The Hebrew Calendar

Genesis 1

14And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. 19And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Those who believe that the Torah is not abrogated by the Messianic Writings (New Testament) use for religious purposes a calendar that is different from the Gregorian calendar. The Hebrew calendar in use by the majority of the world's Jews is the standard for many in these Torah pursuing Messianic communities. With the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE (Common Era) and the removal of many Jews from eretz Israel, the method of setting the calendar was modified out of necessity. This study reviews the calendar in use during the second temple period and how its months and years were determined, as well as how these times were determined after the expulsion of many of the Jews from Israel and the consequent outspreading that occurred in the Diaspora. It also reviews alternate calendars that some Jews and some Messianic believers have decided to follow.

Hebrew Calendar

The scriptures do not tell precisely how the calendar is determined. However, they do contain information that helps in the determination.

Beresheit (Genesis) 1:14[1]

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;"

Tehillah (Psalm) 104:19

He appointed the moon for seasons; The sun knows its going down.

Both Genesis 1:14 and Psalm 104:19 use the Hebrew word moedim (singular - moed) for "seasons". In Leviticus 23, this word is also used. It is used in verse 2 twice, verse 4 twice, and in verses 37 and 44. In these verses it is translated "feasts" except the second occurrence in verse 4 where it is translated as "appointed time(s)" or "seasons" depending on the translation.

I Samuel 20:18

Then Jonathan said to David, "Tomorrow is the New Moon; and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty."

The lights in the heavens divide the day and the night. The moon (Psalm 104:19, Hebrew - yereach) marks the seasons. This is a different word than the Hebrew chodesh ("new moon") used in I Samuel 20:18. It was understood by Israel that this was the visible crescent of the moon that can be seen in good seeing conditions shortly after sundown anywhere from about a day to a little more than two days after the conjunction of the moon. The conjunction is the time at which the moon orbits between the earth and the sun, which sometimes causes a solar eclipse. It is invisible to all on earth at this time with its dark side directly facing the earth.

In Shemot (Exodus) 12:2, The Creator told Moshe and Aaron that:

This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

He then delivered Israel from their captivity in Egypt after they had killed the Passover sacrifice towards sundown on the 14th and eaten it after that sundown which began the 15th day. The fifteenth of this month began the seven day feast in which the children of Israel were commanded to eat bread that was without leavening. Exodus 13:4 calls the month "Abib" (Aviv, also Nisan) which can be defined as "new or green ears (of barley)", indicating that the time of year was spring.

In the second temple period, the authorities still knew that this feast was in the spring of the year. Also, the Mishnah (redacted c. 200 CE) tells of the process by which a new month was determined. While this redaction was completed after the destruction of the temple, it is generally agreed by scholars that the tractate Rosh Hashanah gives mostly accurate information regarding the determination of the months as the process occurred in the second temple period.

This tractate tells of a court of the Sanhedrin that sat and interviewed witnesses to determine if they saw the new crescent moon and, if so, what it looked like. By the testimony of witnesses, the court made a decision and declared a month sanctified. The court had to sanctify a month for it to begin -cf. Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:8-13. Also, more than one witness' testimony had to be accepted by the court for the month to be sanctified because the testimony of one individual was not considered trustworthy.

Once the court had what it considered valid testimony, it would proclaim "It is sanctified. It is sanctified." Then signal fires were lit to inform the public that the new month had begun. The tractate adds that after "the minim had spoiled matters", messengers were sent forth to inform the people.[2] Also, according to the scriptural injunction, trumpets would be blown accompanied by special sacrifices and offerings.

Bamidbar (Numbers) 10:10:

Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the LORD your God.

Numbers 28:11-15:

11At the beginnings of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish; 12three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, for each bull; two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, for the one ram; 13and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with oil, as a grain offering for each lamb, as a burnt offering of sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. 14Their drink offering shall be half a hin of wine for a bull, one-third of a hin for a ram, and one-fourth of a hin for a lamb; this is the burnt offering for each month throughout the months of the year. 15Also one kid of the goats as a sin offering to the LORD shall be offered, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.

The interviewing of witnesses regarding the new crescent moon is needed because the moon does not orbit the earth in an exact number of days. While Genesis 7-8 indicate that a month was 30 days long in the time of Noah, at the time of the Second Temple (and even long before), the time from one conjunction of the moon to the other was approximately 29 days, 12 hours, and 44 minutes, which is very close to the time it takes today.

Because the moon's complete revolution around the earth is a fraction of a day, months could be either 29 or 30 days in length. Many times, the month lengths would alternate between the two, but not always. This also necessitated the addition of a 13th month (an intercalation) every couple of years so that this lunar calendar would remain in sync with the solar year.

