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Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar
(Revised 2015)

By: Shawn Richardson

Section 9:

CURRENT HEBREW CALENDAR

Let's begin to take a look now at the current Hebrew calendar. Remember, we have already seen an evolution of this calendar from a Biblical perspective that is literally based on observing the lunar, solar and seasonal signs, to a process of observation confirmed by witnesses that purportedly used calculation to confirm the testimony, to a process of pure calculation abandoning observational practices. We have explained that the monthly search for a new moon crescent has been replaced with the calculation of the Molad - the mathematical average time of the moon's conjunction. Additionally, the annual search in the spring for indigenous barley or equivalent crops was replaced with a mathematical average that inserts a 13th leap-month based on a 19-year cycle pattern. Many that support the Hebrew calendar either accept this change or claim that it's calculations have actually been a mathematical system all along, since the time of Moses, and has merely been kept confidential among small groups of individuals (such as the Sanhedrin). To make such a claim, it is then presumed that the mathematics have been divinely granted and preserved as part of the Oracles - in much the same way Biblical scriptures have been preserved from the Old Testament except in an oral fashion. But there are some obvious changes that had to of occurred from the time of Moses to today's widely accepted Hebrew calendar.

One of the changes that took place is actually preserved by the scriptures themselves. That is a change of the proper Hebrew names given for months. As we read in Exodus, Yehovah gave us the name for the first month of the year as Abib. The name Abib can be seen in Exodus 12:2, 13:4, 23:15, 34:18 and Deuteronomy 16:1. The current Hebrew calendar, however, has given the first month the proper name Nisan - although minor on the surface, a change indeed. There are three other months named in the early Old Testament Bible: Ziv (I Kings 6:1 and 6:37), the second month meaning light (splendor or radiance), Ethanim (I Kings 8:2), the seventh month meaning strong (ever-flowing), and Bul (I Kings 6:38) the eighth month meaning produce (or rain) when crops were often planted. The remaining months were simply numbered (third month, fourth month, etc.). But, in later writings of the Old Testament and in the New Testament, we see a change to references of the calendar as having all of the months named whose origins come from ancient Babylon (Nisan, Iyyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul, Tishri, Kheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar and Adar II). We can confirm this in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia[20]:

As a side-note, the Babylonian and Sumerian calendars were also based on observation of the new moon crescent[20]. However, we see here the first known modification to the Hebrew calendar by the changing of monthly names in 586 BCE. We also see these names referenced in the Bible (primarily in the New Testament) - so we know this change occurred. Without the Hebrew meaning behind the name Abib, we no longer have a foundation for basing our first month as the moon of the ripened barley harvest. Instead, the name has been replaced with Babylonian traditions. Just because this change is recorded within the Biblical text, however, it does not mean that it should have! Furthermore, if the existing calendar was considered preserved as part of the Oracles, wouldn't the names have been preserved as well? Did Yehovah approve of such a name change? Even when He directly gave the original name for the first month of the year?

Just as we no longer refer to days of the week as the first day, second day, etc., today's society has adopted names of Sunday, Monday, etc. In fact, all of the names for the days of the week are now based on the names of Pagan gods - including the Babylonian Sun god (Sun-day). But just because we may reference the Sabbath as being on Saturdays, does that mean Yehovah intended to change his Sabbath to be called Saturday? No, of course not! Neither should we assume Yehovah changed the month of Abib to Nisan!

Notice the Babylonian name for the fourth month. Tammuz, which was one of the primary Babylonian gods that has evolved into many pagan practices intricately tied into the summer and winter solstices each year - including the celebration of Christmas. Tammuz is a Life-Death-Rebirth Deity[42] that is mourned at the summer solstice as he begins to die and celebrated at the winter solstice as he is reborn. Tammuz is also mentioned in the Bible with the mourning ceremony for the Pagan god specifically classified as an abomination by Yehovah. Ezekiel 8:14-15[1]:

Even Yeshua Himself never references the Babylonian names for the months within the scriptures. Certainly Israel, followed by the Jewish community and its authoritative leaders, picked up some Pagan practices after their Babylonian exile just as we continue to do today (beyond naming the days of the week). But regardless, even though He may have allowed it to happen, there are no scriptures showing the Babylonian names of the months as being ordained by Yehovah. And it certainly does not support a calendar system being preserved and protected in the Oracles from the time of Moses.

