Most of the Greco-Roman churches do not keep the biblical holy days that generally occur in the Fall. Yet, these Holy Days portray many pivotal events in God's plan. These all occur in the seventh month of the biblical calendar (cf. Leviticus 23:23-41).
Since the New Testament church began on Pentecost and basically ends when Jesus returns at the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:51 - 57), in a sense the period of time between Pentecost and the first Fall Holy Day (the Feast of Trumpets) can be considered as representing the church age--the age we are in now.
The number seven in God's plan signifies completion and perfection. The seventh month of God's calendar (occurs in September and/or October) contains the final four festivals, picturing the completion of God's great master plan for those called and chosen in this age.
Yet many wonder if the early Christians keep the Fall holy days. And if so, when did many people change and observe Halloween, All Saint's Day, and Christmas instead? Why did this change occur?
This article will attempt to address those questions.
Although many Greco-Romans who profess Christ see certain value in observing their versions of at least two of the Spring Holy Days (their Easter is supposed to be Passover, though many in the English-speaking world do not know that; and most understand something about Pentecost), they tend to see less value in the Fall Holy Days.
However, Jesus and His followers kept them.
Notice the following related to Jesus attending the Feast of Tabernacles:
2 Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. 3 His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." 5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
6 Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come." 9 When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.
10 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 11 Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?" 12 And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people." 13 However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.
14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. (John 7:2-14 NKJV unless otherwise noted)
Some seem to think that this obserance was understandable since Jesus had not yet been executed.
Yet, many do not realize that the New Testament shows that the first century Christians observed the Fall holy days, such as the Day of Atonement (called the Fast, Acts 27:9) and the Feast of Tabernacles (possibly the one the Apostle Paul called the Feast, Acts 18:21). And that the fulfillments of the Feast of Trumpets is also described in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; Revelation 8-11).
Jesus Himself taught on the last of the Fall Holy Days, which we in the Continuing Church of God normally call the Last Great Day:
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39).
The New Testament shows that Jesus kept the Fall Feasts and preached during them.
The Apostles Paul and John wrote:
1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:6)
And that included keeping the Fall Holy Days.
Notice that even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the importance that the Apostle Paul attached to keeping a Feast in Jerusalem:
21 I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing (Acts 18:21).
The Apostle Paul kept the Fall Holy Days. Paul wrote that he needed to keep the feast (possibly meaning the Feast of Tabernacles; Protestant commentators tend to focus on the one of the Spring Holy Days as this feast, but this is a matter of interpretation).
Paul also apparently kept the Day of Atonement (known as the Fast):
9 Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them (Acts 27:9).
Hence, Paul kept (after his conversion to Christianity), what are now commonly called the Jewish Holy Days--and also sometimes did it outside of Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:8). Jesus, of course, also kept the Holy Days.
Although the observance of the Feast of Trumpets was not specified as such in the New Testament, both Jesus and the Apostle Paul kept it.
The Bible teaches that Jesus kept the Law and did not sin (Hebrews 4:15), hence He kept all the Fall Holy Days including the Feast of Trumpets.
Notice some statements from the Apostle Paul:
17...Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers (Acts 28:17)
4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6)
Since Paul kept the customs of his people, he, too, kept all the Fall Holy Days including the Feast of Trumpets. If not, he could not have made that statement which is in Acts 28:17 nor the ones about being blameless in the law in Philippians 3:4-6.
Furthermore, Jesus, Paul, and others taught about a future trumpet that Christians were to know about.
...and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:30-31).
This is similar to what Paul taught:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
So both Jesus and Paul taught that the saints would be gathered when a particular trumpet sound goes forth. And that Jesus will come with a trumpet blast.
The last trumpet:
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
Jesus and Paul kept the Fall Holy Days, and taught about their meaning.
However, while there are many clear references that the Spring Holy Days such as Passover and Pentecost were observed in the second century, I have not found any clear references to the Fall Holy Days in the second century writings I have reviewed (although Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, Chapter II does discuss part of the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets). But does that mean that they were not observed?
There are at least five reasons that it can be concluded that the second century church kept them:
1. The original Apostles did (Acts 18:21;27:9).
2. They are mentioned in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
3. Polycarp and Polycrates said they followed the practices of the Apostles in regards to holy days (see Passover) as essentially so did Pionius.
