Should Christians Keep The Days of Unleavened Bread?

By COGwriter

In Leviticus 23:5-6, the Bible states, "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."

Similarly in Exodus 12:15,19-20 it states:

"Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel...For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cutoff from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations you shall eat unleavened bread."

Are these Days of Unleavened Bread to be kept now? Why would Christians want to keep them? What happens if they don't? And what is leaven?

The Bible shows that the Days of Unleavened Bread are connected to Passover (Leviticus 23:5-6; Exodus 12:19-20; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

While most professing Christians are aware that 1 Corinthians 5:7 teaches that "indeed Christ our Passover, was sacrificed for us", they do not seem to literally observe the verse that follows. "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). Actually, most professing Christians do not seem to be aware that they are supposed to keep any biblical feast. There are many reasons, though, to so do.

Perhaps before going further, I should quote and comment the entire verse of 1 Corinthians 5:7:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Notice clearly that the Corinthians must have been observing the Days of Unleavened Bread because the Apostle Paul stated "you truly are unleavened". The problem that the Corinthians had was that they were not unleavened spiritually. That is why Paul continued and told them to also spiritually be unleavened "with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth". This is what the Bible shows that the Apostle Paul was teaching. Do you believe it?

Furthermore, in Romans 3:25 it states, "in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed." Does this mean we are to continue is sin? Of course not! A few verses later Paul wrote, "On the contrary, we establish the law" (Romans 3:31). So while most understand that the Passover pictures a remembrance of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:24-26), many seem to not understand that we are not to continue in sin.

Why?

Maybe one of the reasons is that they do not observe the Days of Unleavened Bread.

More Passages from the Old Testament

Before going more into leaven and its spiritual ramifications, notice the following from the Old Testament:

14 "Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty); (Exodus 23:14-15)

13... the three appointed yearly feasts — the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. (2 Chronicles 8:13)

The above passages make it clear that the Days of Unleavened Bread are to be kept annually. They are physical reminders of spiritual principles, including obedience to the word of God.

What was the right attitude to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?

21 So the children of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness; and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing to the Lord, accompanied by loud instruments. (2 Chronicles 30:21)

22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the Lord made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6:22)

These days are to be kept in gladness and joy. This is what God wants (Ezra 6:22). They are not improperly burdensome.

Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit Christians are to have (Galations 5:22)--keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread should be joyous.

Leaven and Unleavened Bread

In the world, leaven is all around. Not only is it in baked goods, it is now in many other products. Leaven spreads and most of the items it becomes part of crumble. In the Bible, leaven normally pictures malice, wickedness, and hypocrisy (I Corinthians 5:8; Matthew16:6,12; Luke 12:1), while unleavened bread pictures sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8). The Old Testament states, "no leaven shall be seen among you" (Deuteronomy 16:3), whereas the New Testament states, "His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7) and that "sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4).

Leaven pictures the teachings of the Pharisees (Matthew16:6,12; Luke 12:1) whom Jesus called hypocrites (Matthew23:23,25,27,29). According to Strong's, the Greek word Jesus used that was translated as hypocrite means, "an actor under an assumed role". The Pharisees were false religious leaders who pretended to keep God's law, but really did not (Matthew15:3-9).

Notice that leaven is a symbol of false doctrine and hypocrisy that Jesus warned against:

6 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees."

7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread."

8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? 9 Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? — but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6-12)

Jesus further described the Pharisees by saying, "you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew23:28). Jesus thus tied leaven (the Pharisees teachings, Matthew16:12) to false religion (being hypocrites) and sin (since "sin is lawlessness," 1 John 3:4).

Physically, leavening agents include yeast, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), and baking powder. Physically, leavening agents "puff up" grain containing products and make them look larger than they would be otherwise. Since the Bible teaches:

On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses (Ex 12:15).

