Everlasting Kingdom: Unraveling the Bible’s Secrets

Dealing with the Calendar Question

What is a Day, a Month, a Year?


Article Preview: Is there a calendar in the Bible? The historical commentary presented in Frank Nelte’s calendar articles is quite thorou. Please overlook the sectarian references. He has written many articles on the subject but we disagree on what actually initiates a Day, a Month and a New Year. He uses the International Date Line instead of Jerusalem to begin the Day; (you might consider Where is God’s International Dateline? Where Does the Sabbath Begin?) He uses astronomically calculated “invisible lunar conjunctions” instead of actual observation of crescent moons from Jerusalem to determine when a New Moon begins (Karaite site); and the equinox instead of the maturity of barley, to begin the Year. The parameters for determining a Biblically correct calendar are readily apparent (visible): All you need to understand is 1) When does a day begin? 2) When does a Biblical week begin and end in the Sabbath)? and 3) When does a month begin?; and 4) When does the year begin! We have disagreements but Frank provides an incredible amount of factual information.

Dealing with the Calendar Question—Subheadings


Biblical Requirements for a Correct Calendar
Some Astronomical Facts
The Impact of This Astronomical Information
The Origin of the Present Jewish Calendar
The Postponements of the Jewish Calendar
Origin of the Calculations of the Jewish Calendar
It Is Basically the Same as the Babylonian Calendar
Hillel II and His Calendar Reform
The “Oral Law” of the Jews
The Calendar at Noah’s Time
Observation or Calculation?
Problems with the Jewish Calendar Summarized
So What Is “Right” about the Jewish Calendar?
Comparing 19-year Cycles
Deciding about Postponements
The Effects of Postponements Made Plain
The “Shifting Equinox” of the Julian Calendar
Things about a Calendar That Can Be Negotiated
For Those Who Want More Technical Details
The Actual Dates for the Present Cycle
When Should the First Month Start?
How Much “Shifting” Is Actually Involved?
A Matter of Authority
The Importance of the Right Motivation
Summary of the Main Points

This is a summary of the main issues that need to be faced when we talk about the present Jewish calendar and the possibility of continuing to use it to calculate the correct days on which God expects us to observe His Holy Days and His Feasts. The main points are in most cases presented without providing detailed supporting evidence—that has already been done elsewhere and is available elsewhere for verification. Included proof is here kept to a minimum.

I. The Right Approach and Attitude

It seems that many people have taken firm positions on this question, be it for or against the Jewish calendar. Thus far in a number of cases the intent seems to have been to defend these positions without regard to evidence to the contrary that may be presented. I personally don’t have a position to defend. I would simply like to know what is right in the sight of God. It is towards that end that I have tried to carefully examine this subject.

So I believe that the right approach is as follows:

1) if the present Jewish calendar has God’s blessing and support, then there should be some positive evidence for God’s support. Let that evidence be presented by those who feel they have it.

2) In a religious sense there is nothing inherently good about something, simply because it has a “Jewish” origin. The Jewish religion and its customs are as far removed from the truth of God as is every other false religion. [The Talmud proves this beyond any shadow of doubt.]

3) So we should examine the Jewish calendar without any bias, neither for nor against, with an open mind and on its own merits.

4) IF we find problems with the Jewish calendar, then we should at the very least be willing to acknowledge these problems.

5) The first criteria that need to be taken into account are any Biblical requirements for the right calendar. These must always take precedence over the customs and traditions of men.

6) Historical indications regarding features of the calendar that was in use during the time of Christ’s ministry should be given serious consideration. Any features introduced at a later time may be valid and justified—but that needs to be carefully examined and assessed.

7) Finding faults with other calendars that some people have adopted, does not justify retaining faults that are inherent in the Jewish calendar. Two “wrongs” never make a “right”

8) We need to clearly understand the astronomical facts which any and every calendar has to take into account. We need to also understand the impact these facts have on any calendar.

9) It is only once we have correctly assessed all of the biblical requirements for a correct calendar that we can then evaluate the Jewish calendar against these requirements and, if necessary, construct a correct model which will meet God’s approval.

