When was the first Pentecost?
"Pentecost" is from the Greek word for "fiftieth [day]."
It was a festival in honor of God's giving of Torah (the Law) on Mt. Sinai, fifty days after Passover night in Egypt.
In Hebrew, the name of the feast is "Shavuoth," meaning "weeks." Fifty days is essentially a "week of weeks." Seven weeks times seven days per week is forty-nine; but they add one day to that total, arriving at fifty, because the count includes the starting day.
Notice that the same phenomenon of adding one for the starting day turns up in the French phrase for a week: "huit jours" (eight days!). That, in turn, led to a Beatle's song called "Eight days a week."
The gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the 120 disciples in the Upper Room (Acts 2) on the Jewish feast of Pentecost (Shavuoth).
In the Jewish calendar, the count of the week-of-weeks begins the day after Passover. If Passover falls on a Tuesday in a particular year, Pentecost will fall on a Wednesday.
Christian Liturgical Calendar
There are a few fixed points in the Scriptures:
- Death on Friday.
- Resurrection on Sunday (the first day of the week; the Old Testament's "Day of the Lord" is Saturday, the seventh day).
- Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish feast of Pentecost (Shavuoth).
Christians changed the starting point for counting fifty days from Passover to Easter Sunday. Our feast of the Fiftieth Day (Pentecost) always falls on a Sunday. It is a week of weeks after Easter, not a week of weeks after Passover.
This change in the way we calculate the Fiftieth Day introduces a discrepancy between the original Scriptural account (50 days after Passover, with day 1 being the day after Passover) and the liturgical system (50 days after Easter, with day 1 being Easter itself).
Those who call the days after Jesus' Ascension the "Church's first novena" (nine days of prayer while waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit) counted the days from the Ascension to the Jewish festival of Pentecost (fifty days after Passover). Liturgically, there are now nine days "between" Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday.
Let's count to Fifty!
|DOW||Jewish count||Christian liturgy||Luke||John|
|Thu||0 — Passover||Last Supper = Passover||Last Supper NOT Passover!|
|Fri||1||Good Friday = day after Passover||Preparation Day before sundown|
|Sat||2||Passover on Saturday|
|Sun||3||1 Easter Sunday||1 Resurrection on Sunday||Resurrection, Ascension, Gift of Spirit|
|Thu||7 — End Passover week||5||5|
|Thu||42||40 — Ascension Thursday||40 (1) Ascension (on a Thursday)|
|Fri||43||41 (1)||41 (2)|
|Sat||44||42 (2)||42 (3)|
|Sun||45||43 (3)||43 (4)|
|Mon||46||44 (4)||44 (5)|
|Tue||47||45 (5)||45 (6)|
|Wed||48||46 (6)||46 (7)|
|Thu||49||47 (7)||47 (8)|
|Fri||50 — Pentecost||48 (8)||48 (9) Gift of the Spirit|
|Sun||+2||50 — Pentecost|