4. There were early Christian meanings for them.
5. If they were not being kept, then certain leaders in the Roman Catholic Church would not have later felt the necessity to drive the observances out.
There is also an indication in an old, but probably corrupted in the 4th century, writing that Polycarp discussed the Fall Holy Days. Notice:
I will give the narration in order, thus coming down to the history of the blessed Polycarp...
So also he pursued the reading of the Scriptures from childhood to old age, himself reading in church; and he recommended it to others, saying that the reading of the law and the prophets was the forerunner of grace, preparing and making straight the ways of the Lord, that is the hearts, which are like tablets whereon certain harsh beliefs and conceptions that were written before perfect knowledge came, are through the inculcation of the Old Testament, and the correct interpretation following thereupon, first smoothed and levelled, that, when the Holy Spirit comes as a pen, the grace and joy of the voice of the Gospel and of the doctrine of the immortal and heavenly Christ may be inscribed on them. And he said that they could not otherwise receive the impression of the seal which is given by baptism and engrave and exhibit the form conveyed in it, unless the wax were first softened and filled the deep parts. So also he thought that the hearts of the hearers ought to be softened and yield to the impress of the Word. For he said that it unfolded and opened, like closed doors, the minds of recent comers; and accordingly the prophet was bidden by God, Cry out mightily and spare not, Raise thy voice as a trumpet. What must one say, when even He that was gentler than all men so appeals and cries out at the feast of Tabernacles? For it is written; And on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink. (Pionius, Life of Polycarp (1889) from J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, pp.488-506.)
It appears that although there was a major split in the second and third centuries between the Roman Church and the true Church of God (which was then mainly based in Asia Minor), that some affiliated with the Roman Church still observed many of the same holy days as those in the Church of God did. And this is outside of Jerusalem.
This is further substantiated in a Jewish account (reported in the Talmud), as related by a Catholic scholar. It is recorded that an early second century Christian named Jacob (100-120 AD) with a Jewish scholar discussed the Day of Atonement and the Christian Jacob explained how it helped show "Christ head of the angels" and that we are to be "blameless" in our "conduct" (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p.97). One of the things that the Day of Atonement pictures is that the head demon, Satan, will be bound (cf. Revelation 20:1-3).
The Greco-Roman Bishop & Saint Methodius of Olympus in the late 3rd or early 4th century taught that the Feast of Tabernacles was commanded and that it had lessons for Christians. And he tied it in with the teaching of the millennial reign of Christ:
...these things, being like air and phantom shadows, foretell the resurrection and the putting up of our tabernacle that had fallen upon the earth, which at length, in the seventh thousand of years, resuming again immortal, we shall celebrate the great feast of true tabernacles in the new and indissoluble creation , the fruits of the earth having been gathered in, and men no longer begetting and begotten, but God resting from the works of creation...
For since in six days God made the heaven and the earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, so by a figure in the seventh month, when the fruits of the earth have been gathered in, we are commanded to keep the feast to the Lord , which signifies that, when this world shall be terminated at the seventh thousand years, when God shall have completed the world, He shall rejoice in us. For now to this time all things are created by His all-sufficient will and inconceivable power; the earth still yielding its fruits, and the waters being gathered together in their receptacles; and the light still severed from darkness, and the allotted number of men not yet being complete; and the sun arising to rule the day, and the moon the night; and four-footed creatures, and beasts, and creeping things arising from the earth, and winged creatures, and creatures that swim, from the water. Then, when the appointed times shall have been accomplished, and God shall have ceased to form this creation , in the seventh month, the great resurrection-day, it is commanded that the Feast of our Tabernacles shall be celebrated to the Lord, of which the things said in Leviticus are symbols and figures, which things, carefully investigating, we should consider the naked truth itself, for He says, A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: to understand a proverb , and the interpretation; the words Of the wise, and their dark sayings. (Methodius. Banquet of the Ten Virgins (Discourse 9, Chapter 1). Translated by William R. Clark. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/062309.htm>).
Although not all Greco-Roman supporters endorsed or kept the Fall Holy Days, some of their earlier saints did.
