The following "dialog" presents a challenge to the assumptions and misrepresentations and theories being promoted by most of the many splinter groups formerly associated with the Worldwide Church of God, concerning their teachings about which days are the Biblical Feast Days that Elohim (God) commanded that we celebrate.
(All of the black text below is original text from the Living Church of God’s literature. The color-highlighted text below (also original text) indicates the comments that Jennifer refutes in the inserted color corresponding bold text that follows immediately, or shortly after, the highlighted text in question.)
"Does God expect individual Christians to determine His calendar for themselves? Many self-appointed calendar experts each claim that their calendar is the right one. Did God intend the calendar to be proclaimed by an authoritative body—or is it "every man for himself?" Increasingly, we see people simply doing what is right in their own eyes. Is God the author of such spiritual anarchy? To whom did God give responsibility for the calendar?
"God told Moses: "The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts" (Leviticus 23:2). But who was to do the proclaiming, and what does this mean?
"The Hebrew term for convocation is miqra, which refers to an officially called or designated assembly. In Numbers 10:2, Moses was told that two silver trumpets were to be made and one of their major purposes was "for the calling [Hebrew miqra] of the congregation." Who was to use those trumpets? Verse 8 explains: "The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; and these shall be to you as an ordinance forever throughout your generations." Verse 10 explains that "in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months..." the priests were to sound the silver trumpets.
The noun miqra is derived from the verb qara, the verb rendered "proclaim" in Leviticus 23:2 and 23:4. What exactly does it mean? It is the same word used in Genesis 1 where God "called" the light Day and "called" the darkness Night (Genesis 1:5), where He "called" the firmament Heaven (1:8), "called" the dry land Earth and "called" the gathered waters the Seas (1:10).
Later, we learn that God brought before Adam the animals He had created to see what he would call them. "And whatever Adam called [qara] each living creature, that was its name" (Genesis 2:19). So we see that qara means "to call"—to name or to designate. In Genesis 1 it was God, and in Genesis 2 it was Adam, who did the naming or designating.
How does this relate to the holy days? In Leviticus 23, we learned that a certain group, ("you," plural) was responsible for naming or designating the days on which the congregation was to assemble before God. Numbers 10 explains that this refers to the priesthood, and shows the means God gave them to announce the designation of new moons and festival days. It was not an individual matter for each Israelite to arrive at by himself; rather it was a collective matter to be proclaimed by an authoritative body.
The direct context of Leviticus 23 shows that "the feasts of the LORD, which YOU shall proclaim to be holy convocations" is what Moses was to be reiterating to the children of Israel. Moses was supposed to be speaking those words to the children of Israel, so the THEM was the children of Israel. That doesn’t mean there can’t or shouldn’t be a centralized authority making a final call and keeping everyone on the same page, but it does mean that EVERYONE has a certain level of responsibility in making sure that the days they call and observe as God’s Holy time really are the times that has appointed (rather than the times appointed by any man). Just as we read in 1 Thess 5:21, God gives us ALL the responsibility to "Test all things; hold fast what is good". As 1 Cor 11:1 reminds us, we’re only to follow a man as he follows Christ. Also note that Leviticus 23 does NOT give ANYONE the authority to MAKE A DAY HOLY. Only God can make a day holy. GOD gives us specific days upon which His Holy Days fall. NO MAN has the authority to MAKE A DAY God’s Holy Day. Rather, man does have the responsibility to watch the signs that God gives us in order to determine which day it is that GOD HAS CHOSEN. Then we’re to proclaim that day to be God’s Holy Day and keep it as such. Please note that Numbers 10 commands the priests that because it is a feast day they are to blow the trumpets...NOT because they blow the trumpets, they are somehow causing that day to become God’s Holy Day. If the priests are failing to properly watch the signs that God gives us and are blowing the trumpets at the incorrect times, they are disobeying God. We aren’t to follow man in disobedience to God. We must prove all things and only follow that which is good.
But there is more! Most read right over the implications of who was to name, or designate, the days that would be considered God’s appointed festivals. The priesthood was given the right to name, or designate, those days—in the same way that God gave Adam the authority to name, or designate, the animals He had created. God gave the priesthood guidelines and principles by which they were to designate those days, but He did not spell out every single detail. He gave them the principles with which they had to make judgments!
No, actually God DID spell out the details. God tells us specifically that we start counting for His Holy Days from the new moons (not from estimates or averages) and He gives us the specific days within the specific months upon which His Holy Days fall. The command to proclaim stipulates that they are to be proclaimed in THEIR appointed times. So, when the day comes along that GOD HAS ALREADY APPOINTED, that’s the day we’re to call Holy and keep Holy. That’s not to say that there will never be times of uncertainty as to which day God has chosen (too cloudy to see, etc) or that there never needs to be a judgment call made. Any judgment call made, however, must be in accordance with the specific instructions that God gives us in the Bible. We need to prayerfully seek God’s guidance and do our very best to keep God’s Holy Days on the days HE has chosen. A ministry who decides to NOT watch the signs that God gives us and to simply follow the Jews in a calendar system that DOESN’T CARE if the month really even starts on the new moon or not, and which the Jews OPENLY ADMIT wasn’t in place until the 4th century, is a ministry who is NOT EVEN TRYING to follow the Biblical guidelines that God has given. We must only follow man as he follows Christ.
