Yahweh's Timely Calendar
How Holy Days are Calculated
To follow correctly the holy days commanded in Scripture, we need a scriptural calendar based on the visible new moons. Neither our modern Roman-Gregorian calendar, nor the Jewish calendar, is based on visible new moons and, therefore, cannot be used. Visible new moons were the foundation of scriptural observances in Yahshua's time and will be used in the future Kingdom. Learn how and why they are important today.
Time began for man the day Yahweh began His creation. Genesis tells of the seven days of creation (actually re-creation), each of which started with evening. Not until physical creation took place did time begin to exist.
In the spirit realm, where Yahweh dwells, time does not exist. Because Yahweh's earthly creation is material, it was necessary that He create that fourth dimension we call time. From the very beginning, time was determined by darkness and light. By the setting of the sun and the eliminating of light, darkness sets in and we are aware of the end of one day and the beginning of another.
Throughout history, man has divided time into segments, called by Yahweh light for day and dark for night. In Genesis 1:14, we learn that it was Yahweh who said that the heavenly luminaries or lights were to be for signs, seasons, days and years. Psalm 104:19 clearly states that the moon is to be for the seasons. These lights are for set times and control planting time and harvest.
The earth rotating on its axis gives us night and day. Part of the earth turns away from the sun, bringing darkness, and a part is always turning toward the light of the sun, making a complete cycle every 24 hours. At any moment, sunset and sunrise occur simultaneously somewhere on earth. The earth also revolves around the sun every 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. The moon encircles the earth every 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds.
A basic problem results when we try to reconcile the lunar and solar year because the solar year is some 11 days longer than the lunar year. That is, it takes the sun some 11 days more to return to its original position and complete its orbit than does the moon.
If this annual difference of 11 days is allowed to accumulate, in three years there will be an additional 33 days--over a month's difference. If nothing is done to account for these differences, the holy days will alternate through all the seasons of the year, as is done in the Muslim calendar. The Feast of Tabernacles would eventually be in the Spring and Passover in the fall, returning to the original time every 33 years.
Problems in establishing a universally-acceptable calendar are rooted in the proper determination of the commencement of the year. Instead of beginning the year in the dead of winter, as does our present calendar used in commerce worldwide, Yahweh told Israel that Abib (the month green ears of barley appear) was to be the beginning of months to His people, Exodus 12:2 and Deuteronomy 16:1. The month to initiate the year began when the green ears first appeared in Palestine.
The Early Calendars
The Egyptians made two significant contributions of fundamental importance found in the present-day calendar. The first was a solar calendar of 365 days, which was fairly accurate at that time. They also had developed a feasible calendar based on the sun, with twelve, 30-day months, plus five additional days. Later, the Julian calendar added an extra day on alternate 30-day months.
The calendar changed in 1582 from the Julian calendar (named after Julius Caesar) to today's Gregorian calendar (named after Pope Gregory). It was discovered that the Julian calendar was 10 days behind true time. It was decreed that, according to the old calendar, what would have been reckoned the 5th of October, became the 15th of October. The weekly cycle continued uninterrupted.
(Left) Gregorian, or reformed, calendar adopted by all Catholic countries in 1582. Ten days were added after October 4. (Right) Gregorian calendar adopted by England in 1752, in which the day after September 2 became September 14.
It can be readily proved from history that the days of the week as we have them have not changed in their regular cycle. A notable attempt occurred in 1793, when the French government tried a solar calendar of a week of 10 days with 12 months of 30 days. Five intercalary days were added every year. But it was abolished by Napoleon and, in 1806, the French went back to the Gregorian calendar in order to be in harmony with the world.
Our present solar calendar is based on the Egyptian sun calendar with no attention given to the phases of the moon, even though the word month derives from the expression "of the moonth."
Yahweh says in His Word that the "lights" (sun and moon) are for the determination of days, times (feasts) and years, Genesis 1:14. The Hebrew word in this verse translated "seasons" in the King James Version is "moed," meaning "set times or appointments." It is the same word translated "feasts" in Leviticus 23:2, which is the one place where all Yahweh's holy days are indicated.