Since the Torah commands special sacrifices on the day of the new moon, it was necessary for authorities to investigate and proclaim the day of the new moon. If the court received testimony from witnesses that the new moon crescent had been seen shortly after the sundown ending the 29th day, the trumpets were blown and the rosh chodesh sacrifices were offered (between the morning and evening sacrifices) on this first day of the new month. If the court received no witnesses by the afternoon offering of the 30th day, the month was considered full at sundown of that day and the appropriate sacrifices were offered and the trumpets blown during the daylight hours on the first day of the new month.[3]

After the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, the ability of the Jews to set the years and months became more and more difficult as a result of oppression from the Roman government. Over the years, the calendar became a function of calculation which resulted in the standardization seen today. Scholars today believe that this present calendar was standardized into its modern format around 1000 CE. This calendar made it easy for anyone to follow it anywhere in the world. According to Maimonides:

"The method of the fixed calendar is one which an average school child can master in 3 or 4 days." [4]


Not all Jews accepted the calendar that was used by mainstream Judaism. The Karaite sect was partly based on an alternate calendar that it believed was correct. Modern Karaites claim a history back to the second temple period and earlier, as they submit that they follow the Torah as given to Moshe and also followed by the Sadducees and Boethusians of the second temple period.[5] However, most scholars mark the beginning of this sect in the late eighth to early ninth century CE.

The Karaites believe that the beginning of the year can only be determined by the arrival of green ears of barley (abib) in the land of Israel. They also believe that the new month can only be determined by sighting the new crescent moon in Israel. Through the centuries, this led to numerous years in which the Karaites began the first month of Abib a month preceding or following the mainstream Jewish calendar, as well as many more months beginning a day or two differently.

Today, with the widespread availability of computers and the internet, they publish their findings of abib barley to begin their year, as well as sightings of the monthly new moon crescent by witnesses. They also tout the recent ability to determine when the new moon crescent can be seen in Israel using modern day advanced scientific data. There are some who believe that observing Torah is required for a proper walk of faith that use this calendar for determining the beginning of years and months, and thus the days on which they observe their feasts. Moreover, others do not see a need for barley ripeness or the new crescent to be observed in Israel and believe that these observations can be made anywhere.

There is another calendar similar to that of the Karaites. This calendar is published by researcher Herb Solinsky who has studied ancient calendars and determined that while the Karaites have for the most part properly set the beginning of months at the time when the new crescent is seen in Israel, they are incorrect in allowing the first month of the year to begin before the vernal equinox in some years. Some use this calendar instead.[6]

Lunar Sabbaths

There are small numbers of people who do not accept the repeating seven day week that has been in effect since creation. There are some differences in belief among lunar sabbath adherents, but generally they believe that each month begins with the sighting of the new crescent in Israel shortly after sundown and that this day is not the first day of a new weekly cycle, but a non working day. The first day of the week is the day after this day of the crescent. Each calendar month has the eighth, the fifteenth, the twenty-second, and the twenty-ninth day as weekly sabbaths. However, because the monthly cycle of the moon is approximately 29.5 days, there is an extended sabbath at the end of the fourth week that can last up to 3 days. For some, this time period is not a sabbath, but is time when work can be done. After that, the new month comes and the process begins again.

Those who use this calendar believe that the Jews in the second temple period did observe this calendar and they purport to prove this belief with scripture and historical documentation. As with some who use the Karaite calendar as a guide, some who use this calendar evidently do not see the need to obtain information on observations in Israel and believe that the years and months can be determined locally.

Calendar Histories

Lunar Sabbaths

This study will not delve into the history of lunar sabbath observation given that there basically is none with the exception that some scholars believe that ancient Babylonians counted days of the week from the beginning of their months. According to a researcher of lunar sabbaths, his determination of when this belief came about in modern times is centered on the late twentieth century when it was published by a convicted felon who learned of this calendar by "prophetic revelation".[7]


Determining Years

Despite the adamant belief that the new year must start when barley attains a certain ripeness in Israel and that the first day of the month begins after the new moon crescent is seen shortly after sundown in Israel, the history of the Karaites shows that through time, those who attempted to follow this calendar in lands far from Israel were engaged in an effort of futility. As Jewish communities moved further from eretz Israel, the ability to receive information regarding barley ripeness and crescent sightings was severely hampered by distance and regional events.

In the book Karaites in Byzantium, The Formative Years, 970-1100, Zvi Ankori documents the difficulties that these Karaites encountered from Babylon to Byzantium and beyond. Regarding the difficulties with obtaining information from Israel concerning the ripeness of barley, Ankori states:

"The beginning of the trend must be placed only after the early decades of the ninth century had passed. For it was not before the latter half of the eighth, and the first decades of the ninth century that the abib principle was actually formulated (or revived) by 'Anan and his successors in Babylonia and Persia, as a rallying cry of anti Rabbanite dissent there."

Anan ben David is the person historians see as the founder of the sect, although many Karaites today submit that he was not, even if he did understand the "correct" calendar.

However, Ankori with the help of Arab historians who "did preserve an information which was let to fall into oblivion by later Karaite literature itself", states that:

"'Anan admitted also the finding of ripened barley in Babylonia as sufficient evidence for fixing the New Year."

Evidently, Anan did not do away with the requirement to gain information from Israel regarding the state of crops, but:

"he made the collecting of preliminary climatic and agricultural data from Palestine a legal prerequisite for the ultimate fixing of intercalation in Babylonia on the basis of native Babylonian crops."

Ankori suspects that this attitude led Babylonian Karaites of the ninth and tenth century to accept "a certain place in Baghdad" as acceptable for preliminary observation instead of Palestine because:

"they assert [says Kirkisani] that it was tested and was found to be the same as Palestine."[8]

Kirkisani was a tenth century Karaite historian.

The rise of Karaism began in the late eighth century, but by the early eleventh century, the Babylonian Karaites' deviations in calendar creating had existed for quite some time.

