An explanation of ‘biblical counting’, as shown in the Old and New Covenants, will be added shortly.
The Church of God 7th Day (HQ in Denver) and Church of God 7th Day (Jerusalem) utilize the Hebrew Calendar to calculate Passover, but observe it on the evening of the 14th day of Abib (Nisan), not the 15th.
The Church of God 7th Day (Salem) keeps Passover on the evening of the 14th, but observes Biblical Calendar  (see doctrinal point no.15 on this link) - so in 2016 Passover will be a month earlier..
Calculating the 1st day of the year is simpler in the other calendars:
 Day of the astronomical
new moon (conjunction of sun/moon) [03.54, March 9th], nearest the Vernal Equinox
[06.30, March 20th, Jerusalem times].
(A few groups say that the conjunction is the day of the disappearance of the old moon [usually one day earlier], nearest the Vernal Equinox.)
Day of the astronomical new moon
(conjunction of sun/moon), [13.23, April 7th], following the Vernal Equinox
[06.30, March 20th, Jerusalem times].
 Evening of the appearance of the crescent new moon – visible in the brief
period between sunset and moonset - nearest the Vernal Equinox.
Evening of the appearance of the crescent new moon – visible
in the brief period between sunset and moonset - following
the Vernal Equinox..
Evening of the appearance of the crescent new moon – visible
in the brief period between sunset and moonset - in the
month that the wild barley in Israel will be ready for harvesting by
the Sunday after Passover (Leviticus 23:10-12).
Calendar  will be the same as either  or &, depending on when the wild barley in Israel will be ready for harvesting.
dates for the 3 annual festivals (Exodus 23:14-16)
are printed in
green, and the 7 annual holy days are in red.
|First Day of|
|Seventh Day of|
|First Day of|
A History of the Biblical
Scriptural References :
ASV - American Standard Version; GLV - Green's Literal Version
The sun and moon declare our annual appointed times with God:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years ... And God made the two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.(Genesis 1:14,16 ASV)
These are appointed seasons of Jehovah, holy gatherings which you shall proclaim in their appointed seasons (Leviticus 23:4 GLV)
Chodesh (Strong’s H2320) is defined as ‘the new moon; by implication, a month’.
This month (chodesh) shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. (Exodus 12:2 ASV)
Observe the month (chodesh) of Abib, and keep the passover unto Jehovah thy God; for in the month of Abib Jehovah thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
(Deuteronomy 16:1 ASV)
Each Biblical month begins at the new moon, and the first month of the year is Abib (Nisan), the month of the Passover. (The Egyptian calendar began with the season of Inundation [of the Nile] in midsummer, which was prefaced by the appearance of Sirius just before dawn. Each day began at sunrise, while the month began at the sunrise following the disappearance of the old moon.)
Originally every month was 30 days long – as shown by Noah’s flood, when “the waters prevailed over the earth one hundred and fifty days” (Genesis 7:24), from the seventeenth day of the second month” (7:11) to the seventeenth day of the seventh month” (8:4) – 5 months x 30 days. Today, a lunar month is either 29 or 30 days, and it is impossible for there to be 5 consecutive months of 30 days each.
Exodus 12:2 and Deuteronomy 16:1 were therefore all the calendar instruction that the Israelites needed – there was no requirement to add a 13th lunar month every 2 or 3 years to align the calendar with the solar year.
Ancient documents confirm that a year comprised 12 months of 30 days each:
“At first the astronomers of Babylon recognized a year of 360 days, and the division of a circle into 360 degrees must have indicated the path traversed by the sun each day in its assumed circling of the earth.”
(Moritz Cantor, Lectures on the History of Mathematics.)
“The Assyrians, like the Babylonians, had a year composed of lunar months ....
The calendar assigns to each month thirty full days.” (R. Campbell Thompson, Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon in the British Museum.)
“A year consists of twelve months. A month consists of 30 days.” (The Arabhatiya of Aryabhata – an ancient Indian work on mathematics and astronomy)
“All over the world we find that there was at some time the same calendar of 360 days, and that at some later date, about the seventh century before the present era, five days were added at the end of the year, as ‘days over the year’, or ‘days of nothing’ ... a series of catastrophes occurred that changed the axis and the orbit of the earth and the orbit of the moon ...” (Immanuel Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision)
“Yet the fact is that no one has ever established that the 365-day calendar was in use prior to the early seventh century.”
(Mark Cohen, The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East.)
This was the time period of the Old Testament prophets and of Daniel, when:
“He is changing times and seasons” (Daniel 2:21 - Young's Literal Translation)
What was affecting the Earth and causing the “changing times and seasons”?
At the Babylonian Akitu festival, the high priest would recite the following prayer before the statue of Bel:
(a.k.a. Marduk: “Babylon is captured, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is broken in pieces, her images are put to shame, her idols are broken in pieces.” Jer. 50:2 GLV):
“My lord is just. Is his name not ‘My-Lord’?
My lord causes trembling. My lord is the prince of all the lands ...
Jupiter, bearer of signs to the universe! My Lord! My Lord, be calmed!
Mercury, who brings rain! My Lord! My Lord, be calmed!
Saturn, star of justice and right! My Lord! My Lord, be calmed!
Mars, blazing fire! My Lord! My Lord, be calmed! ...”
The high priest then turned to pray to Bel’s consort, Beltiya:
“My lady, turn back! Turn back! My lady, be calmed! ...
Venus, brightest star - this is a name for my lady,
Bow-star, who fells the mighty - this is a name for my lady,
She-goat star, who scans the heavens - this is a name for my lady,
Star of Abundance, the star of abundance - this is a name for my lady,
Star of Dignity, the star which moves out of orbit ...”
(Mark Cohen, The Cultic Calendars Of The Ancient Near East)
“Bel, thine abode is Babylon ... thou controllest laws by thy laws ... thou burnest up the mighty ones by thy flame.” (Stephen H. Langdon, The Mythology of All Races)
“By causing the heavens to tremble and the earth to quake,
By the gleam which lightens the sky,
By the blazing fire which rains upon the hostile land,
I am Ishtar. Ishtar I am by the light that arises in heaven,
Ishtar the queen of heaven am I by the light that arises in heaven.”
(Stephen H. Langdon, Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms)
How did the nations adjust to a solar year of 365 days and months of 29 or 30 days? Most retained twelve 30 day months and added ‘5 days of nothing’ at the end of the year. For example, “The Peruvian year was divided into twelve Quilla, or moons, of 30 days. Five days were added at the end, called Allcacanquis.”
(Sir Clements Markham, The Incas of Peru)
238BC a decree at Canopus, Egypt, declared, “from this time onwards
one day, a festival of the Good-doing Gods, shall be added every four
years to the five additional days before the New Year, so that all
may know that the error of deficiency which existed formerly in
respect to the arrangement of the seasons, and of the year, and of
the views usually believed concerning the general ordering of the
heavens, hath been rectified and filled up satisfactorily by the
and his companions were taken captive to Babylon during this period
when Jehovah “is changing the times and the seasons”.
Nebuchadnezzar found these young men to be “skilful in all wisdom, and endued with knowledge, and understanding science” (Daniel
1:4 ASV). “And in every matter of wisdom and understanding, concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his realm.” (Daniel
Was it due to their influence that the Babylonians retained a luni-solar calendar?”
months were strictly lunar (in this case, because it was the first
visibility of the new crescent that marked the start off each new
month), and those lunar months were combined with a variable year
that could average out to the same length as the solar year. Every
two or three years an intercalary lunar month was added (usually a
second Ulul [6th month] or a second Adar [12th
(Mark Cohen, The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient
the basis of three letters which record the announcement of the
intercalary year, Parker and Dubberstein [authors of Babylonian
Chronology: 626BC-AD75] suggest that, during the Babylonian period,
the directives for intercalation came from the king, whereas during
the subsequent Achaemenid period [Persian empire], priestly officials
in Babylon gave the orders.” (ibid)
intercalation of a 13th month is evident in the book of
Ezekiel, written during the Babylonian captivity:
in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month .... In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity, the word of Jehovah came expressly unto Ezekiel ....”(1:1-3 ASV). After Ezekiel had dwelt
at Tel Aviv for 7 days (3:15), the word of Jehovah came again, saying that
he should lie on his left side for 390 days, then on his right side
for 40 days (4:4-6). More than 437 days had thus elapsed when Ezekiel
was sitting in his house on the 5th day of the 6th month in the 6th
year, i.e. 1 year 2 months later (8:1).
months x 30 days + 5 days = 425 days. Since the lunar month now
averaged 29½ days, a 13th month must have been intercalated during
months x 29½ days = 413 days + intercalary month = 442 or 443 days.