Various ones in Asia Minor in the 2nd through late 4th century kept the Feast of Tabernacles in Asia Minor, not Jerusalem. This is confirmed by sources such as the Catholic saint Jerome (Migne JP Argumentum Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415 - 1542A, pp. 922, 930) and research done by the 20th century Cardinal Danielou (Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, pp. 345-346).
Emperor Constantine was a European Roman emperor in the fourth century. Circa 272 A.D. he was born in the city of Naissus, which is now Niš, Serbia.
Emperor Constantine became a highly devout sun-god follower after he said he saw an apparition of the sun god Sol in a grove of Apollo in Gaul in 310 (discussed in Rodgers, Barbara S. “Constantine’s Pagan Vision,”Byzantion, vol. 50, 1980, pp. 259–78). He also observed the sun-god Mithras’ birthday on December 25th.
He also seems to be have instrumental in getting the Greco-Romans to celebrate December 25th as Jesus’ birthday:
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December. (Why is Christmas Day on the 25th December? http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/25th.shtml accessed 12/07/15)
The eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273, reflects a convergence of Origen’s concern about pagan gods and the church’s identification of God’s son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness” whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the true deity, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival.
Western Christians first celebrated Christmas on December 25 in 336, after Emperor Constantine had declared Christianity the empire’s favored religion. (Coffman E. Why December 25? For the church’s first three centuries, Christmas wasn’t in December—or on the calendar at all. Christianity Today, August 8, 2008. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2000/dec08.html accessed 12/07/15)
The sun-god worshiping Emperor Constantine succeeded in getting the Greco-Romans, over time, to mainly agree with his date–the date of the rebirth of the sun-god Mithras.
Notice the following from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
Constantine the Great… Constantine can rightfully claim the title of Great, for he turned the history of the world into a new course and made Christianity…the religion of the State… it is easy to understand that many of the emperors yielded to the delusion that they could unite all their subjects in the adoration of the one sun-god who combined in himself the Father-God of the Christians and the much-worshipped Mithras; thus the empire could be founded anew on unity of religion. Even Constantine…cherished this mistaken belief… Could not Sol Deus Invictus, to whom even Constantine dedicated his coins for a long time, or Sol Mithras Deus Invictus, venerated by Diocletian and Galerius, become the supreme god of the empire? Constantine may have pondered over this. Nor had he absolutely rejected the thought even after a miraculous event had strongly influenced him in favour of the God of the Christians… It is true that the believers in Mithras also observed Sunday as well as Christmas. Consequently Constantine speaks not of the day of the Lord, but of the everlasting day of the sun. (Herbermann C., Georg Gp. Constantine the Great. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908).
Mithraism A pagan religion consisting mainly of the cult of the ancient Indo-Iranian Sun-god Mithra. It entered Europe from Asia Minor after Alexander’s conquest, spread rapidly over the whole Roman Empire at the beginning of our era, reached its zenith during the third century, and vanished under the repressive regulations of Theodosius at the end of the fourth century…Helios Mithras is one god…Sunday was kept holy in honour of Mithra, and the sixteenth of each month was sacred to him as mediator. The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season (Arendzen J. Mithraism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911).
The birthday of the sun god Mithras was what Emperor Constantine observed and he wanted his followers to observe. And it ended up getting officially adopted by the Greco-Roman bishops.
Although he is called “the Great” by the Catholics of Rome and a “saint” by the Eastern Orthodox, Emperor Constantine was a follower of the sun god Mithras. And while some claim that he “converted” to “Christianity” after seeing a cross in the sky, having a vision of Jesus, and winning the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D. (Milvian Bridge Day, Constantine, and St. Jude ), notice a coin he had produced in 317 A.D.:
So, the image of Emperor Constantine is on one side of the coin and the image of the sun god Mithras is on the other side of the coin. Emperor Constantine greatly influenced the religion of the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics and to this day, many aspects of Mithraism are incorporated into their respective faiths, as well as those of most Protestants.
According to Eusebius' Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18, the Roman emperor Constantine stated:
Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.
Constantine convened the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. to attempt to stop people from keeping Passover on the biblical date--he supported those who wanted it to be on a Sunday.
Constantine was a worshiper of the sun-god Mithras and December 25th was Mithras' birthday. He did not wish to drop all the sun-god related observances, and later that birthday became adopted as Christmas (What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days?).
