This article includes one full article by the late Evangelist Raymond McNair (which seems to have been first published in the Global Church News in 1996 and/or later in The Journal: News of the Churches of God), followed by quotes from another article he wrote, plus a few comments from me, in italics (Bob Thiel).
Are "postponements" to God's Calendar mentioned anywhere in the Bible? If not, why do we use a calendar that sometimes postpones the beginning of months - and even years?
by Raymond F. McNair
Some brethren are being confused concerning whether to continue using the Hebrew calendar that God's people have followed for many years. Their main objection concerns whether the postponements used in that calendar are in some way contrary to the scanty information on the calendar contained in the Bible.
Answers to Postponement Questions
In order to better understand the postponements incorporated in the Jewish calendar, we need to ask and answer the following questions:
1) When speaking of God's Calendar, exactly what is being postponed? Do the postponements delay God's Holy Days, or simply postpone the starting point from which they are reckoned? In other words, does the Hebrew calendar merely postpone the beginning of the first day of Tishri?
The present permanent Jewish calendar employs various postponements - all of which merely delay the commencement of the first day of Tishri, which begins the civil year used in both ancient and modem times. Once Tishri 1 is established, all of the other months of the Sacred Calendar are easy to calculate. So the postponements merely delay -by either one or two days the beginning of the first day of Tishri, which is the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year.
In actuality, the postponements don't really delay the Holy Days themselves, since those days (established by Scripture) are still observed on the same biblically commanded days of the months, according to God's directions in Leviticus 23.
2) Exactly when did the postponements originate?
The origin of the postponements is not revealed - either in the Bible or by secular history. In fact, this word "postponement" (or its modem Hebrew equivalent, dehia) is not found anywhere in the Bible. But, as will be demonstrated later, from the very beginning certain postponements had to be incorporated in the Sacred Calendar - simply because it is not possible to construct it without them!
In order to observe a complete 24-hour Feast of Trumpets, it was sometimes absolutely necessary to delay the beginning of Tishri 1 by a whole day. Further, in order to be able to offer the "wave sheaf” (Heb. omer) of ripened barley during the Days of Unleavened Bread, it was sometimes mandatory that the high priest in ancient Israel postpone the beginning of Nisan 1 by a whole month. Such a postponement would, of course, delay all of the seven annual Feasts by 30 days!
3) Did the calendar used by the Jews in the time of Christ and His apostles include any postponements?
Postponements were certainly used by the Jews in the first century A.D. Secular history shows that the two major religious parties (the Sadducees and the Pharisees) used essentially the same basic calendar. The Sadducees, as successors to the priesthood from the line of Aaron, used the same calendar information that had been passed on to them from Aaron and Moses. This included the requirement that the Feast of Unleavened Bread fall in the spring (thereby necessitating certain one-month postponements to the beginning of the sacred year). There is no record of Christ and His apostles objecting to the calendar or instituting a different one.
Whom did God Authorize to Preserve His Calendar?
4) Did God give His people the Sacred Calendar, including postponements that would facilitate the observance of His Feasts?
Firstly, as mentioned earlier, it is utterly impossible to have an accurate, viable sacred calendar without incorporating certain adjustments or postponements. That's to say, the essentially lunar months of the Hebrew calendar would not remain within their proper seasons - which are determined by the solar year unless the calendar is periodically adjusted.
Secondly, it is totally inconsistent with the Bible to believe that God would have commanded the Israelites to keep the seven annual "Feasts of the LORD" mentioned in Leviticus 23 - yet would not have revealed to them an accurate calendar showing the proper days for their observance!
God began to reveal His Calendar to the Israelites even before they left Egypt: "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). Further, the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were always to be observed in that first month of Abib/Nisan (Ex. 13:4; Esther 3:7), the month in which the barley became ripe enough to offer a "wave sheaf” (Heb. omer) to God, on the Sunday during this Feast (Lev. 23:9-15).
When the Lord revealed His seven annual Festivals to Moses, He commanded him to proclaim (Heb. qara, announce officially) those Feasts to Israel (Lev. 23:1-2). God chose the entire tribe of Levi to be His ministers (Num. 18:20-22); however only Aaron and his sons were chosen to serve in the top ministerial positions as priests (Num. 17:1-13; 18:1-7, 25-32).
