By Yavonne Hinton
This work may be reproduced only in its entirety and without cost to its recipient outside of reproduction and delivery.
To My Brothers and Sisters:
This writing comes out of a number of larger bodies of work to include the history of Judaism, its oral law, and research of calendric systems throughout the world and designed with a specific focus on holy days as described from Old Testament writings. Prompted mostly in response to those who have asked for a compendium to the numerous subjects that compose the Jewish history for keeping holy days, present circumstances have allowed the time to devote to this topic. The keeping of holy days and counting between holy days always brings a yearly discussion questioning the accuracy and confusion surrounding the calendar in the minds of those outside Judaism. The irony is this particular matter has been a historical question since the fall of the temple society in Jerusalem. Each year, the same questions are lodged. Frequently, I am asked my reasoning for keeping holy days differently than the accepted standard of the general churches of God. Unfortunately, a good answer could never be a short one as one must first have a foundation in Jewish literature, culture, religion and history to give reasonable discussion to this subject in addition to a firm grasp of the requirements under Holy Law. The topic of Jewish history is vast and few have ventured into it, yet stand firmly on preconceived notions and misinformation. The next unfortunate task lies in the fact that many do not wish to explore any of these topics and react in a form of rehearsed denial or respond by lodging debate without any foundation. To this end, the only logical reply is those who wish to learn will seek knowledge.
In a setting of general conversation, any response to the initial question becomes overwhelming as the volume of the task to present so much information is wearisome to a listener outside of an academic setting. To spare the casual conversationalist from falling quickly into disinterest, my response is generally open-ended until the interest is of serious inquiry. Likewise, I have frequently been urged to put words to paper on this topic as there is a great deal of information available. Thus, this writing is twofold. These words are for those who are interested in a serious response and, hopefully, not a boring or uninformative exercise.
Here, is added one caveat of personal belief in that the world of people are all children of God, all have a role to fulfill during their life, and immaturity breeding hatred or malice should not be taken from these pages. Additionally, I have no desire to bash any ministry or assign blame to any person as I believe all ministries and human vessels serve a role (II Tim. 2.20; Acts 9.15; Is. 30.14) in contribution to a greater picture of divine purpose we can only give feeble imagination to. Moreover, the written Word is also a creation of God which He will use to perfect many purposes. The written Word itself is inexhaustible to our understanding, hence, our pilgrimage in it takes a lifetime and more if we could give it. Our communion must always be with God. The sum is this. If we have been an ardent student of the Word of God, at some point we are to grow in the Holy Spirit and become a disciple of the Word of God a form of work and not a passive activity. To this end, the intent of this writing is not in launching a propaganda piece, a sermon or to sell something, but to show written evidence, the eye witness to history, to help the reader to look closely at the topic of timekeeping for oneself.
As already inferred, the purpose here is not to make convincing argument, but to present the tools to look at history, literature and timekeeping of first century holy days with the reader to furnish their own intelligent discernment. Written history should not be viewed in fear as it is a record to the compass of man's decisions. As we travel on, many dates given here are not considered precise as some have long been the subject of numerous debates. Yet for our purposes, the relative time frames will be sufficient.
Thus, my first disclaimer is that historical evidence will be presented for consideration. My second disclaimer is that perfect answers only exist within the knowledge and understanding of the individual. I hope to give direction or diagram through dusty old books from my twisted idea of fun derived out of a passion for research and history. Hopefully, I can assist in narrowing the focus of research so that others can find their own way through these texts and historical events.
In advance, I beg forgiveness for any complicated and/or unfamiliar terms I may mention and fail to define and the length of some of the topics given here. I also beg forgiveness from those who absolutely hate the thought of being dragged through a history lesson and I will do my best to make it as simple and painless as possible and still give you a device to look into the record of this matter on your own. If it were possible to send the reader to one source or text or even in one direction, this synopsis would not be necessary. As we will come to understand in the end, there are many facets to explore as we uncover the calendar buried within layers of two thousand years of human events. I hope to give you a road map.
For our purposes here, I will attempt to cite materials from internet sources which also echo many other printed materials, as the internet might be more readily available, and with a disclaimer that I do not endorse anyone's website. These websites were last checked in 2008. Much of what I have reviewed exists in my own personal library as I discovered that most local libraries are limited in their selections. Also complicating availability is the fact that not everyone can avail themselves of academic libraries.
In addition to the path seeking out the history of time keeping and cultural anthropology, there are also numerous theological arguments for determining which authority a modern holy day calendar should be based. If you have or have not yet been exposed to these theologies, there is a large body of them in existence and just as divergent in their interpretations. The fascination of trying to find scriptural authority in word meanings by literalists is almost fruitless as the Chaldee and Hebraic root words to describe a "new moon" or a "new month" are not specifically clear in their literal interpretations and there are many arguments as to the exact meaning that should be applied to these words. Only because we are looking back through the lens of time and distance of linguistical evolutions are we uncertain of the understanding we should take for specific word meaning. The Mosaic, agrarian audience at the time these words were written would not have questioned the word meanings as they understood the specific meaning of those words. (My humble apologies to you folks who argue word meanings and many of you have great arguments, but you see, I tackle things differently from a career-length experience of working for trial lawyers and doing the research and work to build strategical arguments for winning cases at trial. To win this argument, you must prove your point without the opposing side overcoming the foundation of your argument. Yet, you might be interested in the final analysis.)
As to the other arguments premised on scientific preciseness of astronomical movement, at some point one will have to admit there is not a heavenly body in the visible universe that keeps an accurate and precise time table. If one could be found, it would make the world of astronomy (to name only one of the disciplines) orgasmic to have found a calendar of universal precision. (One such source being the non-publicly available research of Herbert Salinsky & Rob Anderson is very detailed on scientific calculation of a holy day calendar.) For the uninitiated, and in very broad terms, Salinsky and Anderson advocate that the new year begins at the first crescent moon following the date of the vernal (spring) equinox. My purpose here is not to spend time countering each of these arguments as it has proven to be an endless occupation.
Conversely, the Jewish culture can be confusing to a general reader in its chronicles and literature. The complication is that cultural history of the Jewish nation is written into a myriad of books by scholars on various topics for scholars and not into a compendium of any one text. Not only is Jewish history intertwined with the cultures in which they existed, but continued to survive long after demise of those civilizations, reigns and land boundaries. Stay with me as we uncover a small segment of humanity played on a historical stage and we will look in awe to the Glory of God.
With this position in mind, please consider that my avenues of research have yet to exhaust all resources, thus, my third and final disclaimer. May the blessings of Heaven be upon my husband who has patiently stepped over stacks of books and piles of papers. May God grant His full blessing to you and may you succeed in all that you endeavor to learn.
In humble service to the Glory of God,
A QUEST INTO HISTORICAL TEXTS
The Greek fondness for collecting and writing books filled vast libraries in large metropolises where students such as Archimedes of Syracuse came to learn and study engineering mechanisms and sciences. Commerce and communications raced across the old kingdom of Cyrus the Great along the Royal Road the Silk Road stretching between Susa near the Persian Gulf and Sardis at the Mediterranean Sea. Gold in Thrace and silk in China traveled this road. Messengers galloped by horseback along the 1,600 miles dotted with rest stops much like our early American Pony Express route. As the expanding Parthian empire over took the waning Greco-Macedonian rule in the east, supply stations along the old Silk Road were government supported for the convenience of the large caravans of merchandise traveling overland. Inside the borders of Parthia, vast libraries and academies could be found in Babylon. In its own form of barbarism, the militaristic-minded Roman mostly ignored the surrounding Greek and Parthian sophistication in knowledge of art, literature, science and math. This time period was not without a lack of written materials, but the Roman response to academies and libraries was to burn and destroy if it was in the way. Rome's triumph to civilization was demonstrated in its war on Carthage, wherein Syracuse lying in between and acclaimed as the most beautiful city in the world, was completely destroyed because it was in the way. As a result of Rome stomping around the Mediterranean, large libraries such as the one in Alexandria were burnt to the ground leaving humanity with a giant hole in its history and knowledge and few surviving bodies of ancient literature. Preservation of literature was mostly dependent upon individuals who were wealthy enough to acquire, or fortunate enough to migrate, into regions outside of Roman dominance. Within this small body of texts, the Holy Scriptures along with Christian and Jewish writings were preserved.
Jewish texts, considered extensions of biblical teaching, are preserved in the writings of rabbinic Judaism. Just as Christianity is founded upon a belief in Jesus Christ, rabbinical Judaism is founded upon the system of or teachings by rabbis following the extinction of the former temple priesthood. The canonical texts of rabbinic Judaism are first compiled into the third century writing of the Mishnah. In Christianity, its canonical texts are preserved in the first and second century New Testament writings. The Mishnah text cannot be considered a record of history, but does lend itself well as the only record of Judaism. Conferred only by revisionism, the title of rabbi is then placed upon all those who ever held prior positions of teaching. In addition, the Mishnah writing holds a retrospective view of Pharisees who are attributed much more power and influence than they actually had during the first century. It is into the Mishnah we will find a preservation of the holy day calendar, yet we will also need to accompany its understanding with a mix of basic Judaism and surrounding politics and culture that created this text. Even though the temple had been destroyed approximately 130 years prior to the compilation of the Mishnah, much of the text includes matters related to the sacrificial worship system with a view point that the God-Israel covenantal relationship was unaffected. It is not a book of laws based on Holy Scripture or Torah, but one of legal opinions from preserved rabbinical decision. Among its pages, we will discover a preservation of holy day celebration.
Outside of Judaism, many do not understand what Torah is. Within Judaism, Torah has many senses ranging from an indefinite reference to a specific text. From the Hebrew language is derived the word "torah" and generally defined as "teaching" or "instruction," as its word origin is taken from a root meaning "to teach." Thereby the meanings "doctrine," "teaching," or "instruction" apply and the commonly accepted connotation of "law" gives the wrong impression. The translation into English then allows further contexts of meaning to creep in. An obstacle to understanding the word "torah" is then created out of the inaccurate rendering from the word "law."
In a general sense, "torah" of Judaism encompasses all of the historical religious teachings of the Mishnah, Talmud and Midrash which is then applied to the entire spectrum of written law and oral law. The written law or five books of Moses on physical scroll or paper is termed "Chamisha Chumshei Torah" or "five fifths of Torah" or informally "Chumash" or, if handwritten by a formally trained scribe, "Sefer Torah." The entirety of the five books of Moses (the "Torah"/the "teachings"), the prophets ("Nevi'im") and the writings ("Ketuvim") form the modern Hebrew acronym "Tanakh." During the Second Temple period, the public reading of the biblical text was called "Mikra" (meaning "reading" or "that which is read") and the acronym of "Tanakh" was not used as a word. In spoken Hebrew today, "Mikra" and "Tanakh" are interchangeably used. Modern rabbinic literature denotes "torah" to describe the entire gamut of authoritative teaching. As we dive further into uncovering the books of Judaism, the understanding of the word "torah" will take on stronger perception. To maintain clarity here, with the exception to quoted material, the word "Talmud" will be purposely used to indicate the text of oral law and "Tanakh" to indicate the biblical text of Holy Scriptures.
Although Christ disputed many "traditions of men" with certain of the Jewish religious leadership of his time (a separate topic that can be explored), the scriptures used by Christ and the disciples were straight out of the Tanakh the Law, the prophets and the writings. In a logical and reasoned manner, we can look to the time of Jesus Christ and find that he did not dispute any day on which a holy day was kept. This specific time in history was still a largely Jewish population in the Roman province of Judaea keeping Sabbath for teaching of the Tanakh. General government disinterest in other religions outside of Rome allowed the Jewish nation to continue flourishing in its archaic, religious celebrations based upon their own calendar.
Research into the records, functions and calculations of calendars will lead to essentially finding as many varieties of calendars as there are cultures determined to make order of their civil functions and religious celebrations. Civilizations throughout the period of man have utilized two or more calendric systems, most often one for government and one for religion. In the minority are those civilizations who managed one calendar for all functions. At the height of Rome's sovereignty, the aspects of calendars varied by region. Each geographical area depicting different gods in esteem for the region's holidays, accommodated the thought that each god required a particular kind of worship or obviation and, as such, certain calendar days or holidays were named for its regional gods. There are many knowledgeable sources on the topic of historical timekeeping and all are relatively easy to find. Archeology continually uncovers new calendric systems and notations as they dig into history. The most recent finds include Newgrange (Brugh na Boinne constructed in 3,000-2,500 BC) in Ireland with astronomical data and functions built into its walls as complicated as or more so than the Egyptian pyramids, and the first century BC Grecian Antikythera mechanism found in 1901. The Antikythera was recently looked at with sophisticated three dimensional x-ray imaging that revealed complicated bronze gears and teeth which predicted eclipses, tracked motions of astronomical bodies and moon phases, and functioned as a complicated calendar that counted not only days and months, but the four-year cycle of Greek Olympics with appropriate self correction to maintain its annual cycles.
The center of attention for the events we will come to shortly focus upon is the geographical area of Judaea and its City of Jerusalem. Lying in the very center of Judaea as a remote upland city surrounded with hills, Jerusalem's misfortune lies in its inability to be sustainable outside of the commerce that flows into it. Its location and soil conditions are unsuitable for farming grains to feed the city, it has no natural resources to create trade outside of its stone and groves of olive trees, and is unsuitable as a natural thoroughfare for the large commerce caravans passing to its south. Without political and religious importance that attracted its occupants, Jerusalem offered little and its location more useful as a fortress city. Yet Jerusalem managed to be an attractive and sophisticated metropolis of stone-paved streets with sluice holes for drainage into underground canals (sewers)1 and manholes for cleaning. 2 The city streets were swept daily by an occupation of road sweepers. This is the city that greeted hundreds of thousands of visitors from very distant places usually between the dry months of March and September. Many occupations existed in support of the operations of the Temple and merchants found ready buyers for merchandise shipped in from long distances. Traveling many miles of bad roads through bands of dangerous road thieves, large festival caravans of thousands (mostly on foot3) would be greeted by this gleaming city of limestone and its pristine Temple. The Jewish festival visitor usually carried with them their first and second tithes along with the annual Temple tax and Roman tax.
With all of this said, let us begin by focusing on three particular areas. To develop a background for contrast, we will first name the biblical holy days, review a quick history of the holy day calendar of the general churches of God and the foundation upon which this calendar is based. Our greater concentration is to look at the texts containing the elements of what the holy days consisted of in the first century, but a direct reading does not bring a simple understanding. Our second focus is found within this exploration as we will brush against some of the political strongholds and the cultural influences of the period which is the fabric of when and how the oral law began and developed before it was written. As we go along, our path will also ferret out how some modern notions took root and touch a little upon the clash of first century Judaism and Christianity. Our final discovery will uncover the Hebrew calendar and calculations for holy days within the preserved texts of Judaism. When we are finished and the mark has not been missed, the reader will be left with a diagram through historical texts and information.
PARAMETERS OF "MO'ADE YHWH" (FESTIVALS OF GOD)
Seven festivals occurring within the first seven months of the year make up the annual festivals of God in Holy Scripture. Of the first month, a count of fifteen days gives the date of Old Testament Passover and Unleavened Bread wherein falls the Waiving of the Omer which triggers the 50 day count to Pentecost. The seventh month is designated at the season's fall harvest with the first day of the month set aside for blowing of the shofar or referred to as Day of Trumpets. Counting an additional ten days or tenth day of the seventh month is Atonement, which was the only festival day designated along with Sabbath that punishment for breaking the prohibition of labor would incur stoning. Five more days or the fifteenth day of the seventh month began the festival of Sukkot or Feast of Booths/Tabernacles of eight days, finalizing the annual festivals. If the holy days are this easy to describe, then why are there so many questions as to when they occur?
Holy days roll around every year and the little printed holy day calendar put out by generally all Sabbath-keeping, holy day-keeping churches is just fine for planning vacations and making plans for diligently keeping the holy days. Everyone uses it and therefore it must be accurate. How do we know it is accurate or is it? How did the days get figured out for that little calendar? A diligent student of scripture should be able to go to the Testament and read for oneself the observance of holy days and figure it out right? When one starts thinking about the holy days and how they are determined according to scripture, we can find all authority in the Old Testament and the scriptures are probably familiar. The days are clearly spelled out in scriptures of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy with two exceptions. Scripture uses two different phrases that have become unfamiliar to us over time:
"This month shall be unto you the beginning of months . . ." Ex.12.2
"This day came ye out in the month Abib." Ex. 13.4
"Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto the Lord thy God: for in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night." De. 16.1 (King James version with emphasis added.)
Following these small descriptions, all subsequent holy days are based upon the count of a specific day of a month beginning with a specific month of the year. Counting between days and from month to month is essentially an easy enough task, as well as instruction of daytime or evening. Simple? Uncomplicated?
So how does one go about determining a particular month? And if it is the "beginning of months", meaning the beginning of another year of months, then how do we determine when the year begins? An inquiry into historical texts should be able to answer the questions of who, when, where, and how. We will have to come back and address these questions in a little bit because we need to first understand where that little holy day calendar came from.
How Did The Churches Of God End Up With Their Printed Holy Day Calendar?
To get our bearings, we first need to look into the foundation of the little holy day calendar and how it has been determined. The understanding of holy day dates propounded by the former Worldwide Church of God repeatedly used the same research and the same information as their proof of a holy day calendar in their writings dating as far back as 1953. Many times over the years, H.W. Armstrong exclaimed that an "exhaustive search" had been performed on the accuracy of the holy day calendar without ever divulging what that search entailed.
In the very early days of Mr. Armstrong's ministry, Pentecost was kept on the rabbinical date of Sivan 6 before changing to keeping a Monday Pentecost. In 1974, the Worldwide Church of God changed the date for keeping Pentecost from Monday to Sunday (a time period in which this writer personally witnessed), again in keeping with the rabbinical date of Sivan 6, after Mr. Armstrong called his Jewish friends in Israel and inquired as to which date they would be keeping Pentecost on.
Numerous times, confusion over holy day dates and subsequent clarification by the ministers required the holy day calendar issue to be revisited over and over again. Essentially, printing a holy day calendar for the masses would resolve most of these questions and establish the authority for the dates. This brings us to the next bearing we must take which is a close look at the foundation on which the holy day calendar is structured.
What is the Foundation of the Current Holy Day Calendar?
In the February 1957 "The Good News" article written by Kenneth C. Herrmann, instructions to the readers of this article for finding holy day dates were referred to the "Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary" to transfer the holy day dates to their own calendar for use. The little holy day calendar is essentially the dates directly from the rabbinical calendar with the exception regarding the date of Pentecost as mentioned above and new testament Passover. Mr. Armstrong emphatically repeated over and over again that the "Jews" have kept the Oracles of God and, therefore, kept the holy day calendar down through time and that is the complete authority we are to rely upon.
Thus, we can deduct that our knowledge of holy day dates is directly related to the rabbinical calendar kept by the Jewish people, so now we must look deeper into that calendar's foundation to understand it. But is this calendar in keeping with the Oracles of God?
Didn't the Jewish People Keep the Oracles and the Holy Day Calendar?
So can we look to the Jewish people and believe that they kept a calendar through the ages and, therefore, this calendar system can be used to determine dates for holy days? There are arguments that emphatically state the Oracles of God were entrusted to the Jewish nation so the calendar must also be entrusted to them. For instance, H.W. Armstrong always cited Romans 3.2 as evidence that the Oracles of God were left in the hands of the Jewish people. (The entire chapter of Romans 3 should be read and not just one verse.) Another variance is claiming that the oral law of Judaism is one and the same as the Oracles of God. Never in the history of Judaism will you find any rabbi or any commentary lay claim that their works of oral law is the same as the Holy Scriptures the Oracles of God the most sacred of all texts. Such a lofty claim would be akin to heresy and invite excommunication or death depending on the culture and century within which one lived. The Oracles of God are completely contained within the books of Moses, the Tanakh, the Pentateuch, Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament. Thus, the Oracles of God have been guarded judiciously.
The name "written law" was given to the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographa, and that of "oral law" to all the teachings of the "sages" consisting of comments on the text of the Bible. The word Torah alone was applied to the entire Bible, the term "Talmud" was reserved for the oral law, though the meaning of these two words is identical; namely, "teaching" or "study." Still, because it is written Velimdo (Deut. xxxi, 19), and teach it the children of Israel (put it in their mouths; that is to say that the teacher's duty was to explain and comment on the laws and ordinances until the children understood them thoroughly and were conversant with them by heart)--the name "Talmud" was applied to what was styled by a long phrase "Oral Law" (Torah-she b'al-Peh). This word designated all the commentaries of the sages on the Scriptures which the Pharisees had begun to interpret figuratively.4
The oral law spoken of by Judaism can be interpreted no differently than the next sermon or bible study one sits through. The intent of the oral law, the Talmud, is to teach and expound words and ideas out of the Holy Scripture. Both operate with the same intent and neither would be considered equivalent to Holy Scripture. The earliest operation of oral law had to function in such manner to bring the Word of God to the masses most often illiterate and uneducated. Thus, the formation of the Mikra as we previously discussed. Momentarily, we will take a closer look at what is called oral law but let us see what the rabbis have to say.