It is important to notice the difference between the weekly Sabbath that God gave to humanity, and the annual festivals that He gave to the Church. God did not tell the priesthood that they were responsible to name or designate the weekly Sabbath. God Himself had proclaimed the weekly Sabbath at the end of creation week. humanity was simply told to "remember" and keep holy the time that God Himself had previously designated. The annual festivals were different, as Leviticus 23:2 and 23:4 show. While each individual could simply remember to observe as holy the seventh day of every week, this was not possible with the annual festivals. Their exact timing would vary somewhat from year to year, regulated by the principles that God gave Moses in Leviticus 23 and elsewhere. So we see that while the weekly Sabbath is to be remembered by each of us as individuals, the annual festivals are to be named or designated on the calendar each year by an authoritative body. They were never intended to be an individual matter!
That’s a very frightening statement to say that God Himself proclaimed the weekly Sabbath, but didn’t do the same with the Holy Days. God gives SPECIFIC DAYS upon which His Holy Days fall. How is that Him not determining the days Himself? He DID NOT give it to any man to MAKE A DAY HOLY! Only God can make a day holy. Also in reference to the previous statement about the word "proclaim". Note that in Genesis 1:3, God created the light. Then in verse 5 He gave the light a name (He "proclaimed" it Day). Also notice that in Genesis 1 God created all of the animals. Then in Genesis 2 Adam gave them names (that "proclaim" word again). By the time the "proclaiming" was done, the thing which was being proclaimed had already been created. The proclaiming does not give the object being proclaimed any of its characteristics. Adam calling an animal a "giraffe" in no way means that it was Adam who made the giraffe have a long neck and legs and eat the leaves of trees. The giraffe was already created. Adam just put a name to it. Likewise with the Holy Days, GOD makes a day Holy. It’s then our responsibility to determine which day it is that God has ALREADY MADE HOLY and put the name to the day. There’s that extra step of proclaiming because it’s not quite as simple as counting to 7 as with the weekly Sabbath. However, that doesn’t mean in any way that it’s not God deciding when His Holy Days occur or that God is allowing any man to MAKE a day Holy.
If each of us seeks to determine our own calendar, we will end up celebrating the festivals on a variety of days. Yet God isn’t the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) nor is He the source of the spiritual anarchy that many so effectively promote today. Paul told the brethren in Colosse that they were not to let any man judge them in matters pertaining to holydays, new moons, or Sabbaths, but rather "the body of Christ"—the Church (Colossians 2:16-17, KJV). The Church has again and again concluded that the current Hebrew calendar, preserved in the Jewish community, is authoritative for Christians today.
Yes, each of us determining our own calendar could potentially lead to much confusion. Therefore, having a centralized authority makes a lot of sense. However, that doesn’t excuse us from proving all things and making sure that the centralized authority is correctly following God’s instructions! Also, please note that the "body of Christ" is the WHOLE church...not just the church leadership. We should all be able to prove the truth in this matter as with any other and make sure what we’re following is correct.
We know from the New Testament that Jesus Christ observed the holy days and festivals commanded in Leviticus 23. Did He do so based upon a calculated calendar such as we use today—one that included the so-called "postponement" rules—or did He use a calendar based solely upon physical sighting of the new crescent? One thing is for sure: Jesus Christ did it correctly! If we know what He did, then all we have to do is to follow His example. But is it possible to know what He did? Absolutely!
The place to go to find the kind of calendar which was authoritatively proclaimed during Jesus’ human life-time isn’t the Talmud and later rabbinical writings. These documents were written well after the fact, and record history with a Pharisaic bias. Since the Pharisees dominated the Jewish community after the fall of the temple, their traditions came to be considered normative Judaism. The rabbis who compiled the Talmud were their successors, and often sought to read later traditions back into earlier history.
Interestingly, many who claim to reject the Hebrew calendar because they consider it a tradition of the Pharisees have used the Talmud as their source of calendar information and definitions—rather than simply using the Bible itself! While later rabbis tried to harmonize the traditions of an observed calendar (favored by the Pharisees) with the principles of a calculated calendar (preserved by the Sadducee priesthood), the two aren’t really compatible. Much of the Talmud’s tortured logic relating to the calendar comes from its attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable.However, we’re not dependent on the record of the Talmud, or Josephus for that matter, to know what calendar Christ used. We have the authoritative record of the New Testament itself!
Come on, get the story straight. First we’re told the Bible doesn’t give us enough information about the calendar and we have to look to the Jews and then we’re told that the Jews don’t even know enough about their own history to tell us how the calendar has been handled throughout the ages and the Bible really does give us the information we need after all? Of course, it DOES give us all the information we need, but contradicting yourself doesn’t help your argument.
From the biblical record, we’re able to match three festivals during Christ’s ministry with the days of the week on which they fell. As we will see, these three festival dates are compatible only with one calendar model—the calendar used by Jesus Christ thus stands revealed by the New Testament!
The year of Christ’s crucifixion, and therefore of His final Passover, can be established clearly by correlating the prophecy in Daniel 9 with the historical occurrence described in Ezra 7. Daniel explained that there would be a time period of 70 prophetic "weeks"—i.e., 490 prophetic "days." We are told that 69 of these "weeks" (i.e., 483 years) would run from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the appearance of the Messiah. Ezra 7 records the decree of King Artaxerxes that begins the count of the prophetic "weeks."
Secular history makes plain that the Artaxerxes’ seventh year occurred in 458-457BC. The only question is whether or not the author of Ezra-Nehemiah (one book in the Hebrew scriptures) was figuring the years of Artaxerxes’ reign by counting from fall to fall or spring to spring. A careful comparison of Nehemiah 1:1 and 2:1 shows that a fall-to-fall reckoning was used. Nehemiah refers to an event in the month Kislev (December) of the 20th year of Artaxerxes, followed later by an event in the month Nisan (April) in the 20th year of Artaxerxes. The only way that both of these events could have occurred in the king’s 20th year would be if the author was figuring the years of the king’s reign from fall to fall.
This means that when Ezra 7 says that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem with the decree in the late summer (fifth month) during the seventh year of Artaxerxes, this must refer to 457BC. If we come forward 483 years, this brings us to just before the fall festival season of 27AD. This would be when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and began His three-and-a-half-year ministry—He began in the fall of 27AD and was crucified in the spring of 31AD.
This reference in Ezra gives us a benchmark. We also know from the biblical record, apart from these calendar questions, that Jesus Christ was crucified on a Wednesday and resurrected three days and three nights later, at the end of the weekly Sabbath. This means that the Passover of 31AD, the scripturally established time of His crucifixion, had to occur on a Wednesday. Additionally, we will see that the day of the week is made plain for two other festival dates. One is the Last Great Day of 30AD, which occurred on a weekly Sabbath. And Scripture shows that the second holy day of Unleavened Bread in 29AD fell on a weekly Sabbath. Now examine how we date these two festivals.
John 7-13 recounts the events of the fall festival period preceding Jesus’ final Passover. A careful reading also shows that most of the events of John 8-10 happened on the Last Great Day. Jesus’ words in the temple during the evening of this day are recorded in John 7:37-39. At verse 53, Jesus and His Disciples went to the Mount of Olives for the night, returning to the temple early the next morning—the daylight portion of the Last Great Day (John 8:1-2).
If we simply read on through the next chapters, we find that the woman taken in adultery and the healing of the blind man both occurred on that same day. From John 9 we already knew that the blind man was healed on an annual Sabbath; John 9:14, using the definite article with its Sabbath reference, states plainly that it was also a weekly Sabbath, which is why such an issue was made of the healing.
Assumption alert! While John 7:37-39 clearly indicates that Jesus’ words here at the temple were given on the Last Great Day, it does NOT indicate what part of the day it occurred on. Why would one assume that it happened in the evening at the beginning of the Last Great Day? Assumption: The NEXT DAY must still have been the Holy Day because they went again to the temple. Well, for starters, if the NEXT DAY they went to the temple, perhaps the Last Great Day was on a Friday (prohibited by the current Jewish calendar system, but not by an observation based system) so the NEXT DAY would have been the weekly Sabbath. It’s also very likely that the events of chapter 8 did NOT directly follow the events in chapter 7. Take a look, for example, at the subtle transition between two stories in chapter 10. In verse 21, we’re still discussing Jesus having healed the blind man. Then in verse 22, with a simple "And" (strongs 1161), we then transition into a new story which takes place in the winter at the feast of dedication (Hanukkah). Going back to chapter 7, in verse 52 the men are discussing the words that Jesus spoke on the Last Great Day and then verse 53 everyone went into their houses. What does it matter to us that they all went into their houses? It doesn’t. It’s simply a way of closing out the story. Jesus spoke. The men discussed it. Then they all went home. End of story. Chapter 8 - And (which happens to be the same 1161 used in 10:22) the next story is...Jesus went to the Mount of Olives then came down to the temple to teach. Note that it never says this is the "Next" morning (some translations do add in the word "next", however it’s not there in the Greek). Just "in the morning" (i.e., in the morning on the day the story is taking place). NOT in the morning on the day after the previous story took place. Then, as we read on, on that day the men brought to Jesus the woman caught in adultery and Jesus healed the blind man. This day, we’re told in verse 14, was a Sabbath day. If we were still in the context of the previous story and we were still to be understanding it to be the Last Great Day, there would be little significance to mention that this was a weekly Sabbath because the Jews would have believed Him in the wrong to heal on an annual Holy Day as well. The mentioning of this day being the Sabbath day with no further suggestion about it still also being the Holy Day makes it all the more likely that this story is separate from, and NOT directly following the previous story. Then, as already discussed, the next story brings us all the way into the winter. Just because a story is told right after another does NOT mean that it occurred immediately after the preceding story. We cannot, therefore, base any argument upon such an assumption.