But the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel lost the knowledge of God's Sacred Calendar. When they seceded from the House of David (c. 930 B.C.), their first king, Jeroboam, rejected God's law and His Feasts and devised a festival to be observed in the "eighth month" (I Kings 12:19-33). Because of Jeroboam's apostasy, many of the Levites living among the Ten Tribes in the north moved south into Judah.
From then on, the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and most of the Levites composed the kingdom of Judah. After the Jews' Babylonian captivity in the 6th century B.C., some of them returned to their ancient homeland and formed a nation, which later became known as Judea. The New Testament Scriptures plainly reveal that the Jews were responsible for preserving the Hebrew Scriptures, including preservation of certain "oral" calendar instructions given by God to Moses and Aaron. "What advantage then has the Jew…? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them [the Jews] were committed the oracles [Gk. logion, words of God]" (Rom. 3:1-2; cf. Acts 7:38).
How do we know the oracles include how to reckon God's Calendar? Since the Bible does not tell us how to construct the Sacred Calendar, and since it is essential that we have it in order to properly observe God's Feasts, therefore we know God has seen to it that all essential information about the calendar was communicated to His servants.
The Four Postponements
5) How many postponements are now incorporated in the Hebrew calendar? Today's permanent Jewish calendar (established by Hillel II in 358 A.D.) utilizes four postponements. God Almighty gave Moses certain necessary oral instructions regarding His calendar that are not recorded in the Bible. And, through the centuries, God must have inspired the Jews in such a way as to utilize the postponements. We are specifically told that God's Spirit can impart physical knowledge (Ex. 35:30-35; 36:1-4) as well as spiritual understanding (Job 28:28).
The Bible itself says absolutely nothing about postponements. So, if God's Word does not condemn postponements, then who are we to say that the Jews, the custodians of God's Word and His Calendar, are wrong in including them - especially so, since those postponements enable God's people to avoid certain problems when the weekly Sabbath immediately precedes or follows an annual Sabbath, thereby producing two back-to-back (tandem) Sabbaths?
Though the vast majority of the members of the true Church of God today follow the Hebrew calendar, nonetheless there are numerous small groups that believe in keeping God's Feasts, yet totally reject the Jewish calendar. They claim that the Jews had no authority to introduce the postponements into God's Calendar. But is that what really happened?
Let us briefly examine the purpose of the postponements to see if they do in some way run counter to the plain teaching of God's Word. As we show in the companion article on God's Calendar, the Jews do not believe the months must always begin on what is called the astronomical conjunction. Rather, the Jews (as well as the Muslims) believe that each lunar Month begins on the day of the approximate New Moon!
What is a conjunction? "The conjunction of the moon with the sun is the point in time at which the moon is directly between the earth and the sun (but not on the same plane) and is thus invisible. This is known as the molad (birth)" (Judaica, "Calendar," vol. 5).
We are, also told that, according to the Hebrew calendar, "every month must begin on a day close to the molad. For the beginning of the year, the first day of Tishri, the calendar follows this rule: Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Tishri, must be on the day of the Molad. [But] there are exceptions, the so-called Dehioth [postponements], which take place in four specific cases" (Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, p. 219).
Spier then says, "Note: In more than 60% of all years Rosh Hashanah [Tishri 11 does not occur on the day of the Molad (the actual conjunction] but is postponed according to one of the Dehioth [rules governing postponements]. Therefore the Dehioth are actually not the exceptions to the rule but the rule."
6) What, then, are the four postponements included in the permanent Hebrew calendar?
POSTPONEMENT 1: "When the Molad Tishri occurs on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday, Rosh Hashanah [Tishri 1] is postponed to the following day" (p. 218).
What purpose does this postponement serve? Spier says postponement 1 "mainly fulfills the following three religious requirements: Yom Kippur [the Day of Atonement] shall not occur on the day before or after the Sabbath and Hoshanah Rabba [the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles] shall not occur on a [weekly] Sabbath" (p. 219).
Why does postponement 1 prevent Tishri 1 from occurring on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday? If Tishri 1 did occur on a Sunday, this would result in four consecutive Holy Day/Sabbath combinations during that particular year. If the first day of Tishri occurred on a Wednesday, this would necessitate two consecutive combinations. And if Tishri 1 occurred on a Friday, this would once again result infour consecutive Holy Day/Sabbaths.
