Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How the Jewish Festivals are connected to Christ in the New Testament

Jewish Feast Days Associated With Important Events in the Gospel of John

What follows is a copy of my collection of quotes on the subject (along with a few of my own notes), and as such, there is very little original content included here.  Nevertheless, I thought that it might be of interest to my readers.

“One evangelist, the author of the Fourth Gospel, stands out as having a special interest in the Temple…As is so often the case in this text, what this evangelist seeks to provide is a radical rethinking of early Christian affirmations.  In the process, he appropriates imagery connected with the temple as a way of affirming his understanding of the significance of Jesus.

“A major vehicle for further connecting Jesus with the temple is the evocation of Israel’s sacred calendar, invoked at key points in the first half of the gospel” (Attridge, 2014).

Attridge, H. W., (2014). The temple and jesus the high priest in the new testament.  In Charleswoth, J. H. (Ed.), Jesus and temple: Textual and archaeological explorations. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.)

John 2:  Passover #1 Turning of water into wine at Cana & the first cleansing of the temple immediately precede Passover

“Four cups of wine mixed with water were drunk at different stages of the [Passover] feast (compare Luke 22:17, 20; 1 Cor. 10:16, the cup of blessing)” (LDS Bible Dictionary, “Feasts,” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/feasts).

John 5:  The Feast of Trumpets (Jewish New Year/Rosh Hashanah) - Healing (& charge to sin no more) of the man at the pool of Bethesda, Christ’s discourse on resurrection, judgment, & the preaching of the gospel to the dead.  (Possibly another Passover instead of feast of trumpets?)

“Westcott prefers the autumn Feast of Trumpets as more suitable on several grounds than the Passover,

(1) because of the absence of the article, - this, however, is very problematical (see Tischendorf, 8th edit.);

(2) because when at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2) the incident described in ch. 5 is still in lively recollection;

(3) because the great events of the Feast of Trumpets, the commemoration of the Creation and the Law giving, correspond with the theme of the Lord's great discourse.” [See **Note below]

(Rev. Joseph S. Exell, M.A  & Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones, (Eds.). Pulpit Commentary, Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/john/5-1.htm).

“The Hebrew name used today for the Feast of Trumpets is Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year. But this was not its original name, though the day does signify a new beginning. One of its original names was the Day of Remembrance. This name arose because the Lord commanded Israel to blow trumpets on this day for remembrance.

According to tradition, it was on this day that the Israelites were remembered and freed from slavery in Egypt, prior to the completed Exodus. Also, it was on this day that the Lord remembered Israel and granted them spiritual renewal after their return from captivity in Babylon. For it was on the first day of the seventh month that Ezra read from the book of the law, and the people rejoiced because he “gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (see Neh. 8:1–12)” (Lenet Hadley Read, “The Golden Plates and the Feast of Trumpets,” Ensign, Jan. 2000, Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/2000/01/the-golden-plates-and-the-feast-of-trumpets?lang=eng).

“Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram's horn) and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a "sweet new year".

“Leviticus 23:24 refers to the festival of the first day of the seventh month as "Zikhron Teru'ah" ("[a] memorial [with the] blowing [of horns]"); it is also referred to in the same part of Leviticus as 'שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן' (shabbat shabbaton) or penultimate Sabbath or meditative rest day, and a "holy day to God". These same words are commonly used in the Psalms to refer to the anointed days. Numbers 29:1 calls the festival Yom Teru'ah, ("Day [of] blowing [the horn]"), and symbolizes a number of subjects, such as the Binding of Isaac and the animal sacrifices that were to be performed.” (Wikipedia, “The Feast of Trumpets”).

**Note:  Christ’s coming & day of resurrection typically depicted in scripture as being ushered in by sounding of a trump:

1 Thessalonians 4:16  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

1 Corinthians 15:51-52  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

John 6:  The Passover (#2 or possibly #3) (AKA The Feast of the Unleavened Bread) - The Bread of Life Sermon

The first Passover differed somewhat from those succeeding it. On the 10th Abib (March or April) a male lamb (or kid) of the first year, without blemish, was chosen for each family or two small families in Israel. It was slain by the whole congregation between the evenings (between sunset and total darkness) of the 14th Abib, and its blood sprinkled on the lintel and two sideposts of the doors of the houses. It was roasted with fire, and no bone of it was broken. It was eaten standing, ready for a journey, and in haste, with unleavened loaves and bitter herbs. Anything left was burned with fire, and no persons went out of their houses until the morning.