John gives us the basis for reconstructing the chronology of Christ’s ministry, noting Jesus’ words and actions on several specific festival occasions. We have already seen that John the Baptist baptized Christ in the fall of 27AD, just when Daniel’s prophecy showed the Messiah should appear. Six months later, at the Passover season of 28AD, He suddenly came to the temple and began His public ministry (John 2). When we carefully read John 6-13, we see that this is a continuous sequence of the last year in Jesus’ life, from the Passover of 30AD to the Passover of 31AD. Therefore, the only Passover not commented on in John’s gospel is that of 29AD—and the events of that year’s festival season are adequately covered in the other three Gospel accounts.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the Disciples plucking ears of grain to eat as they walked with Jesus through the grain fields. The placement of this incident—in Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-4—shows that this occurred early in His ministry, not during the Passover the year before His crucifixion. This only leaves the Passover season of 29AD.
How do we know that this incident occurred at the Passover season? Luke 6:1 makes this clear by describing that it happened "on the second Sabbath after the first." What does that mean? The Greek phrase used is en sabbato deuteroproto, which literally means "the second Sabbath of first rank." This expression can only refer to the seventh day of Unleavened Bread, the second Sabbath of first rank occurring in the year.
The rest of the story-contained in the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke—shows that this was also a weekly Sabbath. All three writers link the event in the grain fields with a later incident described as "another Sabbath" (Luke 6:6) when Jesus healed the man with the withered hand. This phrase, taken together with the points made in Mark 2:27-28—that the Sabbath was made for man and that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath—emphasizes that this was a weekly Sabbath day. Luke is the only writer who adds the detail that this took place on the second holy day of Unleavened Bread.
Do these facts provide evidence for the kind of calendar that Jesus recognized in His lifetime? Using today’s calculated Hebrew calendar, notice what the dates of these events in Christ’s ministry would be. Remember that today, leap years are years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19 of a 19 year cycle instead of the earlier 2, 5, 7, 10, 13, 16 and 18. How do the dates from the calculated calendar compare to what would have been obtained by sightings of the new crescent moon?
Aha! So you’ll admit that the calendar system has changed at least once! The fixed cycle of when to add the 13th month has changed since first put in place by Hillel in the 4th century.
In 29AD, the last day of Unleavened Bread would have occurred on Sabbath, April 23, according to our traditionally calculated Hebrew calendar. This date results from applying one of the postponement rules, since the molad (or new moon) of Tishri that year occurred after noon and the reckoning of Tishri 1 would therefore have been postponed to the next day. This is the only way that the last holy day of Unleavened Bread could have come on a weekly Sabbath in 29AD. By contrast, using computer-generated models to determine the timing based upon the observable new moon in Judea, physical sighting would have caused the last holy day of Unleavened Bread to fall on Sunday, April 24 in 29AD.
It’s important to note that a calendar based on visual observation is also not limited by a fixed cycle of when to add in the 13th month. Historically, this would have been determined by physically examining the barley crops to make sure the crops were "abib" and would be available for the wave sheaf offering. The fixed Jewish calendar would have had a 13th month added at the end of the previous year. However, by examining the crops in order to determine when to have a 13th month, the year very likely could have begun with the previous new moon. The invisible conjunction for that month occurred at midnight on March 4th. It usually takes at least 18 hours after the invisible conjunction before the new crescent becomes visible. 18 hrs from midnight on the 4th puts us to 6pm on the 4th. Since that would have been around the time of sunset in Israel, that makes it possible that the new moon could have been seen by that sunset (thus the 1st of the month being March 5th), however, it’s also very likely that it wouldn’t yet have been visible at that point and the month, therefore, would have started on March 6th. Counting March 6th as the 1st day of God’s month, that makes the 21st of God’s month (Last Day of Unleavened Bread) fall on SATURDAY, March 26. Therefore, a Saturday Last Day of Unleavened Bread would indeed have been very possible using a calendar based on physical sighting.
As for the Last Great Day in 30AD, calculations based on the traditional Hebrew calendar show that it would have occurred on Sabbath, October 7. No postponement rules would have been involved. But, significantly, the Last Great Day would have occurred on the weekly Sabbath if and only if the calendar were based upon the calculated molad (the mean conjunction), not the visible sighting of the new crescent. This is made clear by examining the computer model for the observable new moon in 30AD. The first visible crescent could have been seen from Jerusalem no earlier than Sunday night, September 17, thus making Trumpets Monday, September 18 and the Last Great Day Monday, October 9 by that reckoning.
As already noted, there’s no certainty in scripture that the Last Great Day in question occurred on the Sabbath, so this argument has nothing to stand on.