A basic problem lies in the fact that the Bible does not elucidate on the meaning of the lights being for "signs and for seasons, and for days and years." It is not clearly stated whether we are to look for a specific sign or arrangement of these lights, or whether we are to look at the results of their activity.
We can be quite certain that the days end at sunset in the New Testament, as well as the Old because we are told that it was on the Sabbath that Yahshua went into the synagogue and preached, Mark 1:21. Later, in Mark 1:32-34, after the sun set, Yahshua healed those coming to Him. See Genesis 1:14 and Leviticus 23:32.
As the sun dips below the horizon, twilight sets in and we are acutely aware that one day has ended and another has begun. Many scholars point out that the scriptural week of seven days is in keeping with the phases of the moon as show in most almanacs. They are: new moon, first quarter, full moon and last quarter. Perhaps one of the more concise explanations is given by Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
Under "Hepta" (meaning seven) we read, "The predominant position of the number seven, esp. in Semitic culture and the Bible, but also among the Germans, the Greeks, the Egyptians, etc., is almost certainly due, not to the existence of seven planets, but to observation of the four phases of the moon in seven-day periods, unless, of course, there is no rational explanation." The obvious reason as explained by Kittel is, "the phases of the moon could be observed everywhere and were the primitive basis of the reckoning and division of time." Exactly how the heavenly bodies are to determine the "seasons [moed-feasts] and years" is unclear. Had the people of Yahweh continued practicing His way of determining these times, there would be no question of when to observe these times correctly. How we are to arrive at using the lights would have been handed down to us.
Passover: Important Day of the Scriptural New Year
Passover on Abib 14 sets the time for the rest of Yahweh's calendar, because the days of Unleavened Bread begin on Abib 15 and end on the 21st. On the day following the weekly Sabbath that falls within the Days of Unleavened Bread, a wave sheaf was offered to Yahweh, Leviticus 23:11. The count toward the Feast of Weeks begins with the day the wave sheaf offering is made, Leviticus 23:15. Fifty days are to be counted from the day of the wave sheaf offering to arrive at the day after the seventh Sabbath, which is Pentecost, Leviticus 23:16.
With Abib beginning the year, we are to count each new moon, because the seventh month contains the final annual fall festivals. The first day of the month is the Feast of Trumpets and the 10th is the Day of Atonement. The seven-day Feast of Tabernacles begins on the 15th with the Last Great Day completing the annual feast days. If Passover is not in the right month, all ensuing feast days are at the wrong time. Special attention, therefore, must be given to the proper month of Passover, so that it will be kept at the right time. If Abib is off a month, all succeeding feast days will be off a month.
Just when does the month of Abib occur? While Genesis 1:14 states that the sun and moon are to be used to determine the days, feasts and years, further instructions given in Scripture show that we are to observe the effect these lights have on the earth and its vegetation. Exodus 34:18 commands the keeping of the Days of Unleavened Bread and goes on to explain that these days occur in the month of Abib, meaning "green ears." The Douay Version reads as follows: "Seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee in the time of the month of the new corn [grain]: for in the month of the springtime thou camest out of Egypt."
Clearly we can see that the month the green ears are evident is another signpost along the way. Passover is to occur in the month when the green ears appear. From Exodus 9:31, we learn that the term “green ears” refers to barley.
Another indication that we are to observe the month in which the green ears appear is Deuteronomy 16:1, "Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto Yahweh thy Elohim; for in the month of Abib, Yahweh thy Elohim brought thee forth out of Egypt by night." "Observe" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Hebrew Dictionary #8104, "shamar," and means to look narrowly at, or watch. We are to watch for the month in which green ears appear, and in that month, keep the Passover to Yahweh.
Furthermore, Leviticus 23:10 says that there is to be a harvest during the month of Abib in which a sheaf of firstfruits of barley is to be gathered for the priest so that he might wave it after the Sabbath. The waving of the sheaf was a presentation to Yahweh to bless the rest of the harvest. Only after the waving of the sheaf could the harvest of barley begin.
