Christian Churches of God
The Moon and the New Year
(Edition 3.0 19970830-19990724-20071124)
God told us to determine the New Year from Abib (or Nisan), as the beginning of months. Judaism holds the New Year in Tishri. Both Judaism and the Bible cannot be correct. What is the New Year? Is it a solemn Feast of the Lord? The Bible position on this important day has been deliberately obscured by later rabbinical Judaism to justify their traditions over the Bible and the instructions of God. God has chosen to reveal Himself in this symbolism of the New Moon commencing the New Year, and shows us from that symbolism His relationship with the Church under Messiah.
The Moon and the New Year
Judaism has decided that the New Year begins with 1 Tishri, which is the Seventh month of the year. That was traditionally the beginning of the civil year and Judaism picked up that view from the Babylonians. They determine the entire calendar from what they call the Molad of Tishri, which is established by calculation and is not based on the true New Moon, either by conjunction or observation. It is a man-made system derived from the rabbinical determinations introduced from Babylon in 344 CE and sanctioned by Rabbi Hillel II in 358 CE. The final system was not fixed until the eleventh century. It has no biblical basis (see the paper ).
God gave clear instructions to Moses that Abib or Nisan was to be the beginning of months for Israel. He deliberately removed the Babylonian position of determining the New Year from Tishri. The Babylonian name for Tishri is Teshritu from which Tishri is clearly derived; it means the month of beginnings. The Jewish calendar is listed from Tishri to Elul. Nisan occurs in the middle of the yearly sequence from their depiction of the calendar even today (The Jewish Calendar, Nicholas de Lange, Atlas of the Jewish World, Time Life, 1996, pp. 88-89). However, God said that that was not to be so with Israel. Abib or Nisan was to be the beginning of months for them.
Exodus 12:1-2 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 This month [Abib] shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. (KJV)
This month Abib or Nisan was to be the first of months, and its determination would determine the start and finish of the year and hence the calendar.
The startling fact of the matter is that, when we examine the Bible and ancient history and archaeology, we find ancient Israel did in fact obey God’s instructions by keeping 1 Nisan as the New Year and as a solemn Feast. Judaism took great pains to cover up this fact and even altered the understanding of the biblical texts and translations to achieve this deception. We are indebted to the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), the Septuagint (LXX) and modern scholarship for assisting us in exposing the matter in this century. However, even rabbinical scholars such as Rabbi Kohn, the Chief Rabbi of Budapest, writing in 1894, states categorically that the New Year of Rosh HaShanah in Tishri is a late third-century post-Temple period innovation (cf. Sabbatarians in Transylvania, CCG Publishing, 1998, p. v, et seq.).
The Bible gives us a clear instruction that Israel kept – and we are to keep – the Feast of Nisan as a solemn Feast day. That instruction is found in the Psalms.
Psalm 81:1-7 To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of Asaph. Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. 2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. 3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day. 4 For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob. 5 This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not. 6 I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots. 7 Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah. (KJV)
This text shows that the New Moon is a solemn Feast day. It has been misinterpreted to refer to the Feast of Trumpets, but it does not refer to Tishri at all. Further, it refers to the New Moon, and attempts are made to make the translation read new moon and full moon from the Hebrew text. Green’s Interlinear text attempts to make this read:
Blow the trumpet at the new moon and the full moon on our solemn feast day.
This is because the Hebrew text uses the words chodesh (SHD 2320) and keseh (SHD 3677) for the new moon. Green interprets SHD 3677 as referring to the full moon; he draws this interpretation from Judaism in its application to the Holy Days, which it places at Trumpets and not on 1 Nisan where it should be. The Soncino translates the text as:
Blow the horn at the new moon, At the full moon of our feast day.
Even the punctuation is so arranged in the translation as to make the full moon the solemn Feast day, so that attention is drawn away from 1 Nisan as the solemn Feast day.
Some even try to attribute the essence to the Seventh month or Tishri, because the KJV clearly shows that the full moon is not meant here in the text but only the new moon, and hence they assume that Tishri is meant because the Jews do not keep 1 Nisan as the New Year and as a solemn Feast. The reasoning is thus circular.
The Soncino states the futile attempt of the commentators to apply the text to Tishri. Their comments show the lengths to which they will go to justify their traditions.
4. horn. Hebrew shofar, ram’s horn.
at the new moon. This cannot refer to the blowing at each new moon (Num. x.10) because on that occasion silver trumpets, and not the shofar were sounded. The first day of the seventh month, however, was marked by blowing (the shofar) (Num. xxix.1), and observed as a memorial proclaimed with the blast (of the shofar) (Lev. xxiii.24). Ibn Ezra, however, maintains that it can also refer to each new moon, for on that occasion the shofar too, was blown. The use of the word hodesh as a reference to the New Year is an allusion to the word hadesh (meaning new or renewal) from the same root, and suggests that the New Year is the same time for the renewal of one’s deeds (Midrash Shocher Tov).
at the full moon. lit. veiling [of the moon]; so, Hirsch. While all the other holy days occur later in the month, at the full moon, only the New Year occurs at the beginning of the month, when the moon is still ‘covered’ (R. H. 8a). Most commentators render ‘at the time appointed’ (cf. Prov. vii).
feast day. Hebrew chag, a pilgrimage-festival to Jerusalem, of which there were three: Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Deut. xvi.16). The word chag is usually used with reference to the feast of tabernacles, which indeed occurs in the same month as the New Year. Meiri renders blow the Shofar at the new moon, at the appointed time of that month in which our feast day occurs.
