Congratulations to Alison Roper for correctly answering the previous question.
The Orthodox Churches usually celebrate Easter on a different date from the Western Churches because the Orthodox Churches still use the old Julian Calendar. (They also have a different way of calculating the date.)
Occasionally the celebration takes place on the same date for both, and this year Easter Day was the 16th of April for all churches.
The date seven weeks after the feast of the Passover was observed by the Jews as a special festival for centuries before it acquired a Christian significance. The number seven held a religious significance in Hebrew theology, and features in Old Testament prophecies. As there are seven days in a week, seven weeks equals seven times seven days, thus becoming doubly holy in nature. This date, called “The Feast of Weeks”, was made the time for celebrating God’s giving of the Law through Moses, on Mount Sinai. This was also the time of year when the wheat crops were generally ready for harvesting to begin, and over the years this became a harvest festival as well.
Following the spreading of Greek language and culture after the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Greek word “Pentecost”, meaning Fifty, came to be applied to the Feast of Weeks. We would say that the date was forty-nine days after the Passover, but the practice in both Jewish and Greek counting of dates was to include the first day of a period in the tally of days running up to the last day. Therefore seven weeks were called fifty days. (The Romans also counted days in this way, and the practice has carried through into modern France, where a week is called eight days, and a fortnight is “fifteen days”.)
The Giving of the Law was so important in the religious history of the Jews that the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost as it came to be known, drew Jews who had been dispersed to many other lands around the Mediterranean to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem when they could, to join the celebration in the Temple of God’s gifts of the Law and the Harvest. That is why there were people from so many different countries present in Jerusalem when the tremendous event occurred which made that day become the Christian festival which now we celebrate as the birthday of the Church. Not all the pilgrims were of Jewish race; during the previous century there had been a great outreach to other races, inviting them to be converted to Judaism. Those who were converted were called “proselytes”, and in Acts 2:9-11 we find beside the long list of nationalities represented in the crowd at Jerusalem that day, “Jews and proselytes” were included.
In the New Testament book The Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke, we are told that Jesus spent forty days with his followers after his Resurrection, teaching them about the Kingdom of God, and told them to wait in Jerusalem for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit before they began to spread their message about him. Then he was taken up into heaven, returning to the heavenly glory he had shared with the Father from before creation. There were others with the eleven remaining disciples, about a hundred and twenty in all. Continuing in fellowship and prayer, they obeyed the command of Jesus to wait; and it was ten days before the promised gift came upon them. What a difference it made! Bursting out of their locked room, they proclaimed the risen Saviour to the crowds in the streets of Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit made their words clear to the people of all races. Pentecost had become the birthday of the Church, and that is why we celebrate it today as a Christian festival.
Question: Among the crowd at Pentecost were Parthians; what were they renowned for in the ancient world?
Answers to Neville Threlfall, please.