Book: The True Meaning of Acts 2:1

Despite God’s plain commands in Leviticus 23, some have attempted to use Acts 2:1 to support their observance of the fifty-first day as the Feast of Pentecost. In the King James Version this verse reads: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come….” Some observers of the fifty-first day claim that the words “fully come” show that the fiftieth day had come to a close or had ended, and that the disciples observed the Feast of Pentecost on the fifty-first day. Realizing that the King James Version does not really support their interpretation of Acts 2:1, they use a completely erroneous translation of this verse as their definitive authority for observing the fifty-first day. In their effort to prove that Acts 2:1 means that the fiftieth day had ended before the observance of Pentecost, they use an incorrect translation of this verse by an archbishop of the sixteenth century. Here is their “authority” for observing the fifty-first day as a Monday Pentecost:

“Pentecost should not be observed until the fifty day count has been completed. Archbishop Cranmer, no doubt [emphasis added], was aware of this; in his English translation of 1539 he translated Acts 2:1 as follows: ‘When the fifty days had come to an end, they were all with one accord together in one place’ (Raymond Cole and Bryce Clark, Passover and Pentecost—What are the Facts? p. 35, Church of God, the Eternal).

Advocates of a Monday Pentecost place great confidence in this obscure translation by Cranmer. But the fact that Cranmer was an archbishop does not necessarily mean that his translation is authoritative. Neither is it possible for advocates of a fifty-first Pentecost to have “no doubts” at all about what thoughts Archbishop Cranmer had 300 years ago when he made this translation.

Only by examining the Greek text for ourselves can we determine the true meaning of Acts 2:1. The exact words in the Greek text, as inspired by God and preserved for us, will clearly prove the fallacy of Cranmer’s translation. While Cranmer may have used the same Greek text that was used for the translation of the King James Version, we will see that the archbishop’s translation is completely erroneous. We will find that the King James Version and other translations provide a correct or nearly correct translation of Acts 2:1. In the final analysis, it will be undeniably clear that this verse does not support a Pentecost observance on the fifty-first day, a Monday.

The true meaning of Acts 2:1 is clearly revealed in the Greek text. It may take some diligent study to understand this Scripture, but the truth is there because God has preserved it. If we carefully examine this verse in the Greek text, seeking the truth with an open mind and “proving all things,” we can come to understand the true meaning of Acts 2:1. Remember, truth agrees with truth. Error does not agree with truth. God inspired Paul to charge Timothy, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Tim. 2:15).

Ministers and teachers who try to interpret the text of the New Testament without understanding the fundamental elements of Greek grammar are bound to make serious mistakes. Without a basic knowledge of the factors that govern the various forms of Greek words—most particularly the verbs, participles and infinitives—it is impossible to accurately interpret the Greek text. This essential grammatical knowledge is not available in Greek lexicons, such as Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, which list and define basic root words. While such lexicons may provide general definitions, they are not designed to give the specific meaning of the various grammatical forms that are derived from these root words. As we will see, this is precisely the reason why some ministers have misinterpreted Acts 2:1.

Because they do not understand how to apply the rules of New Testament Greek grammar, some ministers have relied solely on the broad definition of a root word that is given in Greek lexicons. They have then attached their own interpretation to this general definition. Rather than understanding and teaching the truth of God’s Word, these ministers are promoting an erroneous interpretation —they are “striving over words” without knowledge. Such teachings actually end up “subverting the hearers” because errors are presented as authoritative truth. But ERROR IS STILL ERROR, no matter how authoritatively it is presented, or how convincing it may sound. Sadly, the misinterpretation of Acts 2:1 is a serious and far-reaching error that affects hundreds of brethren who have been led to believe that Pentecost should be observed on the fifty-first day, a Monday. Let us look into the inspired Greek text, and we will find that there is no basis whatsoever for this interpretation