Molad, moon, New Moon, conjunction, Hillel, Jewish Calendar, Hebrew Calendar, God's calendar, appointed times, visible crescent
The Holy Days, or appointed times of God, are described in Leviticus 23. Most of these days are to be celebrated on specific dates. Passover, for instance, is to be celebrated "On the fourteenth day of the first month" (Lev 23:5a) at evening. Many people will assume this is January 14, but this is not the case. The date of Passover doesn't equate to any particular day in the Gregorian calendar that is typically used in the modern western world. The dates of Leviticus 23 were to be determined based on a different calendar.
"Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;" (Gen 1:14)
The lights in the heavens were set at creation to determine seasons, days and years. The Hebrew word used here for 'seasons' is "mo`ed". It is the same word that is used in Leviticus 23:4 for both 'feasts' and 'appointed times' (NKJV, or seasons in the KJV, actually 'appointed time' is the primary meaning [The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English lexicon]). So, it would be perfectly reasonable to say the lights were for signs, appointed times, days and years.
"He appointed (to make, made) the moon for seasons[mo'ed]" (Psalm 104:19a). The seasons (mo'ed, appointed time) are linked to the moon and the months it defines. This reinforces Genesis 1:14 quoted above, which includes the moon as having a part in setting the appointed times of the Creator.
"These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times." (Lev 23:4)
Very ancient people typically calculated months based on the moon. The division of our Gregorian calendar into twelve months comes from the ancient use of the moon as a divider of the year. Our months are about the same length as the period between one new moon and the next.
We start our year with January, but the beginning of the year tracked by ancient Israel started around Spring. (An interesting bit of trivia from history is that in England and the United States January was not designated the first month of the year until 1752. Before that time, March was the first month.)
"Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you " (Ex 12:1-2)
That first month was called Abib (Ex 13:4, 23:15). Abib in Hebrew means 'an ear of grain', particularly, in this case an ear of barley. Barley ripens relatively early and the grains had begun to form when the seventh plague of hail struck Egypt (Ex 9:31). It does not seem to be a long time from then until Israel left Egypt, although the exact timing is not totally clear.
Israel also entered the Promised Land about the same time of year, Passover time (Josh 4:19). They had been commanded not to eat the produce of the Promised Land until they offered an early cutting to God (Lev 23:10-11, 14). They evidently offered this during the next daylight after the Passover was killed, since they ate the 'produce' that next day (Josh 5:10-11). The KJV translates 'produce' as 'old corn', but that is not the typical meaning of the word (abuwr). They ate from the land. Verse eleven mentions roasted or parched grain. They typically parched the grain to dry it a bit if it was not fully dry and perfect for harvest. Knowing they were about to be invaded, the inhabitants of Jerico undoubtedly moved their stores of old grain to a safer place.
The early cutting was apparently of barley. Specific mention is made of waiting to eat parched grain (early English, corn) until this special offering. (Lev 23:14) So they would not have eaten "the produce of the land" before the wave sheaf was offered. Therefore the sheaf must have been offered the day after the Passover was killed, i.e. the 15th, since they ate from the land that day.
There are a few other markers in scripture that may explain more about the calendar Israel used, but unfortunately the references above are all we have from scripture that is easily clear. There is evidence of history that may help us understand what was done. We will look at some of this, but this author does not think the answer to the calendar question lies in history as much as in the instruction of scripture. Especially the approach the Messiah took toward this subject is central to understanding. Hopefully this will give us a better understanding of our Creators intention for marking His 'appointed times'.
We have already quoted Exodus 12:2, which set the first month. This instruction seems to think Moses needed no further instruction regarding calculation of future months or years. It assumed he knew what a month was. It assumes the day he considered the first of the month was the right day and it assumes he would know when this month would recur, thus determining when the new year would begin. From this we would think that the calendar the children of Israel had been using in Egypt was evidently satisfactory, except for the month that should be considered the first month.
As it turns out, the ancient Egyptians began their year with the first new moon after the appearance of the star Sirius, which occurred in early July (now late July). This time of year was important to them, because this was about the time the Nile would begin to rise and begin their agricultural seasons, i.e., watering, planting and harvesting. They also noted that sometimes there would be 13 new moons before Sirius appeared again.
So, since July or August was not the time that God wanted Israel to start the year, it makes sense that He told them which month should be the first month. It seems that if there were any other differences, He would have been just as straightforward. (Actually there is another difference, which will be examined later.)
The harvest of barley was about six months after planting. Planting was sometime around late October or early November, after the Nile floodwater percolated into the irrigated land. The barley harvest would typically be late April or early May. Barley would be 'in the head' a maximum of about 8 weeks before this, about 40 days to fully mature and 14 days to dry. The exact timing did fluctuate and a late April harvest might indicate the barley was relatively early the year of the Exodus or Abib fell later then than the traditional Jewish calendar has it now.
Ancient Egypt tracked time with a lunar, moon oriented, calendar although they evidently relied heavily on calculation as opposed to pure observation. The Egyptian government though devised an administrative calendar with 30-day months, which ended up completely ignoring the actual position of the moon. At the end of the twelfth month they added five days. This worked fairly well, but lost about a quarter of a day every year. This was later corrected, but not before slipping Egypt's administrative "new years day" to September 11 from August 29th.
So, it would appear that Moses was familiar with at least two calendars. One which was used by the government to fix the time taxes were due and another to mark religious events. Since the ancient people looked to the gods for a plentiful harvest and shared in religious events, they generally tracked time according to the lunar calendar. Anyone who worked his own sizeable plot of land would be familiar with both. Calendars similar to both of these were also used in other areas around the Middle East. Unfortunately though, different people figured the new moon differently.
The New Moon
Some site Genesis 1:14 to indicate the light of the moon is to be used to set the beginning of the month. A careful reading does not support this. It affirms that God placed lights in the heavens to determine the seasons and/or appointed times. This obviously refers to especially the sun and moon, also the stars. Those are the lights in the heavens. However, lights can be either on or off, visible or not visible. When they are off or not visible, they are still lights, just not visible. Being off is just as much a signal or sign as being on.
Genesis 1:14 sets these lights as dividing the day from the night. It is fairly apparent the sun determines the day, i.e. daylight. This is reinforced in John 11:9 ("Are there not twelve hours in the day?"). The full day though, includes the night and the day (Gen 1:5, etc. "So the evening and the morning were the first day"). This is all really set by the sun. It is the non-visibility (off) of the sun that actually determines the beginning of the next day according to the Creator(Lev 23:27-32, etc.).
The role of the sun in determining the day is fairly clear. Genesis 1:14 isn't specific as to what state a light takes to indicate the beginning of a month. It actually doesn't specifically mention the division we call a month at all. Based on history and the assignment of the month of Abib as the first month, it seems apparent there is a connection.
The problem is that different peoples used different rules to determine the beginning of a month. Some didn't really consider the moon at all, i.e. the 365-day administrative calendar of Egypt.
