Calculated vs. Observed

Times and Seasons

(A response to John Ogwyn)


By Shawn Richardson




            This paper is in direct response to an article written by John Ogwyn (later referred to as “author” or “Ogwyn”) in the Living Church News in 2000 (later referred to as “article” or “Ogwyn article”).  You can view the full article online at cogwriter.com (http://www.cogwriter.com/hebrew-calendar-postponements.htm).  The article discusses the established Hebrew Calendar and attempts to prove that this calendar was used throughout ancient history and Biblical times, as well as during the time of Christ.  The author does so by using the Seventy Weeks prophecy cited in Ezra 7, secular history to establish a timeline, and coinciding events on that timeline with dates calculated in the current Hebrew calendar.  He then concludes from his logic that since this timeline fits the calculations, this proves that the calculated Hebrew calendar must have been used in ancient times.  The paper attempts to support this argument by making several points within scripture and, consequently, how an observed new crescent moon system could not have been practiced as secular history purports.

            I would like to take the time to properly address each of Ogwyn’s points by revisiting whether or not the calculated Hebrew calendar or the Sighted New Moon method of observation is a more accurate interpretation of God’s original intention of how we should observe times and seasons (as stated in Genesis).  We will also take a deeper look at the scriptures used to formulate the article’s timeline and see if they are, indeed, accurate.




            First, we need to establish the ground rules for how each method is used before applying each theory to their individual arguments.  Remember, this is not just an argument for using one calendar over another; it is an entire concept of using calculation to create a standard table of days within a given year versus the concept of pure observation of signs at a given point in time.  One obstacle when attempting to establish a past event is not having a record of exactly when signs were observed in the past.  Without a detailed record of such signs, we have to use mathematics on each origin of the sign to determine approximately when such a sign should have been seen.

            Another obstacle is accounting for any inaccuracies or modifications, even with today’s Gregorian calendar, when you attempt to specify exact dates and days of the week 2000 years ago.  For example, Pope Gregory XIII dropped 10 days from the month of October in 1582 (hence, the name, Gregorian Calendar) in order to align the calendar and solar year to that of the time during the Council of Nicea (Gregorian Reform of the Calendar: Proceedings of the Vatican Conference to Commemorate its 400th Anniversary, 1582-1992, ed. G. V. Coyne, M. A. Hoskin, and O. Pedersen – see http://galileo.rice.edu/chron/gregorian.html).  For this reason, astronomers use a Julian calendar when calculating past dates.  Although Ogwyn does not specify in his article to which method he uses in his own calculations, we will assume his calculations for days of the week and of the moon phases are based on a Julian calendar (given the references of BC and AD).

            The Hebrew calendar is a calculated timetable (just like the Gregorian calendar most of us are familiar with in the modern western world) based on a solar year.  However, the Hebrew calendar is unique in that it also takes into account the lunar cycles of the moon making it luni-solar and, therefore, more in line with Biblical references to the moon as being the sign, or object, used to determine the beginning of a given month.  In order to create a table of days within a given month, we must first have a foundational start for our calculations.  This starting point for the Hebrew calendar is the astronomical new moon (or conjunction).  Essentially, this is the point at which the sun, moon and Earth are in line with one another in relation to the Earth (or when the moon is at its darkest point).  Since the author argues that the Hebrew calendar existed in ancient times, Ogwyn states that the conjunction of the astronomical new moon could only have been calculated using average times between the waning crescent moon (when the moon last reflects light) and the waxing crescent moon (when the moon first reflects light).  Given there were no satellites to more accurately determine the true conjunction, it’s safe to say an average time then becomes the starting point of a given month.

            The Hebrew calendar further designates a year as 12 complete months with a 13th month being added in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19 of a 19-year cycle.  This closely correlates the first of the year to the spring season and the Spring Equinox to assure barley is ready in time for the wave-sheaf offering during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Further changes to the Hebrew calendar system were adopted called Dechiyot, or “Rules of Postponement.”  Each of these four rules involve the delaying of the Feast of Trumpets by one day based on the particular timing of the moon’s cycle (regardless of when sunset begins) and consequently fixing the length of the month when a delay occurs.  The first “fix” of the month is in effect whenever the Day of Atonement falls on a Friday or Sunday, because this would cause an undesirable scenario of keeping two sanctified holy days back-to-back with the weekly Sabbath.  The second “fix” delays the Feast of Trumpets to avoid placing the seventh day of Feast of Tabernacles on a weekly Sabbath because it would make it impossible for the Jews to observe certain customs on that day (Ogwyn does not point this fact out in his paper).  This day is known as Hoshana Rabbah.  In short, the four Rules of Postponement require a delay to the Feast of Trumpets by one day should it fall on Wednesday, Friday or Sunday and a subsequent shortening of the month when the first rule is applied.