In 31AD, the calculated date for Nisan 1, according to the traditional Hebrew calendar, was Thursday, April 12. This would have occurred only if the postponement rule that did not allow the Feast of Trumpets to come on a Friday had been in effect. The calculated molad of Tishri came on a Friday in 31AD, and only by having postponed Tishri 1 to a Sabbath would Passover in 31AD have come on a Wednesday. It is true that the observable new moon of Nisan would have also been seen on Thursday, April 12, thus coinciding with the calculated date for Nisan 1.However, we have just seen that the dates of the other holy days mentioned during Christ’s ministry only coincide with the proper day of the week when they are figured based upon a calculated molad rather than an observable crescent. As we saw earlier, the biblical calendar guidelines require calculation rather than physical sighting.
Thanks for covering that one for me. J
No, I’m afraid not. Of the 3 dates given, we’ve seen that 2 would have also matched up using visual observation and the other was based on an incorrect assumption.
There is one additional point regarding the timing of Passover in 31AD. Passover would have come on April 25 only if 31AD were counted as an intercalary year. Otherwise, the Passover would have fallen a month earlier—on Monday, March 26! Unless the priests were following a fixed cycle of intercalary years, there would have been no reason to observe Passover in April rather than in March of that year! The equinox was March 23 at that time, and there would have certainly been some ripe grain for the priests to offer on the day of the Wavesheaf—March 28 by Pharisee reckoning and Sunday, April 1 by Sadducee reckoning.
"there would have certainly been some ripe grain"...another assumption. Was Mr. Ogwyn there to look at the grain? Take 2008 for example...the Karaite Jews in Jerusalem use visual observation of the New Moon & barley and according to their observation the day of the wavesheaf in 2008 was April 27, although the equinox was on March 20. It’s certainly possible that using visual observation the Passover in 31 would have occurred on April 25. An interesting side note...as I’m studying these articles I’m also praying to God that He show me the truth about the various points. When I got to this one I thought it was going to be a bit of work to go through the past records of visual observation and see if I could find an example that would relate. However, it just so happens that I’m doing this study in 2008 and 2008 just so happens to be a perfect example! God answered my prayer on this one before I even asked it! God is so awesome! Also note that (as Mr. Ogwyn already mentioned) the leap year cycle used by the Jews has changed. Using the cycle that’s in place today, the current Jewish calendar would have placed Passover in 31 a month earlier...on Monday, March 26! Therefore making the current system guilty of the same accusation that this article incorrectly assumes visual observation would have done.
The timing of three festivals during Christ’s ministry is clearly shown in the New Testament. The Passover of 31AD would have occurred on a Wednesday only if there were a fixed calendar cycle making 31AD an intercalary year. A calculated calendar would have required Tishri 1 to be postponed from Friday to Saturday for the dating to work out properly. And the Last Great Day of 30AD would only have come on a weekly Sabbath if a calculated calendar were used, though no postponements within that calendar would have been necessary that year. As for the last holy day of Unleavened Bread in 29AD, it would have come on a weekly Sabbath only if a calculated calendar were used and the noon postponement rule was in effect. Clearly, the Gospel accounts show that these holy days occurred in a way that could only have happened if a calculated calendar using the postponement rules had been in effect in the time of Jesus Christ.
The rules of the current Hebrew calendar—the calendar traditionally used by the Church of God—are based upon Biblical principles. These rules, as we have seen, can be deduced directly from scripture and do not depend on Talmudic traditions and legends. Furthermore, Scripture clearly reveals that God assigned to an authoritative body, anciently the priesthood, responsibility to name or to designate the annual festivals. This was never intended to be a matter of private interpretation. In addition, we have the example of Jesus Christ Himself, as given in the Gospel accounts. The calendar He used is far more in accord with the one the Church uses today than are any of the alternative models that have been proposed.
The Church has clearly and consistently judged that Christians should use the received Hebrew calendar in observing God’s festivals. It is interesting that we have historical witness and testimony, from no less an authority than Roman emperor Constantine, that three centuries after Christ’s crucifixion, the true Church was still reckoning its festival dates by the same calendar used by the Jewish community. At the Council of Nicea, held in 325AD, the timing of the Paschal festival was discussed (the early Catholics were replacing Passover with Easter, but were still using the scriptural name—the Greek term pascha).
Note some excerpts of Constantine’s decree as preserved by the early Church historian Eusebius. He wrote that it seemed, "a most unworthy thing that we should follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity... rejecting the practice of this people, we should perpetuate to all future ages the celebration of this rite, in a more legitimate order... Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews... let us withdraw ourselves, my much honored brethren, from that most odious fellowship. It is indeed in the highest degree preposterous, that they should superciliously vaunt themselves, that truly without their instruction, we can’t properly observe this rite... [they continue] wandering in the grossest error, instead of duly reforming their calculation..." (A Historical View of the Council of Nicea, Eusebius, pp. 52-53). Constantine, like many self-styled experts today, considered himself more knowledgeable about the calendar than were the Jews, and asserted that they should reform their calculations. Constantine’s attack was aimed, however, not at influencing the Jews, but rather at those Christians who followed the Jewish calendar in determining the time of the Passover. The true Church was not following its own calendar model; rather it was using the same model that Jesus Himself had followed—the one preserved and used by the Jews!