10) God is willing to overlook our “times of ignorance.” What people in our recent past may have done (e.g. Mr. Armstrong) is really not the issue. What God now expects from us is summed up by the Apostle James: “Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

II) Biblical Requirements for a Correct Calendar

The Bible does not record detailed information about how the correct calendar should be constructed. Rather, it is always written from the premise that there was already some calendar in existence, which is utilized by the people who are involved.

While the biblically-stated requirements are few, they are important and must be adhered to without compromise. I will show that the present Jewish calendar was constructed with a total disregard for some of these biblical requirements.

Here are the biblical requirements for the correct calendar.

1) It must take into account the movements of both, the moon around the earth, and the earth around the sun. The movements of the moon around the earth will determine when each month is to start. The movements of the earth around the sun will determine when the seasons are observed. Coordinating these two movements into one calendar is what makes the calendar a complex matter.

2) The Passover and the Holy Days of the first month of the year must be in the spring (Exodus 12:2). The calendar must be constructed in such a way that these observances never shift back into winter or forward into summer. What is important about the first month is not so much the start of that month, as the days that are to be observed by God’s people. They must be in the spring. (Later we will examine the question of whether the first month may not even start before the beginning of spring.)

3) The months should start at or very close to “the new moons.” A calendar that is used on a worldwide basis cannot have the start of each month precisely “AT” the new moon for all locations worldwide—thus also the option of “very close to the new moons.” Whether “new moon” must refer to the first faint visible crescent or to the invisible conjunction (molad) is a separate question, which we’ll also focus on later.

4) The year must start late enough (!) so that the barley is mature enough by the Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread to be available for the wave offering (Leviticus 23:10-14). It is not right to have the Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread (and sometimes this will be the first Day of Unleavened Bread) so early that there would (in the area of Palestine) simply not be any barley available for the wave offering.

5) The year must also be late enough (!) so that the Feast of Tabernacles will occur at or after the autumn equinox, which is on September 23 (see Exodus 34:22). Again, the whole Feast of Tabernacles must be in the autumn, not just the last day or two. Tabernacles is not a summer feast; it is an autumn feast!

That sums up the main biblical requirements. We will see quite clearly that the present Jewish calendar violates two of these requirements. Sometimes the Feast of Tabernacles in the present Jewish calendar starts in the summer, which is contrary to Exodus 34:22. And in those same years the Days of Unleavened Bread will be too early for any barley to be available for the wave offering. This makes the present Jewish calendar wrong on two counts. The “postponements” are an additional issue.

III) Some Astronomical Facts

1) The earth revolves once around the sun in exactly 365 days and 5 hours and 48 minutes and 46 seconds.

2) There are different ways to calculate the movements of the moon—since the earth is moving at the same time. What concerns us is how we here on earth perceive the movements of the moon. This is known as a synodic month or a lunation.

3) So from our perspective here on earth, the moon revolves once around the earth in exactly 29 days and 12 hours and 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds.

4) In addition to the solar year, there are 3 different calendars we need to consider:

the Julian calendar (in use in New Testament times)
the Gregorian calendar (in use today, since 1582 A.D.)
the Jewish calendar

5) Let’s look at a period of 19 years:

19 solar years = 6939.601782 days
19 Julian years = 6939.75 days
19 Gregorian years = 6939.6075 days
19 Jewish years (235 lunar months) = 6939.688171 days

6) As can be seen from these figures: In a calendar where the seasons always remain constant (i.e. with solar years), 19 years would be equal to exactly 6939.601782 days. And, as can also be seen, none of the 3 calendars (Julian, Gregorian or Jewish) are totally accurate over a period of 19 years. However, the Gregorian calendar is over 19 years only 0.005718 days too long. By contrast, the Jewish calendar is over 19 years exactly 0.086389 days too long.

[Comment: The Julian calendar was even more inaccurate—over 19 years it was 0.148218 days too long, which is almost double the error of the Jewish calendar. We’ll need to remember this later when we look at the shifting of the equinox during the time of the Julian calendar.]

