A BASIC BIBLICAL APPROACH

TO CALCULATING GOD’S HOLY DAYS CALENDAR.


There has been much written about the good and bad points of the Hebrew calendar, including the fact that the calculated new moon (molad) can be out by as much as 15 hours. In 2005, during the Feast of Tabernacles, we were given a very clear reminder of this problem. The partial eclipse of the moon as it passed through the earth’s shadow at around 10:00pm on 17th October 2005 (which we could see from Eastern Australia) gave a very visible marker of when the full moon occurred during the Hebrew calendar month of Tishri (the seventh month). While there is nothing all that significant about a full moon - the time of a full moon can vary a day or so either side of the mid-point between two new moons - this one made me stop and think. Normally the full moon occurs around the first night of the Feast. It was seeing the partial eclipse on the night following the the first night of the Feast  that made me look further into just what was wrong with the Hebrew calendar.


The Hebrew calendar calculations for 2005 - without postponements - put this full moon on the 16th of Tishri. If we subtract the time given by the charts for the new moon, from the time given for the full moon, we can see that the full moon actually occurred 14 days 1 hour and 46 minutes after the new moon. As I have said, the time between a new moon and the full moon can vary quite a lot, but for God’s calendar, the new moon is what has to be right. In 2005, counting back from the eclipse, the Hebrew seventh month (using their calendar without postponements) started more than one day too early. The month should always start after the new moon - never before (month in Hebrew means “New Moon”, not  “last of the old moon”). Previous study had convinced us that the postponements are not Biblical and it appears that they were not applied at the time of Christ. In past years (including 2005) we simply dropped the postponements thinking that the basic calculations of the Hebrew calendar were OK, but the eclipse has now shown us that this is not correct.


Having come to the conclusion that the Hebrew Calendar has fundamental flaws in how it calculates the times for the new moons, the next problem was to find something to replace it, as we needed to be able to determine the Holy Days each year. It was at about this time that we came across some material that Frank Nelte has published (www.franknelte.net) about the Hebrew word “Tekufah” (Ex 34:22). As we see it, the key verse is Ex 34:22, which is also supported by Ex 23:16. In the NKJV, the word translated “end” is Strongs #8622 and is the Hebrew word “tekufah”, and in the Jewish Publication Society Bible is translated as “turn of the year”. H8622 comes from H5362 which BDB says "to strike" (bring your hands together) or "to make the round, complete the circuit". The sun crosses the equator in Spring and heads North, and then returns to the equator - completes the circuit - at the start of Autumn. The Autumn Equinox - when the nights start becoming longer than the days - is a significant event in agriculture, and usually the Summer harvest is never completed till after this time.


Helped by this new information, some simple calculations showed that for the Feast of Tabernacles to always start in the Autumn, then the new year has to always start after the Spring Equinox. 

This is a key point.

When the first month is started after the Northern Hemisphere (NH) Spring equinox, then the Feast of Tabernacles (Ex 23:16, Ex 34:22) will automatically come in the Autumn, after the Summer produce has been gathered in (Lev 23:39).


In summary, the Bible has three rules that have to be met for a calendar to be correct. The first rule is to start the day at sunset. The second rule is that the month should always start with the day that a new Moon is in existence at sunset. The third rule is that the whole of the first month of the year has to be in Spring (Ex 12:2,13:4 Abib = young ear of grain) so that the Feast of Tabernacles will always be in Autumn (Ex 23:16, 34:22 “turn of the year” = after the equinox). In simple terms, the year starts with the sunset after the first new moon after the N.H. Spring equinox. This rule also ensures that the barley will be ripe during Unleavened Bread for the Wave Sheaf Offering, as the day the first sheaf is cut will never fall earlier than the first week of April.


The current Hebrew calendar - even without postponements - does break these Biblical requirements from time to time. For example, in the year of 2002, the first month started 7 days before Spring equinox on 20th March that year, and the Feast of Tabernacles started three days before the Autumn equinox (Sept 23rd). Thus the present Hebrew Calendar only gets this requirement right some of the time. Some have labeled the practice of using the equinox as pagan. To that comment, my question would be “Who came first, God or the pagans”? The fact that pagan people have attached significance to something set up by God at creation, should not deter us from getting back to the basics. The equinox, in my view, has more effect on agriculture than the longest or shortest day, and is an important marker, and is easily identified.


