The Resurrection of Yeshua and the Festivals of Firstfruits.
Part I - A Biblical Overview.
Yeshua was raised from the dead at the Festival of the Firstfruits of
the Barley Harvest. This was on the "first day of the week",
according to the popular translation of a Greek jargon phrase which could
have a number of other meanings. The Church was born seven weeks later at
the Festival of the Firstfruits of the Wheat Harvest, otherwise known as
This is the first of a three-part series.
For a discussion of the Jewish Literature and the Greek New Testament,
see Part II.
For a view of the censor's amendments to the Talmud, which substitutes
"Sadducees" for "Jewish-Christians", seePart
The Festival of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Israelites from
Egypt. Shortly afterwards, there is the Festival of the Firstfruits of the
Barley Harvest, more commonly known as the "First Day of the Omer"
. An omer is a measure of grain, and on the First Day of the Omer the
priest would wave a sheaf of barley, equivalent to an omer, before the
Lord. This festival is known as "First of Weeks" in the New
Testament, although it is commonly translated as "first day of the
week". It is important to understand the significance of this
festival, because it is the day when Yeshua rose from the dead.
Seven weeks later, when the wheat harvest is ready, there is the
Festival of the Firstfruits of the Wheat Harvest, otherwise known as the "Feast
of Weeks" or Pentecost. This festival is not just an agricultural
festival. It also commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai
because it occurs at about the same time of the year according to Exodus
The First of Omer, the Feast of Weeks, and the interval between them are
described in Leviticus 23:10-17 as follows:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be
come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest
thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest
unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be
accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it
... And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from
the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths
shall be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye
number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.
Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals:
they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the
firstfruits unto the Lord.
Deut. 16:9-10 says "weeks" rather than "sabbaths" as
Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven
weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And
thou shalt keep the feast of weeks [Pentecost] unto the Lord thy
God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt
give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed
In modern-day Judaism, the First Day of the Omer is always 16th Nisan,
the day after Passover, so that Pentecost (50th Day of the Omer) is on 6th
Sivan. However, at the time of Yeshua there was a debate going on between
the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees interpreted "the morrow
after the sabbath" in Lev. 23:15 to be the day after Passover, since
any non-working day is considered to be a Sabbath. The Sadducees
interpreted it literally to mean the day after the first weekly Sabbath
By comparing the New Testament accounts with the Jewish traditions as
described in the Talmud, Mishnah and Midrash Rabbah, it is possible to
establish the following:
- Yeshua was executed on 14th Nisan which was either a Thursday or
Friday, and he rose again the following Sunday which was either 16th or
- The "First of Weeks", described in Matt. 28:1 and various
other passages, is the First Day of the Omer according to the Sadducees.
- If the crucifixion was on Friday, the "First of Weeks"
would also be the First Day of the Omer according to the Pharisees.
For details of this discussion, together with some notes on the Greek
text of the New Testament, see Part II.
First of Weeks
On a number of occasions the New Testament translates "mian
sabbaton" and other similar phrases as "first day of the
week" when it should be one of the following, depending on the
- "First of Weeks", meaning the First Day of the Omer.
- "One of the Sabbaths", meaning any of the weekly Sabbaths
that are counted from Passover to Pentecost.
- "First of the Sabbaths", meaning the first weekly Sabbath
that is counted from Passover and Pentecost, although there are no
circumstances in which this translation needs to be used.
The translation "first day of the week", which appears
in most Bible versions, has the word "day" italicised
because it is not in the Greek and has been added to fit what is thought
to be the context. It is common practice to add words in italics wherever
they are needed, to give a meaningful translation. There is nothing in the
Greek New Testament that states literally and specifically that Yeshua
rose from the dead on the first day of the week, although it can be
verified from various other early church sources (see my article entitled
Three Days and Three Nights).
The Greek term "mian sabbaton" has been treated rather like a
jargon phrase and made to conform to known early church beliefs.
The verses affected, if they are translated literally, become as
Matt. 28:1. After the sabbaths, at the dawning into the First of
Weeks, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the grave.
Mark 16:2. And very early on the First of Weeks, the sun having
risen, they came upon the tomb.
Luke 24:1. But on the First of Weeks, while still very early, they
came on the tomb, carrying spices which they prepared; and some were with
John 20:1. But on the First of Weeks Mary Magdelene came early to
the tomb, darkness yet being on it.
John 20:19. Then it being evening on that day, the First of Weeks,
and the doors having been locked where the disciples were assembled,
because of fear of the Jews, Yeshua came and stood in the midst, and said
to them, Peace to you.