Three great changes or developments were made almost immediately in the nature of the Feast of the Passover: (1) It lost its domestic character and became a sanctuary feast. (2) A seven days’ feast of unleavened bread (hence its usual name), with special offerings, was added (Ex. 12:15; Num. 28:16–25). The first and seventh days were Sabbaths and days of holy convocation. (3) The feast was connected with the harvest. On the morrow after the Sabbath (probably 16th Abib) a sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest (barley) was waved before the Lord (Lev. 23:10–14).

In later times the following ceremonies were added: (1) The history of the redemption from Egypt was related by the head of the household (Ex. 12:26–27). (2) Four cups of wine mixed with water were drunk at different stages of the feast (compare Luke 22:17, 20; 1 Cor. 10:16, the cup of blessing). (3) Ps. 113–18 (the Hallel) were sung. (4) The various materials of the feast were dipped in a sauce. (5) The feast was not eaten standing, but reclining. (6) The Levites (at least on some occasions) slew the sacrifices. (7) Voluntary peace offerings (called Chagigah) were offered. Of these there are traces in the law and in the history (Num. 10:10; 2 Chr. 30:22–24; 35:13). (8) A second Passover for those prevented by ceremonial uncleanness from keeping the Passover at the proper time was instituted by Moses (Num. 9:10) on the 14th day of the second month. This was called the Little Passover.  (LDS Bible Dictionary, “Feasts,” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/feasts).

“Jesus does not celebrate this pilgrimage fest in Jerusalem, but on the shore of the sea of Galiliee, where, after the miraculous feeding and walking on water, he preaches a sermon identifying himself as the new “bread from heaven” (John 6:32-58).  The complexities of the discourse and its possible redactional layers have long intrigued scholars and we need not explore these issues now.  The major point for our purposes is clear: Passover is no longer to be celebrated as a pilgrimage festival connected with Jerusalem but is celebrated wherever the new manna is consumed, whether that consumption be metaphorical (6:41-50) or physical (6:51-58)” (Attridge, 2014).

I can't find any public domain images of the four golden lampstands which were illuminated during the Feast of Tabernacles, so you'll have to imagine them standing in the courtyard before the temple.

John 7:  The Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth/Sukkot) – Christ openly declares his divine Sonship, reiterates teachings about living water, declares Himself to be “the light of the world.”  John 8:  Jesus reminds the people of the true deeds of Abraham who rejoiced to see Christ’s day.  John 9:  Christ tells a blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam and he is healed.

“Mention of the next pilgrimage festival, Succoth, at John 7:2, introduces a lengthy discourse where the festival’s symbolic elements, water and light, are associated with Jesus” (Attridge, 2014).

"Water and light were used as important symbols during the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Savior used these symbols to call the people to believe in Him as the Messiah. On the temple mount, four large golden candelabras (also called menorahs or candle sticks) illuminated the temple grounds during dances and other festivities held late into the night and early morning. The golden candelabras, which were 50 cubits tall (approximately 73 feet or 22.25 meters), not only provided light for the celebrations, but they symbolized that Israel was to be a light to those who walked in darkness. The most renowned and anticipated ceremony of the feast was the daily procession, during which an appointed priest drew water from the pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher and poured the water into the silver basin at the base of the temple altar, along with the morning wine offering.

During “the last day, that great day of the feast,” after the crowds had celebrated the final pouring of the water, “Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). His words are a fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 14:8 that when the Messiah comes, “living waters shall go out from Jerusalem.” Early in the morning of the next day, which would have been the Sabbath, the Savior again returned to the temple. As He taught near where the large golden candelabras stood during the feast, He declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). It is Jesus Christ who gives light to all” (New Testament Student Manual, lds.org)

“On the last day of the festival, Jesus dramatically promises to provide “living water” for all who thirst (7:37-39).  Met by unbelief, Jesus makes another declaration, that he is also the light of the worl;d” (8:12)…Symbolic elements associated with a major pilgrimage festival focused on the temple are now associated with Jesus, who becomes the “locus” in which true connection with the divine is to be made” (Attridge, 2014).

The Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34) or of Ingathering (Ex. 23:16), called by later Jews the Feast (John 7:37) and reckoned by them to be the greatest and most joyful of all, was celebrated on the 15th to 21st days of the seventh month. To the seven days was added an eighth, “the last day, that great day of the feast” (John 7:37), a day of holy convocation, which marked the ending not only of this particular feast, but of the whole festival season. The events celebrated were the sojourning of the children of Israel in the wilderness (Lev. 23:43) and the gathering-in of all the fruits of the year (Ex. 23:16). The sacrifices prescribed by the law were more numerous than for any other feast, and impressive ceremonies were added in later times; that is, (1) the drawing of water from Siloam and its libation on the altar (of this it was said that he who has not seen the joy of the drawing of water at the Feast of Tabernacles does not know what joy is); and (2) the illumination of the temple courts by four golden candelabra. It is probably to these ceremonies that our Lord refers in John 7:37 and 8:12. (3) The making of a canopy of willows over the altar. The characteristic rite of the Feast of Tabernacles was the dwelling in booths made of the boughs of trees. This rite seems to have been neglected from the time of Joshua to the time of Ezra (Neh. 8:17). It is practiced by the Jews of modern times. Remarkable celebrations of the Feast of Tabernacles took place at the opening of Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs. 8:2; 2 Chr. 5:3; 7:8) and in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 8:14). Jeroboam adapted this feast to the later seasons of the northern kingdom (1 Kgs. 12:32). Zechariah in prophetic imagery represents the nations as coming up to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and describes the curse that should fall on those who did not come (Zech. 14:16–19). (LDS Bible Dictionary, “Feasts,” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/feasts).

John 10:  Feast of Dedication (we call it Hanukkah) - Good Shepherd Sermon

"Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication (see John 10:22–23). The Feast of Dedication is also known as Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew. This commemoration celebrates the rededication of the Jerusalem temple and its new altar in about 165 B.C. Syrian warriors led by Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the temple in 168 B.C. and tried to wipe out the Jewish religion. But freedom fighters led by a family of priests—Judah Maccabee being the most famous—repulsed the Syrians in a war of liberation for the Jewish people. A story in the Talmud recounts that the Maccabees found only a small amount of oil when they captured the temple and miraculously witnessed the oil burn for eight days. Based on this account, the Feast of Dedication lasts eight days beginning on the 25th of the month of Kislev, which roughly corresponds to the beginning of the month of December.(New Testament Student Manual, lds.org)

“The Feast of the Dedication was instituted in the days of Judas Maccabaeus to commemorate the dedication of the new altar of burnt offering after the profanation of the temple and the old altar by Antiochus Epiphanes. The feast began on the 25th Chisleu, the anniversary of the profanation in 168 B.C., and the dedication in 165 B.C., and lasted eight days, during which no fast or mourning for any calamity or bereavement was allowed. It was kept like the Feast of Tabernacles with great gladness and with the bearing of the branches of palms and of other trees. There was also a general illumination, from which circumstance the feast received the name Feast of Lights. The Jews attempted to stone Jesus when He was walking in the temple in Solomon’s porch during this feast (John 10:22)” (LDS Bible Dictionary, “Feasts,” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/feasts).

"The next festival in the roster is not one from the Pentateuchal roster, but one that came into being in the second century BCE after the persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the restoration of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus.  The reference to the festival that we know as Hanukkah appears at John 10:22 where it is referred to in Greek as The Renewal…The narrator notes that “it was winter and Jesus was walking in the Temple, in the portico of Solomon” (10:23). “The Jews” gather around him and ask him to speak plainly about his Messianic claims.  He replies that he has already done so, through the works that he has done, and alluding to the previous discourse in this chapter remarks that his sheep hear his voice; they know and follow him (10:27).

“It is intriguing that, unlike the other references to festivals in John, no explicit symbolic elements of the day play a role in the dialogue.  The focus is entirely on Jesus and the community that has been formed around the call to his sheep.  It is, however, precisely in that focus that the allusion to the renewal of the temple makes sense.  The festival celebrated the rededication of a physical structure almost two centuries previously, a structure that was still undergoing a reconstruction begun by Herod (2:20).  What the Temple, around which the festival cycle revolved, was supposed to do, is now, the evangelist claims, being done by the presence of Jesus.  In his life and ministry the true “Renewal” has taken place” (Attridge, 2014).

John 12-21: The Passover (#3 or possibly #4) – Christ anointed, triumphal entry into Jerusalem, The Last Supper, (institution of the sacrament), Christ washes disciples’ feet, Agony in the garden, Capture and “trials,” Scourging & crucifixion, death & burial, resurrection.