5. it ... God of Jacob. The horn is blown by statute from the God of Jacob, Who had redeemed His descendants from Egypt.
6. it. This could refer either to the institution of the New Year, the new moon or to the blowing of the horn (see Hirsch).
The first and major point of the Psalm is that it ties this festival to the time that God redeemed Israel from Egypt and proved them at the waters of Meribah, as we see from verse 7. This is in the month of Abib or Nisan, when Israel was brought out from Egypt and proved at Meribah. Thus, it is the New Moon of the First month (Nisan or Abib) of which we are speaking and not the Seventh month (Tishri).
We see from the commentaries that another series of factors is brought into play. The term translated full moon here is admitted to mean literally the veiling of the moon. Thus it cannot be the full moon, and Hirsch admits this to be so. The word involved is keseh (SHD 3677), which Strong holds to mean fullness or full moon, i.e. its festival at the time appointed; but he derives this from the rabbinical usage and says it is apparently derived from SHD 3680, which he then says means to plump i.e. fill up hollows and, hence, to clothe or cover, conceal, to flee, to hide or overwhelm.
The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon says it means full moon but its origin is dubious. It is a loan word as Kuseu meaning headdress or cap and also the full moon as a tiara of the moon god ... as a feast day.
However, this word was not so understood by Hirsch and, more importantly, it was not understood that way in ancient Israel, as we see from the LXX. When the Seventy translated the Septuagint in Alexandria, they rendered this verse to mean:
Psalm 80:3-5 Blow the trumpet in the new moon at the glorious day of your feast.
For this is an ordinance for Israel and a statute of the God of Jacob. He made it to be a testimony in Joseph, when he came forth out of the land of Egypt: ... (Brenton, Hendrickson, 1992 print).
There is no doubt whatsoever that at the time of the translation of the LXX this text was understood to refer to the New Moon – and the New Moon only – of the month of Abib or Nisan in the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. This was the solemn Feast day of the New Year of the children of Israel. Thus, there is a statute forever concerning the solemn Feast of 1 Nisan. It cannot be construed as referring to Tishri. It was undeniably the New Moon of Nisan, but the emphasis had to be twisted.
It should also be noted (as above) that chag refers to all Feasts and not just Tabernacles and hence not Tishri. The Chagigah Feasts were the three pilgrim Feasts of Passover/Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, and the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. The Samaritans kept these three Feasts and went on pilgrimage to Mt. Gerizim for the period of the 14th and 15th of the First month. They still do this to this day.
The LXX contradicts some premises of later rabbinical Judaism and hence was denied or repudiated from Jamnia in the second century, along with Nisan, by rabbinical Judaism to justify their traditions.
The words in this text referring to the New Moon reinforce the concept that it is the concealing of the New Moon of Nisan that is the actual start of the year. This concealing is the full dark of the moon and ensures that the traditions cannot displace the Feasts or the months, if this is the sole basis of calculation. This observation of the New Moon of Abib or Nisan as the beginning of the year, as an ordinance of God, was understood throughout Israel up until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.
The movement of the moon in its phases is recorded in detail for one part of the cycle (DSS: 4Q317 Frag. 1 Col. 2 + Frag. 2 Col. 2). The phases were thus understood on a daily basis at that time and observation was not the critical function it was falsely asserted to be by later rabbinical Judaism.
The historian Galen records that Judaism understood a month of 30 days was followed by a month of 29 days, and they allocated 59 days for each two months.
The festival of the New Moon is found in the Temple Scroll (11Q19-20). In column 14 we see that the sacrifices for the First day of the month, i.e. the New Moon, are listed, as are the special instructions for the New Year of the First day of the First month. Thus, the Dead Sea Scrolls quite clearly identify the New Moon of the First month (Nisan) as the New Year, and as a day of solemn assembly and sacrifice. These ordinances are followed by the requirements for the seven-day purification of the annual ordination of the priesthood.
The sanctification of the priesthood thus took place as a seven-day annual re-ordination, probably from the day following or consequent to the New Moon of Nisan, as the beginning of the religious system and process leading up to the sanctification of the simple and the erroneous on 7 Nisan (Ezek. 45:20). The alternative is that 7 Nisan commenced the process which ended on 14 Nisan, but this is unlikely. This entire concept has been lost to rabbinical Judaism through their adherence to the Babylonian system of Tishri as New Year, instead of obeying God and keeping Nisan as the beginning of months. The requirements of sanctification were examined and outlined in the paper Sanctification of the Temple of God (No. 241).