Acts 20:6-16. But we sailed along after the days of unleavened bread
from Phillipi, and came to them at Troas in five days, where we stayed
seven days. And on one of the sabbaths, the disciples having been
assembled to break bread, being about to depart on the morrow, Paul
reasoned to them. And he continued his speech till midnight..... For Paul
had decided to sail by Ephesus, so as it might not happen to him to spend
time in Asia; for he hastened if it were possible for him to be in
Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
1 Cor. 16:2-8. On the First of Weeks, let each of you put by
himself, storing up whatever he is prospered, that there not be then
collections when I come....But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost.
Comments on the Translations
If the crucifixion was on Thursday, the phrase "after the
sabbaths" in Matt 28:1 means the Passover Sabbath which was on a
Friday, and the regular weekly Sabbath which was Saturday. Any non-working
Festival day is considered to be a Sabbath. If the crucifixion was on
Friday, it is not clear what the phrase means. The Passover Sabbath would
be the same day as the regular weekly Sabbath, so there would be only one
day. However, it's possible that people took an additional day off, at
some time during the Passover preparation, to avoid being deprived of a
The event described in Acts 20:6-16 is too late to be "First of
Weeks", therefore the alternative translation "one of the
sabbaths" is used.
1 Cor. 16:2-8 suggests that money and goods had to be "stored up"
over a period of time, rather than taking a weekly collection. The period
of accumulation would be from the First of Weeks until shortly after
Pentecost, when Paul was expected to arrive.
Resurrection of Yeshua at the Firstfruits of the Barley Harvest
The "First of Weeks", when Yeshua was raised from the dead, is
referenced not only in the Gospels, but also in 1 Cor. 15:20-23 using the
alternative name "Firstfruits".
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of
them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the
resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall
all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits;
afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
This has the clear meaning that Yeshua rose from the dead on the
Festival of Firstfruits when the priest waved the sheaf of barley before
the Lord on the First day of the Omer. The Church was born on next
Festival of Firstfruits, at Pentecost, when the priest waved the two
loaves of bread, baked from the fine flour of the wheat crop. Yeshua was
the firstfruit, and then more fruit would come. He alluded to the same
thing in John 12:24.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the
ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much
Shavuot (Pentecost) at the Ingathering of the Wheat Harvest
Shavuot is a double celebration, based on the giving of the Law at Mount
Sinai and the gathering of the wheat harvest in the Spring. In Israel the
warm climate enables them to have two harvests, one in the Spring and the
other in the Autumn, each with different crops being harvested at
Approximately seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites
arrived at Mount Sinai and were given the Ten Commandments. This was
accompanied by spectacular signs, described in Exodus 19:16 - 20:22 as
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were
thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice
of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp
trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with
God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was
altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the
smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount
quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed
louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice ... and
all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of
the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they
removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak with us, and
we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said
unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear
may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off,
and Moses drew near into the thick darkness where God was. And the Lord
said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have
seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
When the Jews were gathered together in Jerusalem for the Feast of
Pentecost, shortly after the resurrection of Yeshua, they witnessed some
similar signs, as described in Acts 2:1-6.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one
accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a
rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat
upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began
to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there
were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under
heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and
were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own
Peter stood up and told them this was the fulfillment of the prophecy of
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those
days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will show wonders in
heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour
of smoke. (Acts 2:18-19)
The visitors to Jerusalem were obviously astonished by this event. They
must have believed that God was visiting them again at Pentecost and
re-stating the Law, but on this occasion they witnessed the work of the
Holy Spirit, speaking through Peter and the other Apostles in many
languages, telling them about Yeshua. With signs like these, it is hardly
surprising that 3,000 people believed and were immersed in a single day
For believers in Yeshua, Shavuot is a triple celebration, commemorating
all of the following:
- The giving of the Law at Mount Sinai;
- The outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Messianic
- The ingathering of the early wheat harvest in Israel.
The Jews have a tradition of staying up all night on the eve of Shavuot,
discussing the Torah, as a way of remembering how the Israelites waited
for the Law to be given, as it says in Exodus 19:10-11.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them
today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against
the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of
all the people upon mount Sinai.
The disciples of Yeshua also had to wait for the Holy Spirit, according
to Acts 1:4-5.
And, being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded
them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise
of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly
baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many
Many Christians today, particularly of a Charismatic persuasion, have
special meetings at Pentecost where they expect to receive the Holy
Spirit. These type of meetings have no Biblical foundation, because the
Holy Spirit is already given, just as the Law is already given. The Jews
do not expect to receive the Torah at Shavuot. They already have the
Torah, and they remember how their ancestors had to wait for it in the
desert. Believers in Yeshua might also want to remember how the early
Apostles waited for the Holy Spirit, but we do not need to wait for the
Holy Spirit ourselves, because He is already with us, and we just need to
get on with the work of ministering to people about Yeshua.
For details of the Jewish Literature that is used in support of this
article, and notes on the translation of the Greek New Testament, see
- Three Days and Three Nights
- Passover in the New Testament
Updated December 1999
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