LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGIOUS COLUMN FOR
May 16, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
Pentecost Sunday will be upon us soon. The Jewish festival of Shavuot, meaning “weeks,” falls on the fiftieth day following Passover. In the first century it was a pilgrimage festival involving a trip to Jerusalem, and the bringing of the first fruits of the land as an offering at the Temple. We find the Apostle Paul after his third missionary journey “hastening to be at Jerusalem, If possible, on the day of Pentecost.”
This year the Jewish calendar and the Christian calendar merge, so that Pentecost falls on Sunday, May 24, in both.
For Christians Pentecost marks the beginning of the world mission of the Church. Jesus had commanded his followers to spread the Good News of his sacrificial death and his resurrection to “all the world.” The mission was energized by the power of God coming to the believers in Jerusalem, enabling them to be the witnesses Jesus instructed them to be.
Present at that initial proclamation of the Good News by Peter at the Temple were Jews from all over the Roman world. There were Jews from Mesopotamia, or ancient Babylon. There were also Jews from Elam, Media and Parthia east of Mesopotamia. There were, of course, Jews from Judea. There were Jews from the Roman province of Asia which is modern Turkey. There were Jews from the north coast of Africa; Cyrene, Libya and Egypt. Others came from Crete, Rome and Arabia. These worshipers heard the Gospel in their own native language, but they also heard Peter preach, probably in Aramaic, or possibly Hebrew. As a response to Peter’s message some 3000 believers were baptized, all of them Jews.
Since this was a Jewish festival at the Temple these Jewish believers would have returned to their synagogues in their home countries. The year of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection, and fifty days later Pentecost, was 30 AD.
The first missionary journey of the Apostle Paul took place in 47 – 49 AD, almost twenty years after the Church was born. Paul always started his teaching the Good News of Messiah’s coming, death and resurrection in the local synagogues. He was educated by Gamaliel, the most revered Jewish scholar of the first century. It is quite probable that there were already believers worshipping in these synagogues prior to Paul’s arrival. The Good News had been circulating for some twenty years, but it was yet seminal and needed to be nurtured.
During Paul’s ministry the Jerusalem congregations were well established. Paul visited Jerusalem after his first journey to report and to receive the affirmation of the other Apostles of his work among non-Jewish converts. The Jerusalem Council is reported in Acts 15. It took place in AD 49.
Chronology is important in understanding the Bible. It is another area where the TV presentation of “AD – The Bible Continues” comes up short. However, my main concern in this brief article is to put Pentecost in perspective. The presence of believers in Jesus throughout the Roman Empire took place almost immediately after this dramatic event, just fifty days after the resurrection.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs