How to Avoid the Messiah
In avoiding biblical evidence of the Messiahship of Jesus, some Jewish
scholars have created biblical confusion. One such instance is a recent
article in the June 3rd issue of the Jerusalem Post International
Edition by Moshe Kohn, who teaches Jewish law and history and, once
in a while Scripture. His scriptural teaching on the feasts of Israel
made me a bit suspicious, particularly his use of dots (ellipses) in
quoting the Bible. I want to take this opportunity to point out how the
rearrangement of the schedule of Jewish festivals has resulted in
obscuring their obvious fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.
You may perhaps wonder how this matter is relevant to us, as Christians,
in today’s world. It is one evidence of how the Jewish people have been
led to depend on a source outside of Scripture (in this case, the
Talmudic Sages) to determine God’s instructions for their lives. Over
the ages, scholars and sages have molded Judaism to exclude the idea of
Jesus as Messiah, even to the extent of altering their own festivals.
First of all, we should briefly review the very meaningful first
four feasts of Israel given in
Passover occurs on the
fourteenth day of the first month and Unleavened Bread during the next
seven days. The Sunday of that week is First Fruits, and fifty days
after First Fruits is Pentecost. Christians are familiar with this
schedule and especially thrill to the fact that our Lord fulfilled each
feast in the appropriate manner: He was crucified on Passover, buried on
Unleavened Bread, raised on First Fruits, and sent the Holy Spirit at
Pentecost. (The Lord will go on fulfilling the feasts with the Rapture
on the Feast of Trumpets, the Second Coming on the Day of Atonement, and
the setting up of the kingdom on the Feast of Tabernacles. This elegant
and important Bible study is available in our book The Seven Feasts
Early on, in the first century, the Jewish people must have seen
these amazing coincidences, and evidently great numbers were won to the
Lord. After all, on the Sunday of First Fruits the unsaved Jews and the
Messianic Jews must have virtually passed each other on the sidewalks as
they went to their various festival worship services. Surely a
Messianic Jew would point out how the Sunday of First Fruits so
perfectly represented the resurrection of Jesus. (But now is Christ
risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.
I Corinthians 15:20)
The rabbis must have been in consternation trying to answer the very
persuasive arguments of believers in the Lord. Scripture is Scripture,
after all. Torah is Torah. (The Torah equals the first five books of
the Bible and is deeply respected by the rabbis.) The first task in
avoiding those embarrassing questions was to find an escape from First
Fruits and Pentecost. That’s not easy, because scriptural directions for
First Fruits are very precise. The Masoretic text by the Jewish
Publication Society of America says that when the Israelites are in the
land, they need to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the priest
at the temple, and then he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for
acceptance in your behalf; the priest shall wave it on the day after
the Sabbath. (Lev. 23:11) Although the day after the Sabbath is Sunday,
if we would somehow muddle that and change the day, we could avoid the
resurrection. Even though the immediate and obvious meaning of Sabbath
is Saturday, it can also connote a day of rest. Since Jewish festivals
are also known as days of rest, maybe we could say that the Shabbat
referred to is really Passover and not the Saturday of the week in
question. Eureka! Now Sunday has just about disappeared, since Passover
can happen any day of the week and the next day could as well be Tuesday
or Thursday or whatever.
But then we run into problems with Pentecost. It’s exactly fifty days
later and Scripture specifies again the day after Sabbath Sunday. If
we happen to start counting on Wednesday, then we’d end on a Wednesday.
Having that knowledge, let us sample the writing of the teacher Moshe Kohn:
It is strange that of all the festivals the Torah ordains, Shavuot
[Pentecost] alone the anniversary of the event that marks the birth of the Jewish
people is given no specific date.
The Torah only tells us that at a vaguely specified time during
Pessah [Passover], from the day after the shabbat [Sabbath]… there shall be
seven full weeks. Till the day after the seventh shabbat you shall count 50
days (Leviticus 23:15-16).