In view of the above statements, the observation of the sun and the moon by itself is not in keeping with the statements made about observing Passover, which is the beginning of the year in Yahweh's calendar. Bringing in a harvest and bearing fruit have an important spiritual lesson for Yahweh's people. There is a time and a season for bearing fruit and a time for a harvest, as well.
A harvest is associated with the time of Israel's Exodus from Egypt, and with the Feast of Weeks, Exodus 9:31; Leviticus 23:10, 15; and Deuteronomy 16:9. There had to be a wave sheaf of new grain offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread. We cannot ignore the wave sheaf and say that the time is determined by the lights alone. If there would obviously be no barley headed out to make a wave sheaf in two weeks, then the month of Abib must be delayed so that a gathering of the wave sheaf could be assured. Passover should follow the vernal equinox, never precede it.
Over a period of years, the Jewish leaders observed other indicators of a late spring, and would delay Passover for the following reasons: if the pigeons were not fully fledged; if the rains had not ceased and if the roads around Jerusalem were not sufficiently dry for foot travel. While none of these criteria is mentioned in Scripture, it became customary to acknowledge other guidelines as well, because when the grain was not in the ear, other standards were also lacking.
The harvest may be delayed due to a long, cold spring. If the rains are prolonged and the warmth of the sun is unable to produce germination and growth, there will be no grain available for the wave sheaf. Therefore, it will be necessary to have the beginning of the year set back a month until ample grain is available for a wave sheaf. Merely using the vernal equinox as the criterion may well place the celebration of Passover too early. The vernal equinox is that time of year when the day and night are equal. It is when the sun crosses the equator and enters the northern hemisphere. The northern hemisphere then begins to be warmed by the rays of the sun and vegetation stirs back to life. The strength of the sun increases until the summer solstice, when the day is longest and the night shortest. It then declines in strength until the winter solstice, when the day is shortest and the night longest. The rebuilding cycle of the sun then starts over.
The method for determining the beginning of the year (that month in which Passover is held) must be the same for us as it was for ancient Israel. Whether the shepherds on the hills of Galilee could determine when the day and night were equal (the vernal equinox) is difficult to say, but observing the maturing barley fields in Palestine would not be a problem for the shepherd. He would be able to observe the new moon in which green ears of barley would be developed enough to make up a sheaf.
It is necessary that the barley is matured sufficiently to have a sheaf of barley by the 15th of the month for the wave sheaf. This is a simple matter of observation. Sophisticated chronometers and special instruments are not needed. Indeed, the average person today probably would not know by observation when the day and night are equal, heralding the vernal equinox, if he did not have access to a resource such as an almanac.
Calculating by the Vernal Equinox Alone Is Insufficient
A fundamental problem that arises in using only the vernal equinox as the criterion for the Passover is that Passover often will be held too early. Especially is this true when the selected month to observe Passover is the new moon "closest to the vernal equinox." A prime example was 1981, when the vernal equinox was reported to be at 12:03 p.m. EST on March 20, according to the Farmers' Almanac.
A bi-monthly magazine reports that the new moon nearest the vernal equinox for 1981 was March 6 at 5:31 a.m. The report continues, "The new moon becomes visible that afternoon. Therefore, March 7 is to be considered as the first day of the Bible New Year. Count 14 days, including the 7th day and you have the proper date for the [Savior's] supper, Friday, March 20, 1981. This would be eaten then in the evening of the 19th of March (Roman time on Thursday after sunset)."
The error with the above is that the Passover was to be kept on the 19th of March and the vernal equinox did not occur until three minutes after noon on the 20th. It would have been kept some 18 hours before the vernal equinox.
If the new moon nearest the vernal equinox is the only criterion for establishing the beginning month, then as previously stated, Passover will be held BEFORE the vernal equinox. In that case, two Passovers would erroneously be held in one year, and none in the next. Passover would be observed in the winter and not in the spring. There would be a solar year in which no Passover would be kept, defeating the purpose of observing the heavenly lights, as given by Yahweh in Genesis 1:14.
The Jews made that error when they no longer followed the new moons as they had done during the time of the Messiah. Because of the hotly-contested issue of who should be accepted as the official Sanhedrin, the Jewish calendar was in disarray.
