Pentecost 33 C.E. From the viewpoint of a true Christian, a wonderful time to have been alive and present at Jerusalem. To have been there to see the Christ of God do the Father's works by means of the Spirit. What actually took place during those days is of interest to any individual who seeks Jehovah out of a pure heart. Much discussion has been based on Luke's words about these events. It would be good to examine these events as well as the commentary of those who have expressed their thoughts regarding Jesus ascension and the days that followed.
Chapters one and two of Acts, as well as other equally inspired Scripture, hold the key to understanding these events clearly. The events of those days cannot be understood in more ways than one, for they happened only once, and Jehovah had them recorded in such a way so as to preserve the accuracy and integrity of these records. This can be said of all Scripture, but this letter is written particularly in discussion of the first two chapters of Acts.
Millions around the world read commentary presented by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and this letter will address this commentary, as it is true that over the years many sincere seekers of Jehovah have used these publications to both express and to understand God's Word. These commentaries are not however inspired and it is necessary to be "carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things (are) so."
This letter is an attempt to approach these events and their associated commentary openly, honestly and humbly. It is of no benefit to any student of the Bible if one were to form an opinion and then push that opinion on others as if it were 'gospel'. Jesus set the example. He did not tell who he himself was, but instead he asked questions. At Mark 8:29,30 ... he put the question to them: "YOU, though, who do YOU say I am?" In answer Peter said to him: "You are the Christ." Jesus allowed the Spirit to do it's work, allowing his listeners to answer the question for themselves. If people are honest and humble, approaching God out of a pure heart, they will come to the right conclusions. This is God's way.
The official position of TheWatchtower is that there were the twelve (Apostles) and about 120 believers present in an upper room in Jerusalem at Pentecost on Sivan 6 of the year 33 of our common era, upon whom the Holy Spirit fell so as to cause them to speak in different languages. (see Insight on the Scriptures vol.2 page 46)
When a sincere Bible student reads these comments, and also reads the inspired Scriptures, questions automatically begin to generate. A well trained, Bible educated, reasoning mind begins to ask questions, since Romans 12:1 links "power of reason" to our "sacred service". What, when, where, whom and why? If these things really happened, there is a date, a place, a time, persons present, and a reason it all happened.
These questions deserve answers.
1) On what day does Bible chronology put the Apostles in the upper room? (Acts1:12,13)
2) How many were in the upper room by name? (Acts 1:13,14)
3) How large were "upper chamber(s)" in Jewish homes at the time of Pentecost 33 C.E.? (Acts 2:5,6)
4) How many were present, according to the Bible, at the events mentioned in the Bible?
Event 1-(Acts 1:4-11) Iyar 25
Event 2-(Acts 1:12-14) Iyar 25
Event 3-(Acts 1:15-26) Iyar 26...Sivan 5
Event 4-(Acts 2:1-41) Sivan 6
5) Where does the Bible say the Apostles were "on that day"?
(Luke 24:52,53; Acts 2:46)
6) Why did the Holy Spirit discriminate, only to "Galileans", no others? (Acts 2:7)
7) How did over 120, plus the Apostles fit into such a tiny room?"
8) How could a 1st century Jewish home's roof structurally support 9 tons of humans.
9) How did "the multitude" fit into that "upper chamber" so that "three thousand" could hear 120 people speaking in tongues and hear Peter's discourse so as to repent and be baptized?
10) Where did they baptize "three thousand" in Jerusalem which had no water, but did have extreme religious persecution?
To deny these questions would be to sacrifice "YOUR power of reason" which goes hand in hand with your "sacred service" to God. If The Watchtower comments mentioned above (Insight on the Scriptures vol.2 p46) are the truth, then answering these questions will only serve to strengthen the argument. If they are incorrect, sincere Christians would want to know would they not?
Do you as the reader have any qualms so far? Is there anything mentioned to this point that you feel is incorrect reasoning? If not, then proceed. If , however, you feel that there is something unreasonable, then it is pointless to go on. It would also be good at this point to read over the account of Acts chapters 1 and 2, and research the commentary of the Watchtower publications throughout the years.