"Furthermore, it must be remembered that the Talmudical ethics is largely based on the ethics of the Bible. The sacred treasure of biblical truth and wisdom was in the minds and hearts of the Rabbis. This treasury they tried to enrich by their own wisdom and observation. Here they develop a principle contained in a scriptural passage, and give it a wider scope and a larger application to life's various conditions. There they crystallize great moral ideas into a pithy, impressive maxim as a guide for human conduct. Here they give to a jewel of biblical ethics a new lustre by setting it in the gold of their own wisdom. There again they combine single pearls of biblical wisdom to a graceful ornament for human life." --M. Mielziner.5
The Talmud is not a commentary on the Bible; nor should the vein of satire or humor that runs through it be taken for sober earnestness. Nor is the Talmud a legal code, for it clearly states that one must not derive a law for practical application from any halakhic statement, nor even from a precedent, unless in either case it be expressly said that the law or statement is intended as a practical rule [Baba Bathra, 130b].6
Neither is the Talmud a compilation of fixed regulations, although the Shul'han Arukh would make it appear so.7
But why speak for it? Let it open its mouth and speak in its own defence! How can it be done? The Talmud must be translated into the modern tongues and urge its own plea. All that we have said for it would become apparent, if it were only read.8
Yes, the Jewish nation has diligently brought the Oracles of God through the depths of history. Christ did leave the Oracles of God in the Jewish nation's hands, but the Oracles were also given to the disciples of Christ, sent into the northern tribes of Israel, and made available to other nations, on various occasions by rabbis themselves interpreting it into a new language for those without, and by the believers of Christ as the gospel spread through the world. The testimony of Stephen speaks passionately about the Oracles moments before he was martyred at the hands of a sect of the synagogue (Acts 7). In summation, the Oracles of God can be found as easily as opening the Bible. Yet, one final argument lies in the hands of the rabbis who have been attributed to keeping the calendar a secret.
But Hasn't the Calendar always been a Secret Science?
Now if the old argument that the holy day calendar has been a "secret science" kept down through history and that only the rabbis have access and knowledge of, the proper question is to ask "who says?" The rabbis? The Jewish culture? Arthur Spiers? In no way propounding any form of anti-semitism, this question is simply asking the reader to start thinking about how and where they came to accept this notion.
If this writing is speaking to seasoned scriptural readers who are firmly convinced of a seventh day Sabbath and the keeping of holy days, two questions are asked. Do we entrust our understanding of holy days or interpretation of "Sabbath day" to the Catholic church fathers? Then why would we entrust our understanding of holy days to a religious sect of Jewish culture called Rabbinical Judaism? If attention has not been lost at this point, let us explore this topic further and find out where this belief comes from.
If the Old Testament scriptures, the Tanakh, can be considered the greatest original work for all humanity, all other writings become merely sequels. From out of the religion of the Hebrew tongue, grew the sequels of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. To clearly understand these sequels, one must become comfortable with the science of human events. For open discourse between persons of Christianity and Judaism to take place, each must accept historical events in a form of unemotional science. Only with open discourse can creation of the next successful sequel of humanity be written.
To understand a small portion of Judaism pertinent to our task, one must first have an overall comprehension of how oral traditions have come down through the history of the generally accepted Jewish culture. What is an oral tradition or an oral law? Oral law in Judaism is the teaching of interpretation of biblical scripture from teacher to student or rabbinical administration from one generation to the next. Oral law is just that oral. No mystery. Maybe an easier understanding is looking to one's own family and if a great- great grandparent made a particular accomplishment or came from a foreign land, most likely this is an event passed down in an oral understanding. Unless one goes and finds actual documentation or records, we really do not have anything but the tradition. Same with Jewish oral law as it was passed from one generation to the next or from teacher to student. Do oral traditions become corrupted? Anyone who has participated in the experiment of passing a whispered message around a room full of people clearly can understand how oral speech becomes misquoted or even changed from its original appearance. Oral law or oral traditions are not exempt, even among a Jewish nation, and the tools will be given to make this determination.
A second understanding needed is that of Judaism itself. To reduce the vastness of this topic is not a small task, but we need only to look at a small segment of it. Early first century Judaism is comprised of three popular sects of philosophy the Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes. From out of each of these sects further divisions gave birth to additional groups. As with any culture, organization or religion, "Judaism is not exempt from its inner diversity of theory, political divisions and manipulations."9 Although the detailed philosophy for each of these religious sects is not our focus, we will need a general understanding of these sects as they existed. From here, we will survey the human events prompting various decisions that formed Judaism, its thought and its textual writings. The culmination is a body of oral tradition developed from this early Judaic period into the written text of Mishnah.
THE BEGINNING OF ORAL LAW
All rabbinical literature would like for us to believe that the oral law has been handed down from the time of Moses. The Holy Scriptures demonstrate numerous times the Oracles were "lost" to the people and the entire nation had to be taught over again. Logic prevails that oral law, even if it had been written, would never withstand this test of time. Maybe it should be suggested that because of the record of losses and relearning, this body of literature and style of teaching developed to form Judaism. "The basic purpose of the Talmud was to provide the Jewish people with a body of teaching which should be more than a creed, but also a guide of life in every phase."10 Not only does the body of literature developed from oral law define Judaism, it has become a successful piece of writing. We will come back to this notion of oral tradition handed down from Moses and gain a better view of what rabbinical literature is about, but we first must set the Judean- Roman stage in which our historical actors will shape this creed and guide to life. The men who carved this world made decisions that influenced the life and religion of the common man. These dictators of life and death drew boundaries that changed at the whim of defeat or political gain, gave the poor hope or encumbered their survival and relegated Judah's religion to a political office before its oral law is written. Until we arrive at a written body of oral tradition, its suggested history is intertwined within these human events and for this reason we look closely at its fabric of development which influences our final survey of a holy day calendar. It is into this arena we enter to gain a perspective of three subsequent groups of historical figures who cultivate this notion of oral law. The earliest and most common suggested history begins somewhere about the time of the Babylonian Exile. For this reason, we follow the office of high priest starting about the fall of the kingdom of Judah and the small return of scribes from the Babylonian Exile which reestablishes the temple system and priesthood wherein many sources claim that the oral law began. Followed by the years of instability and political appointments in the priesthood, we trace the oral law through the Maccabean period which reclaimed the temple after the erection and eradication of the Greek god Zeus and the world that shaped Judah into a province of Rome, until we finally arrive at a second destroyed temple society and a body of written oral law.
Our narrative begins as the weakening Assyrian nation is defeated by Babylonia's King Nebuchadnezzar and the tiny nation of Judah was assimilated when the eighteen year old Judean King Jehoiachin and ten thousand of its leading citizens are deported to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar then appoints the last remaining king of the house of David, the twenty- one year old Zedekiah, as a puppet ruler over the remaining population of Judah. In an effort to seek independence when the puppet king tried to align his country to the Egyptian nation, the enraged King Nebuchadnezzar marched his armies back to Jerusalem defeating the Egyptian forces. The embattled Judean nation held out for another year and a half before the Babylonians breached the walls and reduced the City of Jerusalem to rubble and destroyed Solomon's grand Temple, the First Temple.
Our first characters are Ezra and the subsequent scribes from the Babylonian Exile returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, in counterfeit grandness of the first, yet rededicated the Second Temple in 516 BCE seventy years after decimation of the First Temple.
At the re-establishment of the Jewish Commonwealth, Ezra the Sofer, or Scribe, in the year 444 B.C.E. formally proclaimed the Torah the civil and religious law of the new Commonwealth. He brought with him all the oral traditions that were taught in the Exile, and he dealt with the new issues that confronted the struggling community in that same spirit which had created the synagogue. His successors, called after him Soferim ('Scribes'), otherwise known as the Men of the Great Assembly, continued his work. Their teachings and ordinances received the sanction of popular practice, and came to be looked upon as halachah, literally, the trodden path, the clear religious guidance to the Israelite in the way he should go. When the Men of the Great Assembly were no more, the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem took their place.11
The Babylonian Exile is a momentous period in the history of humanity
and especially so in that of Israel. During that Exile, Israel found itself. It not only rediscovered the Torah and made it the rule of life, but under its influence new religious institutions, such as the synagogue, i.e., congregational worship without priest or ritual, came into existence one of the most far-reaching spiritual achievements in the whole history of Religion.12
It is generally portrayed that the traditional office of scribe morphed into the office of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish court system. Although the Sanhedrin described by the Talmud did not exist in the time of Jesus, it did exist as such in the latter end of the first century. Jewish historian Josephus records that the earliest office of Sanhedrin were installed by the Romans in 57 BCE. For the moment, we will continue introducing our historical figures before we return to the Sanhedrin in greater detail.
In the meantime, political seats of power were being gained and lost. Military careers were being made from numerous wars which were also shaping boundaries of control. Around Ezra's time, Rome had already begun raiding their neighbors throughout the "Italian boot" with dreams of being an expansionist power. Within 120 years after the completion of the Second Temple, and approximately six years after Rome's successful sacking of Veii (396 BC), Celtic raiders out of the north humiliate Roman defenses and walk away with a tribute payment of 1,000 pounds in gold for which act earned them the permanent title of "barbarians." Rome will need to avenge this defeat in the eyes of its citizens, but it also needed money to wage war. To this end, Rome establishes economic trade with the wealthy trading centers of its fearsome northern neighbors (those barbarians) importing ironworks and coinage from the abundant Gallic gold mines in exchange for its exports of wine and oil. Eventually, it will be with Rome that Judah is vanquished into a Roman province where we will continue tracing the priesthood established by Ezra, follow the office of high priest and beginning of the court of Sanhedrin while making note of the Pharisees and Sadducees along the way.
The next group of competitors we take note of are the Pharisees and Sadducees which rose out of the latter end of the Maccabeen period or approximately 135-105 BCE. The Maccabeen period began when the Mede/Persian-controlled empire, including the land of Judah, is conquered by Alexander the Great who set up his own Graeco-Macedonian empire. Mingling with the native cultures in the regions, the sophistication and refinement of Greek culture, language, art, and philosophy is introduced and its influence becomes known as "Hellenization" (2 Macc.4:13). Judas Maccabaeus leads the Maccabean Revolt (165 BC), a cultural war against the Hellenic sway of the Judean people, recovering Jerusalem, tossing hundreds of priests over its walls, purifying the temple and reestablishing Judaism, an event now annually celebrated as Hanukkah. After two years of war, a peace treaty between Maccabeaus and Antiochus Epiphanes is agreed upon. There is no historical trace of who the Pharisees and Sadducees are, but their first appearance in recorded history was when both sects were vying for power in the Hasmonean13 court.
Favoring Hellenization to be adopted by the Jewish people was Jason, the brother of the high priest Onias. Jason bribed the new king Antiochus IV in order to seize control of the priesthood from his brother Onias. Onias, described in ancient vernacular as "wicked", is taken by Jewish men and stoned to death. This takeover of the priesthood led to one of the greatest crisis in the history of Judah. The office of these self-appointed Judean rulers is marked by political intrigue, murder, matricide and fratricide and rocked the nation during these years that the offices of ruler and high priest functioned as one and the same.
Judas Maccabaeus' son, Johanan Hyrcanus, belonging to the sect of Pharisees and attending a pharisaical feast, was insulted by Eleazar concerning his mother's virtue as a captive of Antiochus Epiphanes. At Jonathan's instigation, Hyrcanus becomes a Sadducee. One year later, Hyrcanus dies leaving instructions that the monarchy was to be divided giving the high priesthood to his son Aristobulus and control over the government to his wife. But two of Hyrcanus' sons make disputed claim over the combined office of king and high priest. Following their father's death, Aristobulus in cahoots with his brother, casts the other brothers they dislike into prison. To maintain control of the monarchy, Aristobulus allows his mother to starve to death after throwing her into prison. Continuing to maintain hostilities to the sect of Pharisees during his one year reign, Aristobulus dies from a painful illness and his oldest brother Alexander succeeds to the rule after being released from prison by Aristobulus' widow.
To resolve a dispute as to who would rule Judah, the next generation of brothers Hyrcanus II and Artistobulus II demand an audience with Rome's general Pompey who had camped in Jericho. Pompey is angered when he is double-crossed by Aristobulus who promised payment for the general's attention and marches against Jerusalem. The fearful citizens are divided as to which side they should take. Following a three month siege wherein 12,000 citizens died, Pompey rewards Aristobulus's brother for his assistance in turning over the control of Jerusalem by granting him the priesthood. Pompey takes Jerusalem as a tribute nation and Aristobulus as prisoner to Rome. The last surviving member of the Hasmonean dynasty then signed a mutual defense pact with the rising Roman Empire that was marching into world domination.
During the reign of Rome's Pompey, a bitter struggle between the Pharisees and Sadducees arose in which the Pharisees requested Pompey to restore the old priesthood. Just like the true spirit of political machinations, the Sadducees generally found popularity among the wealthy and prominent Jewish citizens whereas the Pharisees were more popular among the common Jewish citizens. An appointment to the courts of Sanhedrin could come from either the Pharisees or Sadducees by popular vote. But tracing the changes in control between the Pharisees and Sadducees is much like chasing political wind.
The Hasmonean family descendants continued as high priests/princes expanding control of the territory under the self-appointed title of "king." While the Hasmonean family were heroes to many, other communities such as the one formed in Qumran, regarded the family as presumptuous pretenders as they were not the descendants of Zadok, the lineage of high priests of the Davidic line. The Qumran community settled in the outer reaches of the Judean province seeking solitude essential to their religious worship and became referred to as the Essenes. It is at this same time period that a spousal loss brings a young woman into the service of God. Following the death of her husband (88 BC), Anna the Prophetess, daughter of Phanuel, enters the temple in Jerusalem to serve God with fastings and prayers day and night. It will be over 80 years from now before Anna sees Christ in the temple. (Lu. 2.36) Yet, the center of the Roman-Judean world was just warming up with some very colorful figures.
Following various successful military campaigns and death of Rome's commander Sulla, Pompey the Great became a national success imposing political settlement upon the warring factions in the East Mediterranean. Egypt quietly becomes a Roman province upon the death of Ptolemy Alexander II as declared in his will. Upon Pompey's return to Rome, he faced two political opponents in Marcus Licinin Crassus and Gaius Julius Caesar. In an accord known as the First Triumvirate, the three men shared tenuous political power over Rome. As consul, Caesar began his conquests into new territories with an underlying need to find wealth to pay his army. With Caesar's eye to expanding his portion of the empire, military campaigns are waged year by year on the Gallic and Germanic people to the north before returning home with his army to overthrow Pompey and claiming supreme power for himself.
Back in Judaea, Aulus Gabinius, the governor over Syria, waged war against Alexander (son of Aristobulus II), ordered all cities to be rebuilt that had been destroyed and giving the temple and priesthood to Uncle Hyrancus. Gabinius separates the position of priesthood from the position of provincial ruler further dividing Judaea into equal parts and appointing a 5 seat court in each section. This appears to be beginning of the Sanhedrin court system which will look differently in another hundred years.
Twenty years later, when general Antipater realized that governor Hyrcanus was ineffective, he appointed the oldest son Phasael as governor over Jerusalem and its neighboring countries and a young Herod over Galilee. Phasael dies within ten years. Taking over the Judean throne and both territories in 37 BCE, Herod the Great makes the expansion and reconstruction of the Second Temple his agenda along with his military campaigns and frequent spendthrift jaunts to Rome. For his legacy, Herod rules the city and his family with fear. Herod divides the City of Jerusalem, killing all who had previously opposed him. Among the deaths were the judges of the Sanhedrin who had accused him of a capital crime before Herod was king. With an essence of a Judean soap opera, Herod appoints his brother-in-law, seventeen year old Aristobulus III as high priest only to later have him drowned in a swimming pool by Gallic mercenaries, to make way for the other brother-in-law Ananel to take the position. Herod plunged the entire city into mourning over the death of Aristobulus. As growing suspicions and marital unhappiness increased (and we cannot imagine why), Herod has his wife Mariamme executed. But let us give Herod a fair evaluation:
Herod governed efficiently. He collected revenues, contrived public works to develop vast tracts of land and eliminate unemployment, and, constructed a magnificent temple in Jerusalem. He also built several large cities, fortresses, and palaces including Herodion in the south, Sebaste in Samaria, and Ceasarea, a seaport in the Sharon. Herod stabilized political life, which had been in turmoil during the reign of the last Hasmonean monarchs. Indeed, under him there were no politics at all, only palace intrigue and slaughter of potentially dangerous wives, sons, and servants. Earlier institutions of political life were either transformed into instruments of state, like the high priesthood, or apparently ignored, like the Sanhedrin. Under Herod, official culture came more and more under Hellenistic domination. Court history was written in Greek by able Syrians such as Nicholaus of Damascus. The Temple cult was managed by agents of the monarchy, men who purchased the high priesthood at a price, held it at the king's pleasure, and, enriched by the priestly dues, handed it in the accepted Greek manner to the next appointee.14
Within fifteen years of Caesar's claim to consul, he is assassinated leaving Rome in the hands of his adopted son, Gaius Octavius, who is granted the title of Augustus by the senate in 27 BC and becomes the first Emperor of Rome. Under the administration of Augustus, reorganization and rehabilitation of every branch of the government brought stability, security and prosperity through improved communications and commerce. Just like Caesar before him, Augustus needed money to pay his army. In true manner of political alliances, Augustus betroths his daughter to the wealthy Dacian15 prince in the northeast with a desire to lay his hands on the gold, opal, quartz and copper mines in the Carpathian Mountains of Dacia. To the east, in a precarious peace agreement with the super power of Parthia, 16 the Roman legionary standards captured thirty-three years earlier (Julius Caesar's military attempt towards the eastern empire of Parthia) are returned and the embattled region of Armenia becomes a client-state to Rome. By the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, the client-state of Judea had been converted into a Roman province. This is the corrupted world of culture and politics in which Christ will be born.
Herod continues to depart from his country's customs. Josephus records that under Herod, the family of Boethus was raised to high-priesthood and again the Sadducees came to power. When Herod removes the high priest, he replaces the priest with his father-in-law, Simon. However, the religion of Judaism continues to survive under the tutorship of a prominent Jewish figure, Hillel the Elder (90 BCE to 10 CE) and not to be confused with Hillel II (no relation) of a much later generation. "He came from Babylonia as an obscure immigrant, but, miraculously, his learning was recognized, and he was made Nasi, or patriarch."17 Yet this event in Judaism did not make any particular impact to other events in the region. Around 6 BC, the man who has a disease (later healed by Christ) begins lying by the pool at Bethesda, Zacharais and his wife Elizabeth conceive a son named John, and Herod has his sons Alexander and Aristobulus put to death. Anna the Prophetess publicly acknowledges the baby of Mary and Joseph as Lord and spoke of him to all in Jerusalem seeking redemption. Having already left Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph find protection in the province of Egypt from Herod's wrath and royal edict for slaughter of the infants.
Upon learning that Herod was sick and not to recover from his disease, a group of young scholars pull down the eagle Herod had erected over the large gate of the temple and hacked it to pieces. From his sickbed, Herod punished the young offenders by removing the priesthood from Matthias and gave it to Joazar, brother of Mariamme. Following Herod's death, national unrest was sparked when the public demanded that Joazar be removed from the priesthood. In response, Herod's son Archelaus sends in the army that crucifies about two thousand in Jerusalem. To quell another brotherly dispute over Judean rule, Rome divides the dominion between Herod's surviving sons. Archalaus receives a half portion including Jerusalem and Herod Antipas receives Galilee for his share.
After Herod's death in 6 B.C.E., the people begged for direct Roman government. "They implored the Romans to unite their country to Syria and to entrust its administration to Roman governors. The Jews would then show that, though the people said they were factious and always at war, they knew how to obey equitable rules." The Romans tried to keep Herod's sons in power, but when this led to further difficulties, they acquiesced and appointed the first in a line of procurators. The procurators did not share Herod's interest in developing the economy by building port cities and roads. They were mainly concerned with the imperial welfare, if not, first of all, with their own. They lived in Hellenistic Caesarea, went up to Jerusalem when masses of pilgrims came up to celebrate the festivals, and were glad to return to the cosmopolitan capital as soon as possible.18
Back in Rome, Augustus tried to conquer the "so-called" barbarians to the north by sending three Roman legions into the forests of Germany in 9 AD. In return, Germanic chief Arminius (Herman the German) sent back a severed head and left the stacked bodies of Roman soldiers to bleach in the sun. At least he was a tidy barbarian. Needless to say, this delayed the annexation of northern and central Europe to Rome. Stepping into his aging father's shoes, step-son Tiberias rules the Roman empire of 13 AD. It is during the reign of Tiberias Christ began his mission in Galilee.
In Judaea and in a dizzying succession of commissions, governor Valerius Gratus removes high priest Ananus (Annas) and appoints Ishmael, son of Phabi to the position. Shortly afterward, Gratus removes Ishmael from the position of high priest and replaces him with Eleazar, son of Ananus who had been removed earlier. One year later, governor Gratus is still busy with the appointments to the high priesthood. Eleazar is removed and the office given to Simon, son of Camith. Within another year, Simon is removed and appointed to the office is Joseph Caiaphas, son-in-law of Ananus who formerly held the office before removal. By 26 AD, Pontius Pilate succeeds governor Gratus, but Pilate takes a tenuous control being concerned that the citizens would find out about his previous crimes of slaughter, rape, selling justice, sentencing the innocent to death and other general savage cruelty.
The last king of the Herodian Dynasty ruling Judaea under the command of Rome is Herod Agrippa. Herod, fearing that John the Baptist would cause a rebellion to break out among the citizens of Judaea and fearing civil war that would bring Roman intercession, had John taken prisoner to Machaeras where he was then put to death. It is under this structure of political leadership that Jesus Christ is taken, sentenced and upon his death the temple is damaged and the veil between man and the Holy of Holies is torn in half from top to bottom as earthquakes rock the province.
Toward the latter end of the Second Temple period, there is a split between two sects of Judaic philosophy the Sadducees and the Pharisees the Pharisees are now in control of the Second Temple. The conflict leading to this quibble came out of the growing corruption of the temple priests. As we have seen, the office of high priest, whose intended office was to be spiritual leader to the Jewish people, had changed and no longer the office of its former predecessors. Under increasing power of Rome over the affairs of Judaea, the citizens are helpless to stop the gutting and whittling of the office of high priesthood into a pro-Roman theocracy giving incentive to establishing Jewish settlements across the Euphrates River inside Parthian control and at Babylon. In Herod's effort to establish his power among the Jerusalem priesthood, he petitions Claudius Caesar for authority over the temple, sacred treasure and the choice of high priests.
