Pentecost didn’t happen in an upper room

Model of the Temple in Jerusalem (Wikimedia Commons)

The Bible says, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). Where was that one place? Tradition places the receiving of the Spirit on Pentecost in the upper room of Acts 1. The disciples met in the upper room after the ascension, but ten days elapsed between the ascension and the events described in Acts 2. The story does not indicate that they were still in that upper room in Acts 2. More likely, the believers assembled in one of the courts of the Temple.

Deuteronomy 16:16 enjoins all men of Israel to present themselves before the LORD (at the Temple) on the day of Shavuot. Since the disciples were in Jerusalem, they could not fail to go up to the Temple. The disciples met every day in the Temple where they worshipped God continuously (Luke 24:52-53). If they did so on ordinary days, how much more so would they have been in the Temple on a holy day. Even though Luke does not explicitly state that the events of Acts 2 took place in the Temple courts, the story infers that location.

The outpouring at Shavu’ot occurred at the time of morning sacrifice and prayer. According to Acts 3, Simon Peter and John kept the times of prayer in the Temple courts.

The Master instructed His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. Men and women anticipating divine revelation would logically congregate in the house of God. Simon Peter preached to a vast multitude of Jews from all over the world. Only in the Temple courts would such a diverse throng assemble on the day of Shavuot. Three thousand people immersed themselves in response to his message. The Temple had pools to accommodate mass immersions.The Greek word oikos (οικος), which most English Bibles translate as “house” in Acts 2:2, is ambiguous and can refer to any building or structure. Rabbinic literature refers to the Temple as “The House (HaBayit, הבית).”

All this evidence points to the same conclusion: The pouring out of the Spirit reported in Acts 2 took place in the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem—not in the upper room mentioned in Acts 1.

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion an is reposted with permission.