We begin by turning to God's word at Acts 1:1-5. Here Luke tells us that Jesus was indeed resurrected and gave "many positive proofs....throughout forty days". Luke goes on to tell of Jesus orders to "not withdraw from Jerusalem". Jesus did this "until the day that he was taken up...to the apostles whom he chose." This would have taken place between his resurrection on Nisan 16 and his ascension on Iyar 25. (lunar calendar)
At Acts 1:6-11 the events of Iyar 25, ten days before Pentecost-forty days after Nisan 16, are recorded for us. In verses 6-8, the eleven ask questions of Jesus and Jesus gives them satisfactory answers, as well he gives further instructions. Verse 9 tells of Jesus ascent, 10,11 is a record of the angels presence and discussion.
We come now to verses 12 to 14. Verse 12 plainly says that "Then they returned to Jerusalem from ....the Mount of Olives" which was about one half mile from Jerusalem, about a fifteen minute walk.[FTN: Ac1F12a According to rabbinical sources based on Jos 3:4, this was about 2,000 cubits (890 m; 2,920 ft).] They must have lingered for a little while because the angels asked "Men ....why do you stand looking into the sky." Some encouragement perhaps to get on with what they had been instructed to do. In any case, there is no evidence found anywhere to the effect that they continued to stay on the Mount of Olives past that day ....Iyar 25, the day of ascension.
We come now to verse 13 and 14 and it would be good to read them again.
13 So, when they had entered, they went up into the upper chamber, where they were staying, Peter as well as John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus and Simon the zealous one, and Judas [the son] of James. 14 With one accord all these were persisting in prayer, together with some women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.
The Watchtower of January 15, 1953 comments
After Jesus' death and resurrection, however, at least some of his uterine brothers (having the same mother but a different father) did exercise faith in him, for we read that, pending Pentecost, the eleven apostles with one accord "were persisting in prayer, together with some women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers".-Acts 1:13, 14, NW.
What does the context of Scripture here tells us? Verse 12 clearly takes place on Iyar 25, ten days "pending Pentecost". Is there any reason to try to separate verse 12 from verses 13 and 14? In other words, does the Bible in any way indicate that the eleven were in the "upper chamber" "persisting in prayer" on any other day than Iyar 25. Luke writes that after Jesus ascent they went home, to Jerusalem "into the upper chamber, where they were staying". The Watchtower quoted above clearly puts the "upper chamber" event on Iyar 25. Is it true?
Volume 2 of Insight on the Scriptures, on page 46 states ....
**During the apostolic period. Following his resurrection, Jesus gave orders to his disciples not to leave Jerusalem at that time. (Lu 24:49; Ac 1:4) This was to be the starting point for preaching repentance for forgiveness of sins on the basis of Christ's name. (Lu 24:46-48) Ten days after his ascension to heaven, the disciples, gathered together in an upper room, received the anointing by holy spirit. (Ac 1:13, 14; 2:1-4)
The Insight on the Scriptures just quoted site verse 13 and 14, the upper room event, as taking place on Sivan 6, the day of Pentecost, "Ten days after his ascension". The Watchtower of January 15, 1953 said "pending Pentecost". Needless to say, both commentaries above cannot be correct, for it only happened the once. The Watchtower comments of late would suggest that we accept the latest interpretation as true. Was the original then true for a while until something more true came, or was the original idea just plain wrong? ...Or is the latest idea wrong? One thing that we can be sure of as Christians is this, the Bible was always right and continues so.
We ask then the question, what Scriptural backing is there to extract from Acts 1, these verses relating to the "upper chamber", and insert them into Acts 2, the events of Pentecost? The comments in Insight on the Scriptures would suggest that these verses are not chronological, or in order with respect to time.
The questions begin to flow. If the twelve required a "large upper room" for the Passover celebration(Luke 22:12), how large a room was required to accommodate the 120 plus the eleven and Mary and some women? A room more than ten times the size of the "large upper room" used at Passover no doubt. How large were the Jewish homes of those days so as to have such a large "upper chamber"? And again, how many people needed to be accommodated? Verse 5 and 6 of chapter 2 says "the multitude came together" of "reverent men, from every nation of those under heaven." Now, indeed, how many needed to be accommodated? Verse 41 says that "on that day about three thousand souls were added." Pretty cramped! How many Jewish homes could accommodate them? Even if you piled them one on top of the other "on that day", wall to wall and up to the rafters could it be possible for them all to fit? How much did all those people weigh? Were they really in an upper room? Where does the Inspired records of these events place the Apostles "on that day"?
