Did Herbert Armstrong Ever
Observe Pentecost on Sivan 6?
In the early years of his ministry, and the beginning of the Radio Church of God, Herbert Armstrong observed Pentecost on the same day as modern rabbinic Judaism -- that is, from 1934, when he first began observing the annual holy days, until at least 1936 -- three years. Here are the documented facts. Was Herbert W.
Armstrong right, originally, but then fell into error? And why did he change the date for Pentecost again in 1974, but not return to the Sivan 6 date? Here's the fascinating, mind-boggling story!
William F. Dankenbring
When did Herbert W. Armstrong and his wife originally observe Pentecost? Believe it or not, the answer is -- Sivan 6 -- the same date as the modern Jews!
This fact is documented by Raymond C. Cole, former evangelist of the Worldwide Church of God, and son of the Coles who were old time Church members in Oregon. Raymond Cole, who left Worldwide in the early 1970's to form a different Church, called Church of God, The Eternal, gave a sermon and mentioned this amazing fact, on Pentecost (as he kept it), May 19, 1975, at Florence, Oregon. His sermon became the basis of an article written by Richard C. Nickels.
Richard Nickels was a member of the Worldwide Church of God, who left with Raymond Cole when he bolted in the 70's. Nickels became a member of Raymond Cole's church, but left it later. A student of church history, he has written an interesting book called History of the Seventh Day Church of God. In the article on Pentecost put together by Nickels, based on Raymond Cole's sermon, Nickels wrote:
"There were several years in which Mr. Armstrong was following the rabbinic custom of Sivan 6, which meant that it could fall at various times, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday or Friday. Now it did so happen that Sivan 6 fell on a Sunday on one or two years during the time when Mr. Armstrong accepted the modern Jewish rabbinical date for Pentecost. This is what confuses some . . . .
"Converted and called in 1927, Mr. Armstrong was ordained to the ministry in 1931. He began keeping the holy days with others in 1934. Truth was revealed to him, as he had said, one doctrine at a time. A calendar was published in 1937 showing Pentecost corresponding to the JEWISH DATE OF SIVAN 6. But it must have been that very year that Monday observance was begun. For a diary of an early church member, Mrs. Lorinda (Stoneberg) Le Bleu (baptized in 1936 by Mr.Armstrong), shows that she did keep Pentecost on a Monday in the year 1937, 1940, 1941 and following. . . ."
Nickels/Cole point out that in 1939 the Jewish date for Pentecost and the Monday date calculated using the Sadduccean method were five days apart, and that in 1939 Mrs. Le Bleu's diary shows a meeting on Monday, May 29, indicating that by that year Herbert Armstrong had definitely switched to a Monday Pentecost. Cole continues:
"1939 is a key year. The Jewish Pentecost and the true [sic] Pentecost were five days apart. Mrs. Le Bleu's diary records a meeting on Monday, May 29, 1939 at Wilma Christenson's home. Definite proof that at least by 1939, Mr. Armstrong had been shown the validity [sic] of a Monday Pentecost rather than the commonly accepted Jewish Sivan 6-7. According to the diary, 1937 was the first 'Monday' year.
"That leaves the years 1934, 1935, and 1936 under the Sivan 6 observance. According to the table . . . 1934 was the only year in which Sivan 6 fell on a Sunday. In 1935 the Jews' Pentecost fell on a Friday, and in 1936 it fell on a Wednesday.
"According to an article published in early 1940, 'How to Figure Passover,' Mr. Armstrong had printed a calendar in 1937 showing the Holy Day dates for several years in advance. June 12, 1940 was the date projected in the 1937 calendar as Pentecost. This was Sivan 6 of that year, which fell on a Wednesday. The 1940 article corrected [sic] the date to Monday, June 17. Mrs. Le Bleu's diary records that the Eugene church observed Pentecost of 1940 on Monday, June 17 at Hendricks Park, with about fifty members present" (emphasis mine).
It should be very clear from this passage that originally Herbert and Loma D. Armstrong observed Pentecost WITH THE JEWS, ON SIVAN 6! There is no question about it. But apparently, the last time they observed Pentecost on this date was 1936, after which they changed to a Monday Pentecost. For several years, after studying the holy days, Herbert Armstrong was originally convinced of the correctness of the Jewish date! Why did he change by 1937? Why was 1936 evidently the last time he observed Pentecost on the right day?
