Calculated or observed calendar?

Older Hebrew Calendar


Each year, some bring up calendar concerns. Some believe that a calculated Holy Day calendar is wrong and that one must be only kept based upon personal observation.  Those espousing the observed calendar often differ among themselves as to how it is to be observed.

Here are some comments from the late evangelists Raymond McNair and John Ogwyn:

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! (McNair R. Which Calendar has God Authorized? Global Church News, 2006)

In antiquity, man had only two ways of knowing the time of the new moon. One was by physical sighting of the crescent; the other was by calculation based upon the average time between conjunctions.

Some today wish to offer a substitute calendar based not on averages or observation, but on figures they have obtained from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the U. S. Naval Observatory. These figures are derived from satellite observation and are supposed to be more exact than the averages from which the traditional Hebrew calendar was calculated.

Please understand, if there is one calendar that we can absolutely prove that Christ and the Apostolic Church DID NOT use, it is one based on satellite observation! (Ogwyn J. The Hebrew Calendar. LCN, 2001)

In a 1979 letter to a woman who asked about calendar matters, the late Pastor General of the old Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, wrote the following:

God did use Judah (not Israel) to preserve both the OT Scriptures and the sacred calendar. These were preserved in writing. Israel, prior to rejecting King Rehoboam, and Judah after, did on occasions observe God’s weekly and annual Sabbaths, but not continually, and they disobeyed in just about everything—but they did preserve what was in writing.

Jerusalem time

All these days were observed on the same day everywhere that they were observed at Jerusalem, when that day reached them. Days are always calculated as of Jerusalem. If we live in a time zone that begins ten hours later than the same day does at Jerusalem, we observe that same day when that day comes to us, whether one or more hours before, or after. ...

Called and chosen

There is no authority or teaching in the Bible to calculate any of these days differently than they did in Moses’ day—when the new moons were seen by the naked eye at Jerusalem. ...

We calculate the beginning of months, even as did Jesus and the first apostles —not as a holy day or convocation—yet the spring and fall festivals are reckoned from the first days of their months, and it IS important that we calculate properly. NEVERTHELESS , even so, since these are CHURCH festivals, they must be calculated by the CHURCH , through Christ’s chosen apostle, as Christ leads. We follow Jesus Christ’s own example. He did not change or alter the calculating of these months, but observed them as Judah had calculated them ever since Moses.

The apostles made NO CHANGE in the calculations. Neither do I, or God’s Church of our day. We observe these days, as originally calculated as inspired by God, from Jerusalem, WHEN these same days come to us on a round earth. (Armstrong HW. Letter to female member, 1979 as shown on page titled: HWA explained new moons and more in letter to member. As cited in: The Journal: News of the Churches of God. Issue 200, November 2017, p. 4)

The calendar debate is often centered around a Jewish leader called Hillel II. He is credited for publishing the rules that the Jews use for calculating the calendar. Basically, the observed crowd claims that since Hillel was not around until the 4th century, that prior to him, the Jews always used a calendar based upon observation of the first crescent moon and did not include something called ‘postponements.’

This argument presumes, however, that Hillel II invented the calendar rules he made public. Since the calendar determining methods were guarded by the priests, we do not know that for a fact. Furthermore, some believe that this public action was necessary, because the ‘judicial body’ then known as the Sanhedrin, was a fading institution at the time, hence there was a need for public disclosure of the rules.

The observation with calculations crowd basically says that not all Jews used an observed calendar and the Bible seemingly gave the Jews (Leviticus 23:2 and possibly the Church per Colossians 2:16-17, literal translation) some latitude in determination of the actual start date. Some believe that postponements were in place and probably used by some centuries prior to the time of Jesus.

The theory of the Hillel calendar allegedly derives entirely from a paper written seven centuries later by R. Avraham b. Hiyya, in which he quoted R. Hai Gaon (early 11th century) as saying: “… until the days of Hillel b. R. Yehuda in the year 670 of the Seleucid era (358/359AD), from when they did not bring forth or postpone, but kept to this cycle which was at hand …” This brief remark is the only scrap of evidence for the existence of Hillel II related to the calendar.