It is strange, says the teacher, that Pentecost is given no specific
date. Actually, what is strange is that Jewish scholars would
purposefully obfuscate the Scripture, like some lawyers at their
lucrative work of undermining the law. The final touch in manipulating
the two festivals today amounts to this: First Fruits is omitted
completely and Pentecost, or Shavuot, is said to be the day of the
giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, which in turn is known as the birth of
the Jewish people. (Interestingly, its true meaning is the birth of the
church.) Scripture only specifies that the Jews were at Mount Sinai in
the third month of the year, which would be Sivan, the month of
Pentecost, but the day is not given and the true scriptural meaning of
the feast is of a great harvest (which is appropriate to the salvation
of the 3,000 when the Spirit came). God is a very good bookkeeper. If
Pentecost was really the day the Law was given, then 3,000 who
worshipped the golden calf were killed that day, according to
32:28. Thus, when Peter spoke at Pentecost, God returned them 3,000
souls (Acts 2:41). The letter kills, the Spirit gives life.
The Jerusalem Post teacher, confounded by tradition, is mystified
at the Torah missing the engineered reason for Pentecost:
No less strange is that the Torah doesn’t name this 50th day as the day
of the Mount Sinai event. Again it is the talmudic Sages who ruled that the date is
Sivan 6. (Shabbat 6b, Pessahim 68b).
Watch Those Dots!
The whole sham festival schedule was accomplished by pretending that it
was unclear what day the counting began. And now we come to those
infamous dots. In Kohn’s first scriptural quotation, he omitted the
crucial phrase the day that you bring the sheaf of wave offering,
replacing it with dots. (From the day after the Sabbath, the day that
you bring the sheaf of wave offering, you shall keep count [until]
seven full weeks have elapsed. Leviticus 23:15 as quoted from the
Masoretic text.) In verse 11 of Leviticus 23 (quoted earlier), this
wave offering clearly occurs after the Sabbath, the seventh day of the
week, so that the counting of the fifty days to Pentecost does not
begin at a vaguely specified time as Moshe Kohn states. If that day is
confused with the second day of Passover, then the two festivals (First
Fruits and Unleavened Bread) would fall on the same day. A close
examination of the Scripture itself (and we have used only Kohn’s and
the Jewish Publication Society’s translations) shows that such a
rendition is simply impossible.
The Jewish people must return to an understanding of Scripture. If
they knew Scripture, then they would know their Messiah, the true First
Fruits that we celebrate. And Christians, also, should take care to
base their lives on the Word of God alone, lest error creep in and
rob them of God’s light and leading.
The Mystery of the Date of Pentecost
By Thomas S. McCall, Th.D.
For believers in Jesus the Messiah, the dating of Pentecost is one of the most
exquisite examples of type and fulfillment in the Scriptures. Pentecost means
fifty, and is actually fifty days from another feast, First Fruits. These calculations
are explained in
Leviticus 23:10–11, 15–17.
The feast of First Fruits was to occur
on the day after the Sabbath (verse 11), which was always the Sunday of Passover
week. Pentecost, then, was the day after the seventh following Sabbath (verses
15–16), which would be the fiftieth day after First Fruits and also on a
The fulfillment of these feasts is striking. Jesus died the Friday of Passover week
and had to be buried hastily before sunset, which was when the Sabbath began.
His body remained in the borrowed sepulchre throughout the Sabbath day, but
on that Sunday morning, when the priest was to offer the First Fruits offering in
the Temple, Christ arose from the dead, the first fruits of them that slept
(I Cor. 15:20).
For forty ensuing days, the Lord appeared to His disciples in His resurrection
body, and then ascended into Heaven. Ten days later, the Sunday of the Feast
of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the believers in Jerusalem and
created the ekklesia, the called out body of Christ, the church. These fulfillments
were obviously no coincidence, but were part of the overall plan and purpose of
God in verifying the powerful meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ,
and the establishment of the new body of believers.
From then on, the Jewish believers in Christ must have repeatedly informed the
people of Israel about the nature of the fulfillment of Passover, First Fruits and
Pentecost. It must have made a great impact on the Jewish people who lived
between the resurrection of Christ and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD,
a span of about forty years.
The Rabbis’ Problem with Vagueness
This brings us to the explanation of First Fruits and Pentecost offered in a recent
article by Moshe Kohn in the Jerusalem Post. Students of the New
Testament might well be mystified over the tortured reasoning concerning what
he perceives as the singular vagueness in the Torah about these two feasts:
It is strange that of all the festivals the Torah ordains, Shavuot
[Weeks, Pentecost] alone the anniversary of the event that marks
the birth of the Jewish people is given no specific date. The Torah
only tells us that at a vaguely specified time during Pessah,
day after the shabbat … there shall be seven full weeks.