The Jewish calendar permits Tishri 1 to fall on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. When Tishri 1 falls on these permitted days there are only two possibilities for tandem Sabbaths (not including the true Pentecost, which always involves this combination). The first permitted tandem Sabbath combination occurs when the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread falls on a Sunday, as in 1994. The second permitted tandem Sabbath combination occurs when the last day of Unleavened Bread occurs on a Friday, as in 1998. But these tandem Sabbaths occur rather infrequently.
Modern Jews don't observe Pentecost (Shavout) on a Sunday. Instead they observe it on Sivan 6. However the early New Testament Church of God (like the Sadducees) followed the biblical command to observe Pentecost by counting 50 days from the Sunday (the "morrow after the Sabbath") that occurs during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This means that when Pentecost is counted correctly, it always falls on a Sunday-thus creating tandem Sabbaths.
Why did the Jewish religious authorities conclude that thefast day (Yom Kippur) should never occur on the day before or after the weekly Sabbath? Clearly, this would have made it very difficult for the Israelite women to properly prepare for the weekly Sabbath-a feast day! Remember, anyone who did not properly observe the Day of Atonement, by refraining from all work, would be "cut off" from his people (Lev. 23:28)!
And why did the Jewish religious authorities conclude that the last day (seventh day) of the Feast of Tabernacles (called Hoshana Rabba) should never fall on a weekly Sabbath? Simply because if Hoshana Rabba did fall on the weekly Sabbath, this would be followed immediately by another Sabbath, the annual Sabbath called the "eighth day" (Lev. 23:39-44). This tandem Sabbath would work undue hardship on the women who, in such cases, would have to prepare food on Friday for both the weekly Sabbath and the following day, the eighth day, which would be an annual Sabbath (v. 39).
Another benefit of the postponements is the matter of avoiding Sabbath burials. If someone died shortly before a back-to-back Sabbath combination occurred, this would make it difficult for mourners, since the burial could not take place on either the annual or weekly Sabbaths.
POSTPONEMENT 2: "When Molad Tishri occurs at noon [the approximate 18th hour of a 24-hour day from sunset to sunset] or later, Rosh Hashanah is postponed to the next day. (Or if this day is a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, [it is then postponed] to Monday, Thursday or Sabbath because of Dehiah)" (p. 219).
The New Moon (molad) can happen at any time during a 24-hour day. Postponement 2 ensures that "when Molad Tishri occurs at noon... or later," then Rosh Hashanah is postponed to the next day, or if circumstances demand, it is postponed another whole day. In ancient times, duly authorized religious authorities always went by "visual observation" (though they used calculations as a further check) in deten-nining exactly when the New Moon had occurred. But if the New Moon did not appear until noon (or later), this meant that three-fourths of the 24-hour day had already elapsed-with less than six hours remaining. Since the religious authorities had to get the word out to the people throughout the land of Israel, there would have been no way the people could have learned when the first day of Tishri was in time to properly observe the Feast of Trumpets. It thus became necessary to postpone Tishri 1 by one day, in order to allow the messengers enough time to inform the Israelites so they could observe the Feast.
POSTPONEMENT 3: "When the Molad Tishri of a common year falls on Tuesday, [about 12 minutes] after 3 a.m... or later, Rosh Hashanah [Tishri 1] is postponed to Wednesday, and, because of Dehia, further postponed to Thursday" (p. 219).
Why was postponement 3 made? The Jewish calendar, being luni-solar, is based on the fact that 19-year astronomical time cycles regularly occur in nature. During each such time cycle, the Sacred Calendar incorporates twelve common years (having 353, 354 or 355 days), and seven leap years (having 383, 384 or 385 days). Since the decision of Hillel II in 358 A.D., the leap years are always positioned to occur in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19 of the time cycle. This postponement was made for purely astronomical reasons-to make certain that the "common year" was kept to its proper, pre-ordained length of 353, 354 or 355 days.
POSTPONEMENT 4: "When, in a common year succeeding a leap year, the Molad Tishri occurs on Monday morning [about 35 minutes] after 9 a.m... Rosh Hashanah [Tishri 1 is postponed to the next day" (p. 219).
Postponement 4 was also made for astronomical reasons-to ensure that each "common year succeeding a leap year" would always fall within the required length of all "common years," that is 353, 354 or 355 days.