"'Jewry is divided on that point [i.e., on the method of declaring the advent of the crucial month of Nisan] into three differing groups [sums up Levi ben Yefeth, the early eleventh-century Palestinian Karaite jurist]. The first group, comprising the majority community, are the Rabbanites, the followers of the molad [=the precalculated birth of the New Moon], who are acting [in this matter] on the basis of computation. This is close to al-i'tidal [=the equinox], i.e., the time when the sun enters the Constellation of the Ram [=Aries]. And they do not search for the abib [i.e., for ripened barley] in conjunction with the beginning of their calendar-year. Thus it may happen that at one time the barley will mature prior to their [vernal] New Year, while another time it will tarry and appear later.

The second group consists of people in the land of Shine'ar [=Babylon] from among our brethren the Karaites. They follow the [computation of the vernal] equinox alone; yet they stipulate certain conditions which are different from those stipulated by the Rabbanites. This is why we have listed this group separated from the Rabbanites. Now this second group does not inquire, nor search, for the abib at all; [its members simply] wait and do [the proclamation of Nisan] when the sun reaches the Constellation of the Ram.

The adherents of the third group [i.e. the Palestinian-oriented Karaites] observe [the New Year] on the strength of abib alone and they do not investigate [the position of] the sun at all.'"

One of the footnotes for this quote states that:

"Levi's book was written about 1006-1007. See the date in Likkute, App. X, 90, and above, 227, note 44. Nevertheless, it described trends that set in much earlier. Our text here, as well as other sections of the book, show that Levi dealt with phenomena which were already a well-established reality in his own time."[9]

Ankori submits that the Karaites in Babylon began to use the computation of the religious new year according to the mainstream rabbinical Jewish calendar some time in the middle to late 800s and that it was well established early in the 900s. Nevertheless, these Babylonian Karaites resisted the lighting of sabbath candles, which they believed were an innovation of the rabbis, choosing to sit in the dark during sabbaths. Along with ben Yefeth's comments about his fellow Karaites, Daniel al-Kumisi, a Karaite leader in Israel "accused 'some [Babylonian] Karaites' of having forsaken the abib altogether". It is further noted that Jerusalem Karaites condemned "any and all form of diasporic life and worship." Another section documents the history of a marriage contract written in 1032 CE that had "been drawn up in the month 'which to the majority of the Karaites was Ab, while some Karaites considered it to be Elul'".[10]

Furthermore, Yehudah Hadassi, a Karaite writing about an exchange of letters between Byzantium and Israel regarding the abib a century after it occurred, describes the difficulty the Karaites in Byzantium had in trying to receive information regarding the abib given its distance from Israel. The recommendation from the Israeli Karaite leadership was to follow the rabbinic calendar:

"pending a report from Palestine, and to afterwards also celebrate the date proclaimed by the Karaite authorities in the Holy Land (to the extent of its practicability, of course)"

If the information on abib did arrive in time, the Byzantine Karaite community would follow the calendar of the Karaites in Israel. In fact, Levi ben Yefeth wrote of a time (1006-7 CE) when the abib barley ripened unusually early in Israel, the twelfth month of the year was dropped, and Purim not observed, so that the first month Passover could be. Moreover, it sometimes happened where the rabbinic calendar would begin the year and the information from Israel would prompt the Byzantine Karaites to postpone their year causing the Karaite first month to be the rabbinic second. In 1060-1 CE, an Egyptian marriage contract was signed on the ninth day of the eleventh month for the Karaites. The rabbinic calendar had this as the twelfth month Adar. [11]

With the destruction of the Karaite center in Jerusalem in 1099 CE, it became much more difficult for the Byzantine Karaites to determine when to start the year. Yehudah Hadassi in the 1100s had not given up on trying to determine the abib ripeness in Israel and was:

"still enjoining his coreligionists to exert themselves in 'inquiring and investigating and searching' among travelers and pilgrims returning from the Holy Land for every bit of information about the ripening of barley there."

Hadassi also understood that other methods of determination might have to be used, such as the position of the sun on the same date during the previous year or weather data. He finally determined that these efforts "were expressions of piety rather than realistic guides toward a permanent solution of the calendar problem". He suggested that Karaites observe two regular 12 month years followed by one 13 month intercalated year.

This suggestion also had connotations other than trying to be as accurate as possible. Justinian had prohibited Jews from celebrating Passover publicly whenever it preceded Easter. Hadassi's communication indicates that Easter "carried significant weight in the calendary considerations of the Byzantine Karaites. It affected their proclamations of leap-years and the eventual postponement of the Karaite Passover till the next month."[12]

One of the Karaites' reasons for splitting from the mainstream Jews was their refusal to look to the Talmud for guidance. However, Ankori quotes a thirteenth century Karaite source who claimed "that, after all, 'most of the sayings of the Mishnah and the Talmud stem from our [Karaite] Fathers'" Moreover, the Karaites' acceptance of the intercalation according to the rabbinic calendar was "hailed as the noble legacy of the prophetically inspired repatriants ('The Good Figs') of the First Babylonian Exile" and use of one calendar for the Karaites of Israel and another by those in the diaspora was sanctioned officially with a "unanimous decree of all Karaite scholars."[13]

Determining Months

Despite all of this, the Karaites still had the observation of the new moon to differentiate themselves from mainstream Judaism. However, rabbinic Jew Yehudah Hallevi in Spain demanded explanation from the Karaites:

"For, [on the one hand,] I see them [i.e. the Karaites] follow the Rabbanites in intercalating [leap years] through the addition of a Second Adar to [the regular month of] Adar, and, at the same time, they taunt the Rabbanites about lunar observation of the month of Tishri. 'How could you observe the Fast of Atonement [Kippur] on the ninth of Tishri?', they ask. Why they should be ashamed of themselves! [How dare they reproach us for an illusory difference of a day, while] they themselves are in the dark as to whether that very month is Elul or Tishri, in case of intercalation, or whether it is Tishri or Marheshvan, if they do not intercalate the year!" [14]

The book notes that the historical sources show disputes of the Karaites with mainstream Jews through the centuries outside its scope:

"Suffice it to say here that, in the long run, the principle of lunar observation was to admit defeat no less than the Palestino-centric method of intercalation. Indeed, its abandonment, too, was to be curiously explained away later as a singular success of Karaite jurisprudence."[15]

The struggle for those using the Karaite method of determining the new moon was not only filled with arguments against the mainstream calendar:

"This, in fact, was helplessly admitted by the Karaite scholars themselves. Consequently, differences with regard to dates of certain festivals would occur not alone between Karaites and Rabbanites, where, after all, two different methods of calendation were involved, but also among diverse groups of Karaites, even in the same country."[16]

Below is an image which shows that in April 2008, the new crescent moon was able to be seen in excellent seeing conditions (if present) at its easternmost point in eastern Europe (near 20° East). It was not seen anywhere to the east until the next evening after sundown without optical aid. Given the lack of technology in times past, a Karaite seeing the new moon crescent in one location and another Karaite not seeing it in another location not so far away is easily understood, especially when taking weather conditions into consideration. However, today those who follow the Karaite calendar submit that we do have technology to tell us when the new moon crescent can be seen and when the abib barley is ripe in Israel, and thus, there is no longer a problem.

April 2008 Lunar Crescent Visibility Image

According to the Treatise on the Biblical Calendar, Herb Solinsky says that his research began in 1967. He published a book in 1982 and has continued his research over the years.

Which Calendar?

It is clear from the scriptures that the Creator desires that those who believe in Him observe together the feasts that He ordained. He obviously understands that the earth is a sphere and that a person in Jerusalem would observe a shabbat starting at a different time than someone in the United States of America. However, with these different calendar systems, people will at many times observe feasts on different days. This confusion is not of Him (I Corinthians 14:33). Therefore, a Torah pursing believer in Yeshua Messiah must decide which calendar to observe.

Lunar Sabbath

The lunar sabbath theory can be easily dismissed. This study will not detail all of the scripture and history that disprove this calendar, but lists the following:

Exodus 20:8-11:

8Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

The first day of that initial week and month was a day of work, which is supposed to be a new moon non working day for lunar sabbath keepers. Also, the moon whose new crescent begins the month was not created until the third day. The Creator rested the seventh day of the creation week, whereas on the first week of a lunar sabbath keepers' new month, the weekly sabbath is the eighth day of that month. There are creative reasons that proponents of this theory could present to answer these questions, but they are only useless speculation. The lunar sabbath concept does not follow this commandment.

Exodus 16:4-30

4Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. 5"And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily." 6Then Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, "At evening you shall know that the LORD has brought you out of the land of Egypt. 7"And in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD; for He hears your complaints against the LORD. But what are we, that you complain against us?" 8Also Moses said, "This shall be seen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the LORD hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the LORD." 9Then Moses spoke to Aaron, "Say to all the congregation of the children of Israel, 'Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your complaints.' " 10Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. 11And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12"I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the LORD your God.' " 13So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. 14And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. 16"This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: 'Let every man gather it according to each one's need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.' " 17Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. 18So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one's need. 19And Moses said, "Let no one leave any of it till morning." 20Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted. 22And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD has said: 'Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.' " 24So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. 25 Then Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. 26"Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, there will be none." 27Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. 28And the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? 29"See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." 30So the people rested on the seventh day.

Exodus 35:1-2:

1Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, "These are the words which the LORD has commanded you to do: 2"Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death."

These scriptures show that the manna was to be gathered on the six working days of the week and not on the sabbath rest day. Exodus 16:22 says that they gathered twice as much as they needed on the sixth day. There is no command anywhere in the scriptures to gather more than twice the amount at the end of the lunar sabbath believers' month when extra manna would have been needed for up to 4 days. Additionally, for those who believe that the extra time at the end of their month is for work, scripture shows that if the normal seventh day weekly sabbath came during this time period, there would be no manna for the people to gather.

Leviticus 25:1-13 shows that the sabbatical and jubilee years were based on the seven day creation week and not a lunar cycle of some 29.5 days:

1And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2"Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD. 3'Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; 4'but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5'What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. 6'And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, 7'for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land -- all its produce shall be for food.8'And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9'Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 10'And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 11'That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. 12'For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field. 13'In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession.'