Notice the following:

The Calculated Hebrew Calendar has been attributed to a Nasi named Hillel II. One would have thought that the calculation established by Hillel II would be widely published and known in his day. Yet neither Hillel II nor even a discussion of the idea of supplanting witnesses with a calculated calendar is found in the Talmud Yerushalmi or the Talmud Bavli. The first mention of Hillel II is over seven hundred years after the fact.

עד ימי הלל בר' יהודה בשנת תר'ע לשטרות, שמאותה שנה לא הקדימו ולא אחרו, אלא אחזו הסדר הזה אשר היה בידם. . . .

until the days of Hillel b. R. Yehuda in the year 670 of the Seleucid era (358/9 CE), from when they did not bring forth or postpone, but kept to this cycle which was at hand . . . This from a responsum of R. Hai Gaon (early eleventh century) cited by R. Avraham b. Hiyya. ...

Hillel b. R. Yehuda documented the fact not of the initiation of the Hebrew Calculated Calendar but of the fact of the continued use of this system. This documentation somehow made it to the library of Pumpedita and ultimately to the attention of Rav Hai Gaon. (Hillel II. Sod Haiber, accessed 02/20/22)

So, that view is consistent with the idea that Hillel II did not invent postponements, only that he wrote calendar rules down.

Back in Jesus’ time, communications were not instantaneous. Yet, somehow Jews around the Roman Empire knew when the Day of Pentecost was as the Bible shows that they were in Jerusalem observing it on the correct day:

1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:1-11)

The above is scriptural support for the idea that the calculated calendar was in place. Why do I write that?

It would have been needed so that the Jews who came for Pentecost would have to known when it was some time previous to it. Travel was much slower then and for a message to get from Jerusalem to Rome, and then for people to get back to Rome would have taken a long time, it would not seem possible that those who visited Jerusalem from places as far away as Rome could have known when to be there, UNLESS a calculated calendar was used. While the Roman visitors coincidentally could have been there, since Pentecost was one of the listed Holy Days to appear before God with an offering (Deuteronomy 16:16), it is likely that they knew (in advance) when it was.

It should be realized that for centuries after Jesus was resurrected, Christians who kept the Holy Days had to use some method, and since most were NOT near Jerusalem after 69 A.D., the use of a calculated calendar (which they likely knew from the Jews) was the only practical way for them to know when the Holy Days were.

Now because some rules related to the calendar were not made public prior to Hillel II (some others had been related to years with an ‘intercalated’ month), we do not know the date when they were first implemented–though some believe they existed from the time of Moses and were shown to be utilized by Ezra. It would seem logical to conclude that they were begun during the period when sacrificing was being done. One of the possible reasons I have read about for implementing them was in consideration of back-to-back High Days (before or after a weekly Sabbath) and the laborious offering rituals needed. It would not seem that postponements would have been implemented long after the Temple was destroyed with related sacrificing also ceasing by 70 A.D. If sacrifices played a role in using the postponement, then Hillel II could not have been the one to originate postponements.

According to Jewish sources. the placement of the Day of Atonement seems to be a major factor in the use of postponements. Notice the following from the Encyclopaedia Judaica:

CALENDAR (Heb. לוּחַ, lu’aḥ). The present Jewish calendar is lunisolar, the months being reckoned according to the moon and the years according to the sun. A month is the period of time between one conjunction of the moon with the sun and the next. 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 מוֹלָד, molad (“birth,” from the root ילד). The mean synodic month (or lunation) is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3⅓ seconds (793 parts (ḥalakim); in the Jewish system the hour is divided into 1,080 parts each of which is 3⅓ seconds). The solar year is 365 days, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, which means that a solar year exceeds a lunar one (12 months) by about 11 days. The cycles of 12 lunar months must therefore be adjusted to the solar year, because although the Jewish festivals are fixed according to dates in months, they must also be in specific (agricultural) seasons of the year which depend on the tropical solar year. Without any adjustment the festivals would “wander” through the seasons and the “spring” festival (Passover), for example, would be celebrated eventually in winter, and later in summer. The required adjustment is realized by the addition of an extra month (Adar II) in each of seven out of the 19 years that constitute the small (or lunar) cycle of the moon (maḥazor katan or maḥazor ha-levanah). …