The four postponements that the Jews incorporate in the Hebrew calendar were put there for specific purposes, the chief purpose being to avoid certain Sabbath observance problems that otherwise would have resulted when two successive Sabbaths (i.e. tandem Sabbaths) occurred.
Preventing or Minimizing Tandem Sabbaths?
7) Doesn't the fact that tandem Sabbaths occur annually at Pentecost (which is always preceded by the weekly Sabbath) prove that we don't need to be concerned about having Sabbaths back-to-back?
We must remember that during most of the history of mankind, the masses lived in an agriculturally based society, and did not have modem electrical appliances, running water, refrigeration, etc. Consequently, they could not have prepared food and kept it for several days without it spoiling.
The four postponements in the Hebrew calendar reduce the "tandem Sabbath" problem to a bare minimum. They were never intended to totally prevent, but merely to minimize, the number of tandem Sabbaths that could occur in any one year! Therefore the Jewish religious authorities deliberately included the postponements.
Now, there are modern "Pharisees" who think it was not proper for the Jewish religious authorities to include any postponements in the calendar; but they utterly fail to understand that God is far more concerned with the avoidance of undue human hardship on His Sabbaths (Mark 2:27-28), than in making sure the Jews always observe the beginning of their months precisely on the very day on which the new crescent moon first appears!
8) Is there further proof that God did not intend for the months to always begin at some "mathematically precise" moment?
When, for instance, the weather was cloudy at the time of the New Moon, it was sometimes impossible for anyone to see the crescent moon on the first day of its appearance. In such cases, the Jewish religious authorities then automatically counted that day as the "thirtieth day" of the month (the months of the Sacred Calendar never had more than 30 days!), and then postponed the beginning of the first day of their next month until the following day.
Clearly, if that day hadn't been cloudy, and if the observers had seen a new crescent moon on the "thirtieth day:' they would have proclaimed that particular month to be a 29-day month. Consequently, they would have begun the first day of the next month on that very day when they first sighted the new crescent moon (cf. Judaica, "Calendar," vol. 8).
Reconciling Astronomy and Religion
9) How did the priests determine when to intercalate a thirteenth month?
The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar explains: "Astronomical calculation was not the only basis for intercalation of a thirteenth month. The delay of the actual arrival of spring was another decisive factor. The Talmudic sources report that the [Calendar] Council intercalated a year when the barley in the fields had not yet ripened [enough to provide the omer, Lev. 23:11]...The Council on intercalation considered the astronomical facts together with the religious requirements of Passover and the natural conditions of the country" (p. 1).
The Jewish high priests and their courts had authority to add a thirteenth month when agricultural conditions in the Holy Land indicated that, if a thirteenth month was not intercalated (thereby delaying the beginning of the new year by one whole month), the barley would not have been mature enough to present the required wave offering (Lev. 23:9-14)!
This agricultural requirement is corroborated by The Illustrated Bible Dictionary: "Pentecost...marks the completion of the barley harvest, which began when the sickle was first put to the grain (Deut. 16:9), and when the sheaf (Heb. omer] was waved 'the morrow after the Sabbath' (Lev. 23:11)" (1994, vol. 3).
The Encyclopaedia Judaica states, "The required adjustment [postponing the beginning of the year] is realized by the addition of an extra month (Adar 2) in each of seven out of the 19 years that constitute the small (or lunar) cycle of the moon (mahazor katan or mahazor ha-levanah). In 19 years the solar cycle exceeds the lunar cycle (of 235 lunations) by about 209 days, which are approximately 7 months.... In Temple times this intercalation was decided upon in the individual years according to agricultural conditions... later, however, it was fixed to be in the years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 of the cycle" ("Calendar," vol. 5).
As long as the Temple stood, that is, up until 70 A.D., the Jewish religious authorities sometimes had to intercalate a thirteenth month in order to ensure that the barley would be ripe enough for the omer offering. Thus, it is clear that the Jews not only sometimes postponed the beginning of Tishri by a day or two, but they sometimes postponed the beginning of the ecclesiastical year (Nisan 1) by a whole month - thereby postponing all the Holy Days for that year! After 70 A.D., the Temple was no more. Therefore, the priests could no longer offer the required omer during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
What is the very best evidence proving decisively that it is not only permissible to use postponements, but is impossible not to use them if we are to have a viable calendar for observing God's Festivals?
