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ETHNONYMS: Bunlap, Pornowol, Sa, South Ragans


Identification. Th e Sa, who are the focus of this summary, live on the southern part of Pentecost Island in northern Vanuatu. Pentecost was so called by the French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who sighted it on WhitSunday in 1768. "Sa" means "what" in the language spoken by the people, who themselves call the language "Lokit," which means "the inside of us all." The Sa have previously been called the Pornowol tribe, and the region has been known as South Raga as well as South Pentecost.

Location. Pentecost is an island 60 kilometers long by 12 kilometers wide, located at 15°30 to 16° S and 168o30 E. The landmass is predominantly basaltic, with a few limestone ridges formed by the uplifting of coral reefs. The eastern coast is precipitous, fringed by extensive coral reefs, and windward, with few safe anchorages. The western coast is flat and leeward, with coral reefs, extensive sandy beaches, and good anchorages. The central part of the island is mountainous and covered with dense primary rain forest. Many rivers and streams flow from the mountains to the coast, especially on the western side, and they are the primary sources of fresh water. Temperatures range between 22° and 30° C, and about 400 centimeters of rain falls in an average year. It is typically cooler and drier May-October and hotter and wetter November-April when tropical cyclones occur. Southern Pentecost experiences occasional falls of volcanic ash from Benbow Crater on nearby Ambrym Island.

Demography. In 1979 the population of Pentecost was 9,361, about 1,700 of whom were Sa speakers. Most Sa are resident locally, although young men in particular are involved in circular labor migration to the towns of Santo and Port Vila as well as plantations elsewhere. A few Sa have become permanent migrants to towns or other rural centers to work for churches, the government, or private companies or to pursue higher education.

Linguistic Affiliation. Sa is classified in the North and Central Vanuatu Group of Austronesian languages. Although it had no script prior to colonization, it has now been written down through the work of mission linguists and local cultural workers. Most speakers of Sa are also fluent in Bislama, the lingua franca of Vanuatu, and increasingly younger Sa attain verbal and written fluency in English or French, taught in church and state schools.

History and Cultural Relations

The first contacts between ni-Vanuatu and Europeans took place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but there was initial reluctance to trade with European navigators. From the early nineteenth century, Europeans sought whales, sandalwood, and bêche-de-mer in the islands with more success. In 1839 the London Missionary Society, and later the Presbyterians, set up missions in the southern islands and were followed by Anglicans, Marists, and, in the twentieth century, Seventh-Day Adventists and the Church of Christ. From 1857 thousands of men and some women were recruited as laborers to work on plantations in New Caledonia, Queensland, Fiji, and islands in Vanuatu. In 1906 the rivalry between British and French influences was resolved by the creation of the Condominium of the New Hebrides. Indigenous cash cropping of copra started in the late 1920s, and during World War II the island of Santo was a major staging base for American forces. Beginning in the late 1960s anticolonial and nationalist sentiments crystallized, and in 1980 Vanuatu achieved political independence.


The pattern of settlement in South Pentecost includes both nucleated villages and dispersed homestead patterns. In the traditionalist or kastom villages, such as Bunlap in the Southeast, the predominant pattern is nucleated, with houses strung out down a ridge and communal men's houses and dancing grounds at the highest elevation. In traditionalist Villages the preferred materials and house designs are Indigenous: earth floors, bamboo-pole walls, and sago-palm thatch roofs on a rectangular frame. Each of these dwellings typically contains a single room, but within this room a transverse log divides the cooking fires of women and children at the front from men at the back. The men's houses are of the same materials and design, but they are much larger and have a series of fires for men of different rank. These traditional structures are complemented by more novel sleeping houses that are raised on stilts, with woven bamboo floors and walls and thatch roofs. This is the usual style of houses in Christian settlements; today, however, they are sometimes made of concrete and corrugated iron with several rooms. Most villages are connected by paths, although between coastal settlements, especially in the west, people may travel by sea in outrigger canoes, dinghies with outboard motors, or occasionally motorized launches. On the level western coast there is a vehicular road stretching from Lonoror to Wanur.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Sa speakers subsisted precolonially by swidden horticulture, fishing, and forest foraging. The main crops are still taro and yams, although these are complemented by sweet potatoes, manioc, arrowroot, sago, and breadfruit. Some leafy green vegetables, sugarcane, squashes, melons, and tomatoes are grown. They fish extensively in the coastal waters off the fringing reefs and in freshwater streams for fish, lobsters, shrimps, crabs, eels, and octopuses. They have extensive groves of fruit and nut trees and they also forage for wild greens, ferns, algae, and mushrooms in the forest, where they hunt birds, flying foxes, snakes, and stick insects. They herd pigs, which are consumed on ritual occasions only. Kava is cultivated; only men may drink kava in the traditionalist villages, where it tends to be reserved for hospitality and ritual occasions. In some Anglican and Catholic communities women may drink kava, but they do not do so as routinely as men; in Church of Christ Villages its use is totally proscribed. Traditionalist and Christian communities diverge greatly in their links to the cash Economy. The latter have converted far more land to copra, cacao, and coffee and are more dependent on introduced foods such as rice, tinned fish, meat, biscuits, and tea. Some cattle are being raised commercially, but most are killed for local feast consumption.

