Q&A: Counting Pentecost in 2021
Question: Why is Pentecost on May 16 in 2021, instead of on May 23? The latter date appears to be seven weeks from the Days of Unleavened Bread, and the early date seems to be a week too early.
Answer: The instruction for counting Pentecost is found in Leviticus 23:15-16 Leviticus 23:15-16  And you shall count to you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
 Even to the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering to the LORD.
American King James Version×. It tells us to count 50 days from the day of the wave-sheaf offering.
Normally, the task of counting is straightforward. However, when the Days of Unleavened Bread begin on the first day of the week and end on the weekly Sabbath, the Sabbath referred to in Leviticus 23:15 Leviticus 23:15And you shall count to you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
American King James Version×and the day after it for the wave-sheaf offering cannot both fall during the festival. Because of this timing, there are two potential dates to consider for the wave-sheaf offering (the “morrow after the Sabbath” mentioned) from which we count Pentecost—either the wave-sheaf offering coincides with the First Day of Unleavened Bread, or the wave-sheaf offering happens after the Unleavened Bread festival, one week later. Which date is correct?
Thankfully, there is a scriptural example that indicates which date to use and brings clarity to this issue. In the year described in Joshua 5, the Unleavened Bread festival began on the first day of the week, just as it does in 2021. In verses 11 and 12, we find that the Israelites ate of the spring harvest on the day after the Passover, something they could not do until the wave-sheaf offering had been made (Leviticus 23:9-14 Leviticus 23:9-14  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you be come into the land which I give to you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest:
 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
 And you shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering to the LORD.
 And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire to the LORD for a sweet smell: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.
 And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that you have brought an offering to your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
American King James Version×). The wave sheaf, an offering taken from the spring crop before harvesting was allowed to begin, was offered on the same day from which Pentecost was to be counted (Leviticus 23:15 Leviticus 23:15And you shall count to you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
American King James Version×).
The only way for the scene described in Joshua 5:11-12 Joshua 5:11-12  And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day.
 And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.
American King James Version×to take place was that the wave sheaf was offered on the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread, allowing the Israelites to begin eating the spring crop immediately. It also meant that Pentecost fell seven weeks from that day.
This example shows us how to calculate Pentecost in a year such as 2021, when the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the first day of the week and ends on the weekly Sabbath. That's why we know that the correct date for Pentecost is May 16.
This is not a new teaching, but rather it continues the teaching of the Church for the last three decades. It was reconfirmed by a thorough study commissioned by the Council of Elders that resulted in the study paper "Pentecost and Its Observance." This paper was sent to all elders in September 1997 and is posted on the Web at www.ucg.org/papers.
Those who have more complex questions and who desire more detailed answers than this summary Q&A can supply may also want to see the article "Counting Pentecost When the First Day of Unleavened Bread Falls on Sunday" that appeared in the January 2005 issue (www.ucg.org/un/un0501/countingpentecost.htm).