“The feast of the Passover was instituted to help the children of Israel remember when the destroying angel passed over their houses and delivered them from the Egyptians (Ex. 12:21–28; 13:14–15). The unblemished lambs, whose blood was used as a sign to save Israel anciently, are a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice redeemed all mankind” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Passover,” Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/passover).

“Jesus is slain at the time that the Passover lambs are sacrificed.  A scriptural citation at John 12:36—“None of his bones shall be broken” (Exod. 12:46), which was part of the instructions for dealing with the paschal lamb—seals the connection to the Passover, while it echoes the proclamation by John the Baptist (John 1:29) of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Attridge, 2014).

1 Corinthians 5:7  Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

1 Peter 1:18-19  Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

John 1:29  The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world

Alma 7:14  Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

“Remembering was a primary purpose of many Jewish practices, such as the Passover meal. At Passover, as the people of Israel commemorated the Lord’s deliverance of their ancestors from bondage, the symbolic meal and its accompanying story of deliverance connected the past to the present. Observing Passover made a statement about how one would live and about one’s loyalty to the Lord and His people. Similarly, the sacrament, which the Savior instituted at Passover, is a symbolic “meal” of remembrance that replaced the Passover meal. By partaking of the sacrament, followers of Jesus Christ may experience anew the blessings of His Atonement, reaffirm their loyalty to Him and His Church, and recommit their lives to following Him.” (New Testament Student Manual, lds.org)

During the time of Moses, the Lord had instituted the Passover feast to help the children of Israel commemorate the time when He delivered them from bondage in Egypt. On that occasion, the Lord smote the firstborn of the Egyptians, but He “passed over” the houses of the children of Israel who put the symbol of the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their doorposts (see Exodus 12:3–14, 26–32). At the Last Supper, the Savior instituted the sacrament, a new symbolic “meal” of commemoration. Just as partaking of the emblems of the Passover pointed to the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ and helped ancient Israel remember their release from Egyptian bondage, partaking of the sacrament helps us remember Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice, which can release us from the bondage of sin.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asked: “Do we see [the sacrament] as our passover, remembrance of our safety and deliverance and redemption?” (“This Do in Remembrance of Me,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 68)” (New Testament Student Manual, lds.org).

“The “hymn” the Savior and His disciples sang at the conclusion of the Last Supper was probably the traditional Jewish recitation from Psalms 113–18, called the Hallel. Psalms 113–14 were traditionally sung at the beginning of the meal, and Psalms 115–18 were traditionally sung as part of the formal closing of a Passover meal” (New Testament Student Manual, lds.org).

See also:








Acts 2:  Pentecost – Outpouring of the Holy Ghost

“The day of Pentecost occurred on another holy day, the Feast of Firstfruits, which celebrated the larger wheat harvest (see Lev. 23:15–17). Because of the coming of the Holy Ghost, 3,000 souls were baptized on that day (see Acts 2). Thus, this feast celebrated a spiritual as well as an agricultural harvest” (Lenet Hadley Read, “The Golden Plates and the Feast of Trumpets,” Ensign, Jan. 2000, Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/2000/01/the-golden-plates-and-the-feast-of-trumpets?lang=eng).

“Fifty days (Lev. 23:16) after the Feast of the Passover, the Feast of Pentecost was kept. During those 50 days the harvest of wheat was being gathered in. It is called (Ex. 23:16) “the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours” and (Deut. 16:10) “the feast of weeks.” The feast lasted a single day, which was a day of holy convocation (Lev. 23:21); and the characteristic rite was the new meal offering; that is, two loaves of leavened bread made of fine flour of new wheat. Special animal sacrifices (Lev. 23:18) and freewill offerings (Deut. 16:10) were also made. The festival was prolonged in later times, and huge numbers of Jews attended it. Of this the narrative in Acts 2 is sufficient proof. It had the same evil reputation as the Feast of the Passover for tumults and massacres. We have no record of the celebration of this feast in the Old Testament” (LDS Bible Dictionary, “Feasts,” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/feasts).


  1. Dear Mr. Maier:

    I am interested in a couple of pictures in your blog dated April 14, 2015. They are Jesus as the Good Shepherd and a Passover Lamb. I am not sure if you own the rights to these images or can grant me permission to use them in a slideshow for our church Christmas program, but I would appreciate your kind consideration of my request.


    Norma Cook

    1. Hi Norma,

      The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is available for free use on lds.org (the image library. The image of the sacrificial lamb is available for free use via wikimedia commons:



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