The Egyptians apparently began their lunar month with the disappearance of the moon before the actual conjunction. The Babylonians and Romans started their month when the new moon became visible after the conjunction. Unfortunately, none of the verses above tell us what constitutes a 'new moon', whether or how it is calculated or observed crescent or observed darkness, locally or based on conditions around Jerusalem. In modern times we have used the actual conjunction of the sun and moon to set the time of the new moon. Before about 330 BC it is doubtful the actual conjunction could have been determined.
There can be two or three days difference in the day of the new moon depending on which of these standards one uses. Ones location on earth can also be a factor. The record of scripture does not tell us what standard to use.
The Hebrew word for 'new moon' and 'month' is "chodesh" (Str. 2320). There is no distinction in this word between a new moon and the beginning of a month that does not follow the new moon. The meaning intended must be determined by context that appears around the word. The context also determines whether one is talking of just the first day or the entire month. This word is used for both. The context must clarify the meaning intended.
The root word from which "chodesh' comes is evidently 'chadash ' (Str. 2318). It is a verb meaning renew or repair, evidently with a strong Arabic influence. According to the 1897 Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (available on www.blueletterbible.org) it seems to have an entomological connection with a "sharp polished splendid sword". Some have used this to promote the use of the visible crescent as the correct new moon. Certainly a visible crescent could be likened to a polished sword.
'Chadash ' (Str. 2318) though is not focusing on the sword because of its shape, but because of its polish or rather need for maintenance to be polished. Remember, this word is a verb. Its focus is an action taking place, not the shape of an object that might be subjected to that action.
The description of this sword brings to mind our relatively modern shiny swords. However, as of the time of Saul almost no one in Israel actually owned a sword (I Sam 13:22). Their fabrication had evidently just become known about that time. Manufacture and maintenance were closely guarded, especially between rivals. Earlier 'swords' used by Israelites were apparently shorter weapons more like long knives and made of bronze (Jud 3:15-16, 21-22). From an historical perspective it is difficult to understand how 'chadash ', a very ancient word, could have an entomological source attributed to a "sharp polished splendid sword", when true swords, as we know them, were a new technology in Saul's time. Did this ancient word arise from a process associated with a later invention? It seems more likely the connection was to the more ancient long knives, but more so to the need to polish or renew.
The older bronze 'swords' could be polished too, but would not reflect brightness like the visible crescent moon. The shape would also not be as similar. Frequent maintenance would be needed to maintain luster. The later iron swords would also rust and pit if not maintained. In any case an ancient warrior with pride of ownership would need to regularly polish or renew his sword. The meaning of 'chadash' (Str. 2318) is repair or renew.
This root of 'new moon' then, instead of indicating the visible crescent, could just as likely indicate the renewing taking place at the dark of the moon. After the old moon disappears, the moon is in the shop, so to speak, being repaired and renewed. The successful polish job is evident when the moon appears again.
The renewal could also be connected with the progress of the moon's light as more of the sun is reflected as it moves toward fullness. It is difficult to know without specific instruction. One can focus on the particular aspect that promotes his perspective and overlook other aspects that might be contrary, but possibly, just as valid. It is not clear, based on this word when the month was intended to begin.
According to the 1897 Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, 'chadash', Strong's '2318', is "of the same family" as "chadar" (Str. 2314). Neither Strong's, lexicon the Online Bible Hebrew Lexicon, the New American Standard Hebrew Lexicon, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon or the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament mention this connection. So the relevance of this connection is subject to debate.
Nevertheless, some have focused on this connection to try to clarify the meaning of Str.'2320', "chodesh", new moon. "Chadar" (Str. 2314) is used in Ezekiel 21:14. It indicates a condition of being surrounded and/or hidden. If connected with the new moon it could lead one to conclude that the moon is hidden at the time of the new moon. This is supposed to justify the conjunction of the moon and sun as being the moment of the new moon. However, it could also indicate once the light of the moon was no longer visible the new moon had arrived and was being renewed. Because these words may be "in the same family", can we transfer the meaning of one of these words to another?
This lexicon along with others also indicates 'chadash' (2318) is 'a primitive root'. So it is debatable what influence 'chadar' (SHD 2314) may have had on 2318 ' chadash ' from which 2320 'chodesh' 'new moon' is probably derived.
As it turns out, this connection with "Chadar" (Str. 2314) noted in the 1897 Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, actually mentions two words 'in the same family'. It doesn't draw any conclusion about them being dependent on one another for meaning. The other word is Strong's 2312 'chedeq'. It indicates a prickly plant or stinger. Perhaps someone could propose that the crescent of the moon was sharp like a thorn or stinger. Those that prefer the visible crescent have already latched on to 'chadash ' (Str. 2318) and its connection with a 'sharp polished splendid sword '. So the sharp thorn or stinger connection could be useful too.
There are also some who use the actual conjunction of the moon and sun as the moment of new moon birth. Since the conjunction would not have been a visible event for ancient peoples, its use as a marker of ancient calendars is unlikely. The conjunction is not something they would have thought about much, because they couldn't see it.
B.L. Van der Waerden in "Greek Astronomical Calendars and Their Relation to the Athenian Civil Calendar" echoes this. "The months beginning with the conjunction will be called exact lunar months or conjunction months. These months are a theoretical construction; they could not be used in practice in classical times, because before Kallippos (330 BC) astronomers were not able to predict the true conjunction."
Using the dark moon as a guide would tend to have the day of the new moon fall on the conjunction. It appears the actual day celebrated as the new moon was the day after the event occurred. So if one noted the absence of the moon in the morning of the 29th day of the month the following evening, roughly 12 hours later, would start the next month. So even if the moon had just gotten to the point that it was not visible, it would be about half way to the time of actual conjunction by the time the New Moon was celebrated. If in fact the moon was almost not visible the previous morning, the moon would have had almost 36 hours to progress toward full conjunction. (24 hours till the next moonless morning + 12 hours until the end of the day.) This would very likely mean that the New moon would have been celebrated on or more likely, shortly after the point of full conjunction.
With that in mind tracking the disappearance of the New Moon would on average align the first day of the month somewhat with the conjunction. It would have the start of the first of the month roughly between 18 hours after to 28 hours before the conjunction. Tracking the conjunction itself would set the first of the month 0 - 24 hours after the conjunction. Interestingly, the Samaritans set the first of the month on the day of the conjunction if the conjunction was calculated to happen on or before 6am. This would make the start of the first of the month +/- 12 hours from the conjunction.
In each of these possibilities the literal reading of scripture is not being promoted here, but the perception of the one doing the interpretation. One can focus and emphasize those aspects of history or language that one deems most important and ignore others.
Ps 81:3 "Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, At the full moon, on our solemn feast day."
The KJV translates 'full moon' here (Hebrew 'keseh' Str. 3677) as 'time appointed'. The NKJV does this in Proverbs 7:20. The New American Hebrew Lexicon, Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Brown-Driver-Briggs- Gesenius Lexicon, Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament and Strong's Hebrew Lexicon all indicate a meaning of 'full moon' for 'keseh'. The KJV use of 'appointed time' evidently connects a different root to ‘keseh’ and therefore links it to a different meaning. Indeed there are some oddities in this verse.