Until someone writes a computer program to do the calculations using the above criteria, we have concluded that the best way to determine the Holy Days, is to do independent calculations, based on the new moons and equinoxes (... “let the [sun, moon and stars] be for signs and seasons ...” Gen 1:14). The calculations need to take into account the following.


  1. The day starts at sunset, but for calendar calculation purposes it is normal for this to be taken as 6:00pm. In other words, the average sunset time at or near the equator. We use the current International Date Line as the point where the date changes, as this is already set up, and makes sense because it does not cut through any land mass. Taking 6:00pm as the sunset time will not cause any errors at the equinoxes, because while the center of the sun is on the horizon at close to 6:00pm, it takes a few minutes for the trailing edge to be on the horizon. For the two important months - first and seventh - the actual sunset will be after 6:00pm.

2.         The month starts with the day at the IDL that begins with a new moon. Or to put it  another way. Since the day starts at 6:00pm, there needs to have been a          new moon conjunction within the previous 24 hours, for the day to be the            first of the month.

  1. The year begins the month starting after Northern Hemisphere Spring equinox. That is, the day that everyone around the world is under a new moon, after this equinox.


  1. The Holy Days are then applied as per the instructions in Leviticus 23.


Over the years there has been much said about the first visible sighting of a new moon at Jerusalem to start a month, though I cannot find a Scripture to support this. Today, Jerusalem is in such a mess, and even described in Rev 11:8 as “Sodom and Egypt”, that I see no reason, this side of Christ’s return, to try and bring Jerusalem into the calculations. We do, however, need something that is easy for people to work with, and, as far as possible, fits into the world’s way of keeping track of time and, hence, needs to include the International Dateline. We feel that it needs to be something worldwide in nature, yet can still be calculated by isolated people if required. 

Wikipedia says that a new moon can be seen from 15 hours to 48 hours after the conjunction, so seeing the “correct” new moon is a very hit and miss affair anyway. This simple fact (33 hour spread) shows that a calendar needs to be calculated for total accuracy. I have no doubt that Noah - sealed in the ark - had a calculated calendar (Gen 8:4), so I take Ps 104:19 NET. "He made the moon to mark the months, and the sun sets according to a regular schedule." to mean that the times of the new moon should be calculated (very accurate) and not arrived at by observation (very inaccurate).



The New Moon.


The Hebrew word translated as "month" in the Bible can sometimes come from the Hebrew for  “new moon”, so this shows that each month was started with a new moon. This brings us to the place where we have to make a decision - do we start the month at the time and day the new moon occurs, or do we start the month on the day that starts with a new moon. With the first option we would need a “floating” International Date Line, and with the second we can use the existing International Date Line (IDL). To keep the calendar simple and easy for people to apply, we have opted to use the present IDL, and thus months start on the first day that there is a new moon at 6:00pm (start of the Biblical day), at the International Date Line. If we just take the day of the conjunction, then some areas of the world would be under the last of the old moon for the early part of their day.


We have chosen 6:00pm as the start of each day for the calculations so that things are consistent. This convention (also used in the Hebrew calendar) makes it easy to find out when God’s Holy Days occurred hundreds of years in the past or when they will occur in the future. At each equinox, the sunset time will be later than 6:00pm (and increasingly so for the Spring equinox) - so no error is introduced by standardizing on 6:00pm.  Each day is still observed from the actual sunset to sunset times, which will be a different time to what happens at the equator.


It is interesting to note that when you start the first month with the first new moon after the Spring equinox, then automatically there is barley ready for harvesting during ULB, and the Feast of Tabernacles falls in Autumn and after the Fall equinox. In Frank Nelte’s paper “The Calendar Problem Spelled Out In Simple Terms” he shows that wheat and barley can be harvested at around 20% moisture in the first week of April. The earliest that the Wave Sheaf would be cut under the calendar outlined in this paper, is April 4th, and the latest is May 7th. Thus for most years the grains will be well below 20% moisture, but even at a higher moisture content, it can still be first fruits of the harvest. If you take the New Moon closest to the equinox, then you could be trying to cut barley from around the 21st of March, and this could mean that in some years the heads would not have fully formed.