Industrial Arts. Apart from indigenous architecture, a range of tools, weapons, and ritual artifacts are produced. The precolonial tool kit included wooden and stone axes, adzes, shell scrapers, digging sticks, clubs, bows and arrows, and fishing spears, but these items mainly have been supplanted by modern steel implements purchased from local or urban stores. The old digging stick persists, however, and in traditionalist villages people still use bamboo vessels for cooking and carrying water and carved wooden food platters lined with banana leaves for eating. But even there cans, plastic buckets, kettles, pots, and pans are becoming more common. Outrigger canoes are still fashioned by hollowing out tree trunks and lashing them with lianas. Slit gongs, spears, clubs, and shelters are still produced for ceremonial purposes. An ensemble of ceremonial masks and headdresses made in the past are today rarely made for use but more often for purchase by museums, art collectors, or tourists. In addition to these wooden crafts made by men, women soften and weave pandanus and bark to fashion clothing and mats for sleeping and exchange at birth, marriage, circumcision, and death. In traditionalist villages women wear fiber skirts made of pandanus or banana spathes and men wear woven pandanus penis wrappers and bark belts. Elsewhere, women's attire is typically a Mother Hubbard (a loose dress) of skirt and blouse, while men typically wear shirts and shorts or trousers or, more rarely, wraparound skirts.

Trade. In precolonial times Pentecost was part of an intensive regional trade system with the neighboring islands of Ambrym, Malekula, and Ambae. Items traded included yams, pigs, mats, ochers for body painting and sculpture, and ritual forms such as dances and chants. Modern trade is focused on the purchase of imported commodities at small local stores with money derived from cash cropping or wage labor. There are no local markets such as those in the towns of Port Vila and Santo.

Division of Labor. The sexual division of labor is pronounced. Men exclusively hunt and fish from canoes, while women engage only in reef and river fishing. Men carve wooden artifacts; women weave pandanus and palm leaves. Men construct house frames; women make thatch battens for roofs. Women look after small pigs and sows, while men nurture highly valued tusked boars. Agricultural work is shared, although men do more of the fencing and clearing and women more of the weeding and harvesting; however, regarding yams, men alone can plant the seed yams and women alone can mound the topsoil. Household maintenance and child care are fairly evenly divided between the sexes. There are also divisions of ritual labor, with part-time practitioners that include male priests (who initiate agricultural cycles), medical diviners, midwives, sorcerers, and, in the past, Warriors and war diviners.

Land Tenure. Primary rights derive from agnatic relationship with a founding ancestor who claimed prior occupation, although secondary rights are granted to agnatic descendants of later arrivals, who were given land by the original occupants. Land, like fruit and nut trees, is inherited patrilineally and shared between sons and daughters. Rights are held in perpetuity by male agnatic descendants and for their lifetimes by females. Women cannot pass on natal land to their Children. Land rights may also pass matrilaterally if payments in pigs and mats are not made at death by the agnates to the matrilateral kin of the deceased. Temporary rights of usufruct may be granted to affines or those without locally available land. Retaining ownership of land depends on continual use and thus continual residence. Control over the distribution of land is ultimately vested in the senior male of a descent category called buluhim.


Kin Groups and Descent. The major kin category is buluhim, which is best translated as "house" rather than "clan." These houses are geographically dispersed, but there are also localized patrilineages. The major emphasis in Descent is patrilineal, but there are crucial debts to matrilateral kin that cycle over generations.

Kinship Terminology. A Crow-type system is employed, which is predicated on two basic rules: the equivalence of agnates of alternate generations and the equivalence of same-sex siblings. For a male, all agnates of his father's father's Generation are thus "brother."

