Having just observed Rosh Chodesh Nisan, we are reminded that Pesach is coming very soon! Already in our home the cleaning has begun and preparations are underway as we anticipate this appointed time. How gracious is HaShem to give us these tangible reminders of the most important things: a heart right with Him, the greatness of the salvation He has made for us in Yeshua, and the joy of being brothers and sisters together in His family.
We at TorahResource want to wish each of you a joyous and meaningful Festival. As we celebrate z'man cheiruteinu, the "time of our freedom," may we grow in our appreciation for all that HaShem has done for us in His Son, Yeshua our Messiah. And as we celebrate the feast "in remembrance of Him," may the power of His resurrection and the hope of His soon return strengthen us in the life to which we have been called.
"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." (1Corinthians 5:8)
As I contemplated the upcoming Passover festival, a question came to me: How were the Gentile believers incorporated into the celebration of Pesach during the last decades before the Temple was destroyed? I tried to recreate in my mind the scenario of how a community of The Way would have conducted their Pesach Seder to include Jews, Proselytes, and "Godfearers". This raised other questions as well. So I decided to do some research to see what answers might be available. The result is a 12 page paper entitled "Gentile Believers & Pesach in the Pre-Destruction Era." I have included the Introduction to this paper below. Click this link to download the entire paper in pdf format (12 pages).
Gentile Believers & Pesach in the Pre-Destruction Era
The question that underlies the purpose of this short study is quite simple: how did Gentile believers in Yeshua (non-proselytes) celebrate Pesach in the era leading up to the destruction of the Temple? This same question could be asked of the so-called “Godfearers” or “Sympathizers,” Gentiles in the Jewish synagogue who, though desiring to worship the God of Israel, had not yet become full converts or proselytes. But the question must have had particularly significance to the emerging synagogues of The Way, for within a short period of time following the Shavuot of Acts 2, thousands of Gentile believers in Yeshua were flooding the synagogues. Clearly the convening of the council in Acts 15 was necessary because the influx of Gentiles had raised new issues, primarily in what manner the believing Gentiles within the synagogues of The Way could be fully integrated into the life of Yeshua’s ekklesia. One has to imagine that something as central as the celebration of Pesach must have highlighted this question all the more. For the celebration of Pesach involved a sacrifice—the sacrifice of the Pesach lamb as a special peace offering which, after being roasted, was eaten as part of the festival meal.
But the Torah gives specific regulations regarding who may and who may not eat the meat of the Pesach offering. More specifically, the Torah prohibits any uncircumcised male from eating meat from the Pesach lamb. Given the fact that the Jerusalem Council was convened to determine whether Gentile believers should be required to become proselytes, i.e., be circumcised, we may presume that many of the men had not yet received circumcision. This in turn meant that they would not be able to participate fully in the Pesach seder with which the festival celebration began.
This, of course, raises another question: what about the Gentile women who had come to faith in Yeshua? Were they allowed to participate fully in the celebration of Pesach, including partaking of the meat from the Pesach sacrifice? Obviously, the Torah requirements that no uncircumcised male may eat of the sacrifice did not apply to women. But this raises another issue: within the wider Jewish community, would Gentile God-fearing women have been excluded from eating the Pesach sacrifice on the grounds that all Gentiles were considered ceremonially unclean? If so, this would have excluded them from eating the meat of the Pesach sacrifice as well.
The ancient Jewish and rabbinic sources do not give us clear and direct answers to these questions. Yet given what we do know from the ancient sources, we might be able to offer some reasonable suggestions about Gentile participation in the festival of Pesach in the pre-destruction era.…
Want to read the rest of the essay? Click this link to download the complete pdf file (12 pages).