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Jewish Festivals, etc.

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There has been a resurgence of interest in Jewish feast days in the last century. Occasionally, I receive material about this, and notes from Christians who hold to the feast days, saying they are necessary for us today. Some of these same Christians insist on spelling the word ‘God’ as ‘G-d’, or using Hebrew names for Jesus instead of translated names. It is all part of what I call a ‘twee’ (fashionable) attitude towards everything Jewish, by Christians who have little knowledge.

In this article I will describe some of the Feast days, but only for interest’ sake, for the Feasts are not part of Christian life. Jesus did not come to reinforce Judaism, but to remove it as a means to salvation... so why should He cause us to observe Jewish festivals? It does not make sense, but as these ideas appear to be rooted in charismaticism, well, we know they are nonsense.

There are usually three sources for Jewish festival days: mitzvot (commandments), rabbinic mandates, and the history of modern Israel. Mitzvot are founded mainly on scripture. Rabbinic mandates can range from solidly scriptural to wildly heretical. And Jewish history can be viewed in any way we wish. You can see, then, that Christians who blindly follow festival days do not discriminate the source.

The festivals, Moedim (‘appointed times’), are today called ‘Jewish holidays’ (Yamim Tovim) but they were known as God’s Feast days in scripture. As with all rites and festivals instigated by the Lord, they were essential for the Jews, and had to be kept by the Jews. However, since Jesus Christ came, there is no longer any need to observe these things. It must be remembered that Jesus Christ ‘cancelled’ Judaism when His New Testament became the new authority.

So, while Israel remains the people chosen by God in antiquity, and still has a role to play in future days, its religion and feast days have no bearing at all on Christian life and beliefs. Indeed, as Judaism as a religion is now defunct, the Feasts have no bearing on Jews, either! In essence, then, they are useless traditions as far as the Church is concerned. They have historical interest only.

Jews have developed ‘other’ Feast days, too.

God’s Command to the Jews

“These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” (Leviticus 23:4)

There are seven feasts given by God (www.hebrew4christians.com with reference to the Tanakh):

English Name

Hebrew Name

Period

Passover

Pesach

Nisan 14,15

Unleavened Bread

Chag Hamotzi

Nisan 15-22

First Fruits

Yom habikkurim

Nisan 16, 17

Pentecost

Shavu’ot

Sivan 6,7

Trumpets

Yom Teru’ah

Tishri 1

Atonement

Yom Kippur

Tishri 10

Tabernacles

Succot/Sukkot

Tishri 15-22

Notes: The Passover (Pesach) falls on the first full moon of Spring. Thus, the first three Feasts fall in March-April (Nisan). Pentecost is the summer harvest, late May-June (Sivan). The final three Feasts are September-October (Tishri). A Jewish calendar date begins at sundown the night before. The exception is a Jewish fast day, which starts at sunrise/dawn on the day itself. Dates finish at nightfall. Note that the Jewish calendar is determined by moon and sun cycles, and this can be quite complicated. See end sheet for Jewish months.

First Four Feasts

Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost, are Spring Feasts.

Passover:

The Festival year starts with Passover, called the ‘Feast of Salvation’ because the blood of the slain Lamb brings freedom from slavery (in the Christian sense, from sin, but to the Jew it is simply the time the Hebrews were released from physical slavery in Egypt, so there is no actual ‘cross-over’ to Christianity). Jesus was slain on the Passover and so became the ultimate salvation, through the shedding of His blood. The Passover itself has no Christian application. This is probably why Jesus performed the first Communion after the Passover meal was finished, to show that His sacrifice was separate from, but symbolised by, the original Passover in Egypt.

Unleavened Bread:

This second Feast comes immediately after Passover. For the Jews, leaven (yeast) stood for sin and evil. When the Jews ate unleavened bread, it represented a longer period of walking in truth and holiness, or, a deliberate act of following God. Christ is represented by unleavened bread, having no sin. He was, then, the ‘Bread of Life’; He was even born in Bethlehem, ‘House of Bread’. Jews would remove all leaven (hence, sin) from their homes and bury it, to later dig it up again. In Christ this referred to His death, burial and resurrection. Even so, this Feast has no Christian application, for any putting-away of sin is a spiritual action.

First Fruits:

This Feast was on the Sunday after Unleavened Bread. This Feast looks back at the fertile land given to the people by God, which was a way of acknowledging that God alone allows men to live and flourish, giving them the food to do so.

The Feast includes bringing the very first crops before God and waving the sheafs. This feast is often misrepresented in traditional ‘Easter’ festivals. The real meaning is that Spring is when God brings about growth for another harvest. Jesus arose at this Feast time. However, this is not a reason for Christians to adopt the festival.

Pentecost:

This Festival signalled the summer harvest, when Jews presented two loaves of bread (made with yeast) to God. Though these loaves are said to represent the two ‘parts’ of the Church, Jew and Gentile, such a meaning is invented and not given to us in scripture.

