An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


The OT Year of Jubilee was the fiftieth year, the seventh sabbath year, in which debts were forgiven, Hebrew slaves were set free, and alienated lands were returned to their former owners. The name is from the Hebrew yobhel, “ram’s horn,” which was blown to proclaim the beginning of this special year. The Jubilee is mentioned in Leviticus (Chapters 25 and 27) and Numbers (Chapter 36). This year of liberty and release expresses God’s sovereignty over creation, and provides a reminder that human beings are stewards of creation who must live justly. The directions for the Year of Jubilee in Leviticus include the repeated instruction, “you shall not wrong one another.” Although the Year of Jubilee may not have been actually practiced, it upholds personal rights, human dignity, and family responsibility as ideals. The Year of Jubilee was to be a time of equality and justice for all. The OT Year of Jubilee also provided a biblical image of freedom and equality for African American slaves who yearned for liberty prior to emancipation.

In the Roman Catholic Church, the Jubilee Year is a “Holy Year” in which a special indulgence is granted to Roman Catholics who visit Rome and fulfill certain conditions. In 1300 Pope Boniface VIII made the first year of each century a year of special indulgence. The intervals between Jubilee years in the Roman Catholic Church was gradually reduced to twenty-five. The year 2000 was a Holy Year in the Roman Catholic Church. See Jubilee Ministry.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.