It does seem to be using Hebrew parallelism, equating the new moon with the 'full moon' and the feast (Heb. chag) day. This would tend to indicate the 'full moon' was directly connected in some way with the New Moon. This is odd, since new moons are really opposites of full moons in lunar calendars. If 'full moon' should indicate the same day as the new moon, then there are many questions to answer.
If this new moon is a 'chag', a joyous festival, then this is the only place in scripture where the new Moon is so designated. The actual Hebrew word denoting a festival or feast, ' chag', is almost exclusively associated with the pilgrimage festivals and occasions of great mirth.
The occasions noted in Leviticus 23, may or may not be occasions of great mirth. The new moon of the seventh month, or any month, is not referred to as a 'chag' unless that is the intention of Psalms 81:3. The first day of the seventh month is pictured elsewhere as a day of great trouble, not mirth (Zeph 1:7-18).
Indeed, I Kings 8:2 indicates that there is only one feast, 'chag', in the seventh month. "Therefore all the men of Israel assembled with King Solomon at the feast in the month of Ethanim, which is the seventh month" (See also II Chron 5:3, Neh 8:14). Of course that 'chag' is the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. There is no other month with two "chag's" designated or even more than one of the appointed times of Leviticus 23.
Typically English translations of Leviticus 23:2 & 4 indicate all the 'appointed times' are 'feasts of the Lord', but this is not really the case. "Feasts' in these verses is actually 'mo'ed' and would be better translated 'appointed times'. This may seem redundant, but then the Hebrew is redundant, so why shouldn't the English reflect that? Appointed times may or may not be joyous occasions.
There is a very curious translation of Psalms 81:3 in the Jewish Mishnah tractate Rosh Hashana. "Blow the horn at the new moon, at the covered time [keseh]8 for our feastday9. Which is the feast [8b] on which the moon is covered over [mithkaseh]? You must say that is the New Year:"
(Babylonian Talmud (BT) [Book 1, 8a Pg.30, see also Talmud of Babylon [ToB] 1:1 XLVIII:B page 131]
So we have gone from a full moon to a covered new moon with this version passed to us by the Rabbi's of approximately 200 AD/CE. Certainly these men were familiar with Hebrew and likely spoke it as their native tongue. One could take their comments to mean that the New Moon occurs when the moon is totally dark. However, the thought here is not sure. "You must say" is an indication that they have reservations and wish they had another choice that might fit with this verse.
This particular version of Rosh Hashana gives us more information than others, in that it gives us two important Hebrew words that underlay the English. Psalms 81:3 (81:4 in some versions) is translated elsewhere in Rosh Hashana, (e.g. 16a) in full accord with the KJV and NKJV. Yet in this particular occurrence (8a), 'keseh' is translated covered instead of 'appointed time' or 'full moon'.
The appearance of 'mithkaseh' in the next sentence strongly indicates that 'keseh' should be read 'kasah' and translated 'covered'. This is how the authors of this section of Rosh Hashana must have understood it. It is also why this particular translation of Psalms 81:3 differs from others in Rosh Hashana. Most lexicons that note such things, assume 'kasah' (Strong's 3680) is the root or source of 'keseh'.
As it turns out when Rosh Hashana was written there was no difference in spelling between 'kasah' and 'keseh'. Now, Hebrew writers use vowel points to distinguish, but these were not common until after about 700AD/CE. So, someone had to add these vowel points to the Hebrew text of scripture and to Rosh Hashana. We hope this was done carefully and by the most qualified people possible. Evidently whoever added the vowel points to the presently accepted text of Psalms 81, didn't agree with the authors of the 8a version of Psalms 81:3. The other translations of this verse in Rosh Hashana do agree with the presently accepted text.
So, while some quote this unique translation of Psalms 81:3 as indicating the new moon is the point of conjunction, (the covered time) the rest of the tractate is perfectly clear they considered the new moon to be the visible crescent. It makes no sense that the sages waited for a witness to confirm seeing a moon that could not be seen. The visible crescent is evidently how the New Moon was determined in the first century AD/CE in Judea.
This 'covered' translation does not really fit with the context of the rest of this Psalm. Remember, context must be heavily considered in translating, particularly when words can have related, but different meanings depending on context. The new moon of Abib was not the occasion that typically comes to mind when thinking of Israel's exit from Egypt. There is no direct mention of it at all in the account of events leading up to the march out of Egypt.
Certainly the Passover and the 'chag' of Unleavened Bread would be more fitting to this Psalm. The context is clearly talking of the time when Israel left Egypt. Can one even think of Israel's departure from Egypt and not think of the Passover especially, that kicks off the 'chag' of Unleavened Bread? (Ex 13:5-10) Yet we have found no translation that connects them.
The Septuagint translation has a slightly different meaning of Psalms 81:3. "Blow the trumpet at the new moon, in the glorious day of your feast." Certainly this does not agree with a 'covered' moon. The origin of this text would probably predate tractate Rosh Hashana by 400 years. Again this might indicate every new moon is a 'chag'. Subsequent verses indicate this was set in the law when Israel was brought out of Egypt. Unfortunately, the record of the law indicates no such thing. Even the day of Trumpets or shouting is not specifically designated a 'chag' in the law.
Psalms 81:3 in The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible follows closely the New King James Version. That text probably predates Rosh Hashana by 300 years. The New American Bible (Catholic) has the same thing. The older Douay-Rheims version follows the Septuagint.
If we accept the NKJV (new moon=1st of month, full moon=15th of month), we would conclude this verse is concerning itself with two appointed times. One is at the New moon and the other at the full moon. This would most likely be referring to the appointed times of the seventh month where the day of Trumpets is on the first of the month and the Feast of Tabernacles is on the 15th, the full moon (Lev 23:24-25, 34). Unfortunately, the seventh month has little in context with the rest of Psalms 81, which is focusing on Israel's departure from Egypt.
In any case, some have used this verse to indicate that the actual conjunction of the sun and moon would then be indicated as the time of the new moon, since the conjunction is directly opposite the full moon. The first is on average, more or less, opposite the fifteenth in a lunar calendar.
The amount of time it typically takes to get from conjunction to full moon varies just as the amount of time the moon is hidden behind the brightness of the sun varies. Using either the disappeared moon or the visible crescent would, on average, shift the full moon roughly a day backward or forward in respect to the conjunction, but because of the elliptical orbit of the moon the difference could be roughly two days.
Whether or not this makes much difference is another matter. The Hebrews tended to speak in generalities and the moon gives plenty of light for an extended period of time before and after the actual moment of 100% fullness. Even using the conjunction would not guarantee the full moon falling on the 15th of the month. This verse doesn't seem to be overly concerned about precision.
Some have pointed out that 'trumpet' in Psalms 81:3 is actually 'shofar', typically a rams horn. The trumpet required to be blown on the new moon was a 'silver trumpet' (Num 10:10, 2). If this verse was focusing on the New Moon, it seems that the silver trumpets made specifically for the new moon would have been mentioned. A number of scriptures differentiate a trumpet (Heb: chatsotsarah) from the shofar or rams horn (II Chron 15:14, Ho 5:8, Ps 98:6). A shofar can also be a trumpet (chatsotsarah, Josh 6:4 - Josh 6:13), but this is evidently not the typical meaning or Joshua would not have been so specific.
