50 Days, Not 49 Days, for the Pentecost Count


I am always concerned when others mislabel my beliefs.  When discussing any religious subject, I attempt to faithfully represent other points of view.  I would hope that other people would do the same with my views.

That is why I was disturbed by my friend Bernie Monsalvo’s improper characteriza­tion of the Pentecost question in the April 30, 2001, issue of The Journal.  Since 1974, I have seen no published literature using an “exclusive” Pentecost counting method.  The majority of those of us who observe a Monday Pentecost, count inclusively.  Beginning in 1974, I have written several articles in support of a Monday Pentecost, and all of them are based on inclusive counting.  (See our website, www.giveshare.org/HolyDay).  I believe Mr. Monsalvo has not read any of this extensive literature in support of a Monday Pentecost, or he would not have misrepresented our position.

Exclusive refers to excluding the Wavesheaf Day — the first day — in the count.  Inclusive refers to counting Wavesheaf Day as day No. 1 of the count.  Inclusive counting includes the first day of the count, terminus a quo, as well as the LAST day of the count, terminus ad quem.  I don’t necessarily fault Bernie.  When someone in the Church discovers that I observe a Monday Pentecost, they almost invariably say, “you count exclusively, don’t you?”  I tell them, “No, I count 50 days inclusively, beginning with the Sunday that follows the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then observe Pentecost.”  They usually drop the subject.  Over the last 27 years, I have found few people (ministers included) who have seriously studied the Pentecost issue.  Few know that most Monday Pentecost observers today utilize inclusive counting.

The issue is not whether to count inclusively or exclusively.  The issue is how many days to count.  Those who observe Sivan 6, or Sunday, as the Day of Pentecost, count 49 days.  Those who observe Monday (as we do), count 50 days.  Any student of Jewish literature knows that Jews who observe Sivan 6 admit they count 49 days.  This is shown clearly in the “613 Commandments,” perhaps the most authoritative statement of Jewish belief.  The Encyclopedia Judaica, article "Commandments, The 613," page 767, says "Starting from the day of the first sheaf [16th of Nisan] you shall count 49 days. You must rest on Savuot." The scriptural reference is Leviticus 23:15.  Notice, they do not cite verse 16, because they do not count 50 days, but 49.  Their terminus a quo (beginning of the count) is Nisan 16, and their terminus ad quem (end of the count) is Sivan 5.  Then, the following day, Sivan 6, is their Pentecost.  Honest observers of a Sunday Pentecost will likewise admit that they count inclusively seven full (perfect) weeks, beginning on a Sunday, and ending on a Sabbath.  Then they observe their Pentecost.  Their terminus a quo is Sunday, and their terminus ad quem is the seventh Sabbath.  On the day following the 49-day count, they observe as Pentecost.

In every case, inclusive counting includes the first day of the count — wavesheaf offering day — and also the last day of the count.  Then, the Holy Day is observed on the following day.  Sivan 6 Pentecost-observers and Sunday Pentecost-observers count exactly the same way, 49 days inclusively.

I respect others who have convictions different from mine.  But, what does Leviticus 23 really say?  The KJV, and NKJV, literal translations of the Masoretic Hebrew text, are very clear.  Verses 15-16 (KJV), “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.”

The phrase “seven Sabbaths shall be complete” is a parenthetical phrase, which identifies “perfect” Sabbaths (or weeks of Sunday through Sabbath) along the way of the 50-day count towards Pentecost.  Seven of these “perfect” Sabbaths occur during the count.  But notice, Leviticus 23 does not say to count only seven Sabbaths.  It says “number fifty days.”  Most of today’s Jews count 49 days, inclusively, and keep the following day, Sivan 6, as Pentecost.  Most of the remnants of Worldwide count seven perfect (Sunday through Sabbath) weeks (or 49 days), inclusively, and keep the next day (Sunday) as Pentecost.  They both count inclusively, and they both count 49 days.  Hebrew counting is indeed inclusive.  Count the first AND THE LAST DAY, then, following the count, they observe the next day as Pentecost.

What do the Jews and most ex-WCG people do with Leviticus 23:16, which says to “number [Hebrew: caphar, “count”] fifty days”?  They ignore it.  If we count inclusively, beginning with the wavesheaf day as day number one, then why not count 50 days inclusively as the Bible instructs us to do?  Jews and most ex-WCG people ignore the command to number 50 days.  Instead, they only count 49 days.

