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Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar
(Revised 2015)

By: Shawn Richardson

Section 12:

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

History has shown strong evidence of many calculated calendars that were created thousands of years before the time of Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah - including Babylon. However, the mere existence of calculated calendars does not prove that God (Yehovah) intended on their usage. Even if the Jewish community switched to a calculated method, it does not prove that the method was ordained by Yehovah. When searching this subject, many change their focus from what is Biblically instructed and, instead, turn to what they perceive Yeshua Himself observed. After all, as Christians, He is the example that should be followed. The idea of asking "What Would Jesus Do?" is often a type of argument for a particular calendar system, such as the calculated Hebrew Calendar, in hopes that specific recorded events of Yeshua's life can be correlated with a particular formula.

This approach usually starts with finding scriptures that indicate a particular day of the week when a dated event took place within the gospels. Then, if the Hebrew Calendar, for instance, places that date on the same day of the week then it must be proof! But, there is one primary flaw in this logic: since there is no documented evidence of the current Hebrew Calendar existing prior to the fourth century CE, all of these arguments are purely conjecture and merely create a hypothesis to fit the outcome. In other words, the Hebrew Calendar itself could have been created to match the days of the week given in the Bible since its documented existence was not until after the documented events of Yeshua actually took place. Additionally, you must also disprove whether another calendar method cannot possibly have the same result as another method could have landed on the same day of the week, as well. As we have already seen with the Hebrew calendar that, given the Rules of Postponement and the timing of the moon's conjunction, the visible crescent and the start of the calculated month can occur on the same day. There are also other problems to consider in that the Hebrew Calendar, as we have seen, has accuracy issues - including a drift in the Molad that places its usage well outside of Israel at the time of Yeshua. These known drifts must be recognized and taken into account.

Additionally, in order to disprove observation of visual celestial signs that have taken place in the past, you must assume that their movements, along with any constant state of change, remained exactly as they are today. Additionally, any modern references to calendar dates (such as using NASA statistics), must also be translated into days of the week, which would require an additional conversion to the Julian calendar. The reason is that there are historical changes made to our current calendars that must be taken into account; for example, Pope Gregory XIII dropped 10 days from the month of October in 1582 (hence the name Gregorian Calendar) in order to better align the calculated calendar with the solar year that occurred during the of the Council of Nicea[47]. Furthermore, the use of calculation models specify the moon's phases mathematically at a given point (such as the conjunction) and cannot determine when the moon's crescent is first visible - the best you can do is determine a day when the crescent should have appeared (barring any possible change in their movements over the past 2000 years). Finally, multiple scenarios must be considered before disproving an observational method. Just as it is impossible to predict future dates using the observation method (as we have learned), this same problem exists when calculating past results without any supporting documentation of when the Biblical signs (including barley crops) were actually observed. Even with using a calculated formula method, many find themselves using complex computer models in order to take into account the many variables needed to make a claim as being mathematically accurate. Comparing these two methods is much like comparing apples to oranges - but we'll give it a try.

One example comes from the Living Church of God where a minister, Mr. John Ogwyn, cites three primary events described in the New Testament that he claims prove the Hebrew Calendar. His reasoning is that these events occurred on a specific day of the week:

  1. The crucifixion in 31 A.D. occurred on a Wednesday afternoon.
  2. The Last Great Day in 30 A.D. occurred on a weekly Sabbath.
  3. The Last Day of Unleavened Bread in 29 A.D. occurred on the weekly Sabbath.

1) The first of these three events places Passover (the 14th of the 1st month) on a Wednesday in order for Yeshua to fulfill the prophecy that He would be in the grave for a full three days and three nights before his resurrection the following Sabbath at even. By referring to the 70-Weeks Prophecy and assuming a 3 1/2-year ministry of Yeshua, Mr. Ogwyn places the crucifixion in 31 A.D. He points out that the Hebrew Calendar happens to coincide with this scenario along with celestial evidence of a lunar eclipse occurring on the same day as the crucifixion.