In 41-44 CE, the Pharisees found a supporter and friend in King Agrippa, and about the time of the destruction of the Temple, the Sadducees disappeared leaving Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees. Josephus speaks of the two groups that "notions of the Sadducees and Pharisees are different " (Ant. 13.10.6) and goes on to explain:
that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers; and concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them, while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side; but about these two sects, and that of the Essenes, I have treated accurately in the second book of Jewish affairs.
This understanding is also echoed in the words of Chief Rabbi Dr. J.H. Hertz: The aristocratic and official element of the population later known as the Sadducees unhesitatingly declared every law that was not specifically written in the Torah to be a dangerous and reprehensible innovation. The opposition of the Sadducees only gave an additional impetus to the spread of the Oral Law by the Scribes, later known as the Pharisees. What they sought was the full and inexhaustible revelation which God had made.19
With politics as usual, the removal and installation to the position of high priest continues on in the same manner succession after succession, generation after generation. If we take the word of those who claim that the oral law began around the time of Ezra, over five hundred years of oral traditions had taken shape by the time of Christ's confrontation with the priesthood over the "traditions of man." Whatever these oral traditions might have been, or the nature of them, there is no written text to examine outside of its preservation in Christian New Testament encounters and its suggested preservation in the 3rd century Mishnah text. If we take the view that the oral law is as important to Judaism as the Holy Scriptures, we are left to question why nothing had been written down in its five hundred years of development. Direct answers to this question are scarce, but maybe we can draw upon modern inferences that pharaism existed only a small segment of population centered around a developing doctrine. Hillel's appearance in Judaism is limited only to the sect of pharaism as history does not make any other record of his contribution:
His migration from Babylonia is taken for granted, and his rise to power is the subject of serious historical efforts. Some of his moral sayings and ordinances are first attested to then. There was interest in recovering usable spiritual heroes from within Pharisaism itself, in place of Bar Kokba and other messianic types. ...
From the destruction of the Temple onward, the name of Hillel was everywhere claimed as the major authority after Moses and Ezra for the Oral Torah. Hillel could always be added to make stories more impressive. There was no limit to the claims made in his behalf as source of Torah traditions.20
What was the meaning of "being a Pharisee" in the lives of various sorts of people? It seems most likely that to be a Pharisee was not a profession, but an avocation. Pharisaism was, in terms of ancient civilization, a sect within the "philosophy" of Judaism. Smith stresses:
Judaism to the ancient world was a philosophy. That world had no general term for religion. It could speak of a particular system of rites (a cult or an initiation), or a particular set of beliefs (doctrines or opinions), or a legal code, or a body of national customs or traditions; but for the peculiar synthesis of all these which we call a "religion," the one Hellenistic word which came closest was "philosophy." So when Judaism first took shape and became conscious of itself and its own peculiarity in the Hellenized world of the later Persian Empire, it described itself with the Hellenic term meaning the wisdom of its people (Deut. 4:6). To the success of this concept within Judaism the long roll call of wisdom literature bears witness. Further, the claim was accepted by the surrounding world. To those who admired Judaism it was "the cult of wisdom" (for so we should translate the word "philosophy" which they used to describe it), and to those who disliked it, it was "atheism," which is simply the other side of the coin, the regular term of abuse applied to philosophy by its opponents. (Morton Smith, "Palestinian Judaism in the First Century," in Israel: Its Role in Civilization, ed. Moshe David [New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956], 67-81).21
We will look beyond the political and cultural influences of the oral tradition in a moment as we have one more group of figures to examine as we continue looking at the sects of Judaism with its appointments to the priesthood and our continued pursuit of the Sanhedrin.
Finally, we come to our third group of historical players at the period prior to the obliteration of the Second Temple where the office of high priest was rented out to the highest bidder and the priests extorted as much as they could from the pilgrims who came to sacrifice at the Temple. As the priests became more corrupt, the Jewish people viewed them as collaborators with the Romans. By 65 AD, the rebuilding of the temple was finished and 18,000 workmen were without work. A vast majority of people were leaving Jerusalem by this time. The exodus included Christian believers that made up the largest numbers as well as the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin leaving Jerusalem loosely reconvened much later in Tiberias in a desire to revive their waning leadership before disappearing into history. In the streets, the smoldering embers of rebellion that had been brewing nearly forty years were being fanned into outright revolution lead by a group of religious outcasts called the Zealots.
More grossly incompetent than the last, each short-lived succession of Roman procurators ruled the Judean nation in political chaos. Regicide was a general matter of politics. The Roman mismanagement of the nation eventually led to general resentments, riots and revolts of the Jewish people. Rome had taken over the appointment of the high priest and the appointments came from the ranks of Jews who collaborated with Rome. Then the study of Torah was prohibited. The ranks of Zealots bulged. Open rebellion broke out over the entire Judean country against Roman rule. In response to Rome's demands, the "Great Revolt" in 66 CE ensued when a Zealot-led revolution against Rome was initiated. Herod's palace was stormed and records burned. The palace of Asmoneans used as a court and the house of Ananias the high priest were set on fire. The next day, rioters capture the citadel of Antonia and kill all the Roman soldiers within. It took four years of war withstanding Roman legions, cavalry, military implements of battering rams, portable bridges and siege machines, and plain, old-fashioned starvation. The walls of the City of Jerusalem were finally breached and carnage of the remaining human population and religious Temple was the only salve to the injured vanity of the waning Roman Empire. Even though many hundreds of thousands died, thousands of survivors were sold into slavery. The final devastation of the Temple (an event referred to as the Hurban) occurred in 70 CE quelling the Great Revolt at least for a moment. Roman forces under Emperor Titus destroy the last Jewish outposts in 73 CE.
Before we close our chapter of characters, we need to become more acquainted with the body of Sanhedrin for the upcoming part they will play. The reconvened Sanhedrin reformed the practice of Judaism with rabbinic modifications to serve God through sacred rituals at home and synagogue. The origins of the synagogue are not known. The present system of synagogue developed after the destruction of the Temple. The public Sabbath readings of the Scriptures and explanations of their meanings was the primary function of a scholar and the assembly for the same became what is known of the synagogue. To the Jewish traveler, the synagogue also served as the local hostel. Rabbinic-led religion became the religion of the nation of Judah, as both Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity overtook the other sects, and a large body of Christianity morphed into the adopted religion of the Roman world. Yet, this is not our last encounter with the Sanhedrin and we will revisit them in one of their functions of sanctifying the holy day calendar, but first we need to understand the world they operated in.
From this search of human events, we have defined the players and made a general examination of their history and tumultuous political climate in which the oral law is intertwined. At what point can we properly place the beginnings of oral law without risking the title of revisionism? The nation of the Hebrew tongue in its glory and power under King Solomon, disintegrated into a political football in the hands of conquering rulers after King Rehoboam ruled with cruelty and heavy taxation splitting the nation in two. The House of Israel (the ten tribes) migrated away from the political authority leaving the House of Judah as occupants of the land. (I Kings 12.) Although allowed to seek its religious roots and reinstitute a system of worship under its future rulers, the Judaic religion eventually developed into a new system without priest or temple ritual. The Sanhedrin body became a decider of religion and ethics only to disappear. Finally, all bodies and deciders of Judaism's religious worship survive through a rabbinical system. From out of these persecutions and evolution of time, a doctrine of oral tradition had been cultivated along with the preservation of the Holy Scriptures the Tanakh.
Defining the Oral Law
Let us look closely at the recorded oral law of Judasim that evolved from out of subsequent centuries of strife into the recognizable document in existence today. The oral law is interchangeably referred to as the Mishnah, Gemara or Talmud and many Jewish folk outside of scholastic circles do not perceive a difference between them. Yet, there is a fundamental difference between the Mishnah of the third century and the Talmud or "Mishnah Torah" of the twelfth century, both will involve our purpose here and which we will look at shortly. Talmudic sources also contradict themselves in the extremes stating that the oral law survived intact over the centuries, contrasted by stating that the history of the oral law has never been contained in one source nor written down because of the persecutions and protections it has undergone over the centuries.
A fundamental issue with the Rabbis was the acceptance of a traditional Torah, transmitted from one generation to another by the word of mouth, side by side with the written text. It was claimed that the Oral Torah, equally with the Written Torah, goes back to the Revelation on Sinai, if not in details at least in principal. Forty-two enactments, which find no record in the Pentateuch. The rest of the Oral Torah was implied in the Scriptural text and was deducible from it by certain rules of exegesis.
This claim on behalf of the Oral Torah met with strenuous opposition from the Sadducees, and naturally had the effect of making the Rabbis lay exceptional stress on its importance and validity.22
Perpetuating a concept of a continual written oral law lends authority to the oral tradition. This is understandable when one takes into consideration the external persecutions and their own internal strife endured by the Jewish people. The development of the oral tradition can be viewed much the same way as the development of New Testament scriptures each developing an understanding based in the Laws of Moses. The development of oral traditions of Judaism can generally be defined by seven time periods or eras. Each era is loosely defined by a style of teachers or religious leaders and each era encompasses a number of generations. Fortunately, for our stated purpose, we will only need to look closely at three eras of the oral tradition and only make mention of the other five to maintain a historical perspective.
The first era we need to look at closely is considered the earliest period of oral law, and called "zugot" (meaning "pairs" indicative of two prominent teachers of the period) beginning about the time of the second group of players we mentioned:
. . . with the rise of an independent Judean state under Simon the Maccabee of the Hasmoneans and the nature of Judaism changed from Theocracy to Nomocracy. The change reflected a radical transformation from the rule of the Jewish community by God through the High Priest, to rule of the community through the judicial and legislative discourse of the Supreme Court.23
What little literature retained from this period of Jewish authorship is written in the book of the Maccabees. No written history or text exists, outside of the names of the religious teachers, to demonstrate what this oral law contained. The only written law retained from this period is the Holy Scriptures the Tanakh.
Our next period of close scrutiny is considered the second era of oral law, involving our third group of historical figures. Starting about the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, and lasting to approximately 200 CE, which is called the period of tannaim or mishnaic (simply meaning the "repeaters"), administered by the sages to the Mishnah document, we arrive at the latter end of this era and the earliest record of written oral law. Rabbi Akiba Ben Joseph (50-135 CE) is considered to be the founder of Rabbinic Judaism and Rabbi Judah the author of the Mishnah. Judaism's survival was at stake and, in response, Rabbi Akiba gathered any and all fragments of anything Jewish to which Rabbi Judah would preserve. As the world watched the declining civility of the Roman Empire, Vespasian, a frustrated general from its finest legion, had been given the task of squelching the lengthy Judean revolution. Rabbi Akiba proclaimed military leader Simon Bar Kochva to be the Messiah early in the Bar Kochva rebellion against the Romans, but he later retracted his statement. Thousands of refugees fled across the River Euphrates into the protective arms of nearby Parthia. The six hundred year old Parthian Empire being the only formidable stopping power on the eastern border of Rome's lust for territory. Both Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Judah were killed under torture by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The salvation of Jewish learning would come through Jochanan ben Zakkai by establishing a yeshiva (school) in Jabneh, a northwestern location of Judaea. From out of Jabneh, the sages formulated the laws essential to Jewish survival for those living in Diaspora.
In the following generation, Akiba was the author of a collection of traditional laws out of which the Mishnah actually grew. . . . Late in life
[R. Judah the Prince, also called simply Rabbi, a descendant of Hillel in the seventh generation] undertook a complete revision of his Mishnah, probably in the year 220 A.C.E. 24 To give Christian readers a frame of reference, the compositions of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John are generally accepted to be 80-100 CE with Mark being composed approximately 68 CE. The principal writings of rabbinic Judaism, or oral law, actually began with the Mishnah in approximately 200 CE, and two separate Talmuds developed. At this juncture, we must deviate into a little more history of the oral tradition from out of which this second century period saw the greatest development of what is known as oral law in any written form.
The oldest manuscript copies of the Mishnah, are in Parma (13th century), Cambridge (on which the Jerusalem Talmud is said to be based), and New York (vocalised fragments, 10th or 11th century).25
Jewish life is once again centered in Babylon, within Parthian borders, when two disciples of Rabbi Judah had been sent to form the learning academies. Two distinct perspectives on Jewish law developed from these two separate academies named for their teachers the school of Hillel and the school of Shammai. Both schools could be considered the Yale or Oxford or Harvard of their day and Hillel II emerges as the leading figure of religious thought in Babylonia. The Babylonian Talmud, which came out of the Babylonian school of religious teaching between the 3rd century CE and the start of the 6th century CE, while the Jerusalem/Palestinian Talmud grew out of the Palestine school of religious teaching between the 3rd century CE and the start of the 5th century CE. It is suggested that because the academies of Babylonia survived longer than those of Palestine, the Babylonian Talmud was deemed more authoritative.
As a demonstration of development, we take a small detour here. A noted philosophical difference between the two Talmuds is that the Babylonian Talmud expressed a belief in demonology while no such belief existed in the Jerusalem/Palestinian Talmud. The belief in demonology remained in the oral law until the middle ages and no longer exists in current beliefs. Contradictory elements between the Babylonian Talmud and the Palestinian Talmud were reconciled to the point of deleting written passages in favor of the other with the Babylonian Talmud given precedent over the Palestinian Talmud. Later generations had almost forgotten the Palestinian Talmud which was written in a Syriac dialect that was no longer known. All of these topics are highly debated in Jewish circles and the subject of many books, but if one would like to delve deeper into the theologies, Michael L. Rodkinson's The History of the Talmud, Volume I, can be found on the internet.26 An additional source discussing the formation and deletions to the Mishnah can be found online in the Jewish Encyclopedia.27 The topics debated between the two old academies are preserved throughout the Mishnah.
The third era of oral law beginning sometime after 250 CE and lasting until 500-600 CE is that of amoraim/amora (simply meaning "to say" or to "tell over"). The last amoraim compiled the discussions and debates arising out of the Palestinian Talmud and Babylonian Talmud into a central work around 500 CE, which upon completion, actually brings us into the next era. Corrections made to the old Mishnah were objected to by many of the amoraim who held that the language chosen by the ancients should be retained and remain unchanged. To interject another Christian reference for this time period, Constantine convenes the Council of Nicaea of 325 CE in an attempt to forcibly unify theology and belief with its Nicene Creed. Constantine dies and his nephew Julian takes over as Emperor, orders the Temple rebuilt in Jerusalem as an attempt to refute Christianity, before he is killed in the Persian war (363 CE) along with the dreams of a new temple. The Vandal invasions had already begun. Vandals, Goths and Huns ransack the last vestiges of Roman dominance.
The fourth era of oral law is referred to as savoraim (meaning "the reasoners") and begins after the compilation of the two Talmuds into the central literary work of oral law correctly called Gemara (approximately 500-650 CE). Dr. J.H. Hertz provides us with an analysis of this text:
But the Gemara is more than a mere commentary. In it are sedulously gathered, without any reference to their connection with the Mishnah, whatever utterances had for centuries dropped from the lips of the Masters; whatever Tradition preserved concerning them or their actions; whatever bears directly, or even distantly, upon the great subjects of religion, life, and conduct. In addition, therefore, to legal discussions and enactments on every aspect of Jewish duty, whether it be ceremonial, civic, or moral, it contains homiletical exegesis of Scripture; moral maxims, popular proverbs, prayers, parables, fables, tales; accounts of manners and customs, Jewish and non-Jewish; facts and fancies of science by the learned; Jewish and heathen folklore, and all the wisdom and unwisdom of the unlearned. This vast and complex material occurs throughout the Gemara, as the name of an author, a casual quotation from Scripture, or some other accident in thought or style started a new association in ideas.28
Significant rewriting of the Babylonian Talmud by the savoraim occurred at the beginning of this period as the academies were given great autonomy and stability within the conquering Muslim empire (638 CE) of Ali ibn Abu Talib (the fourth Caliph to rule after his cousin Muslim prophet Mohammed). The literature that grew out of religious questions received and legal answers in reply became technically known as response ("responsa") literature. Judaism flourished and infused with the resurrected ideals and poetry from old Greek literature. As a group, the savoraim may have been the greatest influence in giving the Talmud its current structure.
Our third and last period to closely examine is the fifth period of oral law of geonim/gaon (meaning "pride" in old Hebrew or "genius" in modern Hebrew) or sages of Babylonia stemming from approximately 650-1250 CE. It is during this period that three names become prominent figures of Jewish literature. Saadia ben Joseph (882-942, a/k/a Sa'adiah al-Fayyumi, his Arabic name, or commonly Saadia Gaon), Rabbi Aaron ben Meir (the Gaon of the leading talmudic academy in Israel), and Moses ben Maimon (1135-1204, a/k/a Rambam or, the Christianized version, Maimonides). The literature of this period is written in three languages of Aramaic and Arabic with Hebrew appearing later as a result of the Karaite movement or those considered "adherents to the texts" of scripture. This is the first time the oral law is published into book form. The book of the Talmud is literally attacked as it is dragged through city streets tied to horses' tails and publicly burned in every century from the 11th to the 18th beginning with Pope Innocent the III. On the other hand, the New Testament scriptures were burned more often and more consistently throughout the same "dark age". At the end of this period, the powerful Islamic bloc was now weakening as its eager Sultanites divided its land holdings.
The very fears of the second century rabbis where realized in the twelfth century as the knowledge of the Talmud was appealed to more than the Torah (the Holy Scriptures). The Talmud is now pronounced closed to future amendments and footnotes. This arrival of Talmudism cemented the Jewish people into a unified religious and civic body able to withstand the advancing Islamic religion of the dominating Persian Empire and the Christian religion of Medieval Europe.
The sixth developmental era of oral law is that of rishonim (meaning "the firsts") from the rabbis of early medieval period 1250-1550 CE. Moses de Leon composes the Zohar (1280 CE) which later becomes the heart of the Kabbalah that will transform Jewish spirituality and conversionism. Devastation from Black Plague grips Europe in 1348 CE breeding unfounded social fears in which approximately 300 Jewish communities are wiped out by Christian-infused violence. By 1521, social reformation was demanded of the Catholic church, giving birth to Protestantism. The Empire of Islam was crumbling, not in the style of the former Romans, but from holding two military fronts; the invading Mongolians from the east and the cross-wielding Crusaders out of the north. The empire of Black Plague knew no enemy and befriended all religions as it gripped the world in its death.
The seventh and considered last era of oral law is that of acharonim (meaning "the later ones") begins in approximately 1550 CE and composed by Rabbi Yosef Karo into the treatise of the Shulchan Aruch. Just over a hundred years later, Martin Luther draws a line in Europe's dirt between Catholics and Protestants. What began as social reform in the previous century turned religious revolution in this one. It is this century that the text of Shulchan Aruch is considered a closed book to future revision. In Orthodox Jewish circles, achoronim cannot dispute rulings of rabbis of previous eras unless they find support from rabbis of previous eras. This rule is disputed by those of conservative Judaism who state that the literary work should not looked upon as ultimate authority or vested with infallibility. These two view points are the subject of many commentaries and of much debate. The Shulchan Aruch is the present controlling oral law used in rabbinical teachings of Orthodox Judaism.
We have just walked through an abbreviated version of two thousand years of history in which the Talmud developed. It has survived the philosophies of the Greek, wars of the Romans, invasions of Islam and Christianity to be held as the only prize of tenacious scholarship. The Talmud work rightly holds its place in historical literature as a compilation very much comparative to that of Christian New Testament writings. Talmud learning is very much like Christian learning as both take a student an entire lifetime or more to grasp the depths of understanding inside both. Within the Talmud, the doctrine of oral law is the fundamental element of pharisaical belief. The entire foundation of rabbinic literature is a mediated doctrine between faith in both scripture and oral tradition and is called Rabbinic Judaism. We can logically deduce that the oral law is not a writing that developed before the first century and, only after it had finally become a written form in the third century, that it did not retain its original elements. Rewritings began and elements considered obsolete, impracticable or unnecessary were deleted as discussions and controversies between prominent rabbis ensued. Finally, we are left with two pieces of literature to explore further and we will come back to the Mishnah and Talmud in a moment, but first, our explorations have also uncovered a backbone called the "authority of Moses" the revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai, so let us take a look at it.
Authority of Moses
Remembering back, we previously touched on the topic concerning foundation and authority given to oral law and that rabbinical literature would like for us to believe that the oral law has been handed down from the time of Moses. Littered throughout the Talmud are recitations that the oral law was revealed to Moses, and the Mishnah further explains this oral law was given by God orally to keep it out of the hands of the Gentiles to preserve it as the secret knowledge of the rabbis. The literature of Rabbinic Judaism would prefer that history be written to say that the oral law has always been in existence and this gloss remains prevalent in modern writings.
'Moses received the Torah on Sinai and handed it down to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment; raise up many disciples; and make a fence around the Torah.' (Aboth I.I).29
The laws that are termed Halachah leMoshe miSinai30 are the accepted authority given to oral law in rabbinical literature and became attributed to the days of Moses. Freely admitted in various Mishnah commentaries is that not one of these laws can be related to scripture verse or derived by logical reasoning, but only to jog the memory.
The most consequential advance for the history of Judaism during this era within rabbinism is the establishment of a Torah dominated theology. Rabbinic claims to authority rested on their asserted association with the revelation at Mount Sinai through the concept of the dual Torah. This ideology postulated that Moses received as divine revelation both the written Torah (i.e. the Pentateuch) and a concomitant oral Torah.
In their complex recasting of traditions, the sages imputed rabbinic traits to the heroes of ancient Israel, from the patriarchs, to Moses (called Rabbenu, our rabbi) and David and other major figures, who, like the later masters, studied Torah and kept the commandments. Rabbinic literary expressions depicted God himself as supreme rabbi with personality traits closely akin to the sages. 31
Mosaic injunctions into the oral law are not unlike any other doctrine such as:
One claim of Christianity was to interpret Scripture properly; another was that "the Jews" misunderstood Scripture and that their additional teachings ("Oral Torah" to the rabbis) were spurious. In the face of that challenge, the Rabbinic sages took the position that the Oral Torah not only was authentic, revealed Torah of Sinai, but indeed superior in value to the written part of the Torah that Christians possessed along with Israel.32
Assigning a doctrine of infallibility to the rabbis in Judaism is akin to assigning infallibility to the pope of Catholicism. The postulation that Moses received an oral torah as a revelation from God on Mt. Sinai along with the Written Law is the substance for the doctrine of infallibility in rabbinical Judaism. The line between Holy Scripture and oral law is not a clearly defined one as viewed by practitioners of Judaism for they see no need to differentiate. As already reviewed, oral law is not deemed to be Holy Scripture.