Till the day after the seventh shabbat you shall count 50 days
Why is the day after the Sabbath considered vague? It seems pretty definite to
us! It means the day after Saturday, that is, Sunday. This is the way the
Sadducees and the later Jewish sect of the Karaites understood the Scriptures,
as Kohn explains:
This vague formulation was in dispute between
Jewish sectarians and the Sages. The Sadducees maintained
that shabbat in this passage is a proper noun referring to the
According to this understanding, accepted by the Karaites and
Samaritans, the omer count begins the first Sunday after the first
Shabbat of Pessah, so that Shavuot always falls on Sunday seven weeks
later (as it happens to fall this year).
The normal Saturday meaning of the Sabbath in this passage was the view of the
Sadducees. They were the priestly party and had control of the Temple, where the
feasts were focused until the Temple was destroyed. The view of the Sadducees
appears to be supported by the Septuagint, which was the translation
from Hebrew to Greek by Jewish scholars in Egypt around 180 BC. In rendering
the two Hebrew words mimmacharat hashabbat (on the morrow after the
they used the Greek word protos (first). This would
indicate the first day of the week, or Sunday. Thus, the Septuagint
suggests that the Sunday First Fruits and Pentecost was observed throughout the
centuries before the First Coming of the Messiah.
However, Kohn explains that the Sages, the rabbis who compiled the Talmud after
the destruction of the Temple, had a very different interpretation of the term
Sabbath in this passage:
The Sages’ view … was that this shabbat is the generic for
day of rest, referring to the first day of Pessah. Accordingly, the
count begins the second day of Pessah rather the night before and
Shavuot always falls on Sivan 6.
No less strange is that the Torah doesn’t name this 50th day as the day
of the Mount Sinai event. Again it is the talmudic Sages who ruled that
the date is Sivan 6. (Shabbat 6b, Pessahim 68b)
Now, this is strange! The rabbis decided that in this case the term
Sabbath did not mean Saturday, but something else: the first day of Passover, or,
more precisely, the first day of Unleavened Bread (the second day of Passover).
What justification do they have for changing the meaning of Sabbath that way?
Kohn does not say, but there must have been a very strong motive to cause the
Sages to interpret Sabbath as something other than the regular sacred Saturday
We have no proof, but suggest that the change came some time after the
resurrection of Christ and before the destruction of the Temple. Think of the
impact the Jewish believers must have had as they described the Lord’s
resurrection on the Sunday of Passover week at First Fruits and the coming of the
Spirit seven Sundays later on Pentecost. The leaders must have been hard
pressed to explain away the relevance of the feasts and their fulfillment in the
The solution they came up with was to obfuscate the calendar in such a way as
to make the connection less clear between the feasts and their fulfillment in
Christ and the Holy Spirit. The strategy apparently worked because most Jewish
people today see no connection whatever between the Feasts and the Messiah.
By the time Josephus wrote his history about the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the
Jewish authorities had established the concept that First Fruits was always on
Nisan 16, and Pentecost on Sivan 6. Josephus went through a rather lengthy
explanation that the Sabbath of
meant the first day of Unleavened
Bread, not Saturday. Thus, apparently some time before the destruction of the
Temple, the practice of observing First Fruits and Pentecost on Nisan 16 and
Sivan 6 was in place.
Instead of causing Jewish leaders to marvel over the relationship between the
Feasts and the Messiah, the current festival schedule leaves scholars like Moshe
Kohn scratching their heads. They are perplexed over the vagueness of the dates
of First Fruits and Pentecost, and why there is no clear statement in the Torah
that Pentecost is the day Moses received the Law, which is the teaching of the
Sages. Such appears to be part of the veil over the eyes of the majority of Jewish
people that so tragically obscures the truth about the Messiah in the Law.
Nevertheless, many Jews today and a lot of Gentiles who have no background in
these matters are being graciously enlightened and are receiving the Lord.
The Case for Sunday for First Fruits and Pentecost
There are strong arguments for the Sunday interpretation for First Fruits and
Pentecost in the Leviticus passage:
- The basic meaning of the term Shabbat in the Torah is Saturday. There are
some rare exceptions to this rule, but the context usually clarifies the meaning
when there is an exception. It would appear that the burden of proof would be
with anyone who claims that Shabbat means anything other than Saturday.
