Did God Give a Calendar? A Response to Leon Walker

by Shawn Richardson

This paper is in response to the United Church of God's article titled "Did God Give a Calendar?" published by the United Church of God's Leon Walker (see http://www.ucg.org/holidays-and-holy-days/did-god-give-calendar) dated November 3, 2000. This article attempts to explain why calendars are nearly impossible to obtain directly from Biblical scripture due to the lack of details given and that the best alternative would be the Hebrew Calendar as a whole (without looking into any detail of why it is structured the way it is). Although this response from a Church of God group does not contend that the Hebrew Calendar is fully Biblical or hidden within the secret Oracles and that there are a number of unanswered issues with aspects of the Hebrew Calendar, it does also attempt to debunk the possibility that a different calendar (or methodology) could exist that is purely Biblical. For more details on this subject, please feel free to review my research paper (http://www.shawnrichardson.com/Mathematical-Bias-Observable-Biblical-Calendar). Below is my response published on the ucg.org website on May 19, 2011:

The Bible does not give a calendar of times and seasons in the structure we know them to be (fixed calculated timetables) - instead, it gives an entirely different methodology of observing signs (sun, moon and harvests). It is the individual's interpretation of those signs that differ from one another - not the Biblical record of them. The first hurdle that must be overcome is our mathematical bias of telling time and accept the fact that the Bible does not use a fixed timetable concept. But just because the end result causes different calendars based on different interpretations does not mean that the attempt to apply the Biblical concept is wrong. Even the Hebrew Calendar is a mathematical attempt to create a calendar based on Biblical concepts. Most of these calendars that differ from one another are only different because they are based on different interpretations of scripture and, often times, continue to mix in layers of mathematics and rules that are not Biblical. But most that reject the Hebrew Calendar system are finding that it cannot be proven from the Bible and, instead, attempt to find (or create) another calendar that is more closey represented by the Bible. The reason math is often preferred as the foundation of calendars is that it gives consistent and reliable results that can then be used to predict future dates. But by obtaining mathematical averages and fixed cycle lengths of days, months, and years, man begins to then rely on the mathematics instead of the actual signs given in the Bible. The simple truth is that you cannot apply fixed timetables to a celestial universe that is in a constant state of flux and change where the actual result may vary from the average mathematical conclusion. But to argue that a Biblically-based attempt at structuring a calendar is wrong simply due to different results would be like saying that keeping the weekly Sabbath is wrong because some interpret worship on the seventh day of the week, some worship on Sunday and others worship on Friday.

The Rules of Postponement are only essential when they attempt to adjust the mathematics to better correlate with actual events throughout the year. The reason they come under special attack is that they further change the determination of when the calendar begins based on the Day of the Week and because the calculated average Molad of the moon uses a noon-time cutoff. None of these rules are based on scripture. When applying the Biblical principles to not add or subtract from the laws of God (Deuteronomy 4:2) and that God does not change (Malachi 3:6), then these rules do go against the will of God.

The issue of determining the first day of the new moon based on signs (without predicting when the event will occur) is being confused here with mathematical concepts of timezones and datelines. It was just determined early in the article that the start of the Biblical day was after the sun goes down (ignoring mathematical timezones). If your day begins before the new moon sign exists, then that day cannot be the first day of the new moon sign. But, whenever the sign of the new moon is seen and trumpets are blown to indicate it's appearance (Numbers 10:10), then your first day of that new moon will begin after the sun goes down (ignoring mathematical datelines).

As far as selecting a precise spot on earth, this is only required when using mathematical rules and datelines. As your article states, though, this concept is not given in the Bible. Observation of the signs, though, can occur from anywhere, anytime. If, for any reason, a sign is missed by one observer, it will likely be seen shortly thereafter by another.

It is true that some interpret Jerusalem as the center point of their observations (and this is not given in the Bible). Yet, the Hebrew Calendar uses Jerusalem as its location in the Rules of Postponement by measuring the moon's Molad calculation before or after the noon hour in Jerusalem. This also applies additional concepts of datelines and timezones that are also not found in the Bible. But the authority given to the observation of signs is the Bible itself! The reason the Hebrew Calendar is often rejected is because it cannot be proven as Biblical. Its only authority is based on rabbinical rules defined in the Talmud (Oral Law) that was written by men centuries after the death of Christ. These Rabbinical rules also contain rules that are not Biblical - such as the requirement to put your right shoe on your foot, then your left, then tie the right, then tie the left.