However, when you compute the likely phases of the moon in 31 A.D., you will also find that mathematical calculations support that an observed new moon crescent was possible on the same day as the Hebrew Calendar's calculated first month that year, causing both methodologies to begin at the same time. This excludes the Hebrew Calendar as being the only methodology possible. In fact, John Ogwyn agrees with the crescent calculations and states that[18]:

But, Mr. Ogwyn attempts to discredit the method of observation by stating:

But, as we have learned, the equinox is not a variable given in scripture and does not come into play using the observational method. Mr. Ogwyn is merely assuming that barley would have been available at the time of the equinox. But the previous new moon prior to April 12th did not begin on March 23rd as the equinox does not control when the month begins, but rather the new moon crescent does! The prior new moon crescent that year would have occurred no earlier than March 13th - ten full days prior to the spring equinox date given by Mr. Ogwyn. Ripened barley would have had to have existed at the time of the crescent in order to begin the year - otherwise a 13th intercalary month would have been observed and the first month would not have begun until April. Mr. Ogwyn makes the assumption that the existence of barley must have arrived early. But as we have proven, there are instances where barley may not appear ripened until after the spring equinox occurs and can vary depending on numerous variables such as weather.

Additionally, the use of calculated lunar eclipses to coincide with Biblical Festival dates is irrelevant. Many attempt to use the description of darkness covering the land during the time of the crucifixion (Matthew 27:45[1]) as coinciding with a calculated lunar or solar eclipse. But this event is described as taking place on Passover (the 14th of the month) from around noon ("sixth hour") until around 3:00pm ("ninth hour"). A solar eclipse would be impossible (as this only occurs around the moon's phase of conjunction) and a lunar eclipse would have only been visually noticeable when the nearly full moon could be seen in the sky (which would not have risen until around sundown). A full moon cannot be seen at 3:00pm ("sixth hour"), much less noon. A lunar eclipse also would not have caused any noticeable darkness for an extended period of time - especially during the day and one lasting three hours as described in scripture. Unless what is being described took place in another part of the world at the same time as the crucifixion, which is the only possible scenario, it is impossible that the author of a gospel record witnessed both events. Nor does a lunar eclipse taking place half-way around the world carry any significance to the crucifixion. Finally, there are two to three lunar eclipses that take place every eleven months on, or around, the 15th day of the lunar month. The likelihood that Passover, which also takes place mid-month, happens to correlate with a calculated eclipse is not as rare of an event as it sounds. It would be pure speculation, and not a very good one at that, to look for lunar eclipses as the basis of choosing a particular year as being significant.

2) The second of these three events is based on New Testament testimony given in John 7 & 8. Starting in John 7:37-38[1], we are told the following documented event took place:

We are then given a narrative of comments and questions that were made of Yeshua at this time until the day comes to an end. We are told in the next verse, John 8:2[1]:

When you continue to follow the events that took place at the temple in John 8:2 - 9:14, you find that this morning was also a weekly Sabbath when the Jews later condemn Yeshua on this same day for healing a blind man. Hebrew calendar supporters claim that the events starting in John 8:2 are both the Weekly Sabbath and the Last Great Day (the eighth day) - an event supported by today's Hebrew Calendar calculations in 30 CE (with no postponement rules being applicable). The observed new moon crescent, that year, would have most likely been witnessed in that area two days later placing the Last Great Day on Sunday evening into Monday.

This claim, however, requires that the events first mentioned in John 7:37, where Yeshua was teaching in the Temple, would have occurred on the evening of the Last Great Day (or Friday night). We see from scripture, however, specific details between these two events in John 7:53 & 8:1[1]:

Given the traditional history of Jerusalem at this time of year, a very large number of people would have been visiting Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles from all over Israel and other regions. Travelling from their homes would have been a longer journey than simply an overnight trek. We are given a narrative of this journey in John 7:8-10 where Yeshua and the disciples travelled to the Feast in Jerusalem from their home in Galilee before the Festival week began. Today, we observe the Feast of Tabernacles every year while dwelling in booths (or temporary dwellings). But this verse tells us very plainly that every man went unto his own house suggesting the Festival had completed. We are also told that Yeshua left Jerusalem to go up to the Mount of Olives instead of returning to Galilee. We saw earlier that the City Gates of Jerusalem were shut on the Sabbath, from evening to evening, to avoid business transactions from taking place. It is not likely that anyone, including Yeshua Himself, would have been going in and out of the Jerusalem gates by night - especially if that evening were both the weekly Sabbath and the High Sabbath - The Last Great Day. It is more likely that the Feast, including the Last Great Day, had completed and everyone visiting Jerusalem exited and returned home on Monday evening (if this is indeed describing the Feast of 30 CE) before events in John 8:2 began, which was a Saturday morning.