Thus, the morrow after the Sabbath must mean Sunday unless there are
compelling reasons for understanding otherwise.
- Even if the Sages could make a case for the first day of Unleavened Bread (the
second day of Passover) to be considered a Sabbath, how could the seven
succeeding Sabbaths be considered anything other than Saturdays? In order for
Pentecost to fall always on Sivan 6, the seventh Sabbath after First Fruits has to
be understood as something other than a Saturday. If it was difficult to consider
the first day of Unleavened Bread as a Sabbath, it would appear almost
impossible to consider Sivan 5 (seven weeks later) to be a Sabbath, no matter
what day of the week on which it fell. Yet this is what the Sages are asking us to
believe in order to accept what they have ruled.
- All the other Mosaic feasts are given specific dates, such as Nisan 14, Tishri
1, Tishri 10, and so forth. If the Lord intended for First Fruits and Pentecost
always to fall on Nisan 16 and Sivan 6, why did He not so specify as He did with
the other feasts? Why go through the elaborate process of counting the seven
Sabbaths, unless it was clear that these two feasts were moveable, and would fall
on different days of the month each year? It seems that the emphasis in these
two feasts is that they would always fall on the same day of the week (Sunday)
every year, rather than on the same numerical day of the month.
- As indicated above, the Septuagint appears to confirm the Saturday
meaning of Sabbath in
because it used protos to translate the phrase
on the morrow after the Sabbath. The testimony of the Septuagint is
important because it represents the thinking of Jewish authorities long before the
first coming of Christ and the development of the Talmudic positions on
Thus, the great weight of evidence is that First Fruits and Pentecost were always
intended to fall on Sundays, without regard to the day of the month they
occurred. As for the New Testament record, it is clear that Jesus arose from the
dead on Sunday, the First Day of the Week, the day after the Sabbath, as the
fulfillment of the feast of First Fruits. What day of the month was this that year?
We believe that Thursday was Nisan 14, the day the Passover lambs were
sacrificed. Jesus ate the traditional Passover and died on Friday, Nisan 15, and
arose from the dead on Sunday, Nisan 17. This would mean Pentecost fell that
year on Sivan 7.
A Note From Zola
I am always grateful to you for your kind donations to this ministry, which allow
me and my friends to do this wonderful work on your behalf. I am especially
grateful when the assignment calls me to a delightful and highly spiritual
experience in a particularly marvelous place to visit. I refer to Eureka Springs,
Arkansas, and its wonderful Passion Play.
In our House of David series, we presented two programs made at the
full-scale model of the Tabernacle at that unique site. The Passion Play
includes a huge area of very authentic biblical exhibitions in addition to the
Tabernacle: a watchtower, a threshing floor, an olive press, and many other full-size
Bible artifacts. We filmed at several of those sites in order to complete our
upcoming series The First Christians.
This time I also watched the Passion Play itself, which depicts the final
week of our Lord, including His crucifixion and ascension to heaven. (You
actually do see Him rise up into the sky!) I sat down with the cast and discussed
certain issues about King Herod and the high priest, and they agreed to bring the
script closer to the Gospel. With those corrections, I can heartily recommend this
play as one of the great spiritual experiences to be found in America.
We are excited about the work on our newest series, The First Christians,
which is well into post-production. This is the most complex and costly part of
the process, and I want to encourage your continued support for this project.
The First Christians will explore the background of the customs and
manners of Jesus’ day, unearthing the Jewish roots of Christianity. We look
forward to putting these fine spiritual and educational programs on the air this
We are also looking forward to celebrating our 50th pilgrimage to Israel with our
1995 Fall Festival Tour. The 14-day Grand Tour includes a spectacular cruise of
the Greek islands, as well as all the major biblical sites in Israel. It departs
September 27 and returns October 1. Our Deluxe Israel Tour runs from October
1 to October 10, and for the first time will include a tour of Athens, with the
Acropolis and Mars Hill. Please join us as we experience the Day of Atonement
and the Feast of Tabernacles in the land of their fulfillment. Call Cynthia at
214-690-1874 or 1-800-WONDERS for a free brochure.