After 70 years captivity in Babylon: “in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Jehovah by the mouth of Jeremiah (Jer.29:10) might be accomplished, Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying ... ‘Whosoever there is among you of all his people, his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of Jehovah, the God of Israel (he is God), which is in Jerusalem ...When rose up the heads of fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, even all whose spirit God had stirred to go up to build the house of Jehovah which is in Jerusalem’.” (Ezra 1:1,3,5 ASV)
And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem ...And they kept the feast of tabernacles, as it is written. (Ezra 3:1,4 ASV)
And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month ...And they found written in the law, how that Jehovah had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month ... Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the ordinance. (Nehemiah 8:2,14,18 ASV)
How did Ezra determine when it was the 7th biblical month? What instruction did he receive from Daniel - who was alive during the reign of Cyrus (Dan.6:28)? The books of Ezra and Nehemiah contain no definite statements as to the calendar rules, but detailed information of the Second Temple calendar can be found in the Mishnah, a collection of 63 tractates, divided into 6 orders, one being the Mo’edim (the appointed times of Jehovah).
“The calendar of the Mishnah is discussed and debated in detail in both the Palestinian and the Babylonian Talmudim … The fact that no other calendar system is ever referred to in the Talmudim may be regarded as significant. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that the Mishnaic system was perpetuated well into the Amoraic period (third to fifth centuries).”
(Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community : A History of the Jewish Calendar, 2nd century BCE – 10th century CE, p.164)
There were other calendars in Palestine during this period in history, most notably the Samaritan calendar of the Northern Israelites, who continue to this day to observe the annual festivals at Mount Gerizim. Jesus Christ, however, observed the annual festivals in Jerusalem, so the focus must be on the calendar there.
The procedure for determining the beginning of a month is described at length in tractate Rosh ha-Shanah, and is graphically described on the Temple Institute website.
The gospels show that Jesus Christ died in the late afternoon of the 14th of Abib, the preparation day for the High Day, the 15th of Abib, on the Jewish Temple calendar.
‘The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the sabbath (for the day of that sabbath was a high day), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.’ (John 19:31 ASV)
The procedure for determining the beginning of a year is described in detail in the Tosefta, Tractate Sanhedrin, section 5:2. Herbert Danby, in the introduction to his translation of Tractate Sanhedrin, issues a warning about the Tosefta: “The Mishnah and Tosefta, which are here translated, may be regarded as together giving the bulk of the traditions on the subject in the form in which they existed at the close of the second century A.D. The Mishnah gives an ordered, comprehensive sketch of the regulations which governed the legal courts; while the Tosefta goes over similar ground in a freer manner, frequently repeating, occasionally contradicting, and constantly supplementing not always relevantly the substance of the more authoritative and final code.”
Much of Tractate Sanhedrin 5:2 is rabbinic opinion, which must be stripped away, and the basic reasons given for intercalation compared with Scripture.
5.2.2. There are three signs which make it evident that the year should be intercalated:
(a) the premature state of the corn-crops
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before Jehovah, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.” (Leviticus 23:10-11 ASV)
“Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: from the time thou beginnest to put the sickle to the standing grain shalt thou begin to number seven weeks ... And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto Jehovah thy God ...” (Deuteronomy 16:9-10 ASV)
If the fields of barley (which grows wild all over Palestine) are not ready to begin harvesting on the Sunday after Passover, a 13th month was to be added.
(b) The undeveloped state of the tree products
And He spoke a parable to them: ‘You see the fig tree and all the trees ... Now when they sprout leaves, seeing it, you will know from yourselves that now the summer is near.’ (Luke 21:29-30 GLV)
For, lo, the winter is past; The rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land; The fig-tree ripeneth her green figs, And the vines are in blossom; They give forth their fragrance. (Song of Solomon 2:11-13 ASV)
Here are given two other indicators of the end of winter and the beginning of summer: the end of the rainy winter season and bird migration.
(c) The lateness of the spring equinox
Summer and Winter are the only biblical seasons. The season of Spring cannot be found in the scriptures.
Equinox here derives from the Hebrew word tqufah (Strong’s H8622), which is found in 4 verses:
“And you shall observe a Feast of Weeks for yourself, the firstfruits of the harvest of wheat; also the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.”(Exodus 34:22 GLV)
‘And it happened when the time had come around, Hannah conceived and bore a son.’ (1 Samuel 1:20 GLV)
‘And it happened, at the turn of the year, that the army of Syria came up against him ...’
(2 Chronicles 24:23 GLV)
‘his going forth from the end of the heavens, and his orbit to their ends’
(Psalm 19:6 GLV)
The ‘spring equinox’ is the result of rabbinic teaching that the ‘turn of the year’ in Exodus 34:22 may be interpreted as ‘equinox’ - thus fixing the time of the Festival of Tabernacles at the September equinox - then they taught that the March equinox was also a tqufah - and subsequently that the two solstices were also tqufahs - thus four seasons.
The vernal equinox occurs on March 20 or 21 every year. It cannot therefore be either late or early.
T’shubah (Strong’s H8666) is the ‘end of the year’ - the end of winter - in 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Kings 20:22,26; 1 Chronicles 20:1; 2 Chronicles 36:10.
(It is used in a different sense in 1 Samuel 7:17, Job 21:34 and Job 34:36).
The kings usually waited until the end of winter to begin their military campaigns, because the rains had ceased (Song of Solomon 2:11), facilitating easier troop movement.
The ‘lateness of the tqufah’ (or t’shubah) meant that the weather had not yet turned – it was still wintry.
5.2.3 On the basis of evidence derived from three countries used they to intercalate the year: Judaea, the land beyond Jordan, and Galilee. They may intercalate on the basis of two of these, but not of one only; though in this latter case the intercalation would hold good. And if Judaea were one of the two they rejoiced, because it was from there that the offering of the firstfruits came.
The ripeness of the barley was assessed in the above three areas.
5.2.4, 5.2.5 & 5.2.6 The following were additional indicators in years when there was doubt about the barley being ready for harvesting.
5.2.4 The season of the kids or lambs or pigeons had not yet arrived.
5.2.5. R. Jannai said in the name of Rabban Shimeon, the son of Gamaliel: He used to say: “In that the pigeons are still tender (Song of Solomon 2:12) and the spring Iambs thin (Exodus 12:2,3,5), it is fitting in my opinion to add thirty days to this year.”
5.2.6 Repetition of 5.2.5 with more detail.
“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you ... In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb.” (Exodus 12:2,3 ASV)
5.2.7 The year is not to be intercalated unless the spring equinox is still distant the greater part of a month.
The Mishnah records that the new year declaration (Rosh ha-Shanah) was publicized throughout the land and some parts of the diaspora by a system of beacons (and later via messengers. The Palestinian and Babylonian Talmudim both write of a chain of beacons eastward across Jordan to Pumbeditha in Babylonia.
Gamliel is recorded as sending letters to the brethren in Syria, Asia
Minor (Turkey), Media (western Iran) and Yawan (Macedonia).
The new moon was declared in the morning, so it was
impossible for those in the diaspora to receive the declaration of Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets) by the end of
that day. The distance from Jerusalem to Babylon by road is 900
miles, and sometimes the messengers failed to arrive by the 15th of the month. Rather than
use local new moon sighting, Jews in the diaspora desired unity, and so observed each annual
holy day for two days, in order to be sure of keeping the day that the
calendar court had sanctified. This tradition continues today for Orthodox Jews
living outside Israel (except for the Day of Atonement - to avoid
fasting for two successive days).
A ‘rule of the equinox’ was agreed
for use when news regarding intercalation had not been received from
Palestine by Passover - and if this proved to be the wrong decision, correction was made for
subsequent appointed times.
“The rule of the equinox is attested in a
single passage in the Babylonian Talmud (Rosh ha-Shanah 21a) ...
implies that 15 Nisan, the first day of Unleavened bread, cannot occur
before the vernal equinox. In this recension, the term aviv is treated
as synonymous with tequfah (equinox).” (Sacha Stern, ibid, p.167)
computation of the equinox - Tequfah Nisan - was based on a solar year of 365¼ days,
which is inaccurate for long term use, but it remains part of the modern
calculated calendar for ritual purposes. (Tequfah Nisan is now
7-8 April - 18 days later than the true equinox.)
introduction of the permanent calendar ... the independent computation
of the beginnings of the four seasons, the Tequfoth, has lost its
importance. Nevertheless, in all our annual calendars we find the dates
of the four Tqufoth listed ... on the day of Tequfah Nisan in the first
year of the 28-year sun cycle ... we praise God as the Creator of the
universe and especially of the sun in a special blessing.”
Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar)
Jewish communities outside the land and Christian churches, most of whom had no desire to follow ‘the practice of the Jews’, followed various time cycles, usually based around the equinox, for calculating future dates for Passover/Easter.
“We do not know how early the Easter cycles were used in practice by Christian communities, but by the early 4th century, and certainly by the Council of Nicea (325CE), the Roman cycle of 8 or 84 years had become standard in the West, and the Alexandrian cycle of 19 years in the East.” (Sacha Stern, ibid, p.225)
Emperor Constantine wrote to the Syrian and Palestinian absentees from the Council of Nicea: “It was resolved by the united judgement of all present that this feast ought to be kept by all and in every place on one and the same day ... And first of all it appeared an unworthy thing that, in the celebration of this most holy feast, we should follow the practice of the Jews.”
