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Hellenistic Jews and the apostles in their writings refer to Shavuoth as Pentecost. Pentecost, which means count fifty in Greek, was a High Sabbath falling exactly seven weeks and one day from the Temple offering of the "wave-sheaf" the wave-sheaf offering, consisting of an omer of flower made from freshly cut barley from the new crop in a special Temple service. The priestly offering of the wave sheaf was on the morning of the first day of the week (Sunday morning) following the first weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. In Herodian times Shavuoth always fell on the first day of the week (Saturday night to Sunday night). The Pharisees disagreed with the priests on which day to observe as Shavuoth preferring the fixed date of Silvan 6.

Following the injunction of Leviticus 23:11, 15, the priests insisted on a literal discharge of the scriptural directive on the day after the first weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Prior to the C.E. 70 destruction of the Second Temple the Sadducees and the priests regularly fixed the date of Pentecost by counting from this weekly Sabbath rather than from the first high Sabbath. According to the Mishna the priests of the Boethus family, who were Sadducees, always counted from the weekly Sabbath and not from the first high Sabbath. The Mishna reads:

Because of the Boëthusians who used to say: "The Omer may not be reaped at the close of a Festival-day." (Mishna at Menanoth 10.3; Danby 1980:506.)

However, the Pharisees argued that the date of Shavuoth, that is Pentecost, should be set by counting from the High Sabbath and not from the weekly Sabbath. Following the destruction of the Second Temple, and the dissolution of the priesthood, Pharisaic Judaism redefined the meaning of Shavuoth proclaiming Silvan 6, a fixed date, as the anniversary of the giving of the Law— The Torah—at Mt. Sinai, determined from the date of the High Sabbath, as Shavuoth. Rabbinic halachah, thought, and arguments notwithstanding Silvan 6 is not the day specified in the written Torah for Shavuoth. Emerging Pharisaic Judaism, which made the Torah the center of their Judaism, distanced itself from Judeo-Christianity by redirecting its emphasis regarding the Feast of Weeks away from the barley harvest and toward the Torah. They began to claim that the Law was given on Silvan 6.

Page last edited: 02/02/06 08:38 PM

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