1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts Ch 2 V 1-4
Did I read that right? A wind came, and apparently all of the sudden men gathered in this selection saw “tongues of fire”? What the heck?! Then they spake in “other tongues”? There’s been some weird stuff happen in the New Testament, but this is just plain freaky. I need some clarity.
Pentecost, while celebrated by Christians today, was originally a Jewish holiday. Known as Shavuot, it was one of three major Jewish feasts made to celebrate and give thanks for the revelation of the Torah. It is celebrated fifty days after the Passover. Tradition holds that the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts happened in the upper room, or the Cenacle– the same site of the Last Supper, located on Mt. Zion. It is more likely that the scene in Acts 2 took place in one of the courts of the temple, though, because Deuteronomy 16:16 required all men to meet and present themselves to Yaweh at the temple on Shavout.
Acts 2:5 tells us that “God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” were present at this day of Pentecost. This has since been a target of skeptics- especially those that lobby for an interpretive understanding of the Bible. After all, the Mayans could not have been at Pentecost, right? Well actually- no, of course they weren’t there. The term “every nation under heaven” is simply taken out of context. The term actually probably refers to all the divisions of Noah’s descendants.
Pentecost is considered by many to be the birthday of the Christian Church because we see the first anointing of the Holy Spirit at large. The Holy Spirit is what empowered the disciples to speak in other tongues- considered by most Christians to be the tongues of the traveling Jews present. Pentecost could also serve as a counter-image to the story of the Tower of Babel. The Tower of Babel separated people with their tongues while Pentecost united people by the same method. This episode also reinforces the theme of a universal gospel not sensitive to race or nationality. The story of Pentecost still effects contemporary Christian denominations today, and while not celebrated widely in America, the day is a day of feasting in most of Europe.