The Temple Scroll (Col. 14) says of the New Year of Nisan:
On the first day of the [first] mon[th falls the beginning of months; for you it is the beginning of the months] of the year. [You are to do] no work, [You shall offer a male goat for a sin offering,] which must be offered separately from the other sacrifices to aton[e for you. In addition, you are to sacrifice one young bull,] one ram, and [seven unblemished year]ling lambs [...] not in[cluding the regular burn]t off[ering of the first day of the month; together with a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil,] one-half a hin [for the one bull; and wi]ne for a drink offering, [one-half a hin a pleasing odour to the Lord; and two-]tenths of an ephah of choice flour as a grain offering, mixed [with oil, one-third of a hin; and wine for a drink offering.
You are to offer] one-th[ird] of a hin for the [one] ram, [an offering by fire, a pleasing odour to the Lord; and one tenth of an ephah of choice flour] as a grai[n offering, mixed with oil, one fourth of a hin; and wine for a drink offering ... ] (Wise, Abegg and Cook The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Hodder and Stoughton, 1996, pp. 460-461).
The authors of the work from which this text was quoted made the observation that this text was not in the Bible. Ezekiel 45:18 shows the intent, and perhaps refers to the sequence of which the bull is the first element. The special arrangements for the sacrifice were not listed. However, the ordinance of the New Year of 1 Nisan as the beginning of months was ordained by God as a statute, and the understanding of the day as a solemn Feast day is preserved in the Psalms and was kept up until the first century CE. In other words, it was understood as being a valid ordinance or statute during the entire Temple period.
Only in rabbinical Judaism of the post-Temple period do we find Tishri coming in as the New Year. The calendar is then predicated upon Tishri from a postponed molad, instead of being on the true molad on the conjunction in Nisan as the correct solemn Feast of the New Year, as we see from Psalm 81.
Is there any evidence for the contention that Judah and Judaism altered the intent and method of determining the Calendar and the New Year? The answer is that the evidence is clear and undeniable. It is in fact overwhelming. Here are some quotes from eminent scholars on the matter.
Ferdinand Dexinger Samaritan Origins and the Qumran Texts, Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Khirbet Qumran Site, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 722, 1994 (ISBN 0-89766-794-8).
In the context of our methodological considerations as far as the relationship between Samaritanology and Qumranology are concerned we must turn to the festival calendar. Is it possible to find in the existing Samaritan liturgical tradition hints of the date of the separation of both the Samaritan and the Jewish liturgical traditions? And in what way can the Qumran material be helpful in this field of research? (ibid., Chapter: The Feast of the Seventh Month, p. 239)
The starting point of our deliberations is the obvious fact that the Samaritan calendar compared to the Jewish has its pluses and minuses. Without astonishment we register the fact that Jews and Samaritans share the feasts Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot all mentioned in the Pentateuch. A certain difference exists as far as the Mazzot-feast is concerned which is celebrated by the Samaritans as a feast distinct from Pesah. I won’t pursue this question but turn to another biblical feast, namely the “Feast of the Seventh Month” as mentioned in Lv 23,24 and celebrated in the Jewish calendar as Rosh ha-Shanah.
The “Feast of the 7th Month” can be seen as another example of an ancient, that is, Second Temple tradition within Samaritanism.
Both the Jewish and the Samaritan liturgical texts connect, although in totally different wording, various religious ideas based on biblical texts with the Feast of the Seventh Month. Some of these are given major importance ... whereas others are obviously considered as being of minor relevance. The role of the Shofar can according to my view be helpful to gain some insight into the historical development of this feast. Again the Qumran material will be useful for this purpose.
The blowing of the Shofar is an integral part of the Jewish Rosh ha-Shanah Liturgy, but it is not mentioned in Lv 23,24. The biblical proof for the Shofar as the instrument of the Teruca can only be obtained by reference to another biblical passage, namely Lv 25,9. Regarding the blowing of the Shofar as a command of this feast, the Amidah quotes the three existing pentateuchal verses mentioning the Shofar as part of the Sinai story. In spite of introducing by these texts the theme of the Decalogue, the Decalogue itself is not recited in the Jewish Rosh ha-Shanah Musaph, whereas this is the case in the Samaritan Shaharit. This reminds us of what was said before in connection with the Decalogue. Num 10,10 as the concluding pentateuchal verse is contained as a biblical text in the Samaritan liturgy of this day. This verse however does not speak of the Shofar but of the Hswsrt. This reminds us that mention of the Shofar is lacking in mRH 3,3-4. Heinemann concluded therefore, that the Mishnah here describes a practice dating back to the times of the Second Temple. This part of the Amidah using Num 10,10 therefore was part of the Jewish Temple Liturgy.
The Samaritan Shaharit does not contain the Shofar-verses at all, whereas the Hswsrt are mentioned several times. The "Shofar" is not connected with the Samaritan Feast of the 7th Month.
Comparing this material with the Temple Scroll (11QTemp 25,3) mentioning the Feast of the 7th Month and also based on Leviticus, we observe that the Shofar is not mentioned either, though one has to admit that the text of Column 25 is very fragmentary.
