Should Christians Keep Israel’s Feasts?

Recently I got detailed questions from someone connected with the movement that believes Christians should keep the Law of Moses. Below I summarize the incoming question (with supporting verses) and then give my point-by-point response:

The core of your questions is this: “I am wondering why Christians don’t celebrate the Lord’s feasts.” You raise several points in favor of our doing so:
a. God says the feasts are a “perpetual” command (e.g. Lev. 23:14). You favor the assumption that it also applies to Christians since we have been grafted in (Rom. 11:17) and are now part of the people of God.
b. Jesus observed the feasts (e.g. John 10). You say we are to be like him.
c. You dismiss Col. 2:16-17 by referring to an Aramaic/English Bible and an interpretation from it that Paul was referring to pagans judging Christians.
d. You cite Acts 20:16 [“he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem,if possible, by the day of Pentecost” (NIV)], Acts 18:21 [“I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem” (KJV)], John 10:22-23 [“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade” (NIV)], and John 12:20 [“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast” (NIV)]. You use these quotes in support of two ideas: (1) “the apostles did celebrate the feasts after Jesus’ ascension” and (2) “it would be right” to celebrate the feasts as Jesus did.

I will try to deal briefly with each of the points. However, even at this point I must say that I seriously doubt that you or any other Christian can possibly be keeping these feasts in accordance with the Law of Moses because you are not making all the required sacrifices, have no earthly High Priest to perform some of the steps, and have no Temple standing at which to perform the appropriate worship. These are serious problems! James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10, NIV 2011).

Now let’s take your points one-by-one:

Claim: God says the feasts are a “perpetual” command (e.g. Lev. 23:14). You favor the assumption that it also applies to Christians since we have been grafted in (Rom. 11:17) and are now part of the people of God.

Response: The short answer here is that we are not Jews. The fact that Paul uses the metaphor of grafting a wild branch into the olive tree does not mean that the wild branches are the same as the natural branches. If they were, what would be the point in naming two different types of branches and talking about how God is dealing with them differently?

You are correct in saying these feasts are a “perpetual” command, but the verse says “it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings” (Lev 23:14, ESV), and the “your” is not a reference to Christians either historically or now. This involves the Jews.

Claim: Jesus observed the feasts (e.g. John 10). We are to be like him.

Response: The key here is that these events all take place before Jesus died on the cross in satisfaction of all that God required. His death changed everything profoundly, and we live after his death not before it. Jesus obeyed the Law of Moses because that was what was required of him. It does not logically follow that all that was required of Jesus is required of us as well. For example, Jesus died for the sins of the world. Must we do so as well? Jesus lived in Nazareth. Must we do so as well? Being like Jesus has serious limits.

Claim: You dismiss Col. 2:16-17 by referring to an Aramaic/English Bible and an interpretation derived from it that Paul was referring to pagans judging Christians.

Response: Actually it does not matter who was doing the judging. What matters is that we as Christians are not to be involved in those practices mentioned in Col. 2:16, and the reason is simple. Col. 2:17 says, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (NIV 2011). The feasts were part of the “shadow of the things that were to come,” but Jesus did come! So, now we put aside the shadow-things in favor of the reality found in Christ. As I said before, his death and resurrection changed everything.

As a person who studies Bible translations closely, I do not recommend you rely on an Aramaic translation of the NT. The NT was revealed to us in Koine Greek, and the Greek text is hard enough to translate into English. Putting Aramaic into the picture makes matters worse, not better.

Claim: Your next points all involve the apostles allegedly observing feasts after the ascension of Jesus. [I am leaving out the verses about Jesus in John 10 and John 12 because I have previously covered the fact that these events happened before Jesus’ death.]

Response: You cite Acts 20:16 [“he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem,if possible, by the day of Pentecost” (NIV)]. So far, so good. However, this verse does not state that Paul was doing that in order to observe the feast like the Jews. It is far more likely, in light Paul’s theology and mission, that he wanted to be in Jerusalem at Passover because there would be a maximum number of Jews to whom he might proclaim Christ. In any event, he did not observe the feast due to violence plotted against him.

In a similar case, I have been to the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, but that does not mean I went there to worship like a Mormon. We must be careful about assumptions.

Claim: You cite Acts 18:21 [“I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem” (KJV)].

Response: No modern English translation retains that clause because it is not supported by the best Greek manuscripts of the NT. Thus, it is not a valid basis for Christian doctrine.

Summary: Although it is true that the feasts have many interesting analogies in relation to Christ, we now have Christ himself and no longer need the analogies.

Hebrews 3:1–3: “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.”

[For further information on this topic, I suggest you read the two posts that begin here.]

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide.


4 thoughts on “Should Christians Keep Israel’s Feasts?”

  1. Oh my Barry. You sure go a long way to dismiss G-d’s word. Where are your holidays in the greek text? If Y’shua is G-d, then He wrote the whole book! G-d never changes. G-d’s appointed times have signifigant meaning for Christians today. They celebrate what G-d has done and they look forward to what is coming. [DELETED for violation of Blog comment policy.] G-d is trying to get your attention but you keep shoving Him away. I pray that you would hear the still small voice and lovingly respond to your maker.
    Matt 15:3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?