We can conclude that our examination to this point has covered many centuries and we have found historical figures in historical roles where they have demonstrated events, places, culture and belief leaving us with an understanding of the world in which an oral law developed. Through written evidence, we have examined the development of oral law from a time before the first century and explored how the authority and strength for oral law has been proclaimed. We will return to inspect more of the written texts when we continue deeper in the Mishnah and Talmud, but let us quickly take what we know so far and slip into the words of a young, upstart group of a newly forming religious belief in the same time period to see how the old school met the new school.
FROM OUT OF JUDAISM
Early within the generations of turbulent political climate we return to the stage of the first century. The Judean nation bleeding from heavy taxation of Roman tyranny sheltered each sect of Judaism preaching a different interpretation of salvation. As previously mentioned, three controlling sects of religious teaching were in existence during the first century. Along side the lengthy history of Judaism's oral law developed the doctrines of Christianity. Josephus continues on to describe another group of folk, Jews and Gentiles, following a man named Jesus, "a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. . . . and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." (Ant. 18.3.3) This outgrowth into Christianity was not a small event. The practitioners of this newly growing philosophy were named by the Greek as Christians and referred to by the other sects of Judaism as Messianics:
And although at that time new enemies arose, in the Boethuseans, Essenes, and many other sects who were opposed to its particular doctrines, . . . .
But a wise Greek, a convert of Judaism, Aquila the Proselyte, who received the doctrines of the Talmud from the disciples of R. Johanan b. Zakkai and also from R. Aqiba, translated the Bible into Greek. This version was not acceptable to the Jewish believers in Jesus (Messianists)who must already at that period have constituted a large sectbecause their construction of many passages in the Messianic spirit was flatly disregarded by the new translation; nor to the Romans, because all expressions seeming to imply the materiality of the Deity were translated in a figurative sense as for example, "the hand of the Lord"; "the glory of the Lord," which the statue-worshipping Romans could not endure with equanimity, . . .33
The changeableness of the Mishnah writing is discussed at length by Dr. Rodkinson describing the removal of various elements. Among those items dismissed, references to Messianic influence and belief were removed. So let us turn to the encounters Christ had with the other sects of Judaism as recorded in the texts of Christianity. The Pharisees and scribes were the very Jewish religious leaders in power who frequently confronted Christ. Throughout his ministry, Jesus was repeatedly addressed by the scribes and Pharisees for violating "the tradition of their elders" to which he replied to their accusations by deeming their "traditions" as transgressions of scriptural law. Let us look at one of these instances and follow scripture along with me (emphasis added to scripture of the King James version):
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of their elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. Mt.15.1-2
But he answered and said unto them, why do you also transgress the commandments of God by your traditions? Mt.15.3
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mt.15.9
And the last sentence restated again in the 7th chapter of Mark; i.e.:
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mr.7.7
And the disciples also repeatedly addressed the same notion of "traditions" and "commandments of men":
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Col.2.8
For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. Gal.1.13-14
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition of your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ . . . . 1 Pet.1.18-19,
The word "tradition(s)" used here is Strong's #3862, meaning "transmission" and/or "the Jewish traditionary law". Christ and the apostles were speaking directly about the traditional law or oral law in operation during their time for which we have just reviewed the development of this first century oral law. Let's take a look at the tradition Christ spoke against of not "washing the hands when they eat bread" (Mt.15.2-3). Earlier, this writer purposely mentioned an occupation of working for lawyers and this created a daily interaction with a variety of Jewish beliefs from the non-practicing to strict Orthodox Judaism. These casual conversations that ensued concerning rituals also discussed the ritual of hand washing which is best worded by (and we will borrow the excellent words of) Nehemia Gordon:
When the Rabbis talk about "washing the hands" they do not mean to take a bar of soap and cleanse oneself: that's just common-sense hygiene. What the Rabbis mean is a very specific ritual-washing of the hands. The Rabbinical ritual begins with a special jug that fulfills certain requirements and specifications. This jug is filled with water and then placed in the right hand and used to pour water over the left hand. Then the jug is passed to the left hand and water is poured over the right hand. The process is repeated a second time and according to some traditions a third time. At the end, a blessing must be recited:
Blessed art thou Lord, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to wash the hands. [footnote omitted]
When I was growing up and faced this ritual on a daily basis, I began to object to this blessing, because as far as I could tell there was no such commandment in the Torah. My Rabbis explained to me that the practice of washing the hands was a Rabbinical "enactment" and God had commanded us to obey the Rabbis. When I asked to see where God tells us to obey the Rabbis I was told to stop asking so many questions.34
These traditions are not scriptural commandments given to the Levitical priesthood. Generally, we will find these are rituals unquestioningly performed by practitioners of rabbinical Judaism in accordance to their oral law. Christ's disciples being witness and audience to the rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 15, were born and raised members of the Jewish culture, versed in the knowledge of scripture and oral traditions. (Acts 10.14) In Matthew 15, Christ was not having an "off day" and just giving a wimpy sermon about physical hygiene or dietary food laws. Hygienic washing is common sense and the Jewish audience was well-versed in dietary food laws we are not looking at physical hand washing before one eats food. The topic here of "washing" is a developed ritual or tradition. Christ further pointed out to the Pharisees the fact that their traditions or rituals were violating the Ten Commandments and his example was the Fifth Commandment (honoring one's parents). The words Christ used in his rebuke came from the very scripture they all knew well Isaiah:
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do hounor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? (Is. 29.13-15)
Hence, where is the parable that Peter did not understand? (Mt.15.15) Peter was not questioning the physical rituals or the physical food one puts inside a body. The parable Peter did not understand was the relation of ritual worship to spiritual worship.
Christ's response (taken in whole and not one verse) to Peter's question was basically to say "don't you understand that it is not the physical things, but the spiritual things that defile a man." (Look closely into the word "defile".) Christ was demonstrating that by transgressing one of the Ten Commandments (such as the Fifth Commandment; Ex.20.12, De.5.16) to keep the ritual law or traditions passed down, nullifies the word of God for which the Pharisees were also guilty of injustice by not applying the penalty as commanded (Ex.21.17, Lev.20.9). The giant picture lesson Christ was teaching to his disciples in Matthew 15 (and left for us today) was the fact it is the words spoken by the mouth, a state of the heart, that defines a man as clean or unclean. Christ was speaking directly to spiritual uncleanness! Ultimately, Christ was teaching about having love, i.e. seeing to the welfare of one's parents, and not putting the outward things above the love toward others which is the essential spirit of the Ten Commandments.
Let us look closer at what Christ said further about the scribes and Pharisees holding onto their traditions (emphasis added to scripture of the King James version):
Ye hypocrites, well did Esasias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mt.15.7-9
Intentionally bringing back into memory the words of Isaiah to the minds of his audience:
Wherefore the Lord said, Foreasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Is.29.13 (Emphasis added.)
When the disciples came later to Christ and asked if he understood that the Pharisees were offended by his attack on their traditions, it was not a small, innocent question, but one of great concern when we recall the political spectrum of the day. (Mt.15.12) Had Christ been speaking only against their religious rituals, they would have considered him equivalent to a defiled gentile and not given any more time to his speech. Instead, Christ pointedly showed them that their traditions were breaking the Ten Commandments for which they also understood that justice had not been applied all in accordance with the Law of Moses. Christ was speaking against the very foundations of pharisaical doctrines of ritualistic Judaism. This was not a small matter in the eyes of the Pharisees and a great threat to their entire belief system; an ultimate threat to their political power and tenuous control.
And did Christ speak of those who use the authority of Moses to deem their traditions to be law? All of us as hearers of many sermons given in the churches of God, we read and listened to these scriptures many times:
Saying, The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses seat:
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be bourne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments,
And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi Rabbi.
But be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. Mt.23.2-8
When Nehemiah Gordon looked at the Matthew scriptures of 23:2-3, he understood the confusion of these words and, with his knowledge of research and skill in Hebrew and English, wonderfully explained what many of the old sermons have weakly tried to expound (thank you Mr. Gordon):
But when I went to look in the Hebrew text of Matthew I found something quite different: [Hebrew text/words omitted]
This translates into English:
(2) The Pharisees and sages sit upon the seat of Moses.
(3) Therefore, all that he says to you, diligently do, but according to their reforms (takanot [Hebrew text omitted]) and their precedents (ma'asim [Hebrew text omitted]) do not do, because they talk but they do not do. In the Hebrew Matthew, Yeshua is telling his disciples not to obey the Pharisees. If their claim to authority is that they sit in Moses' Seat, then diligently do as Moses says! 35
Why the confusion? Let us have Mr. Gordon explain further:
These are two fundamentally different messages, but in Hebrew, this is a difference of only one single letter! In Hebrew, "he says" is yomar [*] while "they say" is yomru [*]. The only difference between the two in an un-pointed Hebrew text is the addition of the extra vav [*] in yomru [*] "they say". That this is the basis for a completely different message is amazing because the vav [*] is one of the smallest letters in the Hebrew alphabet, really just a single stroke! 36 [*Hebrew text omitted]
Christ spoke against the very pharisaical claim to the authority of Moses expounding that if Moses tells us to do it, then it is that we must do; but if the traditions, words and regulations are not written in the Law of Moses, then we are not to give any credence to the traditions of men.
Old school has met new school. With all of the information we have looked at that combines characters and history, and an understanding of how oral law has been injected into it, we also see how this culture of tradition was spoken of by our High Priest. Now let us look a little closer at that first century climate in which Christ walked and taught to see what else we can understand that relates to the holy day calendar.
LOOKING BACK AT THE FIRST CENTURY CALENDAR
Starting from our current time period and working backwards, we are left to look through history to see what changed since the time of Christ and the disciples. If we were to look back at the Roman calendar of the first century time period, we would be left in even more confusion. The Romans, taking over a Grecian world and conquering all other bodies of different cultured people in the surrounds, instituted their Roman calendars upon the conquered people while still allowing these people to use their historical and regional calendars. Does that sound confusing yet? The Grecian calendar used a four- year system called an Olympiad (a word that sounds familiar to us today when we talk about "olympics") and, in a simplistic understanding of their calendar, their calculations were based on a consecutive count of each four year period of time. We recall the workings of the Grecian Antikythera mechanism to mind. The Roman calendar was revolutionized into the Julian calendar in 45 BCE by Julius Caesar.
The Roman implementation of their calendars was a much more complicated system. In a simplistic understanding of Roman calendars, there were simultaneous civil, religious, legal and social calendar systems. The Roman calendar was divided by signal days or three primary markers named Kalends, Ides and Nones based on the first three phases of the moon. Kalends signaled the first day of the new moon and the first day of the new month; Ides signaled the day of the full moon; and Nones signaled the days of the first and last quarter of the moon. We are familiar with the phrase "Ides of March" from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar". In addition, the Romans had specific days on which shopping or legal business could be done. For example, a citizen of that time period could only do their shopping on every 9th day which was a market day that continually shifted throughout the year. As previously mentioned, the Roman calendar is much more complex than this and only a simplistic preview of it has been put forth. Our purpose here is not to thoroughly examine the functions of this calendar, but to establish an idea of what existed at this time.
There are no assigned dates to the Roman calendar, but rather days marked for shopping, doing business, litigation, ancient holidays and rites performed on solemn days. Each day was marked for a particular purpose, whether religious observance or legal business. The Roman superstitious distrust of even numbers played a great role in the assignment of an odd number of days to each month until its Julian reform. Although the neat and orderly division of weeks, days and months as we understand from our current Gregorian calendar did not exist in the Roman calendars, it is many centuries later the Gregorian reformation adopted Rome's monthly names, number of annual months and the number of days in each month out of its Julian calendar.
The revolution of the calendar that came about was in response to the fact that the Roman calendar had become out of step with the tropical year. When Julius Caesar needed a guide to fix the difficult Roman calendar, he looked to Egypt for astronomical assistance. On the advice of astronomer Sosigenes, to put the calendar back into synchrony with the tropical year, Julius Caesar's first step was to order 90 days be added to the calendar. As we can imagine, the addition of calendar days brought about much social confusion earning the name "the year of confusion." After the Julian reform, the days of Ides and Nones were no longer loyal to a lunar month and with no connection to astronomical observations. When the length of the month was fixed under the Julian reform, the date of the Ides was also fixed and no longer connected to the actual full moon date.
In the summary of research into calendars, having more than one type of calendar is common to many cultures throughout history. We think it confusing only because we have used our one and only calendar system since Pope Gregory instituted the papal bull "Inter Gravissimus," signed on February 24, 1582. Currently, the Gregorian reform still has not been adopted in all of today's societies. Our calendar system combines all of our dates for conducting religious, social, legal and business affairs into one unit of measure for convenience.
Because calendars are created to serve societal needs, the question of a calendar's accuracy is usually misleading or misguided. A calendar that is based on a fixed set of rules is accurate if the rules are consistently applied. For calendars that attempt to replicate astronomical cycles, one can ask how accurately the cycles are replicated. However, astronomical cycles are not absolutely constant, and they are not known exactly. In the long term, only a purely observational calendar maintains synchrony with astronomical phenomena. However, an observational calendar exhibits short-term uncertainty, because the natural phenomena are complex and the observations are subject to 37 error.
Under precarious peace as a tribute nation to a Roman-dominated world and Roman policy of not concerning itself with any religion outside its own, the Judean nation was allowed to maintain their historical, religious calendar system alongside the Roman calendar. But what was it? Before the Judean nation's captivity in Babylon, their calendar months were named by consecutively numbered months. Following the Babylonian captivity, we find Babylonian-named months injected into scripture after the first five books of Moses. By all appearances of research, the Babylonian month names corresponded to the Jewish consecutive numbered months. Knowing this information is not of much help as there is no positive proof as to whether the Babylonian calendar was influenced by the Jewish captives, or the Jewish calendar was influenced by the Babylonian calendar as only the best schooled and skilled were taken captive and pressed into government service. What we do find at the first century is a Jewish calendar with Babylonian names for the formerly numbered months.
Ultimately, we find the first century was a complicated mass of Greek, Roman and Jewish calendar systems. To find an answer to our question in this historical picture, our only resources are left in the literature of the time. What literature was left behind from this time period can be easily counted due in part to the indiscriminate Roman army introduced earlier. Now we return to examine the two pieces of literature from oral law called the Mishnah and Talmud. We have already discovered that the earliest Jewish writings are in the oral law or the Mishnah after 200 CE and the subsequent writings of the Talmud. With this in mind, we turn to the Mishnah and Talmud for clues to the holy day calendar.
BETWEEN MISHNAH AND TALMUD
To enter into the vast ocean of ongoing scholarly debate of the Mishnah and the Talmud is not our purpose, but an overview of the foundation of these two texts is where we must work from. With respect to those persons who have made the study of Talmud their life's occupation, their task is not a small one to achieve and, as outsiders looking into the subject, understanding the nuances and discourses within these documents takes us from our intended course. We have already seen that as the oral law progressed over time, its contents actually changed and grew into the authoritative document recognized today. The understanding of one era morphed into the understanding in the next era. The oral law was considered a changeable document to accommodate changes in circumstances of human existence whereas the Holy Scriptures were not.
Accordingly, the religious leaders of each generation were empowered through the Oral Torah to legislate for their own time in the light of contemporary circumstances.38
As we continue to look at the underlying elements in the development of Mishnah we must also understand that "not a single tractate of the Mishnah is devoted to a theological topic."39 The Mishnah is not scriptural:
Above all, the Mishnah contains scarcely a handful of exegeses of Scripture. These, where they occur, play a trivial and tangential role. So here is the problem of the Mishnah: different from Scripture in language and style, indifferent to the claim of authorship by a biblical hero or divine inspiration, stunningly aloof from allusion to verses of Scripture for nearly the whole of its discourse yet authoritative for Israel.40
Therefore, keep in mind as we travel on, that the perspective of the Talmud is to maintain the piety of rabbinic ritualistic worship and not a doctrine for dissertation of scripture.
By their interpretation of Torah they enabled Judaism to continue in existence after the ritual of the alter had stopped and the State been broken up, whereas their opponents, the Sadducees, disappeared from history. The preservation of Israel's religion was their aim, and the fact that it was realized was to them all the proof they required of the truth of what they taught.41
Preserved throughout the early Mishnah are extensive discussions on performing the rabbinic rituals in relation to the proper observance of a Sabbath, a holy day, and the eventual observance of a holy day that occasionally fell on Sabbath or the day before or the day after Sabbath. To maintain the piety of ritualistic worship, the latter event would cause great concern among the practitioners. In the keeping with an observed lunar calendar, the astronomical possibility of two subsequent holy days would occur on such days as Passover and Sabbath, Pentecost and Sabbath, Day of Trumpets and Sabbath, Atonement and Sabbath, Feast of Tabernacles (first and/or last day) and Sabbath. When such an event occurred, this created many discussions and changes in ceremony or rituals of worship to accommodate the phenomenon. Together, we need to step into the ocean of the Mishnah and get our feet wet by examining some of the text pertinent to our task.42
Tractate Rosh Hashana43 Chapter I -The ordinances about the New Year of the Jewish calendar --the messengers that were sent out from Jerusalem --and at which period of the year the world is divinely judged:
The rabbis taught: The first of Nissan is the new year for (arranging the) months, for (appointing) leap years, for giving the half shekels, and, some say, also for the rental of houses. Whence do we know (that it is the new year) for months? From the passage [Ex. xii. 2] where it is written: "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you." It is also written [Deut. xvi. 1]: "Observe the month of Abib" (early stage of ripening). In which month is grain in the early stage of ripening? I can say only Nissan, and the Law calls it the first.
MISHNA: For the sake of (the new moon) of the two months, Nissan and Tishri, witnesses may profane 1 the Sabbath, because in these months the messengers went to Syria, and the order of the festivals was arranged; when, however, the Temple 2 was in existence, they might profane the Sabbath in any month, in order to offer the (new moon) sacrifice in its proper time.
"When, however, the Temple was in existence," etc. The rabbis taught: Formerly they profaned the Sabbath for all (new moons), but after the destruction of the Temple, R. Johanan b. Zakkai said to them: "Have we any (new moon) sacrifice to offer? They then instituted that (witnesses) might profane the Sabbath only on account of Nissan and Tishri.
Tractate Rosh Hashana Chapter III -Regulations concerning the intercalating of the month-the cornet, and of what it is to be made --and the prayers of the New Year's Day:
MISHNA: If the Beth Din and all Israel saw (the moon on the night of the thirtieth day), or if the witness had been examined, but there was no time to proclaim "It is consecrated" before it had become dark, the month is intercalary. If the Beth Din alone saw it, two of its members should stand up and give testimony before the others, who shall then say "It is consecrated; it is consecrated." When three who formed a Beth Din saw it, two should stand up and conjoining some of their learned friends with the remaining one, give their testimony before these, who are then to proclaim "It is consecrated; it is consecrated," for one (member of a Beth Din) has not this right by himself alone.
Tractate Pesachim Chapter VI -Regulations concerning acts which supercede the due observance of the Sabbath --the sacrifice of the Paschal offering --what is to be done if one sacrifice is confounded with another:
MISHNA: The following acts necessary for the sacrifice of the paschal offering supersede the due observance of the Sabbath, namely: The slaughtering thereof, the sprinkling of its blood, the removal of its entrails, and the burning of the fat with incense; but the roasting of the sacrifice, as well as the washing of its entrails, does not supersede the due observance of the Sabbath.
R. Jehoshua answered and said: "The laws concerning the festival will prove the contrary; for many things prohibited on the Sabbath as being principal acts of labor are nevertheless permitted on the festival, 1 while other things which are prohibited by rabbinical law are yet prohibited on the festival." R. Aqiba then answered: "The act of sprinkling (a person who had become unclean) will prove it; for that is a distinct biblical commandment and is only prohibited on the Sabbath by rabbinical law, still it does not supersede the due observance of the Sabbath; I do not therefore wonder that these acts, which are also religious duties, and are only prohibited on the Sabbath by rabbinical law, should still not be allowed to supersede the Sabbath."
R. Eliezer replied, however: "I also adduce my inference from the act of sprinkling, and maintain that if slaughtering, which is prohibited to be done on the Sabbath as a principal act of labor, is in this instance allowed to supersede the due observance of the Sabbath, does it not follow that the sprinkling of a person who had become unclean, and which is only prohibited to be done on Sabbath by rabbinical law, should in so much greater a degree supersede the Sabbath?" The following rule therefore did R. Aqiba lay down: Every act necessary for the paschal sacrifice, which can be accomplished previous to the advent of the Sabbath, does not supersede the due observance of the Sabbath; but as the slaughtering of the paschal lamb cannot be done before the Sabbath, it supersedes the Sabbath.
GEMARA: The rabbis taught: The Halakha in the Mishna was not known to the children of Bathyra; for it once happened that the 14th (of Nissan) occurred on a Sabbath, and they did not know whether the Passover sacrifices superseded the due observance of the Sabbath or not.
Tractate Pesachim Chapter V -Regulations concerning the sacrifice of the paschal lamb:
MISHNA: The continual (daily) offering 1 was slaughtered half an hour 2 after the eighth hour, and sacrificed half an hour after the ninth hour; but on the day before Passover, whether that day happened to be a week-day or a Sabbath, it was slaughtered half an hour after the seventh hour, and sacrificed half an hour after the eighth hour. When the day before the Passover happened to be a Friday, it was slaughtered half an hour after the sixth hour, sacrificed half an hour after the seventh hour, and the Passover sacrifice celebrated (immediately) afterwards.