If one does not assume that the Samaritans at some unknown date started the celebration of their Feast of the 7th Month one has to look for some chronologically reasonable starting point.
Taking into consideration that the Samaritans do not favor the use of the Jewish names of the month but use the ordinal numbers instead, the assumption seems to be plausible that the proto-Samaritans did not follow the Jewish calendar from the time when the Babylonian names for the months were finally introduced together with the Autumn Calendar. An additional support for this dating is the fact that the Samaritans do not celebrate the Jewish Feasts Purim and Hanukkah introduced in the Maccabean period. This is once again a parallel to the Qumran Festival-Calendar. I therefore come to the conclusion that beginning with the Maccabean period the proto-Samaritans stopped developing their religious and liturgical traditions within the common biblical heritage of the Jews. (ibid., p. 240)
What Frank Moore Cross said about the text of the Samaritan Pentateuch can be applied to the Samaritan religion in general. “The Samaritan text-type thus is a late and full exemplar of the common Palestinian tradition, in use both in Jerusalem and in Samaria.” It is the common Jewish heritage, then, which forms the similar background of Qumran and the Samaritans as well. And it is the Qumran material that enables us to reach fresh scholarly view of Samaritan origins. (ibid., Chapter: Conclusion, p. 244)
MICHAEL WISE (Univ of Chicago): I have a question for you with regard to the concept of common Jewish heritage. I’m specifically thinking here of the calendar texts from Qumran. As you know, there are a group of them which set up a concordance between a lunisolar calendar (a form or version of it, or so it seems) and the 364 day calendar familiar to us. The thing that is interesting to me about this concordance is that the lunisolar version calculates for the day on which the month ends. This fact seems to me to imply that the new moon is calculated and is the equivalent of the modern astronomical new moon, rather than being a new moon determined by observation. In other words, it’s when the conjunction between the sun and the moon occurs, rather than when the first portion of the moon is visible, that the new moon is designated.
I see the same thing in the Samaritan lunisolar calendar. That is to say, a calculated new moon: not based on observation, but an astronomical new moon. In your opinion, does this then represent one of the elements of the Jewish heritage, going back to the Second Temple Period? (ibid., Chapter: Discussion of the Paper)
Does then the Jewish calendar represent a change from the original one, which appears to be akin to the Samaritan except for the post-25 March New Moon rule?
Ferdinand Dexinger (Univ of Vienna, Austria): I’m not an expert in calendrial research, because that has to do with mathematics, but as far as Samaritan studies are concerned, Sylvia Powels wrote about the Samaritan calendar. Coming to your question, I think that this has something to do with the common heritage. Experts like you and others should try to get the exact comparison. The calendar is of utmost importance for the life of a community. In spite of all the medieval changes, the calendarical computation remained conservative. My answer is yes. (loc. cit.)
1Chr 24:1-18 describes how the order of the priestly courses was once determined by the fall of the lot. As it is laid out in Chronicles, the order began with Jehoiarib and ended with Maaziah. The Qumran mishmarot use the same names for the courses – apparently indicating that their system postdates 1 Chronicles 24 – but in a different order. Rather than beginning with Jehoiarib, the Qumran texts begin with Gamul. Probably the reason for this change is that the list given in 1 Chronicles began the rotation in the autumn. Jehoiarib rotated into service at the beginning of the seventh month, Tishri. In contrast, the Qumran calendar texts assume a vernal New Year, beginning the year in Nisan. The different beginning derives from an understanding of the Creation narrative. The creation happened in the spring. An eternal order based on the creation must therefore also begin at that time. The vernal New Year meant that the priestly rotation would begin with Gamul.
Indications are that the Qumran calendar originally comprised one full six year cycle. The time of each course’s arrival was noted, as were “New Moons” 7 and the major festivals of the religious calendar. ...
7 The text speaks of sdvdv dh because in the Qumran system the astronomical New Moon only occasionally fell at the beginning of the month. (Michael O Wise An Annalistic Calendar from Qumran NYAS722, Chapter: Discussion, p. 395)
There is no biblical basis for the actions of rabbinical Judaism.
God is clear in His instructions: the month of Abib or Nisan “shall be a beginning of months for you”. The first day of the Sacred Year is a solemn Feast and was so understood from the time of the kings, and for centuries up until the destruction of the Temple. 1 Nisan is God’s true New Year and is a solemn Feast, as the First day of the first Month.
This brings us to the next point.
The determination of the New Year
The determination of the New Year on 1 Nisan is interlinked with the Passover. The ancient rule for the determination of Nisan was a simple formula, from which the entire year was determined.
The formula is found in Schürer (The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Vol. I, ‘Calendar Appendix’, pp. 590, 593). He says simply that the Feast of the Passover, which began on 14 Nisan (ibid.), must always fall after the vernal equinox when the sun stood in the sign of Aries (p. 593). Schürer points to the comments of Anatolius preserved in Eusebius that holds this to be the unanimous view of all the Jewish authorities.