  2. Stacy,
    Per your previous comments about Old Testament traditions (specifically about not keeping food preparation teachings) “I have found some of the traditions to be worthwhile and have incorporated them into my life. Some of the traditions are not good and I will not choose them.” (excerpt) By your own admission you choose not to follow all of the traditions of the Torah or the rabbinical teachings. If someone chooses to celebrate a feast looking at how Christ fulfilled it, great, but there is no mandate in the New Testament to maintain all of the feasts of the Old Testament. Barry is correct that we no longer need the analogies since we now have the Messiah.

    In your other post you stated that you do not follow the teachings of man “I do not want to rely on any man to teach me what it says and what it means. I study and the Spirit of G-d teaches.” Yet your responses are those that I have heard from other followers of Rabbi Marty. I think you are more beholden to a rabbi than you would care to admit.

  3. Heb 13:8 ????? Messiah is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. This means that He is unchanging and it is we humans that seek change due to our mindsets being influenced by greek philosophical schools of thought..

    For example In the New Testament, we find three words translated as “hell.”
    The first is ?????? geenna [G:1067]. When the New Testament was translated into Greek, the translators transliterated rather than translated some Hebrew words into Greek. An example of this is the word ????????? hallelouia [G:239], a word found in Revelation chapter 19, and is a transliteration of the Hebrew word hy-wllh halelu-yah [H:1984 & 3050] meaning “Praise1 Yah.”The Greek word geenna is a transliteration of two Hebrew words, ayg gai [H:1516], meaning “valley” and Mnh hinnom [H:2011], a place name of uncertain meaning. Gai hinnom or “Valley of Hinnom” is the name of a valley outside Jerusalem. In the days of Yeshua the “Valley of Hinnom” burned continually with fires that consumed the garbage and dead animals dumped there by the inhabitants of the city.

    Above examples show that hebrew was the original root of the scriptures and then it was translated into aramaic, then transliterated into greek. The inerrancy of God’s word is only true to the initial source vehicular language of communication. With each translation/transliteration thereafter a perfect understanding of the intended meaning would not be conveyed. In addition to this, Our understanding of G-d’s kadosh [holy] word has been influenced by anti semitism throughout the ages.

    If you consider the eastern peshitta scrolls in aramaic would be far closer to the original source than the koine greek transliterations. Look to Y’shua as the living Torah and freely love him by observing His mitvots [commandments] because he has graciously given us salvation with faith in Him as a gift from Him too! Y’shua did not come to do away with one jot or titttle of the Torah but he came to make dead people live and live more abundantly. He only raised the standards of our understanding in Torah.. he came to teach us how Torah is to be applied for our halacha!

    1. Hello Janaka!

      I appreciate your comments but I must disagree with your conclusions.

      You pick out a few words like ????????? (Rev. 19:1) from the Greek New Testament and then point out that these words are transliterated from Hebrew into Greek. That is quite true. Then you conclude that “Above examples show that Hebrew was the original root of the scriptures and then it was translated into Aramaic, then transliterated into Greek.” Your conclusion is wrong in several ways.

      First, the presence of a few transliterated words in a certain text — such as the Greek New Testament — does not prove that the text was originally written in the source language of the transliterated word. Let me illustrate. Article 1, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution says in part: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” The phrase “ex post facto” is a transliterated Latin phrase which means “from after the action.” According to your reasoning, the presence of this Latin phrase in the text of the US Constitution means that the Constitution was originally written in Latin rather than English. Clearly, that is an erroneous conclusion. In the same way, the presence of a transliterated Hebrew word in the Greek text of the New Testament certainly does not mean that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew!

      Let’s go back to your statement: “Above examples show that Hebrew was the original root of the scriptures and then it was translated into Aramaic, then transliterated into Greek. . . . If you consider the eastern Peshitta scrolls in Aramaic would be far closer to the original source than the Koine Greek transliterations.”

      You will notice that I have italicized your words relating to transliteration. Except for a few isolated words such as those you have mentioned, there is no evidence whatever that the Greek New Testament is a transliteration of any kind. That would be easy to detect, if it were true, and no scholars of the New Testament text have found such wholesale transliteration.

      The Greek New Testament was translated into many languages including the Middle Aramaic represented by the Peshitta. However, textual scholars say that was the sequence (Greek to Middle Aramaic), not the other way around.

      In general, I take your remarks as common to many in the Torah-observant groups of Christians that exist today. There is no question that the church has at times expressed anti-semitism and has not understood its heritage in the Old Testament. However, the cure for that is not to toss out the Greek New Testament by trying to discover a Hebrew or Aramaic original that has a more Jewish feel. The right way is to understand the Old Testament on its own terms and then understand Jesus in a New Testament context that is grounded on a proper understanding of what has gone before.

      Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses, and it is to Jesus and his apostles that the church must look for its understanding. The new covenant was originally expressed in Greek for our benefit, and working with translations into other languages is a step backwards.

      I suggest you also read the series of posts beginning here.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!

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