7) In more familiar terms, over 19 years the Gregorian calendar is only 8 minutes and 14 seconds too long. This will only amount to one full day too long in just over 3320 years—thus not really a problem. For the next 2000 years the Gregorian calendar would remain pretty accurate, as far as maintaining the seasons is concerned.

8) But over 19 years the Jewish calendar will be 2 hours 6 minutes 29.3 seconds too long, when compared to 19 solar years! And this is a problem that needs to be considered. This means that the Jewish calendar is one full day too long for every 216 years, creating a gradual but steady shift in the seasons to a constantly later date (i.e. Passover will move 1 full day towards summer and away from the spring equinox every 216 years).

[Comment: As the Jewish calendar is organized into 19-year cycles, this shift will be more apparent every 12 full cycles, which equal 228 years.]

This shift cannot be rectified by “postponements”!

There is no mechanism in the present Jewish calendar, which has been in force since Hillel II introduced it in about 358 A.D., to rectify this steady drift to a later date in relation to the seasons.

9) The Jewish Encyclopedia, copyright 1903, 1912, volume 3, page 500, article “Calendar, History of” makes exactly the same point. It states:

“The assumed duration of the solar year is 6 minutes, 39.43 seconds in excess of the true astronomical value, which will cause the dates of the commencement of future Jewish years, which are so calculated, to advance from the equinox a day in error in 216 years”

10) To summarize this astronomical information:

there is no exact 19-year cycle; that is only an approximation;
the Jewish calendar has no mechanism to correct the inherent flaw of drifting away from the seasons;
the Jewish calendar is less accurate than the Gregorian calendar, as far as keeping the seasons constant is concerned;
in the Gregorian calendar the seasons stay constant for over 2000 years. For our purposes this is sufficiently accurate.


IV) The Impact of this Astronomical Information

1) From a calendar point-of-view this information creates two problems, both of which will require regular adjustments to compensate for these problems.

A) The movements of neither, the earth around the sun nor the moon around the earth, amount to an exact number of days per revolution. Now since a calendar will require each month to have a certain number of whole days, and also each year to have a certain number of complete days, therefore there must be a mechanism to make some adjustments to allow for the fractions of a day.

B) Additionally, the movements of the moon around the earth are not at all synchronized with the movements of the earth around the sun. Thus, when the earth has completed one revolution around the sun (i.e. one year has passed), then the moon is in a totally different position to the one it was in exactly one year earlier. There is never a time when the moon will be in exactly the same position in relation to the sun and to the earth, as it was in on any previous year (within a space of 6000 years).

[Comment: The concept of a 19-year cycle is based on the premise that after exactly 19 years the moon IS in exactly the same position in relation to the sun and to the earth as it was 19 years earlier. But, as shown above, it is in fact out by over 2 hours. However, the concept of 19-year cycles is a usable one, on the condition that we make provision to compensate for this shift of 1 day for every 216 years.]

2) To compensate for the first problem, our Gregorian calendar has to make a leap-year adjustment every four years, as well as additional adjustments on the full centuries that are not divisible by 400.

3) The second problem only affects a calendar that also involves the movements of the moon, i.e. the Jewish calendar. But the present Jewish calendar ignores this lack of synchronization and has no mechanism for compensating for this problem.

4) Since the 19-year cycles of the Jewish calendar are unavoidably marginally incorrect, therefore the whole system of the 19-year cycles shifts to 1 day later in the year every 216 years—i.e. every single conjunction in the cycle (all 235 of them) shifts to 1 day later.

5) Here is an illustration of this phenomenon.

All of the following dates are for the molad of Tishri for the 17th year of a cycle, which is the year when the Feast of Tabernacles occurs at the earliest possible time. I have also given all the dates in the Gregorian calendar, to avoid confusion.

[Comment: I have applied the same sequence of leap years to this entire list, the sequence which is currently being used. If you have the calendar program produced by Ambassador College, you’ll find a different date for the year 75 A.D. than the one I have listed here. The reason is that program applies a different sequence of leap years to dates before about 250 A.D. Thus for 75 A.D. you’ll find the molad given as September 28 Julian, which is September 26 Gregorian. That represents the new moon after the one I have listed below. In order to see this shift of one day every 216 years we need to obviously keep the sequence of Jewish leap years within the 19-year cycles consistent.]