The Jews themselves tell us that in ancient times they used visual observation and then in the 4th century Hillel II established a fixed calendar (http://www.jewfaq.org/calendar.htm#History). This article then claims...no, they didn’t change anything and the calendar really is the one in use at Christ’s time (that’s prior to the 4th century, by the way). Then isn’t THAT considering oneself more knowledgeable about the calendar than the Jews?
Is the Hebrew calendar valid for the Church today? Absolutely!It adheres to the revealed guidelines of Scripture, was proclaimed by authorities accepted by Jesus Christ Himself and was kept by the Church of God from the beginning.For what more could we ask?
The revealed guidelines are that you count the Holy Days from the NEW MOON! Not from an estimate of the new moon! Jesus Christ accepted the calendar in use at that time because the calendar in use at that time WAS correct! The calendar in use by the Jews NOW, however, is NOT the same! The Jews admittedly changed the system! Their calendar now often does NOT begin with the actual new moon and therefore does NOT adhere to Scripture.
In the last decade, the Church has seen increasing controversy about its use of the Hebrew calendar to celebrate God’s commanded Holy Days. Historically the Church has used the calendar preserved by the Jewish community. Some have contended that the Jews have not properly preserved the calendar, and have altered it by human tradition since the time of Jesus and the Apostles. Is this true? Do we have a Biblical basis for concluding that the calendar we now use is substantially the same as that used by Jesus and the Apostles?
Is this really just what "some" say? What do the Jews themselves say? Since they’re the ones we’ve been following, perhaps it would be a good idea to know their own words on the issue. The Jewish website http://www.jewfaq.org/calendar.htm#History tells us that "In ancient times, the new months used to be determined by observation. When people observed the new moon, they would notify the Sanhedrin. When the Sanhedrin heard testimony from two independent, reliable eyewitnesses that the new moon occurred on a certain date, they would declare the rosh chodesh (first of the month) and send out messengers to tell people when the month began." So, in the past, we see that the calendar was determined by visual observation of the signs that God gives us. If that is how it was done in ancient times, how is it done now? The same Jewish website tells us that "In the fourth century, Hillel II established a fixed calendar based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This calendar, still in use, standardized the length of months and the addition of months over the course of a 19 year cycle, so that the lunar calendar realigns with the solar years. Adar II is added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. The current cycle began in Jewish year 5758 (the year that began October 2, 1997)." Going by observation, a lunar month has 29 or 30 days. The length of each particular month would be determined by when the new moon appeared. Using the fixed calendar that was established in the fourth century, each month alternates between 29 and 30 using a fixed set of rules which may or may not coincide with the actual new moons. This switch to a fixed calendar system is openly admitted by the Jews and clearly occurred long after the death of Christ (the 4th century).
Faced with this issue many years ago, Mr. Herbert Armstrong concluded that Romans 3:1-3 showed that the calendar, along with the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, was among the oracles of God. As such, he concluded, the Church should use the same calendar that the Jews had preserved, including its "postponements"—the four rules that determine which day should be proclaimed as the first day of Tishri, the date from which all other days of the year are calculated. In recent years, however, some critics have asserted that the postponements represent a fourth-century rabbinical invention, and were not used at the time of the Apostolic Church.
For many years, we [the Churches of God] have assumed that the Jews must have some sort of divinely revealed calendar beyond the information that is given to us in the Bible. This is due to the fact that the Bible tells us that "to them were committed the oracles of God" [Rom 3:2]. However, if you look at the context of this verse (or the two other verses mentioning the "oracles of God") there is nothing to say that the "oracles of God" in any way refers to information given to the Jews that is beyond the scriptures.
Hebrews 5:12 "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food."
It’s clear that this scripture is using "oracles of God to refer to all of God’s law.
1 Peter 4:11 "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Again, "oracles of God" is generally referring to all of the words of God.
Romans 3:1-2 "What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God."
It’s important to note that, in the context of Romans, there are only two types of people spoken of. "For I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:6). "of the Jew first and also of the Greek" (Romans 2:9). "to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 2:10). In this context, "Jew" represents all Israelites and "Greek" represents all gentiles. So when did God give the "oracles of God" to the "Jews"? The same time that He gave the "oracles of God" to the rest of Israel. . . "So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. . .Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai" (Exodus 34: 28-32).
The "Oracles of God" being given to the "Jews" in no way insinuates that the Jews have been given information beyond the word of God that is revealed to us in the Bible. Therefore, if the Jews handle the calendar in a way that conflicts with the instructions from the Bible, it would be our responsibility to follow the words of the Bible rather than the traditions of the Jews.
