Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alex Henderson: Fighting the Culture Wars With Hate, Violence and Even Bullets

From the Army of God to the Hutaree Militia to Gary North and his Christian reconstructionists, radical Christianity is alive and well in the United States.

Fighting the Culture Wars With Hate, Violence and Even Bullets:
Meet the Most Extreme of the Radical Christians
by Alex Henderson article link
June 27, 2011 | AlterNet

If there is one name some residents of Amarillo, Texas wish they could forget, it’s Repent Amarillo. Based in that North Texas city, Repent Amarillo is a militant Christian fundamentalist group whose antics have ranged from staging a mock execution of Santa Claus by firing squad to posting a “spiritual warfare” map on its Web site that cited a Buddhist temple, an Islamic center, gay bars, strip clubs and sex shops as places of demonic activity.

Repent Amarillo is also infamous for mercilessly harassing a local swingers club called Route 66. Throughout 2009, members of Repent Amarillo made a point of showing up at Route 66’s events, where they would typically wear military fatigues, shout at Route 66 members through bullhorns and write down the license plate numbers of people attending the events. After finding out who the swingers were, Repent Amarillo’s members would find out where they worked and try to get them fired from their jobs (according to Route 66 coordinator Mac Mead, at least two members of the club lost their jobs because of Repent Amarillo).

None of that has kept Repent Amarillo founder David H. Grisham from dabbling in local politics; earlier this year, he ran for mayor of Amarillo and lost to former city commissioner Paul Harpole.

But Repent Amarillo is hardly alone when it comes to promoting a decidedly radical and militant brand of Christianity. From the Army of God to the Hutaree Militia to Gary North and his Christian reconstructionists, radical Christianity is alive and well in the United States—and Christianists aren’t shy about turning up the heat when it comes to fighting the "culture war." Some radical Christianists have employed bully tactics and hate-mongering rhetoric without resorting to actual violence (Repent Amarillo, the Rev. Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church), while others have committed acts of terrorism and said the culture war will have to be won with bombs and bullets.

When religion is discussed, it is important to make a distinction between radical and non-radical practitioners. Radical Christianity is not representative of Christianity any more than al-Qaeda is representative of Islam. The average Lutheran or Episcopalian minister is no more a threat to public safety than the average member of Islam’s Sufi sect, who are arguably the Hare Krishnas of Islam. Not all Christians are Christianists; not all Muslims are Islamists. But an abundance of disturbing events bear out the fact that radical Christianity, like radical Islam, is quite capable of violence—and contrary to what Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter would have us believe, the examples are numerous.

Active since the early 1980s, the Army of God is a loose network of radical anti-abortionists with a long history of promoting terrorism and premeditated murder in the name of Christianity. The Army of God has published an anti-abortion training manual that offers instructions on bomb-making, arson and other ways to attack clinics.

The group’s Web site praises a long list of Christian terrorists who have been convicted of violent crimes, including Paul Jennings Hill (who was executed by lethal injection in 2003 for the murders of abortion provider John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett), Scott Roeder (who was convicted of first-degree murder for the 2009 shooting of George Tiller, a Kansas doctor who performed late-term abortions), Michael Frederick Griffin (who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 murder of Dr. David Gunn, an ob/gyn based in Pensacola, Florida), James Charles Kopp (who shot and killed Barnett Slepian, a physician who performed abortions, in 1998), Matthew Lee Derosia (who, in 2009, rammed his SUV into the front entrance of a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul and told police that Jesus ordered him to carry out that attack) and John C. Salvi (who attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1994, shooting and killing receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols and wounding several others).

The Web site describes Tiller’s murder as “justifiable homicide” and describes Lowney and Nichols not as victims of domestic terrorism, but as women who got exactly what they deserved; Salvi, who died in prison in 1996 and may have committed suicide, is hailed as a hero for killing them. The Army of God exalts Hill, Rudolph, Roeder, Griffin, Derosia and Salvi as martyrs for Christianity in much the same way al-Qaeda consider Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers martyrs for Islam.

The Army of God has also been a vocal supporter of Eric Rudolph, who is serving life without parole for a long list of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Christianity. Rudolph’s crimes include bombing an abortion clinic in Sandy Springs, a suburb of Atlanta, in 1997; bombing the Otherwise Lounge (a lesbian bar in Atlanta) in 1997; and bombing an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998. The Birmingham bombing caused the death of Robert Sanderson, a Birmingham police officer and part-time security guard, and resulted in serious injuries for nurse Emily Lyons, who lost an eye. Rudolph is best known, however, for carrying out the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics; that blast killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others.

Another Christian terrorist who has been associated with the Army of God is Shelley Shannon, who shot Tiller in 1993 but didn’t kill him; in addition to being convicted of attempted murder for her attack on Tiller, Shannon was involved in a series of arson attacks on abortion clinics in different states. One person who considered Shannon a good friend was fellow Army of God terrorist Scott Roeder, who visited her frequently in prison and finished what she started when he murdered Tiller in 2009. The Army of God Web site calls Shannon “a warrior soldier in the Army of God.”

In 2010, a North Carolina-based Christianist named Justin Carl Moose was arrested by the FBI for plotting to help blow up an abortion clinic; Moose, the FBI said, considers himself an Army of God member and an organizer of a terrorist cell for that group. According to the FBI, Moose described himself as a Christian equivalent of Osama bin Laden on his Facebook page but openly advocated violence against Muslims; he also praised Timothy McVeigh (mastermind of the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing of 1995, which killed 168 people and injured 450 others).

The FBI said that Moose wrote on his Facebook page: “If a mosque is built on Ground Zero, it will be removed Oklahoma City style. Tim’s not the only man out there that knows how to do it....I have learned a lot from the Muslim terrorists and have no problem using their tactics.” Moose, according to the FBI, met with an FBI informant and offered advice on how to make TATP, the explosive used in the London subway bombings of 2005. Earlier this year, Moose was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

The Army of God’s Web site has, in the past, been managed by the Rev. Donald Spitz, who is so extreme that even the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue disowned him for promoting violence. The Virginia-based Spitz has publicly argued that killing abortion doctors is justifiable homicide, and Spitz has published the writings of Paul Jennings Hill, Eric Rudolph, Shelley Shannon and other Christian terrorists on the Army of God’s Web site. Spitz, who considered himself Hill’s “spiritual adviser” during the final months of Hill’s life, heads his own Christianist group, Pro-Life Virginia, and has said that Muslims “should not be allowed to live in the United States.”

In the U.S., the far-right militia movement has often been secular in nature; Timothy McVeigh, for example, was raised Catholic but described himself as an agnostic. But occasionally, the militia movement and radical Christianity have overlapped. A perfect example is the Hutaree Militia, a Michigan-based group with extreme Christianist views. In 2010, nine members of Hutaree were arrested for an alleged plot to assassinate police officers using firearms and explosives; allegedly, Hutaree saw that plot as part of a battle with forces of the "Antichrist."

Christian reconstructionism is one of the most disturbing schools of radical Christianist ideology. Founded by the late Calvinist theologian Rousas John Rushdoony (who died in 2001), the Christian reconstructionist movement believes in abolishing any separation of church and state and establishing a government that adheres to a rigid approach to Mosaic Old Testament law; adultery, homosexuality and blasphemy would be punishable by death under a Christian reconstructionist government.

Even on the Christian Right, Rushdoony (who was a defender of slavery and considered democracy incompatible with Christianity) is controversial. The type of government Christian reconstructionists long for would, in many respects, mirror the Taliban of radical Islam. Rushdoony’s teachings have a following that includes his son, the Rev. Mark Rushdoony (who now heads the Chalcedon Foundation, the organization his father founded) and Gary North (who was R.J. Rushdoony’s son-in-law and now heads his own Christian reconstructionist organization, the Institute for Christian Economics). According to David Holthouse (formerly of the Southern Poverty Law Center and now with Media Matters), Mark Rushdoony “now leads a small army of true believers whose fundamentalism is so hardcore they make garden-variety right-wing evangelicals seem like Unitarians at a Peter, Paul and Mary sing-along.”

North has written that under a Christian reconstructionist government, stoning should be the method of execution for gay men, adulterers and women who have had abortions. North has said that stoning (which is still practiced by radical Islamists in Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and other countries) is preferable to other methods of execution because it is more economical; he has also said that a stoning can be a community event for Christian families.

Of course, not everyone on the Christian Right is guilty of committing or promoting violence. But even without actual violence, Christianists often resort to bully tactics and violent rhetoric. After the January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona that killed six people and left Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords seriously wounded, Fred Phelps praised the shooter and said that he was doing God’s work. Phelps, who ran for political office several times as a Democrat in the 1990s, said, “Congresswoman Giffords, an avid supporter of sin and baby killing, was shot for that mischief…Westboro Baptist Church prays for more shooters...and more dead.”

Journalist Chris Hedges has often said that actual violence is preceded by the "language of violence,” and the language of violence is quite common among Christianists. In 2007, when Hindu minister Rajan Zed was asked to deliver an opening prayer for the Senate, Christianist groups like the American Family Association, Operation Rescue/Operation Save America and Faith2Action angrily protested and made it clear that they had no use for Hinduism. And Repent Amarillo isn't shy about trying to bully its victims into accepting the group's extremist view of Christianity. Certainly, the language and rhetoric of violence is a part of “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” a video game that deals with holy war in the name of Christianity and is part of the Rev. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ apocalypse-obsessed Left Behind series. Author Frank Schaeffer, who used to be part of the Christian Right but has since renounced it, has said that the Left Behind novels and games “represents everything that is most deranged about religion.”