There was no unanimity at this council, however, as to the format for calculating Easter Sunday. In 525AD Dyonysius Exiguus published his Easter table, which the Roman Catholic church soon began to use. His paschal table is an adaptation of the 19 year Alexandrian cycle, with intercalations in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 & 19. This table has the same cycle and leap year sequence that would later be adopted for the Jewish calculated calendar.
In the 7th century the Islamic Empire came to power in the Middle-east. The Caliphate, which by the 9th century stretched from the Indian border to Spain, gave the Pharisees religious autonomy across the empire under a system known as the Exilarchate. Karaites and other Jewish groups vigorously opposed their religious governance, but could not prevent the Pharisees from becoming by far the dominant sect in Judaism (now known as ‘Orthodox’ Jews).
The raised status of the Pharisees is exemplified by the Exilarch of Babylon’s letter in 835/36, in which he referred to himself as “the head of the yeshivot, the rabbis and all Israel.” The exilarch supported the Palestinian court’s decision, however, since “we always rely on them, lest Israel be split into factions.”
“According to the exilarch, the setting of Passover on Tuesday was dictated by a concern to avoid visibility of the new moon before the first day of the month. This concern does not exist in the present-day rabbinic calendar.
Once discovered and published in 1922, the exilarch’s letter proved beyond doubt that, almost five hundred years after R. Yose and ‘Hillel the Patriarch’, the fixed calendar in its present-day form had still not been instituted.” (Sacha Stern, ibid, pp.184-5)
This deference to the Palestinian court’s decisions would not last much longer - and neither indeed would empirical observation.
Adapting the 19 year cycle to the calendrical rules that had gradually been developed over the previous centuries was a difficult task, and its achievement is generally credited to Rabbi Nahshon, Gaon of Sura in Southern Babylonia, 871-879AD. His ‘four parts’ or ‘four gates’ table (probably referring to the four days of the week on which 1st Tishri may fall - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) corresponds to the modern calendar - but requires the calculation of the ‘molad’.
“The earliest datable reference to the present day molad calculation is in the work of the Muslim astronomer al-Khwarizmi on the Jewish calendar, dating from 823/4CE, where the lunation of 29 days, 12 hours and 793 parts [1 hour = 1080 parts] is explicitly given.” (Sacha Stern, ibid, p.205)
“In the early 12th century Rabbi Avraham b. Hiyya acknowledged that the rabbinic mean lunation of 29 days, 12 hours and 793 parts, was identical with Ptolemy’s in his 2nd century classic work of astronomy, the Almagest ... It also appears indeed that the epoch assumed in the rabbinic calculation of the molad was based on that of Ptolemy.(Sacha Stern, ibid, p.207)
An alternative theory has been proposed - that ancient Babylonian astronomers had calculated this lunation, and that the Jews borrowed from them and not from Ptolemy.
“Whether the molad calculation was borrowed from Babylonian astronomers, or from an Arabic translation of Ptolemy’s Almagest that would have been made at the 9th century Abbasid capital of Baghad, in the heartland of Babylonia, the geographical origins of this molad would have been the same. It was in Babylonia, indeed, that this molad would have become known to the Jews and incorporated into the present-day rabbinic calendar.” (Sacha Stern, ibid, pp.209-10)
“Inasmuch as the present-day molad calculation and the ‘four parts table’ were both Babylonian in origin, the contribution of the Babylonian rabbinic community to the normative Jewish calendar would thus have been considerable: for the molad calculation and the ‘four parts table’ constitute the foundation of the present-day rabbinic calendar. There is thus a case to argue that the calendar in use nowadays is essentially a Babylonian calendar.” (Sacha Stern, ibid, p.275)
In the summer of 921AD a dispute arose between Palestine and Babylon, which was centered around the definition of the recently introduced rule of Molad Zaqen - ‘late conjunction’. (Fixed calendars were based on the ‘mean conjunction’ - the time of first visibility of the moon could not be calculated.)
The rule in the modern Jewish calendar states that, if the molad of Tishri occurs on or after the 18th hour (i.e. noon), the 1st of Tishri must be postponed to the next day.
This rule could not have been in effect in 835/6AD:-
“That molad zaqen was not observed is confirmed beyond doubt in the exilarch’s letter of 835/6CE, in which time the molad Nisan (836CE) is explicitly given as Tuesday ‘in the daytime ... at four hours’, i.e. approximately 10am ... This means therefore that the subsequent molad of Tishre, according to the exilarch’s reckoning, would have been on a Thursday at least 4 hours later, thus well into the afternoon. But since Passover of 836CE was to occur on a Tuesday (according to this same letter), the subsequent Rosh ha-Shanah would have been on a Thursday - on the day of the conjunction, when this conjunction occurred in the afternoon. This demonstrates that, as late as 835/6CE, the rule of molad zaqen was not yet observed.” (Sacha Stern, ibid, p.196)
This dispute arose from the announcement by the Palestinian Gaon in the summer of 921AD of the calendar dates for the next three years. Passover in 922AD was to be on Sunday, and the year ‘defective’ (one day less than the ‘regular’ year), whereas the Babylonian leadership had calculated that it would be on Tuesday, and the year ‘full’ (one day extra).
The Babylonians had calculated the molad of Tishri to be at 18 hours and 247 parts, thus the Molad Zaqen rule would come into effect. Ben Meir of Palestine argued that their ‘four gates table’ was in error by 642 parts (35 minutes 40 seconds). He issued an adjusted table, bringing the molad back by 642 parts - before noon - so that the rule did not apply. R. Saadia ben Yosef of Babylon complained that he had artificially superimposed his 642 parts on their table, and could give no explanation for this difference of 642 parts, other than saying it resulted from the ancient system of calculation handed down to him.
Ben Meir then proposed amending the Molad Zaqen rule to 18 hours 642 parts, which would affect the calendar far less. Changing the ‘four gates table’ would affect the times of all future molads, thereby changing the dates of the festivals and holy days in many more years. This proposal was also rejected.
Molad Zaqen is a strange rule to introduce into a fixed calendar based on the conjunction. If its purpose was to postpone the molad to the evening of the first possible sighting of the moon, it could have been set at 12 hours (6am), when it would still be impossible to sight the new moon on the following evening.
Two of the four postponement rules are clearly arithmetical, and Remy Landau reasons that Molad Zaqen is also an arithmetical rule.
“Dehiyyah Molad Zaqen creates considerable puzzlement and debate among scholars, some of whom have questioned whether or not it was actually rooted in R. Zera’s dictum found in the Talmud tractate Rosh Hashannah 20b. Traditional references imply that Dehiyyah Molad Zaqen has something to do with the visibility of the new moon on Rosh Hashannah, possibly over Jerusalem.
Calendar arithmetic, however, suggests a more compelling but entirely different functionality for this rule ... When Dehiyyah Molad Zaqen is removed from the calendar rules, the calculated time of the molad can be seen to exceed the first day of some months by as much as 5 hours, 23 and 4/9 minutes, which by no coincidence is exactly 6 hours later than its current maximum value.”
This dispute, however, wasn’t really about the science of the calendar, whose calculations were correct. It was about which ‘authority’ the people would follow, and whoever won the battle for power would decide which was the ‘correct’ calendar.
“In the early 10th century, Ben Meir reports that every year, at the end of the feast of Tabernacles, the head of the Palestinian academy would ascend the Mount of Olives and announce the calendar dates that had been calculated for the following year. These dates would then have been disseminated across the Diaspora, in good time before the next Passover. This old tradition demonstrated, in Ben Meir’s view, that the Palestinian court had always retained supreme authority over calendrical decisions ...
The survival of this Palestinian rabbinic monopoly, from the Mishnaic and early Amoraic periods until at least the 9th century, was not a mere archaism but an inherent necessity. Because the calendar calculation was not yet fully standardized or fixed, the responsibility for calculating calendar dates had to be restricted to a single authoritative body, so as to safeguard the rabbinic principle of calendrical unanimity. This authoritative body not only calculated and announced the dates of the calendar, but also decided, at its discretion, how the calendar calculation was to be carried out.” (Sacha Stern, ibid. pp.188-189)
The Babylonian leadership held the view - expressed in this article on Ben Meir in the Jewish Encyclopedia (1906) - that the calculation of the calendar (indeed all Judaic teaching) was the prerogative of Babylon. However, calendrical decisions had always up until this time come from Palestine, because of the Talmudic prohibition of intercalation outside the land - which the Babylonians could not directly oppose. Their response (probably by Saadia) was to claim that the two versions of the calendar had always been in agreement, and Ben Meir’s 642 parts was an aberration, a sudden divergence from the traditional calendar.
“To be sure, in earlier generations the rabbis of Babylonia would send and ask for the Palestinian rabbis’ yearly decisions regarding the months of the year, because they were not expert in the order of intercalation in the same way as the Palestinians. Therefore, they used to write to them.