To determine which day is the new month, you must ignore any mathematical bias. Although it is true that a month should not contain partial days, the actual result is that approximately half of the world would observe a lunar month for 29 whole days and the other half will observe the same lunar month for 30 whole days. Only when you apply the mathematical concept of a dateline can this become complicated by determining alternating lengths of time that are strictly arbitrary and man-made. For an observer, if the new moon is seen with only seconds left in that day, then your day did not begin with the sign of the new moon and you wait until the sun goes down to begin the month. To an observer, the setting of the new moon crescent takes place in the western horizon just above the setting of the sun - a relatively short timeframe at the start of the day to make a final determination of the month. This is no more or less accurate to start the Biblical month than observing the sun to start the Biblical day.

The authority of the Hebrew Calendar is rabbinical, not Biblical! The Hebrew Calendar also differs from the Kairaite Jewish calendar that is based on observation as well as the Islamic calendar whose history ties together with those of Christians and Jews. Even rabbinical Orthodox Jewish history supports the ancient Sanhedrin court system that relied upon observation and the eyewitness testimony of two or more witnesses to determine the appearance of new moons - a practice that occurred before the Hebrew Calendar was conceived and during the time of Christ. When you look at history, you find that the topic of the calendar has been a long debated issue now for centuries and, even today (even among the Jews), you do not find everyone in agreement with the Hebrew Calendar. The Orthodox Jews also realize that the Hebrew Calendar is not 100% accurate and may need to be adjusted in order to better align it with the celestial movements given in the Bible. Lack of consensus, though, does not mean that we should simply ignore what the Bible does give us or that we should not try to have a better understanding by turning to scriptures. In fact, we are to PROVE ALL THINGS using scripture - and the Hebrew Calendar cannot be proven!

The spring equinox is not a Biblical concept - rather a mathematical one. However, the Bible does tell us when the year begins: with the month of Abib! God specifically tells us the name of the first month in Deuteronomy 16:1. When combined with Exodus 12:2, we know that the month of Abib is the first month of the year. All Hebrew names have a specific meaning (especially when given by God) and the meaning of Abib is "green, tender ears" referring to the early crops of barley. This same meaning is linked to barley in Exodus 9:31-32 where Abib is the Hebrew meaning given here as barley being in the bud. All of the Biblical signs are centered around the harvest and since most ancient peoples were agrarian in nature, they would have understood this as being the month of the new harvest. If, at the start of the month (when the new moon was seen), if the first of the harvest was ready, then the new year began. The Hebrew Calendar also does not use the spring equinox, but instead uses a 19-year cycle of leap-months based on the average appearance of ready harvests. But there is no Biblical authority to use a 19-year intercalary cycle either. This is why seasons should not be based on equinoxes and solstices - rather the observed Biblical signs that occur when they are actually seen (and not before).

It is only impossible to create a MATHEMATICAL calendar based on an authority of the Bible. But waiting to determine times and seasons based on observed signs before beginning your daily counts to the annual Festivals is purely based on a Biblical authority.

History itself defines a new moon as the first thin visible crescent. Even Jewish history supports this concept. It is only in modern times that we have changed our definition of the new moon to unseen mathematical concepts of the moon's conjunction or Molad. There are many concepets given in the Bible for various reasons and topics that are not specifically defined - some require historical research, some require spiritual guidence. If a specific definition is required in the Bible, then you must also reject the Hebrew Calendar's version too.

This article is not fairly evaluating other calendars - including those that have existed for centuries (Kairaite calendar and Islamic calendars, for example). You have also failed to support why the Hebrew Calendar should be accepted while rejecting any other possible interpretation. An individual's attempt to use observation of signs rather than the mathematical concept of times and seasons is not a new idea created in recent years - rather, it is literally interpreted from the Bible!

We are told to PROVE ALL THINGS! If the Hebrew Calendar cannot be proven, why do you hold to it as doctrine? Perhaps there is still more to learn...

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

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