But despite all the extremist views, hate-mongering and terrorist violence associated with Christianists, radical Christianity typically gets a pass from Republican politicians and the Republican talk radio hosts who support them. When, in 2009, Janet Napolitano warned of the threat of violence coming from the far right (including anti-abortion extremists), she was called anti-Christian by many people on the Christian Right. But when Rep. Peter King of New York called for Congressional hearings on radical Islamic activity in the U.S., he was applauded by neocons and many of his fellow Republicans.

Far-right talk show hosts have spent a considerable amount of time talking about radical Islam, but they seldom, if ever, have anything to say about radical Christianity. They have no problem with a group like Repent Amarillo, which hasn't actually resorted to physical violence even though it has employed an abundance of violent, militaristic imagery. It’s safe to say that if an Islamist group held a mock execution of Santa Claus and harassed people at work, it wouldn’t be taken lightly in GOP circles. And if an Islamist group released a video game as twisted as “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” it wouldn’t get a pass from Republican talk radio.

One person who has been outspoken about the Republican/far-right double standard when it comes to radical Christianity vs. radical Islam is Rob Boston, senior policy analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State and author of three books on the Christian Right. “From where I’m sitting, the main organizations that are trying to impose religion on other people in this country are fundamentalist Christian in nature,” Boston said:

“I can’t remember the last time, for example, that a Muslim group tried to get Islamic doctrine posted in a courthouse or attempted to ban same-sex marriage by pointing to passages in the Koran, or tried to force Islamic prayers in the public schools. But fundamentalist Christian groups do these things all the time. So if anybody is trying to impose religion on Americans, it’s not Muslims; it’s extreme fundamentalist Christian groups.”

Boston added that just as it is wrong for atheists to make broad generalizations about people of faith, it is equally wrong to automatically associate terrorism and extremism with Islam:

“Christian groups will complain if they are painted with too broad a brush—and rightly so. Christianity in America is diverse. There are Christian groups that are theologically very moderate, and there are Christian groups that are very, very conservative. Not everyone who is a Christian in America is a fundamentalist or an evangelical. We always have to remember that there is a lot of diversity out there. Yet, the same conservative Christian groups that complain about being caricatured will do the same thing to Islam; they portray the one billion Muslims in the world as if they are exactly the same. But anybody who has spent any time talking to Muslims quickly learns that there is just as much diversity in that community as there is in the Christian community about how holy books are to be interpreted and how society is to be ordered.”

Boston continued:

“I just find the whole thing ironic because if you look at the agenda of the Islamic extremists, their agenda is anti-women’s rights and anti-gay rights, and it’s about religion controlling the government. Well, what other movement do you know of that believes in those things? The Christian Right. Culturally, those movements are very similar. And there’s a reason for that. It’s not religion that’s the problem; it’s fundamentalism that’s the problem. I always remind people of that when I’m giving speeches. Sometimes, I run across people who think that religion in general is bad and that religion is why we have all these problems. And I tell them, well, religion can persuade people to do a lot of good things in the world. It’s not religion that’s the problem—it’s fundamentalism."

Some people have described Timothy McVeigh as the ultimate Christian terrorist. This is inaccurate, because while McVeigh was raised Catholic, he appeared to be motivated by extreme anti-government/militia beliefs rather than religious motives. But there is no doubt that McVeigh was responsible for the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil prior to 9/11.

American Muslim activist Haroon Moghul, who serves as executive director of the Maydan Institute and frequently lectures on Islam, said he sees a major disparity between the way radical Christianity and radical Islam are covered by the right-wing media. “I think the biggest difference in the way Islam and Christianity are covered by the right is that when it comes to Islam, the assumption has been that Islam is inherently violent or inherently political and that Islam has to prove otherwise,” the New York City-based Moghul said.

“When it comes to radical forms of Christianity or more extreme forms of Christianity, it’s always seen as an aberration by the right. But any sort of Muslim behavior that is violent or extreme or intolerant is assumed to be inherent to Islam. So the burden of proof is on a Muslim community or a Muslim individual to prove otherwise. If Osama bin Laden said something, it was assumed that it was inherent to Islam. If it’s Hutaree or something like that, it’s assumed that it is just a lone wolf or a fringe group—and it’s disconnected from the rest of what’s happening in America. Hutaree isn’t assumed to be the product of something bigger than themselves.”

Moghul views the Christianity good/Islam bad narrative of the far right as symptomatic of the soundbite culture that exists in America. “There really isn’t room for a lot of different opinions in our political discourse in the United States,” Moghul said. “Whether the two-party system makes that better or worse, I don’t really know. But you generally see that nuance disappears in our political discourse.”

Another voice of sanity on the subject of Islam and Christianity is journalist Leonard Pitts, Jr., author of Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood and a syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald. In his columns, Pitts has had a lot to say about the way some people on the far right will try to paint Islam in general as a violent religion (as opposed to making a distinction between radical and non-radical Islam). And they get away with that double standard, according to Pitts, because it is easier to attack what is a minority religion in the U.S.

“Christianity is a known element in the United States, whereas Islam is a foreign faith,” Pitts explained. He continued:

“Most people of faith in the United States are Christian. Most Americans know a lot of Christians but don’t know any Muslims. So it’s easy to look at the craziest, most dangerous Muslims and assume that they are representative of Islam as a whole. Christians in the United States will look at the Army of God and say, ‘That has no relation to any Christianity I have ever known. That has absolutely nothing to do with any Christianity I have ever known,’ but moderate Muslims will say the same thing about Muslims who commit acts of violence.”

In one of his columns, Pitts pointed to four scriptural quotes that could be construed as violent—one from the Qu’ran, three from the Bible. His point was that cherry-picking parts of the Qu’ran in order to prove that Islam is an inherently violent or dangerous religion is as intellectually dishonest as cherry-picking parts of the Bible in order to depict Christianity as inherently violent.

The far right, according to Pitts, often neglects to mention the fact that Muslims themselves have been the victims of Muslim extremists, including the Muslims killed on 9/11. “People forget that a lot of Muslims died that day,” Pitts said. “You’re not going to attack Lower Manhattan that way and not kill Muslim people.” He added: “I don't fear Muslims, I don’t fear Christians. But I fear Muslim and Christian extremists. I fear extremists period.”

If stoning proponent Gary North is mentioned at all in the Republican media, he is painted as a harmless eccentric and not part of a radical Christianist movement. But if someone in a mosque in Detroit or Oakland promoted stoning, talk-radio Republicans would be screaming about it for days.

The bottom line is that extremism in the name of religion is cause for concern regardless of whether the extremists identify themselves as Christian or Muslim. Those who claim that Christian extremism is any less dangerous than Islamic extremism are being disingenuous.

“When people embrace any kind of extreme ideology, whether it’s religious or secular, and can tolerate no dissent,” Boston said, “we’re in for trouble."

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Alex Henderson's work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, and other publications.

AlterNet articles by Alex Henderson
AlterNet home page

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Knowledge of the Holy is to Depart from Evil

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wallowing In Our Filth

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Environmental Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

Environmental Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline
by Naomi Klein, Wendell Berry, Maude Barlow, Bill McKibben and Others article link
June 23, 2011 | CommonDreams

Dear Friends,

This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.

The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.

The full version goes like this:

As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.

And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.

These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.

To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.

How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million. Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out. As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. "Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we're going to be stuck," said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.

Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.

And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.

So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.

And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.

We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day through Labor Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business. And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure the government for change. We’ll do what we can.

And one more thing: we don’t want college kids to be the only cannon fodder in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest. Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere (and whose careers won’t be as damaged by an arrest record) to step up too. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.

This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, to the date in September when by law the administration can either grant or deny the permit for the pipeline. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.

Winning this battle won’t save the climate. But losing it will mean the chances of runaway climate change go way up—that we’ll endure an endless future of the floods and droughts we’ve seen this year. And we’re fighting for the political future too—for the premise that we should make decisions based on science and reason, not political connection. You have to start somewhere, and this is where we choose to begin.

If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here. As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.

We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.

Maude Barlow
Wendell Berry
Tom Goldtooth
Danny Glover
James Hansen
Wes Jackson
Naomi Klein
Bill McKibben
George Poitras
David Suzuki
Gus Speth

p.s.—Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it.

CommonDreams home page

Monday, June 20, 2011

James Carroll: A Solstice Approaches, Unnoticed

As our sense of the complexities of life quickened and deepened, our destructiveness of life also quickened and deepened. Through ambitions of unlimited growth, consumption, competitive manufacture, and self-expanding technology, we humans have become a mechanism of extinction. When we stopped noticing Earth, we began to destroy it.

A Solstice Approaches, Unnoticed
by James Carroll article link article link
June 20, 2011 | CommonDreams | Boston Globe

ONCE, HUMANS were intimate with the cycles of nature, and never more than on the summer solstice. Vestiges of such awareness survive in White Nights and Midnight Sun festivals in far northern climes, and in neo-pagan adaptations of Midsummer celebrations, but contemporary people take little notice of the sun reaching its far point on the horizon. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year, the official start of the summer season, the fullest of light — yet we are apt to miss this phenomenon of Earth’s axial tilt, as we miss so much of what the natural world does in our surrounds.

In recent months, catastrophic weather events have dominated headlines as rarely before — earthquakes and tsunami in Asia; volcanic cloud in Europe; massive ice melts at the poles; tornadoes, floods, and fires in America. “Records are not just broken,” an atmospheric scientist said last week, “they are smashed.” Without getting into questions of causality, and without anthropomorphizing nature, we can still take these events as nature’s cri de coeur — as the degraded environment’s grabbing of human lapels to say, “Pay attention!”

To our ancestors in the deep past, that attention to nature was, well, natural. They made the evolutionary leap into human consciousness through close observation, among other things, of what heavenly bodies do in the sky. In a cosmos over which they had no control, paying attention to patterns of heat and cold, light and dark, rain and drought was a matter of survival. The invention of agriculture depended on awareness of seasons, so that times of planting and harvesting, herding and grazing, could be depended upon. Movements of the sun and moon were seen to have both influences on, and counterparts in, individual human experience — from mood swings to menstruation to aging. Astrology opened into astronomy, calculation into mathematics, scrutiny into science. Definitions of the calendar were essential to culture. The solstice was a marker of all this.