Thus, the method is simple. The New Year was the New Moon nearest the equinox that ensured the full moon fell after the equinox, while the sun stood in the sign of Aries. The simplicity of this is obvious. There was no serious problem in determining the New Moon. The only problem the people had was determining the equinox. It was simple within the knowledge of the Jews in that the solar year and the equinox had always been calculated from the Egyptians, and the Jews had this knowledge. It is too much for the most credulous to accept they were dependent upon the western system, which in the Julian dates was identified with 21 March from Alexandria, although Rome had the equinox as early as 18 March (Julian) (see Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, Vol. XIV, pp. 55ff. for details of the conflict). In the Gregorian system it can fall on 21-23 March.
Therefore, the earliest date for the New Year was 14 days before 21 March (Julian) – namely, 8 March. This was the earliest date for 1 Nisan. The latest date is determined by 15 Nisan and the sun in Aries. The sun leaves Aries on 19 April. Thus, the day 19/20 April is the last day in which the Passover can begin. Assuming this is allowed to refer to 14 Nisan, then the last day for the Passover in either calendar is 20 April. Thus, 15 Nisan cannot be later than 20/21 April.
Thus, according to the ancient rules of the Hebrews, 1 Nisan or the start of the Sacred Year was not earlier than 8 March and not later than the Hebrew day on 5/6 April (Julian) or 8/9 April (Gregorian) in the case of a thirty-day month falling with an equinox on 23 March.
It is impossible, therefore, for there to be a Passover earlier than the vernal equinox and one later than 20/21 April.
The Wave Sheaf on the Sunday cannot fall earlier than 23 March (22 March Julian) and cannot fall later than the first Sunday on or after 20/21 April. Thus, the latest date is 25 April (Julian) or 26/27 April (Gregorian) for the Wave Sheaf if the Passover falls on 20/21 April.
This now brings us to the distinction between the Samaritan calendar and the Sadducean calendar observed in the Temple period. The Samaritans and the Sadducees kept exactly the same method of determining the months by calculation of the phasis of the astronomical New Moon. However, they had a major distinction in that the Samaritan records appear to show that the method of determining the New Year was on the New Moon subsequent to the equinox, and not before it. This means that, for a good deal of the time, the Samaritan calendar was one month behind the Jewish calendar in the Temple period, from at least the second century BCE. The Samaritans thus often kept their Feasts in the Eighth month of the Temple Calendar. Moreover, they had another ancient error that seems to bear out Dexinger’s point that they somehow froze their calendar sometime by at least the Maccabean period. We are able to determine, with a fair degree of certainty, that they were actually frozen in time at a period prior to the beginning of the second century BCE.
We are able to do this in the following manner. In the papers and we saw that the Samaritans determined their New Year from the equinox at 25 March. Now this date was fixed as the equinox in the Julian calendar in the last century before the current era, but it actually reflected a much more ancient practice. In that text of paper No. 277 we noted the following points, which are important to this argument.
“The New Moon and the Festival
The New Moon was the most important aspect of determining the months, and the New Moon of Nisan determined the year, not Tishri as observed by Judaism from the third century of the current era. Rosh HaShanah, under its present system of determination, cannot be regarded as a correct biblical or Temple period observance or as being a correct Judeo-Christian observance.
Philo of Alexandria in The Special Laws, II, XI,41 (tr. by F.H. Colson, Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, MA, 1937) tells us: “The third [feast] is the new moon which follows the conjunction of the moon with the sun”. And in II, XXVI, 140: “This is the New Moon, or beginning of the lunar month, namely the period between one conjunction and the next, the length of which has been accurately calculated in the astronomical schools”. It should be noted that the popular Hendrickson Publishers edition (1993) of C.D. Jonge’s 1854 translation does not have the same information that the Colson translation gives. The indications are that the conjunctions were determinative in deciding the first of the month.
The Samaritans and the Sadducees both determined the Calendar according to the conjunction, and the festival was determined in accordance with the conjunction by all systems during the Temple period, except for the Essene who had a fixed calendar and 14 Abib fell on a Tuesday each year, with intercalation on a fixed cycle. The Samaritans to this day still determine according to the conjunction (cf. the paper ).
The Samaritans introduced an error into their calendar that determined the First month as occurring with the New Moon, which always must fall on or after the equinox, and which they determined as falling on 25 March. The calculations (1988-2163 CE) as noted by the priest Eleazar ben Tsedeka, are included in the prayer book for Passover and Mazzot, Knws tplwt hg hpsh whg hmswt (Holon, 1964, pp. 332-336; cf. Reinhard Pummer Samaritan Rituals and Customs, pp. 681-682 fn. 201 in Alan D. Crown Ed. The Samaritans, 1989, J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) Tübingen). This fact also indicates that we are looking at an ancient common source, which is based on a calendar in use when the equinox was at 25 March. This date long preceded the time of Christ and was standardised in the calendar of Julius Caesar (cf. David Ewing Duncan, The Calendar, 4th Estate London, 1998, p. 81).
This indicates the probable source of the error. The ancient time for determining the conjunction at 25 March is actually derived from the period of the Second Temple. It also indicates that we are probably looking at a combination of errors, one of which may have arisen with the calendar under Jeroboam (cf. .”