Marriage and Family

Marriage. From the viewpoint of the male, marriage is Ideally with the same "house" from which the father's mother came; marriage between agnates should be avoided. The mothers of spouses should be agnates of adjacent and not alternate generations. Marriages have always been primarily effected through the formal exchange of bride-wealth, but the alternatives of elopement or infant betrothal were more prevalent in the past. Bride-wealth is now predominantly paid in cash, with token payments of pigs and mats, the traditional components. Only Church of Christ converts totally outlaw bride-wealth. Although marriages in both traditionalist and Christian villages are to some extent "arranged," the desires of prospective spouses are also crucial. Most adults are now in monogamous marriages, but a third of all adult men in traditionalist villages have at some time been polygynous. Monogamy is mandatory for Christian converts. On marriage the couple typically (85 percent) live patrilocally, with about 10 percent living neolocally. Because marriages are often contracted within a village, women often remain close to their natal kin. Divorce is rare, constituting only 5 percent of all unions contracted.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is typically an elementary family, with a minority being patrilaterally extended and a tiny percentage consisting of a sole parent with children. Where a man is polygynous, his wives usually maintain separate dwellings. Now men sleep and eat more routinely in the domestic dwelling, using the male clubhouse as a refectory and dormitory on rare ritual occasions. Such exclusivist male clubhouses no longer exist in Christian communities, and there husbands and wives eat and sleep together rather than separately.

Inheritance. Inheritance of house sites and household effects is predominantly patrilineal, with a greater share going to the eldest son. Pigs, however, are not inherited but are killed at the deaths of their owners. Land, fishing grounds, and fruit groves are patrilineally inherited. Ritual powers of priests and diviners are typically inherited patrilineally by males, but the spiritual skills of sorcery, weather magic, love magic, and war magic may be purchased, though often by close male kin.

Socialization. Although children are primarily nurtured by their parents, elder siblings, and grandparents, there is much communal socialization and interhousehold visiting. The primary values imparted are those of respect for rank and age, the centrality of hard work, cooperation, and consensus. Most children in Christian villages, and some in traditionalist ones, are currently in school.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Social organization is based on the intersection of the traditional hierarchical principles of rank, seniority, and gender. These principles are being transformed by the impact of the commodity economy, so that class differences are emerging. Such distinctions are most pronounced in urban centers, but they are also apparent in rural regions, although these novel inequalities interpenetrate indigenous patterns of rank.

Political Organization. Precolonial politics were based on achieved rank in an institution called "the graded society." Through the exchange and sacrifice of pigs (including tusked boars), mats, and other valuables, men (and in some places women) assumed titles in a hierarchically ordered series. This arrangement conferred on men more than women sacred powers enhancing their capacity to grow crops, nurture tusked boars, control the weather, and perform rituals Controlling human sexuality, health, and fecundity. But such powers were also considered to be dangerous and potentially destructive. This belief necessitated segregated commensality, whereby men ate separately from women and children, and high-ranking men from those of low rank. High-ranking men exerted greater political influence without having assured authority. In the modern state of Vanuatu, the symbolism of the graded society is still employed in the imagery of the state, and the importance of high rank permeates to the national level through the institution of the National Council of Chiefs, which gives advice on matters of kastom (traditional culture). The chiefs in this council are, however, those created and recognized by the state, rather than necessarily those with locally recognized high rank.

Social Control. Although there are official courts and asssessors that are part of the national legal stucture, disputeswhich arise most frequently over land, marriage, and pigsare in fact usually resolved in informal village courts. These courts are protracted meetings that try to effect consensus. Men rather than women are vocal in such meetings, and those who speak most and exert most influence tend to be older and high-ranking. Decisions at such meetings are thought to be binding on all in the community and may occasion the payment of fines.

Conflict. Violent conflict is rare, and domestic violence is almost nonexistent. Only on very rare occasions do people resort to outside agencies of police, prisons, or asylums to Control offenders. This current state of affairs is a major departure from precolonial practice, when warfare was endemic between villages and violent resolutions of conflict were frequent.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The vast majority of ni-Vanuatu today are Christians affiliated with Protestant and Catholic denominations, although beliefs and practices involve novel reworkings of both Christianity and ancestral religion. In the past, religion centered on the sacred character of ancestors. The Sa speakers thought their ancestors were primordial creator beings responsible for the natural and the social world. There was no easy translation of these beliefs into monotheistic Christianity. The ancestors are thought still to exert a continual influence in the world of the living, and the living are often engaged in attempts to please or placate remote or Recent ancestors. The graded society is predicated on a desire to approach a state of ancestral power. As well as the supernatural powers credited to the dead and the living, other supernatural entities are thought to exist. In south Pentecost, these include the spirits of uncultivated ancestral groves, spirits of the men's houses, dwarf spirits inhabiting the forest and river-beds, and a kind of ogre with a special appetite for young children.