The year begins on Tishri 1, which is rarely the day of the molad, as there are four obstacles or considerations, called deḥiyyot, in fixing the first day of the month (rosh ḥodesh). Each deḥiyyah defers Rosh Ha-Shanah by a day, and combined deḥiyyot may cause a postponement of two days: (1) mainly in order to prevent the Day of Atonement (Tishri 10) from falling on Friday or Sunday, and Hoshana Rabba (the seventh day of Sukkot; Tishri 21) from falling on Saturday, but in part also serving an astronomical purpose (see below). Rosh Ha-Shanah never falls on Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday (according to the mnemonic לא אד”ו ראש known as the postponement addu – probably first vocalized iddo; cf. Ezra 8:17). (2) Entirely for an astronomical reason, if the molad is at noon or later (מוֹלָד זָקֵן or מוֹלָד יח) Rosh Ha-Shanah is delayed by one day or, if this would cause it to fall as above, two days. These two deḥiyyot, owing to the mentioned limits on the number of days in the year, entail another two. (3) The third deḥiyyah is as follows: If the molad in an “ordinary” (not leap) year falls at ג”טר”ד, that is the third day (Tuesday), at 9 hours, 204 ḥalakim, that is, 3:11 A.M. and 20 secs. – Rosh Ha-Shanah is put off two days. A postponement to Wednesday is not permitted (as in (1)), so that it is deferred to Thursday. The object is as follows: If the molad of Tishri occurs at that hour, the outcome would be a year which is one day too long…. (4) This deḥiyyah is very infrequent. It is known as בט”ו תקפ”ט אחר עבור שנה, that is when the molad of Tishri, following immediately after a leap year, occurs on the second day (Monday) at 15 hours, 589 ḥalakim, which means Monday, 9:32 A.M. and 43⅓ secs. …

While it is not unreasonable to attribute to Hillel II the fixing of the regular order of intercalations, his full share in the present fixed calendar is doubtful. … Intercalation is claimed to be evident from the figures in Ezekiel 1:1, 3:15, 4:4–6 and 8:1, with similar indications in I Kings 12:32–3 and II Chronicles 30:2–3; … The New Moon (Num. 28:11, and parallels) was determined by the phasis in the preceding evening, hence the plausibility of an early biblical record (I Sam 20:18) of its prediction for “tomorrow.”

(Calendar. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 4. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. p354-359. COPYRIGHT 2007 Keter Publishing House Ltd.|CX2587503848#354 viewed 02/28/15)

It is true that Hillel II did not come up with all the calendar calculation rules. Again, it is more likely he mainly laid them out publicly.

Psalm 81:1-5 discusses new moons, and may be a reason that the Jews believe the calculation for the new year should be based on Tishri 1. Though the sacred year, according to the Bible (Exodus 12:1-2), begins on Nisan 1, the date of that calculation seems to be based on the Tishri calculation. The fact that the Encyclopaedia Judaica ties an aspect of the calendar with Ezra 8:17 is consistent with the view that the postponements were being utilized at the time of Ezra.

Furthermore consider that Jesus kept Passover on the 14th of Nisan (also known as the month of Abib) on the Hebrew calendar after sunset on the day we now call Tuesday (see What Happened in the ‘Crucifixion Week’?). He died the next day, which is the day we commonly call Wednesday. The late Dr. Herman Hoeh taught this occurred in 31 A.D. (though 30 A.D. might be possible–as far as 30 A.D. goes, I have seen something from one supporter of that view that claimed that the Feast of Trumpets prior to it was calculated based upon a postponement).

Now, if we can have records of when the new moon was for 31 A.D., we can calculate when Passover would have been. And that information exists.

There is New Moon Data from the US Navy Observatory using the current Julian calendar and Greenwich Mean Time for the new moon in 31 A.D.:

31 ...  April 10    Noon  ( viewed 02/25/15)

Since Jerusalem is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, then the conjunction, which effectively is the start of the the actual New Moon, would have occurred at 2:00 pm on what we now call April 10th on the day of the week commonly called Tuesday (the same US Navy link states that March 27th was on a Tuesday, and from that we can calculate the days of the week for April of 31 A.D.).

If the first part or crescent of the moon could have been seen close to the time the US Navy said the conjunction for the new moon occurred, the 14th of Nisan would have began after sunset on Sunday the 22nd of April. Yet, it would not have been.