Additionally, Yeshua the Messiah clearly states in Matthew 12:40 that He would be "in the heart of the earth" for three days and three nights. His death coincided with the killing of the passover sacrifice which occurred during the afternoon hours of the 14th day of the month at the Jerusalem temple. According to scripture, the Messiah was seen alive very early in the morning on the first day of the week. In the lunar sabbath calendar, the 14th day of the month always occurs on the sixth day of the week. Thus, according to this belief, while the length of time that His body lay in the sepulchre fits nicely with that of most protestants and Catholics, it does not fit the Messiah's clear statement in Matthew 12:40. Perhaps those who observe the lunar sabbath calendar reject or convolute this scripture as they do others.

Finally, the seven week, fifty day count to Shavuot does not mesh with the lunar sabbath calendar (Leviticus 23:10-16, Deuteronomy 16:9-12). Since the lunar sabbath calendar has extra days at the end of each month, if one were to count fifty days, he would end up with less than seven weeks to Shavuot. If he were to count the seven weeks, he would have more than fifty days to count. Dismissing these extra days as not counted or combining them into one "long day" is clearly contrived. Some evidently count the days and weeks separately (i.e. 7 weeks and 50 days, or 99 days). There is no possible way that the lunar sabbath theory adheres to the meaning of these commandments.


While many believe that the Karaite calendar in use today is the same that was used in the times of the Bible, their confidence is not as well founded as they might believe. They believe that it does away with the postponements of the mainstream calendar and that it always begins the month and the year at the proper time. However, if in the period of the second temple, the situation occurred when the moon, which could have been seen with favorable seeing conditions, was not seen shortly after the sundown ending the 29th day of the month (because of unfavorable conditions), no witnesses appeared to the authorities, and thus no sanctification of the new month was made, that month became a full 30 day month. The present day published Karaite calendar does not work this way. If the moon is not seen in this situation, the web site which publishes the news of the new crescent moon reports that the new month has begun when computer calculations indicate that it would have been seen if seeing conditions had been favorable (called by the Karaites "potential visibility"). [17]

Also, given that it is documented that the Karaites have had a year of only eleven months in the past and given their strict adherence to abib ripeness, it is possible that this might happen again. For example, with a year starting late because of intercalation (such as happened in 2008), it is indeed possible that barley that fits the standard of abib that the Karaites require could cause this to occur the following year. However, we read the following in the Magillah of Hadassah (Esther) 9:20-32:

20And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, 21to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, 22as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor. 23So the Jews accepted the custom which they had begun, as Mordecai had written to them, 24because Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, and had cast Pur (that is, the lot), to consume them and destroy them; 25but when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letter that this wicked plot which Haman had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, 27the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time, 28that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants. 29Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim. 30And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews, to the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, 31to confirm these days of Purim at their appointed time, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had prescribed for them, and as they had decreed for themselves and their descendants concerning matters of their fasting and lamenting. 32So the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim, and it was written in the book.

The Jews made a decision to observe this feast every year without fail. While this feast is one that was not ordained by the Creator, the imposition that the Jews placed on themselves, their descendants, and all who joined them required them to observe this feast and it is still in effect today. They did this because the events occurred in the 12th month and they knew each year had at least twelve months. If the Karaites observe abib at its "proper" stage in the eleventh month, they are bound to start their new year at the next new moon crescent and to break their vow to observe Purim. This previous occurrence and future possibility cast a negative light on using abib alone to determine the beginning of the religious new year. One might wonder if the Karaites do not bother to search for abib in the 11th month, or choose not to report that it has reached its proper stage, instead allowing it to go to a later stage that they also find acceptable so that they are not forced into this situation again.

This calendar does eliminate the problem of an eleven month year that can occur in the Karaite calendar by placing the beginning of each religious new year after the vernal equinox. However, it still has the same problem with seeing conditions that prevent visibility of the new crescent moon shortly after the sundown that ends the 29th day. Instead of following the method used in the second temple period of adding a 30th day, this calendar, like that of the modern Karaites, begins the new month based on the fact that the moon would have been seen (according to calculations) if conditions had allowed.

The treatise submits that the Babylonian calendar always began after the vernal equinox. An appendix provides data from 499-400 BCE (Before Common Era) to show that this was the case. Because the month names of the Babylonian calendar were the same as the Jewish months after the return from exile, it is submitted that this is evidence that the Jewish calendar was basically the same as the Babylonian calendar. Therefore, the year began after the vernal equinox every year. [18]

However, in an article regarding the calendar used at Elephantine, Egypt during the same period, Sacha Stern does provide evidence that days and months in the calendar of Babylon and that of Elephantine in Egypt did have differences. This occurred even though Elephantine was evidently attempting to keep a Babylonian calendar. At times, the day differed (sometimes more than one day). Additionally, at times the month differed. The documents even show the year beginning in Elephantine before the vernal equinox at least once.[19]

Occasionally, a new moon crescent can be seen in Israel, but cannot be seen eastward in the area of Babylon. Pictured below is an example. Although this image shows the moon in autumn, this can happen at other times during the year. If a similar event occurred during the first century CE second temple period with good seeing conditions, Israel would have begun a new month a day earlier than people living in Babylon (Parthian / Arascid Empire).

October 2005 Lunar Crescent Visibility Image

Additionally, there is a possibility of a crescent that is seen in Babylon (with good seeing conditions), but not Israel (because of bad seeing conditions). Given the research in the treatise indicating that the Jews did not have the advanced mathematical calculations that other cultures had, they would not have been able to begin a new month after the sundown ending the 29th day using calculations needed because of unfavorable seeing conditions. With the conditions in Babylon having been good, the Babylonian calendar would have begun a new month leaving the calendar of Israel a day behind.