If the eve of Passover, however. fell on Friday, when the paschal lamb must be roasted before the Sabbath set in, the literal text of the passage in the Scriptures is abided by, and the daily offering is slaughtered as soon as the sun commences setting towards the west, i.e., half an hour after noon.
Rabha answered: "This question was already propounded to R. Abbahu by
R. Abba bar Hyya, and R. Abbahu replied: "The passage quoted [Numb. xxviii. 10] refers to an eve of Passover which fell on a Sabbath, and a sacrifice which was offered up on the Sabbath may be burned on a festival." Rejoined R. Saphra: "Because a Sabbath-sacrifice may be burnt on a festival, does that carry with it, that the passage must be construed to refer to a Sabbath which happened to be an eve of Passover?" Rabha replied: "Let the passage be. It is difficult enough to understand at all events, and it will eventually prove to be in accordance with the explanation rendered."
R. Eliezer says: "If the 14th (of Nissan) occurred on a Sabbath, one person would place his left hand on the right shoulder of another, the latter would place his right hand on the left shoulder of the former, and thus suspending the sacrifice on the arms would remove the skin with their right hands." Please accept an apology for the length of this quoted section, but an overall comprehension is needed as to the extent in which these discussions pervade the text of the Mishnah and that it is not a fluke of a small quotation or happenstance paragraph. The Mishnah-referenced discussions are many and only a few have been placed here to give an idea of what the Mishnah contains that give us clues to the administration of a holy day calendar. In addition to the records made in the Mishnah preserving the functions between Sabbath and holy day conjunctions, a story related to fourth century Hillel's (Hillel II) beginnings are preserved in the Talmud when a legal question arose.
How did one properly observe the Passover sacrifice when the festival fell on a Sabbath? It had been a long time since this had last occurred, and none of the members of the Sanhedrin knew the law. They inquired, and only the humble student Hillel knew the answer. Immediately they raised Hillel up to the office of Nasi, President of the Sanhedrin, effective ruler of the Jewish people.44
Although there are two versions as to the answer Hillel II gave to this legal question, both take us from our intended search. Posterity also leaves another record in which we momentarily jump forward to a twelfth century date and time for the birth of Maimonides.
On the eve of Passover (the 14th of Nissan) which was a Sabbath, an hour and a third after midday, in the year 4895 (1135) of the Creation . . . . Maimonides' grandson David gives the same day and year without the hour (at the beginning of his commentary to tractate Rosh-Ha-Shanah).45
The point of these references in the Mishnah is that numerous discussions are preserved relating to the proper observance of a holy day when it fell on a Sabbath day or the preceding or following day of Sabbath so that the prescribed rituals of the holy day itself and those of the Sabbath could be piously performed. Directions for ritual worship developed slowly over time.
Within Judaism of the Mishnaic period the process of the "rabbinization" of Israelite festivals engendered revision of numerous rituals and restatement of the mythic basis for cyclical celebrations. Passover was formerly a Springtime festival of rebirth with connections to the biblical accounts of the exodus from Egypt and was centered around the ritual offering and consumption of the Paschal lamb. The rabbis established the Seder, a structured fellowship meal, as the primary festive ritual and mandated the recitation of a Haggadah, rabbinic expositions of scriptural passages combined with liturgical recitations and songs and the manipulation of special foods and objects. This mode of celebration down-played references to the preceding cultic forms of celebration, and focused instead on the Israelite narrative roots, as subjects for rabbinic exposition.
Shavuot (Pentecost) also took on new meaning as a celebration of the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai, in contrast to its prior central purpose as a feast of the first fruits brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. In later times the revision of the pilgrimage festivals lead to such additional changes as the establishment of Simhat Torah (the festival of rejoicing for the Torah) on the last day of Sukkot (Tabernacles).46 Outside the prescription of second century Mishnah law, posterity has also kept two additional records that leave clues for us. Reconciling the conjunction of a holy day and a Sabbath together was a common event, and as we have seen, an event that caused great distress when combining the rituals performed on one day and the prescribed rituals performed for the other. This is our first clue. This point will become more valid as we continue our discovery of a holy day calendar in oral law, but we must also take a look at the eleventh century Talmud to see what clues it holds for us. Continuing on into the ninth century, or our fifth era of oral law, we find several rabbis making an impact to the world with their writings concerning Talmudic law and their perceived philosophies. Recalling that Judaism was enjoying a period of stability and growth under a Muslim empire, Talmudic laws were transcended by various gaon (rabbi leaders) as new decrees were issued in their writings. Saadia Gaon came into controversy with Ben Meir (922 CE) regarding a uniform Jewish calendar. This scholastic brawl embroils fellow Gaon Aaron ben Meir pitted against Saadia:
In the same year he left Egypt and went to settle permanently in Palestine, as he states in a Hebrew letter (Schechter, "Saadyana," vii.) addressed at the beginning of his controversy with Ben Meοr to three of his pupils who had remained in Egypt. It was this discussiona remarkable dispute between the authorities of Palestine and Babylonia concerning the calendarwhich first revealed to public notice the full force of the energy which characterized Saadia's nature and the full depth of his knowledge, although he must even before this time have become generally known and been highly esteemed, not only on account of these qualities, but also on account of his literary activity. He was in Aleppo and on his way from the East when he learned of Ben Meοr's regulation of the calendar, which was imperiling the unity of Judaism. Thereupon he immediately addressed a warning to him, and in Babylon he placed his knowledge and pen at the disposal of the exilarch David b. Zakkai and of the scholars of the academy, adding his own letters to those sent by them to the communities of the Diaspora (922). In Babylonia, furthermore, he wrote his "Sefer ha- Mo'adim,"or "Book of Festivals," in which he refuted the assertions of Ben Meοr regarding the calendar, and probably helped much to avert from the Jewish community the perils of schism.47
In this particular year, the controversy would precisely result in a two-day schism in which the Babylonian community would keep Passover on a Sunday and the Palestinian community would keep Passover on Tuesday. Ben Meir, feeling his authority was threatened, stood his ground stating that all true Jews would keep Passover celebration on Sunday in 921 CE and not Tuesday. Heated and angry letters flew between Saadia and Meir and around the world as tension surged, each letter angrier than the last. As a result, the Babylonian community held their Passover festival on Sunday, while the Palestinian community held theirs on Tuesday. What was the arithmetic difference between the two? Their fundamental argument was the discrepancy in figuring date and time the molad48 would occur in that year.
Another, more acceptable explanation is that Ben Meir's real purpose was to reduce the number of postponements provided for in the accepted calendar. These postponements were, in his opinion, frequently the cause of celebrating the festivals at a time other than that prescribed in the Torah.49
From this date, the Jewish world accepted the calendar of the Babylonian community. A Karaite historian records this quarrel went on at least two years and no one knows exactly when it ended. This dispute prompted Saadia to write his "Sefer ha-Mo'adim", or "Book of Festivals" in which he refutes the assertions of Ben Meir regarding the calendar and avert a looming rift between the two communities.
There are, however, among his productions, many writings ostensibly purporting to solve the problems of one or another branch of science, but which, as a matter of fact, were undertaken for the sole purpose of refuting opponents. To this class belong particularly his disquisitions on the calendar. These were not the natural result of Saadia's studies in a specific field of learning, but were called for by actual happenings of a politico- religious character, which stirred the communities of Oriental Jewry.50
What this book contained is lost in history and for its voucher only a few fragmented pieces have surfaced. An additional writing from Saadia, "The Order (or Mysteries) of the Calendar" appears lost in history as well for the only Arabic fragment found may have actually been from a different work.
But this is not the last we hear of Saadia. Translating the Bible into Arabic with a commentary, Saadia was instrumental in bringing the Bible to the Arabic world. Prolific writings come from the pen of Saadia as he becomes the philosopher of Jewish religion. Then attaining the most coveted position, Exhilarch David ben Zakkai appoints Saadia as head of the academy against sage advice. In return, out of a duel of strong wills, both men excommunicate the other. This duel was the background to which Saadia penned "Agron" condemning both David ben Zakkai and Ben Meir. But alarms were sounding for survival of Judaism. Saadia next turns his attention to the previous centuries' growing invasion for religious reform by another sect called the Karaites. This invasion of reform spurs Saadia to launch into creation of more literature deeply condemning Karaism.
Of all Saadia's works his polemical writings, especially those against the Karaites, exercised the greatest immediate influence. As he himself declared, Karaism had within a century and a half become deeply rooted, while rabbinical Judaism, whose official heads, the academies of Babylonia, had begun to lose their importance, was in peril of being overwhelmed by the propaganda of the Karaites and even of suffering losses of increasing magnitude in its material welfare through the extension of Karaite doctrines. It was Saadia who, equipped with comprehensive knowledge, a thorough secular training, and an extraordinary literary activity, waged the battle against the foes of Jewish tradition, and not only averted the perils which threatened it, but also, by establishing the scientific study of the Bible and of the Hebrew language, gave rabbinical Judaism the supremacy even in this special province of Karaism.51
He issued articles, letters, and responsa attacking the doctrine of the Karaites, and even declared that they were not Jews. One of his primary targets was Aaron ben Asher. The fury of his attack must have shocked the Karaites. They responded with their own letters and attacks, but their Arabic wasn't as good as Saadia's, and their defenses were less convincing.
Saadia successfully defended rabbinic authority against the Karaite philosophical invasion.52
Saadia leaves Judaism with its own version of philosophy and the Mishnah would continue to take its shape under the pen of Maimonides.
Being neither a professor, head of an academy nor graduate or student of the prestigious Babylonian Academy, Maimonides brought his own brand of controversy into Judaism. Equally hailed and attacked, Maimonides finished his written codification of the Mishnah in fourteen volumes named the Mishnah Torah ("Second Torah"). Droves of supporters gathered to make copies. The detractors accused him of infallibility fearing he was aligning himself to be a Jewish pope. Critics pronounced that it was in arrogance that Maimonides thought he had the right to publish law for Judaism. Yet, the prolific volumes of Maimonides' commentary on the old Mishnah/Gemara is named the Mishnah Torah or what is commonly referred today as the Talmud.
As I imagined such a project, I took courage to carry out my plan. My primary goal is to clarify the Mishnah according to the Gemera's explanation, selecting only valid interpretations, staying away from explanations that the Talmud rejects. I will tell the underlying reasons that led to differences of opinion between opposing parties, and I will state according to whom the law was decided as it is explained in the Gemara.53
The Mishneh Torah was enthusiastically received throughout the Near East and Europe. Rabbinical scholars praised its technical perfection, and laymen expressed appreciation they were now able to comprehend the laws of the Talmud and the principles of their own religion. Professional circles everywhere began to make copies and poets lauded him in verse. Among the most loyal followers of Maimonides were his two students Solomon ha-Kohen and Joseph ben Judah ibn Aknin, whose admiration knew no bounds when the Mishneh Torah appeared.54
Maimonides of poor scholarship in presenting legal guidelines without indicating their sources and naming their authors, without citations or proofs. This was seen as a presumption of sovereignty, which not only made verification difficult but in general tended to impede free research. The greatest astonishment, however, was aroused by the fact that Maimonides offered an extremely large number of his own decisions
without explanation, as though they were established laws.55
But Maimonides sees that many questions about religious life can be answered only with the aid of the general sciences. Thus, the investigation of the calendar, for instance, requires astronomical reckonings. So that one need not "do research in alien books for questions of the Jewish Law,"[footnote omitted] he adds a presentation of the auxiliary sciences: "No path in the paths of teaching must be left out." The religious character is what unifies the work; metaphysics, ethics, dietetics, and physics are absorbed into the rhythm of worship, and the universality of knowledge permeates the totality of the Law.56
That Maimonides has omitted all references in the Talmud which treats of witchcraft, demons, interpretation of dreams, etc., not only because they were considered by him as vain superstitions and follies, for this reason alone he would not have ventured to omit them, in spite of the Talmud, for he left all that is found in the Talmud of Halakhas and moral Hagadas, even with which he himself could not agree; but his motive was, that, in his opinion, they had originally not been found in the Talmud, and that only the later men inserted them, according to their own ideas, for whatever purpose it might have been. (I. H. Weiss has insinuated this long ago, and it seems that the probability tends that way.)57
The writing did not stop there. Maimonides went on to author his personal treatise "Sanctification of the New Moon." It is believed that Maimonides leaned heavily upon the astronomical science of a well-schooled Islamic friend.
He drew from non-Jewish sources, and a great part of his researches on the calendar was based upon Greek theories and reckonings. Since these rules rested upon sound argument, he thought that it made no difference whether an author was a prophet or a Gentile.58
Nonetheless, Maimonides was not done. No one knows what prompted Maimonides to make a sudden move to Cairo. Because of his relocation, he came into the direct contact of the powerful ruling class of Karaites that had not disappeared under the heels of Saadia's legacy. The active restoration of rabbinic practice was now reformation for the day. Much like the form of Saadia before him, Maimonides also scripted texts against the Karaites, but in his waning years his condemnation became less volatile. The final reward for dividing the rabbis over the publication of the Mishnah Torah resulted in Maimonides being excommunicated after his death, his epitaph defaced and his books burned at the stake.
The death of Maimonides in 1204 CE brings us to a thousand year jump since the early days of the first writings of the old Mishnah. Although it is later the "Sanctification of the New Moon" text is permanently incorporated with the old Mishnah/Gemara, but not removing the references made above out of the old Mishnah. This becomes our next encounter for instructions in creating a holy day calendar, a second clue.
When we open the text and explore what Mainonides has left for us in his treatise we find the first five chapters relate to the functions of the Sanhedrin in performing calendar duties and the remainder of the treatise is a lengthy discussion of astronomical mathematics. Momentarily, we will look closer at the first five chapters when we catch up with the Sanhedrin. For now, beginning with chapter six, Maimonides gives an astronomical dissertation of how to calculate a holy day calendar and chapter seven goes on to explain the appropriate incorporation of "dehiyyot" or postponements. The prescribed calculations of the rabbinical calendar are clearly written, for the first time, in this volume. These are the very same calculations relied upon for today's rabbinical calendar.
We are now at a demonstration of the difference between the early third century writing of the Mishnah and the later rendition of eleventh century Talmudism. What was given birth to in the second century's instinct for survival, toddled to gather its fragmented pieces, declared its independence at an age of academia, and married Aristotelian poetry in its Arabic glory, finally cemented into a Talmud of oral law. The ocean between both texts is enormous, yet the final analysis is that rabbinical Judaism considers them one and the same. We have uncovered two specific clues from historical documents. We uncovered the eleventh century Talmud to find a new element has been added to written text from the Mishnah Torah. To continue our quest in pursuit of a holy day calendar, we need to take a closer examination into chapter six and seven of Maimonides' treatise that created the rabbinical calendar.
THE RABBINICAL CALENDAR
The current official codified calendar of rabbinical Judaism is a lunisolar calendar based on calculation rather than observation and we know of it today as the Hebrew Calendar. The majority of scholars argue that the earliest codified calendar dates from approximately 359 CE, during the time of persecutions under the Constantinian dynasty, most likely dictated by the precedents of Hadrian, when the patriarch Hillel II disseminated rules for calculating the calendar. As we examined earlier, the laws of Rome began to dictate the religion of Judaea and much more so after it took over the appointments to the seat of high priest and removing the legal authority of the Sanhedrin.
Under all examinations, this administration to the calendar by Hillel II was most likely to introduce the 19 year Babylonian cycle (briefly explained in a moment) and verifiable through secular and rabbinical sources. The origins of the codified calendar are confirmed in the Mishnah:
Since when did all of Israel begin to employ these methods of calculation? Since the time of the last Sages of the Gemara; that was the time when (the Jewish community of) Palestine was destroyed and no regularly established court was left. In the times to the days of Abbayyi and Raba (ca. A,D, 325) the people depended upon the Palestinian courts for the determination (of the calendar).59
As examined earlier, the "Sages of Gemara" are placed on the historical time line at the fifth period of oral law. The Mishnah offers to us that a method of calculating a calendar began to be employed at the time of the destruction of the Jewish community of Palestine when it was left without a court to make an official decision. Dr. Henry Malter concurs:
It is generally accepted that the Jewish festivals were, in Biblical times, fixed by observation of both the sun and the moon. Gradually, certain astronomical rules were also brought into requisition, primarily as a test, corroborating or refuting the testimony of observation. Such rules are mentioned for the first time in the Book of Enoch, in the Book of Jubilees, in the Mishnah, and later in the two Talmudin. It has been authoritatively proved that in spite of a more advanced knowledge of astronomy the practice of fixing the new moon and the festivals by observation was in force as late as the latter part of the fifth century.60
The method of observing the new moon to place the date of festivals was still widespread and the fixed calendar method was in its infancy as late as the fifth century. Although the codified calendar is generally attributed to Hillel II, the details of his calculations have not been preserved as to the rules for intercalation within the nineteen year lunar cycle. Yet, with the backdrop of history already given, we might be able to comprehend the reasoning behind the creation of calculating a calendar.
Tradition ascribes to him an enactment which proved of incalculable benefit to his coreligionists of his own and of subsequent generations. To equalize the lunar with the solar year, and thereby render possible the universal celebration of the festivals on the days designated in the Bible, occasional intercalations of a day in a month and of a month in a year were required (see Calendar). These intercalations were determined at meetings of a special commission of the Sanhedrin. But Constantius, following the tyrannous precedents of Hadrian, prohibited the holding of such meetings as well as the vending of articles for distinctively Jewish purposes. How difficult the fixing of the annual calendar consequently became may be judged from an enigmatic letter addressed to Raba, the principal of the academy at Mahuza, and preserved in the Talmud. . . .
Also, the burden-bearers of Nahshon [the diviner: the commission appointed by the patriarch] desired to establish a guard [an intercalary month], but the Arameans [Romans] would not permit them. However, the commanders of the gathering [leaders of the council] convened [another time] and established a guard in the month in which Aaron the priest died". Almost the whole Diaspora depended for the legal observance of the feasts and fasts upon the calendar sanctioned by the Judean Sanhedrin; yet danger threatened the participants in that sanction and the messengers who communicated their decisions to distant congregations. 61
Poetically, a change to the calendar is confirmed by Singer and Mendelsohn:
But as the religious persecutions continued, Hillel determined to provide an authorized calendar for all time to come, though by so doing he severed the ties which united the Jews of the Diaspora to their mother country and to the patriarchate.62
Continuing, Dr. Malter gives further explanation on the development of the calculated calendar:
In Babylonia also, the practice of observation was continued until the time of the last Amoraim, although a practical system of reckoning had been known to scholars for more than a century. It was only after the close of the Babylonian Talmud, in the sixth or perhaps later, in the seventh century, that the observation of the moon was entirely given up, and a complete and final system of calendation introduced. . . .
The real originators of this calendar as well as the circumstances under which it was enforced are lost in the general obscurity of the history of the Oriental Jews during the first two centuries after the completion of the Talmud. It is certain, however, that the whole system of calendation, although promulgated in Babylonia, originated in Palestine.63
The understanding of Dr. Malter is further echoed in the extensive research and history of calendars by Sacha Stern:
The sources we have examined in this section suggest that in the fourth and fifth centuries major changes had occurred in Jewish calendar reckoning. Whereas in earlier centuries the evidence suggests that the Jewish calendar was based on sightings of the new moon, from the fourth century onwards it had shifted to the calculation of the conjunction. This is evident in the Sardica document, the Catania inscription, and the ketubah of Antinoopolis although the latter two, invisibility of the old moon cannot be ruled out.
This finding, if correct,[*] is highly significant, because it runs parallel to a similar change that the rabbinic calendar underwent in exactly the same period. As early as the fourth century CE, a fixed calendar based on the conjunction appears to have been adopted in rabbinic circles, as we shall later see.[*]64
Although the tradition of forming a reckoned calendar is attributed to Hillel, the only evidence of this notion is dated to an eleventh century source casting doubt upon its reliability:
It is widely accepted that the fixed rabbinic calendar was instituted by Hillel the Patriarch in 358/9 CE.[*] This institution, however, is not mentioned or recorded in any of the contemporary rabbinic sources, such as the Palestinian or Babylonian Talmud. The earliest reference to it appears in a responsum of R. Hai Gaon (early eleventh century) cited by
R. Avraham b. Hiyya:[*] . . . until the days of Hillel b. R. Yehuda in the year 670 of the Seleucid era (358/9 CE), from when they did not bring forth or postpone, but kept to this cycle which was at hand . . . .
The topic of R. Hai's responsum is the 19-year cycle of intercalations, and this is clearly what this passage refers to. Thus it cannot be inferred from this passage that the fixed calendar in its entirety was instituted by Hillel. Even after the adoption of the 19-year cycle, new months could still have been set on a purely empirical basis, following the procedure of the Mishnah.65
Yet, numerous sources show evidence that a calculated calendar was not universally applied or even known in all communities well into the fourth century:
Contracts are known to have existed between Palestinian rabbis and the Jews of Antioch;[*] but the Sardica document reveals that the early-midfourth- century Jews of Antioch celebrated Passover always in March, in breach of the rule of the equinox. Although their calendar was based on the conjunction and relatively 'fixed', it is unlikely to have been adopted as the result of rabbinic influence.66
Further evidenced in the fifth century and showing that rabbinic influence was still not widespread even in close proximity:
It is important to note that rabbinic influence on Jewish calendar reckoning would have been limited even on Palestinian soil. The Zoar inscriptions, as we have already seen, imply that unlike the rabbis, the Jews of Zoar did not observe the rule of the equinox as late as the fifth century CE.67
Calculation and rabbinical influence is still in doubt even into the ninth century or another four hundred years later:
Of far greater importance, however, is a much later document from the Cairo Geniza: a letter of a Babylonian exilarch of the main leaders of the Rabbanite community with detailed calendrical instructions for the year 835/6 CE. [*] This letter reveals that Passover (15 Nissan) in that year was due to occur on a Tuesday; whilst according to the present-day rabbinic calendar, it should have occurred on Thursday. 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 Partiarch', the fixed calendar in its present-day form had still not been instituted.68
As a result, we find the earliest mathematical reckoning of the calendar may have began somewhere around the third and fourth centuries, most likely as a response for the survival of Judaism, and nothing previous to this time can substantiate its prior use. The earliest introduction of the 19 year cycle appears to be an initial substitute for determining whole and leap years after the prohibition of the Sanhedrin to hold its meetings. Later introductions into the calendar, as expressed by Dr. Malter, would substitute for determining the beginning of a month. Evidence of calendar development is extensively addressed and researched by Sacha Stern. Only in tenth and eleventh century sources do we find evidence of calendar reform and creation of a rabbinical calendar that is eventually adopted. For our record, we can verify the rules of calculation added to a reformed calendar by taking a look at them.