Because the new moon times are published in many different places, and seem to be readily available, we will use the actual time of conjunction, with the following difference. Because the Bible and hence God’s people use sunset as the start of a day, we need to bring this fact into the calculations, and use a standard sunset time of 6:00pm. This puts God’s days starting six hours before the world’s days, who use midnight at the International Dateline as their starting point for each new day.


Since our day starts six hours earlier than a world day, any new moon times that are less than six hours, have happened on that day - and the date given by UTC is correct. Thus that day is the start of a new month.

This means that any conjunction times that are six hours or greater will fall during that day, and the start of the next day will be the start of the month.


A couple of examples.

If a conjunction is given as UTC 5:43 on the 3rd March, then it has happened before our day started (6:00pm at the IDL = 6:00am at the UTC point, and 5:43 comes before that) and the new month is started on the 3rd of March.

If a conjunction is given as 21:43 on the 3rd March, then it has happened after our day started (the 3rd), and thus the new month starts on the following day, the 4th of March. There has to be a new moon in the previous 24 hours at sunset (6:00pm) at the International Date Line, for the next day to be a new month.



The Rules.


Rule One: When to Start a Day.
The average day starts at the published sunset time for your location, or nearest city. However, as I have mentioned elsewhere, the sun can sometimes still be visible for up to seven minutes after the calculated sunset time. To avoid giving people who do not understand this, the wrong impression, stay in "Sabbath mode" till the sun has visibly set.

However, for calculation purposes, a day starts at 6:00pm (18:00). at the IDL or at 6:00am UTC. Remember, to find the time at the IDL you have to subtract 12:00 hours from the UTC times.

Rule Two: When to Start a Month.

The reasoning behind the next two rules are as follows. We want something that follows the Biblical instructions (ULB in Spring, FOT in Autumn, months start with a New Moon), but is easy to remember and easy to apply. In this day and age, we can know the conjunction - time of the new moon - to the minute, and the time of the equinox. By taking this time we eliminate all disputes about when it happened and who saw the “new moon”, and we will always have the information for future years. Thus calendars can be made up and Feast sites booked in advance - years ahead if necessary. We start a day when we can't see the sun (i.e. after sunset), so to be consistent, we start a month the first sunset at the IDL after the moon goes dark.

Since the new moon can occur at any time throughout a day, it makes sense to me to call the first day that everyone around the world can be under a new moon, the first day of the month. For our calculation purposes, a calendar day starts when the “average day” sun sets at the International Dateline. A month starts the first day that there is a New Moon at the “average day” sunset of 6:00pm.

Rule Three: Determining the Equinox.
The equinox is a set point on a given day.  It's calculation is different to that of the new moon.

We want the 24 hour period that includes the Equinox. Thus - if the time of the Equinox is less that 6:00 UTC, then it has already occurred before the new day starts at 6:00pm at the IDL, and so we take the day before.  If the time of the Equinox is 6:00am or later, we take the day given by the charts.
Rule Four: When to Start the Year.

The same logic that is used for the new moon, is used for the first day of the year. The first month after the Spring Equinox is the start of the year. Taking our six hour adjustment into account, the day after the day of the Northern Hemisphere Spring equinox is the start of Spring, and the earliest that the first month of the year should start. Under these rules, each new year will always start somewhere within the first 30 days of Spring. Since we look at what the situation is at the start (6:00pm) of a day, in the rare case of where the equinox and the new moon conjunction both occur in the same (sunset to sunset) 24 hour period, then the next day is both the new month and new year.


The Calendar.

Using the method outlined above, months will have different days (some 29, some 30) and, at times, some years will have different number of months (some 12, some 13). However, the important thing is that, by using this method, God’s Holy Days will be kept at the correct time (in their seasons), and according to the instructions we have been given. We don't have to keep track of which years have extra months, because the calculations will always give consistent results.


The Biblical Instructions.

While it is not my intention to go into a complete analysis of all the verses in the Scriptures that might have something to say about the calendar, I feel that some comments are in order.