            Finally, secular history records the Hebrew calendar first being established on record by Hillel II in 358-359 AD which contained the fixed 19-year intercalation cycle.  The complete Hebrew calendar, described above (also containing the Dechiyot), was not widely accepted until the time of Rabbi Maimonides (“Rambam”) in 1178 AD.

In contrast, the Sighted New Moon calendar really isn’t a calendar at all.  Instead, it is a concept of establishing the start of days and years based on the physical sighting of a particular sign ordained by God and scripture.  In essence, it is faith in God to provide us directly with the times and seasons we should abide by.  Those signs are the sun (for days, starting at sundown), the moon (for months, starting at the first visual crescent) and ripened barley (for years, starting with barley containing visual green-ears).  The only other rules historically applied are traditions (only valid if based on scripture) and a monthly burnt offering (or dinner customarily held in the Old Testament – I Samuel 20).  Historical traditions, practiced by the Sanhedrin, included the blowing of the shofar (or trumpet) at the start of a given month (Numbers 10:10) when receiving the eyewitness account of a crescent moon sighting from two or more witnesses (a principle of II Corinthians 13:1 and John 8:17).  There are numerous historical sources reinforcing this observational tradition and the traditions that were maintained by the Sanhedrin throughout ancient history and the recorded Torah.

            As we walk through each of the arguments presented by the author of the article, it’s important to remember the foundations for each method/concept (calculated versus observed).  Ogwyn quotes in his paper I Corinthians 14:33 which states “for God is not the author of confusion.”  Given the points above, which method appears confusing to you?




            Ogwyn’s first argument against an observational method is that the Feast of Trumpets would need to be observed for two complete days.  Obviously the Bible resolves the argument of keeping the Feast of Trumpets on two days rather than one.  But is the author’s premise correct?  Ogwyn states in his article that an observer cannot know in advance on which day he might see the new moon and may see the crescent moon in the evening after sundown.  As you may have witnessed yourself, the moon can be visible in the sky during daylight hours and is not required to be completely dark in order to see the moon.  In fact, the moon’s cycle at the time of the new crescent is seen just above the setting sun by looking toward the western sky (an interesting fact that we only need to look in one place).  Although it may take a few practice rounds to spot the thin layer of moonlight located above the glaring sun, it becomes easier to spot when you know where to look. It also becomes much more apparent as soon as the sun goes down behind the horizon. Since the moon does go down behind the horizon shortly after the sun does, there is a very short timespan where the crescent can be seen following sundown. If, once the sun had gone down and your new day began, no crescent was spotted and you have no confirmation, there would no longer be a need to keep the day as the Day of Trumpets in your particular location. Since the going down of the sun marks the beginning of a given day, you obviously cannot go back and claim the start of a day that has already begun as being holy.  If the crescent moon is not observed at the time of sundown, then that day is not the first of the month. Also, if anyone else has spotted the crescent elsewhere (preferably by more than one source) before the sun goes down in your area, there is no need to see the crescent to determine the month has begun (this is the purpose of blowing trumpets at the new moon).

            Since the cycle of the moon lasts approximately 29½ days, if the 29th day of the month does not produce a visible crescent starting at sundown in your region, then the next day (at sundown) would be accepted as being the first of the month (although visual confirmation would still be preferred).  In fact, every lunar cycle is observed as being 29 whole days in length for over half of the world and 30 whole days for the remainder. Aside from the Creator's power to change celestial cycles, it can be inferred that no month lasts more than 30 days in length.  By changing a day that has already begun to being one that is holy would completely disregard the sign of the sun.  Although it is true that an observer would not know the start of the month in advance, it does require that you be prepared to keep the Feast of Trumpets on either day; but not both!

It is noteworthy to consider that the Feast of Trumpets symbolizes the return of Jesus Christ in the air at a time that we know not the hour.  This practice of looking to the sky for a sign when we don’t know if it will show on the 29th or 30th perfectly embodies the concept of this Festival day and is the only one of its kind throughout the year.

Even though it is true there are many Jews today that keep two days for the Feast of Trumpets (see Introduction to Rosh HaShanah by Ariela Pelaia - http://judaism.about.com/od/holidays/a/roshhashanah.htm), they did so based solely on Jewish tradition to assure there was no mistake.  The Wikipedia Encyclopedia (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosh_Hashanah) explains this tradition “since the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE and the time of Rabban Yohana ben Zakkai, normative Jewish law appears to be that Rosh Hashanah is to be celebrated for two days, due to the difficulty of determining the date of the new moon.”  This Encyclopedia article continues to explain that “Orthodox, Conservative Judaism, and Reconstructionist Judaism now generally observe Rosh Hashanah for the first two days of Tishri, even in Israel where all other Jewish holidays dated from the new moon last only one day.”  This means that Jews today that observe the calculated Hebrew calendar still keep to the tradition of observing two full days for the Feast of Trumpets (simply because of their man-made traditions).  But if the Hebrew calendar resolves this issue, then why do Jews that observe the calculated Hebrew calendar still need to hold to this tradition? Even though this tradition is strictly man-made, the fact that this tradition even exists proves that Jewish history once relied on observation and has now abandoned this methodology.