The human eye normally cannot see the moon in the middle of the afternoon and there are delays until enough of the moon can be seen. So it would seem that the first observable crescent should have been the next day at the earliest. Thus, the first day of the month would have likely been Wednesday, April 11th, based upon a strictly observable calendar as the moon could have been visible to the human eye around sunrise on that date. This would have made Passover after sunset Monday, April 23rd (by the way, if this was not a postponed month, and Jesus was killed the month before, He still would have been killed on a Wednesday according to the Rosetta calendar I consulted).

Presuming Jesus was killed in 31 A.D., this eliminates the strictly observable calendar (for details on why that makes sense, check out the article The KEY To The Crucifixion Date). The beginning of the month that year would have been ‘postponed’ one day, based upon a calculated calendar. Since Jesus kept His last Passover on a Tuesday evening after sunset, this leads to the logical conclusion that Jesus kept the Passover based upon a calculated calendar (again presuming a 31 A.D. final Passover for Him). Jesus would have kept Passover after sunset on April 24th and died prior to sunset on April 25th.

Some may argue that it is possible that the first observable crescent was after sunset on the 11th of April, so a strictly observable calendar could have been used. Well, even if that is so, there is evidence that Jesus was observing a calculated calendar for the Fall holy days in 30 A.D.

Here is some information from the late evangelist John Ogwyn about that:

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 7 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.

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 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?

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.

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.

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 had been in effect that did not allow the Feast of Trumpets to come on a Friday. 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 7 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.

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.

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. (Ogwyn J. The Hebrew Calendar Part 2. LCN, 2000)

And if Jesus kept the Holy Days based upon a calculated calendar, then it is reasonable to conclude that a calculated calendar existed centuries before Hillel wrote a record of it down.

Notice also the following from the late Dr. Herman Hoeh:

The Hebrew calendar tells when

Here is a chart verified by works on the "Jewish calendar" — actually God's sacred calendar — absolutely correct according to the computation preserved since the days of Moses!

Dates             Passover
A.D. 29      Saturday, April 16
A.D. 30      Wednesday, April 5
A.D. 31      Wednesday, April 25
A.D. 32      Monday, April 14
A.D. 33      Friday, April 3

To place the Passover on a Friday in A.D. 30 is to violate one of the rules of the fixed calendar — that no common year of the sacred calendar may have 356 days. Common years of 12 months may be only 353, 354 or 355 days long, a fact you can verify in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

Theologians place the Passover of A.D. 30 on Friday, April 7, 356 days after the Passover of A.D. 29. Count it for yourself! This date is two days late. The Passover in A.D. 30 was only 354 days after that of A.D. 29.

The 14th of the month Nisan could have occurred on Wednesday in A.D. 30, as well as in A.D. 31. Thus, if you want to believe that the crucifixion was in A.D. 30 — which it was not — you would still have to admit that Friday could not be the day of the crucifixion!

For the year A.D. 31 a few references, unacquainted with the rules of the Hebrew calendar, mistakenly give the Passover, Nisan 14, as Monday, March 26. But this is one month too early. The year A.D. 30-31 was intercalary — that is, it had 13 months — thus placing the Passover 30 days later in A.D. 31, and on a Wednesday. (Hoeh H. The Crucifixion Was Not on Friday, Part Two. Good News magazine, March 1984)

Since Jesus kept Passover on Tuesday night (the day starts the evening prior on the Hebrew calendar, hence a Wednesday calendar date means a Tuesday evening obvserance, since Passover is observed in the evening) and died Wednesday afternoon, it appears that He was keeping a calculated calendar with postponements.

Understand that many of the children of Israel were dispersed from Jerusalem for centuries. This of course separated them from accurate Jerusalem observations. Since all wanted to keep the right day, a calculated calendar was a logical solution to this (though odd solutions, such as observing the holy days for two days, were used by many, as some do today).

On sufficiently cloudy evenings/nights, it is not possible to observe the first appearance of the new moon through observation.  Thousands of years ago, they would not have had a way to observe the start of the new moon every month.

Some understand that, some do not.

In 1997, there was a 'calendar' conference. The Journal: News of the Churches of God ran the following about it in 2017:

DALLAS, Texas—If you haven’t yet heard about the calendar postponements, just wait a while. Questions about the Hebrew calendar and the touchy subject of its postponements are a hot topic in many of the Churches of God. To some people postponements are no big deal. To others they’re the mark of the beast. What are they? Do the brethren need to be concerned about them? Do they make any difference one way or the other?

