Read­ing Time: 11 minutes

On this day, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spir­it, and they began to speak in oth­er tongues/languages (glōs­sais) as the Spir­it enabled them (Acts 2:4). …each one heard them speak­ing in his own lan­guage (dialektos). The people wondered and ques­tioned …how is it that each one of us hears them in our own nat­ive lan­guage (dialektos)? (Acts 2:8). Again, they said …we hear them speak­ing in our own tongues/languages (glōs­sais) about the great deeds God has done (Acts 2:11).”

Since Monday of the Sev­enth Sunday of Paschal, Chris­ti­ans espe­cially, Cath­ol­ics have been pre­par­ing for the com­mem­or­a­tion of the des­cent or gift of the Holy Spir­it on the Apostles, on all believ­ers and what gen­er­ally, is termed the offi­cial birth of the Church. The feast of the des­cent of the Holy Spir­it con­cludes the paschal peri­od. What a won­der­ful way of mark­ing the end of the feast of the resur­rec­tion of Jesus! Finally, Jesus ful­fills his prom­ise of anoth­er Paraclete, the spir­it of truth, whom the Fath­er will send in his name to the dis­ciples, who will teach them everything, and remind them of all he has taught them. Hence­forth, Chris­ti­ans should carry­out Jesus’ instruc­tion to take the Gos­pel to every eth­nic group, bap­tiz­ing them and teach­ing them to observe all the teach­ings of Jesus (cf. Matt 28:16–20). The dis­ciples were pro­hib­ited by fear of the Jews of announ­cing the Gos­pels until they received the divine touch, the divine author­iz­a­tion and enable­ment that dis­pelled every fear from them. The Acts of the Apostles is a unique doc­u­ment­a­tion of their mis­sion­ary activ­it­ies. They boldly pro­claimed the mes­sage of sal­va­tion to all; announced, pro­fessed and con­fessed that Jesus is the son of God and that he is the saviour of the world who rose from the dead accord­ing to the will of the Fath­er. Finally, they bore wit­ness even with their lives. It is this same mes­sage that Chris­ti­ans are urged to con­tin­ue in and accord­ing to their vari­ous vocations.

Cla­ri­fic­a­tion of Term and Idea
Gen­er­ally, Chris­ti­ans refer to this Sunday as the “Pente­cost” Sunday. Pente­cost due to the Greek term used by Eng­lish Trans­la­tions to render the Hebrew; secondly, prob­ably because they think the term Pente­cost either means Holy Spir­it or is a syn­onym for the Holy Spir­it; and thirdly, because it was on this day that the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spir­it. When in Acts 2:1, Luke says “when the day of pente­costēs had fully arrived…”, what he means is when it was time for the Jew­ish feast of weeks, the dis­ciples were with one accord in one place. It was on this day that the Holy Spir­it des­cen­ded on them. As could be seen, it is this Greek word pente­costēs, also found as pente­costes in the Vul­gate (Lat­in Bible), that almost all the Eng­lish Trans­la­tions trans­lated as Pente­cost. It is only the Com­plete Jew­ish Bible that has Shavu-òt (see explan­a­tion later).

Accord­ing to Luke, Jesus appeared to the elev­en apostles with their com­pan­ions, and the three men who later went back to Jer­u­s­alem after encoun­ter­ing the resur­rec­ted Jesus on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:33–48). Before with­draw­ing from them (Ascen­sion), Jesus assured them of send­ing to them what his Fath­er prom­ised. But before then, he asked them to remain in Jer­u­s­alem until they were clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). Very inter­est­ing this expres­sion of cloth­ing them with the power from on high. In its lit­er­al usage, the Greek verb enduō means to cloth or dress someone. In Luke 24:49, it is used in a fig­ur­at­ive sense in which case, it means to be inves­ted with spir­itu­al gifts or qual­it­ies. There­fore, we can change the trans­la­tion to read remain in the city until you are inves­ted with spir­itu­al qual­ity which is the Holy Spir­it. It is only after exper­i­en­cing this power from on high (that is, being inves­ted with the Holy Spir­it) that they can now begin to pro­claim the Gos­pel and bear wit­ness, hav­ing been sent out to do exactly this by Jesus (Matt 28:19).

There­fore, what happened in Acts of the Apostles chapter two (Acts 2) is a ful­fill­ment of the prom­ise made to the dis­ciples to remain in Jer­u­s­alem until they are clothed with the Power from on high.

Now, this par­tic­u­lar event took place on the Jew­ish feast of Shavu’òt (mean­ing weeks). Shavu’òt is a Jew­ish fest­iv­al that was cel­eb­rated sev­en weeks after the feast of Pas­sov­er (wrongly called East­er by Chris­ti­ans due to the wrong trans­la­tion by King James Ver­sion). That is, after sev­en weeks, on the 50th day, the Jews usu­ally cel­eb­rated this feast. The name “Pente­cost” is the Greek trans­la­tion of the Jew­ish word Shavu’òt, and it simply means 50th. Shavu’òt was the second annu­al Jew­ish feast held in Jer­u­s­alem, the cen­ter of Jew­ish reli­gious, polit­ic­al, cul­tur­al, social and eco­nom­ic activ­it­ies. This means that Pente­cost means fiftieth (day). It takes its name from that 50th day on which this very Jew­ish feast was cel­eb­rated. Hence, it was on this Jew­ish feast of Shavu’òt (Greek: Pente­costēs) that the apostles received the Power from on high. That is, the Holy Spir­it. Among the Jews, Shavu’òt (or Pente­costēs in Greek) rep­res­en­ted or rep­res­ents the day Moses received the law. With the incid­ent of Acts 2, this same Jew­ish feast is now seen as the day the Holy Spir­it des­cen­ded on the apostles, in ful­fill­ment of God’s prom­ise as giv­en in the Law and the Prophets.