Those who attempt to obey God follow this and remove most breads, crackers, etc. from their houses, clean out their toasters, and otherwise remove physical leaven from their lives just prior to the start of the Days of Unleavened Bread each year. Since the removal involves work, and the term for day in Exodus 12:15 is Miyowm (Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.) which is different than the Hebrew term for day, Uwbayowm, in Exodus 12:16 (despite the fact that Strong's uses the same number, 3117, for both words)--this suggests that the removal perhaps should be done before the start of the first day, which is a holy convocation. And this is consistent with other statements in Exodus such as for all of the "seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses" (Exodus 12:19) and "Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters" (Exodus 13:7). The only way for no leavened bread to be seen in one's quarters for those seven days is if it is gone prior to the start of those seven days.

Here is some information on unleavened bread that provides details that many have wondered about:

Just what is leaven? Which foods are to be avoided during the Days of Unleavened Bread?

God uses leaven to typify sin (I Cor. 5:1-8). Sin puffs up just as physical leaven puffs up (verse 2). Unleavened bread is a type of an unleavened life.

To understand exactly what is included in the leaven we are to avoid during the Days of Unleavened Bread, let's first notice some of the Hebrew words translated "leaven" in the Old Testament. Mechametz refers to leavening agents — substances used to puff up or produce fermentation, causing dough to rise. Yeast, bicarbonate •of soda (baking soda) and baking powder are such substances.

Another Hebrew word rendered "leaven" is seh-ohd. This literally means "sourdough," a naturally fermenting yeasty batter that was the most common leaven of the Israelites, and which is still often used to cause baked goods to rise and become light in texture.

These leavening agents cause foods to become chametz. This Hebrew word is translated "that which is leavened" in Exodus 12:19. It is also translated "leavened bread" in a number of places. It refers to all foods that leaven has caused to rise, including bread, cake, some crackers, certain cookies, some prepared cereals and pies. A few candies and other foods also make use of leavening agents. If you are in doubt about any product, check the list of ingredients on the wrapper.

Instead of eating leavened bread, we have the positive command to eat unleavened bread (Ex. 13:6). We may also eat unleavened pies and cereals together with all the meats, drinks, fruits and vegetables we normally consume.
Most stores carry a variety of unleavened breads. Always check the ingredients on the label to be sure. Or, you may enjoy making your own.

Some have asked about using egg whites in baking. Egg whites should not be used as a substitute for leaven, in a deliberate attempt to circumvent the spirit-of the law. On the other hand, beaten egg whites used in meringue on pies and other desserts do not constitute a leavening agent. They have not been used to puff up any product baked of flour or meal.

Others have noticed the term "yeast extracts" on the labels of certain foods and have wondered if they should be avoided. These are derivatives of yeast that cannot be used as leavening agents. It would therefore be permissible to use a product containing yeast extracts provided, of course, that it does not contain any actual leavening agent. Some people also buy brewer's yeast from health food stores. This form of yeast is totally dead and should not therefore be considered as leaven. It should also be mentioned that cream of tartar, by itself, is not a leavening agent either.

Occasionally a question comes up about beer or other fermented drinks. There is nothing in the entirety of Scripture to indicate any restriction on the kind of beverages we consume during the Days of Unleavened Bread — no mention of these being the "Days of Unleavened Beverages." The fact is that in all cases where the Days of Unleavened Bread are mentioned, the reference is always to the example set by the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt without any leaven in their dough (see Exodus 12:39). There is no reference to the invisible yeast or result of it in either beer, wine or other beverages.

Naturally fermented wine was customarily consumed by the Israelites at God's festivals. If God had intended a ban on fermented beverages during the Days of Unleavened Bread, it would undoubtedly have been mentioned. In fact, such mention would have been necessary. Yet the command adds no more than is found in Exodus 13:6-7: "Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread... and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters."

If you are unsure about any particular food and unable to find the answer, you should refrain from eating it, "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).

If partway through the Feast you find some leavened product that somehow escaped your scrutiny, put it off your property immediately. This is a type of those hidden sins that we don't always discover upon conversion. We must keep on putting out sin (leaven) until the process is complete, as is signified by the very fact that there are seven — the complete number — Days of Unleavened Bread.