A few decades after Christmas was adopted by Rome, the Roman Catholic saint John Chrysostom preached the following in 387 A.D.:
The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now...If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies...Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them? He did not say this or that festival, but all of them together. (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 AD. Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) : Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html 12/10/05).
The wicked and unclean fast of the Jews is now at our doors. Thought it is a fast, do not wonder that I have called it unclean...But now that the devil summons your wives to the feast of the Trumpets and they turn a ready ear to this call, you do not restrain them. You let them entangle themselves in accusations of ungodliness, you let them be dragged off into licentious ways. (John Chrysostom. Homily II Against the Jews I:1; III:4. Preached at Antioch, Syria on Sunday, September 5, 387 A.D.).
So also the Law fixed the feast of Tabernacles (John Chrysostom. Homily IV Against the Jews IV:3. Catholic Christians of Antioch Turning to Sabbath and The New Moon Day and Other Holy Days. 387 A.D.).
John Chrysostom preached against the Fall holy days, because some who professed Christ were observing them.
Yet, John Chrysostom wrote in favor about another "festival of the Jews":
When, it says, the day of Pentecost was fully come: that is, when at the Pentecost, while about it, in short. For it was essential that the present events likewise should take place during the feast, that those who had witnessed the crucifixion of Christ, might also behold these...And, it says, there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men. The fact of their dwelling there was a sign of piety: that being of so many nations they should have left country, and home, and relations, and be abiding there...for it was Pentecost. (Chrysostom J. The homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople: on the Acts of the Apostles, Volume 1, Homily IV. John Henry Parker, 1851. Original from Harvard University. Digitized, Apr 12, 2008, pp. 53, 55, 56).
So, he admitted that after the resurrection, the faithful needed to be present at what was then considered to be a "Jewish feast." If God was opposed to all of them, why would the apostles have kept it? The obvious reason is that they were following Jesus' example and had no reason to believe that they were somehow done away. (For more on Pentecost and what John Chrysostom and others wrote about it, please see the article Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2?; for more on John Chrysostum himself, please check out the article John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople and Antisemite.)
It is interesting to note that John Chrysostom must also have realized that the second century church kept Passover the same time as the Jews did (this was even true in the early second century in Rome). And that the Catholic Church still kept Pentecost. Thus by preaching what he did against the holy days, John Chrysostom is preaching against his own church as the Roman and Orthodox Catholics claim to keep both Passover (though on a different date, and with a different name) and Pentecost--as both of those festivals would be part of "all of them together."
It should be noted that the basic reason that John Chrysostom preached against the holy days was due to antisemitism. In demonstrates this in his Homily Against the Jews (of which there are at least eight of) as he calls the Jews by a variety of names. Here are a few of his statements:
But do not be surprised that I called the Jews pitiable. They really are pitiable and miserable (I:II:1).
So the godlessness of the Jews and the pagans is on a par. But the Jews practice a deceit which is more dangerous (I:VI:4).
Do you see that demons dwell in their souls and that these demons are more dangerous than the ones of old? (I:VI:7).
Since it is against the Jews that I wish to draw up my battle line, let me extend my instruction further. Let me show that, by fasting now, the Jews dishonor the law and trample underfoot God's commands because they are always doing everything contrary to his decrees. When God wished them to fast, they got fat and flabby (VI:IV:2).
Indeed, the fasting of the Jews, which is more disgraceful than any drunkenness, is over and gone (VIII:I:5).
But the facts are that the Holy Days were kept by Jesus, the New Testament Church, and those faithful to their teachings. And the other fact is that no where in the Bible do we see hatred against the Jews. Jesus taught we were to love our neighbor (and most the of "neighbors" He was then talking to were Jewish).
Furthermore, the New Testament calls one of the so-called “Jewish” holy days “great”. Notice the following from both a Protestant and a Catholic translation:
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out (John 7:37, NKJV)
And in the last, the great day of the festivity JESUS stood, and cried (John 7:37, Rheims New Testament).
So who is right?
Those who follow Jesus' practices or those who condemn them?
Recall that John Chrysostom, in this case, somewhat correctly stated,
"If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies."
So which days should be observed? Which days are lies?
