shavuot?utm_source=Karaite+Korner+Newsletter&utm_campaign=4c9fc54bda-shavuot2014special&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_349b8032ee-4c9fc54bda-155489469.
10 From The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English, translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1995. Brenton’s translation was originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, in 1851. The Greek text in Brenton’s edition is based on Vaticanus, an early fourth-century manuscript, with some reliance on other texts, particularly Alexandrinus, a fifth-century manuscript
11 Only two manuscripts of the Book of Joshua (4QJosha and 4QJoshb) have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, neither of which contain any portion of Joshua chapter five beyond the 7th verse. Cf., The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, translated and with commentary by Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint and Eugene Ulrich, HarperSanFrancisco, 1999, p. 201. Emmanuel Tov, in his commentary on the Qumran findings of the Book of Joshua, wrote, “If the number of copies of a manuscript found at Qumran is an indication of their popularity within the Qumran community, Joshua was not a popular book, represented merely by two copies in Cave 4.” (Cf., Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, “Joshua, Book of,” eds. L. H. Schiffman and J. C. VanderKam; 2 vols.; New York: OUP, 2000, 1: 431).
12 A mincha is a bloodless oblation.
13 This reading of Leviticus 23:9-14 is taken from the Targum Onkelos, The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch, by J. W. Etheridge, M.A., “The Targum of Onkelos on The Book of Vaiyikra or Leviticus” London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1865, pp. 132-133. This translation, which is ascribed by tradition to the proselyte Onkelos, covers the Torah or Pentateuch and is considered to be the oldest and it is the most widely used of all the Jewish targums. It most likely originated in Palestine in the first few centuries CE, but was transmitted and edited in the East, among the Jews of Babylonia.
14 Ibid, “The Targum of Palestine Commonly Entitled The Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, on the Book of Leviticus,” p. 218.
15 Eisegesis is defined as “the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one's own ideas.” “Eisegesis,” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. <http://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/eisegesis>.
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This is the name of our Creator, Yahweh, sometimes called the Tetragrammaton. It is given here in (A) the Phoenician script, (B) the Ivrit Kadum (Paleo-Hebrew) script, and (C) the Modern Hebrew script (a stylization of Aramaic).
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