Religious Practitioners. Ancestral religion employed some part-time specialists, including priests of agricultural fertility, weather, and war, as well as sorcerers and diviners. Despite the influence of Christianity, priests and sorcerers are still identified, even in Christian communities. They have been complemented by Christian ritual specialistspriests, ministers, and deacons, who are for the most part also men.

Ceremonies. The major traditional ceremonies are birth, circumcision, marriage, grade taking, and death. Of these circumcision and grade taking are by far the most spectacular and protracted. In addition there is the unique rite of land diving, performed annually at the time of the yam harvest. This has become a major tourist spectacle. In popular representation the athletic aspect of diving from a 100-foot tower is emphasized, but the religous aspect is paramount for the Sa speakers, and there is thought to be a direct link between the success of the dive and the quality of the yam harvest. Young men who so desire do the diving, from platforms at increasing heights with lianas tied to their ankles to arrest their fall. The construction and ritual supervision involves older men. Women are not allowed to observe the tower until they dance underneath it on the day of the diving, although myth credits a woman with being the first to devise the practice.

Arts. The major artistic expressions are woven mats and baskets, body decoration, ephemeral ceremonial structures, and, in the past, masks. Musical instruments include plain slit gongs, reed panpipes, and bamboo flutes. Guitars and ukuleles are also played, and local compositions are much influenced by the string-band music heard on radio and cassettes. Music and dance are central to most ceremonies and are constantly being composed and reinterpreted. There is also a huge corpus of myths that are a source of aesthetic delight and are often accompanied by songs.

Medicine. In the past many illnesses were seen as ancestral vengeance for the breaking of rules of sexual and rank segregation. This sometimes took the form of spirit possession requiring exorcism. Other remedies included curative spells, amulets, and the use of a wide pharmacopoeia of herbs and clays. Medicine was often administered within the Household, but if the treatment was unsuccessful the help of diviners might be sought. People are eclectic in integrating traditional and Western medicine, and they will typically try both. There are local dispensaries and some health centers run by missions or the state, and increasingly women are giving birth there. Chronic or serious illness requires removal to a hospital in Santo or Port Vila.

Death and Afterlife. Death is usually seen as the result of attack by ancestors or sorcerers. Close kin cluster in the house of the dying person and stroke him or her, wailing the mourning chant. The body of the deceased is wrapped in Ritual finery and mats and then buried (previously below the house but now outside the village). At death crucial prestations are made to the mother's brother and other matrilateral kin. Mourning consists of dress and food restrictions, which are progressively relaxed until a feast is held on the hundredth day. On the twentieth day the spirit of the dead person is thought to run down the mountain range in the middle of the island and jump through a black cave into Lonwe, the subterranean village of the dead. There all is heavenly: food comes without work, there are constant beautiful melodies to dance to, and sweet perfumes fill the air.

See also Ambae, Malekula


Jolly, Margaret (1981). "People and Their Products in South Pentecost." In Vanuatu: Politics, Economics, and Ritual in Island Melanesia, edited by Michael Allen, 269-293. Sydney: Academic Press.

Jolly, Margaret (1991). "Soaring Hawks and Grounded Persons: The Politics of Rank and Gender in North Vanuatu." In Big Men and Great Men: Personifications of Power in Melanesia, edited by Maurice Godelier and Marilyn Strathern. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Van Trease, Howard (1987). The Politics of Land in Vanuatu: From Colony to Independence. Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific, Institute of Pacific Studies.


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The second great annual pilgrim feast of ancient Israel was the Harvest Feast or qāîr (Ex 23.16) celebrated at the completion of the wheat harvest in Palestine. It was called also the Feast of Weeks and later, the "fiftieth day" or Pentecost, and was primarily an agricultural festival. The celebration of this feast to commemorate the giving of the Covenant at Sinai began only in late Old Testament times.