Now, why does my friend Bernie, and so many others, falsely label my Pentecost count, which results in a Monday, as “exclusive counting”?  Because they believe we are commanded to count only 49 days, not 50 days, and the only way you can come up with a Monday Pentecost in a 49-day counting scenario is to count exclusively.  However, if you count 50 days inclusively, as we do, you will come up with a Monday Pentecost.

The NIV and some other non-Masoretic based translations perform an unauthorized word scramble in Leviticus 23:15.  Since the NIV is not really a translation (it is a thought-for-thought, rather than a word-for-word translation, but the thoughts are often those of the liberal committee which produced it, instead of what the text actually says), you would expect the NIV to take liberty with the original Hebrew.  This leads to confusion in the minds of some.  Yet even here, if you are careful, you can see through this smokescreen.

NIV: “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.  Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.” Notice how the NIV moves the word “count” from the beginning of the sentence to “seven full weeks.”   Check out the Interlinear Bible, and you will see this distortion.  But, if you paid attention in grade school math, you would quickly see that counting off seven full weeks, and counting off fifty days, won’t come to the same day, when these counts are finished, because the starting day, day one, is wavesheaf day.  So, counting off seven perfect weeks is not all there is to counting towards Pentecost.  We are instructed in Leviticus 23:16 to count off fifty days.

There is much more to say about the subject of Pentecost, covered in our papers on the subject (available on the Internet, or in print).  Even though HWA counted exclusively in the old days, I am grateful that God led Herbert Armstrong to come out on the correct day for Pentecost — Monday.

Even after reading this short response, there will be some who will still falsely accuse us of counting exclusively for Pentecost.  Worse, there will be many who will wrongly claim that their Sunday Pentecost, or Sivan 6 Pentecost, is the result of counting 50 days inclusively.  This is delusion or dishonesty, because the facts are that they count only 49 days inclusively, then keep the next day as Pentecost.  We count 50 days inclusively, then keep the next day as Pentecost.  I repeat, the Pentecost issue concerns how many days to count, yet this point rarely comes in discussion of when to observe Pentecost.  Only God can open hearts and minds.

— written by Richard C. Nickels



Supporting Notes


According to “Judaism 101,” www.jewfaq.org/holidayb.htm, “Counting the Omer,” Jews believe that, “According to the Torah (Lev. 23:15), we are obligated to count the days from the second night of Passover [Nisan 16] to the day before Shavu'ot [Sivan 5], seven full weeks.”  In holidayc.htm, they say, “We count each of the days from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavu'ot, 49 days or 7 full weeks . . . .”   They do not count 50 days, as Leviticus 23:16 instructs us to do.

How do the Jews count Pentecost?  According the producers of the HaYom Hebrew Calendar, at http://world.std.com/~reinhold/omer.html, here is how they do it this year, 2001:  Omer Listing For 5761.  Note: In this list, the civil dates are given for the evening before the Hebrew day. Thus each Omer count applies after nightfall on the civil date shown.

8 April 2001, Sunday night.  Today is one day in the Omer.  Hayom yom echad la-omer.

9 April 2001, Monday night.  Today is two days in the Omer.  Hayom shnay yamim la-omer.

10 April 2001, Tuesday night.  Today is three days in the Omer.  Hayom shloshah yamim la-omer.

11 April 2001, Wednesday night.  Today is four days in the Omer.  Hayom arba'ah yamim la-omer.

12 April 2001, Thursday night.  Today is five days in the Omer.  Hayom chamishah yamim la-omer.

13 April 2001, Friday night.  Today is six days in the Omer.  Hayom shishah yamim la-omer.

14 April 2001, Saturday night.  Today is seven days which are one week in the Omer.  Hayom shiv'ah yamim shehaym shavuah echad la-omer.

This follows until we get to the end of the count:

25 May 2001, Friday night.  Today is forty-eight days which are six weeks and six days in the Omer.  Hayom shmonah v-arba'im yom shehaym shishah shavuot veshishah yamim la-omer.

26 May 2001, Saturday night.  Today is forty-nine days which are seven weeks in the Omer.  Hayom tish'ah v-arba'im yom shehaym shiv'ah shavuot la-omer.

27 May 2001, Sunday night.  Erev Shavuot. Hag Someach!

This is conclusive evidence that Jews count only 49 days for their Pentecost count.  In 2001, they are off a whole week.