But this habit of regard for nature was essential also to the transition into modernity. Contemplation of the sun was nothing less than the incubator of our age. Copernicus and Galileo, after all, ushered humans into the breakthrough of testable knowledge by means of their study — one theorizing, the other experimenting — of Earth’s place in the solar system. The solstice, previously perceived as the sun’s standing still for a moment before reversing course on the horizon, would never be understood that way again. Heliocentrism initiated the maturing of science, which eventually would demonstrate that seasonal rhythms not only produce global dynamics of climate but also hormonal changes — daily, weekly, monthly — within the individual human body, each person biologically synchronized to the cosmic clock. Because of science, we were able to grasp the age of the earth — to know that there have been more than 4 billion summer solstices. Humans awakened to the full complexity of the universe.

Ironically, the accompanying social revolution of industrialization led to illusions of human mastery over nature, and ultimately to detached indifference toward it. Contemporary technological civilization became blinded to key phenomena of the living world, much as the night sky is blotted out by the artificial light of cities. Most recently, the cycles of time have given way to the eternal present of the computer screen — detachment squared. As humans came to know so much, we lost our grip on the knowledge with which we became human: our familiarity with the physical universe we live in. Imagining that we no longer needed nature, we ourselves became the great threat to nature. As our sense of the complexities of life quickened and deepened, our destructiveness of life also quickened and deepened. Through ambitions of unlimited growth, consumption, competitive manufacture, and self-expanding technology, we humans have become a mechanism of extinction. When we stopped noticing Earth, we began to destroy it.

Intimate awareness of nature and its cycles, as we saw, was an ancient mode of survival. But survival is at issue again. Noticing the length of light now, reveling in the sun’s achievement, rejoicing in Earth’s perfect balance, honoring the summer solstice — loving it: This is how we became human, and it is how we stay human.

© 2011 James Carroll

James Carroll, bestselling author of Constantine’s Sword, is a columnist for the Boston Globe and a Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University in Boston. His newest book, Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), has just been published.

CommonDreams home page
The Boston Globe home page

Friday, June 17, 2011

Conscientious Objectors: A Reclamation of Our Common Rights

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spiritual Famine

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Benjamin/Davis: Needed: An Antiwar Movement That Puts Peace Over Politicians

Needed: An Antiwar Movement That Puts Peace Over Politicians
by Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis article link article link
June 15, 2011 | CommonDreams | AlterNet

After campaigning as the candidate of change, the man awarded a Nobel Prize for peace has given the world nothing but more war. Yet despite Barack Obama's continuation – nay, escalation – of the worst aspects of George W. Bush's foreign policy, including his very own illegal war in Libya, you’d be hard-pressed to find the large-scale protests and outrage from the liberal establishment that characterized his predecessor's reign (and only seems to pop up when a Republican's the one dropping the bombs).

That's not for a lack of things to protest. Since taking office, Obama has doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan and now looks set to break his pledge to begin a significant withdrawal in July. He has unilaterally committed the nation to an unapologetically illegal war in Libya and in two years has authorized more drone strikes in Pakistan than his predecessor authorized in two terms, with one in three of their victims reportedly civilians. In Yemen, he has targeted a U.S. citizen for assassination and approved a cluster bomb strike that, according to Amnesty International, killed 35 innocent women and children.

But these war crimes, which ought to shock the consciences of the president's liberal supporters, haven't spurred the sort of popular protest we witnessed under Bush the Lesser. At a recent congressional hearing on the bloated war budget, a handful of CODEPINK activists were the sole dissenters. Thousands poured into the streets to cheer Osama bin Laden's death, but no Americans were in the streets decrying the drone attack that killed dozens of Pakistani civilians weeks earlier.

While die-hard grassroots peace activists continue to bravely protest U.S. militarism, with 52 people arrested last month protesting outside a nuclear weapons factory in Kansas City – if they'd been Tea Partiers protesting Obamacare, you may have heard of them – there's no denying that the peace movement has taken a beating.

The question is, why? Part of the reason is the financial crisis. It's hard to protest war when the bank's foreclosing on your house. And it's hard to find money for a trip to Washington, DC, when, like 14 million Americans, you're unemployed.

War has also become normal – routine, boring – to many Americans, with U.S. troops stationed for nearly ten years in Afghanistan and eight in Iraq. And after the first volley of smart bombs, wars are barely covered by the media, eclipsed by the latest scandal involving a politician's privates. Beyond apathy, many who once took to the street may now no longer see the value of protest in the face of the enormous power of the military-industrial complex.

But a recent study suggests that a major reason why the antiwar movement has withered even as the warfare state has grown is simply that the party in charge has changed.

After surveying 5,398 demonstrators between 2007 to 2009, the University of Michigan's Michael T. Heaney and Indiana University's Fabio Rojas found that prior to Obama's election, up to 54 percent of antiwar protesters were self-described Democrats. After his inauguration, that number fell to less than a quarter.

“Democratic activists left the antiwar movement as the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, if not policy success,” the researchers write. That is, Democrats successfully “exploit[ed] the antiwar movement for their own electoral success,” and many of their supporters took that as a victory in and of itself.

Instead of continuing the hard work of organizing and protesting unjust wars, too many people took the election of politicians with “D”s after their name as their own Mission Accomplished. Instead of continuing direct action, too many were content voting for “their” team and calling it a day, never mind the policies those they voted into office continued once in power.

It's worth recounting just how Democrats have rewarded their antiwar supporters. In 2006, riding public anger over the war in Iraq to take back control of the House for the first time in a dozen years, Democrats had a mandate for change – and then turned around and consistently funded the war they claimed to oppose. The most congressional Democrats have done is offer a resolution requesting a “plan” for ending the war in Afghanistan, all the while dutifully approving the funds to fight it.

We know how Obama has governed after likewise cynically riding antiwar sentiment into the White House.

Once casting themselves as brave opponents of the warfare state, many Democrats have rejected their rhetorical support for peace just as thoroughly as their once-upon-a-time opposition to the Patriot Act. When Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich offered a measure condemning Obama's illegal, undeclared war in Libya and demanding a withdrawal of all U.S. forces within two weeks, he was joined by more Republicans than he was his fellow Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, channeling every right-winger during the Bush years, even claimed lawmakers who opposed the president's unilateral war policy would send the “wrong message” to the U.S.'s NATO allies. The former speaker of the House is seemingly more concerned about hurt feelings than dead civilians, taxpayer money or the Constitution.

Even the recent House vote to block the president from spending funds “in contravention of the War Powers Act” – meaning Libya – received more votes from Republicans than Democrats. Who says elections don't change anything?

Democratic voters who genuinely believe in peace should know that ending the U.S.'s addiction to war requires more than spending a few minutes in the ballot box. The only change voting has brought in recent years is the party approving the money for war and the name of the president requesting it.

If voting isn't changing things – and it's not – it's time we considered changing our tactics.

Obama, after all, whose campaign cast him as the most peaceful of the major party candidates, has committed acts of war in no less than half-a-dozen countries (that we know about): Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Under Obama, the U.S. aids and abets Israeli war crimes to the tune of more than $3 billion a year in military aid, all while vigorously fighting international attempts to hold accountable those responsible for the slaughter of civilians in Gaza. And Guantanamo Bay? Still open.

But Obama has done more than disappoint the antiwar movement: he's actively attacked it, using the power of the state to harass and intimidate peace activists, 23 of whom have had their homes and offices raided by the FBI. The pretense? That a group of pacifists may have provided “material support” to terrorists, a charge so slippery and ill-defined that the ACLU warns it can include a conversation on the need to embrace non-violence.

More war and the threat of prosecution to intimidate those who oppose these wars – or expose them, in the case of alleged WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning: that's what Obama's election has wrought. Was his rise to power really such a progressive victory?

Occasional rhetorical flourishes aside, Democrats and Republicans reliably back the killing of poor people on the other side of the globe in the name of “regional stability” and perceived U.S. national (read: corporate) interests. As they've made painstakingly clear over the years, neither is a friend of peace, especially when one of their own is making war.

If change is to come to U.S. foreign policy, it won't be thanks to any politician, but to direct action and organizing of the sort that won African Americans and other minorities their civil rights. We already have public opinion on our side -- 2/3 of Americans consistently say they want to get out of the wars. We now have to make the voice of the silent majority heard.

Rather than devoting time, money and energy into electing politicians who will betray the values of peace, we should organize and energize a new peace movement that values direct action over access to power; real and lasting peace over disingenuous politicians. Instead of waiting – and waiting – for politicians to buck party and power, we should make alliances with labor activists, environmentalists and advocates for the poor who have some pretty good ideas on protest and civil disobedience – and on what to do with the $2 billion the U.S. government wastes every week on the Afghan war alone. If we build a strong enough movement, politicians will figure out which way the wind is blowing.

Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org). She is author of Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.

Charles Davis has covered Congress for NPR and Pacifica stations across the country, and freelanced for the international news wire Inter Press Service, primarily covering U.S. policy toward Latin America and the war on drugs in particular. He has also worked as a researcher for Michael Moore on his movie Capitalism: A Love Story.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

God is the Author of Our Salvation

God's Consciousness Awakening In Our Minds

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost: Spiritual Freedom

Holy Days: Family and Community
The Seven Annual Sabbaths

Our inherent value = love and truth; the communitarian way, the environment instituted in the pages of the OT and exemplified in the NT has a built-in reminder to maintain "the continual", the daily worship (the practise of the way): the annual Holy Days, the festivals; the shared symbolic behavior so important to fellowship and cognition.