In recent years critics say the postponements were a 4th century rabbinical invention? Jewish history shows that visual observation was used until the 4th century. How is that just a claim of some critics in recent years if the history is there to support it? Also, God clearly commands specific days upon which His Holy Days are to be observed based on the new moons. There’s no room for "postponing" when the new moon happens. God determines when it happens, not man.
In years past, the Church has published several articles explaining the basic principles and workings of the calendar. This brief article does not seek to duplicate that information, but is simply meant to answer the question of whether or not we can prove that the current calendar rules, including postponements, were in use during the time of Christ. The answer is that we can! Here is how.
From the Bible we can clearly prove that for Jesus to be in the tomb three days and three nights as He said, the crucifixion must have been on a Wednesday. Clearly then, whatever year Christ was crucified must have been one in which Passover came on a Wednesday and the first holy day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the High Day Sabbath of John 19:31) occurred on a Thursday. During the range of years that are possible for the crucifixion to have taken place, only two could have had Wednesday Passovers. One is 30AD, when the Passover would have fallen normally on a Wednesday. The other is 31AD, in which Passover would only have been on Wednesday if the current rules of the Jewish calendar (including the postponement rules) had been in effect. Can we know for sure when the crucifixion occurred?
Wrong. Most Bible scholars seem to agree on the possible range of dates for Christ’s crucifixion to be between 27 and 34 AD. It seems that the above statement, however, is only taking into consideration two possibilities: The "Standardized" Calendar with Postponements and The "Standardized" Calendar without Postponements. When adding to these the dates from calendar converters (using all of today’s standardized rules of the "fixed" calendar used by the Jews) and dates of probable observation, I was able to find possible Wednesday Passovers in all of the following years: 27, 28, 30, 31, 33, 34. The statement that "only two could have had Wednesday Passovers" makes it clear that Mr. Ogwyn isn’t taking into consideration at all that perhaps there is a problem, not only with postponements, but with the standardization of month length and the addition of the 13th month that the Jews use today.
Wrong again. Mr. Ogwyn doesn’t make it clear how he came upon this conclusion, but it still appears that he is only comparing two possible calendars which means he’s looking at something like this.
CHARTS IN PROGRESS
Note, dates are using the Julian calendar (Not Gregorian)
Going ahead with the 70 weeks prophecy as it has been suggested in the remainder of this article, I can’t find any errors in the calculations and I also came to the spring of 31 AD. Does this, however, prove that we must use the current Jewish calendar with its postponements? Is this indeed the only way that Passover could have been on a Wednesday in 31 AD? From the same website as used above, let’s add one additional column to the chart:
As we can see above, a Wednesday Passover would also have been possible in 31 AD using observation of the new moon (which is how the Jews clearly explain it was done in ancient times).
Problem: The current Jewish calendar adds the 13th month in a fixed pattern over a 19 year cycle. The above calendar appears to take into account the fact that the way it’s done now hasn’t always been the case. I came across several calendar converters that convert dates based on all of the current Jewish calendar rules (including the fixed days of each month, the postponements, and the fixed pattern for adding in the 13th month) and they all placed Passover in the year 31 AD one month earlier than in the chart listed above:
Using the fixed calendar of today along with it’s fixed pattern of adding the 13th month, Passover in the year 31 AD would have been one month earlier and on a Monday. Thus, with the current system, a Wednesday Passover would have been impossible in 31 AD.
The answer is a resounding "yes"—and the key is contained in scripture. In Daniel 9, the prophet recorded that 70 "sevens" (literal Hebrew) were determined upon the people of God. From the going forth of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah, the Prince, should come, would be 69 weeks. The Messiah would be cut off in the midst of the 70th week. This prophecy of a three-and-a-half year ministry is confirmed by a careful study of the gospel accounts.
Christ was crucified in the spring, so His ministry must have begun in the fall to accommodate the half-year. If Christ was crucified in 31AD, He was baptized by John the Baptist in the fall of 27AD. But if He were crucified in 30AD, He would have been baptized in the fall of 26AD. Which was it?
The 69 prophetic weeks from the decree until the Messiah’s appearance would equal 483 years. The decree was the one recorded in Ezra 7 issued by Artaxerxes in his seventh year and delivered to Jerusalem by Ezra in the fifth month of that year. So the question is simple, when was the seventh year of Artaxerxes?
A reliable source for dating the reign of Artaxerxes is a book entitled Babylonian Chronology 626 B. C. to A. D. 75 (Parker and Dubberstein, Brown University Press) which is based upon translations of ancient Babylonian documents and inscriptions. This book clearly dates the accession of Artaxerxes after the death of his predecessor, Xerxes, in 464BC. After taking the throne in July-August of 464BC, Artaxerxes completed his "accession year"—also credited as the final year of Xerxes’ reign—then in the fall of 464BC began the first year credited to his own reign. We should note that the vast majority of credible extra-Biblical scholarship agrees with this 464BC date. To accept any other date introduces problems with other aspects of historiography, so we can comfortably accept this date, agreed upon by scholars who have no agendas in the calendar and postponements controversies.