“75 A.D. = Molad was Wednesday, August 28 Gregorian;
322 A.D. = Molad was Wednesday, August 29 Gregorian;
550 A.D. = Molad was Sunday, August 30 Gregorian;
797 A.D. = Molad was Sunday, August 31 Gregorian;
1063 A.D. = Molad was Wednesday, September 2 Gregorian;
1215 A.D. = Molad was Wednesday, September 2 Gregorian;
1519 A.D. = Molad was Thursday, September 4 Gregorian;
1804 A.D. = Molad was Wednesday, September 5 Gregorian;
2051 A.D. = Molad will be Wednesday, September 6 Gregorian.

This clearly demonstrates how the new moons unavoidably move to a later date—in this example to 9 days later over a period of 1976 years. That’s roughly the time from when the church was founded to today.

Any lunar calendar that the Church of God uses, Jewish or otherwise, must have a mechanism to compensate for this move to a later date. There IS such a mechanism available, but it is never used by the Jewish calendar. You simply cannot have a calculated calendar that is based on the movements of the moon, and which will stay constant relative to the seasons without some kind of occasional adjustment. This is a weakness with the Jewish calendar.

[Comment: IF we start out today with a sequence of leap years that meets all of the biblical requirements, then we will not have to make any adjustments at all in the next 500 years! That is far longer than we need to be concerned about. But the present Jewish calendar has already been around for over 1600 years without any adjustments. Also, it started out with a totally unacceptable sequence of leap years. Thus the need for an immediate adjustment.]

V) The Origin of the Present Jewish Calendar

1) The starting date of the Jewish calendar is 3761 B.C., which is supposed to be the molad of Tishri before the creation of Adam and Eve! The Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides, who died in 1204 A.D., discusses the calendar at great length in his work Kiddusch hachodesch. Maimonides explains the starting molad as follows:

“For God gathered together the earth out of which He formed the first man during the first (thirteenth) hour. Since, therefore, from the time of the first foundation of the world to that of the perfected man there had elapsed five whole days and fourteen hours of the sixth day, we must make it our business to know both the month to which those days and hours belong, and also the first New Moon of that year to which the month belongs. From the time therefore of that New Moon, which occurred when the second (fourteenth) hour of the sixth day was ending, there must be subtracted four days, eight hours and 876 chalakim (4d. 8h. 876ch.), which is the excess of a Common Lunar year of twelve months above an exact number of weeks; and we find that the first new moon of the year which preceded the creation of man occurred on the second day of the week, when five hours and 204 chalakim of its night had elapsed. {Maimonides here means: D6 H14 P0 MINUS 4D 8H 876P = D2 H5 P204, or Sunday evening, just after 11:00 p.m..} Its character [molad] is therefore 2d. 5h. 204 ch. And certainly, by computing those years which have elapsed since the creation of the world, this anticipative year may be determined”

{This is quoted from page 43 of Burnaby’s Jewish and Muhammadan Calendars, and Burnaby himself has translated a quotation from the Latin version of Maimonides by L. de Compiegne de Veil, which was published in London in 1683 under the title Tractatus de Consecratione Calendarum, et de Ratione Intercalandi.}

2) Maimonides’ explanation is clearly not historically factual! Adam and Eve were created by God more than 200 years before 3760 B.C.. Now since the calendar Maimonides is commenting on is the present one, which can be traced back to Hillel II, the question is: where did Hillel II get this date of 3760 B.C. for the creation of Adam and Eve from?

The answer is: there is only one document in all Jewish literature from which this wrong date can come, and that is a work known as The Seder Olam Rabbah (or The Greater Seder Olam), a second century A.D. midrashic chronological work, generally regarded as a work of the tanna Jose b. Halafta. [The “tannaim” were the masters of the “oral law,” i.e. the men who wrote the Talmud.]