Perhaps it might be helpful to realize that Catholics do admit that early Christians did observe the Feast:
St. Jerome (PL 25, 1529 & 1536-7) speaking of how the Judaeo-Christians celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles…tells us that they gave the feast a millenarian significance...Jews and Judeao-Christians celebrated the same feasts (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, pp.202,203).
We in the Continuing Church of God also keep the Feast of Tabernacles and believe that it foreshadows the coming millennium. Additionally, comments by Epiphanius near that time concerning the Nazarene Christians would also seem to support that those who kept the Fall Holy Days were located in several areas at that time (see Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).
During the Middle Ages the fall holidays were observed, though records are limited.
Notice the following report:
Under the name of Passagini, we have the clearest sort of statement that these people, about 1200, observed the whole Old Testament law, including the Sabbath and FESTIVALS! People called Cathars at Cologne, Germany, kept a fall festival, called "Malilosa", even before Waldo began to preach. Compare this unexplained name with Hebrew "melilah" (a harvested ear of grain -- Strong's Exhaustive Concordance) and the Biblical title "Feast of Ingathering" (Ex. 23:16). How much more we might have known about these Middle Ages' Feasts of Tabernacles had not the Inquisitors so zealously burned the records! The three-part division of tithes paid the Waldensian Church is significant. Even in the 1500's the same division continued. "The money given us by the people is carried to the aforesaid general council, and is delivered in the presence of all, and there it is received by the most ancients (the elders), and part thereof is given to those that are wayfaring men, according to their necessities, and part unto the poor" (George Morel, Waldensian elder, quoted by Lennard, "History of the Waldenses"). 1. Compare this practice with Num. 18:21 and Deut. 14:22-25, 28-29. Isn't it exactly what the Bible commands?... Most authors have ASSUMED the "wayfaring men" were the traveling "barbel." But THEIR expenses would have been paid from the money given the elders, at EVERY time of year, for the direct conduct of the Work -- "first" tithe and offerings. Notice that in Numbers 18:21. What Morel then mentions is a "second" tithe, for those traveling to and from the festivals -- wayfaring men; and following it, the "third" to the poor. See the explanation in Deut. 14. Feast goers who had more "second tithe" than they needed shared their excess with those who had need, even as they do today! (LESSON 51 (1968) AMBASSADOR COLLEGE BIBLE CORRESPONDENCE COURSE "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place ..." Rev. 12:6).
Furthermore, Sabbath-keepers in Transylvania in the 1500s and probably later kept the Fall Holy Days such as the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Trumpets (called Day of Remembrance below):
The Sabbatarians viewed themselves as converted Gentiles..They held to the biblical holidays...The Day of Atonement was a day of fasting, although they emphasized that pentinence is more easily acheived by a peaceful and quiet meditation on the law and one's life than by fasting. The Day of Remembrance (New Year, which they celebrated in the Fall of the year) was the day on which they thanked God especially for the creation of the universe. There is no mention of circumcision, so it is unlikely that they practiced circumcision (Liechty D. Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs (MI), 1993, pp. 61-62).
The old Ambassdor College reported that some of the American Sabbath-keepers may have kept the Feast of Tabernacles back then:
The Church in Rhode Island became the MOTHER CHURCH in the United States. It grew slowly for about 30 years. Then in 1708, the enlarged and geographically widespread Newport congregation was officially constituted into two congregations.
The "Westerly" or "Hopkinton" congregation retained the original records — being recognized as the leading or HEADQUARTERS location.
The reason for this transfer is most interesting. Previous to this time, the "Westerly" or "Hopkinton" site had become the regular meeting place for "a YEARLY MEETING" of members from all over! It was at such a meeting — on September 28 (Gregorian calendar) — that the decision was made to establish the new congregation. Details are lacking, but it is highly significant that this date falls during the Feast of Tabernacles of that year!
The earliest of these annual meetings of which we now have record had been held in late May, 1684. Other annual meeting dates consistently fell either during the fall Holy Day season or near Pentecost ("The Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America", pages 127, 150-152, 174, 602, 614). None of these meetings came at Christmas, Easter, or even in midsummer! This was not mere chance. God's people were, at least in part, attempting to follow the pattern of the Holy Days He had ordained.