Origin and Terminology. The custom of presenting the first fruits of the harvest to a god is an ancient one among agricultural peoples. The Hebrews borrowed from the Canaanites, in whose land they settled, a feast of thanksgiving at the end of the harvest of cereal grains, offering to Yahweh the first fruits, two loaves made from the new flour. Originally the date of the feast must have varied according to the condition of the crops (Ex 23.16;34.22). When the commemoration of the Passover was joined to the Feast of the Unleavened Bread (maôt ) in the Priestly Code, the date for the "feast of the first fruits" (bikkûrîm ) was set seven weeks after the maôt, hence the name "feast of Weeks" (Ex 34.22; Nm 28. 26; Dt 16.10).

Since the time that elapsed between the offering of the first fruits of the barley harvest (on the day after the Sabbath of the maôt ) and the day after the 7th Sabbath was a period of 50 days, the feast was called πεντηκοστή or "fiftieth day" or Pentecost by the later Greek-speaking Jews (2 Mc 12.3132; Tb 2.1 in Septuagint).

Nature and Rites. Pentecost was a joyful feast, a "thanksgiving day" celebrating the first real harvest of the year. At the Feast of the unleavened bread, the loaves were presented without yeast; on Pentecost the use of leaven was ritually prescribed (Lv 23.17), signifying a sacrifice of the ordinary food of the Palestinian peasant and marking the close of the harvesting of cereal grains. The earliest liturgical calendars used in Israel (in the Elohistic Code of the Covenant, Ex 23.1417 and in the Yahwistic Code, Ex 34.1823) call the feast of the grain harvest a ag, or pilgrimage, the ag of the šābuōt (weeks). At first the feast would have been kept at the local shrines on a date determined by local crop conditions but with the growing centralization of cult under the monarchy, the celebration became the occasion for a true pilgrimage to the central shrine chosen by Yahweh (Dt 16.11).

The ritual found in the Priestly Code (Lv 23.1522 and its commentary in Nm 28.2631) prescribes the offering or "waving" of the newly baked wheat loaves, the sacrifice of seven yearling male lambs, two young bullocks, and one ram (one bullock and two rams in the earlier Lv 23.18) as a holocaust or burnt offering (ôlâ ), cereal offerings of flour and oil (minâ ) and libations of wine and of blood from the slain animals. A he-goat was slain as a sin offering (attāt ), according to Leviticus 23.19, and two other yearling male lambs were offered for a thanksgiving sacrifice (zebaš elāmîm ). The liturgy would normally include also processions, hymns and psalms of praise and thanksgiving, and the offering of gifts. In return the blessing of Yahweh would be bestowed on the pilgrims through the benediction pronounced by the priest.

Date of Pentecost. There was fixed, in Lv 23.11, 1516, a period of 50 days from "the day after the Sabbath" of the maôt, counting seven weeks to "the day after the seventh week" on which the Pentecostal feast was to be observed. Later, the Pharisees identified the Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread with the feastday itself on the 15th of the 1st month (Nisan) and, computing the 50-day period from the 16th, they celebrated Pentecost of the 6th day of the 3d month. The Boethuseans (a sect of the sadducees), interpreting the Sabbath as the ordinary Sabbath that fell during the week of the maôt between the 15th and 21st day of Nisan, kept Pentecost on the Sunday following the 7th Sabbath. The calendar of the Book of Jubilees numbered the 50 days from the Sabbath after the whole Passover festival, i.e., beginning with the 26th day of Nisan. Consequently, Pentecost always fell on Sunday, the 15th day of the 3d month.

Commemoration of the Giving of the Law. The tendency of Israel to found its cult in its history affected the Feast of Pentecost comparatively late. According to Exodus 19.1 the Hebrews arrived at Sinai in the 3d month after leaving Egypt. When the feasts of the Passover and of Unleavened Bread were combined and fixed in the middle of the 1st month, the following seven-week period until Pentecost would approximate the time between the Exodus and the arrival at Sinai. A feast celebrated by Asa in the 3rd month of the 15th year of his reign to renew the Covenant may have been the Pentecostal feast (2 Chr 15.1012) but the first unequivocal testimony to the commemoration of the giving of the Law at Pentecost is in the late noncanonical Book of Jubilees. The qumran community, which followed this calendar, celebrated Pentecost as the chief feast of the entire liturgy because of this association with the Covenant. The calendar found in Ez 45.1825, however, does not mention the feast and the more orthodox Jews after the Exile seem to have considered it a secondary feast. Not until the 2d century a.d. was its connection with the Covenant generally admitted by the rabbis.