Another change the Hebrew Calendar makes is the length of months. We saw earlier that the Hebrew calendar uses the calculated Molad, the average of the moon's conjunction, instead of the visible new moon crescent. But instead of referring to the Molad calculation every month, the current Hebrew Calendar makes adjustments based on the timing of the seventh month - at the Day of Trumpets (or Rosh Hashanah as the Jews refer to it today). These adjustments are made to either the 8th or 9th month of the previous year. The remaining 10 or 11 months are assigned a fixed number of days that never change - not unlike the Gregorian calendar uses February to add a leap day every four years. For the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 11th and 12th months, each are assigned 30 days. The 2nd, 4th, 6th, 10th and 13th months are assigned 29 days. When 13 months are required in the year, the 12th month is considered the "leap month" - so for years only containing 12 months, the 12th month of this pattern is skipped. The 8th and 9th months can be either 29 or 30 days based on added mathematical rules.

These additional rules are called Dechiyot or Rules of Postponement. From a mathematical perspective, they are essentially leap-days added to the calendar to delay Rosh Hashanah/Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets) in the seventh month (Tishri) based on certain conditions. To the Jewish community, they are referred to as "Fixing Rosh Hashanah". In the Encyclopedia of Judaism[37] regarding the Jewish Rosh Hashanah New Year, we see this fix is described in the...

As a side note, the month of Tishri - the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar - is referred to in the Jewish community as the New Year. This can be confusing when most of us think of the New Year as being the first month. Although Jews still consider Tishri the seventh month on the calculated calendar, they consider it to also be the first month of a "fiscal" year. Traditionally, they claim that the seventh month marks the anniversary of the Creation Week given in Genesis.

The first rule delays the start of the 7th month (also the Day of Trumpets) based on what time the calculated Molad cycle repeats and whether it occurs before or after the noon hour in Jerusalem. If it is calculated to occur after the noon cutoff, the previous 8th month will be 30 days in length, thereby pushing Day of Trumpets forward one day (along with the start of the prior 10-11 months). This rule is not too dissimilar to the crude practice of the Sanhedrin that waited for eyewitness testimony. However, the final result of this rule creates a fixed mathematical dateline in Jerusalem so that a consistent trigger can be established to know when to changeover the month. This is necessary in order to have a fixed timetable that cannot be accomplished mathematically using the varying time of sunset. This timetable is similar to the calculated Gregorian calendar that establishes the midnight hour at the International Dateline in the Pacific Ocean.

So why is the noon hour chosen? Even though the Molad is, essentially, the moon's conjunction, some church groups seem to interpret this rule as actually taking the new moon crescent into account. For example, the United Church of God, in regard to this first postponement rule, has stated in their doctrinal paper of The Hebrew Calendar[19]:

In other words, the day that is established as being the first of the month, based on the noon cut-off, would be considered a guarantee that the moon's crescent would also be seen on that day somewhere on the Earth by the time the next sunset comes around in Jerusalem. Even though the Biblical method would not establish the month until the sun goes down after the moon's crescent actually appeared, this theory would allow you to begin the month a few hours prior to the crescent's appearance if that day is considered most likely to have the crescent seen somewhere else on Earth.

This theory also chooses the noon hour because it would be considered impossible for the crescent to arrive in the six hour period prior to sunset. But is six hours the most appropriate choice? The average time for the new moon crescent to appear from the moon's conjunction is 18 hours. But if the minimum amount of time between the conjunction and the visible crescent is really being considered here to establish an appropriate cut-off time, six hours is too short. According to the NASA/Naval Observatory's recorded history of the new moon crescent for the Islamic calendar - a calendar also based on observation -they state in Crescent Moon Visibility and the Islamic Calendar[8]:

This means the minimum number of hours, even by using a telescope, is just over twelve hours - not six. If the ancient calculation of the Molad is so accurate, why would six hours be considered the minimum amount of time between the conjunction and the visible crescent? If this were the determination, the cut-off time would be set closer to 6am in Jerusalem. Obviously, this rule is not taking the visible crescent into consideration - but rather it is simply a man-made fixed point established to create a mathematical deadline. Further, if the crescent was really considered the important factor for establishing the 7th month as this group claims, the calculations would be based on the average time the sighting of the crescent itself actually occurred instead of finding the conjunction that happens several hours earlier and then re-adjusting back to the noon hour to undo what you just computed. Additionally, if this method was truly to establish the start of the month based on the crescent, it would be the same rule applied to all months of the year - not just the seventh! Since the leap day is added to the prior year's 8th month, it destroys any integrity of the prior 10-11 months. Finally, based on the Biblical signs we have discussed that are involved in a calendar, there would be no need for any further adjustments to begin the seventh month - but as we will see, another delay can occur.