The seven annual Sabbaths instituted forever not only the Holy Days [God's Plan of Salvation for humanity] but the way of life within, explicit in the harvest feasts: the communitarian way, the *path* [personal achievement of true humanity] - the first day of the sacred year (the annual beginning); the Passover (the sacrifice, the reconciliation, the acceptance; the SAGE attempt to silence); ULB (the putting away of sin, the commitment); Pentecost (the gift of God; a society of the gift); the fall harvest season, Trumpets, Atonement, FOT, LGD: the return Christ, of His message; the putting away of the adversary (Mammon; the alienated, privileged attitudes); the harvest feast (feast of booths, the millennium, the communal reconstruction); the judgement (the Book of Life opened; all of humanity to share in the way).

The Passover observance at even (sunset), in the NT the Last Supper; the wine and unleavened bread taken by the Baptised in acknowledgement of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus for the remission of sins and in rededication as the very flesh and blood of the "body of Christ"; the Night To Be Much Remembered, observed the next sunset, was instituted to remember the Exodus of Israel from Egypt (typifies sin), the 7 Days of Unleavened Bread [ULB] begin; they picture the removal of sin from our lives; no leavened bread or products of any kind (the puffed-up lives, attitudes); the first and last days are annual Sabbaths; next is Pentecost, which pictures God's Gift of the Holy Spirit to the Christian Community, the 3rd annual Sabbath.

The Feast of Trumpets pictures the return of Christ; the Second Coming when Christ directly intervenes in world affairs and establishes the government or Kingdom of God over mankind; the beginning of the Millennium; the next event is pictured by the Day of Atonement; the binding and separation of Satan, the author of all sin (the transgression of God's Ten Commandments) away from mankind until after the Millennium; next is the Feast of Tabernacles [FOT] or Booths, a feast of ingathering, a seven day festival where we leave our homes and gather together if possible; it pictures the Millennium when Jesus Christ is Lord and King over all the earth, when the Holy Spirit is granted to all mankind alive and born during the Millennium and the earth is prepared for the next great event to take place; that event is pictured by the Last Great Day [LGD], the resurrection of every man, woman and child who has ever lived/been conceived (including the stillborn and aborted, placed into their parents arms); the dead stand before God; this is the Great White Throne Judgement, not a condemnation to a hell as traditional Christianity believes, but a time when the "Book of Life" is opened to all of humanity and they are given their first opportunity to receive God's instruction, to learn his way of love based on the 10 Commandments and ultimately to be born into the very Family of God.

The spring (3 Sabbaths) and fall Holy Days (4 Sabbaths) picture the plan of redemption for mankind and are explained thoughout the Bible; by keeping them as commanded by God every year, the Church (the community) is kept in constant remembrance of God's plan for mankind and man's destiny to be born into the Family of God and ultimately to share in the rule and continuing creation of the universe.

MM Book 2 Chapter 10-17

When we come in contact with, or come up against, “character” that *lacks* God [in others or in ourselves], it is an opportunity to express God: INIQUITY PURGED BY MERCY AND TRUTH [mercy/forgiveness] – all of us have been casualties of the prevailing systemic character, the fear “bullet” [arrow] that is shot deep into us; God will heal the “inflicted wound”, and heal us !! — we must pull-back “for” engagement [from the evil; we are in conflict of interest]; WE MUST *OCCUPY* COMMUNITY, WE MUST *PLACE* GOD’S PRESENCE INTO WHEREVER WE ARE [location or situation]; GOD’S CHARACTER AND ABILITIES ARE OURS TO PLACE !! – WE *ARE* GOD FAMILY, WE EMBODY [our being] AND CREATE [our doing] COMMUNITY, THIS *IS* OUR RESPONSE-ABILITY !! — OUR MINISTRY [ministration] IS ** OUR RELATIONSHIP(S) **, OUR COMMUNITY !! – AGAPE LOVE IS THE GIFT, AND THE GIVING !!

“… The three main festivals in the Bible are Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles – in the physical application Passover is the festival of political freedom, Tabernacles of economic freedom, and Pentecost, the central and most important, is a festival of spiritual freedom [see Harris L. Selig, "Links to Eternity", p. 370; Richard C. Nickels, Giving and Sharing, "Pentecost Paper"]:

PASSOVER = POLITICAL FREEDOM – EXODUS (out of bondage), Christ Systemic;
PENTECOST = SPIRITUAL FREEDOM – 10C, Covenant People, Holy Spirit, COG;

Previously posted MMmeta September 24, 2010 and April 19, 2011

MM Book 2 Chapter 6-14

The 10 Commandments [10C] are a mental environment, each an attitude of mind [an expression of God's very own mind, His character]; “thou shalt not” implies the opposite “thou shalt *do*” [ie., in God's community there is no need, or desire for stealing, all shall freely share], our involvement and responsibility, our family consciousness [of God and man, our relationship], our personality; Philippians 2:5, “let this *mind be in you* that was also in Christ Jesus” – the 10C represent *together* the ultimate, genuine *survival* mentation matrix and paradigm [intelligent design, application (obedience); psychologically, the deep things of God; the ** COMMANDMENTS OF LIFE **]; 2 Cor 10:5, “… bringing into captivity *every thought* to the obedience of Christ” – the 10C are active, real, *living* laws, physically and spiritually [with real penalties when broken; witness the world], they *are* the God Family, they are the Family’s ** Law of Agape Love **, yet the 10C and God are not real to most people !! – it is the transgression of these laws [1 John 3:4, sin is the transgression of the law] that has separated God and man, that has made the reality of our evil systemic [and the resultant suffering engendered] paramount in our lives – these laws are the only way to a *sustainable existence* for man on this planet; they are God’s systemic, His guiding principles, they are what we were designed for !! — the reality of this world must be God’s reality, we must make God our own, a systemic based on “give” NOT a systemic based on “take”, a true systemic of resultant blessings NOT a false, evil systemic of curses [an absence of the blessings !!] – these “living laws” engender [to beget; to bring into being; cause; produce; originate] a *true life*, a living, symbiotic environment; they are part-and-parcel of God’s Holy Spirit, and as such THEY IMPART GOD’S LIFE AND WITHOUT THEM WE WILL CEASE TO EXIST !!

MM Book 2 Chapter 6-16

The Works (spiritually/physically) of the Devil are opposed to the Law of God, to the Family:

1 you shall have other gods before God, you shall serve me;
2 you shall make images of the Beast, the hierarchical systemic;
3 you shall take/carry God’s name in vain, you shall worship me;
4 you shall NOT obey God’s Sabbath;
5 you shall NOT honor your mother and father;
6 you shall murder;
7 you shall commit adultery;
8 you shall steal;
9 you shall bear false witness;
10 you shall covet.

this is a description of a world systemic *of the devil*, of every evil way !! [John 8:44 Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the *lusts of your father ye will do*. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.] — BY DESTROYING THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL (the Works of the Flesh) WE FULFIL THE LAW OF GOD, WE FULFIL *OUR* PURPOSE !! — there is much brilliance in the world but the current, the force of flow lighting and applying that intelligence, is a fallen Angel, NOT THE FORCE AND LIGHT OF GOD’S WORD !! — man took to himself Satan’s knowledge of *good and evil* and that is the systemic in the world today; both good and evil are existent, and the evil separates God from man [our sins; our choice of the evil way].

Mammon or Messiah Book 2 web page (widescreen)
Mammon or Messiah Book 2 blog home

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pentecost: The Giving of God's Law and Holy Spirit

Section Four of Biblical Holy Days
Written by: Richard C. Nickels article link


Section Four of Biblical Holy Days covers Pentecost, the festival with many names. As with the other sections, our purpose is not to convince others to observe the Sabbaths of the Almighty. It is to provide resource material and in-depth instruction for those who already observe these sacred times. Even though I personally observe a Monday Pentecost, our material on Pentecost is not intended to be a comprehensive proof that a Monday Pentecost is correct. Our study material gathers resource material from a wide variety of sources as a research source for serious students.

Here is a summary collection of Pentecost data:

Feast of Weeks (Chag Shavuot)
Feast of Harvest (Chag Qatsiyr)
Day of Firstfruits (Yom Bikkurim)
Festival of the Covenant
Closing Sabbath (Shavuot Atzeret)
Season of the Giving of God's Law
Holy Spirit Day
Birthday of the Church

An Ordinance Forever (Chuqqah Olam)

Count a full fifty days, then keep Pentecost. Begin counting on the day after the weekly Sabbath which falls during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Incorrect Pentecost dates are any fixed calendar date (Sivan 6, 7, etc.), and Whitsunday, which was brought into the Catholic Church from paganism.

Proper keeping of Pentecost involves the following:

Being in Holy Convocation on the correct date,
at one accord with God's people,
in the attitude of prayer and supplication,
with obedience to the Laws of the Covenant,
exhibiting the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Of all the Biblical Holy Days, Pentecost is the one most recognized by the professing Christian world. The Pentecost of Acts 2 marked the birth of the New Testament Church. However, as soon as 60-70 years after that epochal Pentecost, the Church was undergoing a radical doctrinal change from its original roots. Since then, much of the Biblical understanding of Pentecost has been lost. Pentecost indeed has a forgotten message for Christians today. Although many Catholics and Protestants take note of Pentecost (Whitsunday), the Biblical basis for the Feast is largely absent.

Yet paradoxically, the "Pentecostals" think they truly understand the meaning of Pentecost. Our study of "Tarry for Pentecost" indicates a deeper meaning that they have missed.

In the Church of God, much effort has been expended to prove which day is the correct Pentecost. Our articles address these issues, and show that there is a gold mine of understanding of the meaning of Pentecost that results from this discussion.

Pentecost: Its Message for Christians Today

Pentecost has a great deal of meaning for Christians today. The first part of this study deals with the Biblical words relating to this important Feast Day. The second part contains reference material relating to Pentecost. All word numbers refer to those given in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance.