No one really knows, but several possibilities suggest themselves. We know that SIN cuts us off from God, and causes Him to punish us. The prophet Isaiah declared, "But your iniquities have SEPARATED you from your God; your SINS have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isa.59:2). It was about this same time that Herbert Armstrong began thinking that World War II would end in Armageddon, and that Mussolini was the "Beast" of Revelation and the final "head" of the resurrected "Roman Empire." His prophetic preachings of this time, until the end of World War II, were way off base, showing that God had allowed him to stumble into error and confusion. It was also about this time that serious personal problems and family trouble occurred in his marriage. All the evidence points to the conclusion that during those years, to use Mr. Armstrong's own words, he was "very far from God."
Somehow, also, about 1936-37 Herbert Armstrong became convinced that the Sadducees, who do not even believe in a resurrection, in angels or spirits, or an afterlife (Acts 23:8), were correct in counting Pentecost from the weekly Sabbath during the days of Unleavened Bread. Personal study showed him that the priestly Sadducees had observed a Sunday Pentecost. "At this point," says the Worldwide Church of God "Pentecost Study Material," published in 1974, "he discarded the Jewish practice and established Monday as the proper day."
Herbert Armstrong followed the Sadducees in counting from the weekly Sabbath, but he concluded they were wrong in the method of counting they used -- so in counting "from" the day after the sabbath, which he assumed to be Sunday, he began his count with Monday!
Obviously, Herbert Armstrong himself later admitted, de facto, that God did not "reveal" to him that Pentecost was on Monday -- because he himself changed it to Sunday in 1974, after new research and information was doggedly brought to his attention by Raymond F. McNair, information and research done by Ernest Martin. This information related only to the "process of counting." The Church undertook a comprehensive study into this question, and Herbert Armstrong became convinced, after talking with a translator of the American Revised Bible, and a Jewish scholar, and friend of his, that indeed he had been misinformed and mistaken all those years. For 35 years, then, the Church had "counted" WRONG!
But in 1974, no attempt was made to question the date from which the count to Pentecost is begun!
In fact, when the research was being done in 1974, according to the voluminous (77 pages plus) "Pentecost Study Material" published by the Worldwide Church of God, a strange thing happened. Herbert Armstrong telephoned Mrs. Ravid, the wife of the Israeli Ambassador, long distance in Israel, and asked her how the Jews count. She taught Hebrew at Hebrew University. She read the Hebrew of Leviticus 23:15 and said that Shavuot (Pentecost) would be counted beginning with Sunday, that Sunday is the day number one in the count to 50. The "Pentecost Study Paper" continues:
"A few hours later, a slightly horrified Mrs. Ravid called Mr. Armstrong to explain that she had made a TERRIBLE MISTAKE! Thinking perhaps she had found evidence for exclusive counting after all, we awaited her explanation, hearts pounding. 'I don't understand how I could have missed it,' she said apologetically; 'Shavuot is NOT COUNTED FROM THE WEEKLY SABBATH, IT MUST BE COUNTED FROM NISAN 15 (the first high day of Unleavened Bread)'" (emphasis mine).
Thus the truth about Pentecost was once again presented to the Church, through Mrs. Ravid, in 1974! Unfortunately, the question of WHEN to count FROM was not even under consideration at that time! The question of what day to count from was not the real issue of the great Pentecost debate and controversy which swirled around the Church in 1974. Her emphatic words fell on deaf ears. Rather, the only real issue in 1974 was the issue of how to count!
The Worldwide Church of God believed, at that time, and still does, that the Jewish tradition that Pentecost was to be counted from the annual Sabbath was wrong, and that the Sadduccean method of counting from the weekly Sabbath was to be followed. Therefore, poor Mrs. Ravid's comments fell on deaf ears. Nobody paid any attention to her. But everybody breathed a sigh of relief that she corroborated the inclusive counting methodology!
Nevertheless, the truth is plain. Pentecost should be observed on the same day the Jews observe it -- Sivan 6 -- just as Herbert Armstrong ORIGINALLY kept it! Despite all the argument to the contrary, the truth will win out. Error cannot and will not prevail forever. Jesus Christ said, "You shall know the TRUTH, and the truth shall make you FREE " (John 8:32).