Calculating a New Year
Maimonides' first standard for the calendar is based upon the 19 year time cycle which is a dictated maintenance of adding odd and even years over a period of 19 years. This method of computing and cyclical method has been used by astronomers before the first century and can be traced to the Chaldean astronomer Kidinnu (4th century BC). It was in 430 BC, that Meton of Athens and another Athenian astronomer, Euctemon, devised a long-term rule based upon their observations of solstices that would be as accurate as possible for inserting intercalary months. This Athenian duo found that they would be able to maintain their lunar/solar calendar if they incorporated this 19 year pattern coined much later as the Metonic cycle. This pattern of inserting odd and even years actually loses time over decades because the Metonic cycle is not accurate enough for the sun. Overtime, the dates fall later in the year because of this. Thus, Turkish-born, Greek astronomer/astrologer Callipus (190-120 BC), improved the accuracy of the Metonic cycle thereby reducing its length by one day. The method Callipus used is a pattern that fits more precisely into 76 tropical years and known as the Callippic cycle not the pattern used by Maimonides.
According to Isidore Loeb the Jewish cycle in 19 years exceeds the Gregorian by 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 15.3 seconds. This makes a difference in a hundred cycles (1900 years) of 8 days, 21 hours, 45 minutes, and 5 seconds ("Tables du Calendrier Juif," p.6, Paris, 1886).69
What happens with this loss of time generated by a 19 year cycle? Extensive research has been done by Dr. Kelley L. Ross into the subject of astronomy and calendars in his quest for a perfect, universal calendar to track time.70 Dr. Ross states that this particular calendar is drifting later into the year since the time of its first implementation. This deficiency has not gone unnoticed and, from the Department of Hebrew Studies, Toronto, Canada, Dr. Irv Bromberg has made it his quest to perfect the Hebrew Calendar by improving its astronomical accuracy for which he has formulated what he calls a "Rectified Hebrew Calendar". Dr. Bromberg is quite aware of this deficiency and summarizes the problem.
The second astronomical constraint is that for the past millennium the length of the southward equinoctial year has been shorter than the northward equinoctial year, and it will continue to get shorter while the northward equinoctial year length remains essentially constant for the next >4 millennia. Therefore there is no way for any fixed arithmetic calendar to simultaneously maintain alignment relative to both equinoxes.71
Extrapolating the Traditional Hebrew Calendar back to the era of Hillel ben Yehudah in Hebrew year 4119, the beginning of Nisan in the first year of each 19-year cycle was near the moment of the northward equinox (in terms of Jerusalem mean solar time). This would have had the effect that the first day of Passover would land midway between the equinox and the Chodesh ha-Aviv limit that is specified in the Torah [Talmud law] . . . .72
In the present era, Passover falls later than the Chodesh haAviv limit (first month of spring) specified in the Torah more than 20% of the time (from Nisan in years 8, 19, 11 of each 19-year cycle until the next Nisan, and starting from Hebrew year 5817, fifty years after the time of writing, year 3 of each cycle will also be a month late). . . .73
Overall, the Traditional Hebrew calendar is drifting late with respect to the northward equinox at the rate of about one day later per 220 years, so that around 6000 years after Hillel ben Yehudah the Traditional Hebrew calendar it will "expire", in the sense that the first day of Passover will never again be observed within the Chodesh ha-Aviv limit . . . .74
At present the equinox-relative alignment of the first year of each 19year Hebrew Calendar cycle is about 7 days later than it was at the advent of the Traditional Hebrew Calendar in 4119. The year 5765 was the 8th year of the present 19-year cycle, therefore the first day of Passover 5765 was later than it has ever been in history, with respect to the equinox . . . .75
The arithmetic is easy to perform. In his secular writings in astronomy, Dr. Ross agrees as to when the calculations to the calendar began from the computation of the current amount of cumulative error in it. The position of the vernal equinox moves with the precession of the equinoxes as to the perihelion and changes the length of the year. Understanding why this phenomenon occurs takes a fair amount of knowledge in the movement of astrological bodies and both of these doctors further explain in their writing, which details are much too extensive and outside the scope of our pursuit. Dr. Bromberg's summary shows that the equinoctial period has changed since the calendar's advent and the period in which Passover is now observed is considerably later. Still, we have not fully explained the entirety of calculating the year. We will return to the subject of the new year after we quickly examine the computation of a month as there is one more common element that effects both final computations.
Calculating the Months
In addition to the set pattern of odd and even years, the months in the modern rabbinical calendar are assigned a specific number of days of 29 or 30 days long. This is the second standard of Maimonides for setting the calendar. The month of Adar (February- March) will be assigned 30 days if it is a leap year or 29 days if it is a regular year. The months of Heshvan (October-November) and Kislev (November-December) are assigned 29 or 30 days depending upon the calculations involving the time of the day of the full moon of the following year's Tishri (seventh month; September-October) and the day of the week that Tishri would occur in the following year.
The consequence of using a specified 19 year pattern to determine odd and even years, forces a manipulation of number of days in a given month. Unfortunately, the moon does not keep an accurate schedule that fits neatly into this predetermined pattern without each month being assigned an average length. Technically, the moon has irregular lunation periods (the number of days from one moon to the next) mostly due to the variations caused by tidal acceleration from the moon and sun which slow the earth's rotation down and making the period longer. Averaging the number of days within each lunation period only gives you an average and becomes deficient when we are looking for a precise count of days from one month to the next, i.e. especially between holy days. In a very simplistic illustration, if you average your bank account you end up with an estimation, until you want to spend "the last two dollars" in that account, your previous average may not exactly cover it. Compounding this calculation is an additional progressive change in what is termed a "molad moment" which is simply the exact time of the lunar conjunction (the moment when sun, earth and moon line up in that order in a perpendicular plane in relation to the earth's orbit) occurring in a specified time zone. The moon phase in which the lunar conjunction occurs is at the mid-point of the dark of the moon (this is called an astronomical new moon in our modern science). Following the moment of conjunction, the moon is then considered to be in renewal (or "birth" as it is referred to by the ancients) and the first visible crescent becomes the first of the month. The problem with lunar conjunctions is also identified in the calendar calculation by Dr. Bromberg:
This growing excess of the traditional molad interval over the actual mean synodic month is causing the traditionally calculated molad moments to drift progressively later with respect to the actual mean lunar conjunctions, and the drift rate is accelerating.76
(3.) In the historical and present era the Mean Synodic Month has been getting progressively shorter at the rate of about 25 microseconds per lunar month. In effect, this causes the molad reference meridian to drift eastward at an accelerating rate, such that the average molad moments 77 are, if compared to Jerusalem time, progressively too late.
Why is there a problem with the calculation of a calendar by using the movement of solar bodies? Our astronomical sources tell us that no heavenly body keeps an exact schedule, thus, Dr. Ross' dilemma to find an accurate, universal calendar. Maybe, it is better described as an old pocket watch that runs fast, and then slow, and never on time.
Spinning and wobbling like heavenly drunkards, the sun, moon and earth do not move at a constant rate of speed and mathematics cannot force them to do so. The choreography for sun, earth and moon as they move thru their solar orbits are not nice, neat and precisely calibrated circles. Gravitational torque, pull and bulge better describes each solar body's fight against the other to maintain their orbits. The earth leans in and out from the sun like a dance partner as it tilts back and forth on its axis. The moon twirls around the earth in an unpredictable cadence as its gravitational pull slows its own rotation around the earth. In turn, the earth is then torqued into acceleration at the same time its own rotation is gradually becoming slower. With all of this orbital eccentricity, even our atomic clocks must have a "leap second" put into their calculation every so often to maintain their accuracy. In an appendage to calendar years and months, there is one more element that effects the computation of a month. In the same manner as the new year, the value of a month must undergo one more calculation. Going back to Maimonides' treatise "Sanctification of the New Moon", we find that once we have the movement of the solar bodies, there are further adjustments to make.
Rules of Postponement
This is not intended to be a thorough discussion of both the functional and religious aspects of the postponements ("dehiyyot"). These rules are an integral part of calculating the rabbinic calendar. As written in the treatise of Maimonides, this becomes our first written source to declare this function and the third standard for calculating the rabbinic calendar. Many available internet resources discuss the postponement rules and their operations should the reader desire to thoroughly digest them. The scientific and mathematical discussions can be found at various websites. Two of the better sources have already been introduced. The first resource appears in the astronomical world quoting the writings of L.E. Doggett and made use of by Dr. Kelley L. Ross78 and, secondly, in the astronomical studies presented in an effort to perfect the Hebrew Calendar done by Dr. Irv Bromberg. 79 Here, a short generalization is given for an understanding that these rules are components to the calendar contained within the greater picture of oral law we just covered. Even though it sounds complicated at first glance, we can generally grasp their purpose.
The first postponement is in regard to dates of Tishri or the seventh month in which the holy days of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement (Yom Kippur) and Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) would fall. This rule prevents Atonement from occurring on Sabbath or the day before or after Sabbath.
The second postponement rule generally assists the first rule in preventing Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) from occurring on a Sabbath, on a Sunday, on a Wednesday or on a Friday by manipulating the mean conjunction of the sun and moon (the molad) and declaring that the visibility of the new crescent would be impossible. Should Rosh Hashanah fall on a Sunday, then Hoshanah Rabbah (seventh day of Feast of Tabernacles) would occur on a Sabbath. This rule prevents the last day (7th day) of Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot -Hoshanah Rabbah) from occurring on a Sabbath day.
The third postponement rule prevents an ordinary year from exceeding 366 days. This possibility only occurs approximately 3 times a century.
Lastly, the fourth postponement rule is also assisted by the third rule to delay the start of a new year, give or take a month, as a mechanism to maintain the 19 year cycle.
Altogether, these rules have been enacted to keep holy days from landing on Sabbath, or in the case of Atonement, keeping it from being on Sabbath or the day before or the day after. How does all of this information look in the practical reality of maintaining a calculated calendar? The beginning of the new year in the rabbinical calendar is calculated by jumping forward to next year's date of Tishri and then counting backwards to find the date of Nissan as each month in between have been assigned a set number of days. When the seventh month of Tishri is established, the count is then made backwards to determine the date of Passover (Pesach). As a result of the assigned days to each month, Shavuot (Pentecost) will always fall on Sivan 6 and Pesach (Passover) will always fall 163 days before Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah/Day of Trumpets). Let us lean further upon Dr. Bromberg's knowledge of astronomy, and the calendar we are in pursuit of, for an explanation of how the calendar is formulated.
This observation suggests that the net effect of the Rosh HaShanah postponements, on average, is the equivalent of delaying month starts by 24 hours relative to the molad moment. This is an interesting observation, because in the present era, as mentioned above, the earliest time that the new lunar crescent can be seen is 24 hours after the actual lunar conjunction. I therefore conclude that the net effect of the Rosh HaShanah postponements is to prevent the old lunar crescent from still being visible when a month starts, and to enhance the likelihood that the new lunar crescent will be visible when months start (but not before it starts).80
The molad zakein rule prevents any molad moment from landing after the first day of any calendar month, the disallowed weekday postponement rule serves ritual convenience, and the 3rd and 4th rules prevent impossible year lengths that would otherwise be caused by the effect of the molad zakein rule on Rosh HaShanah of the prior or coming year, respectively. The net effect of the Rosh HaShanah postponement rules is to cause months to start on average one day after the molad moment. The establishment of fixed lengths for most Hebrew calendar months was a major side-effect of adopting the Rosh HaShanah postponement rules.81
In direct relation to the enactment of these postponement rules, the number of days in each month is now a fixed length. Because of that fixed number, further problems arise due to the inaccuracy of the lunar conjunctions and the changing position of the vernal equinox. These are the values formulating the calendrical problems identified by Dr. Bromberg. Thus, Dr. Bromberg's mission is to resolve the current problems in the calculated calendar and he has developed a more accurate calculation as a remedy (and still maintaining the confines of instruction within the Talmud). In his "Overview" of the problematic astrological details, Dr. Bromberg goes on to explain the existing problems and what must be rectified to regain the calendar's semblance to its earliest enactment and its future survival:
in the present era the average year of the Traditional Hebrew Calendar is almost 6 1/2 minutes longer than the mean northward equinoctial year (spring equinox to the next spring equinox in the northern hemisphere). This causes the average moment of the northward equinox to drift progressively earlier in the Hebrew Calendar year, at a rate that is currently about one day earlier per 220 years. Until today the average equinox has drifted about 6 days earlier than the start of Nisan, in Jerusalem. This equinox drift can be easily arrested and corrected by "rectifying" the Hebrew Calendar leap rule, as explained herein.
19 years have exactly 235 lunar months, each of 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes 10/3 seconds, which yields a mean calendar year length of 365+24311/98496 days = 365 days 5 hours 55 minutes and (25+25/57 seconds or 7+12/19 chalakim) 365.2468222 days. This Metonic cycle of years, named after the Athenian astronomer Meton, who published it in the year 432 BC (but previously known to ancient Babylonian and Chinese astronomers), presently is too long by about 6 minutes and 25+25/57 seconds per year, relative to the mean length of the northward equinoctial year. . . .
Overall, the Traditional Hebrew calendar is drifting late with respect to the northward equinox at the rate of about one day later per 220 years . . . .
The establishment of fixed lengths for most Hebrew calendar months was a major side-effect of adopting the Rosh HaShanah postponement rules, because allowing 2-day postponements of Rosh HaShanah created a constraint precluding variable month lengths, for otherwise such a postponement could have extended the month of Elul to 30 or 31 days with truncation of the following Tishrei to 29 or only 28 days!82
If we can summarize these calendar rules of delay are for keeping two Sabbaths from falling on or next to each other, i.e. a holy day and a Sabbath day, we can logically look to Old Testament scripture and ask if this is prescribed or needed according to the Law. Having a Sabbath day and a holy day intersect or fall next to each other is not prohibited anywhere in scripture. Thus, this was the very conjunctive issue being discussed in the early Mishnah text as we seen earlier. So how did we get from the precise prescription of holy days in the Tanakh to be amended with the adjustments and delays to the timing of astronomical movements? The prohibition for any holy day to not occur on Sabbath, or before or after a Sabbath day, comes directly out of Talmudic law the Mishnah Torah as we just reviewed. Certain rabbinic rituals performed on a particular holy day conflicted with Sabbath (such as Hoshanah Rabbah/7th day of Feast of Tabernacles) in that the very performance of the ritual act created a form of "labor" which is deemed prohibited by rabbinic law on Sabbath.
If the new year's day was appointed to Sunday, then Hoshanah Rabbah (7th day of Feast) would fall on Sabbath. In observance of Hoshanah Rabbah, the most important part of the service is considered to be the ceremonial "beating of willow twigs." In turn, the physical "beating of the willow twigs" is deemed to be labor and the twigs themselves untouchable under Sabbath observance and, thus, the ceremony could not be performed. At the conclusion of the reading of numerous liturgical poems, five willow branches are beaten to symbolize the elimination of sin. This ceremony is one of the oldest known customs prescribed in Orthodox Judaism. Likewise, if new year's day was appointed to a Wednesday or Friday, the Day of Atonement would fall either on Friday or Sunday (the day before or after Sabbath) and rabbinical law prohibits this occurrence deeming it a great inconvenience to the people. Sabbath rituals under Talmudic law do not conclude at sundown, but continue past for another hour conflicting with the ritual start of a holy day at sundown if it were to fall next to Sabbath. Conversely, Sabbath rituals begin before sundown on Friday thereby conflicting with the ritual ending of a holy day if it were to fall before Sabbath.
Consequently, the desire not to give up any act of ritual worship gave impetus to create a manipulation in the holy day calendar to enable all Talmudic ceremonies to be performed in a given year. The numerous abstracts we previously labored through show that the postponement rules did not exist in the Mishnah prior to the compilation of the Talmud, but are attributable to approximately 10th century writings. Contrasted with the extensive Mishnah discussions for proper worship of Sabbath in conjunction with a holy day and the later implementation of specific Talmudic rules, we have found an insertion of a calculated calendar that dictates when a new year and a new month begin in response to guarding preferred ritual ceremony. As we have already investigated, the earliest suggested calculation performed to the calendar in place of observation was introduced by Hillel II about the time of the Constantinan dynasty. When the prohibition upon the Sanhedrin court disallowed holding meetings for discussing the new calendar year, the surrounding communities needed a substitution or quick-fix until they were allowed once again to carry on as in times previous. In final, we can speculate that it may have only been intended for short-term use as the mathematical deficiency of a 19 year pattern falls short and is verifiable through the science of astronomy. Irregardless of speculation, the gamut of man's decisions has been recorded in texts that we are able to investigate. All of this information leads us back to the early Sanhedrin court as a remaining source for the first century holy day calendar.
THE SANHEDRIN CALENDAR
We have now caught up to the court of Sanhedrin. Previously, we left the body of Sanhedrin dutifully fulfilling their role in the synagogue and performing the ritual worship that arose out of the ashes of a destroyed temple society. Their institution appears to be quite old although the Mishnah claims that the body of Sanhedrin existed much earlier than history officially records. Logically, a form of court system did exist in connection with the temple priesthood as the priests were charged with fulfilling the duty of judging human matters along with their temple responsibilities. In addition to the priestly duties connected to the temple system, the Sanhedrin administered a holy day calendar part and parcel to proper worship as mandated in the Tanakh.
What is referred to as Sanhedrin in the century prior to the Common Era and the first century following, is believed to have grown out from among the Jews at Jerusalem into a council of leading citizens who ruled as a council of elders, parallel to the Greek boule. Three bodies deemed Sanhedrin operated as a judicial system for religious and legal affairs. Applying a modern view, the body deemed a Great Sanhedrin of 71 members decided major decisions much like our supreme courts and had the ability to pronounce capital punishment or the death penalty, decided matters involving the entire nation or its leaders, and sat for all difficult cases referred to it from the smaller courts. By all appearances, as to which presiding court would be installed was determined in proportion to the size of the community. A Small Sanhedrin being 23 members judged most civil matters and criminal matters not involving death, such as our state courts would generally do today. In small communities of at least ten families, a Sanhedrin of 3 usually resided if there were 3 literate, wise or educated men much resembling our local county or city judges. The latter court being able to judge civil matters only. All three courts were charged with the duty of sanctifying new years and new months for their region.
Although the Sanhedrin eventually disappeared from history, there are still traces left behind of which we can survey. In the introduction, "A Word to the Reader", Michael Rodkinson states, "the Sanhedrin ceased about forty years previous to the destruction of the Temple."83 Other historians claim that Roman law prohibited and removed the death penalty from the hands of the Great Sanhedrin at approximately 30 CE and this determined their demise. Exactly what point in time the Sanhedrin ceased is not clear, although prior to the obliteration of the Second Temple, they are accounted among the exodus leaving Jerusalem and recorded as reconvening in Tiberius. At this approximate interlude, priests were replaced by the system of rabbis in connection with the communal synagogue of which origins we previously discussed. The focus of Jewish settlement was then upon the synagogue and evidenced by the synagogues recently found at Capernaum, Korazin, Bar'am, Gamla and elsewhere. We have also seen that a fourth century prohibition was placed upon the Sanhedrin outlawing its function of meeting during the reign of Constantine giving rise to an implementation of a calendar substitution.
The Mishnah preserves the record of the Sanhedrin receiving new moon witnesses and entertaining them with great banquets as reward for their effort to travel to witness to the court and encourage them to return to fulfill this duty. The Sanhedrin would sit in the court the entire day of the 30th day of the month waiting for the first witnesses to arrive to verify the sighting of the new moon from the previous night (the 29th). If no witnesses arrived for examination by the end of the 30th day, the defaulted month of 30 days would automatically be the new month and without need for official sanctification. If the witnesses verified the visual sighting on the 29th day, the court made their official proclamation sanctifying the new month especially if that month would contain a holy day or another day celebrated by the entire nation (such a Purim).
The new crescent moon observations made by witnesses are also in keeping with the prescribed regulations in the Mishnah concerning witnesses giving testimony to the court and its receipt of their statements. Everyone knew that a month's time is approximately 29 days and no later than a default of 30 as no month would be longer than 30 days. Observing the new crescent moon at sundown of the 29th day confirmed that the new month would begin the next day. In the event the new moon was not visible, the new moon day would automatically be set for the 30th day. Outlying regions from Jerusalem within the jurisdiction of Jerusalem's Sanhedrin court would observe two subsequent days if they were unsure. The only imposition of observing two days would be a community celebration centered around a meal for each night.
In an identical role, the Sanhedrin administrated consistency for establishing the new year by ascertaining the need for a thirteenth month to be added before the new year. The court would meet to discuss the criteria needed before an intercalation of the thirteenth month would be required. Observation of the new year was bound by the ripeness of the barley crop in Judea, Galilee and the other side of Jordan. The ripeness of the barley crop in Judea being the preferred location and would override the other two areas due to the tradition that it was the most productive area in Israel. The first fields harvestable of the new year's barley crop would need to occur at or near the Passover season so that the sacrifice of the Omer (wave offering) could be offered in the temple (Lev. 23.10) as it was a national sacrifice. The entry of the first-fruits into Jerusalem created an instant parade as the leading priests and temple officials met the procession in the street and everyone engaged in their occupations and at the market gave pause as it passed by. The wave offering would then begin the count to Pentecost (Deut. 16.9). The new year's harvest for offering could range from "green ears" meaning a head ripened past the milk stage of growth which can be parched84 for eating to the stage of "carmel" which is dried grain that can be "crushed" or "coarsely ground". (Lev. 2.14) Yet, the bible translators confuse readers when they misinterpret "carmel" in Lev. 23.14 to "green ears", just the opposite of the earlier passage.