In the meantime, a number of other congregations of Sabbath keepers had been formed — mostly of new converts and immigrants from England. And though they recognized their relationship to the mother church in Rhode Island, distance made it necessary for the brethren in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to gather in annual meetings in their own areas. These assemblies often sent greetings to each other by letters and delegates. At these times, "the Sabbath, with its general communion, was indeed an HIGH DAY" ("The Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America", p. 151, emphasis ours).
It was not until much later that the MAJORITY accepted the Protestant idea that God's Holy Days had been done away. (Lesson 53 - I Will Build My Church, Part 5. Ambassador College Correspondence Course, 1969)
And the Fall Holidays are still observed into the 21st century by many Sabbath-keeping Church of God groups, like the Continuing Church of God.
In 2015. someone emailed me who lives a distance from other Christians, and asked how to basically keep the Fall Holy Days in such circumstances. So, I thought I would share here basically what I emailed him back with.
The Feast of Trumpets is kept like a Sabbath, as it is also a day of rest and a holy convocation. Christians should pray and attend services and/or watch messages for that day. An offering is normally also taken up. We also normally have our youngest child blow some type of a trumpet on that day. When we did not have children, we would listen to a blowing of a shofar over the telephone from a place called 'dial-a-shofar' which stopped working. You may wish to listen to a shofar being blown on the internet. The listening to a shofar reminds us of the big deal that God makes about this Holy Day as shofars tend to be loud--they were intended to get people's attention--although many I have found on the internet are muted. Here is a link to an article on the Feast of Trumpets which has links to let you hear/play shofar blasts: The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets? This may help give you more to consider related to this holy day.
The Day of Atonement is kept like a Sabbath, as it is also a day of rest and a holy convocation. Christians should pray and attend services and/or watch messages for that day. An offering is normally also taken up. The Bible says to afflict oneself then (Leviticus 23:27). Those who are physically able fast from sunset to sunset. This means going without any food or drink. Pregnant women, nursing women, infants, and people with various illnesses are considered to already have an affliction and either do not fast or do not completely fast (they might drink water and/or eat something, though less than normal).
The Feast of Tabernacles is different. Those who can will travel (Deuteronomy 14:23-26) go to a Feast site (see also Christians are to Be Strangers and Pilgrims?). They tend to keep a tithe of their increase for this purpose (see Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today?). Those who cannot travel to a site may wish to consider the possibility to not sleep in their usual locations during the time of the Feast. If they are physically and financially able, they may wish to try to sleep in some type of temporary dwelling like a hotel, motel, camper, or a tent (including perhaps one in one's own home). In ancient Israel, those who did not travel (as well as native Israelites that did) made 'booths' of branches on top of their roofs (Leviticus 23:40) and slept in them for the seven days of the Feast (Leviticus 23:42), and some slept for the entire eight days (though the Bible only mentions seven days). Staying in 'temporary dwellings,' of whatever sort, helps convey that this age is temporal and a new millennial age is coming (see also Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? and Christians are to Be Strangers and Pilgrims?).
The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles is kept like a Sabbath, as it is also a day of rest and a holy convocation as is the eighth day, also known as the Last Great Day (John 7:37; see also The Last Great Day: Shemini 'Azeret). Christians should pray and attend services and/or watch messages on each of the eight days. An offering is normally also taken up on the first and eighth day (cf. Deuteronomy 16:16). But the other days are NOT kept like the Sabbath, meaning that one can engage in regular physical work on those days.
There are some sermons related to the Holy Days at the link: Holy Day Calendar (this link also has a calendar of when the Holy Days occur).
As we get closer to the Holy Days, a Continuing Church of God Letter to the Brethren tends to have a suggested Holy Day service and links, which should assist those that cannot get to one of our congregations or meeting places. The Letter to the Brethren contains a suggested Sabbath service format each week and suggested service formats for the Holy Days shortly before they occur.
A holiday that many celebrate in the Fall is All Saint's Day, a day to honor the dead--and John Chrysostom mentioned that one in a positive way (see Is Halloween a Holy Time for Christians? and All Saints' Day, the Day of the Dead, and All Souls' Day). Many today observe Halloween, which happens the evening before it. However, unlike the biblical holy days, none of these are endorsed by the Bible.
A Roman Catholic writer noted the following (bolding mine):
It should be noted that Halloween is a Catholic holiday. Pope Gregory IV in 835 made it the universal practice in the Roman Catholic Church to celebrate All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1. All Souls' Day follows the next day as the commemoration of all of the faithful who have departed.