Christian Pentecost. The events of the first Christian Pentecost are recounted in Acts of the Apostles2.141. The text is structured as follows: (1) Introductory notice on the gathering together of the Christian community; description of charismatic phenomena: a roar like that of a mighty wind fills the house, and tongues like tongues of flame rest on everyone present. They are filled with the holy spirit and begin to "speak in foreign tongues" (verses 14). (2) Following an introductory notice on the "devout Jews from every nation under heaven" staying in Jerusalem, there is described the gathering of a crowd, drawn by the sound of the community's charismatic prayer. Foreign visitors hear God praised in their own native tongues and ask, "What does this men?" Some, however, dismiss the phenomenon with "They are full of new wine" (513). (3) The discourse of Peter, which has three parts. Part one (1421) explains the phenomenon of the community's prayer: not wine, but the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as promised in the Prophets. Part two (2236) gives the explanation of how it is that

the Spirit has come. And this explanation is the kerygma: the recounting of Jesus' ministry and Passion, the proclamation of His Resurrection and messianic enthronement at the right hand of the Father: "He has poured forth this Spirit which you see and hear." And all this is in fulfillment of the prophecies of old. Part three (3840) is spoken in answer to the crowd's bewildered query, "Brethren, what shall we do?" The answer is, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (1440). (4) A concluding notice narrates, "Now they who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls" (41).

The Meaning of Pentecost. The eschatological expectations of the Old Testament and Judaism are supposed by the meaning of Pentecost. According to ancient rabbinical teaching, all the pious and upright in the age of the Patriarchs had been initiated through the Spirit of Yahweh into the whole range of God's mysteries. But from the time of Israel's adoration of the golden calf, God had restricted this gift to a chosen circle of Prophets and high priests.

Still later, with the death of the last of the chosen Prophets, the Spirit was altogether denied Israel; God spoke to His people exclusively through "the heavenly voice" and through omens. Only with the coming of the Messiah and the outbreak of eschatological salvation would the Spirit reappear. At that privileged moment Israel would be purified of its sins and again become "a people of prophets" (cf. Nm 11.29; Is 59.21; Jl 3.15).

In this context it becomes clear why the prophetic figures of John the Baptist and of Jesus had wakened expectations of imminent salvation. But above all the meaning of the Pentecostal event is illuminated. For, at Pentecost salvation is realized in the messianic blessings of "the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2.38; cf. 5.31;10.43; 13.38; 26.18; see also 3.19; 22.16) and "the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2.38; cf. 1.5; 2.4, 1718, 33;4.31; 5.32; 8.1519; etc.).

These are truly messianic blessings, accorded a community messianic not simply by aspiration but in the full consciousness of an already accomplished messianic event: the enthronement of Jesus at the right hand of God. Jesus made "Lord and Christ" (Acts of the Apostles2.36) is the final explanation of the Pentecostal gifts (cf. verse 33), and these gifts, in turn, are the consummation of His ministry, death, and resurrection.

Pentecost, then, is a salvific and messianic event, but it is also and par excellence an ecclesial event: (1) In the forgiveness of sins and the outpouring of the Spirit Israel is supremely blessed by its Savior. But these gifts are offered it only on condition of entry into the community of the saved (verses 3840). For it is precisely this community of believers in Christ that is now revealed as the object and organ of salvation. (2) By the outpouring of the Spirit the messianic community is equipped to accomplish its salvific purpose. The immediate effect of the Spirit's advent is the joyous proclamation of the magnalia Dei in ecstatic prayer (Acts 2.11; cf. 4.31; 8.1718;10.4546) and in kerygmatic discourse (Acts 2.1440; cf.4.8; 5.32). That is, the inner life of the community is created anew, and with Peter's summons to salvation its apostolic mission is launched. (3) With the gifts of Pentecost the Scriptures find fulfillment: the promise of Israel's purification and renewal in the Spirit (Is 32.1520; 44.3; 59.21; Ez 11.19; 36.2527; 39.29; Jl3.15), the image of eschatological Sion drawing the whole world to salvation (Is 2.24; Jer 3.17; Zec2.1415), the prophecy of the messianic remnant [see F. Dreyfus, "La Doctrine du reste d'Israël chez le prophète Isaïe," Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 39 (1955) 36168; cf. "the saved" of Septuagint Is 37.31; 45.20 with Acts 2.21, 47]. (4) Finally, it is the Spirit given on Pentecost that guarantees the growth of the new κκλησία (Acts 2.41; cf. 9.31).