Volume 1 of Insight on the Scriptures on page 129 discusses verses 15-22 ....
**Who replaced Judas Iscariot as a twelfth apostle?
Because of the defection of Judas Iscariot, who died unfaithful, there were only 11 apostles remaining, and during the 40 days from Jesus' resurrection until his ascension to heaven he made no appointment of a replacement. Sometime during the ten days between Jesus' ascension and the day of Pentecost it was viewed as necessary that another be selected to fill the vacancy left by Judas, not simply on the basis of his death but, rather, on the basis of his wicked defection, as the Scriptures quoted by Peter indicate. (Ac 1:15-22; Ps 69:25; 109:8; compare Re 3:11.)
This information places the events of the choosing of a replacement for Judas (verses 15-26) as being on or between Iyar 26 and Sivan 5, "pending Pentecost". This is logical. We arrive then back at verses 13 and 14. Why extract these verses, placing the Apostles in the "upper chamber" on the day of Pentecost? No foundation is offered by The Watchtower for this action. If some could be found, it could be considered. How should we understand it? Is there a way to know for sure if the Apostles were in the "upper chamber" at Pentecost, or if it is as the Scriptures teach, that the Apostles were in the upper chamber ten days before Pentecost. And if they were not in the "upper chamber" at Pentecost, where were they? Is there a way to prove that verse 13 and 14 belong right where Luke put them? Yes.
At Pentecost, how many Apostles were there? Twelve, you'll agree, for the appointment of Matthias took place days earlier. How many Apostles were there at the ascension of the Christ? Eleven and we still agree. How many Apostles are recorded as being, by name, in the upper chamber? Read it carefully and count them one by one.
Thus, the events of the "upper chamber" took place exactly where Luke put them, on Iyar 25, ten days before Pentecost, before the appointment of Mattias. The Scriptures then are chronological, the numbers cannot lie. The events went as follows...
1) Nisan 14; Jesus is killed
2) Nisan 16; Jesus is resurrected
3) Nisan 16-Iyar 25; forty days of Jesus proofs and instructions
4) Iyar 25; Jesus instructions, ascension. The eleven return to Jerusalem to the "upper chamber" (home) to pray.
5) Iyar 26-Sivan 5; choice of replacement to bring number of Apostles to twelve
6) Sivan 6; Pentecost, outpouring of the Spirit.
From this careful analysis we see that the Apostles were not in the "upper chamber" on Sivan 6 (Pentecost), although this is where they were staying, the place they called home while in Jerusalem and would have returned there at night to sleep and most probably to take meals.(Acts 2:46b) They were human. They had to sleep and eat did they not?
We must also add to the Biblical proof, that physical reality of space and material fact could not have allowed for it. The amount of space required for 120 people, ignoring the "multitude" of thousands of witnesses, is such that 120 people would require as much room as a Kingdom Hall provides. Yet, they had only as much room as a large second school or library such as is customary at a Kingdom Hall. Can you imagine the full attendance of a Public Meeting, being forced into a second school? Then there is the fact of mass. These people, at average, weighed about 150lbs each. 150lbs multiplied by 120 people is 18000lbs or about 9 tons. To get perspective, that is about the equivalent of five average automobiles. Can you imagine your home with five automobiles, one on top of the other on the roof? What do you think would happen. These homes were simple and small, they would have collapsed under the weight!
If then they were not in the upper room, where were they? We need not speculate for two reasons. One, to suggest speculation gets you nowhere. Two, the Bible gives us enough information without speculation.
First, Acts 2:1 and 2 reads...
Now while the day of the [festival of] Pentecost was in progress they were all together at the same place, 2 and suddenly there occurred from heaven a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting.
Here we are told that they were in a house. Which house? Acts 2:2 says "a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, ... filled the whole house in which they were sitting." The "noise" filled the "whole house". This is a significant detail.