When the court made their proclamation that a new year or new month had begun, they gave their official sanctification in a letter signed by each of the judges. Upon the court's announcement of their official sanctification, the Sanhedrin sent letters by messenger announcing the new year, or the new moon (falling upon the 29th day) and the new moons of Nissan and Tishri which naturally coordinate the dates of Passover and Trumpets. The intent of the operation for sanctifying the new year and the new moon was to administer a religious calendar universally applied throughout the local region. Subsequently, when the sanctified new moon and the new year information sent to the folks outside of Jerusalem was received, the holy days would then be counted. As for the exercise of sending out messengers, this procedure was limited to a reasonable traveling distance. The locales outside this area (usually a distance over ten days) without a court of Sanhedrin were expected to institute the new moon and new year as they deemed appropriate for their location.
Information on the Sanhedrin's calendar functions is further preserved in the text of Maimonides and only a small portion has been included here. In the "Note" prior to "Chapter I"85, Maimonides writes:
In the List of the (613) Commandments at the head of the Code, this commandment is given as No. 153 of the "Positive Commandments" and reads as follows:
153. The commandment requiring that the court alone should sanctify the new moons and ascertain by calculation the beginning of the years and months, as it is written: This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you (Exod. 12:2). 8. Only in Palestine was it permitted to compute and proclaim new moon days and embolismic years, for it is written: For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3). In "Chapter IV", Maimonides continues describing the methods used by the Sanhedrin:
1. An embolismic year is a year to which a (13th) month has been added. Such an extra month is never any other month but an added Adar. Hence the embolismic year has two months of Adar, a First Adar and a Second Adar. And why is just this month added? Because of the season of the barley harvest that is, in order that Passover be celebrated in that season. For it is said: Heed the month of the ripening ears (Deut. 16:1), which means give heed that this month (of Nisan) fall in the season of the ripening ears. . . .
2. Intercalation of the year depended upon the following three criteria: the tekufah, the barley harvest, and the blooming of the tree fruits. Namely, if the court had ascertained by calculation that the tekufah of Nisan would fall on the 16th day of Nisan, or later, it intercalated the year and declared the Nisan of this year to be a Second Adar, so that Passover might fall in the season of the barley harvest. This criterion alone was sufficient to rely upon for the intercalation of the year, and no attention was paid to any other criterion. . . .
4. With regard to the barley harvest the court took into consideration the following three regions: Judea, Transjordan, and Galilee. If the barley crop was ripe in two of these regions but not in the third, the year was not intercalated; if, however, the barley crop was ripe in one of them but not in the other two, and if the fruit of the trees had not yet sprouted, the year was intercalated. These were the three main grounds for intercalation in order that the years (of months) coincide with the solar years. We can judge that an imposed role performed by the Sanhedrin circled around the inevitability of using a lunar-solar calendar as we seen above in the quotes out of the Mishnah. Prior to the third century and Hillel's desire to preserve Judaism intact, the Sanhedrin operated under observation for sanctifying new months and new years to create each new year's calendar to begin the count for the annual holy days. This information has not been completely lost into a crevice of history. Combining the elements of both texts together and preserving an obvious difference in holy day administration sounds contradictory and confusing to those of us looking into this matter, but rabbinic Judaism does not see a need to differentiate as rabbinic law and interpretation is its authority. But what had happened by the time Maimonides wrote his treatise? Almost a thousand years of history!
Recently, a controversial meeting to reconvene the body of Sanhedrin took place.
In October 2004 (Hebrew Calendar=Tishrei 5765), a group of rabbis claiming to represent varied communities in Israel undertook a ceremony in Tiberias, where the original Sanhedrin was disbanded, which they claim re-establishes the body according to the proposal of Maimonides and the Jewish legal rulings of Rabbi Yosef Karo. The controversial attempt has been subject to debate within different Jewish communities.86
One of the issues currently listed on the agenda by The Sanhedrin Organization is "An examination of the possibilities to provide for a correction in the Jewish Calendar, as it begins to deviate to a point greater than what is permitted according to the Torah and Jewish Law."87 Just as Dr. Bromberg verified, this deviance between the Passover season and spring has not gone unnoticed.
Insignificant as these differences may appear, they will cause a considerable divergence in the relations between Nisan and spring as time goes on, and may require a Pan-Judaic Synod to adjust. 88
Can we bring a summary to what has been left behind for us? As already seen, the Mishnah preserves discussions for observance of holy days. We also have looked at the Talmud which developed fundamental changes to holy day observations to prevent holy day and Sabbath conjunctions and also prescriptions for a calculated calendar. Among all of these dusty volumes, we have uncovered the early operations of the Sanhedrin and verified by third century writing. The Sanhedrin went to great pains and expense to receive witnesses and send out messengers in a means to keep an observed lunar-solar calendar. We can logically deduce from this investigation that an administration of a calculated holy day calendar was not in existence during the time of the Sanhedrin, nor first century worshipers, and only came into operation sometime after their demise.
Between the third century period of the first written oral law of the Mishnah and the development of the Talmud out of centuries of religious schools of thought, the postponement rule for keeping Atonement and Sabbath from falling next to each other had been enacted. Uncovered is the Mishnah Torah as the official oral law of rabbinical Judaism preserving the preferred rabbinic rituals of worship. With all of this lengthy and detailed review of history, oral law and written records, is there more to examine to give us clues? Let us turn our focus to examine more of the first century in which our Chief Priest walked. Fortunately, two well-educated and wealthy Jewish men who lived during the dawn and sunset of the first century have also left us a written record to examine.
FIRST CENTURY LITERATURE
On the premise that the holy day appointments were not muddied or confused in the minds and practice of those living before or during the first century, we need to look back to the methods employed by our first and second group of players.89 Thus, we turn to three available witnesses that survive for our review to seek further clues. The first and foremost authority being the Oracles of God, the Holy Scriptures, contained within the Torah and definitely employed by our first group of historical players. The other two witnesses leaving a written record, who rubbed elbows with our second group of players and both being wealthy, prominent and educated of their day, are Joseph ben Mattahias (a/k/a Flavius Josephus) and Philo Judaeus. We have already encountered Josephus, but if you are not familiar with either of these fellows, translations are available in your local book store for an inexpensive sum.
Our first fellow is Flavius Josephus, or better known as Josephus, was born into a Jewish family of long lineage of priests in the first year of the reign of Caius Caesar. At a young age, Josephus also became a priest and spent time practicing within all three sects of Judaism the Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes before settling down as a practicing Pharisee. Josephus compiled his writings as memoirs of Jewish history and his own personal exploits. Josephus was taken prisoner to Rome at the time Jerusalem was destroyed (approximately 70 AD), his life spared, and spent his retired years writing about his life and political events. Josephus brings us a witness as to his awareness and understanding of keeping the holy days at this late time period.90
Many instances throughout Josephus's writings describe specific holy days. The Antiquities of the Jews:
But when God had signified, that with one more plague he would compel the Egyptians to let the Hebrews go, he commanded Moses to tell the people that they should have a sacrifice ready, and that they should prepare themselves on the tenth day of the month Xanthicus, against the fourteenth (which month is called by the Egyptians Pharmuth, and Nisan by the Hebrews; but the Macedoneans91 call it Xanthicus) and that he should carry away the Hebrews with all they had. Accordingly, he having go the Hebrews ready for their departure, and having sorted the people into tribes, he kept them together in one place; but when the fourteenth day was come, and all were ready to depart, they offered the sacrifice, and purified their houses with the blood, using bunches of hyssop for that purpose; and when they had supped, they burnt the remainder of the flesh, as just ready to depart. Whence it is that we do still offer this sacrifice in like manner to this day, and call this festival Pascha, which signifies the feast of the passover; . (Ant.2.14.6)
Still speaking on Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread:
They left Egypt in the month of Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; . . . . (Ant.2.15.2)
And as the feast of unleavened bread was at hand, in the first month, which, according to the Macedonians is called Xanthicus, but according to us Nisam, all the people ran together out of the villages of the city and celebrated the festival, . . . . (Ant.11.4.8)
. . . As this happened at the time when the feast of unleavened bread was celebrated, which we call the Passover, the principal men among the Jews left the country, and fled into Egypt. . . . (2) . . . it happened that the feast called the Passover was come, at which it is our custom to offer a great number of sacrifices to God; . . . . (Ant.14.2.1-2)
Now, upon the approach of that feast of unleavened bread which the law of their fathers had appointed for the Jews at this time, which feast is called the Passover, and is a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt . . . (Ant.17.9.3)
As now the war abroad ceased for a while, the sedition within was revived; and on the feast of unleavened bread, which was come, it being the fourteenth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan], when it is believed the Jews were first freed from the Egyptians, . . . . (The Wars of the Jews 5.3.1)
. . . when the people came in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan], and at the ninth hour of the night, so a great light shone around the alter and the holy house, . . . . . . . Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the twenty- first day of the month Artemisius [Jyar], . . . . (The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3)
So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, . . . . (The Wars of the Jews 6.9.3)
As to Pentecost:
And truly he did not speak falsely in saying so; for the festival, which we call Pentecost, did then fall out to be the next day to the Sabbath: nor is it lawful for us to journey, either on the Sabbath day, or on a festival day. (Ant.13.8.4)
Now when that feast, which was observed after seven weeks, and which the Jews called Pentecost (i.e., the 50th day) was at hand, its name being taken from the number of the days [after the Passover], . . . . (The Wars of the Jews 2.3.1)
Also speaking of the Feast of Tabernacles:
(1) At the new moon, they both perform the daily sacrifices, and slay two bulls, with seven lambs of the first year, and a kid of the goats also, for the expiation of sins; that is, if they have sinned through ignorance. (2) But on the seventh month . . . . (3) On the tenth day of the same lunar month, they fast till the evening; . . . . (4) Upon the fifteenth day of the same month, when the season of the year is changing for winter, the law enjoins us to pitch tabernacles in every one of our houses, . . . .(Ant.3.10.1-7) According to the written history of Josephus quoting the historical writing of Nicolaus Damascus, "When Antiochus had erected a trophy at the river Lycus, upon his conquest of Indates, the general of the Parthians, he staid there two days. It was at the desire of Hyrcanus the Jew, because it was such a festival, derived to them from their forefathers, whereupon the law of the Jews did not allow them to travel." Josephus goes on to clarify this statement by saying, "And truly he did not speak falsely in saying so; the festival, which we call Pentecost, did then fall out to be the next day to the Sabbath: nor is it lawful for us to journey, either on the Sabbath day, or on a festival day." 92
Our second fellow is Philo Judaeus, or better known as Philo the Jew or Philo of Alexandria, who lived between 20 BC and AD 60 in Alexandria, Egypt and citizen of the Greco-Roman rule. What little is known of Philo's life is that he lived his entire life in Alexandria with the large Jewish Diaspora population estimated to be one million people, was of a prominent and wealthy Jewish family, well educated and a leader within the community. Philo is considered to be critical reading for understanding the Second Temple period Judaism and Hellenistic Judaism as he attempts to reconcile first century philosophies with the Holy Scriptures to give his Greek audience an understanding of the Jewish people.93
Beginning of the Year:
On the Life of Moses, II, (XLI (222 -223)). Moses puts down the beginning of the vernal equinox as the first month of the year, attributing the chief honour, not as some persons do to the periodical revolutions of the year in regard of time, but rather to the graces and beauties of nature which it has caused to shine upon men; for it is through the bounty of nature that the seeds which are sown to produce the necessary food of mankind are brought to perfection. And the fruit of trees in their prime, which is second in importance only to the necessary crops, is engendered by the same power, and as being second in importance it also ripens late; for we always find in nature that those things which are not very necessary are second to those which are indispensable. (223) Now wheat and barley are among the things which are very necessary; as, likewise, are all the other species of food, without which it is impossible to live.
The Special Laws, II (XXVIII(151-152)). . . . The vernal equinox94 is an imitation and representation of that beginning in accordance with which this world was created. Accordingly, every year, God reminds men of the creation of the world, and with this view puts forward the spring, in which season all plants flourish and bloom; (152) for which reason this is very correctly set down in the law as the first month, .
New Moon New Month:
The Special Laws, I (XXXV(178)). . . . the motion of waxing until full moon and the motion of waning until its conjunction with the sun; one ram since there is one principle of reason by which the moon waxes and wanes in equal intervals, both as it increases and diminishes in illumination; the seven lambs because it receives the perfect shapes in periods of seven days the half-moon in the first seven day period after its conjunction with the sun, full moon in the second; and when it makes its return again, the first is to half-moon, then it ceases at its conjunction with the sun. The Special Laws, II (XI(41)). The third is that which comes after the conjunction, which happens on the day of the new moon in each month.
The Special Laws, II (XXVI(141-142)). . . . for, at the time of the new moon, the sun begins to illuminate the moon with a light which is visible to the outward senses, and then she displays her own beauty to the beholders. . . . (142) . . . For this reason the law has honored the end of its orbit, the point when the moon has finished at the beginning point from which it began to travel, by having called that day a feast so that it might again teach us an excellent lesson.
The Special Laws, II (XXXI(188)). Immediately after comes the festival of the sacred moon; in which it is the custom to play the trumpet in the temple at the same moment that the sacrifices are offered. From which practice this practice is called the true feast of trumpets, and there are two reasons for it, one peculiar to the nation, and the other common to all mankind.
The Special Laws, IV (XLII(234)). Again, are not the periods of the moon, as she advances and retraces her course, from a crescent to a full circle, and again, from a complete orb to a crescent, also measured by an equality of distances?
Defining the Day of Passover:
On the Life of Moses, II (XLI(224)). Accordingly, in this month, about the fourteenth day of the month, when the orb of the moon is usually about to become full, the public universal feast of the passover is celebrated, which in the Chaldaic language is called pascha; at which festival not only do private individuals bring victims to the alter and the priests sacrifice them, but also, by a particular ordinance of this law, the whole nation is consecrated and officiates in offering sacrifice; every separate individual on this occasion bringing forward and offering up with his own hands the sacrifice due on his own behalf.
On the Life of Moses, II (XLII(228)). . . . and on the other side of the law of the sacrifice of Passover weighed him down, in which the first month and the fourteenth day of the month are appointed for the offering of the sacrifice . . . .
The Decalogue ((XXX(159)). . . . which the Hebrews call, in their native language, pascha, on which the whole nation sacrifices, each individual among them, not waiting for the priests, since on this occasion the law has given, for one especial day in every year, a priesthood to the whole nation, so that each private individual slays his own victim on this day.
The Special Laws, II (XXVII(145, 149)). . . . the fourth festival, that of the Passover, which the Hebrews call pascha, on which the whole people offer sacrifice, beginning at noon-day and continuing till evening. . . . (149) And this universal sacrifice of the whole people is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the month, . . . .
The Special Laws, I (XXXV(181)). . . . In the first season he calls springtime and its equinox the first season he ordered that a feast which is called "the feast of unleavened bread" be celebrated for seven days and declared that every day was equal in honor in religious services.
The Special Laws, II (XXVIII(150)). And there is another festival combined with the feast of the Passover, having a use of food differently from the usual one, and not customary; the use, namely, of unleavened bread, from which it derives its name.
The Special Laws, I (XXXV(183)). In the middle of spring the harvest takes place during which season thank offerings are offered to God from the field because it has produced fruit in abundance and the crops are being harvested. This feast is the most publicly celebrated feast and is called "the feast of the first produce," . . . .
The Special Laws, II (XXIX(162)). There is also a festival on the day of the pashal feast, which succeeds the first day, and this is named the sheaf, . . . .
The Special Laws, II (XXX(176, 179)). The solemn assembly on the occasion of the festival of the sheaf having such great privileges, is the prelude to another festival of still greater importance; for from this day the fiftieth day is reckoned, making up the sacred number of seven sevens . . . has derived its name of pentecost from the number of fifty, (pentekostos). . . . (179) The feast of which takes place on the basis of the number fifty has received the name "the first feast of the first produce" since during the feast it is customary to offer two leavened loaves made from wheat as the first fruit of grain, the best food.
Feast of Trumpets:
The Special Laws, I (XXXV(186)). ... at the beginning of the month, the feast which begins the sacred month named "the feast of trumpets" and which was discussed earlier is celebrated.
The Special Laws, II (XXXI(188)). Immediately after comes the festival of the sacred moon; in which it is the custom to play the trumpet in the temple at the same moment that the sacrifices are offered. From which practice this is called the true feast of trumpets.
The Special Laws, I (XXXV(186)). . . . On the tenth day the fast takes place which they take seriously not only those who are zealous about piety and holiness, but even those who do nothing religious the rest of the time.
The Special Laws, II (XXXII(193, 200)). . . . And after the feast of trumpets the solemnity of the fast is celebrated, . . . . . . . (200) The day of the fast is always celebrated on the tenth day of the month by order of the law.
Feast of Tabernacles:
The Special Laws, I (XXXV(189)). On the fifteenth day, at full moon, the feast which is called "the feast of booths" is celebrated for which the supplies of the sacrifices are more numerous.
The Special Laws, II (XXVIII(155-156)). And this feast is begun on the fifteenth day of the month, in the middle of the month, on the day on which the moon is full of light, in consequence of the providence of God taking care that there shall be darkness on that day. . . . (156) And, again, the feast is celebrated for seven days, on account of the honour due to that number, . . . .
The Special Laws, II (XXXIII(204, 210-211)). The last of all the annual festivals is that which is called the feast of tabernacles, which is fixed by the season of the autumnal equinox. . . . (210) Again, the beginning of this festival is appointed for the fifteenth day of the month, . . . . . . . (211) And after the festival has lasted seven days, he adds an eighth as a seal, calling it a kind of crowning feast, not only as it would seem to this festival, but also to all the feasts of the year which we have enumerated; for it is the last feast of the year, . . . .
With the extent of these citations the impression left is that Philo was not just mentioning these courses of holy days in passing, but wanted the Greek audience to seriously understand how religious worship of the Jewish nation operated. Both fellows have left clues for us and their testimony echoes the laws of Holy Scriptures and further supported by the operations of the ancient Sanhedrin court, leaving only Talmudic law interjecting a factor to prescribe a holy day calendar essential to maintain individualist ritual piety of keeping Sabbath ceremonies and holy day ceremonies separate.
All are in agreement. Josephus was not confused in his understanding and regarded it as common knowledge. Philo proves that the holy day calendar is not the same as the calculated rabbinical calendar and proves the timing of the new moon, thus the beginning of the new month. We have looked deeply into the records of history, secular and religious, our only remaining eyewitnesses for adjudication of this matter. When we take away the veil of rabbinical law for calendaring, both historical authors agree, not only with each other, but concur with the Tanakh! This is further supported by the historical records concerning the operations of the Sanhedrin courts.
Does this lend any clarification to our original questions in regards to "a new month" and "month of Abib"? If these words were not confusing to agrarian, Mosaic audience, do they make sense to us today? What can we learn from a modern agrarian world?
AN UNDERSTANDING OF AN AGRARIAN AUDIENCE
Those formally educated in the fine points of agriculture, or an old farmer like my father who has farmed his entire life just like the previous six generations of family, clearly understand the characteristics and nuances of agricultural crops. Nehamiah Gordon has done an excellent job in describing the attributes of a ripening barley crop.95 People of an agrarian society have no difficulty understanding terms such as "ripe barley" or "green ears" or even a precise date at which a crop will be ready for harvest. Agrarian people, such as my father, who live by the timing of sun and moon, planting and harvest can readily tell you of their observation of the phases and positions of the moon or the precise hour and quarter hour of the day by viewing the sun at any given moment. Folks tied to the crops in their fields can, at any stage of a crop, tell you of its maturity or stage of development, have intimate knowledge of whether a crop will suffer more or less damage from weather at a particular period of development should the weather turn against them, and can even tell the moisture content in the kernels of a ripening head. Crops are influenced by the length of a cold winter and moisture in the ground, such as barley and wheat which are planted the previous season, and lingers in the field all winter until the moisture and temperature reaches a point that the plant goes on to fully flower and develop. Just like living and breathing, these are natural and ancient, unchanging rhythms of an agrarian life.
A CURIOUS ARGUMENT BETWEEN KARAITES AND RABBINICALS
We touched briefly on a historical quarrel occurring in the eleventh/twelfth century between the Karaite and Rabbinical folks in which Saadia, followed by Mainmonides, spent a great amount of time scripting texts against them. Without dividing their argument or giving exhausting examination to this disagreement, we can examine its substance.
The brilliant Karaite Bible commentator, Salmon ben Yeruham (10th century), wrote a devastating criticism of Rabbanite Judaism in his book Sefer Milhamot YHWH ("The Book of the Wars of YHWH"). Salmon directed his polemic against Rabbanism in general and the Rabbanite leader Sa'adiah al-Fayyumi (known in Rabbanite circles as Rav Sa'adiah Gaon) in particular. In the three chapters presented below Salmon tears down the main pillars of Rabbanism and the "Oral Law".