The second Rule of Postponement creates a fictional decree to avoid certain Festival dates to fall adjacent to the weekly Sabbath. Therefore, if the first day (after applying the first rule) falls on the first, fourth or sixth day of the week, the 7th month is postponed to the following day by adding another leap day to the previous year's 9th. Confirmed by the Wikipedia Encyclopedia[20], this postponement rule is:

This rule certainly does not take the visible crescent into account no matter how you attempt to twist the rules - it is strictly a man-made requirement. There is no Biblical support for this rule, and even the Orthodox Jews or the Rabbinical authorities claim that there is no such requirement given within scripture. Historically, you can find references to Rabbinical Jews instituting this rule to avoid bad smells that would occur when their dead were not buried after two days. But, the United Church of God accepts this adjustment by claiming in their doctrinal paper, The Hebrew Calendar[19], that:

Therefore, United Church of God believes that Yehovah did not intend on His people to experience the hardship of having two Sabbath days in a row; although this scenario does appear to be allowed in the spring season - in fact, even forced (considering the Day of Pentecost always falls on the first day of the week). But again, this excuse is not Biblical or instructed anywhere in scripture. It assumes that back-to-back Sabbaths are a burden (or too difficult) and that Yehovah didn't intend on this scenario to occur too often (only once or twice).

Mr. John Ogwyn of the Living Church of God defends this postponement rule by using the Day of Preparation. He states in his article[18]:

Mr. Ogwyn assumes here that the Day of Preparation must occur on the previous day and that we cannot prepare for more than one Sabbath should they occur back-to-back. Yet this very scenario occurs every year at Pentecost when the previous day is always the weekly Sabbath - where "no work whatsoever" is allowed. But we are given no Biblical reason to assume we cannot make preparations prior to the back-to-back Sabbaths and, in this example, prepare for both days on Friday. We see in Exodus, when the miracle of manna occurred in the wilderness to feed the people during the time of Moses, that Israel was commanded to gather twice as much before the Sabbath. Exodus 16:23[1] states:

Exodus 16:26[1] says:

Exodus 16:29[1] continues:

We see here that the important focus is the Sabbath itself, not the sixth day of the week. There is no reason to limit Yehovah by stating he would not have made enough manna available for three days instead of two if it were necessary to observe both of Yehovah's Sabbaths. It is only when His commands were ignored and the people gathered on the Sabbath day itself that the manna would spoil. Additionally, if the Day of Atonement were to fall on a Sunday, there would be no need to gather three times the amount of manna because no food would have been consumed on the Day of Atonement - a day of fasting. This scenario would be no different than any other Preparation Day for the given week. If the Day of Atonement were to fall on a Friday, why would we assume Yehovah would not have kept the manna from spoiling during the Day of Atonement and the start of the weekly Sabbath? The purpose of the Preparation Day is to prepare for the oncoming Sabbath - whether it is for one day or two days back-to-back. There is also no requirement that the Day of Preparation must fall on a particular day of week and, in fact, we are given Biblical examples where it doesn't (i.e. John 19:31). We are not instructed to wait until the weekly Sabbath has already begun in order to prepare for a Holy Day that falls on the proceeding Sunday - in fact we shouldn't.

Mr. Ronald L. Dart, a former Worldwide Church of God minister and recent radio evangelist, claims the Temple sacrifices were of a primary concern for this rule. In his article Why Do We Use the Hebrew Calendar?[43], Mr. Dart states:

In other words, Dart defends this rule by stating the Rabbinical authorities could simply change Yehovah's appointed Holy Days due to inconveniences of multiple Temple duties of the High Priest. Since the Temple sacrifices were required on Holy Days, Sabbaths, New Moons, and in the mornings and evenings, placing the Day of Atonement adjacent to the weekly Sabbath would be difficult. Yet, there seems to be no problem with having the Day of Atonement fall on the same day as the weekly Sabbath which would increase the sacrifices tremendously at the same time, proving even more inconvenient! Also, according to Mr. Dart's logic, because we do not have Biblical instructions telling us not to postpone Yehovah's appointed days, we (or, at least, the Orthodox Jews) are suddenly able to do so? Does this mean we (or the Rabbinical authorities) can change the weekly Sabbath to Sunday and just simply call it the seventh day because the Bible does not instruct us that we can't? This again assumes that an authority can change what Yehovah Himself has already appointed and flies in the face of the commandment to not add to the Torah (or the law) found in Deuteronomy 4:2[1]:

Finally, why are any of these scenarios to be considered a conflict or an inconvenience for the Day of Atonement (a day of fasting) and not for the Day of Pentecost that would also fall back-to-back with the weekly Sabbath?