Fixing the Samaritan deviation
The first item we shall deal with is the fixed date of the equinox. A fixed equinox is an aberration in time.
The equinox progresses or in fact regresses over time and thus the luni-solar New Year moves progressively forward.
It follows from this fact that if we determine the dates of the equinox, we can fix the earliest and latest points in time in which the Samaritan Calendar could have occurred as we know it.
David entered Jerusalem in 1005 BCE and the equinox was on 30 March at that time. Thus the New Year under the old Tabernacle was never earlier than 17 March in any year.
At the time of the first Temple and the division of Israel and Judah the equinox was on 29 March and the earliest date of the New Year was on 16 March.
When Israel went into captivity in 722 BCE, the equinox was on 28 March and the earliest date for the New Year was 15 March.
When Judah went into the Babylonian captivity and the Temple was destroyed the equinox was on 27 March. The earliest date for the New Year was 14 March.
From this fact it is also beyond doubt that the Samaritan calendar as we know it was fixed some time after the fall of the first Temple and was never in practice in Israel during this time. That does not mean, however, that the rule of determining the New Moon after the equinox was not in place, and that this rule was the rule that was in effect in Jeroboam’s calendar. It is considered that we are actually looking at two deviations in the Samaritan calendar. The first deviation was that of placing the New Year subsequent to the equinox, which meant that Jeroboam’s New Year would always be subsequent to 28 March during the entire period of the Israelite kingdom.
We can then proceed to isolate the earliest time that the Samaritan Calendar could have come into existence.
When the second Temple was completed and the Temple at Elephantine was destroyed up to 410 BCE, the equinox was on 26 March and remained there until the restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah. It did not come into operation on 25 March until the end of the life of Ezra and the fixing of the OT Canon in 321 BCE.
We can thus deduce that the fixing of the Samaritan calendar occurred some time after the death of Ezra (ca. 321). It may be around the events mentioned in the deviations between the Macedonians and the Babylonians ca. 229 BCE as noted by Frazer, which we will examine below.
The holding of the Feast in the Eighth month, condemned by the Bible, would have occurred from the practice of making the New Moon always occur on or after the equinox. This aspect appears not to have been altered in the case of the Samaritans since the fall of Israel. For this reason, they came under a curse and are still the only remnant of Israel not blessed with the birthright promise of Joseph. The Samaritan calculations were kept secret, perhaps for precisely this reason. However, they and the Sadducees always determined the Calendar according to the conjunction, which was the original practice during the entire Temple period.
Determining the deviation of the two systems
We may be able to determine a point at which the Babylonian calendar, and hence the ancient calendar based on the old equinox, was adjusted by a throwaway line in some research done by two eminent scholars of last century. These two scholars were James Frazer, author of The Golden Bough and his friend, the scholar of Semitic Studies, W. Robertson Smith.
In The Golden Bough (Part V, Vol. 1 (i.e. Vol. 7) at p. 259), Frazer makes an observation relating the months of the year in the days of Berosus the Chaldean. He makes the observation that since Berosus dedicated his history to Antiochus Soter, he must have used the Macedonian calendar, and that in his day the Macedonian month Lous appears to have corresponded to the Babylonian month of Tammuz. He then cites the reasons in his footnote 1 (below) to the page. It appears that neither he nor Robertson Smith had grasped the astounding importance of the observation that they had made. He says at footnote 1:
The probably correspondence of the month which supplies so welcome a confirmation of the conjecture in the text, was pointed out to me by my friend W. Robertson Smith, who furnished me with the following note:
“In the Syro-Macedonian calendar Lous represents Ab, not Tammuz. Was it different in Babylon? I think it was and one month different, at least in the early times of the Greek monarchy in Asia. For we know from a Babylonian observation in the Almagest (Ideler, I, 396) that in 229 B. C. Xanthicus began on Feb. 26. It was therefore the month before the equinoctial moon, not Nisan but Adar, and consequently Lous answered to the Lunar month Tammuz”.
The quotes raise a very important question.
It establishes beyond doubt that in 229 BCE the Macedonian calendar was a month earlier than the Babylonian calendar. The date of February 26 is supplied by Robertson Smith.
There is, however, another answer. That matter is the reason for the difference in 229 BCE. The more likely reason is that Xanthicus was determined from the new calculations of the equinox, which was no longer occurring on 25 March, as had been the case in Babylon and the East for the previous approximately one hundred and thirty years, and consequently, as we understand it, with the Samaritans also. What we may be looking at here is the source of the deviation between the Samaritan and the ancient Hebrew calendar, and the calendar as it became adjusted to the movement of the equinox to a point earlier in time than 25 March, closer to 22/23 March. Hence, if this were the case, the understanding of when the Babylonian month began would be incorrect. Robertson Smith may have actually hit upon the year in which the Macedonians had adjusted their calendar, but the Babylonians had not followed suit.