From the Greek #4005 pentekoste, pronounced "pen-tay-kos-tay'," feminine of #4004 pentekonta, (fifty), fiftieth from Passover, the festival of Pentecost.

Church Founded at Pentecost

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Paul Wanted to be at Jerusalem for Pentecost

Acts 20:16 For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia, for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.

Paul Wanted to Stay at Ephesus Until Pentecost

I Corinthians 16:8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.

His reason for staying at Ephesus until Pentecost? Verse 9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.


Hebrew #1061 bikkuwr, "bikkoor'," from #1069 bakar (to burst the womb, bear or make early fruit, firstborn, firstling), the firstfruits of the crop, hasty fruit.

Pentecost One of Two Harvest Feasts

Exodus 23:16 And the feast of harvest [Pentecost], the firstfruits of thy labors, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering [Tabernacles], which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labors out of the field.

Exodus 34:22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks [Pentecost], of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end [margin: revolution of the year].

See also Leviticus 23:10.

Sacrificial Offering of Firstfruits

Exodus 23:19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.

See also Exodus 34:26.

Leviticus 2:14 And if thou offer a meat offering of thy firstfruits unto the LORD, thou shalt offer for the meat offering of thy firstfruits green ears of corn dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears.

Leviticus 23:17, 20 [on Pentecost] Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD . . . . And the priest shall wave them [the special sacrifices for the feast] with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.

Day of Firstfruits, No Work, A Holy Convocation Forever

Numbers 28:26 Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the LORD, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work.

Leviticus 23:21 And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

Firstfruits Given to Elisha Fed One Hundred Men

II Kings 4:42, 44 [during a severe drought, verse 38] And there came a man from Baal-shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people that they may eat . . . . So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof . . . .

Firstfruits Brought to God's House at Appointed Times

Nehemiah 10:34-35 . . . at times appointed year by year . . . . And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD.

Nehemiah 13:31 . . . at times appointed, and for the firstfruits.

Sons of Zadok To Receive Firstfruits

Ezekiel 44:30 And the first [chief] of all the firstfruits of all things . . . shall be the priest's.

FIRSTFRUITS -- Re'shiyth

Hebrew #7225 re'shiyth pronounced "ray-sheeth'," from the same root as #7218 ro'sh (the head, captain, chief, first), the first, in place, time, order or rank; beginning, chief, firstfruits; principal.

Firstfruits and Sacrificial System

Leviticus 2:12-13 As for the oblation of the firstfruits, ye shall offer them unto the LORD: but they shall not be burnt on the altar for a sweet savor. And every oblation of thy meat offering, shalt thou season with salt, neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering.

Firstfruits were thus not burnt.

Wavesheaf Offering of Firstfruits

Leviticus 23:10-11, 14 When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and reap the harvest . . . then ye shall bring a sheaf [Hebrew: omer] of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it . . . . And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Priests Given Tithes and Firstfruits

Numbers 18:12 All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee [Aaron and his sons].

II Chronicles 31:5 . . . the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things they brought in abundantly.

Firstfruits a Reminder of Exodus and Promised Land

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 . . . when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance . . . thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth . . . and put it in a basket, and go to the place . . . unto the priest . . . and say . . . the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand . . . [therefore] I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou O LORD, hast given me . . . . And thou shalt rejoice . . . thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.

Nehemiah Reinstituted Tithing and Firstfruits

Nehemiah 10:37 And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites . . . .

Nehemiah 12:44 And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes . . . .

Honor God With Your Firstfruits -- You'll Be Blessed

Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

Israel Is Special -- God's Firstfruits

Jeremiah 2:3 [JPS] Israel is the LORD's hallowed portion, His first-fruits of the increase; all that devour him shall be held guilty, evil shall come upon them . . . .

Firstfruits Are Holy Unto God

Ezekiel 48:14 And they shall not sell of it, neither exchange, nor alienate the firstfruits of the land: for it is holy unto the LORD.

Firstfruits Will Be Required in the World Tomorrow

Ezekiel 20:40 For in mine holy mountain . . . there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.

Firstfruits Remind of Second Exodus

Ezekiel 20:41-43 I will accept you with your sweet savor, when I . . . . gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered . . . . And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel . . . . And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled . . . and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.

Note: Compare with Acts 2:36-38, where Peter exhorted the Jews to repentance by remembering their part in the death of the Savior.


Greek #536 aparche pronounced "ap-ar-khay'," from a composite of #575 apo (separation, departure) and #756 archomai (to commence, begin), a beginning of sacrifice, firstfruits.

Christians Are Firstfruits

Romans 16:5 Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

I Corinthians 16:15 . . . the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia . . . .

James 1:18 Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

Christians Have Firstfruits of God's Spirit

Romans 8:14, 23 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God . . . which have the firstfruits of the Spirit . . . .

Christ the Firstfruits of the Dead

I Corinthians 15:20, 22-23 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept . . . in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming.

144,000 Are a Firstfruits Unto God

Revelation 14:1, 4 And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father's name written in their foreheads . . . . These were redeemed from among men, being the [a] firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.


Hebrew #7620 shabuwaor shabua or shebuah pronounced "sheb-oo-aw'," seven, a week. This is distinct from the Hebrew word for Sabbath, #7676, and does not mean "Sabbath."

Pentecost Also Called Feast of Weeks

Exodus 34:22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest . . . .

Deuteronomy 16:9-12 Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee. And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place His name there. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.

Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times in a year shalt all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which He shall choose: in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:

II Chronicles 8:13 . . . on the Sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in a year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks and in the feast of tabernacles.

Pentecost Is Feast of Weeks Because It Must Be Counted

Numbers 28:26 Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the LORD, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work:

Deuteronomy 16:9 Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.

Leviticus 23:15-16 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days . . . .

Feast of Weeks Offering Given God

Deuteronomy 16:10, 16-17 And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks . . . with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God has blessed thee in the feast of weeks . . . and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which He hath given thee.

Feast of Weeks a Feast of Rejoicing at a Special Place

Deuteronomy 16:10-12 And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks . . . . And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God . . . in the place which the LORD thy God has chosen to place His name there. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.

Passover to Pentecost a Type of the Spiritual Harvest

Jeremiah 5:15, 17, 24-25 Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far . . . . And they shall eat up thine harvest . . . . Neither say they [Israel] in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that given rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest . . . . your sins have withholden good things from you.


Ark Fifty Cubits Wide, It Rained a Hundred Fifty Days

Genesis 6:15 The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

Genesis 7:24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.

Genesis 8:3 . . . and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.

Sodom Would Have Been Spared For Fifty Righteous Persons

Genesis 18:24, 26, 28 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: . . . . And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous . . . . I will spare all the place for their sakes . . . . Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty . . . .

Moses Placed Judges Over Fifties

Exodus 18:21-22 [Jethro speaking:] . . . thou shalt provide . . . able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, and rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: and let them judge the people at all seasons . . . .

Deuteronomy 1:15 So I took . . . wise men and known, and made them captains over thousands, . . . hundreds . . . fifties . . . tens . . . .

Fifty Loops On the Ten Curtains of the Tabernacle

Exodus 26:1, 5-11 Fifty loops shall you make in one curtain . . . fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains one to another with the clasps, that the tabernacle may be one whole [JPS].

Tabernacle Court Fifty Cubits Wide

Exodus 27:13, 18 The length of the court shall be a hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where . . . .

Pentecost Fifty Days From Wavesheaf Day

Leviticus 23:15-16 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days . . . [KJV].

And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete; even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall you number fifty days . . . [JPS].

Levites Had to Retire at Age Fifty

Numbers 4:3 From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.

Numbers 8:25-26 And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service.

Jubilee the Fiftieth Year

Leviticus 25:10-11 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a Jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A Jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself . . . .

Fifty in a Company of Soldiers

I Kings 1:5 . . . and fifty men to run before him.

II Kings 1:9 . . . a captain of fifty with his fifty . . . .

God's Fifty Prophets and Disciples

I Kings 18:4 . . . when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.

Luke 9:14 . . . for they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, make them sit down by fifties in a company.


Israel Came to Sinai in the Third Month

Exodus 19:1-2 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai . . . and there Israel camped before the mount.

Asa's Covenant With God in the Third Month

II Chronicles 15:3, 10-13 Now for a long season Israel has been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law . . . . So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa . . . . And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their soul; That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death . . . .

Hezekiah Brings Firstfruits and Tithes in Third Month

II Chronicles 31:7 In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.

Jews Permitted to Defend Selves in Third Month

Esther 8:9-11 Then were the king's scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof . . . . Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life . . . .

Ezekiel's Third Month Prophecy for Egypt and Assyria

Ezekiel 31:1-2 And it came to pass . . . in the third month, in first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, son of man, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt . . . .

NOTE: Some "scholars" have noted that Pentecost is not mentioned in Ezekiel 45 and 46, although Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Tabernacles are specified. This does not show the invalidity of Pentecost in the World Tomorrow, because the general term "feasts, new moons, and Sabbaths" is used in these chapters to refer to all the feast days.


Greek #4845 sumpleroo pronounced "soom-play-ro-o," from #4862, sun, (completeness) and #4137, pleroo, (accomplish; complete, expire, fill up, make full, perfect), to accomplish completely, fill up, fully come.

Pentecost Was Fully Come When Holy Spirit Given

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come . . . .

Ship of Jesus and Disciples Filled With Water

Luke 8:23 . . . and there came down a storm of wind on the lake, and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.

Jesus Knew When His Time Was Come

Luke 9:51 . . . when the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.

NOTE: The Englishman's Greek New Testament translates Acts 2:1 literally as "and during the accomplishing of the day of Pentecost . . . ." The spiritual meaning of Pentecost was accomplished in the morning (around the third hour, nine o'clock) when the wave loaves were offered in 31 A.D. when God's Holy Spirit came.