Many early historians point out that a number of scholars refused to recognize the new Jewish calendar. Eusebius wrote of the mathematician, Anatolius of Alexander, who condemned the changed Jewish calendar:
"Hence, also, those that place the first month [Abib] in it [the zodiacal sign BEFORE the equinox], and that fix the fourteenth of the month by it, commit, as we think, no little and no common blunder. But neither is this our opinion only, but it was also known to the Jews anciently, and before Messiah, and was chiefly observed by them, as we may learn from Philo, Josephus, and Masaeus; and not only from these, but also from those still more ancient, i.e., the two Agathobuli, commonly called the master, and of Aristobulus, that most distinguished scholar, who was one of the seventy that translated the Holy Scriptures from the Hebrew. ...All ought to sacrifice the Passover alike after the vernal equinox, in the middle of the first month," Ecclesiastical History, Popular Edition, p. 313.
Anatolius himself supports Aristobulus, stating that the Passover should be properly held AFTER the vernal equinox. "Many other matters, I know, have been discussed by him; some of them with great probability, others established with the most certain demonstrations, in which he attempts to show that the festival of the Passover, and of unleavened bread, ought to be observed altogether after the equinox." Ibid.
Dr. Butcher, in his Ecclesiastical Calendar, says, "Anatolius, Bishop of Laodicea, an Alexandrian, (was) a great geometer and otherwise the most learned man of the age. He proved from several ancient Jewish writers themselves that the Passover should never be kept before the Vernal Equinox, and therefore that their cycle [of the new Jewish calendar] was erroneous," pp. 264-265.
Peter, the Bishop of Alexandria, mentions that the Jews had kept the Passover properly up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. But after the destruction of the city, they "err in reckoning the beginning of the month, which is first amongst the months of the year, on the fourteenth day of which, being accurately observed, AFTER the equinox, the ancients celebrated the Passover according to the Divine Command: whereas the men of the present day now celebrate it BEFORE the equinox, and that altogether through negligence and error, being ignorant how they celebrate it in their season..." Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI, p. 280.
Josephus, the notable Jewish historian, who knew how the Jews of his day observed Passover, stated that Passover occurred before the vernal equinox, for the sun entered Aries at that time, Antiquities, Book III, Ch. X, 5. Philo Judaeaus, an Alexandrian Jew, who lived at the time of Messiah and was well acquainted with Jewish religious beliefs, stated that the Passover occurred after the spring equinox, Ten Festivals, Ch. XI.
Passover, kept before the vernal equinox, was the very issue that finally separated the early church from establishing Easter on the Jewish Passover. This led to the Council of Nicea in which the emperor, Constantine, decreed that observance of Easter would be determined independent of the Jews.
The astronomers were able to prove that the Jews had made an error, following the squelching of the Jewish uprising of Bar Cochba, resulting in their banishment from Jerusalem. Unable to meet in Jerusalem, two opposing Sanhedrin schools were set up, one in Jamnia (Jabne), Palestine, and the other in Babylon. Vying for preeminence, each tried to be first with the Passover. This ultimately led to holding Passover before the vernal equinox, which was a serious blunder, since it was never held before the vernal equinox during the time the second temple was standing (Yahshua's time).
As a result, the Council of Nicea determined that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the full moon, following the vernal equinox. From their established rules, it is clear that they were aware that Passover had to occur after the vernal equinox.
Jerusalem Is the Key
Isaiah 66:23 states that both the new moons and the Sabbaths will be enforced when Yahweh's Kingdom comes to earth. His Son Yahshua will begin His rule at Jerusalem and then the Kingdom will eventually encompass the entire world. Therefore, we look to Jerusalem in the northern hemisphere to establish the seasons, Exodus 12:2, 13:4, 23:15, and 34:18. Yahweh's year begins when the vegetation stirs to life.