God intended the Days of Unleavened Bread to be a type to remind us that we are to be unleavening our lives spiritually by putting out the spiritual leaven of sin — not for seven days only, but throughout our entire lives! "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (I Cor. 5:8).

Matthew 26:17 calls the Passover a day of unleavened bread. Please explain.

Leavened bread may be eaten on the Passover day. But because unleavened bread was used in the actual Passover meal, the day of the Passover came to be considered "the day of unleavened bread" (Luke 22:7). The day of the Passover is a time when all leavened bread is to be put out of the home in preparation for the seven Days of Unleavened Bread (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) that immediately follow (Ex. 12:18-19).

The noted Jewish historian Josephus, who lived in the same century as Christ, tells us that the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted for seven days — from the 15th day to the 21 st day of the first month. The Passover preceded the Feast, being on the 14th day. However, the entire eight-day Spring Festival was commonly called "The Feast of Unleavened Bread" — that is, from the 14th to the 2lst. (See Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, chapter XV, Book III, chapter X.) (Questions and Answers. Good News magazine, March 1981)

Unleavened bread is bread made without leavening agents. Many types of flatbreads, including corn tortillas, are often a type of unleavened bread. Unleavened bread does NOT need to be blessed by a Jewish rabbi nor follow Jewish rules that are found outside of scripture. And for those with dietary concerns, only a very small amount needs to be eaten each day. But eating some every day helps us to remember these days and look to remove sin from our lives.

Keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread is a Sign of Faithfulness

In Exodus it states that the Days of Unleavened Bread, "shall be a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD's law may be in your mouth" (13:9). Keeping seven days of unleavened bread pictures that we are to live in sincerity and truth by keeping God's law--that we are not continue in false religion, not to continue in sin.

People who do not keep the Days of Unleavened Bread are not reminded about false religion and sin through this symbol during the year; maybe they do not want to be.

Why seven days?

In the Bible God seems to use the number seven to show completeness. There are seven days in a week (Exodus 20:6), seven days of creation (Genesis1), seven Churches in Revelation 2&3, seven candlesticks (Revelation 1:20), seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34), etc. The seven Days of Unleavened Bread seem to picture that after our sins have been forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus (Romans 3:25, I Corinthians 5:7), that we are to no longer continue in the old ways but to walk in the true ways of the Bible (I Corinthians 5:8). The Days of Unleavened Bread help us to understand that sin is to put out of our lives; throughout the year it reminds us that false religion is all around and needs to be avoided.

Although some spiritual problems in our lives seem hidden as some forms of leaven and more difficult to remove than possible, the Bible teaches us:

13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, (Jude 24)

The annual period of the Days of Unleavened Bread helps us refocus on striving towards perfection as Jesus taught (), and can help break our usual routine enough that we, through Christ Jesus, can overcome all.

A Warning

Now it is interesting to note that Jude warned that, "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).

This is interesting because in the next verse he ties this problem with deliverance (from Egypt) during the Days of Unleavened Bread (which should be kept as an annual reminder of sin and deliverance, Exodus 13:3-10, I Corinthians 5:8).

"But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe" (Jude 5). In like manner, just because of the sacrifice of Jesus "God had passed over the sins that were previously committed" (Romans 3:25), he may afterward destroy "those who did not believe". How do you know if you truly have faith and believe? By doing what God says.

James warned, "You believe there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead (James 2:19-20). In a similar way Paul wrote, "for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified" (Romans 2:13). Paul also warned, "For if we sin willfully after we have received knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation" (Hebrews 10:26-27).

Like the Old Testament (Exodus 12:15,19), the New Testament teaches us "Therefore purge out the old leaven" I Corinthians 5:7. From a physical standpoint it is easy to not obey these teachings. Physically it is easier not to purge or remove all the leaven from our dwellings. But spiritually, by not keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread, many fail to understand that they have to live the way of life that Jesus taught--many accept a false outward religion! Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). By not keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread, many have fallen for a religion based upon traditions of men instead of God's commands!