Letters to Zola
T. and I continue to enjoy our pictures and our memories of the special Holy Land
tour we enjoyed with your group in May. It was a trip that had such special
significance for us and was a deeply spiritual experience, as well as a wonderful
travel experience. We appreciate the itinerary of special places that you chose to
include and the experiences you made possible for us. We particularly appreciated
the opportunities there were for you to share with the group, including some of the
Jewish background that enriches our understanding of Scripture and the
communion service in the garden.
Another real blessing to us was our guide Zvi. I am including a copy of a letter I
wrote to him that expresses our appreciation of his ministry to us. It was special
to have a believer who could interpret what we were seeing and hearing from the
Christian perspective. He enriched the experience greatly. We can certainly
recommend your tours to others who want a rich spiritual experience as well as a
pleasant and well-planned travel experience.
We are so grateful to the Lord for taking us to Israel, for allowing us to walk over
His land and to see what He is doing among His people. And we thank
Him especially for your ministry where we first began to understand and to love
the roots of our faith, the Jewish people.
We had heard people who returned from Israel say, You’ll never be the same…,
and we now know: we are not the same! We knew we served a risen Lord, Jesus
Christ, alive among His people. Now we see with our eyes the reality of His work
to bring Israel to life. All the strange winds of doctrine Satan uses here in the
church to divert our attention from the joy and excitement of God’s work among the
Jews are powerfully distracting! Few people are
really excited to hear us talk about our tour or what the Lord is doing in
We had never been out of the country and had never been on a tour. Your
letters and suggestions for travel were a great help as we obtained passports and
prepared to travel. If the Lord provides again, we will be with you on another tour
to Israel. Thank you and the Lord again for a grand tour!
To All the Levitt Team,
I would like to thank your ministry team for assisting me with a recent request.
Several weeks ago I was completing a graduate term paper on the history of
Christendom in the Middle East after 1800. While writing the paper, I read an
article by Zola in the Levitt Letter that referenced a Jerusalem Post
article that dealt with Messianic Judaism in present day Israel. I placed a phone
call to your office requesting the date of the Jerusalem Post publication cited in
Zola’s article. Your staff was terrific in their endeavors to assist me. I received
four phone calls over the next 24 hours that led me to locate the needed material.
Your staff truly went out of their way to help me.
I have been a follower of your ministry since I was a teenager. I have enjoyed
reading the Levitt Letter, watching your television shows and listening to
the wonderfully orchestrated music your ministry produces. I owe much to you
and the Levitt Team. Your efforts have led me to discover much of the importance
of our faith’s rich heritage.
How to Avoid Wretched Refuse
Talmudic Sages and their apologists are not the only ones to utilize
those famous three dots for political purposes. In the preceding
article, we saw the teacher omit the critical point that would
have clarified his misunderstandings, replacing it with dots. Read
the poem below, with which you are probably familiar. It is the
famous Emma Lazarus verse that appears on the Statue of Liberty and has
been adapted for use at Kennedy Airport in New York as printed below:
Give me your tired,
Your huddled masses yearning
To breathe free
Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp
Beside the golden door!
Notice anything missing? The dots replace the stirring line The
wretched refuse of your teeming shore. It seems that, like
Teacher Kohn, the folks at Kennedy Airport would not like to face
their more inconvenient responsibilities. Just as the First Fruits was
discarded (and the Messiah along with it), so are the least
desirable of incoming immigrants to these United States.
The poem doesn’t read right now, since those dots spoil the rhythm.
It also no longer rhymes as intended, since the word shore is
needed to match with door in the last line.
And as to the wretched refuse, well, they need not apply.
The Jewish Messiah turned away no one, and a country like ours,
ostensibly founded on biblical principles, ought to do no less. It is a
sin against our Lord, who had time for the blind, the lame and the
lepers by the road, for us to discriminate in this manner. And the
wages of our sin will break us. Some of that wretched refuse we
would have missed in the past includes Albert Einstein, Alexander
Solzhenitsyn, William Steinberg, Irving Berlin, Henry Kissinger and
thousands upon thousands of scientists, doctors, musicians,
artists, professors, entertainers, and just plain immigrant
workers who helped build this country. Including my father.
Copyright © 1995 by Zola Levitt Ministries, Inc., a non-profit
501(c)(3) organization. All rights reserved. Brief passages may be quoted
in reviews or other article. For all other use, please get our written