But already many years ago, sages from Babylonia went up to the land of Israel, and investigated with the sages of the land of Israel in the ‘court of intercalation’, and searched and inquired into this matter, until they understood it very well. And now, for many years already, they set the months on their own in Babylonia, and the sages of the land of Israel also calculate and set the months on their own, And in all these years, their calculation has been the same and there and there has been no difference between them; for the calculation is well established, the festivals are sanctified according to the same rule and the same principle, and the calculations were all given by the same shepherd. We have never seen such a disruption or breach ...
Behold there are elders in the yeshivot who have advanced in years and who are very old, and none of them remembers that Babylonians ever needed to ask the Palestinians for the intercalation of years and the setting of months. Rather, you set the calendar according to your custom, and we also follow the custom of our fathers, and we set the calendar in our own way, but the calendar is one and the same.”
“In 921CE or 922CE, a person named Aaron ben Meir tried to bring the authority for the Jewish calendar to Israel from Babylonia by asserting an arithmetic argument in favor of Israel being the center for the Jewish calendar, which would have resulted in the authority of the Jewish calendar being moved to Israel. However, the Babylonian Jewish academic leader Sa'adiah Gaon opposed him, based on his version of the calendrical rules for the modern Jewish calendar and finally, all Jewish communities ignored his opinion. This controversy proved that the rules for the modern Jewish calendar were in place by 921CE or 922 CE, except for the rules for calculating the year. Finally, in 1178 CE, Maimonides described in full all of the rules for the modern Jewish calendar, including the rules for determining the modern epochal year.”
(Elimelech David Ha-Levi, Jewish (Hebrew) Calendar - Origin And History)
642 parts of an hour (35 minutes 40 seconds) is the difference between the time zones of Jerusalem and Babylon, but the notion that the modern Jewish calendar might have been based on the time zone of Babylon is rejected out of hand by Jewish calendar scholars, who instead point to the 642 parts in the calendar reckoning of the 3rd century Babylonian rabbi, Samuel of Nehardea. (His calendar, based on the 4 tekufoth [equinoxes/solstices] remains part of the modern Jewish calendar, but only for ritual purposes, owing to its inaccuracy for long term use.) He calculated that the first tekufah in the year of Creation was at sunset: 7 days, 9 hours and 642 parts prior to the conjunction of the sun and moon in the month of Nisan. Their conjecture is that this calculation might have formed the basis of Ben Meir’s ‘ancient system of calculation’ for the molad of Nisan, and it somehow got rounded down to a whole number of hours.
The ‘four gates table’, however, was based on the molad of Tishri, not Nisan. The traditional reason given for this is that Tishri was now regarded as the month of creation, and therefore the molad of Tishri should determine the start of the calendar year. This was a change from 835/6, when the Exilarch of Babylon, quoting from the Palestinian calendar declaration, wrote that, “the moon of Nisan is to be born in the daytime of the third day of the week,” and he supported the Palestinian court’s decision: “we always rely on them, lest Israel be split into factions.”
Ben Meir failed to challenge the use of the molad of Tishri, because Palestine was in agreement with the calendar year beginning in Tishri. (Ben Meir had declared his calendar dates for the next 3 years in the summer, not the winter.) His argument for an ‘ancient system of calculation’ based on the molad of Nisan was thus undermined.
holy days and annual festivals today are not, however, based on a time
zone in Babylonia, but further east due to an eastward drift of the
reference point of the molad.
“A ‘new moon’ (astronomically
called a lunar conjunction and in Hebrew called a molad) is the moment
at which the sun and moon are aligned horizontally with respect to a
north-south line (technically, they have the same ecliptical longitude).
The period between two new moons is a synodic month ... a long-term
average length called the mean synodic month (also called the molad
interval) is 29 days, 12 hours, and 793 parts (i.e. 29.530594 days) ... This
value is as close to the correct value of 29.530589 days as it is
possible for a value to come that is rounded off to whole parts (1/18th
The discrepancy makes the molad interval about 0.6 seconds too
long. Put another way, if the molad is taken as the time of mean
conjunction at some reference meridian, then this reference meridian is
drifting slowly eastward.
If this drift of the reference
meridian is traced back to the mid-4th century, the traditional date of
the introduction of the fixed calendar, then it is found to correspond
to a longitude midway between the Nile and the end of the Euphrates.
modern molad moments match the mean solar times of the lunar
conjunction moments near the meridian of Kandahar, Afghanistan, more
than 30° east of Jerusalem.
Furthermore, the discrepancy between the molad interval and the mean synodic month is accumulating at an accelerating rate, since the mean synodic month is progressively shortening due to gravitational tidal effects.” (World Public Library, ‘Hebrew Calendar’)
Jews base the phrase ‘midway between the Nile and the end of the Euphrates’ on Genesis 15:18 - In that day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram,
saying, ‘Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt
unto the great river, the river Euphrates’ (ASV).
Cairo, Egypt, is at
30.0° latitude 31.2° longitude, and Al Qurnah, Iraq (which lies at the confluence
of the Euphrates and Tigris), is at 31.0° latitude 47.4° longitude, so halfway
is 39.3° longitude - which is close to the Jordan-Iraq border.
(Jerusalem is at 35.2° longitude. Kandahar is 2 hours east of Jerusalem at 65.7°.)
Why is the mid-4th century the traditional date for the introduction of the fixed calendar? Apart from enabling pseudo-scriptural support for the original reference meridian of the molad, there was a need to explain that the Babylonian calendar was an ‘ancient tradition’, in order to combat continuing Karaite opposition to a fixed calendar.
Maimonides, in his great treatise on the calendar c.1178AD, wrote that the fixed calendar was instituted “from the end of the period of the sages of the Talmud” (after 500AD), but in another place that the Mishnaic (observational) calendar was practised “until the days of Abaye and Rava” (4th century).
Some Rabbis interpreted 1 Chronicles 12:32 to mean that the ‘sons of Issachar’ understood the ‘secret of intercalation’: ‘And of the children of Issachar, men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do’.
R. Ya’aqov b. Shimson wrote in 1123/4AD: “For they saw that the Sanhedrin was declining, so they studied the ‘secret of intercalation’ to know what Israel should do, and designed tables for the calculation of festivals and new years.”
Many other theories were put forward as to when and why the fixed calendar was introduced, but the one that caught hold and became the definitive version is the calendar of ‘Hillel the Patriarch’ (aka Hillel 2, to distinguish him from Hillel the Elder, founder of the House of Hillel in the 1st century AD)
The legend of the Hillel calendar derives entirely from a remark in a paper written in 1123AD 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 (358/9AD), from when they did not bring forth or postpone, but kept to this cycle which was at hand ...”
The Sanhedrin did not send messengers to some Jewish communities, such as in Alexandria, and others experienced delays in receiving news. All that may reasonably be deduced from this brief statement is that this Hillel was a man of authority in a community that decided to adopt the 19 year time cycle for intercalation - which was a popular alternative. They also began each month on the actual day of the new moon - neither bringing the day forward nor postponing - which we know the Sanhedrin sometimes did.
R. Zerahiah ha-Levi (mid 12th century) interpreted the rabbi’s remark to refer to the publication of a full calculated calendar, even supplying reasons as to why this was done: “... in the days of Hillel b. Yehuda, son of our holy Rabbi, who instituted a calendar based on calculation and not on observation, because of the pressure of exile, that there were no witnesses to go and testify before the court, and court envoys were not able to go to all places and announce the court’s decisions, because of the disruption of the roads.”
A century later Nahmanides embellished the story: “From the time of Hillel … in the year 670 of the Seleucid era, 4118 A.M. [358 C.E.], the Sanhedrin in Erez Israel ceased and it ceased to have experts, and it was he who regulated the order of intercalation, reckoned the years, and fixed the months for generations to come.”
The Encyclopedia Judaica (2007) treats ‘Hillel’s calendar’ as factual, though admitting the influence of tradition, and that the calendar was developed gradually to the end of the 1st millennium AD - therefore the Sanhedrin could not have been dissolved.
(p.110) “Because of the serious condition of the communities of Erez Israel and the deterioration of the *Galilean center, Hillel II agreed in principle to limit the authority of the nasi and his functions in connection with the proclamation of the New Moon, the fixing of the festivals, and the intercalation of the year. He thereupon published Sod ha-Ibbur (‘The Secret of Intercalation’) and Kevi'uta de-Yarha (‘The Fixing of the New Month’). According to a tradition mentioned by Hai Gaon and quoted in the Sefer ha-Ibbur of Abraham bar Hiyya (ed. H. Filipowski (1851), 97) this took place in 358 CE”
(*The Sanhedrin moved to Yavne after the destruction of the Temple, then to Usha.)
(p.358) “There is, on the other hand, unimpeachable evidence from the works of writers with expert knowledge of the calendar that the present ordo intercalationis and epochal molad were not yet intrinsic parts of the calendar of Hillel II, these being seen still side by side with other styles of the ordo intercalationis and the molad as late as the 11th century. Also the four dehiyyot developed gradually ... By the tenth century the Jewish calendar was exactly the same as today.”