Clearly, as we have seen, it is sometimes necessary to postpone Tishri 1 by a day or two. Likewise, it is indisputable that the entire year must be postponed by a whole month from time to time. These steps are necessary to synchronize the lunar and solar years.
Moreover, those who object to the postponements, which are built into the permanent Hebrew calendar, should carefully consider that when the New Moon appeared late in the day (12 noon or later), it was absolutely necessary to delay the beginning of Tishri 1 -otherwise it would not have been possible to have informed God's people (by officially proclaiming that day as Tishri 1), and consequently there would have been insufficient time in which to properly observe the Feast of Trumpets. If the New Moon appeared immediately after 12 noon, less than six hours would remain in that day, therefore one could at most only observe one-quarter of the day - not a complete day of Trumpets - that is, unless Tishri 1 was postponed. Presumably, a six-hour minimum would have given just enough time in which to notify God's people, so they could assemble in a "holy convocation" as commanded on the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24-26).
Today, there are "legalists" who object to the postponements. They would - in Christ's words - strain out a gnat [a one- or two-day postponement] and swallow a camel [a 30-day postponement]" (Matt. 23:24)! They would disallow a one- or two-day postponement at the beginning of Tishri, but would be forced to acknowledge that the Jewish religious authorities had the authority to intercalate a whole month (Ve-Adar or Adar 2), in order to make certain that the barley would be ripe enough for the omer, as demanded by God's law (Lev. 23:11).
One further question may come to mind regarding the observance of Pentecost. If we believe the Jews have accurately preserved God's Calendar, why do we differ with them on when to observe this Holy Day? The answer lies in the Jews' interpretation of the date from which to begin "counting fifty."
An Inescapable Conclusion
What is the inescapable conclusion the foregoing facts lead us to? God authorized the "Jews" (primarily the priests and Levites) to preserve the knowledge of His Sacred Calendar-now known as the Hebrew calendar. The Lord gave certain instructions regarding the calendar to Moses to give to Aaron and his sons so they could pass them down to future generations (Lev. 23:1-2). Later, God may have given further oral instructions regarding His Calendar to His holy prophets. If God has not preserved His Calendar through the Jews, then no one today has God-given authority to devise his own calendar. Why not? Simply because the Scriptures do not give sufficient information for anyone to properly reconstruct the Sacred Calendar!
Furthermore, no biblical or historical sources indicate that Christ and His apostles had any calendar disputes with the Jews (the Sadducees were then in control of the calendar and the Temple ritual until a short time before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D!) regarding the calendar that they were using in New Testament times.
When we consider all the scriptures pertaining to the calendar, it becomes clear that God's people ought to follow the example of Jesus Christ and His New Testament Church by using the Hebrew calendar (Rom. 3:2) - rather than groping around trying to devise their own unauthorized calendars! (Judges 21:25).
Astronomical Calculations and the Postponements
Some say that by using certain astronomical calculations we can actually determine the exact position of the phases of the moon for past years - including the year of Jesus Christ's crucifixion. Others, however, don't believe astronomical calculations are totally reliable. They claim there are too many imponderables in regard to the use of astronomical tables to know precisely the time of day on which the astronomical New Moon. (the molad) occurred in 30 A.D., the year of Christ's crucifixion – or the precise hour when the new crescent moon appeared on either Tishri 1 or Nisan 1 of that same vear. Such astronomical calculations, intended to prove the use of postponements in Christ's time, appear to be unreliable!
In any case, there is insufficient evidence for anyone to construct an accurate, viable "Sacred Calendar" from the Bible alone! But God Almighty did not leave us in the dark. He saw to it that important knowledge of His calendar was preserved through the Jews. Of all the people of Israel, only the Jews continued keeping God's Holy Days, and only they preserved the knowledge of His Sacred Calendar!
All of that being said, there are some other points Raymond McNair raised elsewhere that should be brought up here. In another 2006 GCG news article titled "Which Calendar has God Authorized?," Raymond McNair wrote:
When Does God Begin the Sacred Year?
The Hebrew Scriptures don't even tell us how many months should be in a calendar year. Since the solar year (about 365 1/4 days) is roughly 11 days longer than the lunar year (about 354 1/4 days), how can the lunar and solar years be harmonized? By what means can the months of God's Sacred Calendar be kept in their proper seasons - so that the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread always occur in the spring, while the Feast of Tabernacles always occurs in the autumn? (all mention of the seasons refers to the Northern Hemisphere).