Verse 6 says... "So, when this sound occurred, the multitude came together...". The Scriptures do not say that the disciples went looking for a multitude. The Bible clearly makes the point that a large "multitude" of Jews were drawn to the "noise" where the Spirit was causing the speaking of "tongues". How many houses were capable of supporting a multitude? A house that would have been large and so the term "whole house" would give meaning. How was this house so easily located by the multitude as well as the mockers?
The Scriptures answer all these questions. Let us look at the words of Jesus quoting Jehovah..."And he said to them: "It is written, 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' ."Mt21:13
The Apostles were not in just any house, they were in the House, that is to say "the temple". Jesus himself said ... "Day after day I was with YOU in the temple teaching, and ..." Mark 14:49
Is this speculation? The Scriptures cannot lie and proof can be found. Open your Bible to some other words penned by Luke at Luke 24:51-53
51 As he was blessing them he was parted from them and began to be borne up to heaven. 52 And they did obeisance to him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they were continually in the temple blessing God.
This Scripture is speaking of the Ascension and it clearly says that from that time foreward, from Iyar 25 to, and including Pentecost on Sivan 6, they were in the Temple, the place Jehovah refers to as His "house".
The multitude, then, came together at the House, where all of them as Jews ought to have been. The Apostles, the multitude, the mockers, the three thousand, and days earlier, the 120. And so the "noise"... "filled the whole house in which they were sitting.", Where else would Jehovah pour out His Spirit so as to give validity to the deeds done on that day, Pentecost 33 C.E, but in His own House! Acts 2:46a also establishes this fact. They were "in constant attendance at the temple"
We therefore establish that "they" were not in any upper room at Pentecost because the events including the 120, the appointment of Mattias, took place days earlier. The upper room event was one and one half weeks before Pentecost. They would all not have physically fit into such tiny upper rooms. They were far too heavy as a group for the roof chamber to support, and the inspired records put them squarely in the Temple at Pentecost. The entire scenario, printed in The Watchtower, with the 120 in an upper room is completely false.
To understand Scripture, one must not let ideas of this world skew ones perception. Bible writers always referred to buildings as "houses", even large ones. Read the account at Jg16:27
(Incidentally, the house was full of men and women and all the Philistine axis lords were there; and upon the roof there were about three thousand men and women who were looking on while Samson offered some amusement.)
29 With that Samson braced himself against the two middle pillars upon which the house was firmly established, and got a grasp on them, one with his right and the other with his left hand.
This brings us to the next point. Who is being described by the word "they" at Acts 2:1? It is clear that there is no co-relation between the supposed 120 disciples because this is a different day. Pentecost was on Sivan 6 and the events including the 120 were past. Websters dictionary tells us that "they" means "the ones mentioned". The way the word "they" and it's counterparts in other languages are used is to refer to the last "people" mentioned in context. Therefore, we refer to the context of Scripture to determine the last mentioned "people". The verse prior to Acts 2:1 is verse 26 of Acts 1 (note: there are no numbers or divisions in the original writings) .
26 So they cast lots over them, and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was reckoned along with the eleven apostles.
So the "they" means the "eleven apostles" and "Matthias" just spoken of by Luke. In other words, the twelve. The "twelve" were the only ones to receive the "tongues as if of fire". Acts 2:43 confirms this.
43 Indeed, fear began to fall upon every soul, and many portents and signs began to occur through the apostles.
Is this not only fitting, for Jesus promised his apostles at the Mount of Olives, that "they"... "would receive power when the holy spirit arrives". What is the title of this book? Is it 'Acts of the one hundered and twenty'? Is it 'Acts of the Multitude'?? Or is it "Acts of the Apostles"? We need more proof, and there is more.
7 Indeed, they were astonished and began to wonder and say: "See here, all these who are speaking are Galileans, are they not?
The Festival of Pentecost. There were people attending from "every nation of those under heaven", but the only ones speaking in tongues were Galileans? (Acts 2:7b)Was the Spirit discriminating, only giving "power" to Galileans? That would not make any sense. If , however, we look at Acts 1:11 we can understand what was really happening.