3) The Seder Olam is a chronological record extending from Adam to the revolt of Bar Kokba in the reign of emperor Hadrian in the 130’s A.D.. It is terribly flawed in the chronology it presents—thus the claim that Adam was only created in 3760 B.C....

However, what this flawed date, originating after the second Roman destruction of Jerusalem, proves is the following:

The present Jewish calendar only originated in the 2nd century A.D.! it does not go back to the 1st century A.D.!

Since the starting date of the calendar is based on a document that could not have been written before 130 A.D., as it records the Bar Kokba revolt, therefore the whole calendar calculation had to originate after 130 A.D.

[Comment: For those who are not familiar with the calendar calculations: the starting date is the vital key to the whole calculations. Without it you don’t have a calendar! You obtain the molad for the year you wish to use as your starting date by calculating backwards from other known molads.]

So we need to acknowledge that we are dealing with a calendar that was not around during the ministry of Jesus Christ and during the lifetime of the original apostles. It originated at some point after the destruction of Jerusalem in the 130’s A.D., and was then preserved by the calendar reform of Hillel II in the late 350’s A.D....

VI) The Postponements of The Jewish Calendar

1) There are 4 different rules of postponements, i.e. when after the molad has been calculated, the whole year is “postponed” by one or by two days (the previous year is thus made longer). One rule demands a postponement when the conjunction is calculated as occurring at noon or later (the day finishes at 6:00 p.m.). This may or may not be acceptable, since the motive for this postponement is clearly not a matter of inconvenience?

The next rule is designed to prevent the Day of Atonement from falling on an “inconvenient” day of the week—i.e. to prevent Atonement from falling on a Friday or a Sunday, as well as preventing the Day of Trumpets from falling on a Friday or a Sunday. This rule is aimed at avoiding such an “inconvenience”

There is no justification of any kind for such a postponement!

The remaining two rules are a consequence to this rule—they are to control the number of days in a 19-year cycle—to prevent postponements making cycles too long or too short.

2) The historical evidence preserved in the Talmud makes quite clear that during the first century A.D. (i.e. during Christ’s ministry) the Day of Atonement did fall on Fridays and on Sundays!

3) Here are some quotations from the Talmud to prove this:

“Footnote (16) If it were of immediate importance, the shebuth would have been permitted. But in any case when the day of atonement falls on Friday, the vegetables, even if trimmed, cannot be cooked on the Sabbath.” Talmud Mas. Shabbath 114b (CHAPTER XV)

“Footnote (12) The Day of Atonement. Where the day of atonement fell on a friday the Shewbread was then baked on a Thursday.” Talmud - Mas. Menachoth 100b

“... or if his menstruant wife and his sister were with him in his house and he united, in error, 9 with one of them and does not know with which, or if sabbath and the day of atonement [followed each other] 10..”

“Footnote (10) i.e., when the Day of Atonement fell upon Friday or Sunday.” Talmud - Mas. K’rithoth 19a

At the time of Christ’s ministry Atonement very clearly fell on both, Fridays and Sundays. These quotations prove this. Therefore the postponement rules, invented in the 2nd century A.D. or later, have no claim for any biblical authority or support. They did not exist during the time of Christ’s ministry.

VII) Origin of the Calculations of the Jewish Calendar

1) Around 432 B.C. the Athenian astronomer Meton found that 235 lunations are very nearly equal to 19 solar years. Thus 19-year cycles are normally referred to as “metonic” cycles. The Jewish calendar is clearly based on these metonic cycles. The Greeks considered this to be such an important discovery that this information was engraved in letters of gold on a marble tablet and placed in one of the temples in Athens. But Meton’s calculations for the length of the solar year were still out by about 25 minutes or so.

2) Around 146 B.C. another Greek astronomer, named Hipparchus, made some more accurate calculations of the synodic (lunar) months. Hipparchus calculated the 235 lunations at 6939 days plus 16 hours plus 33 minutes plus 3.3 seconds. This is the exact figure which is employed in the calculation of the Jewish calendar!