Thus the Babylonian year was actually a month late, and Xanthicus was commenced not on February 26 as Robertson Smith had thought but almost a month later, on or before March 25. The Babylonians might then be assumed to have started their month, as do the Samaritans to this day, on the New Moon after the equinox and thus placed themselves a month later than the true Nisan. The Samaritans are then in error for at least sixty percent of the time, with their First month being later than the true Nisan as held in the late-Temple period (as recorded by Josephus). Modern Judaism is in error most of the time because of the Hillel (and later rabbinical) system, and thus the Church in the wilderness has been the only one actually keeping the correct Feasts over time.
This observed conflict would seemingly have been caused by the change of the equinox, and under the rules the First month would have been pushed back. Robertson Smith’s calculations need further examination.
The importance of this observation is that, in the year 229 BCE, a major conflict was evident in the observance of the calendar and the First month of the year, probably following the changes in the equinox. The conflict would seem to demonstrate a latest possible date of the deviation. We know from the records, as Dexinger notes above, that by the beginning of the Maccabean period in the early part of the second century BCE the deviation is final. The Samaritans held to a 25 March equinox, which they still observe. Their record of resistance to change indicates that they may also have held to the determinations established in Israel, probably from the time of Jeroboam. The argument has been examined and put forward by some scholars, but has been rejected by Sylvia Powels-Niami. It is, however, beyond dispute that their calendar is a post-restoration and post-OT Canon structure.
Robertson Smith’s conclusions regarding February 26 could stem from the error that the calendar used in Babylon had been constant when, in fact, it had to change with the equinox. He and Frazer did not see the full significance of what they were examining even though, or perhaps because, Frazer was actually dealing with the killing of the mock king in Lous, which he equates with Tammuz himself, thus necessitating the association.
The dating for the beginning of the year in 229 BCE presented a clear and difficult problem for the Samaritans. The equinox had been slipping forward over time and was not any longer at the demarcation point of 25 March, where the Persians and their vassal states had observed it for the previous one hundred years. This included the Samaritans. This distinction was not related to the problem of the post-equinox New Year which was probably related to the earlier Jeroboam problem.
What did happen in 229 BCE? Why might it have been important? Robertson Smith thinks the Macedonians held Xanthicus on 26 February 229. This seems to be based on the supposition that the Babylonians had the same calendar as they always had, but this may not be so at all.
In 229 BCE the conjunction of the New Moon, which is when the Greeks also determined the moon, was not on 26 February but on 24 February at 9:58 p.m. at Babylon, and some twenty minutes earlier at Jerusalem. Thus, the New Moon would have been observed by all nations on 25 February 229, commencing from the evening of 24 February.
The equinox was on 24 March at 5:01 p.m. or 1701 hours in 229 BCE. Sunset was at 6:14 p.m. Babylon time and some twenty minutes earlier at about 5:55 p.m. at Jerusalem. This was the major clue and real reason for the change. The Samaritans would not have accepted, and still do not accept, the changes to the equinox. They hold 25 March as the equinox and always have, so they claim, even to this day. They do not commence the month until the New Moon after the set date of 25 March. The New Moon in 229 BCE in March was on 25 March at 0001 a.m. thus appearing on the equinox evening as they determined, and prior to the day itself. Thus the Samaritans would and did transfer the New Moon to the next New Moon of 23 April at 9:42 p.m. Hence they were in the absurd position of holding the New Year at the incredibly late time of 24 April, and the Passover on 14 and 15 Nisan as late as 8 May 229 BCE.
It is probable that this is the real reason for the changes. The Babylonians commenced their year from Tishri, but still related to the dates around the equinox. The fact is that in this year, Xanthicus was a month earlier than Nisanu and the Samaritan First month. We will also see below that there is another possibility. Perhaps the delay was due to some influence of the refusal to change the dates relating to 25 March. 25 March remained the stated equinox down to the formulation of the Julian calendar and was the determination regarding the festival of Ishtar or Easter in the East, and seemingly associated with the festival of Attis. 25 March remained the New Year among the Anglo-Saxons throughout their existence in all areas of their occupation, including the USA, until the middle of the 1700s of the current era. We might digress into the question of the Julian and Gregorian dating, but the astronomical determinations of the 25 March equinox still show this window of time.
Thus, the entire premises of the calendar and the determinations of W. Robertson Smith should be examined further. It is apparent from the details we have that the Babylonian and Samaritan calendars were out by one month in this year and the placement of the equinox and the New Moons explain why that was so when compared with the Samaritan system. The Babylonian system would simply have adjusted and it is considered that this in fact happened, as the Jewish, Greek and Babylonian months coincided after this date, with Xanthicus coinciding with Nisanu and Abib, and did so until the end of the Temple period in 70 BCE.
The system of adjusting the months to the equinox was seemingly a normal event over the centuries until the twentieth century. The Samaritans, for some reason, remained fixed in time and from then on determined their New Moon of the First month after 25 March as a fixed equinox. Effectively, this meant that much of the time from year to year they held their Feast in the Eight month of the Jewish and Greco-Babylonian calendar in the previous centuries. Now they were progressively removed into virtual total nonconformity. From our previous studies we see that that was the reason why Jeroboam was castigated (cf. ). The freezing of the equinox increased this error.