            In Ogwyn’s article, the author’s next argument assumes that communication of the New Year (or sighting of the green barley) was required to be delivered from Jerusalem to the outlying citizens in enough time for them to travel to Jerusalem to keep the Spring Festivals.  Although there are traditional and historical references to barley being observed only in Jerusalem (and God did command that this practice be performed when Israel finally arrived at the Promised Land), it is not a requirement of the Sighted New Moon method.  This is made apparent in the Bible when Israel first came out from Egypt – there was no authority reporting from Jerusalem of this event nor do you ever see barley reports coming out of Jerusalem within the text of the Bible any more than the day was established by the setting sun exclusively in Jerusalem.  Historically, there existed locally elected Sanhedrin that could also have served as a source of announcement regarding barley outside of Jerusalem.

            Regardless, the simple fact is that the vast majorities of people in this time were agrarian in nature and were quite aware of when their crops would ripen from the time green heads would emerge.  Even farmers today are experienced enough to accurately predict the spring harvest within a few days from simple observation of the crop.  Ogwyn attempts to complicate this issue by stating “Jews came to Jerusalem from all over the known world.”  Yet, knowledgeable farmers wishing to visit Jerusalem for the Spring Festivals would know, based on their own crops, within a matter of days whether the Priests could have seen barley in Jerusalem.

            In addition, it’s important to note that the area around Jerusalem is not suitable for farming and never sustained farming throughout its history.  The actual farming crops were done quite some distance outside of Jerusalem to include the other side of the Jordan River.  Also, there is no scripture outlying a requirement of barley determination from any particular geographical location (including the temple).

Ogwyn continues to use Acts 2 to remind us of travelers heading to Jerusalem “would either have been a month early or a month late!”  It was commonplace during this era for people to travel for long periods of time.  Allowing for an additional month travel for those already living more than two weeks from their destination would not have been abnormal.  Furthermore, Acts 2 references specifically the Day of Pentecost which would have had an established date nine weeks after the first barley sighting (2 weeks to Passover and 7 weeks to Pentecost).  Since Pentecost is based on the timing of Passover in the first month of Abib (Leviticus 23:15-16), there would be no need to wait until the month of Pentecost to know its exact date.  It’s also noteworthy that the events of Acts took place after Christ’s death and the temple veil being rent in two thereby no longer requiring sacrifices in Jerusalem.




The author’s next argument reinforces the methods used for obtaining the average time of the conjunction of the moon in ancient times (as mentioned above).  He also reinforces this fact clearly stating “ancient man could only calculate based on averages”.  But this assumes that you had to calculate and not observe.  Although it can be surprising to find how accurate the average lunar cycle is derived with the traditional Hebrew calendar before the existence of computers and satellites, it’s important to note that the Hebrew calendar is based on additional calculations beyond that of the new moon’s conjunction.  And, since ancient man could only base their calculations on averages, it would have taken multiple years to determine the average length of a calendar year.  Since the Hebrew calendar has established a 19-year cycle to determine the start of each year, this implies that in order to obtain an average you would need to observe the New Year at least 38 times in order to achieve this result (and two 19-year cycles would not be a very good population to draw an average from, as any mathematician would tell you).

It’s important to note again that the Sighted New Moon method of observation does not use averages and is solely based on visual signs at any given point.




            Ogwyn tries to reinforce the accuracy of the Hebrew calendar by exploiting the fact that the calculated month has only “one one-millionth of a day difference!”  But he does not continue to show that the calculation of a year in the Hebrew calendar is off by 6 minutes and 2525/57 seconds (not as accurate as the monthly calculation).  The Wikipedia Encyclopedia notes “as the present-era mean northward equinoctial year

 is about 365.2424 days long, the Hebrew calendar mean year is slightly longer than this tropical year. This results in a "drift" of the Hebrew calendar of about a day every 224 years.”  The Wikipedia continues to show that as a result of this phenomenon, starting in the year 2011 Passover on the Hebrew Calendar will fall one full day later than the astronomical vernal full moon.  The Hebrew community is very well aware of this “drift” and it is causing uproar as to how this issue will be resolved.