Greek #3661 homothumadon pronounced "hom-oth-oo-mad-on'," unanimously, with one accord or mind, from #3674, homou, (at the same place or time, together) and #2372, thumos, (passion, as if breathing hard, fierceness, indignation, wrath) which comes from #2380, thuo, (to rush or breathe hard, blow; to sacrifice, kill slay).

Just Before Pentecost the Apostles Were With One Accord

Acts 1:14 These all [eleven apostles, verse 13] continued with one accord in prayer and supplication . . . .

At Pentecost, the Disciples With One Accord in One Place

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

After Pentecost, Christians Continued With One Accord

Acts 2:44-46 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.

Church Prayed for Peter and John with One Accord

Acts 4:24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord . . . .

The result?

Verses 31-32 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

Miracles and Converts Because Christians With One Accord

Acts 5:12, 14 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch . . . . And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)

Fighters Against God Were With One Accord

Acts 7:57-58 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him [Stephen] with one accord . . . . and stoned him . . . .

Acts 12:20 And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him . . . .

Acts 18:12 . . . the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat.

Acts 19:29 And the whole city [Ephesus] was filled with confusion . . . they rushed with one accord into the theatre.

Samaritans Gave One Accord to Philip's Preaching

Acts 8:6 And the people [of Samaria] with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

Ministers With One Accord at Jerusalem Conference

Acts 15:25 . . . being assembled with one accord . . . .

Glorify God With One Mind

Romans 15:5-6 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to [margin: after the example of] Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God . . .


This section gives summaries from various references on Pentecost, along with our comments.

Date Controversy

The phrase, "the morrow of the Sabbath," Leviticus 23:15, is interpreted by the rabbis as Nisan 16. Reasons supporting their position are: (1) Leviticus 25:2 shows that the Bible uses the word "Sabbath" to indicate not a seventh day but a period of rest or a festival. (2) The Septuagint (c. 300 B.C.) translates the disputed phrase as "the morrow of the first day," while the modern JPS renders it "the morrow of the day of rest." (3) Some feel that Joshua 5:11 should be translated so that Israel ate of the new produce of the land on the morrow of the Passover. (The JPS translation of Joshua 5:11 is "and they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the Passover . . . .") (4) Josephus wrote that "The offerings of the sheaf (omer of barley) took place on the 16th (of Nisan), the first busy work-day of the harvest, in relation to which the preceding day might well be called a Sabbath or rest day."

The Sadducees, the party dominated by the high priestly family, took the phrase "the morrow of the Sabbath" literally, and began counting with Sunday as the first day. For them, Shavuoth (Pentecost) falls on a Sunday. Shavuoth could thus fall anywhere from the 6th to the 13th of Sivan. The Talmud, slanted to the Pharisee position, records Pharisee-Sadducee debates on the subject, and infers that the Sadducees themselves felt very uncertain about the validity of their own arguments.

Centuries later, the Karaite sect (of the Crimea) rejected all rabbinic interpretation and held that the Scriptures alone are the only valid authority. They received their name because they emphasized the literal meaning of the Bible (Hebrew word kara means "to read"), and they too began counting from Sunday.

The "negro Jews" or Falashas of Ethiopia began their count from Nisan 22, because they interpreted "morrow after Sabbath" as after the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The underlying reason of the Pentecost date conflict between the Pharisees and Sadducees is that the Pharisees (rabbis) felt that Shavuoth was the date of the giving of the commandments, and thus had to have a fixed date, while the Sadducees found no Bible evidence that the Revelation was given at Shavuoth, and thus saw no reason for a fixed date. (See A Guide to Shavuoth by Chaim Pearl. Jewish Chronicle Publications, London: 1959.)

[Comment: We believe that Pentecost is the anniversary of the giving of the commandments, but that this does not dictate it being a fixed calendar date.]

The vague Biblical references to the dating of Pentecost have provoked disputes among scholars. Sadducees and the Samaritans believe the word "Sabbath" in Leviticus 23:15 is to be taken as the weekly Sabbath. They count Sunday as the first day, and always observe Pentecost on a Sunday. The Pharisees interpret "Sabbath" as the annual Sabbath, and they keep Pentecost fifty days from Nisan 15, or Sivan 6 ("The Feast of Weeks" from Festivals of the Jewish Year by Theodor H. Gaster, William Morrow & Company, New York: 1953).

Both Jews and traditional Christianity count only seven weeks, not 50 days. Jews mistakenly use Deuteronomy 16:9 for instructions on how to number these days. Deuteronomy 16:9 states: "Seven weeks shall you number unto you: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as you begin to put the sickle to the corn." Thus, it would seem from this passage that you would begin to count from Nisan 16, the first real harvest day of the season (The Sabbaths of God, by James L. Porter, Exposition Press, New York: 1966). [Comment: See section 4.1 for an explanation of Deuteronomy 16.]

Modern Jews hold Pentecost on Sivan 6, which never falls on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. Orthodox Jews have added a day, making two days of Shabu'ot.

Regarding the expression "on the morrow after the Sabbath," Leviticus 23:11, the Pharisees held that "the Sabbath" referred to Passover (Nisan 15, the first Holy Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread). But the Sadducees (Boethusians), and later the Karaites, held that it meant the weekly Sabbath, and began counting "seven weeks" from the morrow after the first Saturday during Passover, "so that Pentecost would always fall on Sunday." Thus, they felt that Moses gave them an extended holy day by tying Pentecost with the Sabbath. The Septuagint translates the phrase to support the Pharisees ("on the morrow of the first day"), and Talmudists substituted the word "Azeret" (solemn assembly) for "Shabuot." The Sadducees' contention that Pentecost was on a Sunday was one of the reasons used by the Catholic Church in fixing Easter on Sunday, in 325 A. D.

The Book of Jubilees (part of the Apocrypha), written about 135 B.C., interprets "on the morrow after the Sabbath" as Nisan 21, the last day of Passover; consequently some Jews kept Pentecost on Sivan 12 or Sivan 15. Jubilees maintains that the covenant with Abraham, the birth of Isaac, Abraham's death, Judah's birth, and the vows between Jacob and Laban, all occurred on the Feast of Weeks (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1904 edition, article "Pentecost").

Sadducees held that the beginning of the ecclesiastical year was so arranged that the Passover (Nisan 15, first high day) always fell on the Sabbath, so that the "morrow after the Sabbath" would always be a Sunday. (This would make Nisan 1 on a Sabbath.)

Keil's argument against "the morrow after the Sabbath" referring to the weekly Sabbath is that "if the Sabbath was not fixed, but might fall upon any day of the seven days' feast of Mazzoth [Unleavened Bread], and therefore as much as five or six days after the Passover, the feast of Passover itself would be forced out of the fundamental position which it occupied in the series of annual festivals" (Lange's Commentary on Leviticus 23 relating to Pentecost).

Time of the Giving of the Law

Some rabbis interpret "the same day" of Exodus 19:1 as meaning the same day of the month, hence they [incorrectly assert that] Israel came to Sinai on Sivan 1. They believe that Moses ascended the mount on the second day, came down on the third and warned the people and received their willing reply to obey God. He then made another ascent on the fourth and was commanded to institute three days of preparation, the last of which the Revelation (giving of 10 Commandments) took place, Sivan 6 (see Pearl).

COMMENT: If three additional days is meant, it would be Sivan 7, the day reached if you count fifty days from Nisan 16. By their own reckoning, the Jews are keeping Pentecost a day early. Some Jews have added a day and keep both Sivan 6 and 7. Exodus 19:1 shows that Israel reached Sinai in the third month, on the same day of the week (Thursday) that they left Egypt. Further calculations show that Pentecost was the day the Ten Commandments were given. It is thus the birthday of Israel, and is known as "the season of the giving of Our Law."

Jews believe two important events occurred at Sinai: (1) the giving of the Law, and (2) the Covenant (contract) relationship between God and Israel.

Physically, Pentecost marks the end of seven weeks collaboration between God and man in the reaping of the barley harvest. Spiritually it is the end of the first spiritual harvest, which began with Israel's deliverance from Egypt. Just as Israel had to gather the crops to ensure prosperity in the coming year, so Sinai was necessary for Israel's spiritual continuance. Physically, Israel offered to God two loaves of the new bread as a symbol of cooperation. Spiritually, God offers to man two tablets of the Law. As the harvest is renewed year by year, so is the event at Sinai recalled (Gaster).

A feast celebrated by Asa in the third month of the fifteenth year of his reign to renew the Covenant, II Chronicles 15:10-12 may refer to Pentecost. The first unequivocal statement that the giving of the Law was on Pentecost is given in the late noncanonical Book of Jubilees. The Qumran community followed the Jubilees calendar and celebrated Pentecost as the chief feast because of its association with the Covenant. Ezekiel 45:18-25 does not mention Pentecost. Orthodox Jews after the Exile relegated it to a secondary feast. Not until the Second Century, A. D. was the connection with the giving of the Ten Commandments generally admitted by most Jewish rabbis (New Catholic Encyclopedia, article "Pentecost, Hebrew Feast of").

"The Feast of Pentecost was instituted, first, to oblige the Israelites to repair to the temple of the Lord, there to acknowledge His dominion over their country, and their labours, by offering to Him the first fruits of all their harvests. Secondly, to commemorate, and to render thanks to God for, the law given from Mount Sinai, on the fiftieth day after their coming out of Egypt" (Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible, 1801 edition, article "Pentecost").

A possible reason for the Pentecost custom of eating dairy foods is that it is in honor of the Law, which is likened to "honey and milk" in Song of Solomon 4:11 (Jewish Encyclopedia, "Pentecost").