The answer is to add an "intercalary" month (a thirteenth month) seven times each 19-year lunar time cycle - which always contains 235 lunations or lunar months. But the Hebrew Bible does not tell us how many months the year is to have, or how long the sacred year is to be! The Bible mentions a twelfth month (Esther 3:7) - never a thirteenth month. Yet, from careful study of the time periods mentioned in the first eight chapters of Ezekiel (1:1-2; 3:15; 4:5-6; 8:1), we can deduce that a thirteenth month was definitely being used by the Jews when Ezekiel wrote in the early part of the 6th century B.C. And since the Bible doesn't even specify this intercalary month, it certainly does not say when to add it!...
According to God's Word, each day begins at sunset, each week begins immediately after the setting of the the New Moon - the crescent moon! But when does God begin the religious year?
Exodus 12:2 says, "This month [Abib or Nisan] shall be... the first month of the year to you." But the Bible does not tell us exactly when to begin that first month. Some think the first month of the sacred year begins with the New Moon that immediately precedes the vernal equinox. Other, believe it begins with the first New Moon that immediately follows that equinox. Still others think the starting point is the New Moon nearest the spring equinox.
How do the Jews, who alone have preserved God's Calendar. begin the first day of the first month of their religious year? Arthur Spier says, "The month of Nisan [or Abib with the Passover Festival, for instance, must occur in the spring” (p. 1). The fact that the Hebrev, word for the first month meaning "green ears," reveals that that particular month occurs in the spring when the green ears appear everywhere. The first month of the Hebrew calendar is also called Nisan, meaning "to start." The month of Abib or Nisan starts the ecclesiastical year (Ex. 12:2).
The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar lists all of the Jewish Holy Days for the entire 20th century, from September 1899 through September 2000 A.D. It shows that for each year during this century according to the Jewish calendar the Passover always falls in the spring of the year - never in the winter. However, although the first day of Nisan usually begins after the vernal equinox, it does not always do so! In 1994, for example, the first day of Nisan fell on March 13, but spring didn't arrive until March 21.
The Bible reveals that the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread must always fall within the "first month" (Ex. 12; Lev. 23). In actual practice, they always occur after the spring equinox as well.
Tabernacles Never Occurs Wholly in Summer
Does the Bible demand that the Feast of Tabernacles must always occur around the time of the autumnal equinox? "And you shall observe... the Feast of Ingathering [Feast of Tabernacles] at the year's end" (Ex. 34:22). The JPS translation reads, "And you shall observe...the feast of ingathering at the turn of the year [tekufah, autumnal equinox]." What was the "year's end" or the "turn of the year"? This Hebrew word (tekufah or tekufot in the plural) means "a revolution, i.e [of the sun] course, [of time] lapse" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance). The Jews have traditionally understood this to mean that the autumnal equinox is to fall on or before the Feast of Tabernacles - never after!
Only the spring and autumnal tekufot (equinoxes) are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (cf. 2 Chron. 24:23; Ex. 34:22).
"Tekufot ("Seasons"). As stated, the four seasons in the Jewish year are called tekufot... (literally "circuit... to go round"), the tekufah of Nisan denoting the mean sun at the vernal [equinox], that of Tammuz denoting it at the summer [solstice], that of Tishri, at the autumnal [equinox], and that of Tevet, at the winter [solstice]" (Judaica, "Calendar," vol. 5).
Today, our Gregorian calendar uses two words (equinox and solstice) to mark out the beginnings of the four seasons. There are two equinoxes - vernal or spring (about March 21), and autumnal (about September 23). The Gregorian calendar also has two solstices: summer (about June 21), and winter (about December 22). But the Hebrew calendar only has one word, tekufah, to refer to these four recurring phenomena.
The Jews realized there was both a spring and a fall equinox - a time when day and night were equal, when the year had made one complete revolution (from spring to spring, or from fall to fall). Psalm 19:6 further explains the meaning of tekufah. "Its [the Sun's] rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit [tekufah] to the other end."
What, then, does Exodus 34:22 really say and mean? It reveals that the "Feast of Ingathering" was to occur at or after the turn of the year (NASB) - i.e. the time when the autumnal sun completes its yearly circuit as it passes southward over the earth's equator, thereby ushering in what we call autumn or fall.
