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Shavuot and Pentecost: Two feasts converge

Shavuot, the Jewish holiday that commemorates God's giving of the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai, occurs on the fiftieth day after Passover. Donna Calvin notes that Shavuot means “seven sevens,” with the feast occurring seven weeks after Passover or seven Sabbaths. For Jews who celebrate Shavuot, it is a two-day holiday, except in Israel where it is observed for one day. In 2014, Shavuot began at sundown on June 3 and will end at sundown on June 5.

An icon of the Christian Pentecost, in the Greek Orthodox tradition. This is the Icon of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. At the bottom is an allegorical figure, called Kosmos, which symbolizes the world.
The painting entitled "Shavuot" by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim depicts the Jewish festival that commemorates the giving of the Law by God to Moses.

In addition, the celebration is one of three mandatory feasts for the Children of Israel to observe in the Book of Deuteronomy which names the Feast of Unleaven Bread, The Feast Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. According to, the purpose of the Feast of Weeks was to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest. Its distinguishing feature was the offering of "two leavened loaves" made from the new grain of the completed harvest, which, with two lambs, were waved before the Lord as a thank offering.

In the New Testament the feast is also called Pentecost which means “fifty.” Observed on the Sunday occurring fifty days after Easter Sunday, Pentecost is also observed in many Christian churches, both Roman Catholic, Protestant and Greek Orthodox. Pentecost Sunday for 2014 is June 8.

The celebration, also known as the “birthday of the Church,” focuses on Acts Chapter 2. In this account the Holy Spirit descended, and the promise was fulfilled whereby the apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ “were all filled with the Holy Spirit” and began to manifest the Spirit of God by speaking in tongues and demonstrating the transforming power of God. This event catapulted the early Church into the fulfillment of its destiny in the First Century.

Donna Calvin discusses the intersection of Shavuot and the giving of the Law with Pentecost and Jesus Christ as Yeshua, the Living Torah. She points out that the Old Testament feasts are really types or symbolic representations of the unfolding plan of salvation revealed through Jesus, the Jewish Messiah.

The Apostle Paul points out in his letter to the Colossians that “feast days, or observances connected with the new moon or Sabbath days are merely the shadow of things that are to come, and they have only symbolic value.” He goes on to say that “the reality (the substance, the solid fact of what is foreshadowed, the body of it) belongs to Christ.” Shavuot, the Old Testament agricultural celebration marks the giving of the Torah, while Pentecost, signals the launching of Christian Church with a display of power in the First Century. These two feasts from the Old and New Testaments converge, providing a greater understanding of Jesus, the Messiah, the center of all ages.

Take a look at the accompanying slide show of various artists’ depictions of Pentecost over the centuries, while the video relates the account from Acts Chapter 2 which describes the "birthday of the Church."

For additional articles related to Pentecost take a look at the following:

Pentecost in America: Beyond Azusa Street

Another Pentecost: The Welsh revival

Pentecost Sunday: Happy birthday, Church

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