A conference at the Hilltop Inn here Jan. 3-5, 1997, convened to take up those questions in earnest. ...

Critics of postponements, such as James Russell of the Church of God in Truth and Mr. Maayeh of the Scattered Brethren, say that no man has the right to postpone the festivals. They draw direct comparisons be- tween the annual feasts and the weekly Sabbath. Mr. Russell goes so far as to equate acceptance of the postponements with bearing the mark of the beast. ...

Make peace, not war

Norm Edwards of Michigan, former publisher of the newsletter Servants’ News, is one who calls for church members to live in amity with each other in spite of calendar differences. Mr. Edwards, who says he can- not find sufficient scriptural reason not to observe the postponements, points out that following them helps brethren worldwide keep the festivals at the same times.

On the other hand, James Russell obviously and sincerely believes a festival postponed is no better than a weekly Sabbath postponed. The Roman church postponed the Sabbath. Where’s the dime’s worth of difference?

As you might expect, the answers are not quite that cut and dried. ...

The speakers

Here are the speakers and synopses of their arguments.

First observable crescent

Herb Solinsky of Carrollton, Texas, said he believes a new month starts with the first observable crescent moon in Jerusalem, and the year begins with the first new moon after the spring equinox.

This means that Mr. Solinsky recognizes the beginning of the month usually one or two days later than the extant Hebrew calendar. About 20 percent of the time his dates agree with those on the Hebrew calendar.

He referred to the testimony of Philo, a 1st-century Jew, who said the month began with the first observable crescent and who encouraged people to go to Jerusalem to keep the feasts.

Mr. Solinsky believes the Israelites kept the calendar based on actual sightings of the moon, but he uses a computer program to predict when the first crescent will be observable from Jerusalem.

He allows that his calculated methods may deviate from actual observation in a few cases, such as when a small crescent is only briefly visible. He would defer to actual sightings in Jerusalem at those times.

True astronomical conjunction

James Russell of Corona, Calif., believes the year begins with the new moon closest to the spring equinox. He believes the months begin at the “true” astronomical conjunction (when the earth, moon and sun are in line).

This system usually starts the month one or two days before the Hebrew calendar and fairly often starts the year a month before the Hebrew calendar.

Using the true astronomical con- junction is different from the method used by the Hebrew calendar, which is based on the mean, or average, con- junction; that is, it assumes that every cycle of the moon consists of 29.530594 days.

In reality the moon’s orbit is not round and is not on exactly the same plane as the earth’s orbit around the sun. Thus Mr. Russell’s method re- quires complex calculations to come up with. Mr. Russell acknowledges that these calculations were probably beyond the abilities of ancient observers.

Barley harvest

Rick Eckert of Orange Beach, Ala., presented a system in which the new year is based on the progress of the barley harvest in ancient Israel. Un- like most other calendar scholars, Mr. Eckert said he believes the months should begin with the full, not the new, moon.

Use of the full moon for this purpose means each festival varies at least two weeks from the same festival based on most other calendar systems.

Whether the feasts are to be kept two weeks earlier or later depends on the barley harvest each year.

Mr. Eckert says he has actually planted barley to determine when to start the year.

The main scriptural reference used by Mr. Eckert was Psalm 81:3, which says, “Blow the trumpet in the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day.”

Since the Hebrew contains no coordinating conjunction between “full moon” and “on our solemn feast day,” Mr. Eckert concludes that “feast day” is the same as “full moon.”

He acknowledged that he had learned much at the conference and that other calendar theories could hold some validity.

Moon and stars

Michael Turner of Plano explained a system that uses the first observable crescent to begin the month, in that respect similar to Mr. Solinsky’s views.

However, Mr. Turner uses the moon and stars to determine the start of the year, specifically the sighting of the moon in the constellation T aurus. This approach means the year often begins a month later than that determined by the Hebrew calendar.

Because of the “procession of the equinoxes,” Mr. Turner’s method allows the calendar to get out of sync with the seasons about 13 days every 1,000 years.

Mr. Turner commented that many people assume any reference to the stars or signs of the zodiac are of pagan origin. Citing Job 9:9 and other scriptures, he noted that God created the constellations, but false religions exploited them for their own use.

Mr. Turner has developed a calendar system that would be observable in essentially the same manner all over the world.