The Bible vs. 'Traditions of Men'

Believe it or not Jesus ran into the same problem in His day. The religious rulers (the Pharisees) were condemned because "you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition" (Matthew 15:6). Although traditions of men say that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for keeping the law, the opposite is true. Remember that Jesus said to them that "inside you are filled with lawlessness and hypocrisy" (Matthew 23:28). Actually, they pretended that they believed the Bible, but taught that their understandings (hermeneutics in modern terms) were more important than the literal commands in the Bible (Mark 7:8-9).

This problem exists even to our day.

Many professing Christians believe God's laws and Holy Days are no longer in effect even though all the ten commandments are specifically enjoined in the New Testament and all the biblical Holy Days are mentioned after the crucifixion of Jesus (unleavened bread is also mentioned before Mount Sinai in Genesis 19:3).

The Apostle Paul warned:

7...Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:7-9).

Paul was warning Christians that they should not allow a little compromise with the world (apparently including arguments of friends/acquaintances) should affect them. Christians who kept the Days of Unleavened Bread understood that then, and still understand that today.

Jesus warned, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'" (Jesus is talking about those who claims to be Christians!) "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:21-23).

In addition to I Corinthians 5:7-8, we can see that the Days of Unleavened Bread were still to be kept after the crucifixion. In Acts 12:3, it says that, "Now that was during the Days of Unleavened Bread". It does not say that these days were done away. Also, Luke wrote,

6 But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread (Acts 20:6).

Now Philippi was (according to Smith's Bible Dictionary) a gentile town. It was in Macedonia and was ruled by the Romans. Thus, in at least two places in the New Testament, in gentile areas, we see that the Days of Unleavened Bread were to be kept (I Corinthians 5:7; Acts 20:6). If Christians were not to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread, why didn't Luke or Paul say so? Why did Paul say to keep them?

(An article of related interest may be Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings.)

What Some Say

The Worldwide Church of God officially used to teach and keep the Days of Unleavened Bread. But no longer. In the February 1999 issue of its official publication The Worldwide News (WWN), it contained the following information in an article written by Don Mear,

"We knew that Jesus commanded us to "eat his flesh and drink his blood" by taking the bread and wine of communion. And we understood that in doing so we were partaking of the Lamb of God. We did it annually because we saw the Lamb of God as being the Passover lamb, and we knew that the Passover was an annual observance. But Jesus is more than just the Passover lamb...The author of Hebrews pointed out that we Christians "have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat." His implication is that just as they had their altar to eat from, we have our own altar to eat from. And by extension, as freely as they ate from theirs, we may eat from ours. This points us to the conclusion that Christians, who under the new covenant, are a nation of priests (1 Pet. 2:9), may eat of the sacrificial Lamb of God just as freely and frequently as did those priests of the old covenant. We are not restricted to eating the Lamb of God only once a year, any more than they were. Jesus is always our sin offering; he is always our guilt offering; he is always our peace and thank offering...Thank God our Father for the communion he gives us with himself in his beloved Son!"

Although the preceding quote suggests otherwise, the fact is that priests only ate the Passover once per year.

If the Days of Unleavened Bread were always kept in conjunction with Passover (which they always are in the Bible), then the sort of logic in the WWN article would be shown to be false. If every time one consumed the symbols representing body and blood of Jesus, they also had to keep seven days of Unleavened Bread and this was done weekly, then those so doing would never consume regular bread!

Now for those that argue that keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread is just a physical thing, there are two points to consider: the point of purging leaven out is to have sin out of our life (which is spiritual) and consuming the "Lamb of God" is also physical (with spiritual implications). Doing one without the other reminds me of certain Asiatic religions which feel that spinning a prayer wheel is equivalent to spending hours in prayer. Those followers probably at least think about some deity before they spin the wheel, but is that how God really wants to be worshiped? Does He approve of other "traditions of men" over His word?

Now it is true that leaven is not always shown to be bad. Jesus even stated, "the kingdom of God...is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures till it was all leavened" (Luke 13:20-21). This parable seems to illustrate that, even though the leaven was at first hidden, in the future all will know the true religion. Which is consistent with Habakkuk 2:14, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." Thus, leaven may be a symbol of false religion now, but true religion in the future.