3) It seems quite clear that the calculations which Hillel II made public in the 350’s A.D. are based exactly on the calculations of Hipparchus (via Mar Samuel). This should become quite clear when we realize that 235 lunations are in fact equal to 6939 days plus 16 hours plus 30 minutes plus 57.97 seconds. The Jewish calculation for 235 lunations is in fact 2 minutes and 5.3 seconds too long—the exact same error as embodied in the calculations of Hipparchus.

Thus the entire data for calculating the Jewish calendar is based on two Greek astronomers—they accepted the 19-year cycle from Meton, and they accepted the actual calculations from Hipparchus. These calculations were not perfect, but they were the best ones available; and it was logical to accept them. But they certainly are not “inspired,” or “handed down from God”

VIII) It Is Basically the Same as the Babylonian Calendar

1) The Jewish Encyclopedia, article “Calendar, History of” states:

“The Talmud (Yerushalmi, Rosh ha-Shanah i.1) correctly states that the Jews got the names of the months at the time of the Babylonian exile.” (volume 3, page 499).

2) Here is the evidence that Ezra simply accepted and adapted the Babylonian names for the months and employed them in “God’s” calendar, as some people call it. See the chart for the Babylonian and the Jewish names of the months: [Chart missing]

Remember that “Tammuz” was the name of a pagan deity.

3) Now the fact that a servant of God, Ezra, readily switched from good Hebrew names for the months (like Abib, Zif, Ethanim, and Bul) to pagan Babylonian names implies that he also instituted the same calendar that was being used in Babylon. Because the calculations were accurate (i.e. the Babylonian calendar was based on the visual observations of the new moon crescents, and they also intercalated a 13th month seven times in every 19 years), therefore there was no reason to reject it.

So from the time of Ezra onwards the Jews used the identical calendar that was used throughout the empire by the Persians in Babylon. The key here is not the origin of the calendar, but its accuracy and its reliability. The names of the months are not really important.

IX) Hillel II and His Calendar Reform

1) It is a generally accepted tradition that Hillel II introduced his calendar reform in 358/359 A.D.. As stated in the Encyclopedia Judaica:

“... it is a tradition, which is quoted in the name of Hai Gaon (died 1038 A.D.), that the present Jewish calendar was introduced by the patriarch Hillel II in 670 Era of the Seleucids = 4119 Era of the Creation = 358/359 A.D. (500 A.D. claimed to derive from another version, seems to rest on a mistake). This possibly only refers to the present order of the seven leap years in the 19-year cycle.” (Encyclopedia Judaica, Copyright 1972, volume 5, article “Calendar,” page 48)

Hillel II is credited with establishing the “present order” of the seven leap years within the 19-year cycle.

2) This “present order” is a major problem! It is this “present order” that is responsible for the Feast of Tabernacles starting in the summer in some years.

3) Here is what happened from 358 A.D. onwards. Let’s examine when the Feast of Tabernacles would have been observed.

360 A.D. 1st Day FoT = Monday, September 11th Last Great Day = Monday, September 18th

So Hillel’s reform caused the Last Great Day to be observed five full days before the end of summer!

4) At the time of Hillel II there were actually five years in every 19-year cycle where his calendar reform caused the Feast of Tabernacles to start in the summer. They were the years 3, 6, 11, 14 and 17 in each cycle. With three of those years the entire seven days of f.o.t. were in the summer—the 6th, 14th and 17th years!

5) Here is the proof from cycle #218, which covers the years 363 - 381 A.D.:

First Day of F.o.T.:

368 A.D. = September 13th
376 A.D. = September 14th
379 A.D. = September 12th

For these years the entire Feast was in the summer.

6) Thus the “present order of leap years” is a clear violation of God’s instructions in Exodus 34:22, which state that the Feast of Tabernacles must be on or after the autumn equinox in the northern hemisphere.

7) Because of the inevitable shift to 1-day later every 216 years, today every conjunction is from 7-8 days later in the year. Thus today the Jewish calendar no longer has any F.o.T. that falls entirely into summer. But there are still years where the Feast starts in summer, which still violates Exodus 34:22.