The place to begin is Genesis 1:14 (NET) “And God said, “Let bright lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. They will be signs to mark off the seasons, the days, and the years.”

For translators who don’t keep God’s Holy Days, the word “seasons” is a fair guess. However, there is much more behind the word, especially when we realize that this is the same word used in Lev 23:2, to describe the Sabbath and the Holy Days. Let me paste in what Strong has to say about the word which has been translated as “seasons” H4145, “From H3259; properly an appointment, that is, a fixed time or season; specifically a festival; conventionally a year; by implication, an assembly (as convened for a definite purpose); technically the congregation; by extension, the place of meeting; also a signal (as appointed beforehand): - appointed (sign, time), (place of, solemn) assembly, congregation, (set, solemn) feast, (appointed, due) season, solemn (-ity), synagogue, (set) time (appointed).”

As you can see, there is much more to the word than just “seasons”. So, the sun, moon and stars are there to regulate time and to show us when to assemble on God’s Holy Days.


Sun.

The setting of the sun (Gen 1:5, Ps 104:19) is the end of one day and the beginning of the next. (Lev 23:32, Mark 1:32, Luke 4:40)

Also, one revolution of the earth around the sun - relative to the stars - is one year. It takes 19 years for the sun, earth and moon to come back to their starting position, and 600 years for them to line up again, relative to the stars.


Moon.

The Hebrew word for moon (H2320), is also used for new moon and month. A month starts with the next day after a new moon. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1965) gives the average time for the moon to make one revolution relative to the sun as 29.53059 days, but it is important to notice the word "average".  In practice, months can vary by as much as 12 hours over the course of a year.


Stars.

They give us a reference point that allows us to measure the years (a complete rotation around the sun). While they provide a reference point over a reasonably short period of time, such as a year, we need to keep in mind that the stars - including our sun - are still moving relative to each other.


Months.

Months start with the first day that the whole world is under a new moon, and can be either 29 or 30 days in length. By starting each month with a specific calculation, there is no simple pattern to the days in each passing month. However, the calculations will always produce the same results, so calendars can be drawn up for years in advance if need be. To put it another way, we no longer try to “average out” the days of the month the way the Hebrew calendar does.


The start of the year.

Exodus 12:2 and Ex 13:4 pinpoint the start of the year.

Ex 12:2 “From now on, this month [new moon] will be the first month [new moon] of the year for you.”

Ex 13:4 “ On this day you are going out, in the month Abib”

.

Since month also means “new moon”, the first new moon in Spring (Ex 13:14 Abib = tender) is the start of the year. The Northern Hemisphere season of Spring starts with the “tekufah” that begins with the equinox. Therefore the start of the year for calculating the Holy Days always occurs within 30 days of that equinox.


Calculating the Calendar.

Before we can pencil in the Holy Days, we need a basic calendar. This can be a normal calendar with enough room to write on, or we can start with just a list of all the important dates, and transfer them over later. The place to start is to first find the March equinox and the times of the New Moons for the year. Make sure that any times given are in Universal Time (abbreviated as “UT” or “UTC”). There is less than one second difference between UT and UTC, so for our purposes either can be used. These dates and times can be found from published charts and from the Internet (e.g. U.N. Naval Observatory, Geoscience Australia, Nasa). The times for the New Moons on wall calendars are usually local times, so corrections have to be made to bring them back to UT, and that can make the calculations more complicated.

This is how I do it. If you can come up with a better system - go for it.

Buy or print out a calendar for the year you are looking at.

To find the moon phases.

Go into http://www.calendar-12.com/moon_phases

It will usually come up with the current year. To get next years phases, scroll down past the first block of dates and you will see where you can move the year forward or backward. Set the year you want, and let it recalculate.

Again scroll down to the second block of dates and times and UTC is on the RH side of the block.

Or,   http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/MoonPhase.php

Key in the first day of the year. Number of phases - try 50.  Format - display by phases. Then click on "get data".


To find the equinoxes.

http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/EarthSeasons.php

Now you have all the information you need.

To make the calendar

Calculate the date of the two equinoxs and write them on the calendar.

Look at the date and time for each of the new moons. If the time is less than 6:00 hours, take the date and mark it on the calendar. If the time of day is 6:00 hours or greater, increase the date by one, and mark it on the calendar. This is the start of each month.