Did Early Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?

Jesus kept the Days of Unleavened Bread. And while He often did that in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 22:1,7), He also seemed to have kept the Days of Unleavened Bread in or near Galilee (Luke 6:1, Clarke's Commentary on the Bible).

Some may wonder if early Christians kept the Days of Unleavened Bread. Well, as shown before, Paul taught that they should. But what about others?

One theologian reported:

To the first Christians the yearly recurrence of the Passover must have brought vivid memories of all that had happened at the Passover of A.d. 29. These associations soon gave a Christian meaning to the very word Pascha. ' Christ our Pascha is sacrificed for us,' wrote S. Paul; and the Sacrifice and Resurrection, remembered at first, perhaps, together with the night of the Exodus, soon became the chief and only reason for observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Gorham ES. History of the church to A.D. 325.  1905.  Original from Columbia University, Digitized Aug 14, 2009, pp. 129-130)

And while Jesus apparently was crucified a year or two later and there are multiple reasons to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it is true that the faithful have kept it from the earliest times and that they have understood that Paul's writings also support this.

A very old document, that was probably altered in the 4th century, titled The Life of Polycarp, specifically mentions the  Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost. Notice that it shows that the Apostle Paul endorsed keeping them:

In the days of unleavened bread Paul, coming down from Galatia, arrived in Asia, considering the repose among the faithful in Smyrna to be a great refreshment in Christ Jesus after his severe toil, and intending afterwards to depart to Jerusalem. So in Smyrna he went to visit Strataeas, who had been his hearer in Pamphylia, being a son of Eunice the daughter of Lois. These are they of whom he makes mention when writing to Timothy, saying; Of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice; whence we find that Strataeas was a brother of Timothy. Paul then, entering his house and gathering together the faithful there, speaks to them concerning the Passover and the Pentecost, reminding them of the New Covenant of the offering of bread and the cup; how that they ought most assuredly to celebrate it during the days of unleavened bread, but to hold fast the new mystery of the Passion and Resurrection. For here the Apostle plainly teaches that we ought neither to keep it outside the season of unleavened bread, as the heretics do, especially the Phrygians...but named the days of unleavened bread, the Passover, and the Pentecost, thus ratifying the Gospel (Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 2. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506).

Notice that the Apostle Paul was teaching Gentiles to keep these days.

Furthermore, Polycarp kept the Days of Unleavened Bread, various "Jewish holidays", and even went to Rome and told the bishop there to keep Passover on the correct day (this is documented in the article Polycarp of Smyrna: The Heretic Fighter). Polycarp is considered to be a saint by Catholics, Orthodox, many Protestants, and those in the Church of God.  Yet of those groups, only the real Church of God continues his practices as far as the Holy Days are concerned.

Notice what the Catholic writer Eusebius recorded that Polycrates of Ephesus, around 195 A.D. wrote the following to the Roman Bishop Victor who, as the previous writing showed, wanted all who professed Christ to change Passover from the 14th of Nisan to Sunday:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man' (Eusebius. Church History, Book V, Chapter 24. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Notice that Polycrates said that he and the other early church leaders (like the Apostles Philip and John, and their successors like Polycarp, Thraseas, Eumenia, Sagaris, Papirius, Melito) would not deviate from the Bible, and that they knew the Bible taught them to keep the Passover on the correct date, and not on a Sunday. Also notice that they always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. Polycrates also reminded the Roman bishop that true followers of Christ "obey God rather than men".

Notice what a respected Protestant scholar reported about the second century:

The most important in this festival was the passover day, the 14th of Nisan…In it they ate unleavened bread, probably like the Jews, eight days through…there is no trace of a yearly festival of the resurrection among them…the Christians of Asia Minor appealed in favor of their passover solemnity on the 14th Nisan to John (Gieseler, Johann Karl Ludwig.  A Text-book of Church History. Translated by Samuel Davidson, John Winstanley Hull, Mary A. Robinson. Harper & brothers, 1857, Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Feb 17, 2006, p. 166).

So, like the Apostle John (the last of the original apostles to die), the early faithful Christians observed Passover and the  Days of Unleavened Bread.

