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In John 5, there is a story which takes place after "a feast of the Jews." What feast was this?

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

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  • Please indicate which translation you are citing and also, please format it as a quote using the format tools above the edit box. Thanks. Also, if you are happy with the answer given please mark it as the answer. Thanks again.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 7, 2017 at 1:46

4 Answers 4

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There are three holidays that include the obligation to go up to Jerusalem, Passover, Weeks and Tabernacles. Other holiday such as the New Year (Rosh HaShanah), Atonement (Yom Kipur) and Dedication (Hanukah) do not include this obligation. The obligation is given in Deut 16:16-17:

שלוש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורך את פני יהוה אלהיך במקום אשר יבחר בחג המצות ובחג השבעות ובחג הסכות ולא יראה את פני יהוה ריקם. איש כמתנת ידו כברכת יהוה אלהיך אשר נתן לך

Passover is in the early spring. Weeks is in the early summer and Tabernacles is in the early fall.

Assuming that the narratives in John 4-6 are in chronological order, and assuming that John 4:35, "four months more to the harvest" was said at a time of four months before the wheat harvest (early summer) then the festival mentioned in John 5:1 could be either Passover, Weeks or Tabernacles.

It could also be that "four months more to the harvest" refers not to the wheat harvest but to the general harvest time in the early fall and therefore is a reference to Tabernacles, which is called "the harvest holiday" (Exodus 23:16), and to the preceding forty days of repentance, the month of Elul and beginning of Tishrei that end with the Day of Atonement, Yom Kipur, just before Tabernacles. Then the message in John 4:35 is clear. He is saying, don't wait for the month of Elul to start to repent, repent now.

The fact that some witnesses read "for the Jewish festival", in John 5:1 suggests that the festival was Tabernacles, because Tabernacles is the only Jewish festival that is commonly called simply "חג" or "the festival". (Kings I 8:2, Nehemiah 8:14, and Babylonian Talmud tractate Rosh Hashanah 6a). Other holidays are always referred to by their particular names.

The next reference to seasons that we have is John 6:4, "...near Passover time". Assuming that events narrated are sequential and in the same year, then this would suggest that the previous festival with an obligation to go up to Jerusalem mentioned in John 5:1 was Tabernacles.

So, there are good reasons to surmise that John 5:1 refers to Tabernacles, though we need to make some brave assumptions about the text to do this.

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  • @Ruminator Note that this answer is at best a good speculation.
    – user17080
    Nov 7, 2017 at 7:24
  • Understood. I just thought you did a great job of thinking through the data.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 7, 2017 at 9:38
  • A very good answer. η εορτη ("the festival", with the definite article) is the reading in the Sinaiticus (the oldest complete MS of the NT).
    – fdb
    Jan 5, 2018 at 13:35
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It is more likely the Purim festival....see

http://www.torahtimes.org/writings/purim/article.html

Has all the calculations.

Shalom.

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  • Hey there Joy, welcome to BHSE! If you have time, make sure you take the tour to get yourself familiar with our site. Thanks! hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour
    – sara
    Aug 10, 2019 at 12:22
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Which feast is in question?

Is this feast the Passover? Jamieson-Fausset-Brown argues that the Passover is the intended feast of verse one which would mean that this is the second Passover celebration of Jesus' ministry. This would mean that one year had passed between 2:13 and 5:1. We cannot appeal to the other gospels for a definitive answer because the other gospels only record one Passover in Jesus' life and that was the last Passover before his death.

In the length of Jesus' ministry which is speculated at three and one-half years, there were four Passovers. There are four Passovers specifically mentioned in John's gospel and John is the only account that mentions all four Passovers of Jesus' ministry. The first, John 2:13, the second, John 6, the third, John 11, and the fourth, John 18. If this feast in chapter five is a Passover then we have six Passovers mentioned. This would mean that Jesus' ministry could have been longer than 3-1/2 years.

Though this is designated as a feast of the Jews, there is really no way to definitively identify exactly which feast John is referring to here. This feast has probably been identified with every known Jewish feast from the Feast of Booths to the Day of Atonement! The more popular opinion is that John is referring to the Feast of Passover. However, the fact that John speaks of this particular feast in the indefinite would suggest that this was not the Passover feast which is usually designated as “THE feast”. While this grammatical argument has some merit, it is by no means conclusive. It must also be noted that every other time the Feast of Passover is intended it is always so designated. If the feast of John 5:1 was the Feast of Passover, why did John not say so as he did the other times? If it is not the Feast of Passover, what feast could it possibly be?

From Ellicott's Commentary on the Gospel of John:

“The time-limits are John 4:35, which was in Tebeth (January), and John 6:4 which brings us to the next Passover in Nisan (April), i.e., an interval of four months, the year being an intercalary one with the month VeAdar (and Adar) added, or, as we should say, with two months of March. The only feast which falls in this interval is the Feast of Purim, and it is with this that the best modern opinion identifies the feast of our text. It was kept on the 14th of Adar (March), in commemoration of the deliverance of the Jews from the plots of Haman, and took its name from the lots cast by him (Esther 3:7; Esther 9:24). It was one of the most popular feasts and was characterized by festive rejoicings, presents, and gifts to the poor. At the same time, it was not one of the 'great' feasts, and while the writer names the Passover (John 2:13; 6:4; 13:1, the Feast of Tabernacles John 7:2, and even the Feast of Dedication John 10:22, this has no further importance in the narrative than to account for the fact of Jesus being again in Jerusalem).”

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I also find it makes more sense to be Purim due to the fact he just simply calls it "A" feast of the Jews. I think if it had been one of the high feasts, Yohanan would have said which one it was, but he is simply putting no great importance on it, and nor should we.

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    – agarza
    Apr 30, 2021 at 3:31
  • Hi Jack, welcome to BH-Stack Exchange, we're glad you're here. Could you expand upon your answer a little bit? We generally look for more detail in an answer. Thanks! Apr 30, 2021 at 4:20

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