It is likely the silver trumpets were blown on all the appointed times and any occasion of great joy, as well as the new moons. The shofar was used in a similar manner (I Chron 15:28, II Chron 15:14, II Sam 6:15, Lev 25:9, I King 1:39-41). The Mishnah also indicates that both were sounded at the appointed times. (ToB 3:2A, pg 320 also pg 329). When celebrating, why hold back anything? However, the blowing of a trumpet, even if it was a shofar, could have predisposed the translators to assume 'chodesh' was intending New Moon as opposed to a reference to the month in general.
[The use of Psalms 81:3 as an indication that Abib 1 was a holyday or 'chag' equivalent to the pilgrimage festivals is a great stretch. However, some have proposed this as well. There is simply no other scriptural witness to this, especially none in the account of the Exodus. A 'witness' of Psalms 81:3 for this is hardly obvious, but must be squeezed out through personal interpretation. Indeed, the Tabernacle in the wilderness was set up on this day and Aaron and his sons evidently anointed. Although that probably wouldn't disqualify it from being a Holy Day there is no direct command to make it one in the law that governed Israel. It seems from the description of Exodus 40, a lot of work was required this day. A special offering was to be made on the first day of the year to purify the sanctuary of the temple or tabernacle. This hardly indicates a Sabbath. The appointed times of God are listed in Leviticus 23. Abib 1 is not among them. The covenant God made with Israel in Exodus 20-23 includes no hint that Abib 1 or any new moon, should be of special note. Even the account of the sacrifices required of Israel in numbers 28-29 does not make any special note of Abib 1. It does make special note of Tishri 1, Trumpets, (Num 29:1) as well as the new moons. Mention in Numbers 28-29, though, does not indicate a chag.]
So, we have some notable linguistic authorities with differences of opinion as to what Psalms 81:3 is saying. Translators are not completely certain whether 'keseh' is talking of a full moon, covered moon or just an occasion of note. The rest of scripture indicates the 'feasts' (chag) of the Creator include only the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and Tabernacles, occasions of great mirth. This scripture in English anyway, is not inherently clear, but must be interpreted or carefully sourced to support those who wish to use it. In any case it doesn't clearly qualify what constitutes a new moon.
Consider if you will, yet another possible meaning for this verse. 'Keseh' is not the only word in this verse that could vary. It was already mentioned that 'chodesh' can be either 'month' or 'new moon'. The context typically decides. The emphasis in the context if Psalms 81 is on the establishing of the 'chag' when Israel/Joseph came out of Egypt. This was, of course, in the first month. The historical record discusses the establishing of only one 'chag', (Ex 13:5-10) at this time.
Since the new moon and Trumpets are nowhere else designated a 'chag' this verse is not likely establishing them as such either. It is referencing history, not trying to rewrite it. On the other hand, if it were talking of a month, 'the' month, the first month of the year (Ex 12:2), at the full moon there was definitely a 'chag' established. The definite article is used to distinguish a particular month and the first month of the year does have a certain distinction. The verse would then be indicating, 'Blow the shofar in the (first) month, at the full moon, on our solemn Feast day.'
This would mark the memorial of the 'chag' of Unleavened Bread. It would fit the immediate text, including the somewhat parallel connection between the blowing of the shofar and the full moon, the general context of Psalms 81 and the record of history in the law. It would be saying little about the timing of a new moon.
Ex 23:16 "And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.". Some claim the 'end of the year' (going out of the year, Str. 3318) refers specifically to the autumnal equinox. An examination of multiple lexicons and the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament shed no light on this possibility. It appears to be conjecture.
A similar claim is sometimes registered with Exodus 34:22. "And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end." In this case 'end' is more literally translated 'circuit' or 'cycle' (Heb: tequwphah, Str 8622). The claim is that this indicates a change in the circuit of the sun and the year and therefore the equinox. This author can find no generally recognized linguistic evidence to support this either. However, 'tequwphah ' is equinox in modern Hebrew. This doesn't allow the meaning to be applied retroactively. In any case it isn't specific enough to indicate whether the Feast needs to be before during or after the marker of the equinox.
If either of these last two verses were intended as a marker to set the calendar it seems the determiner would be noted with clear emphasis. Hebrew speakers consistently used a form of redundancy to clarify and emphasize important points. Exodus 23:16 equates "the end of the year" with the harvest of the field, not the position of the great lights of the sky.
The circa 200AD/CE Jewish Tosefta tractate Sanhedrin 2.2 deals with the intercalation of months. It allows that the equinox may be a factor in setting the first month, Abib, but not the only factor. According to one Jewish sage it is a factor if the equinox occurs sixteen days or more after the Passover. An additional month will then be inserted. Other sages seem to have other opinions. In any case the traditions of the second century Jews did not recognize the equinox as the defining factor. The equinox could be before or after the Passover. The exact relationship of the fall equinox to Tabernacles/Sukkot was generally not considered a factor in intercalation, although one of the sages quoted disagreed. There is no indication how that relationship was considered.
Predicting the New Moon
"And David said to Jonathan, "Indeed tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat. But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening." (I Sam 20:5)
Here David seems to be completely confident of the future arrival of the new moon. Perhaps observation over his life span gave him a confident feel for the event. However, the moon is amazingly inconsistent in its course as observed from earth. The orbit of the moon around the earth is actually an ellipse. The closer it is to earth the less time it spends in conjunction hidden by the sun. Its proximity to earth is inconsistent with regard to any particular geographical area.
At Babylon (Latitude 32.5, about the same as Jerusalem) the time from the conjunction to the reappearance of the moon can vary from about 16.5 hours to about 42 hours (Calendars of Ancient Egypt, pg. 4). The entire time of invisibility would probably not be twice that. So, from the disappearance of the old moon until the appearance of the new moon could vary from 30 hours (1 day 6 hrs.) to 80 hours (3 days 8 hrs.). Yet, David was completely confident of the 'new moon' arriving the next evening/day. His confidence would seem to indicate a calculated calendar rather than one based on observation.
On the other hand, if this was the 30th day of the month and the new moon had not appeared the evening before and David had gotten word of this, it would be assumed that the next day would be the first, not the 31st. (There are never more than thirty days between new moons.) One could assume the king would be informed of the change or lack of change in the month, were that necessary. Samuel, with whom David had been lodging, (I Sam 19:18, 20:1) would likely have been involved in that. There seems to be no context here to support observation or distribution of the results of that observation. Neither is there a direct statement about a calculated calendar.
There is also the possibility that David and Jonathan were making their plans about sunset. By chance they could see the visible crescent. In that case they would have known Saul would have a special meal that evening.
As well, if they were tracking the disappeared moon, perhaps they noted it could not be seen that morning. In that case, that evening would have been the New Moon.
So again, there are multiple ways to interpret the information we are given here. The account is not specific.
It would have been easier to predict the disappearance of the moon than its reappearance based on observation. Observance of a disappeared moon would involve observation early in the morning. If one saw just a sliver of the old moon one morning, one could assume it would not be visible the next morning. A culture that used the moon to time important events would probably have a reasonable feel for what to expect. The reappearance would not be as predictable.