There are seven days of Pesach and seven days of Sukkot, why not seven days of Shabuot? "Because Shabuot commemorates the day when all Israel was as one heart in accepting the Torah." -- Zohar, iii, 96a

There are 613 letters in the Decalogue, equal to the number of commandments. -- Bemidbar Rabbah, 13:15

How the Patriarchs kept every one of the Ten Commandments: (1-2) Jacob accepted the Lord as God and ordered removal of strange gods, (3) Joseph swore by the life of Pharaoh and not by God, and (4) prepared a Sabbath table before his brethren, (5) Isaac honored his father and made no protest when led to the sacrifice, (6) Judah opposed the murder of Joseph, (7) Joseph was opposed to adultery, (8) Judah identified Joseph's bloody shirt and did not lie, (9-10) Abraham refused to plunder Sodom. -- Pesikta Hadashah, Otzar Midrashim, p. 489

The ten sayings with which the world was created correspond to the Ten Commandments: (1) Let there be light corresponds to the first commandment, for God is the Eternal Light. (2) "Let there be an expanse," reminds us that all heavenly bodies are creatures only. (3) "Let the waters assemble," reminds us that the sea does not hold lightly the name of God, and does not overflow its bounds. (4) "Let the earth bring forth grass," reminds us of God's bounty to him who honors the Sabbath. (5) "Let there be lights," reminds us of two lights in the life of man, his father and mother. If he honors them he will walk next to the Eternal Light. (6) "Let the waters bring forth fowl, etc.," reminds us that we may slay these creatures for our use, but not men. (7) "Let the earth bring forth creatures after their own kind," reminds us that only beasts may multiply promiscuously, but man must not commit adultery. (8) "Let us make man . . . who shall have dominion," reminds us that man should make use only that over which he has dominion, and not steal that which others have dominion. (9) "I have given . . . every tree on which is the fruit," reminds us that as the tree truthfully grows, so should man's lips speak the truth. (10) "It is not good that man should be alone," reminds us that just as Adam did not covet another's wife, we also should not covet (Jewish Talmud).

A Harvest Festival

Passover and Tabernacles are each observed for seven days. Why not Pentecost? Because it is a time of labor, and the others are not, thus God is considerate and does not keep His people from the necessary work of the harvest. -- Sifri, Re'eh

Shavuoth, in addition to being the end of the grain harvest, is also the beginning of the fruit harvest. Before Shavuoth, the farmer would inspect his fruit and indicate his choice for the bikkurim, or firstfruits offering of the best and earliest of his crop. All the inhabitants of a district assembled in that district's chief city, to gather together the firstfruits and go to Jerusalem. Those who lived near brought fresh figs and grapes, while those from a distance brought dried figs and raisins. Each man as he brought his offering to the Temple priest said the benediction prescribed in Deuteronomy 26:5. It was permissible to bring the bikkurim offering at any time between Shavuoth and Succoth (Pearl).

Pentecost represents the consummation of the first harvest, after seven weeks of backbreaking labor, and also commemorates the arrival of the Israelites at Mount Sinai after seven weeks of weary wandering, the giving of the Law and the conclusion of the Covenant between God and His people.

Pentecost was the end of the barley harvest and the presentation to God of an offering of two loaves made out of new grain Leviticus 23:17. It takes place seven full weeks after the sickle has been first applied to the standing grain, Deuteronomy 16:9.

The presentation of the firstfruits to God is a kind of payment to God, who owns everything. It is also a recognition that God is one's partner, not just a lord and boss (Gaster).

The grain harvest in Palestine lasted seven weeks. It began with the barley harvest during Passover and ended with the harvesting of wheat at Pentecost. Wheat is the last cereal to ripen. Pentecost was thus the concluding festival of the grain harvest, just as the Last Great Day concluded the fruit harvest (Jewish Encyclopedia, "Pentecost")

There are three designations of the term, "firstfruits" (Hebrew: bikkurim): (1) the "firstfruits of the harvest," or wavesheaf, which the Pharisees offered on Nisan 16 and deliberately made a ceremony out of, to counteract the Sadducees, (2) the "bread of the first-fruits," or the two baked loaves of new wheat offered on Pentecost, and (3) the firstfruits of all the land (Hebrew: reshit), Exodus 23:19, Deuteronomy 26:2, which according to interpretation, was only of the seven famous products of Palestine: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil, and honey. The amount of this reshit was a ma'aser, or tithe. Thus the concept of the firstfruits is closely related to that of the tithe (Jewish Encyclopedia, article "Firstfruits").

Modern Jewish Shavuoth Observance

The first night of Shavuoth, devout Jews stay up in an all night vigil [like Catholics do on Whitsunday], and read a special abbreviated portion of the whole Bible termed the Tikkun. Most synagogues are decorated with flowers and plants which are supposed to indicate the harvest festival, the Bikkurim, and that Sinai was covered with vegetation in honor of the great event of the Revelation. And dairy foods, especially cheese, are associated with Shavuoth because it is a late spring festival (Pearl).

Parallels between the "Jewish" Pentecost and "Christian" Pentecost: (1) tongues of fire were over the heads of the Apostles, while " . . . all the people saw the thunders and the flames" Exodus 20:18; (2) Christians emphasize Christ the resurrected Savior, while Jews hold that Pentecost was the date of David's death, and the book of Ruth ends with David's genealogy (Gaster).

Reform Jews have made Pentecost their annual confirmation day. The young conferments having previously received many months of thorough instruction in the Law, are confirmed as "sons of the covenant" on Pentecost by the laying on of hands by the rabbi, in accordance with the Jewish custom of the ordination of rabbis and judges, that by the laying on of hands they are ordained to a spiritual priesthood (Jewish Laws and Customs, by A. K. Glover, 1900).

Pentecost is the concluding day of the Passover season, from which Jews derive its most common current name, Atzeret (solemn closing day) (Biblical Cyclopedia by McClintock and Strong, article "Pentecost").

Covenant Festival

Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks, Feast of Firstfruits, the Festival of the Covenant and by the Jews Shabuoth (Weeks).

Pentecost, like all festivals, is a living experience. It signifies not just the confirmation of the covenant with Israel then, but with all Israel forever. Pentecost is an annual reaffirmation of the bond of covenant between the chosen people and their God (Gaster). As noted previously, the Book of Jubilees states that the covenant with Abraham occurred on the Feast of Weeks.

Pagan Whitsunday

"Among the early Jewish Christians, observance of the Hebrew feasts continued, doubtless with fresh significance derived from the new revelation." By the Second Century Pentecost was an established Church feast (Hastings' Bible Dictionary, article "Pentecost"). [But by this time it had become paganized.]

Traditional Christianity holds that Whitsun, or Pentecost, is the birthday of the Church, as shown in Acts 2.

Pagan customs have been copied by traditional Christian churches, as well as Judaism, and applied to Pentecost. In Europe it is customary to deck the churches at Whitsun with wreaths and bunches of flowers. In Italy, rose leaves are often scattered from church ceilings during services, supposed to represent "tongues of fire." In many Latin countries, the festival is called Pascha Rosatum, which is a "Christian transformation" of the pagan Roman festival of Rosalia, celebrated about a month earlier, in which Venus was worshipped by decorating her images with roses. Jews also adorn their synagogues with flowers on Pentecost.

Another Pentecost custom is that of eating dairy dishes [compare the U. S. custom of "June is dairy month"], especially those made from cheese. In Psalms 68:15, the mountain on which the Law was given is described as "a mount of gabnunim, a Bashan-like mount." Gabnunim means "gibbous, many-peaked," but the Jews connected it with the word gebinah, "cheese," and thus it was maintained that the eating of cheese was a reminder of the giving of the Law at this season. A strange connection indeed!

Ancient pagan festivals, such as the Roman rural festival of Parilia (April 21), parallel Pentecost. Parilia fell at the same time of year as the beginning of Palestine's barley harvest, on which milk and must were drunk and sprinkled on the image of the pastoral god Pales.

Seething a kid in his mother's milk was part of the Canaanite equivalent of Pentecost, which is inferred by the fact that in the two passages where this is forbidden to Israelites, Exodus 23:19 and 34:26, it is mentioned in connection with the offering of firstfruits. A recently discovered Canaanite text refers to seething a kid in milk in connection with a spring festival (Gaster). [COMMENT: Satan has his counterfeits!]

Whitsunday derives its name from the custom of newly baptized persons presenting themselves for service all dressed in white. The Catholic festival originally lasted seven days, but in 1094 was by Papal decree limited to three days. Tuesday was abolished in 1711 and in 1911 Pope Pius X excepted Monday as a day of holy obligation. Nevertheless, most European countries still observe the Monday following Whitsunday as a legal holiday (Concise Dictionary of Holidays, by Raymond Jahn, article, "Whitsunday").

Whitsunday commemorates the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ. It is called Whitsunday from the white garments worn by those who were baptized during the vigil on the preceding Saturday night (Catholic Encyclopedia, article "Whitsunday").

Pentecost (Whitsuntide) was not established as one of the great church festivals until the Fourth Century. The entire period from Easter to Pentecost is termed the Pentecostal season (McClintock and Strong, article "Pentecostal Effusion").

Pentecost Sacrifices

Sacrifices on Pentecost included seven yearling male lambs, two young bullocks, and one ram (or one bullock and two rams, as shown in Leviticus) as a burnt offering, cereal offerings of flour and oil, libations of wine and blood from the slain animals, a he-goat slain as a sin offering, and two additional male yearling lambs as a thanksgiving sacrifice (New Catholic Encyclopedia, article "Pentecost").

In Temple times, each individual was expected to bring a free-will offering, a portion of which was given to the priests and Levites and the rest eaten by the respective families, who invited the poor and strangers to share it. Pentecost more than Passover was a family gathering, resembling Tabernacles. Deuteronomy 16:11 shows that at Pentecost the Levite, stranger and fatherless are not to be forgotten. This is why Leviticus 23:22 (about leaving corners of the field) is part of the passage on Pentecost: at Pentecost we are reminded to be liberal to others, because God was liberal to us in freeing us from bondage in Egypt, Deuteronomy 16:12 (McClintock and Strong, article "Pentecost").