“All Hallows’ Even” as the evening before All Hallows’ Day — All Saints’ Day – eventually became shortened to Halloween. Hallow, as in “hallowed be thy name” in the Lord’s Prayer, is an older form of the word “holy.”
It was the Protestant Reformation that rejected the universal practice of devotion to the dead (Martin Luther dropped any references to praying for the dead from his Bible). This Catholic holiday was attacked, much like the church as a whole, for being pagan and evil. Hence I wouldn’t be surprised if this cloud of suspicion hovering over Halloween originated from the spirit of anti-Catholicism.
But Nov. 1st was the day of the Celtic Summer’s End feast of Samhain, the day when the dead returned to the earth. We have retained some of these pagan elements to Halloween, as is true of Christmas and Easter.
Why would a pope put the Catholic celebration of the dead on top of the pagans’ celebrations of the dead? Because the Catholic feasts are in continuity and fulfill the meaning of the pagan ones. This is why C.S. Lewis said that Christianity was the fulfillment of paganism.
So we don’t reject the use of trees at Christmas time because they were pagan, we continue to use them, because as symbols of life they now point to Christ...
So what about the indulgence in the spooky and scary? Skeletons are spooky, but they are also very Catholic. In fact, one couldn’t find a better haunted house for a Halloween pilgrimage than the various “chapel of bones” that can be found across Europe.
(Killian Brian. Halloween, as autumn celebration, reminder God’s name is hallowed. Catholic Online International News. 10/31/06. http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=21818).
Notice that the writer above admits that Halloween did not become a universal Catholic holiday until 835, that he admits that it and Christmas contain pagan elements, and that the Catholic feasts are in continuity and fulfill the meaning of the pagan ones.
The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches that:
Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church...
Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the "birthdays" of the gods.
(Martindale C. Transcribed by Susanti A. Suastika. Christmas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
The Church in Rome did endorse Christmas, however, by the latter half of the fourth century. The World Book Encyclopedia notes,
In 354 A.D., Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered the people to celebrate on December 25. He probably chose this date because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the sun (Sechrist E.H. Christmas. World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 3. Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, Chicago, 1966, pp. 408-417).
It should be noted that some scholarly sources believe that the celebration in Rome of Christmas may have began 2-4 decades earlier, but none I am aware of suggest it was prior Constantine in the fourth century.
And it did not become part of the observations in Constantinople until the famous hater of Jews, John Chrysostum, introduced it there:
We may take it as certain that the feast of Christ's Nativity was kept in Rome on 25 December...It was introduced by St. John Chrysostom into Constantinople and definitively adopted in 395 (Thurston. H. Transcribed by Rick McCarty. Christian Calendar. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York ).
What does God teach about using pagan worship practices like trees and other heathen practices. Notice :
Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not (Jeremiah 10:2-4, KJV).
When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods..." (Deuteronomy 12:29-31).
Should Christians worship God in ways the heathen do? Should they celebrate with ways God hates?
Should Christians keep the holy days that are listed in the Bible or the holidays that humans added much later than the Bible?
Notice the teachings of God:
These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread... Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath...In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation...Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement...The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD...On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation (Leviticus 23:4-6,16,24,27,34,36).
The holidays of the seven month (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, Last Eighth Day) are the Fall holy days, as the seven month of the Hebrew calendar occurs in what is now called September and October. (To learn the actual dates check out the link to the Holy Day Calendar. This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2024, with their Roman calendar dates.)
Notice something from the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God:
The Feast of Trumpets helps picture the blowing of the seven trumpets in the Book of Revelation announcing events taking place during the ‘Day of the Lord’ (Revelation 8,9,11:15-18; 15:1-8; 16:1-21; 19:1-20). The last trumpet signals the resurrection of the saints, “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52) “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Every seven years, a year of land-rest and debt release begins with this Holy Day (Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 15:7-11).
The Day of Atonement, called “the Fast” in the New Testament (Acts 27:9), helps show our own weaknesses and need to be closer to God (Isaiah 58:5,11). This day shows that Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10; cf. Leviticus 16:15-16). It also helps picture that Satan has a role in the sins of humankind and that he be punished by being bound for one-thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3; cf. Leviticus 16:20-26; Isaiah 14:12-16).
The Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-39)which shows a time of abundance, helps picture the millennial kingdom reign (Revelation 20:4-5) of Jesus Christ and His saints on the earth (Zechariah 14; Matthew 9:37-38; 13:1-30; Luke 12:32; John 7:6-14; Acts 17:31; Revelation 5:10, 11:15; 12:9). This future paradise, following the near total destruction that humanity will have brought upon itself through its activities and the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord (Matthew 24:21-31), will help show humanity the advantages of God’s way of life. Every seven years, the law is to be read during this festival (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).
The Last Great Day helps picture that all who ever lived will have a real opportunity for salvation (John 7:37-38; Isaiah 52:10,13-15; 65:20; Luke 3:6)–an opportunity most will accept (John 7:37-39; Romans 11:25-26; Ezekiel 37:11-14; Hebrews 9:27-28). The New Testament name comes from the Apostle John who wrote, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38).
History provides references that the early followers of Christ, such as the Gentile Polycarp, observed the Sabbath on the seventh day and the other biblical holy days and festivals.
By observing the days that the Bible enjoins, Christians can come to understand more deeply God’s plan of salvation, and some of the steps taken toward salvation. The biblical festivals show that Christ was truly sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7) and Christians are to live without the leaven of hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness (Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6-13). The biblical festivals also help show that while some are predestined to be called in this Church Age (Ephesians 1:4-12; Acts 2:1-47), there is an age to come (Acts 3:21; Matthew 12:32), and the destiny of all others is to be presented an opportunity for salvation on the Last Great Day (John 7:37-38; 12:47-48; Romans 10:11-21). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God http://www.ccog.org/statement-of-beliefs-of-the-continuing-church-of-god/ accessed 09/21/16)
The Fall Holy Days help picture crucial information about God's plan of salvation that most who do not keep them simply do not understand.
Human tradition stops many from keeping them. Notice some of what Jesus taught about religious people who prefered traditions over the commands of the Bible:
7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
8 "These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:7-9)
The Jewish leaders furthermore did not want Jesus followers to do what He told them to do.
Did the apostles teach that God's ways or man's ways should be obeyed? Notice the account they gave to the Jewish religious leaders of their day:
29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
It is in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, that we learn which days God wanted celebrated. Jesus kept the Fall Holy Days. Paul and the other early Christians kept the Fall Holy Days. Gentile Christians observed them from the earliest times.
No one professing Christ kept Halloween, All Saint's Day, or even Christmas until hundreds of years after Christ died. The biblical holy days were sadly rejected by people who had anti-semitic feelings and who wanted to endorse pagan practices.
Should you obey the teachings of God as revealed in the Bible and as practiced by the early Christian church or later pagan-based holidays of men?
Items of related interest may include:
Should You Observe God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays? This is a free pdf booklet explaining what the Bible and history shows about God's Holy Days and popular holidays.
The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets? Are they related? Is so how? If not, where not? What does the Feast of Trumpets, which the Jews call Rosh Hashanah, help teach? A related sermon video would be Feast of Trumpets and the Book of Life as well as The Trumpet Release. The article has links to hear shofar blasts.
Feast of Trumpets: Why Should You Keep It? What does the Bible say? What does this festival picture? A related sermon is available: The Trumpet Warnings.
The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance The Jews call it Yom Kippur, Christians "The Day of Atonement." Does it have any relevance for Christians today? What is the Jubilee? Is fasting healthy? Here is a link to a sermon: Day of Atonement: How Jesus fulfilled His part for the Atonement. Here is a link to a related article in the Spanish language: El Día de Expiación –Su significado cristiano.
The Atonement Plan How does the Day of Atonement tie into God's plan of salvation? A sermon of related interest is titled God's Atonement Plan.
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time for Christians? Is this pilgrimage holy day still valid? Does it teach anything relevant for today's Christians? What is the Last Great Day? What do these days teach? A related sermon video is Feast of Tabernacles from Israel.
The Last Great Day: Shemini 'Azeret What is the 'eighth day' of the Feast? What does it help picture? A sermon on this topic is also available: Shemini Azaret: The Last Great Day.
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2024, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur :)
Thiel B. Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2008/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016 1010, All rights reserved
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