The Feast of Tabernacles, according to the permanent Hebrew calendar, always occurs at or after that time of year, Even though the beginning of the Feast sometimes occurs a few days before the autumnal equinox, the latter half of the Feast of Tabernacles always falls after the autumnal equinoxthus fulfilling the biblical requirement of Exodus 23:16 and 34:22. Tabernacles must never end before the fall equinox (tekufah Tishri), which, in the Northern Hemisphere, usually occurs on September 23. That Feast must never occur wholly in summer!
Who Controlled the Calendar in Christ's Time?
Chambers Encyclopedia says, "Since the chief priests were in close alliance with them [Sadducees) it would seem natural that the ritual of the Temple should be considered on lines approved by the Sadducees" ("Sadducees:' vol. 12).
The Illustrated Bible Dictionary agrees: "Many, but not all, priests were Sadducees; nearly all Sadducees, however, appear to have been priests, especially of the most powerful priestly families...Under the Herods and Romans the Sadducees predominated in the Sanhedrin [and] their reckoning regulated the public observance so long as the Temple stood" ("Sadducees," vol. 3).
"In general, the Jewish calendar in N.T times (at least before A.D. 70) followed the Sadducean reckoning, since it was by that reckoning that the Temple services were regulated" ('Calendar," vol. 1).
Reject Unbiblical Teachings!
As "sacred calendars" proliferate is there a way to make sense of it all?
Never before have there been so many sacred-calendar "experts' " Consequently, some brethren have become confused over the resultant proliferation of contradictory "sacred calendars. " Has God seen to it that His "authorized" Sacred Calendar has been made available to His people?
Ever since God gave ancient Israel His Holy Days and His Calendar, there have been those who did not want to follow the calendar He provided His people through His priests. After the Ten Tribes of Israel seceded from the throne of David in about 930 B.C., Northern Israel's King Jeroboam introduced his own humanly devised festival-along with his counterfeit calendar which he ordained to be held in the "eighth month" instead of the seventh (I Kings 12:31-33).
Secular historians of ancient biblical times tell us that, even among the Jews, numerous sects refused to follow the official Jewish calendar - published by the priesthood - and instead devised their own sectarian calendars. "There is evidence that the authority of the normative calendar was never universally accepted, but that always there were individuals or groups who were promoting their own special calendars" (The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, "Calendar," vol. 1, p. 487). We should not, therefore, be surprised to learn that, from time immemorial, this "calendar problem" has plagued God's people.
Which calendar did the early New Testament Christians use? Some wrongly think that Gentile Christians in the New Testament Church used only Greco-Roman calendars: "It may be understood that Jews and Jewish Christians, even when far from Palestine, continued to employ the official calendar of Jewish orthodoxy, particularly for observing the religious festivals (cf. Acts 20:6, 16)" (p. 483). And we know that the Apostle Paul taught Gentiles to observe God's Holy Days just as he did the Jews (Acts 20:6; 1 Cor 5:7-8; 16:8). Therefore, the Gentile Christians could not have properly observed God's Festivals without also using the Hebrew calendar!...
When we rightly understand the Hebrew Scriptures, we see that God gave His Calendar to "Moses and Aaron" (brothers of the tribe of Levi). Aaron and his descendants were later chosen to be God's priestly family (all the high priests were from Aaron's family). It was solely to them that the Lord committed the "oracles of God" for safekeeping -including the preservation of His true Calendar. Without such a calendar, God's people would not know when to observe His seven annual Holy Days in their proper seasons, as required by the Hebrew Scriptures.
Regrettably, some of God's people are being confused by false teachings concerning God's Sacred Calendar. Today, at least half a dozen different calendars are being circulated - all of them purporting to be "God's Calendar" - yet no two of them agree! Some who have devised their own calendars say you must observe the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month that falls on or after the spring equinox. Yet those who go by that rule sometimes end up keeping the entire seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, as well as the "eighth day" that follows (Lev. 23:36), in the summer, rather than in the autumn season as demanded by Exodus 34:22!
People sometimes cite Ambassador College's booklet, How Often Should We Partake of the Lord's Supper? to support their claim that "the first day of the new year always begins with the day nearest the spring equinox when the New Moon is first visible to the naked eye at Jerusalem" (1952, p. 6). That statement is generally true - but not always! If that rule had been in effect during the following years of this century - 1905, 1932, 1943, 1951, 1970, 1989, 2000 - then the entire Feast of Tabernacles would have occurred in late summer, which we've just seen must never happen!