Details of the Account. It is probable on the basis of parallels (Acts 1.14; 2.4247; 4.3132) that the gathering together described in verse 1 refers to the entire community, not merely to the Twelve, and consequently that the "tongues like flames" rested on each of the 120 (cf. Acts 1.15), all of whom were inspired to pray "in foreign tongues."

The explanation of the phrase in verse 4 λαλε[symbol omitted]ν τέραις γλώσσαις, "to speak in foreign tongues," is disputed. Elsewhere in Acts of the Apostles (10.46; 19.6) λαλε[symbol omitted]ν γλώσσαις, "to speak in tongues," refers to glossolalia, the "language" of ecstatic prayer, intelligible only to those to whom the Spirit has given the gift of interpretation. It is likely that this was the original sense of verse 4 (cf. the taunt in verse 13, "They are full of new wine"). But at some stage in the tradition, perhaps at the stage of final redaction, the "tongues" motif was connected, by insertion of the word τέραις, "foreign," in verse 4, with another and quite distinct theme: salvation made known to all the peoples of the earth (verses 611). In connection with "tongues" this theme recalls, perhaps consciously and intentionally, both the confusion of tongues that according to Genesis chapter 11 divided mankind into distinct and hostile peoples, and the rabbinic legend of the preaching of the Law of Sinai to the nations. On the supposition that these allusions are consciously intended, the Pentecostal event is presented as the restoration of mankind's unity, the reverse of Babel, and as a new Sinai in which the law of the Spirit takes the place of the Mosaic Law. (Pentecost even prior to the Christian era was celebrated as a covenant renewal in commemoration of Sinai.)

The literary background of the list of the nations (verses 911) is with some probability to be located in ancient astrological-geographical catalogues [S. Weinstock, "The Geographical Catalogue in Acts 2, 911," Journal of Roman Studies 38 (1948) 4346], but the theological point of the list is to accent the universalism of salvation in Christ. It is furthermore likely that the list was originally intended, in Luke's source, to evoke the Isaian theme (Is 2.24; 11.1012; 25.68, 10; 42.6; etc.) of the eschatological pilgrimage to Sion, center of the world and source of salvation in the last days [A. Causse, "Le Pèlerinage à Jérusalem à la première Pentecôte," Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuses 20 (1940) 12041]. This corresponds to the primitive Christian conception of the coming of the nations into salvation as a centripetal movement of all the world to "the holy mountain," a conception founded on certain images used by Jesus Himself [e.g., Mt 8.1112; see J. Jeremias, Jesus' Promise to the Nations, tr. S. H. Hooke (Naperville, Ill.1958)].

The Pentecostal discourse is of interest on several counts: (1) As elsewhere (e.g., Acts 3.1216), the proclamation of salvation through the paschal mysteries of Jesus and in particular through His glorification is made to serve an immediate, ad hoc purposein this case, to explain the pneumatic phenomena of Pentecost. But the proclamation transcends this purpose. Its ultimate intent is to win Israel over to repentance, belief, and aggregation to the eschatological community (verses 3741). (2) The speech is argumentative, its central argument being that messianic prophecy is fulfilled in and through Jesus and Him alone. The scriptural loci, here taken from the Psalms, are interpreted as prophetic testimony to His glorification. (The accent on glorification is characteristic. In the schematized discourses of Acts explicit scriptural citations bearing on the Person of Christ are in every instance concerned with His Resurrection and exaltation in glory.) It is noteworthy that the community, in the person of peter, regards itself not merely as "measured and judged" by the Scriptures, but more profoundly, as their charismatically guaranteed interpreter (cf. qumran community). (3) The Christology of the discourse draws on three motifs: the Davidic Christ (verses 2531, 3336), the lord (verse 21, 36), and the Name (verses 21, 38). The archaic character of certain aspects of this Christology and the lack of interest in the Crucifixion as itself a salvific mystery indicate the text's relative antiquity.

Lucan Theology. In the specifically Lucan perspective, Pentecost inaugurates a new era in salvation history, defined at its temporal extremes respectively by Jesus' already accomplished enthronement as Lord and His still future coming as judge. Concern over an imminent parousia gives way to concentration on the Church's inner life and apostolic mission. As the Lucan Gospel is conceived in terms of movement from Galilee to Jerusalem, so the dynamic of the early Church's life and growth as portrayed in Acts is conceived in terms of movement from Jerusalem to Rome. It is the glorified Christ who governs this movement through the Spirit bestowed on Pentecost.