Sa'adiah Gaon was Salmon's older contemporary and was notorious for his vicious writings against Karaism. Salmon repeatedly rejects the arguments of an unnamed foe with such formulas as "He says", "You say", etc. This unnamed opponent was none other than Sa'adiah Gaon who is also called by Salmon "The Fayyumite" (since Sa'adiah was from the Egyptian town of Fayyum), "The Blackguard", and "A man devoid of a good heart". Salmon had a detailed knowledge of Sa'adiah's infamous anti-Karaite writings and towards the end of the third chapter he systematically refutes the seven arguments presented in Sa'adiah's "Commentary on Genesis".96
Curiously, the protest between the Talmudist (Rabbinicals) and Karaites is the very notion of accepting oral law. Maintaining the same argument two hundred years later, we find Maimonides also countering the opposition of the Karaites of which he wrote extensively against. While his policy was to regard the Karaites as Jews in every sense, Maimonides declared avoidance of them during their festivals which did not coincide with the dates set by the rabbinic calendar. What we can surmise of this two hundred year argument is that the Karaites, rejecting rabbinical oral law, also maintained separate festival dates not prescribed by Talmudic law.
What can we conclude from this road map through literature? From the Tanakh the Holy Scriptures to secular historical testimony and Judaism's lengthy oral law we have examined history's eyewitnesses. We have come through Roman-Judean history with a chart of its priesthood, its court of Sanhedrin, its arguments between the political factions of Pharisees and Sadducees to arrive at a body of oral law given a physical shape called the Mishnah in the third century. Among its pages, we have discovered that the court of Sanhedrin maintained a holy day calendar, gave order to human squabbles and instituted an observance for Judaism outside of temple walls. From its first writing, the oral law continued to take shape under various empires and cultural changes in human condition until its door closed and locked Judaism into a book of Talmud in the twelfth century. Its development has been as vast as the centuries it has survived.
As the reader considers the information above, also give thought to two more pieces of information. Rabbinic Judaism also admits that their calendar has drifted in its accuracy since the calculated calendar came into existence and it will take a "Pan-Judaic Synod"97 to correct it. And consider that the leaders of Rabbinic Judaism believe that their holy days will be corrected by a newly instituted Sanhedrin. We can only ponder the source to be used by a reconvened Sanhedrin to correct their holy day calendar. At the same time, the reconvened Sanhedrin will also be in charge of reinstituting the daily sacrifice. Will the main source upon which the Sanhedrin will rely for the guidance and method of reinstating daily sacrifice and correcting the calendar be the Torah or the Talmud? As we read through historical information, we must carefully look between the glosses of self- preservation of Rabbinic Judaism.
If one is holding that little holy day calendar in their hands, we have just seen the morass of information that lies in its foundation. Complicated, and a product of rabbinic evolution. An observed calendar made it impossible to publish a written calendar, but it is not impossible to determine these cycles on our own. No doubt, it is sure easier to pull out that neat little holy day calendar and make plans well into the future. And we can positively say that an organized church body will dizzily spin at the concept of not being able to plan a Feast of Tabernacles event until the determination of the new moon of the seventh month or the Passover day until the determination of the new moon and new year. In reality of practice, this essentially comes down to an additional one or two day difference in which reservations would have to be made if one is anticipating a rental contract. Maybe we should also challenge our thought patterns on the current conceptualized notion of organizing a gigantic festival?
Whether beginning one's holy day calendar by the date of equinox or by visible observance, both generally agree in most years. Every so often, the two disagree and the difference can usually be traced to a difference in weather which effects the speed in which the barley crop ripens in a particular year or if weather prevents a visual sighting creating a difference of generally one day. The date of equinox and the approximate illumination of the new crescent moon can be calculated and a holy day calendar can easily be created. As we consider both of these methods, also think upon who is in control of the weather. (Matt. 5.45, Amos 4.6-9, Ps. 105.32, Deut. 11.14 & 17, 28.12)
Several other administrative decisions will need to be made when one is using visual observances. By what line in the sand do we use? People who live in the extreme latitudinal regions cannot go by visual observations, such as those in Alaska. The International Date Line as suggested by some? Who came up with the International Date Line and why should it be given authority? People in Israel may not visually see a new moon or determine the ripeness of a barley crop the same time as those in America. Do we reconcile that difference by giving one location a priority over the other? Do we give priority to Jerusalem as suggested by the Mishnah that the "law will go forth from Zion" (Is. 2.3)? Because we live in a time of technology and available resources to communicate with any spot in the entire earth, are we allowed the use of this technology and assign a line on the map as authority to make a final visual determination for the pronouncement of holy days? Does giving priority to a new moon in the western or eastern hemisphere really matter? What if not giving deference to one hemisphere before or after the other in observing a new moon is actually a more precise timetable and in keeping with the precision of the heavenly realm? Time as we know and understand it is a creation for man and has no impact upon the spiritual world. But maybe scripture has already solved the problem for us we are commanded to observe and that commandment stands wherever we are.
The truth of a matter will always withstand exposure to light and examination without fear. Does the prerogative of man trounce the prerogative of God? Does the prerogative of Rabbinic Judaism trounce the prerogative of God? Does God have appointed seasons a specific time set for a purpose? The holy days are our appointments with God not His appointments with us. In summary, there is no secret book of Oracles and Judaism's oral law is clearly not the Oracles of God! Nor is the "secret science" of a holy day calendar under lock and key. God did not leave the dates of our appointments with Him a mystery and the holy day calendar is contained within the Oracles. Each of us has a copy of the Oracles in our hands when we hold the Holy Bible! (I Pet. 4.11, Heb. 5.12)
The verdict of historical eyewitness testimony lies in the reader's adjudication. We will always have the freedom to choose what is right between us and God, but each of us must be able to speak as to why we have made that decision. To give my answer to the original question of the reason for my personal keeping of holy days differently than the extant churches of God, is "do you know the foundation upon which you have based yours?" I hope that I have managed to explain that I cannot ascribe to Rabbinic Judaism any more than Sabbath keepers can ascribe to Roman Christianity. Have comfort in knowing that there is actually a large and growing body of Sabbath-keeping, holy-day keeping, Christian believers who quietly keep the holy days differently, rejecting the little holy day calendars of the general churches of God; many are totally alone in doing so; many have done so more than twenty years. Brothers and Sisters, love does not have fear. (I John 4.18)
And they shall bring all your brethren [for] an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.
And I will also take of them for priests [and] for Levites, saith the LORD.
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
And it shall come to pass, [that] from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.
And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have
transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their
fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
1 These sewers are measured to be approximately 5'10" by 7'9".
2 Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus An Investigation into Economic and Social Conditions during the New Testament Period, Joachim Jeremias, "Industries of Jerusalem" p. 17, (citing Thomsen op. cit. 25) translated by F.H. and C.H. Case, First American Edition 1969 by Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
3 Animals and wheeled vehicles for transport were usually taxed and this may have been the common reason these two items were limited in use.
4 The History of the Talmud, Volume I. (XIX.), "Chapter 1 -The Origin of the Name "Talmud", Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson, Boston, The Talmud Society, 1918, [http://www.sacredtexts. com/jud/t10/ht104.htm].
5 The History of the Talmud, Volume I. (XIX.), "Part II Ethics of the Talmud. Chapter I Talmudical Ethics" quoting M. Mielziner, Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson, Boston, The Talmud Society, 1918, [http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t10/ht212.htm#page_80].
6 New Edition of the Talmud, Book 1, "Volume 1 Tract Sabbath", "Editor's Preface [To the First Edition]", Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson, First Edition Revised and Corrected by Rev. Dr. Isaac M. Wise, President Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio, Boston New Talmud Publishing Company, 1903, [http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t01/t0105.htm].
7 Id.(See footnote 6.)
8 Id.(See footnote 6.)
9 A topic explored further by Jacob Neusner in "Judaism When Christianity Began a Survey of Belief and Practice", Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville -London.
10 Everyman's Talmud The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages, §VI. The Practice of the Torah, Abraham Cohen, Schocken Books, New York.
11 As written in the "Forward" by The Chief Rabbi Dr J. H. Hertz, December 2, 1934, to the "Soncino Babylonian Talmud", translated into English under the Editorship of Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein B.A., Ph.D, D. Lit. [http://www.come-and-hear.com/talmud/nezikin_h.html].
12 (See footnote 11).
13 The Hasmonean family (a/k/a Hasmon or Asamonaios) is more commonly known by the nickname of Maccabee. The Hasmonean dynasty was established by Simon Maccabaeus, twenty years after his brother Judah the Maccabee defeated the Seleucid army during the Maccabean Revolt in 165 BCE. Judah Maccabee is son of priest Mattathias who refused make sacrifice to a pagan god and killing the Greek official making the demands. The Hasmonean dynasty ends with the Herodian family.
14 Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, Israel in the Land of Israel Rome in Palestine, p. 21, Jacob Neusner, Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
15 Called "Goths" by the Romans.
16 If the reader would like to know more about the empire of Parthia, or history of the Hebrew peoples, recommended reading is the well-researched books of Steven M. Collins [http://stevenmcollins.com/index.html].
17 Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, A Counterpart to the Problem of Historical Jesus, p. 71, Jacob Neusner, Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
18 Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, Israel in the Land of Israel Rome in Palestine, p. 21-22, Jacob Neusner, Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
19 As written in the "Forward" by The Chief Rabbi Dr J. H. Hertz, December 2, 1934, to the "Soncino Babylonian Talmud", translated into English under the Editorship of Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein B.A., Ph.D, D. Lit. [http://www.come-and-hear.com/talmud/nezikin_h.html].
20 Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, A Counterpart to the Problem of Historical Jesus, p. 85, Jacob Neusner, Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
21 Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, Jesus' Competition, p. 51, Jacob Neusner, Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
22 Everyman's Talmud The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages, "§V. The Oral Torah", Abraham Cohen, Schocken Books, New York.
23 Soncino Babylonian Talmud, as written in the "Forward" by The Chief Rabbi Dr J. H. Hertz, December 2, 1934, translated into English under the Editorship of Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein B.A., Ph.D, D. Lit. [http://www.come-and-hear.com/talmud/nezikin_h.html].
24 Soncino Babylonian Talmud, as written in the "Forward" by The Chief Rabbi Dr J. H. Hertz, December 2, 1934, translated into English under the Editorship of Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein B.A., Ph.D, D. Lit. [http://www.come-and-hear.com/talmud/nezikin_h.html].
25 Soncino Babylonian Talmud, "Forward" by The Chief Rabbi Dr J. H. Hertz, December 2, 1934, to the translated into English under the Editorship of Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein B.A., Ph.D, D. Lit. [http://www.comeand- hear.com/talmud/nezikin_h.html].
27 Jewishencyclopedia.com; "Mishnah" By: Executive Committee of the Editorial Board. Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=660&letter=M&search=mishnah].
28 Soncino Babylonian Talmud, "Forward" by The Chief Rabbi Dr J. H. Hertz, December 2, 1934, to the translated into English under the Editorship of Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein B.A., Ph.D, D. Lit. [http://www.comeand- hear.com/talmud/nezikin_h.html].
29 Everyman's Talmud, The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages, "§II. The Torah", Abraham Cohen, Schocken Books, New York.
30 "Halachah leMoshe miSinai" meaning received from Moses at Mt. Sinai and accepted as tradition.
31 Judaism, The Mishnaic Period, Tzvee Zahavy, published in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, New York, 1992, vol. III, pp. 1083-1089.
32 Judaism When Christianity Began A Survey of Belief and Practice, "The Priority of the Oral Torah", by Jacob Neusner, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville -London.
33 The History of the Talmud, Volume I., " Chapter III: Persecution of the Talmud from the Destruction of the Temple to the Third Century ", Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson, Boston, The Talmud Society, 1918, [http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t10/ht106.htm].
34 "The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus New Light on the Seat of Moses from Shem-Tov's Hebrew Matthew", Nehemia Gordon, Hilkiah Press 2005.
35 "The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus New Light on the Seat of Moses from Shem-Tov's Hebrew Matthew", Nehemia Gordon, Hilkiah Press 2005.
36 "The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus New Light on the Seat of Moses from Shem-Tov's Hebrew Matthew", pp. 47-48, Nehemia Gordon, Hilkiah Press 2005.
37 Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac, "Calendars", p. 575, P. Kenneth Seidelmann, editor, University Science Books, Sausalito, CA 94965, copyright . 1992 University Science Books. Can also be found at: [www. http://astro.nmsu.edu/~lhuber/leaphist.html].
38 Everyman's Talmud The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages, "§V. The Oral Torah", Abraham Cohen, Schocken Books, New York.
39 From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, "The Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism", p.219, Shaye J.D. Cohen, Wayne A. Meeks, General Editor, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia.
40 Introduction of Rabbinic Literature, "The Mishnah", p. 126, Jacob Neusner, Doubleday.
41 Everyman's Talmud The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages, "§VI. The Practice of Torah", Abraham Cohen, Schocken Books, New York.
42 Soncino Babylonian Talmud, translated into English under the Editorship of Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein B.A., Ph.D, D. Lit. [http://www.come-and-hear.com/talmud.html].
43 Meaning "New Years Day" or the first day of the month Nissan/Abib.
44 The Jews in the Times of Jesus An Introduction, "Hillel is Made the Nasi", Stephen M. Wylen, Paulist Press, New York.
45 Encyclopaedia Judaica, Second Edition, Volume 13, "Maimonides, Moses", [http://www.encyclopaediajudaica.com/sample-articles/article_view.php?sid=moses-ben-m aimon].
46 Judaism, The Mishnaic Period, Tzvee Zahavy, published in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, New York, 1992, vol. III, pp. 1083-1089.
47 Encyclopedia Judaica, "SAADIA B. JOSEPH (Sa'id al-Fayyumi): 'Early Works', by Wilhelm Bacher, [www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=4&letter=S&search=saadia%20gaon].
48 A "molad" is the invisible and suggested approximation for the moment the sun, earth and moon will align with each other and will be more fully defined below.
49 Saadia Gaon His Life and Works, "Chapter IV Saadia's Controversy with Ben Meir (4681-82=921922)", p. 80, Henry Malter, Ph.D., The Jewish Publication Society of America 5702-1942, Philadelphia.
50 Saadia Gaon His Life and Works, "Calendar", p. 168, Henry Malter, Ph.D., The Jewish Publication Society of America 5702-1942, Philadelphia.
51 Encyclopedia Judaica, "SAADIA B. JOSEPH (Sa'id al-Fayyumi): 'Relations to Karaism'", by Wilhelm Bacher, [website http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=4&letter=S&search=saadia%20gaon].
52 Jewish Virtual Library A Division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, "Saadia Gaon", [www. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/SaadiaGaon.html]. 53 Rambam Maimonides' Introduction to the Mishnah", "Discussion About the Commentary on the Mishnah", Translated and Annotated by Avraham Yaakov Finkel, Yeshivath Beth Moshe, Scranton, PA. 54 Maimonides Medieval Modernist, "The Torah's Golden Lessons", Fred Gladstone Bratton. 55 Maimonides A Biography, "The Opposition", Abraham Joshua Heschel, Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel. 56 Maimonides A Biography, "Educational Reform", Abraham Joshua Heschel, Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel. 57 The History of the Talmud, Volume I, "Chapter X: The Spanish Writers on the Talmud", Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson, Boston, Talmud Society, 1918, [http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t10/ht113.htm]. 58 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Mishneh Torah, 'Maimonides' Sources'" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mishneh_Torah Mishneh Torah], 59 Maimonides Code Book 3, "Sanctification of the New Moon", Volume XI, Treatise 8, Yale Judaica Series, Chapter V.3, translated by Solomon Gandz, Julian Obrmann, Otto Neugebauer (1956). 60 Saadia Gaon His Life and Works, "Chapter IV Saadia's Controversy with Ben Meir (4681-82=921922)", p. 71, Henry Malter, Ph.D., The Jewish Publication Society of America 5702-1942, Philadelphia.
61 Jewish Encyclopedia, "Hillel II", by Isidore Singer and S. Mendelsohn, [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=731&letter=H&search=hillel%20ii].
62 Jewish Encyclopedia, "Hillel II", by Isidore Singer and S. Mendelsohn, [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=731&letter=H&search=hillel%20ii].
63 Saadia Gaon His Life and Works, "Chapter IV Saadia's Controversy with Ben Meir (4681-82=921922)", p. 71, Henry Malter, Ph.D., The Jewish Publication Society of America 5702-1942, Philadelphia.
64 Calendar and Community A History of the Jewish Calendar 2nd Century BCE 10th Century CE, "Development and History", p. 175, Sacha Stern, Oxford University Press.
65 Calendar and Community A History of the Jewish Calendar 2nd Century BCE 10th Century CE, "Development and History", p. 175, Sacha Stern, Oxford University Press.
66 Calendar and Community A History of the Jewish Calendar 2nd Century BCE 10th Century CE, "The New Moon", p. 141, Sacha Stern, Oxford University Press.
67 Calendar and Community A History of the Jewish Calendar 2nd Century BCE 10th Century CE, "The New Moon", p. 141, Sacha Stern, Oxford University Press.
68 Calendar and Community A History of the Jewish Calendar 2nd Century BCE 10th Century CE, "The New Moon", p. 139-40, Sacha Stern, Oxford University Press.
69 Jewish Encyclopedia, "Calendar, History Of" 'Error in the Calendar', by Joseph Jacobs and Cyrus Adler, [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=43&letter=C&search=calendar,%20history% 20of].
70 Jewish Calendar, Kelley L. Ross, [http://www.friesian.com/calendar.htm#jewish].
71 The Rectified Hebrew Calendar, Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada, [http://individual.utoronto.ca/kalendis/hebrew/rect.htm#over].
72 The Rectified Hebrew Calendar, Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada, [http://individual.utoronto.ca/kalendis/hebrew/rect.htm#over].
73 The Rectified Hebrew Calendar, Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada, [http://individual.utoronto.ca/kalendis/hebrew/rect.htm#over].
74 The Rectified Hebrew Calendar, Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada, [www.sym454.org/hebrew/rect.htm].
75 "The Rectified Hebrew Calendar", Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada, [www.sym454.org/hebrew/rect.htm].
76 The Rectified Hebrew Calendar, Dr. Irv Bromberg, Hebrew Studies, University of Toronto, Canada, [www.sym454.org/hebrew/rect.htm].
77 Moon and Molad of the Hebrew Month, Dr. Irv Bromberg, Hebrew Studies, University of Toronto, Canada, [http://www.sym454.org/hebrew/molad.htm].
78 Jewish Calendar, Kelley L. Ross, [http://www.friesian.com/calendar.htm#jewish].
79 The Seasonal Drift of the Traditional (Fixed Arithmetic) Hebrew Calendar, Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada, [www.sym454.org/Hebrew/rect.htm].
80 The Purpose of the Hebrew Calendar Rosh HaShanah Dehiyyot (Postponements of the First Day of Tishrei), "The Net Effect of the Rosh HaShanah Postponements", Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada, [http://individual.utoronto.ca/kalendis/hebrew/postpone.htm].
81 The Purpose of the Hebrew Calendar Rosh HaShanah Dehiyyot (Postponements of the First Day of Tishrei), "The Net Effect of the Rosh HaShanah Postponements", Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada, [http://individual.utoronto.ca/kalendis/hebrew/postpone.htm].
82 The Purpose of the Hebrew Calendar Rosh HaShanah Dehiyyot (Postponements of the First Day of Tishrei) "The Net Effect of the Rosh HaShanah Postponements", Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada, [http://individual.utoronto.ca/kalendis/hebrew/postpone.htm].
83 The Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin, "Section Jurisprudence (Damages), Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson, Boston, The Talmud Society, 1918, [http://www.sacredtexts. com/jud/t08/t0801.htm].
84 A food item of "parched corn" was sold by street vendors in the City of Jerusalem during the time of Christ. (Jerusalem Talmud, "Pesahim" x.3, 37d.9.) Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus An Investigation into Economic and Social Conditions during the New Testament Period, Joachim Jeremias, "Commerce" p. 34, translated by F.H. and C.H. Case, First American Edition 1969 by Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
85 Maimonides Code Book 3, Volume XI, Treatise 8, "Sanctification of the New Moon", Yale Judaica Series.
86 New World Encyclopedia, "Sanhedrin", [http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title= Sanhedrin&oldid=741624].
87 The Sanhedrin Organization, "Issues on the Agenda to be Discussed at Future Sessions," [http://www.thesanhedrin.org/en/index.php/Issues_on_the_agenda_to_be_discussed_a_futu re_sessions].
88 Jewish Encyclopedia, "Calendar, History Of", by Joseph Jacobs and Cyrus Adler, [www.JewishEncyclopedia.com].
89 There are a number of arguments in a variety of premises that the holy day calendar was infiltrated during or some time prior to the Babylonian captivity and, thus, the foundation for a variety of doctrines are built upon their individual reasoning for a holy day calendar. Additionally, there are a number of academic speculations on the changes and history of the Jewish calendar prior to the first century. This writer's premise is based upon the fact that Jesus Christ observed the holy days as existed in the first century, did not make an effort to change the nature of the same (outside of the memorial of Passover), thus, granting approval for the same, and as disciples of Christ we were given an example to follow.
90 All citations from the writings of Josephus are cited from the translation of William Whiston, A.M., Josephus The Complete Works.
91 Very little is known about a Macedonean calendar outside of the names of the months.
92 "The Antiquities of the Jews," Flavious Josephus; (Antiq. 13.8.4).
93 All citations from the writings of Philo are cited from the translation of C.D. Yonge, The Works of Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, footnotes omitted.
94 The reader should be cautioned here to understand that the prevailing philosophies and pagan worships centered on the dates of the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. I personally do not read from the entire passages of Philo anything to indicate he advocated a vernal equinox to begin the year, but more that he was giving credence to Jewish religion to be viewed equally with the surrounding religious thought as his intended audience was to be the Greeks. The heinous and barbarous Roman pagan worship of the death and resurrection of Attis, god of vegetation, was celebrated on the 24th or 25th of March, the date then assigned to the vernal equinox.
95 The Karaite Korner, "Calendar", 'Abib (Barley)', [http://www.karaite-korner.org/abib.shtml].
96 Karaism vs. Rabbanism, In the Writings of Salmon ben Yeruham, [http://www.karaitekorner. org/salmon_ben_yeruham.shtml].
97 Jewish Encyclopedia, "Calendar: History Of:" 'Error in the Calendar', by
Joseph Jacobs and Cyrus