11 and they said: "Men of Galilee, why do YOU stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was received up from YOU [the Eleven] into the sky will come thus in the same manner as YOU have beheld him going into the sky."
The apostles were all from Galilee, except for Judas who was already dead. Tongues "sat on each one of them" the Twelve, giving divine approval of the choice made days earlier of Matthias. This was only fitting, was it not? It only makes sense then that as proved earlier, only the Apostles received "power" "on that day". This ties in nicely with verses 12-15 of chapter 2, read them.
After all, the Apostles were Jews and it was the festival of Pentecost. Where else would they, as Jews, have gone. Does it make sense to say that the Apostles would invite about 120 disciples back to their little chamber to hang around for ten days till something happened, Jews who belonged in the Temple? And at the onset of summers heat, ... upstairs? One hunderd and twenty people scrunched into a little cubby hole, their weight causing the tiny frail structure underneath them to crumble. This is nonsense.
Jesus instructions were clear. He said "Do not withdraw from Jerusalem...",Why? Simply put, the House of Jehovah was not fully abandoned till 70 CE. Where was Jesus when the voice was heard from heaven the second time? At the Temple. Jesus wanted them to be at the Temple, his Father's HOUSE, where he himself was daily! There Jehovah's Spirit would publicly appoint the Twelve for the work ahead. Publicly with thousands present to see it with their own eyes! And thousands were baptized as a result. Jesus made clear also that a "prophet" could not be destroyed anywhere except there where the Temple was.
Where indeed were three thousand new Christians publicly baptized in a dry city with haters of Christians all around. The Jordan was too far. The pool at Siloam was too small. Only with the archeological discovery in 1976 of the Mikva'ot bathing pools at the Temple beneath Solomon's portico, could there be a possible explanation. But this puts them back in the Temple where the Holy Scripture says they were in contradiction to the Watchtower Society's doctrine.
It is acknowledged that you may read all these things, and still hold the same opinion, even though there is not one shred of evidence to support the `120 in the upper chamber' idea. However, I call you, as one who professes to follow Christ, to answer the questions raised. (1 Peter 3:15)
If, you may ask, the discussion found in The Watchtower 's publications is in error, where did it come from? The answer is simple. The Watchtower merely brought on board an existing idea found outside. The published idea was arrived at by some individuals who did so poor a study of these events that they did not even discern that there was a time period of 10 days over which all things took place. These individuals looked at Acts 2:1 where it says that "they were all together at the same place" and assumed that the this meant the "same place" that was mentioned in Acts chapter 1:13, the "upper chamber", not realizing that that event was one and a half weeks earlier. Also they took the "they" in Acts 2:1 to represent the approximately 120 individuals, not realizing that that event took place days earlier also. It is of note that The Watchtower accepted this '120 in the upper room' idea recently. If one were to look, for instance, at the publication All Scripture is Inspired and Beneficial published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, one would see that this teaching is not there. This publication is older and even the newer revised edition does not contain it. The revised edition only has an asterisk to take one to the footnote which makes reference to the publication already mentioned at the outset, Insight on the Scriptures. It is good to note that the '120 upper room' teaching is new, but not to Pentecostal religionists who have used it for years.
The writers of this letter are fully aware that the presently published position of these events found at Acts chapters one and two are what is used to support the position of those who write the articles in The Watchtower, as ones having divinely constituted authority. In other words, The Watchtower refers to these events to prove that there was a small minority of 120 individuals who received power, a group or `class' that they feel they are part of.
It can be seen from the Scriptures however, that this is an impossibility. The Watchtower's interpretation of these events could not have happened. Possibly, future writings of The Watchtower may contain the corrected and truthful outlay of these events, but one should not count on it. An admission of this sort would not be in keeping with tradition, and it would also damage The Watchtower's image as a "channel" from God. Should the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society become aware of these facts, in keeping with their accepted way of handling matters, they will suppress it.
For God's wrath is being revealed from heaven against
all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who are
suppressing the truth in an unrighteous way, Romans 1:18
For there is nothing hidden that will not
become manifest, neither anything carefully
concealed that will never become known and
never come into the open. Luke 8:17
Sincerely The Expositors