Q. Why is Pentecost on June 12 in 2005, instead of on June 19? The latter date appears to be seven weeks from the Days of Unleavened Bread, and the earlier date seems to be a week too early.
A. The instruction for counting Pentecost is found in Leviticus 23:15-16. It tells us to count 50 days from the day after the Sabbath (the Sunday) that falls during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
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 and the day after it do not both fall during the festival. There are conceivably two ways to count Pentecost in this circumstance—begin counting from the first Holy Day, or, begin counting from the day after the last Holy Day.
Which way is correct? Thankfully, there is a scriptural example that answers this question. In the year described in Joshua 5, the Unleavened Bread festival began on the first day of the week, just as it does in 2005. 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). 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).
The only way for the scene described in Joshua 5:11-12 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 when the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the first day of the week and ends on the weekly Sabbath, as it does in 2005 (and did in 2001 when this "Q&A" previously ran). That is why we know that Pentecost falls on June 12 in 2005.
This is not a new teaching, but continues the teaching of the Church for the last three decades, which was confirmed 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.
For those who have more complex questions and who desire more detailed answers than the above summary can supply, please see the accompanying article.