If God is the author, or inspired source, of the Hebrew calendar calculations, why shouldn’t it be more accurate?  This implies that God, who does not change, wishes to change the days starting in 2011.  It’s also important to note that if the Hebrew calendar had been instituted in ancient times, these days would be even more inaccurate today and have “drifted” many times over.  Finally, if God’s Festivals are to be kept in the future Kingdom (Zechariah 14:16), shouldn’t the calculations work long enough to last into the Kingdom?

In actuality, the universe is constantly changing.  It’s nearly impossible to mathematically formulate a fixed table (as that in a calendar) to predict future astronomical events.  This tends to suggest that God’s method is not one of calculation and timetables!  When predicting the signs of the green-eared barley and conditions of crops, there are numerous variables that come into play beyond the Spring Equinox – including the weather.  And who would be in control of the weather?




            The article next tries to argue that the Bible supports the calculation of time by sighting Genesis 1:14.  This verse reads “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.”  Does this say anywhere to let them be for signs to use in your calculations?  As explained above, the Sighted New Moon method follows Genesis 1:14 to the letter – by using signs to determine seasons, days and years.




            The article then attempts to connect the different phases of the moon to correlate the timing of events, such as the annual festivals.  The author tries to argue his point by stating “God’s annual festivals are either connected to the new moon at the beginning of the month or the full moon at the middle of the month.”  This falsely argues that Festivals which fall mid-month must take place on the Full Moon.  But this is not the case!  No where does the Bible indicate that any specific Festival is appointed based on the full moon (rather, it is based on the number of days since the new moon).  Also, using the Hebrew Calendar to determine mid-month festival dates are not required to fall on the day of the Full Moon (this is even more evident based on the inaccuracy of the Hebrew calendar calculations just mentioned earlier).  In addition, the Postponement Rules of the Hebrew calendar add additional days (depending on timing and the day of the week) that delay the Feast of Trumpets past the time of the moon's "Molad" (which was just celebrated as being only one one-millionth of a difference from the actual lunar cycle) causing it to vary year to year. Finally, the moon's Molad calculation is only referenced once a year in the Hebrew Calendar (at the Feast of Trumpets), and is ignored for the remaining 11-12 months (and instead uses a fixed number of days in a timetable that are based on the rules that may have delayed the Feast of Trumpets).




            Ogwyn states in his article that “The ‘postponements’ are simply calendar adjustments that determine which day should be proclaimed as the first day of Tishri [seventh month].”  If God does not change, why would a change to a different day of the week be supported as being just a “simple calendar adjustment”?  The idea of postponements goes against the very nature of God and his instruction.  Something so radical as changing the day a festival is observed would have clearly been indicated by God within the written text of the Bible.  The absence of such a rule from scripture undoubtedly proves that the postponement rules are strictly man-made.  Is it really beyond our abilities to prepare for the Day of Atonement and a weekly Sabbath back-to-back?  Do we really doubt God would have allowed the manna in the wilderness to not last two days when He clearly did for the weekly Sabbath?  Also, the Day of Preparation in the wilderness would not require a gathering of manna for three days as we don’t consume food on the Day of Atonement.

Let’s consider the Postponement Rule for Hoshana Rabbath.  As stated earlier, this Jewish tradition falls on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles in which certain rituals are performed (and could not be performed should they fall on a weekly Sabbath).  The Wikipedia Encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoshana_Rabbah) says in regard to the Hoshana Rabbath rituals “in which seven circuits are made by the worshippers with their lulav and etrog [pieces of the Sukkot], while the congregation recites Hoshanot.[a recited prayer].  It is customary for the scrolls of the Torah to be removed from the ark during this procession.  In a few communities a shofar is sounded after each circuit.”  If an authority over the calendar allows for a Postponement of the Feast of Trumpets in order to keep this Jewish tradition, should we too keep the Hoshana Rabbath tradition?  Of course not!  Yet the Churches of God apparently are abiding by an authority that postpones God’s Festivals for convenience (even for the Jews’ man-made traditions).




            The author correctly implies in his paper that individuals should not be deriving their own calendar system.  But the Sighted New Moon method does not require individuals to create their own calendar system.  God does intend, however, on each individual to determine His calendar by looking for signs just as God intends each individual to determine the Sabbath day at sundown.  Doing so does not "invent" our own rules or calendar, but fulfills God’s requirements of observing times and seasons as given in the Bible. Although there are many that attempt to calculate different calendars, those that are attempting to return to a method of observation are instead re-establishing what was originally instituted (albiet some may not have all the details correct).

            The Sighted New Moon method does not attempt to use any man-made rule of any kind.  Its sole basis is that of God’s three signs (as clearly outlined by now).  For an individual to come up with their own rules to determine when to keep God’s appointments is obviously not “kosher”. Certainly the Bible does not lay out mathematical formulas for constructing a calendar nor does it imply that average calculations are to be followed and ignore when the actual events occur that the mathematics originally claim to be based upon.  Yet, the Hebrew calendar does just that along with additional man-made rules that are not outlined anywhere within scripture. Without scriptural support, the methodology behind the Hebrew Calendar, as with any calculated calendar, can only be derived by individuals and man-made concepts.