See Also: missions, divine; soul of the church.

Bibliography: w. f. albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore 1953). r. dussaud, Les Origines cananéennes du sacrifice israélite (Paris 1921). a. s. herbert, Worship in Ancient Israel (Richmond 1959). a. arens and n. adler, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 8:42123. h. haag, ed., Bibel-Lexikon (Einsiedeln 1951) 1:132427. j. a. brinkman, "The Literary Background of the Catalogue of the Nations (Acts 2,911)," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 25 (1963) 41827. d. m. stanley, "The Conception of Salvation in Primitive Christian Preaching," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 18 (1956) 23154.

[b. f. meyer/

j. l. ronan]

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Pentecost (pĕn´təkôst) [Gr.,=fiftieth], important Jewish and Christian feast. The Jewish feast of Pentecost, in Hebrew Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, one of the three pilgrimage festivals, arose as the celebration of the closing of the spring grain harvest, which began formally in Passover 50 days prior; there are numerous references to it in the Bible. From Rabbinic times, the festival commemorates the giving of the law to Moses at Mt. Sinai.

On the Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus (50 days from the Passover in which He was crucified), the Holy Spirit, according to the Acts of the Apostles, descended on the disciples in the form of tongues of fire accompanied by the sound of a rush of wind, and gave them the power of speaking in such a way that people of different languages could understand them. The Christian feast of Pentecost is an annual commemoration of this event, and it is solemnly observed as the birthday of the church and the feast of the Holy Spirit.

In ecclesiastical calendars Pentecost is the seventh Sunday after Easter and closes Eastertide. In the Western Church there are special observances, e.g., a penitential vigil, and in ancient times neophytes were baptized at this time. From the white garments of these converts comes Whitsunday, an English name for Pentecost. The great liturgical Latin hymns Veni Creator Spiritus and Veni Sancte Spiritus were composed for Pentecost. The Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday; until Advent the weeks are counted from Pentecost or Trinity.

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Pentecost the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Pentecost also denotes the Jewish festival of Shavuoth.

In the Church of England, a pentecostal is an offering formerly made at Whitsuntide by a parishioner to a priest, or by an inferior church to its mother church.

Recorded in Old English, the word comes via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek pentēkostē (hēmera) ‘fiftieth (day)’, because the Jewish festival is held on the fiftieth day after the second day of Passover.
Pentecostal Church comprising any of a number of Christian sects and individuals emphasizing baptism in the Holy Spirit, evidenced by ‘speaking in tongues’, prophecy, healing, and exorcism. Pentecostal sects are often fundamentalist in doctrine and are uninhibited and spontaneous in worship.

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Pen·te·cost / ˈpentəˌkôst; -ˌkäst/ • n. 1. the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. ∎  the day on which this festival is held. Also called Whitsunday. 2. the Jewish festival of Shavuoth.

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Pentecost. The Jewish feast of Weeks, i.e. Shavuʿot, held fifty days (hence the name) after Passover. The Greek name occurs in (e.g.) Tobit 2. 1; Josephus, Antiquities, 17. 10. 2. In Christian use, ‘Pentecost’ refers specifically to the occasion at the conclusion of the Jewish festival when, according to the account in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles ‘with the noise of a strong driving wind’ in the form of tongues of fire, so that they began to speak in foreign languages.

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Pentecost Important religious festival celebrated in May or June. In Judaism, it is a festival held seven weeks after the second day of the Passover, commemorating the giving of the Law to Moses. In the Christian calendar, it is also known as Whit Sunday, falling seven weeks after Easter.

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Pentecost the Jewish Feast of Weeks; Christian feast observed on the seventh Sunday (‘the fiftieth day’) after Easter, Whitsunday (cf. Acts 2: 1 for the transf. application). OE. pentecosten — acc. of ecclL. Pentēcostē — Gr. Pentēkostḗ, sb. use of fem. ordinal adj. of pentḗkonta fifty; readopted in ME. from OF. Pentecoste (mod. -côte).
So Pentecostal XVI. — ecclL.

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Pentecostaccost, cost, frost, lost, Prost, riposte •teleost • Pentecost • oncost • glasnost •compost • star-crossed • hoar frost •permafrost