The ripening ears of barley around Jerusalem show that this is the month to begin counting the days of Yahweh's new year. Its name is Abib, meaning the month of "green ears." History shows that the Passover should always fall after the vernal equinox (see Ante- and Post-Nicene Fathers). During the Days of Unleavened Bread, a wave sheaf of new grain had to be waved by the priest, signifying the beginning of the spring harvest in the northern hemisphere. The harvest could not begin until the wave sheaf was offered.
A question arises whether we should observe the new moon only after it has already been seen in Jerusalem. This means we would be guided by the man-made, artificial International Date Line in the Pacific. A visible new moon might be declared invalid because it had not yet been spotted in Jerusalem first. There is nowhere in the Bible, however, that shows that time must first begin at Jerusalem or first be observed there.
Blow Up the Trumpet
Wherever the new moon is first seen, that point should be (for that month) the “international date line.” Because of the rotation of the earth, the beginning of the new month “trails” around the world to the point where the new crescent next becomes visible. Thus, the date line would be where the moon was first spotted for that month, then move to the next visible sighting of the crescent, which begins the following month, etc.
Just as the Sabbath arrives in the east before coming to Jerusalem, it is also possible that the holy days could arrive elsewhere before coming to Jerusalem. While it is essential to observe the same seasons as Jerusalem, there is nothing in the Bible that teaches the holy days must first come to Jerusalem. The wise men, who visited the Baby Yahshua, came “from the East.” The sun rises in the East and comes to Jerusalem only after it has appeared in Japan, China, India, Iran, etc.
Occasionally, the moon may appear to us in the western hemisphere before being visible in Jerusalem. Just as we observe the Sabbath as it comes to us at sunset, we observe the new moons as they come to us in the western sky. A new moon spotted anywhere by veteran new moon watchers will be declared Yahweh’s new moon.
With the manmade date line and the time zones, as we know them, a new moon may be spotted in the West before being visible in Jerusalem. With Yahweh's help, we will observe the days, as the setting sun brings them to us, and the new moons as the thin crescent becomes visible.
The month of Abib begins with the new moon in which green ears appear in the area of Jerusalem, allowing Passover to fall AFTER the vernal equinox, as in the days of the second temple when Yahshua walked this earth.
Passover Is Not the 15th
Four times in the Bible, we are told that Passover is the 14th of Abib and the 15th is the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:5; Ezra 6:19; Numbers 28:16; 2 Chronicles 30:15). Yet the Jewish calendar insists that Passover is the 15th. Today, as in the time of Messiah, the Jews combine Passover with the first day of Unleavened Bread. This is clear from reading John 13:1-4 and 18:28. Even today, most Jews keep a seder service at home on the 14th with members of the family.
Pentecost Is Not Constant
The Jewish calendar always shows the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost falling on Sivan 6. Leviticus 23:15 clearly tells us to count the days from the day after the wave sheaf offering. It does seem absurd even to bother to count seven weeks if one always ends up with the same date, the sixth of the third month.
Whenever Yahweh has a specific day in mind, He tells us when this day occurs. Trumpets is the first day of the seventh month. Atonement is the tenth day of the seventh month. The 15th day of the seventh month is the beginning of Tabernacles. Yahweh has enumerated certain days that fall on the same date every year.
He did not do so with Pentecost (Greek word meaning count “50”). We are to count seven Sabbaths and when the weeks are completed, we celebrate the first day of the week (50 total days).
The Jews who celebrate both Passover and Pentecost on the wrong day have not realized the fullness of these days. They have rejected Him who became our Passover Lamb. In not celebrating Pentecost on the correct day, they have not achieved the spiritual fulfillment in proper worship of which Yahshua taught, John 4:24.
Certain postponements, the authority for which is not found in the Scriptures, are incorporated into the Jewish calendar, which may delay the holy days for one or two days. These can be summarized as follows:
The Day of Atonement cannot precede or follow a weekly Sabbath. The last feast day of the Feast of Tabernacles cannot fall on a Sabbath. Passover can fall only on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Sabbath. These postponements ("dehioth") dictate that the months will not begin on the exact day of the new moon. Only 40% of the time does the Jewish calendar honor its own rule of being a lunar calendar.