Consequently, those who follow the rule that the Passover must always fall on the first full moon after the spring equinox - or who say that the new year always begins with the day nearest the spring equinox when the New Moon is first visible to the naked eye at Jerusalem - will find themselves in quite a dilemma.
What does this all add up to? God has preserved His Sacred Calendar (commonly called the Hebrew or Jewish calendar) through the Jews (Rom. 3:2) - among whom are included Levites, as well as many priests - the latter being descendants of Aaron. God committed to them the preservation and teaching of His "oracles" - His Word, the Hebrew Bible – as well as the preservation of His Calendar, which is necessary to properly keep God's commanded Festivals in their appointed seasons.
Any man who would appoint himself to devise his own calendar rejecting the Jews to whom God entrusted the oracles-would do well. to remember what God thinks of those who arrogate to themselves the office or function of God's priests, when God has not called them to that office (cf. Num. 16,17)!
God's people ought to use the calendar that He caused the Jews to preserve for the benefit of all who wish to obey Him and keep His commanded Festivals. That was basically the same calendar used by Christ and His disciples in New Testament times! (McNair R. Which Calendar has God Authorized?)
Now, I am fully aware that some have picked at various points that Raymond McNair raised in some of his writings. The ones posted here seem to be consistent, however, with Jewish and COG history, other than it was more likely the Pharisees, not Sadducees, that Jesus' followers likely would have relied on for the calendar. I would also add that while Hillel codified much of the calculations that were used, he seemed to have trouble with calculating Pentecost and we in the Continuing Church of God observe it as the Bible teaches it is to be calculated (Leviticus 23:15-16).
Here are some points from a Good News article published by the old Radio Church of God:
Christ Followed This Same Calendar
Notice what Paul asks: “What advantage then hath the Jew?” Then he answers, “Much every way: chiefly, be- cause that anto them uwc conanzitted the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1,2) . The JEWS ALONE WERE LEFT TO PRESERVE THE SCRIPTURE, the SABBATH and the CALENDAR. If they did not fulfill this God-given commission, Christ could not have observed Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Tabernacles in their proper seasons during His boyhood. He could not have lived a sinless life. The authority for keeping the calendar was delegated to the Jews. If they did not preserve it to this day, then we have no real basis for calculating and observing the Holy Days of God. If the Jews did not preserve the Law and the Scriptures, how could Christ have lived His early life in the knowledge of them? He accused the Jews of “laying aside the commandment of God (to) hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). The commands Jesus followed were the ones written in the Law-the Scriptures Judah was forced by God to preserve, yet Scriptures they refused to believe and obey.
Here is absolute proof of Jesus' recognition of the authority invested in the religious leaders in Judah at that time. Christ kept the same Sabbath that the Jews around Him did. He observed the same Holy Days, proving that they had a correct knowledge of time. (There were heretical Jewish sects, however, that observed these at the wrong time due to their misunderstanding of the Scriptural instructions.) In speaking of the Scripture, He accepted the same Scripture which had been entrusted to Israel by Moses and the Prophets. Christ recognized that in all three points the house of Judah had carried out its corn- mission. Do you? Or has some other group been used to preserve the Hebrew Scriptures accurately. Has another group preserved the knowledge of he true Sabbath? (Herrmann, Kenneth C. Which is the Calendar Christ Used? Good News. February, 1957)
The calendar issue comes up from time to time as some are confused about the calendar that the Bible uses for Holy Days.
I would like to add that I received some emails about this from those who seem to be opposed to a calculated calendar. The gist of them is that if the moon is not seen, then one should pick either 29 or 30 days from the previous new moon to start the month. However since the months are slightly over 29 days, this too is a calculation. A calculated calendar is really the only kind that is functional when weather realities are considered.
For information indicating that Jesus kept a calendar with postponements, check out the article Calculated or observed calendar?
As far as what days are calculated, many may also find the following helpful:
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days, in English, through 2024, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur :) In the Spanish/Español/Castellano language: Calendario de los Días Santos. In Mandarin Chinese: 何日是神的圣日？ 这里是一份神的圣日日历从2013年至2024年。.
McNair R. What are the Postponements? posted 2014 as http:www.cogwriter.com/postponements.htm 2014/2015 0302
Back to home page