There is no record in the Talmudim of these momentous events - not of the publication of a fixed calendar in 358/9AD, nor of the dissolution (or limitation of authority) of the Sanhedrin, nor any mention of Hillel the Patriarch.
Yet the Encyclopedia Judaica does identify Hillel b. R. Yehuda as being ‘Hillel the Patriarch’: “In the well-known letter of Julian the Apostate to the Jews (written in Antioch in 362), the emperor addressed ‘the patriarch Julius’ (Hillel), calling him ‘brother Julos the patriarch’ ...” (p.110)
The name Hillel has become synonymous with the Hebrew calendar since the publication of Herman Hoeh’s article, ‘The Hebrew Calendar - Authoritative for God’s Church Today!’ (Good News, March 1981), and this fantasy is accepted as fact by most in the Churches of God today.
Herman Hoeh’s article was a response to criticism that the Hebrew calendar did not calculate the times of sighted new moons. The Hebrew calendar to him was a doctrine of “God’s Apostle”, and therefore a truth from God. He had been the first to call Herbert Armstrong by this title, at the Festival of Tabernacles in 1951, although it was not until 1974 that Mr Armstrong referred to himself in a ministerial letter as ”your fellow minister, whom you call God’s apostle.” In 1992 Joseph Tkach (Snr) used similar terminology, writing in the Worldwide News, 31 March 1992: “When referring to Mr. Armstrong or myself, however, the Church uses the term apostle.”
Fred Coulter says of Herman Hoeh, in Three Critical False Doctrines:
“Because he was accepted as an eminent scholar, his views were accepted and very few challenged his conclusions, yet he apparently did this in order to be politically correct with the leadership of the church.”
Fred Coulter has no problem with the Hebrew Calendar, which he claims was passed secretly to the Levites and Priests at Mount Sinai - despite Exodus 24:3-4 :
‘And Moses came and told the people all the words of Jehovah, and all the ordinances: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which Jehovah hath spoken will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of Jehovah...’ (ASV)
Herman Hoeh's article, The Hebrew Calendar - Authoritative for God’s Church Today! begins with: ‘A changed world since 1930’ - “... Herbert W. and Loma D. Armstrong for seven years - 1927 to 1933 - they had to observe God's festivals alone - by themselves as a family - even while fellowshipping with the little remnant of God’s people in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Not until 1934 were others, brought to conversion by their ministry, willing to keep God's festivals with them. This little group in Eugene, Ore., became the mother church of what today is the Worldwide Church of God.”
Herbert Armstrong was ordained by the Church of God 7th Day in 1931, and received his Ministerial License Certificate from the Oregon Conference in 1932. In 1933 there was a split away from the Stanberry, Missouri (now Denver Colorado) church. In the Autumn of 1934 Herbert Armstrong decided to switch employment to the new group, based in Salem, West Virginia.
Herman Hoeh continues: “Gradually the word spread. A few others already associated with the scattered remnants of God's Church listened. Among them was a man of some prominence. Unfortunately he jumped the track spiritually. He invented the false teaching that one must speak only Hebrew when using the names and titles of God and of Jesus Christ.”
The man whom he avoids naming is Clarence Dodd. He was “a man of some prominence” in business, holding an important position with a large oil company, and was the Salem church’s Secretary-Treasurer. He was not a man to whom “the word spread” in 1934 - he began observing the annual holy days in West Virginia in 1928. After Herbert & Loma Armstrong joined the Oregon Conference of the Salem Church in 1934, others were not “brought to conversion by their ministry” - they joined others who were already keeping the annual holy days.
“Clarence O. Dodd states that he began to keep the Passover in 1928, and immediately began keeping the other Feast Days of the year” ...
“Vera Henion, who with her husband Dave Henion moved to Oregon in October of 1934 ... learned much of her beliefs concerning the Holy days from Dodd’s tracts and articles ... She wrote questions to Dodd, and recalls that Armstrong’s knowledge of the Holy days was increased through her, as she gave him Dodd’s material and they studied them together ... (She) believes it was the latter part of 1935 that she started keeping the Holy Days, along with 40-60 others, including the Helms, McGills, Davises and Armstrongs.”
(Richard Nickels, Origin And History Of The Sacred Name Movement)
“M.L. Ogren, son of C.W. Ogren, reports that he was with the Salem group. He started keeping the Feast Days in 1934, at age 20. He reports that Salem generally kept them from 1934 to 1937, but later dropped the practice ... Ogren came to believe in the Feast Days through C.O. Dodd and his own self-study.”
(Richard Nickels, History of the Seventh Day Church of God)
John Kiesz recorded that, “It was in the fall of 1937 when Elder Armstrong's credentials were revoked by the Salem Church of God organization. The reason given by the Board of Twelve for this action was because he taught and kept the annual Feast days. But the real reason seems to have been because of his unco-operative attitude ...
I was on the Board of Twelve when Armstrong was issued ministerial credentials in 1934, and also when his credentials were revoked in 1937. May I state that I personally did not participate in the revoking procedures. Following this incident of revoking Armstrong's credentials, he and I remained close friends.”
Clarence Dodd founded The Faith magazine and the Faith Bible and Tract Society in 1937, in order to spread understanding of Church of God doctrine and especially the annual holy days. In an edition in 1938 he included, as a filler, a clipping about the use of Hebrew names for God and Jesus, which prompted a stream of comments and questions. This obliged him to study the matter, and resulted in his “jumping the track spiritually.” The magazine became the main forum for the discussion of sacred names, but the history of the sacred names movement has been just that - a movement, not a corporate organization.
Herman Hoeh continues: “But this man did set in motion a movement among the scattered remnants of God's people. That movement, itself now terribly divided [unlike the WCG, which suffered only two major schisms in the 1970s] claims to observe God's annual Holy Days. But almost none of them has been willing to acknowledge the authority of the calendar God authorized to measure time - the Hebrew calendar.”
“Herbert W. Armstrong addressed this problem head-on in the Good News Letter of 1940. The man referred to above had published earlier that year the date March 22 as Passover. The Stanberry, Mo., and Salem, W.Va., organizations (of the Church of God, Seventh Day) published the date as April 21 (each meaning the night at the end of the day, of course).”
The Stanberry (now Denver) and Salem churches were to observe the Lord’s Supper in the evening of the 14th day of Abib (Nisan) in the Jewish calendar, while Clarence Dodd had decided that the biblical year should begin with the new moon nearest the vernal equinox.
Herbert Armstrong's 1940 letter states that, “There is NO BIBLE AUTHORITY WHATSOEVER for figuring the 1st day of the 1st month from the new moon NEAREST the Spring equinox! ... after going into the matter with all the Eugene brethren, and other brethren who have made a special study of this question, we have unanimously agreed that the Hebrew calendar has been preserved correct by the Jews.”
However, in his 1952 booklet, How Often Should We Partake of the Lord's Supper? (final paragraph) he reverts to the Church’s confused teaching 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 (not in the United States). The Jewish calendar as used by Jews today is correct.”
Denver church today does not have a calendar doctrine, but the annual
dates it publishes for the Lord's Supper are the Jewish calendar
dates. The Salem church remains confused. Doctrinal
point no.15, states: “The visible new moon nearest the vernal
equinox is the beginning of the first month. The day starts in the
makes no mention of the Jewish calendar, but in 2014 the Lord’s
Supper was observed on the 14th day of the Jewish calendar - which we
queried. The church did not reply, but in 2015 the Lord’s Supper
was observed on Friday evening, 3rd April, the 14th day from the
visible new moon. The new moons in its 2015 calendar, however, are
all astronomical new moons. The March new moon is shown as Friday the
20th, so the 14th day from then was Wednesday evening, 1st April -
whereas the Lord’s Supper on the Jewish calendar was Thursday
evening, 2nd April.
Clarence Dodd published his festival dates for 1940, Herbert
Armstrong acted promptly: “As soon as I learned of Brother Dodd's
published dates for the festivals this year, I sent him a telegram
asking for his authority for his dates.”
Kiesz records that Herbert Armstrong was a member of the church
board at this time: “It is a mistake for anyone to state, as was
done by Marion J. McNair in his book [Armstrongism:
Religion Or Rip-Off? - PDF p.95], that Armstrong continued as
an unofficial organization, between 1937 and 1946, until he
incorporated as the Radio Church of God. Actually, he organized the
Churches of God in Oregon shortly after his credentials were revoked.
In the month of July, 1940, ministerial credentials were issued to me
- John Kiesz - signed by the following Board Members: 1. Herbert W.
Armstrong [and 6 named others].”
other board members were perhaps so confused about the calendar issue
that they were content to allow him to investigate and report on the
Hoeh continues: “Mr. Armstrong wrote that ‘many of the brethren
are in doubt and want the facts.’ And he gave them facts - in
conclusion, unless God has preserved His sacred calendar through the Jews’
moves straight to Herbert Armstrong’s conclusion, because he
doesn’t want to discuss Mr Armstrong's “facts” - with very good
first “fact” is that “the modern Jewish calendar had come
down intact without change since 100 A.D. - that much is proved by
from there being no such historical proof, Herman Hoeh is going to
contradict Mr Armstrong later in his article, claiming that the
Jewish calendar was indeed changed - by the Pharisees.