Based on the above cla­ri­fic­a­tions, the expres­sion Pente­cost Sunday is inap­pro­pri­ate. Moreover, Pente­cost is not a syn­onym for Holy Spir­it. Many expres­sions have been wrongly coined from the term Pente­cost. For instance, Pente­cost­als, Pente­cost­al­ism, Cha­ris­mat­ism, Pente­cost­al Church, pente­cost­al­ising, pente­cost­al­isa­tion, etc. The Greek words for Holy Spir­it are: agios pneuma and paraklē­tos (cf. John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7). The term paraklē­tos could be rendered in the fol­low­ing ways: Paraclete, Help­er, Com­fort­er, Inter­cessor, and Advoc­ate. Bear in mind that these refer to the func­tions of the Holy Spir­it. There­fore, instead of Pente­cost Sunday, it might be prefer­able to say Paraclete Sunday; Sunday of the Holy Spir­it; com­mem­or­a­tion of the gift or des­cent of the Holy Spir­it; or any oth­er appro­pri­ate name but not Pente­cost. Pente­cost is a mis­nomer (inaccurate/misleading term).

What Happened in Acts 2
Just like the mis­take in the name of the incid­ent of Acts 2, there is also much con­fu­sion as regards what exactly happened on that day. Major­ity of Chris­ti­ans have con­tin­ued to dis­tort and cor­rupt the mes­sage of the Scrip­ture. What happened in Acts 2 is not a form of abracadabra or hocus-pocus. It was a ful­fill­ment of Jesus’ prom­ise to the apostles as recor­ded in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8. The mir­acle in Acts 2 does not con­sist in the fact that the apostles mes­mer­ized their audi­ence by speak­ing in for­eign lan­guages or that they uttered inde­cipher­able expres­sions. On the con­trary, the mir­acle con­sists in the fact that as they spoke, people of vari­ous tongues (lan­guages) and from vari­ous nations who gathered there under­stood them clearly in their own nat­ive lan­guages (dia­lect). That is, they received the word of God in their own lan­guages. This was the mir­acle. The mir­acle of the pro­clam­a­tion and spread­ing of the gos­pel mes­sage, the mes­sage of sal­va­tion without fear and with devo­tion. Def­in­itely, the spir­it of God is not respons­ible for any oth­er thing any­body is doing as far as this par­tic­u­lar incid­ent is con­cerned. The apostles did not speak in order to dis­play their capa­city to impress the people, or to make them­selves cen­ter of atten­tion and attrac­tion. What was at the cen­ter was not their capa­city to speak lan­guages they nev­er stud­ied, but the fear­less pro­clam­a­tion of the Word of God to all, and the Holy Spir­it made it pos­sible that they do that in lan­guages they nev­er stud­ied, but which were under­stood by those who spoke those lan­guages and dia­lects. This is where the accent should be not on our per­son­al comportment.

The book of Acts does not recount primar­ily the suc­cess of the “enthu­si­ast­ic” mani­fest­a­tions but the suc­cess of the mes­sage of the Gos­pel stim­u­lated and accom­pan­ied by the Holy Spir­it. What happened in Acts 2 is not glos­so­lalia but speak­ing in oth­er tongues, where by tongues is meant lan­guages. Briefly, while glos­so­lalia is speak­ing in tongues in the sense of an ecstat­ic or incom­pre­hens­ible speech, the incid­ent of Acts 2 is quite dif­fer­ent. We can also say that the apostles spoke in tongues but by tongues, we must under­stand lan­guages, the lan­guages of those present. As the text says, those present were under­stand­ing the lan­guages the apostles were speak­ing. This is quite dif­fer­ent from the present day emo­tion­al hys­teria of the Cha­ris­mat­ics and the Pente­cost­als. The des­cent of the Power from on high dis­pelled their fear, and instilled in them the spir­it of cour­age and the zeal to announce the deeds of God. Let us not for­get that the only reas­on for the gift of the Holy Spir­it on these apostles was to pro­claim without fear or favour the great deeds God has done in and through Jesus the Christ (Acts 2:11).

The same mes­sage is also com­mu­nic­ated in this Sunday Gos­pel, John 20:19–23. Accord­ing to John, the apostles locked them­selves inside for fear of the Jews and Jesus presen­ted him­self to them, greeted them, breathed unto them and asked them to receive the Holy Spir­it. After this, they went out pro­claim­ing the mes­sage of the Gos­pel with an infec­tious enthu­si­asm. Next page

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