8) In those years the Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread was also too early for having any barley available for the wave offering. Here are the dates.

Wave Offering during Days of Unleavened Bread:

360 A.D. = Sunday March 19th
368 A.D. = Sunday March 23rd
376 A.D. = Sunday March 26th
379 A.D. = Sunday March 24th

Now the very, very earliest that you can expect some barley to be ripe in Palestine is at the beginning of April. So for all of these years the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread were simply too early! Note also that in 360 A.D. Hillel II required the Passover to be observed in the winter! Passover date for 360 A.D. was Friday, March 17th! That violates God’s instructions!

9) There is no way that we can justify these violations of God’s instructions! Hillel II had no authority of any kind to place the Passover into the winter and to place the entire Feast of Tabernacles into the summer! [At the time of Hillel II the equinox was still at March 21st in the Julian calendar; so we don’t need to make any adjustments in that regard.]

X) The “Oral Law” of the Jews

1) People want to sometimes appeal to “the oral law” of the Jews, in an attempt to somehow claim that the calendar information was “orally” preserved from the days of Moses.

The truth is: there is no “oral law”! And there never has been such an “oral law”

2) In 1897 A.D. Michael L. Rodkinson brought out a copy of The Babylonian Talmud, a monumental task. This set of volumes was published by the New Talmud Publishing Company in New York. It should be clear that Michael L. Rodkinson knew as much about the Talmud as anyone else—and a great deal more than most people. Six years later, in 1903, Michael L. Rodkinson wrote a series of books entitled THE HISTORY OF THE TALMUD. These books were published by the same publishing company.

With his background he was as qualified to write such a series of books as anyone could be. The following information and quotations are all taken from Volume 1 of THE HISTORY OF THE TALMUD by Michael L. Rodkinson.

3) Here is the opening section of chapter 1, on page 5:

“The name ‘written law’ was given to the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographa, and that of ‘oral law’ to all the teachings of the ‘sages’ consisting of comments on the text of the bible. The word Torah alone was applied to the entire Bible, the term ‘Talmud’ was reserved for the oral law, though the meaning of these two words is identical; namely, ‘teaching’ or ‘study’ .... The name ‘Talmud’ was applied to what was styled by the long phrase ‘oral law’ (Torah-she b’al-Peh). This word designated all the commentaries of the sages on the scriptures which the pharisees had begun to interpret figuratively”

There is a vast difference between “a law” given by God which is then “orally” preserved—and “the teachings” of the so-called sages, i.e. the chief teachers of the sect of the Pharisees. The “oral law” is nothing more than the personal opinions and teachings of men. It is the exact equivalent of a “Bible commentary” in the Protestant world. And it does not involve any divine inspiration or revelation!

4) On page 7 Rodkinson wrote:

“The Pharisees studied the ancient Mishnayoth, added to them, and explained the biblical texts. ALL this was titled oral law, or, shortly, ‘Talmud.’”

The terms “Talmud” and “oral law” are identical in meaning! Yet there are people in God’s Church who don’t know this, and who on the one hand will readily criticize the inconsistencies and the many ridiculous restrictions found in “the Talmud”—while at the same time appealing to the supposed authority of the Jewish “oral law,” not realizing that the Talmud and the “oral law” are one and the same thing.

XI) The Calendar at Noah’s Time

1) Genesis 1:31 tells us that God saw everything that He had made, and it was all “very good”! That must have included the annual cycle and the cycles of the moon.

2) But I seriously doubt that God would have described an annual cycle of 365 days plus 5 hours plus 48 minutes plus 46 seconds as “very good.” Likewise, a lunar cycle of 29 days plus 12 hours plus 44 minutes plus 2.8 seconds also appears to me to be extremely unlikely to qualify for the description of “very good.” Genesis 1:16 specifically refers to the cycles of the sun (from our perspective here on earth) and the moon. It is a fact that both of these irregular cycles make keeping track of the passage of time a complicated task. And neither one of these cycles reflects how God actually talks about time in the Bible.