This was all subject to weather conditions. If the Creator expected Israel to use a calendar based on observation and expected them to rest on the first day of the month, He would need to control the weather to enable observation at the right time. Certainly at the occasion of the first day of the seventh month following a 29 day month, the sky would always have to be clear at the time of observation. There is no note of this phenomenon.
Practice in New Testament times
"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths" (Col 2:16). Without going into an analysis to clear up confusion about this verse, it seems apparent that someone in Colosse was interested in the observance of the new moon as instructed in the law. How could this be done, if the new moon was set based on observation in Jerusalem? Colosse is in the south west of Turkey. It is a little south east of Laodicea. There was no rapid means of communication. How could anyone in Colosse know when the new moon was visible in Jerusalem in time to observe the first day as a Sabbath, as would have been necessary on the Day of Trumpets (yome taruw`ah)?
The overwhelming evidence of history indicates that the leadership in Judea encouraged and expected local witnesses around Jerusalem to come forward when they saw the new moon. They are not looking for an empty sky where the moon was the day before, but a visible crescent. The Jews did make an effort to communicate the event throughout a wide-ranging area, but they were understandably limited. The Mishnah tractate Rosh Hashana (ToB 23a) mentions signal fires going from the Mount of Olives beyond Beth Baltin in Syria towards Pambeditha and Babylon, which were east of Syria. This is less than a third of the distance to Colosse. Colosse was nowhere near the hub of Jewish life that Babylon was. There is no indication signal fires went that distance.
Lunar months have either 29 or 30 days. Those that could be reached with signal fires always observed the new moon (the 1st) on the 30th day after the previous new moon. They assumed a 29-day month. If the new moon was seen in Jerusalem the evening after the 29th, the 30th day after the previous new moon would be officially declared the new moon (it became the first of the new month). Everyone had marked the right day. A signal fire would be set the next evening, the 2nd, as confirmation. If the new moon was not seen after the 29th, they would not light the bonfire on the next night, because it was the first i.e., the night after the 30th. The 30th would be considered part of the previous month. Everyone would need to recognize the 31st day (the first) as the new moon. In this case those dependent on the signal fires would observe two days.
Does the Creator expect His people to rest and gather on a particular day, hold them accountable, but not give them a way of knowing which day that is? It would appear that these fires were marking the new moon during the time of Jesus/Yeshua. It is odd He said nothing about this.
After the temple was destroyed the Sanhedrin and the president of that body, which proclaimed the new moons ended up in Yavneh, which is near Ashdod and Gaza along the south coast of Judea. The fires would have started from there. The Romans would have looked on any religious observance around Jerusalem with great suspicion. So, the reference above to the Mount of Olives is very likely talking of a time when the temple was still standing, before the destruction.
Two thousand years ago, accurately knowing the day of the Jerusalem new moon in Colosse based on a system of observation would be quite a trick. There was difficulty even around Jerusalem. The Mishnah records that on at least one occasion the witnesses who saw the new moon arrived late. (ToB, Rosh Hashana, 4:4a A, Pg. 390) The priests assumed the new moon had not arrived and did not perform some of the temple liturgy required for the new moon observance. The priests were very upset over this.
From one perspective, the Jews of New Testament times were almost as confused about the calendar as many are today. Many people kept two days, because they couldn't find out in time whether the new moon had been visible in Jerusalem. This was the case even in Alexandria, Egypt. (TLI Vol 12 Erubin 3:9 IV:I, Pg. 123)
Actually, it is odd that Jesus gave no direct instruction at all about the calculation of the calendar. There was disagreement among the Jews in His day, so He certainly had opportunity. In particular the Qumran community worked off an entirely different calendar than the Pharisees or Sadducees. The Qumran community, to which we attribute the Dead Sea Scrolls, is generally believed to be Essenes. One unique thing about their calendar is that the appointed times always fell on the same day of the week. This is obviously not the case with an observed calendar. They also evidently centered the end of the month on the disappeared moon, not the visible crescent.
Luke 22:7-14 describes some events leading up to the Passover before the crucifixion. The disciples were told to follow a man carrying a pitcher of water to a dwelling and there ask about a room. This is an odd turn of events. Carrying water was women's work in that culture. However, at least some of the Qumran community was celibate, so they had no women to do it for them. Apparently then, they carried their own water. They lived in a communal fashion and had a commune in Jerusalem, besides their commune in the Qumran area. More than likely the disciples were led to, and Jesus ate the Passover, in a facility controlled by some associated with this group. In any case the Essenes and the Qumran community would have been well known at that time in the religious community.
As it turns out the Qumran Passover always fell on a Tuesday afternoon/evening. (To those that hold to a full three-day and three-night entombment of Jesus this fits perfectly. In this scheme Jesus would have eaten with the disciples on Tuesday evening, been buried Wednesday evening and raised three days and three nights later, Saturday evening at the 'dawning' of the first day of the week.) The Essenes calendar was exactly 52 weeks long. They assured the annual Sabbaths fell on particular days of the week by inserting leap weeks rather than days or months. The start of Abib, the first month, would occur near a new moon conjunction, but could be three or more days before or after it too.
Jesus seems to be eating the Passover in Luke 22, yet the traditional Passover of the Pharisees and Sadducees would not be killed until the next day. The Passover of Luke 22 is not in accord with the Jews killing of the Passover. It is apparent that the Jews killed the Passover on the fourteenth day about 3pm (Lev 23:5, Num 9:5, Lev 23:32, Ex 12:18, Mishnah Pesahim 5,1, see also Josephus Antiquities 3.10.5,). This is when the priests would have been available to officiate as required. In order to actually have a Passover lamb at Jesus Last Supper, it would have been killed on the day the Sadducees considered the thirteenth just before evening.
Since the priests only recognized one day as appropriate to kill the Passover, they did not cooperate with other 'heretic' groups. The Essenes/Qumran ate a meatless Passover as apparently did Jesus this day. Whether or not Jesus was validating the Essenes is subject to question. He was killed at the same time the Jews were killing the Passover lambs. He said nothing about this to help us understand correct calendar calculation, not to mention the correct timing of the Passover.
Just for the record, the Essenes considered that they were eating the Passover the evening of the 14th too, just like the Sadducees and Pharisees. They were just using a different calendar.
The overwhelming evidence of history indicates the majority during Jesus time, accepted observation of the visible crescent to fix the first of the month. The Jew Philo of Alexandria was about 16 years older than Yeshua. Towards the end of section 140 of THE SPECIAL LAWS II he wrote:
"XXVI. Following the order which we have adopted, we proceed to speak of the third festival, that of the new moon. First of all, because it is the beginning of the month, and the beginning, whether of number or of time, is honourable. Secondly, because at this time there is nothing in the whole of heaven destitute of light. (141) Thirdly, because at that period the more powerful and important body gives a portion of necessary assistance to the less important and weaker body; for, at the time of the new moon, the sun begins to illuminate the moon with a light which is visible to the outward senses, and then she displays her own beauty to the beholders."