In the late third century, Anatolius of Alexandria wrote the following:

I am aware that very many other matters were discussed by them, some of them with considerable probability, and others of them as matters of the clearest demonstration, by which they endeavour to prove that the festival of the Passover and unleavened bread ought by all means to be kept after the equinox...

But nothing was difficult to them with whom it was lawful to celebrate the Passover on any day when the fourteenth of the moon happened after the equinox. Following their example up to the present time all the bishops of Asia—as themselves also receiving the rule from an unimpeachable authority, to wit, the evangelist John, who leant on the Lord’s breast, and drank in instructions spiritual without doubt—were in the way of celebrating the Paschal feast, without question, every year, whenever the fourteenth day of the moon had come, and the lamb was sacrificed by the Jews after the equinox was past; not acquiescing, so far as regards this matter, with the authority of some...(THE PASCHAL CANON OF ANATOLIUS OF ALEXANDRIA. Chapters V,X, p. 415, 419).

This should be proof to any with "eyes to see and ears to hear" that some who professed Christ were keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread centuries after Jesus died. And did so after Passover of the 14th. Yet, could this have ended up being changed and called Lent? It may be so, even though Lent did not come from the Bible nor the actual practices of the early Christians (see Is Lent a Christian Holiday?).

Canons 37 & 38 of the Council of Laodicea of the fourth century (c. 363-364) prohibited the observation of the unleavened bread and other festivals of the Jews:

Canon 37

It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them.

Canon 38

It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety.

(Synod of Laodicea. Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3806.htm>.)

And there was a similar condemnation in Canon 69/70 of the Syrian Apostolic Canons near this time. Notice:

Canon 37 {70} requires Christians not to accept gifts from the feasts of Jews and heretics, and denies Christians the right to feast with these persons: "It is not proper that Christians accept gifts which are sent by Jews or heretics, nor celebrate feasts with them."98 Canon 38 declares that Christians are not to accept unleavened bread from the Jews nor take part in their festivals: "It is not proper for Christians to accept unleavened bread from the Jews, and take part in their impieties." 99 These regulations taken together certainly leave a strong impression that even in the fourth century there were not only Judaic practices in the Asiatic church, but also there was actual religious fellowship with the Jewish inhabitants.

The Apostolic Canons, which are a Syrian compilation of the mid-fourth century, strengthen this impression. They deal in still further detail with religious fellowship between the clergy and the Jews in that very place where the violence of the monks was fiercest against the Jews, Alexandria. Canon 69 repeats the prohibition against feasting or fasting with the Jews: "If any" bishop or other cleric fasts with the Jews or celebrates festal days with them or accepts gifts from their festivals, such as unleavened bread or anything else similar, he shall be excluded from the Clergy; and if a layman does these things, he shall be segregated from the flock." (Seaver JE.  Persecution of the Jews in the Roman Empire (300-438), Issue 30 of University of Kansas publications: Humanistic studies. University of Kansas Publications, 1952.  Original from the University of Virginia, Digitized Apr 29, 2009, pp. 34-35. http://vlib.iue.it/carrie/texts/carrie_books/seaver/text.html)

70. If any bishop, or any other of the clergy, fasts with the Jews, or keeps the festivals with them, or accepts of the presents from their festivals, as unleavened bread or some such thing, let him be deprived; but if he be one of the laity, let him be suspended. (Apostolic Constitutions (Book VIII), Section XLVII. Translated by James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. 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/07158.htm>.)

Hence this practice of Christians keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread also must have been going on then in Asia Minor and elsewhere--others scholars share that opinion (Seaver, p. 34; Bagatti B, Priest. The Church from the Circumcision, pp. 87-88).

Despite the fact that many later chose to observe Lent, the faithful continued to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread throughout history.

Adventist researcher Daniel Liechty reported Sabbath-keepers in Transylvania in the 1500s and later kept the biblical Holy Days (such as the Feast of Trumpets called Day of Remembrance below) (and those are days his church does not observe):

The Sabbatarians viewed themselves as converted Gentiles.. They held to the biblical holidays. Passover they celebrated with unleavened bread…The first and last seventh day of Passover were full holidays...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).