You can find no such postponements or qualifications in your Bible. Many others practice such forestalling by keeping the weekly Sabbath a day late, that is, they keep Sunday. Neither is scriptural.
Visual Sightings Essential Historically
Abundant proof exists in most public libraries that the months were determined by visual sightings of the moon during the time of the second temple. In His scathing denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees, the Messiah did not mention or rebuke them for any calendar.
It was the custom of watchers for the new moon to station themselves on mountaintops and then report to the Sanhedrin. After being verified, the day was sanctioned and declared to be the beginning of the month. This information is available in many encyclopedias such as the Encyclopedia Britannica and Americana and Bible encyclopedias, as well.
Jewish encyclopedias tend to exonerate their calendar, but most historians agree that it is not very ancient. In fact, it is not earlier than the eighth century, according to Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, “Calendar,” p. 122.
The Jewish calendar ignores the major Bible command to watch for the crops around Jerusalem to determine the correct beginning of months. It avoids the observance of crops to substantiate the month of green ears, relying instead on the movement of heavenly bodies to determine the year. It is based entirely upon celestial reckoning with no attention paid to the conditions around Jerusalem.
By observing the visible new moons each month and verifying the barley crops around Jerusalem, we are in keeping with the observance outlined in Scripture and followed in the same way when Yahshua walked the earth.
How to See the New Moon
Join us in observing the new moons in anticipation of the Savior's return and the setting up of the days of worship of Isaiah 66:23 when all human beings will worship Yahweh on the days that He has ordained. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh cone to worship before Me,” saith Yahweh.
We are in training now to qualify to rule with the Messiah. Just as we acknowledge that the setting of the sun begins a new day, we look for the thin scimitar-shaped crescent to begin the month.
An easy way to establish the new moon is to note the day on the calendar published by this assembly where the new moon days are listed. Biblical days begin at sunset on the preceding day (instead of midnight). You need to get away from the bright lights of the city and go preferably to a high prominence or hill. From the overhead zenith toward this setting sun, we look for a thin sliver of light (bulging to the right) on either side of this imaginary line. The scimitar-shaped new moon may be visible for only a short time, less than a half hour, perhaps, so it is imperative that we begin our search at sunset.
As soon as the sun has set, and its brightness diminishes, the new moon should be visible. At times, it may be saucer-shaped and may be very low on the horizon, making it all the more difficult to see as it quickly moves out of sight.
Many of the new moons listed in newspapers and almanacs will not be visible on the nights shown. This is because the astronomical new noon is that precise instant when the noon moves away from the conjunction and begins its rebuilding phase. The light of the setting sun is too bright to allow sighting of the feeble light of the new moon.
A new moon must be at least 18 to 20 hours “old” to sight the thin crescent. Veteran new moon watchers believe the ideal sighting would be from a 22-hour-old moon. A few have used binoculars to scout the sky and, knowing the exact location, have been able to see it with the naked eye.
Learn Now for the Future
Nearly all believers in the Bible are acutely aware that the time will come when a scattering of the brethren will take place. Even so, we would all want to show our love for the Father and His Son by observing the sacred time Yahweh has set apart for His worship. By keeping the same time Yahweh set apart at creation as holy time, we have fellowship with Him.
We also have fellowship with Yahshua when two or three are gathered in His Name. By keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths, we are acting out the “plan of redemption.”
We all should be aware of the new moons so we can all observe them in anticipation of the future when we may be unable to meet together as a group. We may have to flee and become physically separated. But we can still keep these times wherever we might be if we train ourselves in the proper observation of the New Moons now, and walk in the light of His truth.
Yahweh says that His Sabbaths are a sign between Him and His people. When we keep His Sabbaths, He promises that He will bring conditions about that we will have no doubt that He is Yahweh. His Sabbaths are the signs He has given us, Ezekiel 20:12, 20. By His Sabbaths, both weekly and annual, He sets us apart.
Yahweh's heavenly calendar is based on the movement of the sun and the moon together. It is also based on the fruitful harvest brought forth on the earth. That physical harvest is also indicative of the spiritual harvest of His people, a kind of firstfruits of James 1:18. Are you one?