The Jewish festival of Hoshana Rabbah, mentioned above, is documented as being another purpose of instituting this second postponement rule. The traditions that occur on Hoshana Rabbah are some of the oldest in Orthodox Judaism. The Wikipedia Encyclopedia explains the Hoshana Rabbah[23] rituals...:

This festival, also known as a water festival, is held on every day of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jewish tradition. But there are specific rituals conducted specifically on the 7th day. The Encyclopedia of Judaism of Answers.com explains[51]:

But these traditional ceremonies are not instructed within the Bible. In fact, they are man-made traditions that have been created as a prayer for rain by walking (or even dancing) in a circle chanting words repeatedly using the Aramaic expression "chabit, chabit velah barich". These traditions border very similarly to Pagan practices of rain god dances. In fact, the Encyclopedia of Judaism continues...

Based on the necessity for Calendar Postponements, these various Church groups accept that we should delay the calendar to accommodate for these man-made superstitious traditions. Using such excuses to create a postponement of the month profanes Yehovah's Festival Appointments and His Sabbaths, ignores His ordained signs, and is certainly never instructed within scripture.

The remaining Rules of Postponement also allow these two leap days to be in effect based on two specific conditions. The first adds both leap days if the molad falls on a Tuesday after 9 hours and 204 parts in a 12-month (common) year. The second adds one leap day if the molad falls more than 15 hours and 589 parts after 6pm Sunday evening in a 13-month (leap) year. Regardless, the Calculated Hebrew calendar can last either 353, 354 or 355 days in a common year or 383, 384 or 385 days in a leap year. Leap years are determined using the 19-year pattern.

All of these adjustments, as you can see, can cause the Hebrew calendar to be off from the Biblical days we established earlier - and can occur in every single month of the year! By changing the methodology, the Biblical signs and creating average timetables, there's no doubt that the Hebrew Calendar has changed from the Biblical instruction. Some freely accept a change to mathematics knowing the calendar's history - after all, the calculated result does get pretty close. But any change away from the Biblical method is still a change. Malachi 3:6[1] states:

But change is evident throughout the Hebrew Calendar. Regardless of whether someone argues that the Renewed Moon (chodesh) referred to in the Bible is the new moon crescent or the dark moon conjunction, you can see that the Hebrew calendar, by establishing fixed timetables, does not allow for any variance of the lunar event from month-to-month. It also causes us to ignore Biblical instruction - for example, the spring festivals are instructed to be kept a certain number of days following the renewed moon. With the Hebrew Calendar, you would now count the number of days from the Molad of the seventh month in the previous year, which would depend on whether it occurred before or after noon in Jerusalem and whether it started on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday and whether your count is adjusted based on the 19-year cycle. The mathematical principles cause Yehovah's given sign of the moon to essentially be ignored, or at best used only as a rough estimate (actual results may vary).

It is these mathematical man-made rules that conflict with the Biblical instruction that should cause us to question their validity. There is also too much evidence that shows the Hebrew calendar, as we know it today, has been an evolving process - from a calendar based on pure observation to one based on pure calculation. This evolving change has been fully documented within Jewish history and its Rabbinical authorities - the same group that various Western church organizations attest to preserving a calendar methodology within the (unwritten) oracles. But the primary reason Orthodox Jews follow the Hebrew calendar today is strictly due to the Rabbinical authority given to it through the man-made traditions and Rabbinical writings.

Glenn McWilliams, writer for Torah Keepers, a Messianic Jewish group explains in his Calendar Debate[14] article the growing Christian movement to abandon Pagan practices and return to the commonwealth of Israel. He further explains that:

He continues to state that following the Biblical principles...

We are witnessing this same growing concern over the Hebrew calendar right now within many Western church organizations and Sabbath-keeping groups. They have already been a concern for much of the Jewish community and, in fact, have been a topic historically debated since shortly after the time of Yeshua! Most have chosen to put their entire confidence and faith into the mathematics and by following the example of the Orthodox Jews' acceptance of rabbinical rules without any question. Many of us in the Western World have never even considered the architecture and history behind the Hebrew calendar's evolving process. We assume the calendar has been preserved and may not even realize that the Rabbinical Orthodox Jews themselves do not view their own calendar in the same way, but instead many follow the Oral Law and Rabbinical authority to accept "the next best thing" rather than directly using the written principles recognized within Torah - the Bible!

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