When all the new moons are done, look for the closest new moon to the March equinox (can't be the same day). That is the first day of the new year for God's calendar.

Count down 14 days, and mark the evening before as the Last Supper. The 14th is the day the Passover lambs (and Christ) were killed. The 15th is the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread. Seven days later (21st) is the Second Holy Day of Unleavened Bread.

From the Sunday (the day after the Sabbath) during Unleavened Bread, count 50 days, and that Sunday is Pentecost.

The first day of the seventh month is Trumpets, followed by Atonement on the 10th, and Tabernacles starting on the 15th, and Last Great Day on the 22nd.


Make a note at the top that the actual Feasts start the evening before at sunset. Now you have God's Holy Days marked on a calendar.

The Appointed Days of Lev 23.

The first weekly “appointed time” mentioned in Lev 23:3 is the Sabbath - a day of rest but not a feast day - and starts with the Friday sunset. A brief comment about sunset. In the interest of unity among the brethren, and to remove any problems with mountains and hills or cloudy days, it is suggested that we always take the published sunset times for our location or a city near to our location. However, we need to keep in mind that because of the warm air that is often over the land at sunset, the light rays from the sun can be bent, and we can still see the sun up to seven minutes after the calculated sunset time. In order to be a witness to people around us, as the Israelites were told to be, we should continue to keep the Sabbath until the visible light from the sun has gone on the Saturday evening. For people living near or above the Arctic Circle, I suggest that you take the sunset times from a city closer to the Equator and near your Longitude.


The first yearly “appointed time” is the Memorial or Lord’s Supper, which is celebrated just after sunset on the 14th day of the first month. The day itself is not a Sabbath, but it is a reminder for us today of our Lord and Saviour establishing the New Covenant (Mat 26:28) and the day He was crucified. The Old Covenant Passover Lamb was killed around 3:00pm on the 14th (Lev 23:5, Ex 12:6), and eaten on the night of the 15th. This Old Covenant Passover night and the start of the seven days of Unleavened Bread, is also called the “night to be much observed” (Ex 12:42).


The first of three Feasts periods for the year begins on the 15th of the first month - the First Holy Day of Unleavened Bread. At the start of the 15th, all leaven and leaven products (Ex 12:15) should be put out from our living quarters (away from sight and therefore temptation), and for seven days we should only eat unleavened bread to remind us of the speed with which Israel left Egypt (Ex 12:39, Ex 13:7-9) and the fact that they didn’t have time to allow the bread to rise. On the seventh day it is the last Holy Day of Unleavened Bread. The unleavened bread should also remind us to quickly come out of Egypt (bondage) too. To the Israelites, Egypt was a physical bondage, which for us is a reminder of the spiritual bondage of sin (John 8:34, Gal 5:1)


During Unleavened Bread, a sheaf of the first barley was waved before God, on the day after the weekly Sabbath. This Sunday is the starting point (day one) for counting out the fifty days to Pentecost (Lev 23:10-14). If the First Holy Day is on a Monday, then the Wave Sheaf should happen on the last Holy Day - the day after the weekly Sabbath. We feel that cutting a few handfuls of barley on the Holy Day is necessary to comply with command given in Lev 23:10, and does not violate the command to rest on a Holy Day. If the first Holy Day falls on a Sunday, then that is the day for the Wave Sheaf Offering and the start of the count for Pentecost. We do this because we feel that the “day after the Sabbath” [Sunday] (Lev 23:11) is the main time marker of v10-13. Deut 16:9 tells us to count from when the sickle is put to the corn (and that can not happen till the Wave Sheaf Offering) and this highlights that the Sunday is the principal day for counting the Feast of First-fruits, and thus should be the day to fall during Unleavened Bread. However, at this time there are people who feel that the Sabbath should be the day to fall during ULB. We may have to come back to this point at some time in the future. Joshua 5 also leaves many unanswered questions (Ex 16:1 - second month. Ex 16:35 - 40 years. Second Passover?)