The fact that the Babylonian month names were used in Israel does not necessarily mean that these months always began the same day. While there is no argument that gentiles in Babylon and other places and even some later Karaites started their year after the vernal equinox, this does not mean that the mainstream Jews of Israel and those in other locations did so. Since the calendar of the Jews is the concern of this study, we look to the sources which concern it and find that the Torah does call the first month abib (green ears) and that the Mishnah and Talmud speak of deciding to intercalate the year during a certain time using crops as one guide in formation of the calendar during the second temple period.

Mishnah Eduyyot 7:7 f, g:[20]

"They gave testimony that they intercalate the year at any time in Adar. For they had said, 'Only up to Purim.'"

Babylonian Talmud[21]

Sanhedrin 11a:

"Our Rabbis taught: A year may not be intercalated except where it is necessary either for [the improvement of] roads or for [the repair of] bridges, or for the [drying of the] ovens [required for the roasting] of the paschal lambs, or for the sake of pilgrims from distant lands who have left their homes and could not otherwise reach [Jerusalem] in time. But no intercalation may take place because of [heavy] snows or cold weather or for the sake of Jewish exiles [from a distance] who have not yet set out."

"Our Rabbis taught: The year may not be intercalated on the ground that the kids or the lambs or the doves are too young. But we consider each of these circumstances as an auxiliary reason for intercalation. How so? - R. Jannai [gave the following example of the law in operation], quoting from R. Simeon b. Gamaliel's [letter to the Communities]: 'We beg to inform you that the doves are still tender and the lambs still young, and the grain has not yet ripened. I have considered the matter and thought it advisable to add thirty days to the year."

Sanhedrin 11b:

"It once happened that Rabban Gamaliel was sitting on a step on the Temple-hill and the well known Scribe Johanan was standing before him while three cut sheets were lying before him. 'Take one sheet', he said, 'and write an epistle to our brethren in Upper Galilee and to those in Lower Galilee, saying: "May your peace be great! We beg to inform you that the time of 'removal' has arrived for setting aside [the tithe] from the olive heaps." Take another sheet, and write to our brethren of the South, "May your peace be great! We beg to inform you that the time of 'removal' has arrived for setting aside the tithe from the corn sheaves."4 And take the third and write to our brethren the Exiles in Babylon and to those in Media, and to all the other exiled [sons] of Israel, saying: "May your peace be great for ever! We beg to inform you that the doves are still tender and the lambs still too young and that the crops are not yet ripe. It seems advisable to me and to my colleagues to add thirty days to this year."' [Yet] it is possible [that the modesty shown by Rabban Gamaliel in this case belongs to the period] after he had been deposed [from the office of Nasi]."

"Our Rabbis taught: A year may be intercalated on three grounds: on account of the premature state of the corn-crops; or that of the fruit-trees; or on account of the lateness of the Tekufah. Any two of these reasons can justify intercalation, but not one alone. All, however, are glad when the state of the spring-crop is one of them."

While it is not difficult to determine generally when the vernal equinox occurs, assuming that Israel always begins the year after the vernal equinox as the treatise submits, there are other situations where the Babylonian calendar and that of Israel do not match. An example is the sighting of a visible crescent moon after sundown in Israel on the day preceding the day of the vernal equinox. Israel would then begin the first day of the last month of the year. However, Babylon is too far east to see the crescent. After the next sundown in both locations, the day of the vernal equinox arrives. Those in Babylon would see the crescent shortly after sundown beginning that day. They would then begin their new year, as that would be the first day of their first month.

Another example is the sighting of a visible crescent moon after sundown in the area of Babylon on the day before the day of the vernal equinox. Babylon then begins its last month of the year. This same crescent is not seen in Israel after sunset ending the 29th day because of bad visibility conditions. However, at sunset which ends the 30th day in Israel, this becomes the day of the vernal equinox which is known by both Babylon and Israel. Israel begins the first month of its new year leaving the calendar of Babylon behind. While occurrences of this type are rare, they were and are truly possible in the long history of Israel.

The Mishnah and Talmud show how decisions were made on starting the new religious year. They indicate that the authorities did take into consideration the equinox (tekufah), but that they also used other factors in their determination. Why is there a disregard in the treatise for Jewish sources in the early common era who wrote about the second temple period?

The treatise asserts that the making of the calendar was changed over the years. However, this brings forth the question as to why this was done. Why were these rules which are relevant to temple sacrifices and offerings made up after that temple had been destroyed? Where is the documentation of the momentous change placing the beginning of month of Aviv before the vernal equinox in some years and the reason why it was done? Is there not at least one source of dissent in the voluminous mainstream writings? The Mishnah and Talmud do not include any statement that the Jews should "go back to the old way" and always begin the religious new year after the vernal equinox.


The treatise from shows clear bias against the mainstream Jewish calendar. This evidently stems from bias against the Pharisees. While this study in no way purports that the Pharisees were in every way correct on every matter or implementation of tradition (as is seen in the scriptures), nor that the Mishnah and Talmud are unerringly correct on judgments made on matters of Torah, it does not agree with the treatise's opinion that the Pharisees were a secondary influence in the second temple period and only came into power after its destruction. The writings of the second temple period, which include scripture, along with those in later years do not provide evidence for such assertion.