            Ogwyn attempts to explain in his article the lack of scripture for the man-made rules of the Hebrew calendar by establishing an authority given by God to a particular set of individuals, that being the Levitical Priesthood.  In fact, the only clear scripture involving calendar issues instructed directly to the priests involves the use of shofars (or trumpets) at the temple (Numbers 10:10) which states, “in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days [annual festivals], and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God”.  This blowing of trumpets signaled the beginning of the month as a means of communication. Notice also that they were to serve as a memorial (a commemoration).

            Certainly the Priesthood was to follow specific instruction from God, but these duties were performed to keep God’s Ways, not to invent them.  All of the law and statutes were in effect before the time of Moses and before the Levitical priesthood were established.  Since God’s appointments were indicated at the time of Genesis 1, it would be impossible to argue that Levitical Priests existed before the time of Moses or even during the time of Adam and Eve.  The reinstitution of the law and the statutes was given by God to Moses who acted as mediator to give to the entire Israelite nation (Leviticus.23:10).

Leviticus 1:1 clearly begins with God telling Moses to instruct the "people of Israel."  In Leviticus 23:3, scripture clearly states "your homes" and "your dwellings", meaning the instruction was to each individual and not to an authoritative priesthood.  By Ogwyn's own logic, if the instruction of "you" and "your" used in Leviticus 23 implies the priesthood with authority, then the scriptures of Leviticus 23:3 and 23:7 would indicate that only the priests were to keep Sabbath and do no work.  They, too, would be stoned – not the individual – should they do work on the Sabbath or on the Day of Atonement.  The priesthood was given the responsibility of precisely officiating each individual’s sacrifice inside the temple according to the prescription laid out by God to Moses – physical worship and physical atonement.  This prescription contained great detail on the duties within the temple and would have been appropriate to spell out rules for calculating a calendar if it were God’s intention to give them authority over appointed seasons.  But for the priests to use any kind of authority to create man-made rules, especially rules that go against God’s authority (as we find in the Hebrew calendar today), they would have been punished by death!




            Since there is no historical evidence that the Hebrew calendar was used in ancient history or during the time of Christ, the article makes a compelling argument by piecing together a timeline using the Seventy Weeks Prophecy cited in Ezra 7.  Keep in mind, Ogwyn must consult secular history documentation in order to properly establish a set timeline to use in his arguments.  He does this by starting with the Decree of King Artaxerxes, which he quotes secular history recording this event in 458-457BC.  He then counts forward, based on the 69 weeks from the decree given in the Seventy Week Prophecy (483 years total), to the time of Christ’s Baptism in the fall of 27 AD.

            Then, assuming the generally accepted belief that Christ’s ministry lasted 3½ years, Ogwyn then claims that Christ must have been crucified in 31 AD.  Given this, he then uses three primary points as to specific events that took place in scripture that, he claims, could only have occurred using the Hebrew calendar’s calculations.  Those three points are:


1)      In 29 AD, the Last Day of Unleavened Bread would have occurred on a Weekly Sabbath

2)      In 30 AD, the Last Great Day would have occurred on a Weekly Sabbath

3)      In 31 AD, Passover would have occurred on Wednesday (in order to properly account for the 3 Days & 3 Nights before Christ’s resurrection)


            Let’s now look at each of these individually:


1) 29 AD.  Ogwyn attempts to create a timeline by specifying that the Last Day of Unleavened Bread in 29 AD must have been on a weekly Sabbath.  Although it is plain from scripture that the events referenced did take place on a weekly Sabbath, his only proof for stating that this day was also the Last Day of Unleavened Bread is from Luke 6:1.  Here, the phrase “en sabbato deuteroproto” (or δευτεροπρτ) translates “second-first Sabbath” (or as Ogwyn quotes “the second Sabbath of first rank”).  This specific phrase has stirred quite a controversy as to its true interpretation.  T.C. Skeat (author of Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus) convincingly conjectures that the original copyist-publishers (or scribes) incorrectly interpreted what would be considered today a typo (smudge or blunder) of the original manuscript creating what is coined as a “ghost-word” (or a word which never had any real existence).  When investigating this phrase further, you will find that this is the only place in scripture or in generally-accepted documentation where this specific phrase is used.  Barnes New Testament Notes (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/barnes/ntnotes.vi.vi.i.html) discusses this Greek word in Luke 6:1 and says “the word occurs nowhere else. It is therefore exceedingly difficult of interpretation.”  Even the same event described in Matthew 12:1 and Mark 2:23 do not use this same Greek term nor does any Hebrew term or phrase relate.  However, given all of these dilemmas, the generally accepted translation of the word in Luke is “second-first” Sabbath.  The article continues to speculate that “The second day of the Passover was a great festival, on which the wave-sheaf was offered, Le 23:11. From that day they reckoned seven weeks, or seven Sabbaths, to the day of Pentecost. The first Sabbath after that second day was called the second-first, or the first from the second day of the feast. The second Sabbath was called the second-second,” etc.  Yet, we have no secondary witness of this word being used anywhere in literature, so we will never be able to adequately confirm its meaning within this context.