Jesus was crucified on Passover, buried at the time of Unleavened bread, was resurrected on First fruits and sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Even so, Christians have no mandate to observe or copy Judaistic festivals, though ‘Harvest Festivals’ are still a feature of many churches today! There is nothing wrong with thanking God for the harvest, but not in a Jewish sense.

Last Three Feasts

Trumpets:

The blowing of trumpets was for a Sabbath memorial (Leviticus 23:24). Much speculation is made about these trumpets, but without scriptural support. Trumpets were often used when celebrating early Hebrew events and were probably the loudest sounds available, possibly mimicking the power of God’s voice. But, that, too, is speculation.

Atonement:

For the Jew this was the most important Feast day. It was a day of confession. All Jews had to fulfil this Feast as part of God’s commands for cleansing. Today, the closest to this is the Roman Catholic ‘confession’. There is no Christian application.

Tabernacles:

This Feast remembered the time God sheltered the Hebrews after their flight from Egypt, and for the forty years they roamed the deserts. Even today, Jews build small shelters of various materials (branches with leaves, etc), either in their gardens, or in their houses. These represent booths (sukkot), in which the Jewish family lives and eats, etc., for seven days. There is no Christian application, but it does have historical interest.

Others:

Purim:

(March 4th & 5th)

Begins sunset 4th March, ends next day at nightfall. This Feast celebrates when the Jews were delivered from the wicked Haman (in the days of Queen Esther or Persia). There is no connection to Christianity.

Second Passover (pesach sheni):

(May 3rd)

Pesach Sheni is celebrated the day before Passover, with the bringing of the paschal lamb (Korban Pesach) ready for Passover. Again, there is no Christian application.

Lag B’Omer:

(May 7th)

Said to be the birth-date of Jewish mysticism. More to do with the occultic Kabbalah than with truth or God. Definitely no Christian application.

The Three Weeks (bein ha-metzarim):

(July 4th to July 25th)

A time of mourning over the destruction of the first and second Temples, and the galut (exile). Includes fasting. No Christian application.

The 15th of Av (Tu B’Av):

(July 31st)

One of the minor festivals, but with no real purpose behind it, but today supposedly is a festival of love (like Valentine’s Day – another human invention). The Talmud says this festival used to celebrate the start of the grape harvest (Yom Kippur being the end of the harvest). No Christian application.

Rosh Hashanah:

(September 13-15)

This is the Jewish New Year, which supposedly celebrates the creation date of Adam and Eve. Also a day of judgment, and the ‘coronation’ of God as king. No Christian application.

Shemini Atzeret & Sinchat Torah:

(October 4-6)

Or, ‘the eighth day of assembly’. It follows the Sukkot as the eighth day of the festival. Though it follows it is separate as a festival day that concentrates on the spiritual aspect of Sukkot. The Sinchat Torah was added-on by later rabbinical thought, but is often used interchangeably with Shemini Atzeret. In the diaspora (when the Jews fled Israel in 70 AD) Sinchat is referred to as the second day of Shemini. No Christian application.

Fast of Tevet 10 (Asarah Be Tevet):

(December 22nd)

Held on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tevet. Observed from dawn to dusk, it looks back to the time Nebuchadnezzar 11 placed Jerusalem under siege. Interesting from an historical and biblical angle, but has no other Christian significance.

Tu B’Shevat:

(15th day of Shevat)

Marks the beginning of the ‘New Year’ for trees, and so is also called Rosh HaShanah La’llanot. In modern Israel Jews use it as an ecology-awareness day, coupled to the planting of new trees.

There are quite a few more! None of the above feasts are part of Christian observances or beliefs, though they are interesting from a biblical/theological perspective. There is certainly no mandate to observe or practice any of them. To do so would be to go backwards in faith, as if to rekindle what Jesus Himself dismantled.

John Chrysostom, a fourth century theologian, 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." (John Chrysostom, Homily 1 in Adversus Judaeos).

This might seem to be rather strong, but when we consider that Jesus Christ died to bring us salvation and our salvation is effected by election and predestination, and NOT by Jewish customs, it is not strong at all. Rather, I would see adoption of Judaistic customs to be blasphemous, because celebrating them as part of our faith is like slapping Jesus in the face. To me, it is no different from adopting the paganistic Roman Catholicism as our foundation for faith and salvation.

Christians ought to be more aware and should tutor themselves in the things of God, rather than accept at face value what is not a part of our beliefs and practices. We should note, too, that leading the way in these celebrations is charismaticism and other cults; these are already cultic and extra-biblical, to be regarded with disdain.

NOTE: Jewish Months

Often referred to with a number.

Number

Name

Length of days

1

Nisan

30

2

Iyar

29

3

Sivan

30

4

Tammuz

29

5

Av

30

6

Elul

29

7

Tishrei

30

8

Cheshvan

29

9

Kislev

30/29

10

Tevet

29

11

Shevat

30

12

Adar

29/(30)

 

Total

354/(355)

 

© February 2015

Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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