Earlier in section 140, Philo indicated that the new moon was at the conjunction. Here, he clearly indicates it is at the visible crescent. In naming the conjunction he is likely speaking in general terms. Here, just a few sentences later he is being specific. Ancient people did not follow the conjunction as we know it, because it was not a visible event. It is highly unlikely any ancient lunar calendar was based on an event that could not be seen.
Josephus doesn't explain exactly what a 'new moon' was. On the surface this would indicate it needed no explanation. It was figured the same way the Romans, to whom Josephus was writing, did it. The ancient Romans are generally understood to have used the visible crescent, although about 49BC they began using the Julian calendar, which calculated the months with no reference to the moon.
Should we expect Jesus to have clarified the calendar?
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." (Mat 5:17)
To the Jew of the first century, destroying the law meant to misinterpret the law as much as void it. In either case the law was not followed. In the same way, fulfilling the law was not only interpreting it correctly, but practicing it to the full intent. The rest of this chapter in Matthew has Jesus clarifying appropriate conduct according to the full and true intent of the law.
Knowing that there were differences of opinion as to how to determine the Creators appointed times, why did the Messiah not clarify this as well? It seems fundamental to this author that clarification of the law was one of the Prophets (Deu 18:15-19) most important functions. Jesus Christ was 'the Prophet'. Yet in spite of differing practices in His day He said nothing directly on the subject!
The only thing recorded for us that could be applied to the determination of the appointed times, is found in Matthew 23:1-3. "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 "Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do."
To a large degree the Creator holds the leadership responsible for the conduct of those whom they are supposed to be leading. Nehemiah warned the leaders of Israel that they were profaning the Sabbath because the common people and foreigners were profaning the Sabbath (Neh 13:15-19). Technically the leaders were doing nothing themselves to profane the Sabbath. The leaders were responsible to teach the people correctly. From that perspective they were more guilty than those that actually profaned the Sabbath. Yet Jesus did not clarify how to determine a new moon so we could keep His festivals when He does.
Even after the influence of those in Moses seat was diminished the Jews worldwide recognized the authority of the Nasi, the president of the Sanhedrin, a position originally held by the High Priest, to control issues of the calendar.
'The authority to declare ("sanctify") the New Moon, and thus to determine the dates of Holy days, was a highly important one in the religious and social life of the Jewish people... Consequently, whoever controlled this aspect of Jewish life possessed immeasurable influence over the nation as a whole. No wonder the Patriarchs fought hard to retain this authority, and to resist efforts in the Diaspora to have this function performed by "local option."' (The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age (JLTA), p 707)
'Take for example, control of the calendar. During the term in office of Gamaliel II it had led to a serious confrontation. In the end, even the Sanhedrin agreed that the primary authority in this field belonged to the Nasi.' (JLTA, p 707-8)
Because the Creator holds the leadership responsible doesn't relieve individuals today of responsibility. Questions about the calendar should be asked and the issues examined. Conclusions should be based on the instruction of the Creator. Many say scripture is their basis, but their interpretation is really based on secular history and/or personal interpretation. They not only chose their history carefully, they pick and interpret scripture to fit as well. They also assume it is their responsibility to figure the calendar for themselves.
There is no indication in scripture that the Apostles were given authority to proclaim the appointed times. They were sent to preach and heal (Mark 3:14-15, Luke 9:1-2, 10:1, 19, Mat 28:19-20) and teach what Jesus had given them. Since the Prophet/Messiah didn't act or speak to the calendar neither would the Apostles. The matter would by default, stand as instructed in the law. Initially Moses was to "proclaim" the appointed times. This was inseparable from the setting of their calendar. His authority was transferred to Aaron's sons and then to Israel's succeeding leadership, those who "sit in Moses' seat." We ought to obey God rather than men when there is a clear difference. Where we have no clear instruction, do we have a duty to decide for ourselves, in opposition to authority the Creator established and Messiah left standing?
"Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, 'We see.' Therefore your sin remains" (John 9:41). If we think we know and are wrong, we bear our guilt. If we understand we don't know, we can do our best and ask for help. Ignorance of a law is no excuse, but ignorance because there is no law is. "for where there is no law there is no transgression." (Rom 4:15b)
Part of the problem in this issue is the general understanding that the law was for everyone. In fact, it was specifically written for Israel in the Promised Land (Deu 11:31-12:1, 12:8-14). The Law of God is universal, but some things in the Law simply could not be followed by everyone. Traveling to the Festivals three times a year was one of those things. Anyone a great distance from Jerusalem would have spent his entire life traveling back and forth from Jerusalem. This is simply unworkable.
Any calendar based on observation from Jerusalem could not be transmitted to remote people in time for them to note the appointed times in complete accord with those in Moses seat. Some Jews in the Diaspora solved some of this by keeping two days, particularly in the case of the Day of Trumpets/Shoutings. This author finds it hard to believe that the Creator expected people to keep two days based on His instruction to keep one. Yet the evidence is strong for a calendar based on observation at Jerusalem during Jesus time. These two items are in opposition to one another.
The evidence is so strong that many reference books and historical sources state without qualification that the new moon was determined by the appearance of the visible crescent. Marking appointed times based on observation in Jerusalem simply would not have worked for many remote peoples. It could have only been done through a calculated calendar or local observation. Local observation is subject to the whims of the weather. It seems obvious to this author that the Creator wanted everyone to mark His appointed times. He undoubtedly had a system that supported them doing that. He chose not to make that system clear for us. Could it be that lack of clarification indicates an allowance for flexibility in implementation?
A calculated calendar would certainly work. The book of Jubilees contains a description of what could be a calculated calendar. The main flaw is that there is no indication of leap periods. With the addition of a few leap days it could work, but it is not tightly tied to the moon. Some think it is the basis for the Essenes calendar.
Some think that the Samaritans may have preserved the appropriate calendar even though they may not determine the first day of the year correctly. Perhaps this is so, but historians seem to think their calendar, or at least the astronomical calculation, is a relatively recent invention.
"The advent of Islam was a significant influence on the Samaritan's means of calculating astronomical phenomena. Before that time they may have used earlier traditions, Babylonian technology or their own observation. With the coming of Islam and the Arab development of astronomy, presumably, with the aid of Indian precedents, Samaritans adopted the new means of calculation." (Tradition Kept pg. 410)
The most prolific supporter of the Samaritan calendar as a guide recognizes its rather recent origins. "It is however, beyond dispute that their calendar is a post restoration and post OT canon structure." (The New Moons and the New Year (213) Christian Churches of God) They even suggest an earliest date. "We can thus deduce that the fixing of the Samaritan Calendar occurred sometime after the death of Ezra (ca. 321)." (Ibid.)
The Sin of Jeroboam
Some have speculated that the Feast of the eighth month that Jeroboam instituted may have actually been a change to the calendar pushing the seventh month later. The historical record in I Kings 12 does not seem to indicate this is the case.
There is no mention of a change in the other Feast days or appointed times. A shift to an entirely different calendar would undoubtedly cause other problems for neighbor states like Israel and Judah too. No mention of this seems to exist. Indeed, if we are dealing with a change in "God's Calendar", one would expect condemnation of this along with everything else. This would also have been an opportunity to record how to do it right. It wasn't done.
