While I am by no means a Jewish scholar, I have come across some fascinating symbolism in the Hebrew roots of my Christian faith. In Leviticus chapters 23-25, God laid out seven distinct feasts that He expected His people to follow:
- Passover (Pesach) – also known as the Feast of Salvation commemorating the Exodus story
- Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMotzi) – yeast symbolized sin; they would search their houses and burn anything that contained leavened yest.
- First Fruits (Reshit Katzir) – acknowledging the good crops God gave
- Pentecost (Shavuot) – commemorating the Torah given to Moses
- Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) – Jewish New Year; Trumpets were blown to bring field workers to the temple
- Atonement (Yom Kippur) – day of confession; highest of the holy days.
- Tabernacles (Sukkot) – symbolizing the wandering in the desert, living in tents
Why aren’t Christians celebrating these?
That was my first thought. Jesus Christ himself was a Torah observant Jew. These feasts were commanded by God. It makes sense to me that Christians are expected to follow them. Yet, no where in my protestant upbringing did I ever come across any of these except for Passover as it related to Christ’ sacrifice.
There is not an easy answer for this question, but a survey Christian history shows that our practice of Jewish feasts gradually diminished over time as a means of segregating ourselves from the Jews. You see Paul dealing with the roots of the segregation when it came to circumcision in the scripture. The Council of Jerusalem around 50 AD recommended that converts are not bound by the Mosaic law, except for 10 commandments, and therefore the Feasts didn’t apply to them. In a letter to the Council of Nicaea (early 4th century), you see Constantine the Great moving the celebration of Easter so it does not coincide with Passover because they should not follow the customs of the Jews.
Not all of the history was filled with such disdain. As Christianity grew, more and more of the people came from a Gentile background. The Jewish roots to these feasts and other practices were dropped because people no longer found them relevant to the Christian faith.
Should Christians celebrate the feasts?
In one word, “probably”. As is always the case with God, it is a matter of the heart. Paul’s concern to the early church was that those who followed the Torah were prone to legalism. You shouldn’t follow the feasts because Jesus was a Jew. You should follow the feasts because of the deep roots of our faith and the incredible depth it brings to our relationship with God through Christ.
In fact, in my next post, I want to share with you some incredible correlations between the events in Christ’ life and the 7 feasts.