Armstrong asks: “WHO HAS PRESERVED THIS TIME, this sacred CALENDAR?
To whom did God give it? To whom were ‘the oracles of God
COMMITTED?’ To ISRAEL AND JUDAH, of course! Israel LOST the
Sabbath, LOST time, LOST even her national name and identity. But
JUDAH NEVER DID. Judah has kept TIME in respect to the weekly
SABBATH. The Jews rejected Christ. They apostatized in doctrine, BUT
THEY WERE STRICT, STICKLERS FOR THE LETTER. Would such a people have
lost their CALENDAR? If so, TIME IS LOST! There is no other source
thru whom God could have committed AND PRESERVED His calendar. He did
COMMIT it to them. Therefore it must be thru them He has preserved
it! They had the calendar correct at the time of Christ. They figured
Passover, all the feasts, as He did.”
he argues, Israel lost God’s calendar, but Judah never did.
second “fact” is that the Samaritans are not the Northern Kingdom
of Israel, but a Jewish sect, and it is they who have preserved God’s
PROOF comes thru the continuous observance of Passover by one Jewish
sect, going by the name of ‘Samaritans’.
the Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th edition, Vol. 17, page 357, we
Samaritans have throughout their history observed the Passover with
all its Pentateuchal ceremonial and still observe it down to the
present day. THEY SACRIFICE THE PASCHAL LAMB, which is probably the
oldest religious rite that HAS BEEN CONTINUOUSLY KEPT UP’.
are the ONLY people who have kept Passover, continuously, thru all
generations without a break, exactly as God gave it to them under the
old Testament form. They have NEVER made any change in their
doctrines regarding Passover, or the manner of observing it. Could
THEY have lost the calendar - the way of figuring WHEN to take it -
as God committed it to them? Hardly! Yet they use today the same
calendar all the Jews use - the sacred original Hebrew calendar!
too, is the fact they observe Passover on the eve, or night part of
the 14th, not on the 15th. They kill the lamb between sunset and dark
at the very beginning of the 14th.
observe the FEAST the night of the 15th. Also, they have continued to
figure Pentecost from the morrow after the WEEKLY SABBATH during the
days of unleavened bread, the true Bible way - instead of from the
first annual Sabbath.
conclusion, unless God has preserved His sacred calendar thru the
Jew, then WE DO NOT KNOW how to figure Passover or ANY of the holy
days this year. For there is NO AUTHORITY for any other day.”
Armstrong warned earlier in his letter that “In Dan 7:25, the
‘little horn’, or papacy, was to ‘think to change TIMES’ as
well as laws.” He wants to clarify that, by calculating Pentecost
differently from the calendar observed by the mainstream ‘Orthodox’
Jews (who are the descendants of the Pharisees), he is not ‘thinking
to change times’ – it’s the Jewish sect of the Samaritans who
have correctly preserved the sacred calendar.
Samaritan calendar is not, however, the same as the Hebrew
calendar observed by the Churches of God. The method of intercalation
is kept secret by the priests, but the dates published for recent
years indicate that the year begins at the conjunction following the
vernal equinox - which is set at March 25, not March 20/21. This
results in the festival dates being one month later than for the Jews
in 40% of years - which is the case for the 2015
calendar. The leap year sequence and the calculation of the
conjunction (molad) of the sun/moon are different. Rosh Hashana is
the new moon of the 1st month, not the 7th. The Samaritans do not
Hoeh continues quoting from the 1940 letter: “As soon as I
learned,” Mr. Armstrong continued, “of [the man's] published
dates for the festivals this year, I sent him a telegram asking his
authority for his dates. His reply is that he bases his method of
figuring on certain statements of profane history found in
encyclopedias. He replies, ‘In some Bible dictionary, or
encyclopedia, or Jewish encyclopedia, I read something like this:
‘The ancient reckoning of Passover was from the actual sight of the
new moon nearest the vernal equinox’.”
that Herman Hoeh even removes “Brother Dodd’s” name from this
quote - he doesn’t want the reader to discover any ‘facts’
about Clarence Dodd.
Armstrong continues: “Bro. Dodd also cited Josphesus, Jewish
historian, to indicate that Passover could never be earlier than
March 20th, or later than April 19th ... while in the
Britannica I find statements supposed to be historic that it ALWAYS
began with the first new moon AFTER March 21st.”
1940 the astronomical new moon was at 04.23 (Jerusalem time) on March
9th. Clarence Dodd presumably decided that the new moon would be
visible in the evening of that day, thus Passover would be the
evening of March 22nd.
Armstrong wrote concerning the visible new moon: “The New moon
occurs, IN JERUSALEM, (World Almanac), at exactly 10:18 P.M., the
night of April 7th, which is the eve of April 8th. However, God had
the new moon observed by the naked eye and by this method (i.e.
God’s calendar that the Samaritans have preserved) the first
day of the 1st month begins the following sunset, April 8th. Thus
Passover comes AFTER SUNSET APRIL 21st...”
men had to make an assumption as to when these new moons would become
visible, and modern astronomical data tells us that they were both
one day early.)
there had not been a postponement (which happens in 4
years out of 10), the 1st day of the 1st month in the
Jewish calendar would have begun at sunset on April 7th -
4 hours before the astronomical new moon. This surely would have
caused him to reject the Jewish calendar.
Hoeh continued: “Forty years have passed since this controversy
came and went ... It is now the 1980s and most people have had little
instruction from God's Word on the authority of the Hebrew calendar,
its history and preservation. It is every whit as intriguing as the
story of the copying and preservation of the written Word of God, the
The Church's instruction in articles on the Hebrew calendar from 1940 to 1980 was that a month began when the new moon was observed by the naked eye in Jerusalem – as stated above by Mr Armstrong. Herman Hoeh is going to contradict this teaching, so he omits the above quote and makes no reference to all the other articles published in this 40 year period.
After his blunder in the
1952 Passover article, Herbert Armstrong passed the calendar issue to
one of his pioneer students, Kenneth Herrmann, an astronomer, who
wrote three calendar articles for the Good News magazine.
Sacred Calendar (Good News, March 1953, pp.7-9)
“The Passover had to be at the time of the early grain harvest for the high priest waves a sheaf of the new grain crop on the morrow after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. “Keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.” (Ex. 13:10). No other grain could be cut until the wave sheaf was offered. (Check Ex.23:14-17, Deut.16:9-16 and Num.28:2 also.)
To keep the month in accord with the year, God intended that a 13th month be added in certain years. Seven times in a 19 year cycle this 13th month must be added to keep the year in accord with the seasons. Then the cycle is repeated.”
“The observation of the new moon is to be made from Jerusalem, not from the North American continent. The seven to ten hours difference in time between Jerusalem and the part of the country you live in will make actual observation of the new moon from America misleading.”
is the Calendar Christ Used? (Good News, February 1957, pp.3-8)
article reiterates the arguments put forward in 1940 and 1953.
God’s Calendar Correct! (Good News, October 1957)
period between the Molad (average conjunction) of Tishri and the
sighting of the new moon varies. If the Molad occurs before midnight,
the new moon might be seen on the following evening, in which case a
postponement of one day would result in Rosh Hashana (New Year's Day)
coinciding with the first visibility of the new moon in Jerusalem.
Mostly, the new moon will become visible on the second evening after
the Molad, but on rare occasions not until the third evening
A two day postponement is
unusual, but this happened in both 1957 and 1958! Kenneth Herrmann
was writing during a year when the new moons of the 1st and 7th
months were being sighted in California a day earlier than the Jewish
calendar. He writes: “Doesn’t the faint crescent of the new moon
become visible at an earlier time to the observer in California than
to an observer in Jerusalem? Yes, it does and for a number of reasons
... The crescent of the new moon could thus be seen one day earlier
by California observers about 40 per cent of the time.”
He then gives God’s
unequivocal instructions as to the beginning of a month:
“What are God’s
instructions? If the people of Jerusalem, where God's permanent
headquarters are to be, cannot see this crescent of the moon
following sunset, then the entire world east and west of that city
must delay beginning the month till the following sunset. This is the
ordinance as it was given by God. We are not free to begin earlier
because of the way we see it.”
the summer of 1952 Herbert Armstrong was planning to begin
broadcasting in Europe on Radio Luxembourg, in English, French and German. Now fully aware of the
19 year cycle, he began to wonder what personal significance it might
have, his radio ministry having started in January 1934.
Hoeh wrote, in What are the Times of the Gentiles?(Plain
Truth, June 1953)
that the Tribulation “would probably begin about 1972, after which
preaching the true gospel will no longer be possible. This
is a very significant date - 1972. It
is only 19 years from 1953, the year that the ‘World Tomorrow’
broadcast first reached Europe!
