The Jerusalem Debate – Objection Number 11: Paul sailed from Philippi AFTER the days of Unleavened Bread. Therefore he shows that we don’t need to go to Jerusalem for the feasts. | The Lamb’s Servant
Response by Bob Parham
The first thing that comes to my mind when I heard this objection was this: SINCE WHEN does the behavior of another believer dictate how I am to behave with respect to Yah’s clear commands? I am to look to Yeshua and His Word, not to man, for my instruction.
IF Paul didn’t go to Jerusalem, we know him well enough to believe that he had good reason. Perhaps he was directed by the Ruach (Holy Spirit) to stay out on the mission field. Perhaps he was dealing with his illness again and was unable to travel. The fact is, I have no way of knowing what his reasons might have been, nor do I have the right to judge him without that knowledge. NOR DO I HAVE THE OPTION OF BASING MY OBEDIENCE ON SUCH FLIMSY EVIDENCE. My only responsibility is to know Yah’s commands and obey them to the best of MY ability.
As we will see, the facts are that Paul never TAUGHT us to abandon the Feasts (we have to INFER it from scattered verses taken out of context), but instead he DID teach us by his own example and by his writings that we should observe them.
The eleventh objection is taken from Acts 20. Let’s take a look at the verses in question.
Acts 20:1-6 – (1) After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. (2) When he had gone through those districts and had given them much exhortation, he came to Greece. (3) And there he spent three months, and when a plot was formed against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. (4) And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. (5) But these had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas. (6) We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days.
Something that believers often miss here is that the writer uses the Feast Calendar to measure time – something he would do only if he and his readers were observing the feasts. If they had abandoned the feasts, HE would have abandoned using them as a measurement of time. He would have used a term more familiar to his non-feast-familiar readers. Since he measures time by the feasts, we can be sure that he and his readers (including Paul) WERE observing them to the best of their ability.
These verses can, however, leave us with a few questions.
- Did Paul go to Jerusalem for Unleavened Bread?
- If so, why wasn’t he sailing from Jerusalem instead of Philippi?
- Did he skip the feast of Unleavened Bread during this missionary trip? If so, Why?
There aren’t any real answers here in the text. All we can do is try to make an intelligent guess from his normal behavior and what he says for himself.
If we examine this chapter further, we see that Paul SKIPPED a large area of Asia and Ephesus, just to get to Jerusalem for the ONE day feast of Pentecost (Shavuot).
Acts 20: 15-16 – (15) Sailing from there, we arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus. (16) For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
This would show us that Paul considered the feasts in Jerusalem of utmost importance.
In another instance, Paul stresses The Feast of Unleavened Bread as something very important to help remind us about getting out the leaven.
1 Corinthians 5 – (6) Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? (7) Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. (8) Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the Unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
He also tells us that he believes in all of Torah and had never failed to keep all the commandments.
Acts 24:14 – But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets;
Acts 25:8 – . . . while Paul said in his own defense, “I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.”
By examining just these few verses they tells us that, according to what he believes and his manner of life, he most likely did go to Jerusalem for the feast in question whenever possible.
If we are going to twist these verses into saying that Paul taught that the commands to go to Jerusalem have been set aside, then we could and should accept the argument that he also taught that the Lord’s day has changed from Shabbat to Sunday in the same passage (which is what most churches teach).
Acts 20:7 – On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.
Do you remember this twisting of scripture? “Paul met with the believers on “the first day” of the week. Therefore he changed the holy day of Yah from Shabbat to Sunday!”
This is in INFERENCE from a single passage, just like the INFERENCE that is made regarding Paul’s ‘non-observance’ of Passover. This made perfect sense to me maybe 20 years ago. But now I believe Paul when he said that he believed “…everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14) Now I understand that ‘the first day of the week’ in Paul’s day was the first WORK day all over the Roman Empire, and they were meeting for an evening meal AFTER observing the Shabbat. (They would not have cooked a meal on the day of rest.)
So should we use a single passage in Acts 20 to say that Paul – contrary to everything else he writes about his devotion to Torah – did away with a huge part of Torah on his own authority (since we never hear anything of the sort from Yeshua Himself)? Or is that just a twisting of scripture – an example of starting with a premise and then trying to prove it?