Given the difficulty of translation (since we have no other resource to base its context), you could also translate “second Sabbath of first rank” as being the second Sabbath in the count of seven Sabbaths to Pentecost.  Also, the phrase first rank Ogwyn uses as an interpretation suggests that the seven holy day Sabbaths (the Last Day of Unleavened Bread being the second of those Sabbaths) rank above the weekly Sabbath.  This determination would conflict with Ogwyn’s argument that the weekly Sabbath and the Day of Atonement are classified differently from the other Sabbaths contained within the holy days.  In either case, one thing is certain: you cannot state that “en sabbato deuteroproto” means Last Day of Unleavened Bread.  Without this certainty, we are only left with these events taking place on a regular weekly Sabbath.


2) 30 AD.  Ogwyn continues his timeline using events in John 7:37 – 10:21 by stating that this took place on one day.  He does this by stating John 7:37 – 8:1 took place on the evening portion of the Last Great Day (we will call this Portion A) and John 8:2 – 10:21 took place during the day time portion of the Last Great Day (we will call this Portion B).  Given the assumption that these events would have taken place in 30 AD (the months preceding Christ’s crucifixion), let’s visit the scripture he uses to determine that the Last Great Day fell on the weekly Sabbath.

Portion A of John does clearly state that these events occurred on the Last Great Day.  John 7:37 states this fact plainly, “In the last day, that great day of the feast.”  This is a transitional verse indicating time has elapsed from verse 36 to 37.  This verse does not say exactly how much time had passed, only that the events in Portion A took place on the Last Great Day.

John 8:2 is another transitional verse and states “And early in the morning He came again into the temple.”  This lets us know plainly that it was morning time when Christ entered into the temple and, again, time had elapsed from the events in Portion A to the new events in Portion B.  Again, it does not state exactly how much time had passed.  Although some translations of John 8:2 say Christ entered into the temple the next day, the original Hebrew is simply translated “At dawn, Christ entered the temple.”  There is no proof here that Portion B was still the Last Great Day.  The only thing we can derive for certain is that the events in Portion B began at dawn on a weekly Sabbath.

This is further reinforced immediately following the events in Portion B where we find another transitional verse in John 10:22.  It starts off with “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication and it was winter”.  This is plain to see that time had again elapsed, but it does not imply that the Feast of Dedication took place the next day from the events in Portion B.

What’s even more compelling is a verse in Portion A (John 7:53) that states “And every man went unto his own house.”  Remember, the events in Portion A did take place on the Last Great Day.  As Ogwyn supports, there were many visitors in Jerusalem that kept the Feast of Tabernacles (along with The Last Great Day) from year to year.  And even those that lived in Jerusalem would have stayed in booths, or sukkots, or temporary dwellings; yet this verse says everyone went to their own home.  This indicates that the events in Portion B were after the Feast had already completed and travelers returned home.

Given these facts, Ogwyn does not prove, with any level of certainty, these events both occurred on the Last Great Day.  The only thing that can be proven is Portion A was on the Last Great Day, and Portion B was on a weekly Sabbath.


3) 31 AD.  Ogwyn agrees that both the Hebrew calendar and the Sighted New Moon method agree with a Wednesday crucifixion in 31 AD by saying “it is true that the observable new moon of Nisan would have also been seen on Thursday, April 12.”  But, Ogwyn attempts to discredit the method of observation by stating “The equinox was March 23 at that time, and there would have certainly been some ripe grain for the priests to offer on the day of the Wavesheaf.”

First of all, Ogwyn assumes that the spring equinox is the only variable for determining when green-eared barley would have been seen.  We know by now that the Sighted New Moon method does not use the Equinox as a sign or measuring point.  In fact, there are many variables to consider when green-eared barley could have been seen – including the weather!  Ogwyn has no way of showing that green-eared barley was seen a month prior to the Hebrew calendar’s calculated month and is, therefore, not a valid argument.