If you read the February issue of the ‘Good News’ you will recall that Mr. Armstrong wrote that January
of this year, 1953, marked the completion of the first 19 year cycle,
which began in January 1934, when the ‘World Tomorrow’ broadcast
first went on the air, carrying the gospel of the Kingdom to North
Mark wrote that this gospel must first be preached and published in
all the world AND THEN SHALL THE END COME! (Mark 13:10). This final
work of carrying the true gospel of the kingdom of God to the world
is a fulfillment of prophecy!”
How Often Should We Partake of the Lord's Supper? (Tomorrow’s
World, March 1971)
Herbert Armstrong had published 1975 in Prophecy in 1956, and had been writing regularly, counting down this
19 year cycle toward January 1972, when the Church would flee to the ‘Place of Safety’ - probably Petra - just before the start of the
3½ years Tribulation - so the 19 year calendar cycle was well known.
After all that, somehow his 1952 Passover
article was allowed to be re-published unedited, thus we return to
his confused teaching 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 (not in the United
States). The Jewish calendar as used by Jews today is correct.”
is the Passover article, published as a booklet in 1974, with the final
paragraph edited as follows: “The
day of the new year begins near the spring equinox when the new moon
usually is first visible to the naked eye at Jerusalem (not the
United States). The Jewish calendar as used by Jews today is
biblical year is now defined as beginning usually (rather than always) on the day of the visible new moon at Jerusalem
(rather than nearest) the spring equinox.
not only contradicts “God's instructions” according
to Kenneth Herrmann, but also is still contrary to the Jewish
calendar. In the period 1959-1974, the Jewish new year began
new moon became visible at Jerusalem in every year but one.
God's Sacred Calendar, 1974
new year is to begin in the spring. ‘This month (Nisan or Abib)
shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first
month of the year to you’ (Ex. 12:2). This first month of God’s sacred
calendar is called, in the Bible, Abib (Ex. 13:4). It means the month of ‘green ears’.
Later the Jews called it Nisan (Esther 3:7) - a Babylonian word having a similar
beginning of this month and of all God’s months generally occurs at
the appearance of the first faint crescent of the new moon in the
west just after sundown (observed from the Holy Land). The
astronomical new moon calculated for the United States is, in
general, a day or two earlier.”
this article has Herbert Armstrongs byline, it’s not his style of
writing, and also it lacks the usual BLOCK CAPITALS and exclamation marks!
The article did not appear in either the Plain Truth or the Good News
– as it would surely have done if he had actually written it.
Herrmann did not publish any articles on the biblical calendar after
October 1957. However, as the church’s designated expert on the
subject, in 1969 he received from a church member one of probably
many queries about the calendar. He subsequently sent a copy of his
reply to a minister, John Ritenbaugh.
his reply Kenneth Herrmann quotes ‘The Comprehensive Hebrew
Calendar’ by Arthur Spier - so he now understood how this calendar
conflicted with the articles he had written in the 1950s. The
1969 Calendar Letter, by Kenneth C Herrmann,
is reproduced by Frank Nelte, followed by his comments on it.
Ritenbaugh takes an opposite view, in The
Cancerous Calendar Controversy,
where he also quotes from Arthur Spier’s book (1952 edition): ‘The
rebirth of the state of Israel rekindles in us the hope that a new
Sanhedrin, recognized by the whole people of Israel, will be
established again in our time. It will be the task of the Sanhedrin
to make a decision as to when and how the sanctified calendar of
Hillel II is to be modified in accordance with the requirements of
astronomy and the Torah.’
is saying some adjustments need to be made, because none have been
made in centuries, but it will take Divine Guidance and Authority to
come up with an improvement over what we have.”
So John Ritenbaugh considers
the Sanhedrin to be the ‘Divine Guidance and Authority’ for the
Link of The
Church of the Eternal God
quotes from Herman Hoeh’s 1981 article: ‘the authority of
Jerusalem in the person of Hillel II did speak in A.D. 358-359 to
authorize the present Hebrew calendar throughout the future until
such time as a new court sitting in Moses’ seat be reestablished in
responded to a request for clarification by stating: “This
means that, if and when a legitimate court (Sanhedrin) is formed and
active in Jerusalem, sitting in Moses’ seat, and IF they were to
make changes to the current Hebrew calendar, then this would indeed
be applicable for God’s Church.”
Most churches that
observe this calendar do not have such a clear position, but as
Kenneth Herrmann stated in his 1969 letter, the biblical authority
for the calculated Hebrew calendar rests solely on Romans 3 - i.e.
the ‘Orthodox’ Jews have preserved the Oracle of the
Calendar. If, therefore, an official Sanhedrin were either to adjust
the calculated calendar, or return to observation of the crescent new
moon (as advocated by the Temple
Institute and the Israeli
New Moon Society), the Churches of God would be obliged to do
to Kenneth Herrmann's change of view on the calendar brought pressure
on him and and the leadership at WCG's HQ in Pasadena. Craig White
records, in Pioneers
of the Worldwide Church of God: “In 1972 Mr. Herrmann was put
on extended Sabbatical leave due to political problems in the
Pasadena administration and transferred to the Big Sandy area ...”
Hoeh's article continues: “Why do God's festivals fall when they
do? Have we ever asked why Passover does not fall on the eve of
Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday? Or why the fast of the Day of Atonement
does not occur on Friday or Sunday? Or why the seventh day of the
Festival of Tabernacles does not fall on the weekly Sabbath - but
the eighth day commonly does? These are all curious features of the
calendar God caused the Jewish people to preserve for us.”
of answering these questions directly, he diverts to quoting WCG's
sole authority for the Hebrew calendar - Romans 3:1-2 What advantage
then hath the Jew? … Much every way: first of all, that they were
intrusted with the oracles of God.
what if the people to whom the oracles were committed sinned -
rebelled against God's authority? Did that mean God would not
preserve His revelation through them? Not at all. He simply pruned
off those who refused to preserve His revelation for men. That is one
reason the 10 tribes of Israel were cut off and sent into exile.”
what were the oracles committed in a public way to the Jews? The
Hebrew Bible only? By no means! The Hebrew calendar also! For without
the calendar, it would be impossible to fulfill correctly what is
written in the Hebrew Bible about hallowed annual times.”
the “oracles” (utterances of God - Greek 'logion' Strong's 3051)
contain not only the written law of which annual festivals and holy
days we are to keep, but also the oral law of when we are to keep them - the
Samaritans - the 10 tribes of Israel who were cut
off - have also preserved the written Torah, and they have
also preserved a different Hebrew calendar.
order to give authority to the Hebrew calendar of the Pharisees, Herman Hoeh
links it to the authority of the seat of Moses: “The scribes -
copying of the text of the Hebrew Bible was one of their duties -
were in authority. Jesus said so. They sat on Moses' seat. They, not
their jealous critics among modern and ancient scholars, determined
for us the manner in which the Bible's text should be preserved. And
the Pharisees, too, sat on Moses' seat. It was their court that
determined the Hebrew calendar. It was their court's decision that
determined which day was the beginning of each month. Once that was
determined it was the people's responsibility to keep holy the days
God made holy - according to the dates on the Hebrew calendar.”
18:13-16 Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood about
Moses from the morning unto the evening ... Because the people come
unto me to inquire of God: when they have a matter, they come unto
me; and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and I make them know
the statutes of God, and his laws.
23:1-3 Then spake Jesus to the multitudes and to his disciples,
saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat: all things
therefore whatsoever they bid you, these
do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do
people were to abide by their civil judgements, given according to
the law written by Moses, but they
should not observe their works, some of which Jesus describes in the
remainder of chapter 23. The Pharisees lived according to their Oral
Law, not the law given to Moses.
Hoeh admits here that the Sanhedrin decided which day was the
beginning of each month - therefore a fixed Hebrew calendar could not
have been in force.
this diversion, he addresses the “curious features of the
calendar God caused the Jewish people to preserve for us.”
actually answers only one of his questions - “why the fast of the
Day of Atonement does not occur on Friday or Sunday?”
what Jesus said of the Pharisees? 'They bind heavy burdens and
grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders”
later Pharisees and their rabbinic successors did exactly that for
centuries when it came to determining when the Day of Atonement was
“rabbinic successors” of the “later Pharisees” are the ones
who have preserved the Jewish calendar – the mainstream Orthodox
Jews, who place the traditions of their elders above scripture.)
will remember that I asked above how many readers were aware that the
Day of Atonement on the Hebrew calendar does not fall on a Friday -
the preparation day for the weekly Sabbath.Do
you know why this occurs? And what rule of the calendar determines
Think for a moment what it would be like for housewives to
prepare food for the Sabbath on a Friday that is a fast day! Of
course the Day of Atonement is so important a fast that no food is to
be prepared that day at all. So housewives would have to prepare food
on a Thursday for the weekly Sabbath. That would be burdensome. If
Atonement were to fall on Friday, housewives would have to prepare
food for the weekly Sabbath on a Thursday. And that is exactly what
the Pharisees anciently required be done!”
the 3 largest churches to split from the Worldwide Church of God,
only the Living Church of God offers any scholarship on the subject
of postponements. John Ogwyn, in the Nov/Dec 2000 issue of Living Church News writes :
six of these days - the first and seventh Day of Unleavened Bread,
Pentecost, Trumpets, the first day of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day
- Moses was to instruct Israel that “no servile work” be done.