The United Church of God ignores this issue by stating in their Summary of Hebrew Calendar paper[41]:

Indeed it is speculation as to why Yeshua went to the Mount of Olives, but it is also speculation that he only spent time there overnight and returned the next morning. Although a few translations of John 8:2 state that Yeshua entered into the temple the next day, most state it was simply early in the morning. A literal translation of John 8:2 from the Greek text is simply (Young's Literal Translation[2]):

This infers that the next time Yeshua entered the Temple at Jerusalem, it was dawn. The scripture does not emphatically state that it was the very next day. There is no clear explanation on how many days Yeshua was at the Mount of Olives before he entered the temple again at dawn. In fact, there is no measure of time given here whatsoever between these two events. Therefore, the only certainty we have from scripture is that the events starting in John 8:2 began on a weekly Sabbath and occurred sometime between "that last great day of the feast" (starting in John 7:37) and the very next identified event in John 10:22[2]:

Obviously the Feast of Dedication does not occur the very next day following the Last Great Day, either. With the earlier mention of everyone returning to their own homes, there is an obvious break given here in the timeline that provides no definitive link to the events in John 8:2 regardless of which calendar method you use. Additionally, what would be the point of describing such an occurrence other than to signify the Feast had ended?

3) The third of these three events is once again based on New Testament testimony of a weekly Sabbath in 29 A.D. Special focus is given to Luke 6:1[1] that states:

The phrase "second Sabbath after the first" is cited by Hebrew Calendar supporters that this Weekly Sabbath was also the Last Day of Unleavened Bread - a scenario supported by today's Hebrew Calendar calculations in 29 CE. This is assumed since the Last Day of Unleavened Bread is the Second High Sabbath of the year. Once again, though, computer-generated models also make this scenario possible for an observed calendar if green-eared barley were seen a month prior to the Hebrew calendar (which would have intercalated a 13th month in 29 CE). Regardless of this fact, when we investigate Luke 6:1 further, we find that the argument using the phrase "second Sabbath after the first" is very weak because it is based on the translation of an unusual Greek term "en sabbato deuteroproto".

Mr. T.C. Skeat (author of Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus) convincingly conjectures that the original copyist-publishers (or scribes) incorrectly interpreted this Greek phrase into what would be considered today a typo (smudge or blunder) of the original manuscript creating what is coined as a "ghost-word" (or a word which never had any real existence). When investigating this Greek phrase further, you will find that this is the only place in scripture - or in generally-accepted documentation (including the Septuagint) - where this specific phrase is used. Barnes New Testament Notes[13] discusses this Greek word in Luke 6:1 and says:

Even the same event of this Weekly Sabbath described in Matthew 12:1 and Mark 2:23 (where the Festival Day is never mentioned) do not use this same Greek term nor does any Hebrew term or phrase relate. The generally accepted translation of the Greek word in Luke is "second-first" Sabbath. But without a secondary witness of this word being used anywhere in literature, we will never be able to adequately confirm its meaning within this context and is just as possible that this should be translated as being the second Sabbath in the count of seven Sabbaths to Pentecost.

CONCLUSION) None of these three cited events at the time of Yeshua, as we see, can be used to definitively determine the day of the week that coincides exclusively for one calendar method over the other. When we look to secular and Jewish history, however, we find that the Sanhedrin Court system of observation was still in effect during Yeshua's time on Earth and would likely have been the same method that Yeshua, the Messiah, kept. Any other method would have certainly caused concern for Yeshua's actions from the members of the Sanhedrin and claims against Him would have been far beyond simply breaking the Sabbath and Rabbinical laws with miraculous acts.

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