Raider of the lost Ark

Vendyl Jones of Arlington, Texas, who refused to sign an autograph as “Indiana” (even though he said he is the real Indiana Jones), talked about a solar calendar based on 52 weeks of seven days with a leap day at the spring feast and an extra day every fourth year at the fall feast.

In this calendar are exactly 12 months in each year with no correla- tion between the month and the cycle of the moon. His preliminary comments prompted so many questions that he didn’t finish explaining his calendar.

Mr. Jones, who claimed to be close to finding the Ark of the Covenant and the ashes of the red heifer, also spoke of his archaeological projects in the Middle East and his studies at his Vendyl Jones Research Institutes in Arlington.

Last-minute speaker Alva Nelms of Temple, Texas, was not on the schedule but asked to address the conference. Mrs. Nelms said the calendar “must be simple enough for a shepherd to understand” and “must not have fragmented time periods.”

Some in the audience interjected at that point that those requirements are not in the Bible. Mrs. Nelms advocated using the last visible crescent of the moon as the beginning of a month, observed just before sunset rather than just before sunrise. (Cartwright D. Outlook on postponements affects festival observances. The Jourmal: News of the Churches of God. July 31, 2017, pp. 1,13,16)

It is good that Herb Solinsky realizes his method may not always be right, that James Russell acknowledges that what he is doing was really not possible in ancient times, that Rick Eckert realizes his method may be wrong and that . That being the case, then Jesus would not have been operating under James Russell's calendar).

Is is NOT possible that the Israelite calendar postponements are the 'mark of the Beast' (to learn more about that subject, check out the Mark of the Beast) like Church of God, In Truth's James Russell has asserted.

While God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), the anti-postponement crowd has the wrong priorities and methods that are not logical--nor is there any biblical proof that Jesus used their method(s).

There are many reasons why a calculated calendar with observations makes sense. Consider:

  1. Modern communication methods did not exist thousands of years ago.
  2. Jesus endorsed the basic Jewish calendar (cf. Matthew 23:1-3).
  3. Jesus, who did not sin (Hebrews 4:15), seemingly observed a calculated calendar (cf. Luke 22:8-22, etc.).
  4. Throughout history God’s people not near Jerusalem basically had to rely on some type of a calculated calendar.
  5. Weather and other factors made a strictly observational calendar impossible for use every month.
  6. A strictly observational calendar results in people keeping Holy Days sometimes weeks differently, depending up where they are physically located.
  7. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).

There is more information that could be provided on each of the above points, but even though I plan to research more on this in the future, thus far I have not been persuaded by the anti-postponement arguers as their methods fail to make historical sense.

Thiel B. Calculated or observed calendar? COGwriter (c) 2015, 2016, 2017 2018 2022 0220

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Some items of possibly related interest may include:

The KEY To The Crucifixion Date This is an article by Paul Kroll pointing to 31 A.D. by way of Daniel 9 and Artaxerxes' decree in Ezra 7.
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by the Tkach WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
What are Postponements? This was written by the late evangelist Raymond McNair and explains a lot about postponements and calculations.
Hebrew Calendar and “Postponements” This late John Ogywn writing explains why the most faithful in the Church of God use the calendar that we do and answers such questions as “Did Jesus Observe the Postponements?”
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days 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。.
What Happened in the ‘Crucifixion Week’? How long are three days and three nights? Was Palm Sunday on a Saturday? Did Jesus die on “Good Friday”? Was the resurrection on Sunday? Do you really know? Who determined the date of Easter? (Here is a related link in Spanish/español: ¿Murió Jesús un día miércoles o un viernes?)
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins?
Melito’s Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well. Here is a related sermon, also titled Melito’s Homily on the Passover.
TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th? While the real COG observes Passover on the 14th, some observe it on the 15th. Why is the 14th correct? A related sermon is titled Is Passover on the 14th or 15th for Christians?
The Night to Be Observed What is the night to be much observed? When is it? Why do Jews keep Passover twice and emphasize the wrong date? A related video is available and is titled The Night to Be Much Observed.
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? What is leaven? This article supplies some biblical answers. Here is a YouTube video intended to be viewed for the first day of unleavened bread: Christians and the Days of Unleavened Bread.
Should You Observe God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays? This is a free pdf booklet explaining what the Bible and history teach about God’s Holy Days and popular holidays.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?