However, the weekly Sabbath and the Day of Atonement were different.
On these two days, “no work whatsoever” was to be done. Clearly
God placed these two days in a slightly different category than the
others. Additionally, in describing Trumpets, the first day of
Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day, the term shabbaton,
translated “Sabbath,” was used. For the weekly Sabbath and the
Day of Atonement a different descriptive term - shabbat
shabbaton - was used, translated “a
Sabbath of rest.”
that God set the weekly Sabbath and the Day of Atonement apart in
their level of sanctity, the Levitical priesthood sought to implement
these instructions in proclaiming the festivals. They realized that
the Day of Atonement, a shabbat
shabbaton upon which “no
work whatsoever” was to be done, should not be the preparation day
for the weekly Sabbath (which would occur if the first of Tishri came
on a Wednesday). Additionally, they avoided the weekly Sabbath being
the preparation day for Atonement, which would happen if Tishri 1
fell on a Friday.
practice also avoided the weekly Sabbath, shabbat
shabbaton, being the preparation
day for the other three fall holy days which were only shabbaton,
(this would occur if Tishri 1 came on a Sunday). Note that according
to Exodus 12:16, the first and seventh days of Unleavened Bread in
the spring were in a different category; God had specifically
approved the preparation of food on these days. And Pentecost, of
course, always fell on Sunday as a result of God-ordained
other two of the largest churches express ignorance of the reasons
for the postponement rules.
Church of God a Worldwide Association Hebrew Calendar Study Paper, p.25 states: “It
is true that dehiyyah
prevents the Day of Atonement from falling immediately before or
after the weekly Sabbath. It is clearly more convenient to avoid this
happening, but is this the reason for the rule? We simply don’t
COGWA also states that “There is nothing unbiblical about any of the rules
of postponement.” This is contradicted by the
United Church of God Hebrew Calendar Doctrinal Statement, which states on p.6 :
neither does the Bible
list rules of postponement. Who authorized them? When were they
created? No one really knows the answer to these questions. In the
year A.D. 358, Hillel II released the rules for calendar calculation,
which included the rules of postponement. Prior to this time, the
whole subject was shrouded in mystery. No one knows when these rules
were added to the calendar. Could they have been a part of the
calendar from the beginning? Possibly. Were they a part of the
calendar during the days of Christ? We simply do not know. We do not
know when the Jews began using a calculated calendar instead of
simply relying on visual observation.”
Hoeh, had posed the question, “why
the seventh day of the Festival of Tabernacles does not fall on the
weekly Sabbath?” - but he doesn't answer it, and neither does John
Ogwyn address the question. Is this because they don't know – or they do
know, but dare not reveal the answer.
If the Day of Trumpets were to be on a Sunday, the seventh
day of the Festival of Tabernacles (Hoshana
would then fall on the weekly Sabbath. The ritual of beating the willow twigs on
this day was deemed by the rabbis to be ‘work’ that is inappropriate for the Sabbath.
Rosh Hashanah fell on a Sunday, Hoshanah Rabbah would fall on the
Sabbath and would call for the elimination of certain rituals which
the pharisaic rabbis did not want to forgo.” (Jewish Quarterly
Review, Vol.25, No.1, 1997; Article by Rabbi Saul Leeman, Why
is Pesach So Late This Year?).
is considered unfit, because with Rosh ha-Shanah falling thereon, the
seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Hosha'na Rabbah), on
which the ceremony of “beating the willow-twigs” is an important
part of the service, would fall on the Sabbath, and the observance of
the ceremony could not be permitted.” (Henry Malter, Saadia
Gaon: His Life and Works)
Hashana never falls on a Sunday because that would mean that Hoshana
Rabba (the last day of Sukkot, which always falls on 21 Tishri) would
fall on a Saturday, which would not be desirable. In Talmudic times,
Hoshana Rabba was regarded as a day much like Yom Kippur. It brought
to an end the long holiday period beginning with Rosh Hashana, and
was considered to be the one final opportunity to reverse an
unfavorable decree issued against the individual on the High
Holidays. If Hoshana Rabba were to fall on the Sabbath, this would
interfere with the ceremony of beating a bunch of hoshanot
(willows) during the synagogue services, an action forbidden on
the Sabbath.” (Alfred J. Kolatch, The Jewish Book of WHY,
do Church of God leaders who observe the Hebrew calendar postpone the
Day of Trumpets (and thereby also Passover and all the other annual holy
days) by one day, because of a ritual which they have never performed?
Herman Hoeh continues: “The Pharisees put major emphasis on precise visual observation of the first faint crescent of the new moon.
They overlooked Leviticus 23:26-32.
So whenever the first faint crescent of the seventh new moon of the
year was seen just above the western horizon after sunset on Tuesday
evening, for example, they declared that day, Wednesday (which begins
the previous evening), to be the new moon. Consequently that new
moon became the first day of the month and the Day of Trumpets. The
result was the 10th day of the month - Atonement - would fall on a
Friday in such a year.
They were more concerned with the visual
appearance of the moon's first crescent than they were with the
spiritual requirements of the Day of Atonement.”
Good News of October 1957 declared the sighting of the new moon at
Jerusalem to be an ordinance of God:
the people of Jerusalem, where God's permanent headquarters are to
be, cannot see this crescent of the moon following sunset, then the
entire world east and west of that city must delay beginning the
month till the following sunset. This is the ordinance as it was
given by God. We are not free to begin earlier because of the way we
Good News of March 1981 declared the sighting of the new moon at
Jerusalem to be an ordinance of the Pharisees.
is not required that the first faint crescent visible in Jerusalem
always be declared the new moon. What is important is that the
authority to declare it arises from Jerusalem! The authority of
Jerusalem in the person of Hillel II did speak in A.D. 358-359 to
authorize the present Hebrew calendar throughout the future until
such time as a new court sitting in Moses' seat be re-established in
was the article that introduced the Jewish fairy tale of Hillel's
calendar to the membership of the Worldwide Church of God.
Sanhedrin had not been based in Jerusalem since the destruction of
the Temple in 70AD. In the 4th century it was located at Tiberias in Galilee.
dealt with the new moon question, he now addresses when to begin the
Bible makes plain that the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread
must fall in the month of Abib, the first month of the Hebrew
16:1). The month Abib has been known, since the Babylonian
Captivity, as Nisan, a word derived from the Semitic root nesu,
meaning 'to start'. It starts the months of the year. Abib is derived
from aviv, meaning 'ears' or 'green ears of grain'. The first month
is the month in which green ears of grain - begin to ripen - barley
first, then winter wheat, which is usually still in green ears when
we free to decide for ourselves when we think the month Abib - the
month of green ears - should occur? Are we to decide the matter on
the basis of the state of the harvest in the Holy Land today? Some
sects who refuse to use the words God and Jesus Christ claim so.”
last we learn what has prompted his article - and it isn't the
irrelevant reason he stated earlier in the article - “the fact that
the Passover this year, 1981, is the eve of April 18. It falls on the
eve of a Sabbath.”
Some in the WCG had become aware of 'sacred
names' sects, whose basis for beginning the year was the state of the
barley harvest in Israel. They were also beginning each month at the
sighting of the new moon – which is what the WCG had previously
taught – yet the Hebrew calendar new moons were nearly always
earlier than the sighted new moons. The new moon doctrine therefore
had to be changed.
then, is the month Abib or Nisan determined? It has already been
determined! The matter was decided by Hillel II and his court in the
fourth century A.D.”
explains that only the new moon of the seventh month is calculated
and, “Since the Bible does not declare which months have either 30
or 29 days, it is an arbitrary decision, enacted by those who are in
authority over God's calendar. God has left it to them to keep it
simple. If He had not liked their decision He would have caused them
to change it.”
God was unhappy with the Pharisaic sighting of the new moon, and
therefore caused “Hillel and his court” to change to a fixed
calendar of their own devising, with which he has been happy ever after?
Hoeh continues: “Second, even if it were permissible to have
Passover as early as March 20 - the very beginning day of Spring -
the Festival of Tabernacles would fall too early.”
20 was the day of the Vernal Equinox. 1981 was an intercalated year
in the Hebrew Calendar. If a 13th month had not been added, Passover
would have fallen on March 20 in 1981.)
you ever notice that the Bible requires the Feast of Tabernacles,
commemorating the second and great harvest of human beings, to at
least reach the beginning of Autumn?”
you wouldn’t have noticed that. Summer and Winter are the only two
Biblical seasons. Spring and Autumn - and also Equinox - are nowhere
mentioned in the Bible.