The second Feast season for the year is Pentecost or the Feast of First-fruits, and is always on a Sunday (Lev 23:15-17). It is the only Holy Day which is calculated by counting. As mentioned, we start counting the fifty days from the Sunday that falls during ULB. Christ is the first of the First-fruits, and this day should remind us that God is building a family from people who are committed to living His way of love.


The next Holy Day (appointed time but not a Feast) is the Festival of Trumpets, which is held on the first day of the seventh month (Lev 23:24). This points to the return of Christ at the right hand of God (Mat 26:64 power=God), and the coming establishment of the Kingdom of God.


On the tenth day of the seventh month is another “appointed time”, and is called the Day of Atonement - a day of fasting (Lev 23:27-32) and is the only yearly Sabbath. This points to the time that Satan is restrained for 1000 years during God and Christ’s rule of the earth. This yearly Sabbath (Lev 23:32) is also the start of the Land Sabbath, every seven years, and the Jubilee year, every fifty years (Lev 25:1-17).


The third and final Feast period for the year is the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:41) which starts on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and continues for seven days (Lev23:39). This points to the times of peace and prosperity that will come during the millennium, when all people will know God and be taught His laws. Unfortunately the Scriptures indicate that not all will be faithful in keeping God’s law of love, even under these ideal circumstances. The seventh day of the Feast is a reminder of this coming rebellion.


The day following the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles - the eighth day (Lev 23:39) - is the Last Great Day, and highlights the general resurrection at the end of the millennium. It also points forward into the rest of eternity.


On each of the three Feast periods, we are commanded to bring an offering before God (Ex 23:14-17, Deut 16:16,17).


Concluding remarks.

We can understand why some people will label this method of calculating God’s Holy days as “too simplistic” or consider it too far removed from the Hebrew calendar’s “average month” or molad. However, we feel that maybe it is time for God’s people to make a break from the errors of the Hebrew calendar - with or without the postponements. Sometimes the postponements help, sometimes they don’t. They are a “wild card” that we feel has no place in a system designed and created by God the Father, that is extremely accurate in so many ways. A point that we should not forget, is that, even with or without the postponements, the Hebrew Calendar is still inaccurate, and has a “drift” that will continue to increase the errors as time goes on.


If we go back to Gen 1:14, and use the sun, moon and stars to determine the days, seasons and Holy Days, then at least we are trying to come close to what we think our Father had in mind. We can be certain, that with the establishment of the Kingdom of God after Christ’s return, the system that God intended for calculating the Holy Days will be put in place, and may even include the re-alignment of the Earth, Sun and Moon, and the restoration (Acts 3:21) of the 30 day month. Also Ezek 5:5, and Isa 2:3 indicate that Christ might move the IDL so that the center of the day is over Jerusalem.


What has been outlined in this paper is something to “bridge the gap”. Many people who have access to the new moon and equinox times will be able to calculate the calendar for themselves. We feel that this is important as we move into a time of world upheaval, and face the prospects of the loss of communication as we have it today. In another paper (“Determining God’s Holy Days by Observation”) I try to show that it is possible with this new system (if we are separated from civilization) to calculate the Holy Days, with some degree of accuracy, using such simple things as sticks in the sand, our hand held at arm’s length and the days of Lev 23 in our mind. As simple as it is, I feel that this system, of basic observation, would get us closer to the Biblical instructions than the Hebrew Calendar did in 2002 and 2005 for example.


Summary.


  1. Using the method outlined above, the three basic requirements of starting a day with sunset, a month with a new moon, and the new year starting in Spring (and having the Feast of Tabernacles in the Autumn), are always satisfied,


  1. It also ensures that some barley will be developed enough for the Wave-sheaf offering on the Sunday during Unleavened Bread.


  1. The calendar is stable, reproducible, and can be extended both forward and backward in time, provided that you have the new moon and equinox times.


  1. With new moon charts and equinox times we can have total accuracy, but it is still possible to work out the correct day for the Holy Days just by using simple observations.


  1. While this method of calculating the Holy Days should see us through till Christ returns, we are still open for any corrections or refinements that Christ - as Head of the Church - might inspire someone to see.



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Bob Orchard July 2014

While this information is made freely available (Mat 10:8b) , and can be printed out, it is done with the understanding that there will only be fair and honest use of the material, and that it will be copied in full with no alterations.