The account of Pentecost Sunday in the Acts of the Apostle’s gives us a list of the peoples gathered in Jerusalem. There were Parthians, Medes, Elamites and groups of strangers from other lands. The reason for all of them congregating comes from Pentecost’s having been an important holiday for two quite different reasons.
First, for ordinary farming people throughout the Middle East, Pentecost was their Thanksgiving.
From 5000 B.C. on, farmers in those neighboring lands had been planting wheat at the last full moon of Autumn. Then, on the day of the first full moon in spring, they had gone out, plucking the first ripe grains, and celebrating that night by eating cakes of unleavened bread from those first grains. From that night onward, they set themselves the task of harvesting wheat from dawn to sunset for fifty days. In that way they got the harvest in before the coming of the spring rains.
By the fiftieth day (Pentecost in Greek) they had the full harvest in. They ate their full, paid their debts, and arranged their weddings. The Cretans and Arabs who heard the Apostles that day were all in the big city celebrating the end of their fifty-day harvest season.
For the Jews, who were farming people as well, Pentecost marked the completion of the harvest, but there was more to it for them.
For the Jews, that fiftieth day was the anniversary of their becoming the Chosen People. Twelve hundred and fifty years before, on the night of the first full moon in spring, their ancestors, all of them standing up and dressed for the road; had eaten the first Passover meal of unleavened bread. Then, the whole throng of them leaving Egypt behind, had walked speedily down to the base of the Sinai peninsula. There, on that fiftieth day after their first Passover, they had assembled before Mt. Sinai, freely entering their covenant with God.
After the Holy Spirit descended on them exactly fifty days after the Last Supper, the Apostles burst out into the street, addressing the crowds with such convincing eloquence, that by the end of the day they had gathered in three thousand followers.
Our Bible’s account of that Pentecost, tells us that the Apostles spoke to the crowds about “the wonderful works of God.” The Latin for that phrase has a majestic ring to it. They declared the Magnalia Dei.