Lawrence Schiffman, writes the following in Bible Review:

"...any light that might be cast on the history of the Pharisees and their teachings in the pre-destruction period would be critically important. With new evidence from the Dead Sea scrolls, it is now possible to demonstrate that for much of the Hasmonean period Pharisaic views were indeed dominant in the Jerusalem temple. In short, the reports of the religious laws, or Halakhah, attributed to the Pharisees in late Talmudic texts are basically accurate."[22]

The treatise attempts to use Matthew 23:2 to give the Sadducees at least the same religious credibility as that of the Pharisees. This is evidently submitted so that there is a scriptural reference for the authority of the Sadducees being justified by Yeshua Messiah. The treatise uses the confrontation of the Sadducees with the Messiah in Matthew 22, at which a scribe or scribes were present as "proof" of this understanding of Matthew 23:2. [23]

When Yeshua said, in Matthew 23:2-3, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you [to observe], that observe and do, but do not do according to their works: for they say, and do not do," He delivered a powerful and crucial marker for His disciples, not only for those present, but for those in the future as well. Although it seems obvious that the scribes and the Pharisees, although differentiated, would have to be in essential agreement with each other, in order for Yeshua's own disciples to look to them for guidance in observation of scriptural halakhah, nevertheless, the argument has been made that the scribes in this passage were associated, not with the Pharisees, but with the opposing high priestly party of the Sadducees. Does this reading have possible validity, or is it purely and simply textual eisegesis?

When we place Yeshua's words here in context, we see that He had just had an encounter with the Pharisees and scribes, or lawyers, of whom He had asked how they understood the Messiah (Hebrew - Moshiach) to be descended. When they answered the obvious, "of David", He dumbfounded them by quoting David's words from Psalm 110:1. This conversation was immediately after He had been questioned by an individual lawyer about the "greatest" or "foremost" commandment of the Torah, in which Yeshua had duly impressed the man and, in the parallel account in Mark 12, had also praised this scribe (v. 28), saying, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God."

This conversation, to pursue the context even further, had itself been preceded by a conversation Yeshua had had with a group of Sadducees, in which they had tried to make light of the concept of resurrection by relating it to the leverite marriage concept. In contrast to the encouraging words He would later speak to the individual scribe, Yeshua "silenced" the Sadducees (Matthew 22:34), telling them that they did not know "the scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29, Mark 12:24). Some Pharisees and scribes had been bystanders and had witnessed this encounter. These encounters are told in each of the synoptic gospels with various details either included or not and all should be studied in order to have clearly in mind what events led up to Yeshua's upbraiding of most of the scribes and Pharisees when He condemned their gross hypocrisy, not their scriptural or halakhic understanding.

The lawyer of Matthew 22:35 was clearly a Pharisee in the company of other Pharisees (Matthew 22:34) and is described in Mark 12:28 as a "scribe" who heard the discussion . Yet the treatise from says of Luke 20:

"From verse 39 it is clear that scribes had been there all along, and from verses 27 and 40 it is clear that these scribes were Sadducees. In fact the Sadducees would not have asked Him this sensitive question if Pharisees had been present because that would have immediately sparked a heated debate between the two groups over their difference on this issue."[24]

To whom would Yeshua adjure His disciples to observe and do what a group of leaders says to do (yet avoid their oftentimes ignominious example of failing to live up to their own precepts)? Those who had just a few moments before been saying, "Teacher, you have spoken well" (Luke 20:39)? Moreover, would it be one of whose number had rejoined Yeshua's teaching on the greatest commandment so incisively that He had praised him for his correct perception, or conversely, a group about whom Yeshua had just said that they did not know the scriptures and who rejected one of the most important tenets for which Yeshua would come to be known in all the world and one that His followers would cling to fervently, namely the resurrection from the dead? The scribes of Matthew 23:2 are those who would espouse a scriptural and halakhic point of view in concert with the Pharisaic one; a point of view which would provide the broad basis from which Yeshua's own disciples would be able to interpret His own doctrine and walk as they studied His words and works (see also Matthew 5:20).

Since we know that there were scribes associated with the Pharisees (cf. Acts 23:9 and other places), if there were scribes of the Sadducees to whom Yeshua was referring, why did He not simply say (or the writers not simply write) "The scribes of the Sadducees and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat" to eliminate confusion? Additionally, given that the Sadducees and Pharisees were at odds regarding the beginning of the count to Shavuot, and thus when that moed is to be observed, the instructions of Yeshua to His disciples in Matthew 23:2 to observe and do what was bid them are impossible to follow if one believes this "proof" asserted by the treatise. In fact, even Yeshua could not have followed them. While there is no scripture that uses the phrase "scribes of the Sadducees," this study makes no statement implying that the Sadducees had no scribes (although scripture does not definitively state that they existed). However, it is clear that Matthew 23 is not speaking about scribes of the Sadducees.

The apostle Paul was a Pharisee and remained one after his conversion. He gave himself credibility for what he taught by telling others who he was and how he was educated. He says in Acts 23:6 that he is a Pharisee. Some may believe that he said this to divide the Sanhedrin so that he could escape. There was a division. However, if Paul was not a Pharisee at that time, then he lied when he said this. The verb translated in the scripture "I am a Pharisee" is in the present tense in the Greek. Moreover, it is much more likely that Paul was attempting to teach those present as opposed to finding some way of escape.