Later Jews regarded the Leviticus and Numbers Pentecost sacrifices as supplementary, not contradictory. On Pentecost, there were three series of sacrifices: (1) the daily burnt-offerings, (2) the special offerings for a feast day (from Numbers) and (3) the waving of the loaves and lambs, and connected sacrifices (from Leviticus). Finally, "sacrifices" of freewill offerings of individuals were given to the sanctuary and to the poor, Deuteronomy 16:10-11 and Leviticus 23:22.

Notice the parallel between Passover and Pentecost: (1) one sheaf of barley was waved during Passover, versus two loaves of wheat on Pentecost; (2) one lamb was slain on Passover, versus two at Pentecost, with accompanying burnt and sin offerings. Pentecost fulfills the harvest begun during Passover season. No voluntary offerings of firstfruits could be made before Pentecost (see Exodus 23:19).

How Pentecost was celebrated in Temple times: A portion of the best wheat, previously selected, was cut, thrashed, brought to the Temple, ground, and passed through twelve sieves to ensure its fineness. On the day before Pentecost, two omers of flour were baked into loaves. According to the Mishna, the loaves were four handbreadths wide, seven long, and four fingers high. Soon after midnight the Temple gates were opened that offerings for the next morning might be examined by the priests. At sunrise of Pentecost morning, was the regular daily sacrifice, soon followed by the feast offerings of Numbers 28:26-31. Amid the singing of the Hallel, the two lambs were waved alive, sacrificed, and their breasts and shoulders were laid beside the loaves and "waved." Then followed the other sacrifices of Leviticus 23, and the freewill offerings. The rest of Pentecost was spent in festive gatherings to which the poor, stranger, and Levite were invited. Attendant festivities often continued for several days, as multitudes attended the Feast and could not all give their firstfruits on the same day (Hastings, article "Pentecost").

The list of grain and animal offerings for Pentecost in Numbers 28:26-31 differs somewhat from those in Leviticus 23:15-22. These offerings were in addition to the fixed daily offering. In the Talmud (Menahot 4:5, x.4) the Leviticus list is said to be the sacrifices directly connected with the loaves, and was designated for the journeyings in the desert; and the Numbers list gives special Pentecost sacrifices added after Israel entered Palestine (Jewish Encyclopedia, article "Pentecost").

The difference in the Pentecost sacrifices of Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28 is that those in Leviticus are especially connected with the wave loaves, and were in addition to the regular feast day sacrifices in Numbers. It is noticeable that the Pentecost offering of two young rams is the only peace offering required of the whole congregation (Lange's Commentary).

Importance of Pentecost

Why count out Pentecost? Maimonides said that God wants us to count every day from Passover until Pentecost, as one reckons the days of an important personal event. The fact that Pentecost has to be counted out emphasizes its importance. (See Ben M. Edidin, Jewish Holidays and Festivals, page 166.)

In the Talmud, Pentecost is compared to a king who riding one day found an important personage bound in a pit. The king said: "I will loose your bonds, take you from the pit, and after a set time give you my daughter to wife." The man was overjoyed, and began to count the days. So it was that God freed Israel from Egypt and promised to give them His law at a certain time (Minhagei, Mahari Tirna). They were also prepared for the day three days in advance. Pentecost is thus the festival most prepared for in advance. It is likened to the marriage of Israel with God (Israel said, "all that God has commanded we will do").

The three main festivals are Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Passover is the festival of political freedom, Tabernacles of economic freedom, and Pentecost, the central and most important, is a festival of spiritual freedom. See Harris L. Selig, Links to Eternity, page 370.

"The Festival of Shavuot [Pentecost], when we commemorate our receiving the Torah, is considered by our Sages the greatest event in Jewish history. They say that when three great people walk together, the greatest must walk in the center. So it is with the three major festivals." The nation of Israel was not born at the Red Sea, but at Sinai. It was the Torah which made them a distinct people (Selig., pages 377-379).

Jewish Readings on Pentecost

A standard element of the traditional Jewish liturgy on Pentecost is a recital of rhymed versions (Azharoth) of the 613 commandments in the Law.

Also read at Pentecost are the following: (1) Ezekiel 1, which shows the glory of God, His awesome power which was demonstrated on Mount Sinai, (2) the Prayer of Habakkuk -- Habakkuk 3-- written during difficult days of the Assyrian Exile, recalling God's revelation at the time of the Exodus and the conviction He will deliver His people and His promises will never fail; (3) Psalms 68, the "Pentecost anthem," shows that the events of the Exodus and Revelation assure God's continuing providence and bounty; (4) the book of Ruth, which is set in the background of the barley harvest and relates how a former pagan woman came to embrace the faith of Israel and God's law -- Ruth 1:16 (Gaster).

Ruth -- Exodus -- Psalms 42-72

From Dr. Ernest L. Martin's The Design and Development of the Holy Scriptures we learn that Ruth was read at Pentecost, and the book has a late springtime theme (1:22, 2:23), and tells how Ruth (a Gentile) married Boaz (a Jew) and how she gave up her religion and worshipped the true God. It shows that both Gentiles and Israelites can be united together and be part of the firstfruits.

Exodus and the Second book of Psalms (Psalms 42-72) parallel Ruth. Exodus describes the beginning of the Old Testament Church, in which Israel was to be the firstfruits of nations, and relates the giving of the Law at Pentecost. The Second Book of Psalms shifts from the personal happenings of David to what happens to Israel -- God's Church -- as a whole. And it too tells about the beginning of the Old Testament Church.

Why is Ruth read on Pentecost? Not just because the book tells of David's descent or that it has a harvest setting, but that it took place during the time of the judges, when Israel was disunited, went their own way, and did evil, intermarrying with gentile nations and forgetting God. Samuel, who wrote Judges (and Ruth) saw this demoralization, and the Book of Ruth is the result.

Abimelech (husband of Naomi) and his family were rich aristocrats of Ephraim. When the famine broke out, he thought the poor would beg him to death, so he left and settled in Moab, and married his two sons to Moabite princesses. He and his sons soon died, and Naomi was left in poverty. The only thing to do was to go back home and hope her kin would help her. Why was Abimelech's family so punished? "Because they left their homeland and religion to live in a foreign land."

Thus, Jews read the book of Ruth on Pentecost "to demonstrate that in Judaism there must be combined both elements -- Torah and land" (Selig, pages 383-385).

COMMENT: And for Christians, the Pentecost lesson of Ruth is that one must keep God's law and be IN His Church to be blessed with eternal life.

Psalms 68, "The Pentecost Anthem"

This psalm is a prayer at the removing of the ark of the covenant, see Numbers 10:33-36. Thus Psalms 68 reminds us of God's covenant and His laws, for the two tables of stone containing the ten commandments were in the ark.

Verse 5, as God is the father of the fatherless and judge of the widows, we too are to include them in our day of Pentecost, see Deuteronomy 16:10-11.

Verses 6 and 7 remind us that God took us out of Egypt and He goes before us, just as the ark went before Israel. Verse 8 reminds us of Sinai which shook when God thundered His ten commandments, Exodus 19:18 and 20:18. Also, Psalms 68:8, "the earth shook, and the heavens also dropped at the presence of God" reminds us not only of what happened at Sinai, but that on the Monday, the second day of creation week, the firmament and the waters were divided, as the Heaven -- atmosphere -- was created. Also, the heavens dropped on the day of Pentecost in 31 A.D. as the rain of God's Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles.

Verses 15 and 17 show that at Sinai God was present, and He "gave the word," there, verse 11.

Verses 29 through 31 speak of the World Tomorrow when all nations, Egypt, even Ethiopia, will bring their tithes and firstfruits (which Pentecost pictures) to God at His temple at Jerusalem.

Verse 35 ties the whole idea of Pentecost together, as the season of the giving of God's law and the giving of the Holy Spirit to keep that law: "the God of Israel is He that gives strength and power unto His people." Throughout Psalms 68, the strength of God is emphasized, especially in verses 33-34. In verse 35, God shows He will give His strength and power to His people if we remember to obey the laws given on that Pentecost day at Sinai.

Habakkuk 3, A Pentecost Message

Habakkuk 3 (and sometimes Habakkuk 2:20) is read by Jews in the synagogue during Pentecost. Habakkuk prophesies of the time when the modern Chaldeans (people of northern, industrial Italy) will be used by God to judge (invade and conquer) Israel.

Chapter 3 is a prayer of Habakkuk during shigionoth, or turbulent times. Shigionoth can also refer to a mournful dirge, indicating that this prayer or song is read, or played, with great emotion.

Verse 2 shows that God's work needs to be revived in these turbulent times when our nation is spoiled by the Chaldeans. Mount Paran is in the area of Sinai, see Deuteronomy 33:1-4, where the ten commandments, "a fiery law," were given in God's awesome power, because He loves His people.

God's great power is emphasized throughout the chapter. The point is, as the Living Bible translates it, that "the Lord is in His Holy Temple" (2:20) and "His power is just the same as always" (3:6). Even though there is no new fruit and all the cattle die so we can't bring God any firstfruits, verse 17, we should rejoice in God because He

gives us His strength, verses 18 and 19, and when God's work comes to fruition, the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of God (2:14).


In Acts 2, the word "cloven tongues" is better translated "parting asunder," or "distributing themselves" (Hastings, article "Pentecost").

Why did Peter say that the apostles were not drunk, since it was only the third hour of the day (nine o'clock in the morning)? Because on festival days, Jews did not eat before noon, and especially tasted nothing before nine in the morning, the hour of prayer (Calmet).

Richard C. Nickels - Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849 USA

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