If the Samaritan system was not according to the Babylonians and was itself an aberration, then it was in effect as described and this year of 229 was far out. If W. Robertson Smith was correct and the Macedonian royalty was a month early in their calendar in 229, then we have three erroneous systems in that year. It is possible, however, that his calculations were based on premises of a constant Babylonian calendar. The Babylonian calendar in that year may well have been a month later than was thought and in accordance with the Samaritan, based on the movement of the equinox prior to 25 March, and which had been calculated and recognised by the Greeks but not acted upon by the Babylonian priesthood.
This error was later recognised and adjusted by the Babylonians under Macedonian influence, and also by the Jews under the same influence. For some reason this knowledge was disregarded by the Samaritans, who preserved their original calendar based on a 25 March equinox and a New Moon that was determined after that date. It may well be that the deviation occurred from this year 229 BCE, as the Macedonians correctly calculated the changing equinox.
This is no small matter in the determination of the correct ancient Calendar.
The alternative possibility
There is another alternative in this flow of the three different systems if we take Robertson Smith at face value.
If indeed the Macedonian calendar was a month early on February 26 in 229, more than a day later than the conjunction which they observed, then we are looking at the meeting of two pagan systems, and 229 is indeed a watershed year. We do have three calendars in effect and the Samaritans come in behind because of their post-25 March New Moon. If Xanthicus was a month early up until 229 BCE and the Macedonian month of Lous was indeed the same as the month of Tammuz or Dummuzi, and the sacrifices are in fact identical as Frazer surmises, then we are looking at the early pagan calendar. That calendar is probably the one that was taken into China. It may also have even affected the Arabs down into the post-Christian pagan system, affecting also their calculations and view of Ramadan in relation to the message of Muhammad.
The implications are that this calendar was synchronised during the Macedonian rulership of Asia Minor and subsequently during its Hellenisation period. The only ones who did not get in step were the Samaritans, who kept to this aberration of a post-25 March New Moon. This does not seem to have been the case with the Babylonians, unless we are altogether deceived as to their original calendar. The other deviations would have been the pagan system, which was also seemingly retained in China and also among some tribes of the Middle East.
The Samaritan calendar is the only known candidate for the honours of being the successor to the Jeroboam calendar, with the post-equinox New Moon. However, the implications in either case above for the Macedonian and the Babylonian calendars are astounding.
The fact is that Christ, the Apostles, and the early Church had no issue with the Calendar of the Temple period. They followed its dates throughout the period of the early Church prior to and after the destruction of Jerusalem. They completely ignored the later Jewish calendar of 358 CE from Hillel II. That is by far the strongest argument that it was considered to be correct.
Problems with Nisan in Christianity
The Council of Nicaea adopted a formula for the determination of the Paschal month or Nisan. The Roman system had been keeping a sequence for the determination which was based on a system of calculation that differed from the East and was based on an eighty-two-year cycle rather than the nineteen-year cycle observed in Syria and the East.
The British Christians were alleged to have also used this system (according to Krusch, cf. Cath. Encyc., art. ‘Easter,’ Vol. V, p. 229). Those in Gaul had adopted a five hundred and thirty-two year cycle of Victorius (ibid.). The Alexandrians were given charge of the calendar from Nicaea, but Rome did not always stay in step from their long cycle, which they also attribute to the Britons (and probably incorrectly, to avoid their being Quartodecimans; cf. Joseph Schmid Die Osterfestberechnung auf den britischen Inseln, 1904, cf. Cath. Encyc., ibid.; cf. the paper ).
After Nicaea, they were out of step with Alexandria on the matter of Easter in the years 326, 330, 333, 340, 341 and 343. The Romans also differed from the Greeks in the observance of Easter. They did not celebrate Easter the next day when the full moon fell on the Saturday. The problem was not resolved with the East for some decades. The result was that the variation affected the simplicity of the determination of the month of Nisan and thus the holding of the Passover or the later observance of the pagan festival of Easter.
The Orthodox/Catholic schism
When the schism between East and West occurred, the Eastern Church returned to keeping the timing of Nisan as determined by the Jews. The only problem was that between the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople and the later Councils, the Jews had adopted another calendar under Rabbi Hillel II from 358 CE and which altered up until the tenth century. Thus, the Orthodox Church, also hampered by the Julian calendar which it still uses for religious purposes, in 1997 had their Easter on 27 April, while the Western Churches celebrated theirs in March, commencing on the last weekend of what was Unleavened Bread – according to the true Calendar as observed during the period of the second Temple. Thus, the rabbinical farce of the Hillel calendar has intruded into Eastern Orthodox Churches. Hence, the New Year is incorrectly determined by more than 100 million Christians, as well as the rabbinical system they blindly follow.
The New Year of the First day of the First month (1 Nisan) is a commandment by God and is to be observed as an ordinance forever. It is simply determined within the rule given above and is a solemn assembly treated in the same way as the other Feast days of Leviticus 23, with a compulsory gathering for worship and festivity.