The Samaritan festivals, occasionally fell at the same time as the Jews observance in New Testament times. There is no indication of this with Jeroboam's feasts in the historical record of scripture.
Jesus Christ didn't condemn the Samaritans, the Essenes, or for that matter the authorities of Judah, whoever they happened to be. Each of these groups were using a different calendar, but the same dates for the Festivals. Scripture does condemn Jeroboam, who put His Feast in the eighth month. The big issue though with Jeroboam, does not seem to be the Feast in the eighth month, since it is mentioned only once in I Kings 12:32-33. The real problem was the calves he set up along with the alteration of worship that accompanied them. The feast of the eighth month played a bit part.
Whatever they tell you do
Does Messiah's instruction to respect the instruction of the Jewish leaders intend that we always do as they say? Peter obviously didn't see it that way. When he was told to discontinue preaching the Gospel of Christ, he didn't think about obeying for even an instant (Acts 5:29). His reasoning was clear. We obey God over men. Since the instruction in scripture doesn't tell us how to calculate the calendar, Jesus instruction might indicate the instruction of the Jewish authorities should be seriously considered. For anyone outside the Holy Land the instruction of the Jewish religious authorities would not carry quite as much weight.
For the most part the Jewish authorities are not saying to keep the appointed times on different dates than the Creator. They are just tinkering with the basis for figuring when those dates fall. There is no record in scripture that specifically defines when the dates fall. It seems apparent the Creator left it to humans, specifically the leadership in Israel, to decide. Yeshua didn't change that even though there was already disagreement in His day. Why should we even make an educated guess at this matter that He avoided?
In the case of Pentecost, there is reason to think the Jewish authorities have misunderstood the intention of the Creator. We are told to count to Pentecost from the day after the Sabbath. This is understood to be the day after the weekly Sabbath, (basically Sunday) that falls during the days of Unleavened Bread. This was also the day of the wave sheaf offering. No new grain could be harvested until after the wave sheaf offering. Jewish authorities presently figure this beginning with the first annual Sabbath during the days of Unleavened Bread. Since the Jewish calendar now assigns fixed lengths to the months following Unleavened Bread, Pentecost always falls on Sivan 6, so no calculation is necessary. Something is obviously wrong.
Scripture records that Israel ate of the new grain, probably barley, the next day after the Passover was killed. (Josh 5:11). This would have been the day of the first annual Sabbath of Unleavened Bread. This is not allowed according to current Jewish custom. It is also fairly well known that the Boethusian Sadducees kept Pentecost (Shavuot) on a Sunday. Since we have a witness in scripture from a time we can be fairly certain Israel was being led by God and we have a witness from history, it seems we have reason to obey God rather than men.
We can accept the Jewish authorities concerning the calendar because there is no witness in scripture. This doesn't mean we are logically bound to accept their authority in opposition to the witness in scripture.
The Jewish Calendar today
The Jewish calendar in use today by which the holy days are determined for Judaism was not in general use until roughly 358 CE/AD. Even after that time it apparently underwent change. Among other things, postponements were included in that calendar that prevented the holy days of the seventh month from occurring on a Friday or Sunday. Even the Mishnah, written about 200 CE/AD witnesses to these holy days occasionally falling on either Friday or Sunday. In order to prevent two Sabbaths in a row, this calendar will occasionally set the first of the month as far as two days after the actual day it calculates to be the new moon.
So while the moon is somewhat involved in the determination of the month it is mingled with other factors for which there is no direct authority. Is this bad or is there some justification?
The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age (JLTA) by Gedaliah Alon records the reasoning behind one change.
"The purpose of the added day was to keep Yom Kippur from falling on a Friday (or a Sunday). If it had so fallen, the Jews would have been confronted with two consecutive "full Sabbaths" - that is, non-cooking days. In the Land of Israel that would have been manageable, by preparing a meal of raw vegetables. But in the much greater heat of Mesopotamia, even raw vegetables would not keep for two days. Hence the postponement of Yom Kippur by one day was a great boon to Babylonian Jewry." (P246)
Perhaps we should ask whose responsibility is it to decide? The law seems to default on the issue, leaving the responsibility to those who inherited Moses function, those who sit in Moses seat. (Lev 23:2,4, 37) Messiah had the authority to reassign that authority (Deu 18:15-19). He did not do so in the record we have received.
One might think that Colossians 2:16-17 indicates that the congregation, the body of Christ, does have that authority. The Greek word typically translated 'respect' in these verses is 'meros'. It actually indicates 'a part' or a particular aspect of something. The choice of 'respect' is a very bad choice for this word. These verses are saying the Colossians should not let anyone judge them in eating or drinking or any part of a Holy Day, new moon or Sabbath, but the body of Christ ('is' erroneously assumed in most translations). Specifically this is talking of conduct involved in celebrating the day, not the timing of the day itself. However, Paul clearly puts the body of Christ, the congregation, in a position deciding questions surrounding conduct on Holy Days. If some decide to celebrate a festival on different days it seems the congregation is more or less forced into examining and deciding a resolution. The body of Christ should be unified on such things.
Who then is the body of Christ? If some group doesn’t see the calendar exactly the way we do even though we agree on almost everything else is this group no longer the body of Christ? Messiah saw the Laodicean congregation as being "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev 3:17d), yet He still considered them His body. If we were responsible only to Messiah in these matters it seems Paul would have stated that rather than indicating that we should defer to the "body of Christ".
It is apparent, the generally accepted Jewish calendar does not proclaim the appointed times according to the same rules that Moses proclaimed them. Both the calendars of Egypt had flaws that later needed to be corrected. The Qumran calendar could be made to work worldwide, but Messiah didn't endorse it over that being used by the Sadducees who officiated at the temple. Jesus didn't condemn the Sadducees proclamations, but neither did He directly endorse them over alternatives. It is not clear that the Sadducees used the same rules that Moses used.
When Israel came back from the Babylonian captivity they kept their calendar using the names of the Babylonian months. Is that the only change they made from the calendar in use before the captivity? Was the calendar before the captivity based on the original Egyptian calendar or had it been changed through the influence of their neighbors in the Promised Land? Answers are not easy to find. We should ask, "Does it matter?"
Jesus obviously participated in the festivals at Jerusalem (John 2:13, 7:8-10, Luke 2:41-42). The calendar in use was evidently acceptable whether or not it had already undergone changes. Nevertheless documented changes would reinforce that God is not rigid in this matter. Exodus 12:1-2 would indicate the calendar of the Egyptians was satisfactory except for the setting of the first month.
Some rely on the record of the Samaritans. They arrived in Israel after the northern ten tribes were removed from the Promised Land. Ultimately they tried to learn the religion of the northern ten tribes of Israel.
Jeroboam set up his own priests once he began to fear that the northern tribes might return allegiance to Judah. Did these new priests understand the procedure for proclaiming the appointed times? Based on the sad record of II Kings 17:15-23, they had little respect for the faith once delivered. God rejected them and sent them into captivity.