3) From the account about the flood in the days of Noah we can see that at that time there was a calendar which had 12 months in the year, and where each month was exactly 30 days long, making the year exactly 360 days long. Such a calendar can certainly be described as “very good.” In fact, such a calendar is actually perfect!

4) So there must have been a change in the length of the annual cycles and in the length of the lunar cycles. They were “perfect” when God created Adam and Eve, but they are today “corrupt”! The corrupt state of these cycles is one of the consequences of our sins, a penalty that God has imposed.

5) The fact that when God gives prophetic revelations, God” always uses exactly 30 days to represent one month, and exactly 360 days to represent one year, shows that these perfect cycles will be restored after the return of Jesus Christ. [1,260 days are equal to 42 months and are equal to three-and-one-half years.]

6) The fact that our present state of affairs is a penalty for human sins should tell us that there simply is no divinely given calendar! God has punished us (humanity) and said, in effect: “Go and make your own calendars; you didn’t want what I offered you”

7) God has given us sufficient guidelines as to how a correct, and to Him acceptable, calendar should be set up. It is our responsibility to seek out these God-given guidelines and to then ensure that the calendar we use or construct fulfills all the requirements set out by God.

8) As long as the calendar was based on observations of the new moon crescents, the only factor that needed to be kept in mind was that the people of Israel would never choose a new moon for the start of the year that would cause the Days of Unleavened Bread to be too early for having barley for a wave offering, and also too early for the entire Feast of Tabernacles to fall into the autumn.

9) If the Babylonian calendar in the days of Ezra fulfilled these requirements, then that Babylonian calendar was quite acceptable. IF the Roman calendar today fulfilled these requirements, then it too would be acceptable. But the Roman calendar today ignores the new moons completely; and therefore the Roman calendar is not acceptable. Therefore we cannot use the Roman calendar.

XII) Observation or Calculation?

1) As long as the correct result is achieved, the method by which this is done is immaterial. It is not really a question of observation versus calculation. It is really a question of: what is observed?—what is calculated?

2) While it is clear that both, in Old Testament times and also during the first century A.D., the Jewish calendar was based on observation of the new moon crescent, this does not mean that it is somehow wrong to employ calculations.

3) However, IF calculations are employed, they could equally well focus on first visibility of the new crescent, rather than on the invisible conjunction (the molad)—first visibility was what determined the beginning of a month in New Testament times.

4) In practical terms first visibility will always be at least one day after when the invisible conjunction (the molad) took place, since first visibility always occurs immediately after sunset, at the start of a new day. Thus the conjunction occurred on the previous day (perhaps rarely even two days earlier?).

5) Probably more important than deciding between visibility and invisible conjunction, though, is the matter that there should be consistency! It should not be a matter of the calendar this year being based on the invisible conjunction, but next year (through a postponement) it will be based on first visibility, and the year after (as there is no postponement) it will again be based on the invisible conjunction. If such postponements are based on the traditions of men, to fall in line with “traditional” requirements, they are not acceptable.

6) While in biblical times it was perfectly natural to base the calendar on observing the first new crescent of the moon, that is simply not practical in our modern world, where God’s people are spread around the globe. We today must, of necessity, use a calendar based on calculations—if we hope to avoid creating “tohu and bohu,” chaos and confusion. The question is only: what do we calculate—the invisible molad or first visibility of the new crescent?

7) In a calendar which is applied uniformly around this entire earth, consistency does become extremely important. Whichever option is chosen (the invisible molad or calculated first visibility), there will always be some areas of this world where the new moon of the Day of Trumpets (for example) will be either before first visibility or else the day after first visibility. Deciding to use the “Jerusalem standard” is not wrong, but it is nevertheless somewhat arbitrary. And making a judgment that brings consistency into the whole process becomes very important in order to avoid confusion.

Frank Nelte

Now for Part 2

Beginning with: “Problems with the Jewish Calendar Summarized” (is it in the Bible?)

Part 2 Chapters Articles


The Jewish calendar in use today was still evolving between 836 AD and the tenth century! What are the odds that Yeshua ever used that one?—


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