Notice that in the 1600s, those who kept the days of unleavened bread were persecuted for their beliefs:

And finally, the tragic “Accord of Deés” or Complanatio Deesiana in July 1638 definitely disjoined Sabbatarians from Unitarians. Unitarians were ordered to worship Jesus, baptize in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and to allow their publications censured--a coerced “complanatio.” The “Judaizers” and those who rejected and cursed Jesus, however, were excluded even from the new amnesty. Sabbatarians were easy target of the new discriminatory law: they observed the Sabbath, therefore they farmed on Sundays, abstained from eating pork and blood, celebrated the Passover with unleavened bread, and refused baptism of their children--the very sign of their expected conversion" (Gellérd, Judit. Spiritual Jews of Szekler Jerusalem A Four-Centuries History of Transylvanian Szekler (Székely) Sabbatarianism. In Literature of Memory VI: Hope and Despair STH TS 870, Fall 2000 Professor Elie Wiesel. http://www.unitarius.hu/cffr/papers/sabbat.htm--12/14/02).

Note that the "Judaizers" are separate from "those who rejected and cursed Jesus." In this region, there were both true Christians (the "Judaizers" who celebrated the Passover with unleavened bread, etc.) and those who rejected Christ as Messiah (hence the Judaizers were not actually unitarian).

In the early 1600s, a Sabbath-keeper in the British Isles, named John Traske, wrote the following about observing some version of Passover and/or the resurrection:

'the fourteenth of the March moon' to coincide with the Jewish Passover, and should be followed by the eating of unleavened bread for seven days. (Falconer John. A Breife Refutation of John Traskes Judaical and Novel Fantyces, pp. 57-58, as cited in Ball B.  Seventh Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600-1800, 2nd edition.  James Clark & Co., 2009, pp. 49-50)

Christians have kept the days of unleavened bread throughout the church age.

The Last Day of Unleavened Bread

The last day of Unleavened Bread is a Holy Day and, like the first day, is a time for a holy convocation:

6 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. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. 8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.'" (Leviticus 23:6-8)

We in the Continuing Church of God follow the biblical admonitions and keep the days of unleavened bread. As a time of a holy convocation, we abstain from carnal activities such as working for a living, going to carnal school classes, etc.

Those who can, meet together with like-minded, abstain from leaven, etc. And those who cannot meet together, still abstain from leaven, pray, and normally will watch an online sermon, such as Christians and the Days of Unleavened Bread, as part of their observance (and of course, eat some amount of unleavened bread).

In Conclusion

Although the Days of Unleavened Bread are first mentioned in the Old Testament, it is in the New Testament that we learn more fully that today's leaven pictures false religion and sin. The New Testament shows the connection between Jesus' Passover sacrifice and the removal of sin from our lives.

According to the New Testament and the records of historians, the original practice of the earliest Christians observed Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.  Christians, like some of the observant Jews, purge their homes of leaven prior to to sunset on the 15th of Nisan.  And Christians avoid leaven for those seven days.  This is something that the Bible teaches and early Christians practiced.

Will you follow those who followed Christ or do you prefer later adaptations?

Here is position from the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God on this subject:

The Days of Unleavened Bread, which come immediately after Passover, picture being cleansed from sin by the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus (cf. 2 Peter 1:9-11). They also picture that the leaven of hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness need to be purged (Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6-13). The Apostle Paul was inspired to write, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8).

By keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread, Christians picture that they have heard the word of God, accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, try to put the word of God into practice, and have symbolically put false religion and sin out of their lives. By keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread, Christians show that they are willing to obey God over the traditions of men. In conclusion, as is says in I Corinthians 5:8, "Therefore let us keep the feast".

Shouldn't you?

To learn more about how to keep Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, check out the article Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

A sermon video of related interest would be Christians and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

B. Thiel, Ph.D. Should Christians Keep The Days of Unleavened Bread? www.cogwriter.com (c) 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014 1028

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