To find the end-date of the 69 weeks prophecy, we must understand whether the Biblical account figured the years of Artaxerxes using a spring-to-spring reckoning or a fall-to-fall reckoning. If figured spring-to-spring, then Artaxerxes’ first year began in April of 464 and ended in April of 463. His seventh year would have been from the spring of 458 to the spring of 457. This would mean that Ezra brought the decree in the late summer of 458BC. The 69 prophetic "weeks" would thus end in 26AD.
Spring-to-spring reckoning was the standard practice in Babylon. In ancient times, some nations started their new year in the spring, while others started in the fall. Here, spring-to-spring reckoning and fall-to-fall reckoning refer to the way in which a king’s reign was counted. Judah and Israel at different times used both methods for figuring the reigns of kings. The different methods were used for different purposes as well; the religious year always began in the spring, but the Sabbatical year and the Jubilee year were reckoned from the fall (Leviticus 25:8-9).
Did the author of Ezra-Nehemiah, traditionally one book in the Hebrew scriptures, use the spring-to-spring manner of reckoning? Or did he figure the king’s reign fall-to-fall? If he used a fall-to-fall system, Ezra’s arrival would be dated in the late summer of 457BC. That would put the Messiah’s appearance in 27AD and the crucifixion in 31AD.
Can we know for sure which method of reckoning the Biblical author used? Can we determine whether the crucifixion took place in 30AD or 31AD? Absolutely!
Notice Nehemiah 1:1. Here is described news that Nehemiah received in the month Chislev (ninth month, corresponding to December) during the 20th year of Artaxerxes Then in Nehemiah 2:1 we learn that the king noticed his sad countenance in the month Nisan (first month, corresponding to April) during the 20th year of Artaxerxes. Do you see the significance of this? In the following spring, four months after the news delivered in Nehemiah 1:1, the king was still in his 20th year! This conclusively proves that the author of Ezra-Nehemiah used a fall-to-fall reckoning! If a spring-to-spring reckoning were used, then Nisan would have been counted as the beginning of the 21st year of the king’s reign.
Here is conclusive proof from the Bible that 457BC is the proper date to begin the count from the decree of Artaxerxes. This means that Christ was crucified in 31AD. The only way that the Passover of that year could come on a Wednesday, as the Gospel accounts clearly show that it did, was that the current rules of the calendar, including postponements, were used by the Sanhedrin during the time of Christ and the Apostolic Church. By accepting the current Jewish calendar as our standard, we’re following the example of Jesus Christ, Himself, and that of the early Church!
This entire argument is based upon the incorrect statement that the ONLY way Passover in 31AD could have come on a Wednesday was using the current rules of the calendar along with its postponements. As already noted, this in incorrect and it would have been possible with visual observation. History also supports that visual observation was used in times past. Additionally, the current Jewish calendar, along with its current cycle for adding the 13th month, would have had Passover in that year a month earlier and on a Monday...therefore it would NOT line up with the 31AD date asserted by this article.
Here are some useful links, particularly the first one if you want to see first hand the rules for the "modern" Jewish calendar:
THE HEBREW CALENDAR: A Mathematical Introduction
The KJV with Strong’s numbers is particularly useful. You can click on a word and it will bring you to the Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon definition for the word. It also gives you quick access to everywhere else that the particular word is used.
I especially like the Version tool (V) that allows you to compare a particular verse in multiple translations
Also great is the Concordance tool (C) which shows you the whole verse in Hebrew/Greek as well as the meaning for each word.
History of the Jewish Calendar from the Jews themselves
This calendar converter will convert dates between several different calendars including Julian, Gregorian & the current Hebrew calendar.
Note that articles referring to dates at the time of Christ often use the Julian date (important to note if you’re looking for the day of the week a particular date fell on because if you look at Gregorian rather than Julian you’ll be off a couple days).
This site gives you Equinox & Solstice Dates. I certainly don’t claim that we should go by the equinox to determine when the year begins because, but knowing the dates of the equinoxes can be a useful aid. In general the new year will begin with the new moon either before or after the spring equinox.
This site shows the phases of the moon.
Note that the scientific world’s definition of "new moon" is the invisible conjunction and not the visually observable "new moon" which is when a Biblical month begins. This site gives exact times of the invisible conjunction.
I certainly don’t trust Isaac Newton’s conclusions regarding the date for Christ’s Crucifixion, since he bought into the Good Friday idea, but he was well known for having a good scientific mind. This page indicates that Isaac Newton used the 18 hour rule for determining visibility of the new moon. It’s just an estimate and as stated in the article is optimistic, but it gives us a basis to be able to determine when the new moon would have likely been visible (once we have the exact time of the invisible conjunction from the previous link). If 18 hours after the invisible conjunction puts us to a time close to sunset, then it’s border-line...the new moon could potentially be seen at that sunset, but it’s also likely that it wouldn’t be visible until the next evening. However, if 18 hours after the invisible conjunction puts us to a time well before sunset, it’s a fairly safe call to say that the following sunset would begin the new month.
Back to Part 1