The Fall Holy Days Begin Wednesday: Did Early Christians Keep Them?

John Chrysostom on Ceiling in Constantinople

John Chrysostom (Istanbul, Turkey. May 2008)


The biblical Fall Holy Day season is just about upon us.  At sunset Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 is the first day of Tishri in the biblical calendar.  That will be begin what we in the Living Church of God refer to as the Feast of Trumpets and what the Jews tend to call Rosh Hashanah.

Was this, and other Holy Days, kept by early Christians?

Yes, and like a lot of evidence about the most faithful Christians, some of the proof of this is related to someone who did not care for them.

Over 1600 years ago, God’s Holy Days were condemned by a racist, John Chrysostom, who is now considered to be a Catholic and Orthodox saint and “doctor of the church”. A few years ago, the Protestant Christianity Today named John Chrysostom the person of the week and Benedict XVI praised (see Christianity Todays’ “Person of the Week”).

Here is what their John Chrysostom publicly preached 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, our 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. 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. Specifically he mentioned the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement (Fasts above), and the Feast of Tabernacles.  It is interesting to note that John Chrysostom must 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, 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 Chrysostum, in this case, somewhat correctly stated,

If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies.

So which days should be observed? Which have a “great day” according to the Bible? Which days are lies? (John Chrysostom supported days with pagan ties such as Christmas and Easter.)

Perhaps it might be helpful to realize that Catholics do admit that early Christians did observe the Feast of Tabernacles:

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 (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.202).

We in the Living Church of God also keep the Feast of Tabernacles and believe that it foreshadows the coming millennium.

Notice also that the Catholic, Orthodox, and Living Church of God Saint Polycarp of Smyrna kept the Fall Holy Days:

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.)

Polycarp, according to the above, seems to have endorsed the Fall Holy Day season which begins with the Feast of Trumpets, includes the Feast of Tabernacles, and ends on The Last Great Day.  And while the Day of Atonement was not specifically mentioned above, it was mentioned in the Book of Acts, where it is referred to as the Fast (Acts 27:9).

The biblical Holy Days (both Spring and Fall) were kept by early, faithful Christians, and this is clear from both scripture and early church records.

The first Holy Day this Fall season is the Feast of Trumpets (called Rosh Hashanah by the Jews) which begin September 28th, 2011 at sunset until sunset September 29th.

The second Holy Day this Fall season is the Day of Atonement (called Yom Kippur by the Jews) which begin October 7th, 2011 at sunset until sunset October 8th.

The seven day Feast of Tabernacles begins at sunset October 12th and is followed by the Last Great Day, which ends October 20th, 2011 at sunset. (Most people travel to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, you can click here to see LCG 2011 Feast of Tabernacles’ Information).

Then, other than the weekly Sabbaths, there are no Holy Days until Passover in the Spring.

The early, faithful, Christians kept what many now refer to as “Jewish” holidays.  Jesus, Paul, and the apostles did.  They were part of “the faith once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 4).

Perhaps you should look into them more?

Several articles of possibly related interest may include:

Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days? Did they? Did Jesus? Did the Apostle Paul? Should you?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets? Are they related? Is so how? If not, where not?
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?
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time for Christians? Is this pilgrimage holy day still valid? Does it teach anything relevant for today’s Christians?
LCG 2011 Feast of Tabernacles’ Information Here is information on many Feast of Tabernacles locations for this October feast.
Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? Was the millennium (sometimes called chiliasm) taught by early Christians? Who condemned it. Will Jesus literally reign for 1000 years on the earth? Is this time near?
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2017, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur 🙂
Michael’s Feasts and Fasts Quiz 15 questions, amusing wrong answer screens.
Michael’s Day of Atonement Quiz Another free on-line Bible quiz by my son Michael.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

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