Even most recently in 2008, green-eared barley was not found in Jerusalem until after the spring equinox.  One group, Way Truth Life, which is a source that tracks the observance of green-eared barley in Jerusalem states “the earliest prospective Spring harvest of the Winter-planted barley in Jerusalem was March 26, 2008; this is based on ideal weather conditions.” (http://www.waytruthlife.com/node/48)  The earliest expected date in 2008 was three days after the spring equinox (March 23, 2008).  This shows that the equinox cannot be used as a sole variable in determining when barley would have been ready 2000 years ago.


            It’s clear from his arguments that Ogwyn did not use the Sighted New Moon method of observation properly, nor does he adequately prove that the weekly Sabbath dates mentioned in 29 & 30 AD occurred on a Holy Festival.  Yet, there is a scripture that does plainly record a weekly Sabbath and a Festival falling on the same day in John 5:1: “After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”  We then later find following this transitional verse that these events also take place on a weekly Sabbath.  Unfortunately for the sake of this argument, we don’t know which Feast of the Jews is being referred to here.

The article’s only valid, logical argument is the use of specific dates is 31 AD.  This would properly show the fulfillment of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy (if you use the secular history date of 458-457 BC), the 3½ year ministry of Jesus Christ’s (commonly accepted), and a Wednesday crucifixion (allowing for 3 days and 3 nights prior to His resurrection).  Yet, both the Hebrew calendar and the Sighted New Moon method fit the article’s argument for 31 AD (as Ogwyn himself agrees).  However, only one method is readily cited in secular history as being the ancient method within documented history, and that is of observation.

Finally, the author is attempting overall to prove that the Hebrew calendar method existed during the time of Christ by applying the calculations of the calendar to events that had already occurred prior to the calendar’s known existence.  In science, this is called “creating a hypothesis to fit the outcome”.  The reason this cannot prove the calendar existed is primarily because the calendar could have been created to fit the events.  However, even the calculations that exist today for the Hebrew calendar do not fit his timeline.  Given the over six minute per year “drift” in the calculation, the fulfillment of Ezra’s prophecy 483 years later would cause all of the Hebrew dates to be off by two full days (regardless of whether the article’s cited weekly Sabbaths were indeed the holy days the author suggests).  This means that using the author’s mathematics, through calculating the actual phases of the moon, show that a method of observation is actually a better fit to the article’s timeline theory by supporting a Wednesday crucifixion in 31 AD and fitting into the Seventy Weeks’ Prophecy.




The article states “the current Hebrew calendar – the calendar traditionally used by the Churches of God – are based upon Biblical principles“.  Are they really?

Deuteronomy 12:32 states “See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.” Claiming that an authority has been appointed over a specific topic does not also imply that the authority can create rules beyond those specified by God Himself! Doing so would be no different than following a Pope, Rabbi or any other human being that adds to or removes God’s instruction within the Bible. The calculation of an average moon, barley or even sundown cycle (that is required to create any type of calculated timetable), would go against this scripture. Adding Postponement rules would also create exceptions to God’s instruction.

Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ [and God], is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”  If God, on principle, does not change then why would God allow Postponements that change the day of the week the Day of Atonement falls on in a given month?

Ogwyn says that “while each individual could simply remember to observe as holy the seventh day of every week, this was not possible with the annual festivals.”  Ogwyn implies that only the Priests, who were given authority of the calendar by God, could have been able to track such a complicated task as calculating the calendar.  Yet,    I Corinthians 14:33 says “for God is not the author of confusion”.  When Israel came out of Egypt, the Bible does not give any instructions to the Priests in regard to calculating a calendar.  Yet, somehow, they managed to create, on their own (inspired, of course), averages of months and years in time for them to keep The Feast of Trumpets that same year (a very important appointment aligned with the first of the month).  Does this seem logical?  Is there scripture that supports this?  Why would God go into such great detail regarding the building of the temple and the Priests’ role for each ritual, but not say a word about a calculation of the calendar to the Priests?  Yet the simple concepts of the Sighted New Moon can be easily understood by school children.

Being used to having a calculated calendar in our everyday lives, we are in the habit of consulting a timetable on our refrigerator door with the encouragement that they are consistent and based on rules everyone else uses.  It’s no wonder we are drawn to the supposed consistencies of the Hebrew calendar.  But when you attempt to show that the Hebrew calendar is supported Biblically, you may begin to find that there simply are not many rules of God’s calendar outlined in the Bible at all.  In fact, there is no scripture pertaining to calculations, or rules, beyond counting the number of days (using the Sun) from the New Moon and the designation of the first month being in the month of “green, tender ears” (Abib).  You will find, however, references to the New Moon throughout the Bible (King James: I Samuel 20:5, 18, 24, II Kings 4:23, I Chronicles 23:31, II Chronicles 2:4, 8:13, 31:3, Ezra 3:5, Nehemiah 10:33, Psalm 81:3, Isaiah 1:13, 14, 66:23, Ezekiel 45:17, 46:1, 3, 6, Hosea 2:11, Amos 8:5 and Colossians 2:16).  It’s apparent that the new moon was an important event throughout history and the Bible.  Yet, using the calculated Hebrew calendar, the new moon no longer becomes that important and, instead, is replaced with the average calculation.