Others from the Assyrian empire were brought in to replace Israel. They became known as Samaritans. They brought one of Israel's priests back from captivity to teach them the ways of Israel, not necessarily the ways of the Creator. We must applaud their intent, but they made some bad assumptions. Scripture isn't very complimentary of them. (II Kings 17:24-34) As it turns out they did establish a Levite as their high priest after Judah returned from captivity. Did he proclaim according to the calendar used in Jerusalem before the captivity, after the captivity or perpetuate the feast in the eighth month since their calendar sometimes places the beginning of the year later? History is not perfectly clear.
Messiah did spend some time with the Samaritans (John 4:40). We hear nothing about the need to change how they calculated the first month. At least some Samaritans recognized Yeshua as Messiah. This must have shaken a number of fundamental Samaritan beliefs. We are told almost nothing of what He taught the men of the town. A golden opportunity missed.
Virtually all of the groups that have endeavored to publish a calendar different from the generally accepted Jewish (Hillel) calendar claim to be drawing their justification from scripture. However, under close scrutiny we find that their justification really comes from the historical evidence they emphasize, not scripture. Perhaps they quote scripture and interpret it such that it seems to fit their quoted history, but their scripture is vague at best without their history.
One extensive study indicates that: "The New Moon was definitely holy time, and was celebrated on the day of the determination of the New Moon by conjunction. This was calculated in advance." Unfortunately, no scriptures are quoted to indicate how to know when the new moon fell. The authority comes from "The original system was by calculation according to the conjunction and the Sadducees and the Samaritans both did the same thing." (God's Calendar (No. 156))
Actually, no source is given for this assertion. It may be true, but the author seems to assume there were never any changes in those calculations. Of course, just because they calculated doesn't mean they calculated the exact conjunction, or that throughout their history they always calculated the conjunction.
This same author includes quotes about the Essene/Qumran calendar that "calculates for the day on which the month ends". The implication is presumed to be the conjunction is being calculated. However, a better case could be made for calculating the disappearance of the moon. The 'end' of the light of the sun indicates the end of the day. The 'end' of the light of the moon would indicate the end of the month. It seems self evident that the signs of the heavens, at least originally, were observable events. The lights would turn on and off. That difference would be the sign, not some theoretical event that occurred sometime in the middle of the darkness. So theoretically, the last day of the month would be the last day the old moon could have been 'on', before it began to be renewed. Calculation rather than observation might have fixed this event. That is apparently how it was done in ancient Egypt. Because of its nature, the Qumran calendar could have easily been off by two or three days from whatever lunar event they considered the real 'new moon'.
The title of this section is "More Scriptures". However, there are really no other scriptures that tell us how to calculate "God's calendar". Additional information must come from deduction or history. Deduction can be very subjective, thus vary based on who's doing it. If God holds each and every believer responsible for deciding when His appointed times are to be observed He would have told us how to calculate the calendar He expected us to use. His law does not include instruction on how to calculate "His calendar". It is evident then He intended Moses to use his calendar. The law of Moses clarified this matter by designating Moses and then his successors as responsible for proclaiming the appropriate times. Messiah did not change that.
International Date Line
There are some who believe the Sabbath starts in Jerusalem. It is generally understood that the Garden of Eden was located in the area around Jerusalem. The International Date Line should, some believe, then be located there. Because the Creator along with Adam and Eve may have watched the sun go down from that location does not sanctify that location as the start of the Sabbath. The Jews who returned from Babylon made no mention of correcting their calendars for the International Date Line. The need for the Date Line was not really understood until the mid 16th century. The location did not begin to be precisely settled until the mid 19th century.
Certainly, it is of concern that on occasion the line has been adjusted. In the process the timing of the Sabbath is thrown out of its regular cycle for any people moved across the date line. This is really no different than what happens every time someone flies over the line. They typically adjust their observance according to the timing of those around them. This is typically why the Date Line has been changed on the infrequent occasions it has. It has changed because the people involved have their main interaction with others living in a different day. It is tiresome and confusing having to deal with this.
It seems apparent that the problems of a Jerusalem date line would certainly be worse than the present international standard. Instead of covering vast stretches of uninhabited ocean, it would pass over vast stretches of inhabited land with constantly changing politics and the resulting shifting of influences. It seems apparent with the larger nearby population, there would be significantly more travel back and forth causing significantly more people the need to adjust their day.
Looking at a globe it appears that the layout of the land masses and the oceans beg the International Date Line be located where it is. Why would we assume the Creator had no hand in providing this vast isolated and sparsely inhabited area for exactly this purpose?
Is the Hillel Calendar 'right'?
Even though Messiah didn't give anyone else authority to set the calendar, neither did He affirm that it was being done correctly by any particular group in His time. Perhaps they were all flawed. It is also possible that it is allowed that the calendar might be different in different parts of the world. Weather would affect an observed calendar. Primitive calculations would affect a calculated calendar. So why would our Creator be absolutely rigid in Israel?
Perhaps He didn't want to be responsible for people feeling they needed to sanctify two days when only one was requested. The law was written especially for Israel in the Promised Land (Deu 11:31-12:1, 12:8-14, Num 35:10-11, Num 33:51-53). As such it doesn't carry the same weight outside the Promised Land. Certainly, it is to be highly respected, but some requirements are simply unreasonable and unworkable outside a small geographic area when only primitive methods of travel and communication are available.
The calendar Israel used when they came out of Egypt was most likely an Egyptian lunar calendar. God saw fit to set Abib as the first month as opposed to the first month according to the Egyptians, which began in late July. The Egyptians started their day with sunrise (The Calendars of Ancient Egypt para. 32, pg.10). The Creator didn't see it that way (Gen 1:5, Lev 23:32, etc.). It seems apparent that Israel used the new moon to determine the months, but scripture doesn't say and we really don't know if that was a calculated new moon or an observable new moon, whether it was when the moon turned off or turned on. History might indicate one or the other. In any case, history was made by those in Moses seat.
This document has not bothered to deal with the determination of the first day of Abib, the first month. Certainly one could presume that the condition of ripening barley would have something to do with setting this month. A sheaf, presumably of barley, was to be waved and offered during the days of Unleavened Bread. We assume from scripture that this sheaf needed to be mostly ripe. However, since there is no temple or priest to do the first sheaf offering, this is not critical now. This offering foreshadowed the resurrected and accepted Messiah. Like the Passover, this event has been fulfilled. There is apparently no shadow pointing to a future event. Beyond the need for harvestable barley, there is no scriptural instruction on how to set the first month.
History contains a wealth of information. We can choose to highlight whatever bits of history seem to support what we think most likely. Certainly we should be diligent to try to understand what God intended we do. We should also recognize that if He doesn't speak on a matter in fact or principle, it is not critical to Him. Other things are important. We should focus on those things.
Living together in peace and harmony is one of those important things. Arguing from clouded history about those things that did not evoke any comment from the Messiah only brings division and contention.
Jesus Christ was the prophet that had the authority to override or clarify the law (Deu 18:15-19). Those who claimed to speak for God when they did not were liable for death (vs 20). The only instruction He left that this author sees as possibly bearing on this subject is, "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 "Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do." (