            When you consult secular history, it becomes very plain from numerous sources that ancient Israel used a method of observation to determine their calendar days – regardless of any specific traditions it references.  By stating that secular history cannot be consulted to determine past events because they are not God inspired is simply not logical.  Although we have to remember that secular history is man-made and is not directly God-inspired, it can serve as an important tool to help determine what actually occurred in ancient times; Especially when such historical documents – including those of eyewitness accounts of the time (such as Josephus) - confirm events that are cited within the Bible.  Even Ogwyn uses secular history to determine the starting point of his Seventy Weeks Prophecy.  If anyone tries to throw away secular history as a tool, then you cannot attempt to use a prophecy based on dates established by the same secular history.  Doing so would be double-minded and fickle.

            Many will write-off the many references to ancient history using an observable method simply because these sources are secular.  But consider that even Herbert W. Armstrong believed the method of observation was instituted in ancient times.  He quotes in God’s Sacred Calendar (1986-1987) after citing Exodus 12:2: “The beginning of this month and of all God’s months basically correspond with the appearance of the first faint crescent of the new moon in the west just after sundown .  (Traditionally observed from Palestine.)  The astronomical new moon calculated for the United States is, in general, a day or two earlier.”

            What is even more compelling is our Biblical “brothers” of Islam also use a sighted, observed, method of establishing dates.  In fact, their beliefs are strongly against the use of calculations in determining a mathematical calendar as calculations do not control the ordained signs of the universe!  And given the amount of variables that really come into play (including God Himself) when attempting to establish a calculated timetable, perhaps you can see why.  Yet, the Islamic calendar has a fully established history of observing times and seasons, still intact today (although, they do not use Abib barley to determine which new moon is the first of the year). This fact is completely ignored by the Churches of God.  Finally, it may be surprising to learn that there are a large number of Christians and Jews today that keep a Sighted New Moon calendar - including a very large group known as Kairite Jews (Jews that abide by written scripture rather than any rabbinical rules interpreted from them). Although there are differences of opinions on the signs themselves (some believe the waning crescent should be observed or used to determine the conjunction; others believe that reporting an observation should be delayed until it can be seen from Jerusalem), the overall methodology of observing signs and counting days from those signs remains the same. A calculated methodlogy abandones the signs given in the Bible and allow for variances of mathematical averages and man-made rules to adjust when desired.




            Although John Ogwyn makes a valiant attempt, and one of the few attempts I've seen to date, as to why the Churches of God should use the Hebrew Calendar in its establishment of Annual Festivals, none of his arguments hold up to prove the Hebrew calendar existed prior to its documented introduction more than 300 years after the time of Christ.  He also ignores the known inaccuracies of its calculations and clearly does not grasp the foundational rules each method follows.

            Using secular history within the foundation of the article’s arguments, the author also ignores all other sources of secular history that clearly disprove that the Hebrew calendar existed before or during the time of Christ and that an observed method, as used in documented Jewish history that continues into their modern traditions, was indeed an established methodology that is Biblically supported.  He fails to show how inaccuracies within the Hebrew calendar could be accounted for over a period of thousands of years and into the future Kingdom of God!

As shown, the Sighted New Moon method can also fit into the article’s timeline of the Seventy Weeks prophecy and a Wednesday crucifixion.  Finally, Ogwyn seems to ignore the fact that the current Hebrew calendar in existence today was not fully realized and accepted until the time of Rabbi Maimonides (“Rambam”) in 1178 A.D.  This means that the version of the Hebrew calendar established by Hillel II in 358-359 AD differed from the one over 800 years later.  Even though this is generally understood by Jews today, Ogwyn continues to purport its accuracy and preservation.

            One thing that is apparent in all of these discussions is our habit of using mathematics.  We want to be able to calculate time in order to predict the future and conveniently plan our lives.  But the universe is not consistent – it is ever changing.  There is no calculated timetable that can accurately account for all of God’s variables within His creation.  Even the weather is unpredictable beyond a few days to mankind today.  We cannot attempt to calculate or control God’s signs any more than we can calculate his exact second coming to this Earth. Proverbs 27:1 reminds us "do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth."   We need to learn to let go of calculations and man-made rules and look to God, the author of peace, to show us His way! God tells us in I Corinthians 2:5 "that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

For a more detailed analysis on this subject, please refer to my Research Paper entitled "Mathematical Bias of the Biblical Calendar"


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