In Acts 26:5, he says that he lived as a Pharisee (in agreement with the Pharisees and against the Sadducees pertaining to resurrection). - cf. Matthew 22:23

In Acts 22:3 Paul says:

I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.

Gamaliel was a high ranking Pharisee. - Acts 5:34

In Philippians 3:4-9, Paul says:

4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

While Paul understood that his faith in Yeshua Messiah was the necessary component needed for salvation, he was inspired to tell others that he was trained in an exceptional manner and that he knew the Torah and how to follow it as a result of his Pharisaic upbringing. His need for the sacrifice of Yeshua Messiah was obvious because he had not and did not follow Torah perfectly at all times as had Yeshua Messiah.

Nevertheless, in the treatise, other scriptures are used to promote the belief that the Sadducees' power prevented any actions by others unless they were sanctioned. The submission that Paul (before his conversion) went to the high priest for letters to bring Jews who had accepted Yeshua Messiah to Jerusalem for punishment is not proof for Sadducean dominance. [25] In courts with more than one prosecutor, it is not uncommon for charges to be laid out by one prosecutor and filed by another (e.g. the district attorney). It makes sense that the high priest would be acting like a district attorney in this situation. It does not mean that he was the only person who made a decision to do so. In fact, this matter was evidently originated by Paul (not that he sat on a court) and was encouraged further by others including the high priest (cf. Acts 22:5). It is obvious that the Sadducees had a role in decisions of judgment during the second temple. However, that does not mean that they were in control of all the decisions made when judgments were required. In fact, Acts 23 clearly shows that the Sadducees were not completely in control of matters.

John 11:47-49 is quoted to show that the Pharisees could not push around the high priest.[26] It is noteworthy that the researcher chose to omit verses 50 and 51. Verse 50 is the prophecy of the role of Yeshua Messiah stated by the high priest that verse 51 says did not come from "his own authority" (i.e. the high priest unknowingly prophesied the purpose of the Messiah). Verse 52 adds that there are others who will be saved that are scattered abroad. When read in context, these scriptures show that Caiaphas had no choice but to say what he said regardless of the consequences which, in this case, were at most minimal since most Pharisees also wanted Yeshua killed. More reference regarding prophecies made by those who are not speaking of themselves is found in Numbers 22:1-24:25.

The treatise seems to assert that the Pharisees' (or anyone else's) calendar could not have been implemented because they did not have the power to make legislative changes.[27] However, we have no sources that indicate that the Pharisees made attempts to change the beginning of months and years in the time of the second temple. The description of the witnesses to new moons and guides for determining the religious new year that are detailed in the Mishnah and Talmud are not about new legislation. They are descriptions outlining the methods by which already determined legislation (i.e. Torah) would be applied. The information that we do have shows that indeed there were changes made to the calendar of the Jews due to necessity after the destruction of the temple. Casting the Sadducees and Pharisees as opponents on how to begin years and months is the result of the assertions of the treatise, yet there are no contemporary sources that say this happened.

The positions of the treatise which show bias could be the result of the belief that Shavuot is to be observed on Sunday every year (the belief of the Sadducees and Karaites). The calendar published by the researcher documents this belief. It is also possible that this is a main reason the Greek Septuagint (LXX) is not viewed as reliable scripture when compared to the Hebrew Masoretic text (MT). Leviticus 23:9-16 in the LXX clearly shows that the count to Shavuot begins the day after Nisan 15th (which is the sabbath on which the Passover is eaten). This results in Shavuot being observed on different days of the week and is in agreement with Philo, Josephus, Pharisaic and rabbinic understanding, as well as the mainstream Jewish calendar. In fact, the Mishnah and Talmud address the Sadducees' position on the dating of Shavuot, but say nothing regarding the practice of always beginning the year after the vernal equinox. Moreover, in the Messianic Writings, the LXX readings (translated between the 3rd and 1st century BCE) are quoted more than those from the MT (completed around 900 CE). Scholars generally agree that the LXX, a translation whose concept was blessed by the religious authorities in Israel, was in widespread use during the period of the second temple throughout the areas in which the apostle Paul taught, mainly because Greek was the language that almost all knew.

The treatise gives Philo credit for accurately and specifically placing the beginning of the religious new year after the equinox, while also stating:

"One peculiar thing to notice here is that Philo uses the word 'spring' twice as though it meant 'spring equinox' and the word 'autumn' twice as though it meant 'autumn equinox'. Elsewhere he seems to use the word 'equinox' to mean the season that it begins; for example, he writes separately of the feast of trumpets at/in the autumn equinox and the feast of tabernacles at/in the autumn equinox. Philo uses analogies, symmetry, and approximation in his writings." [28]

As for Josephus' "approximation" of the religious new year, there is no credit given for insight on when it commenced and the reader is informed that Josephus was prone to exaggeration.[29] As the treatise shows in the preceding paragraph, there is indeed evidence that Philo was giving his audience a general idea when different events (beginning of the year, feasts, etc.) occurred by identifying them near equinoxes, as opposed to specifically tying their occurrences to equinoxes. Moreover, Philo writes of the vernal equinox occurring on a specific date.[30] It seems likely that both Philo and Josephus were giving their readers a general time frame for the beginning of the year. A study of calendars in use during the first century CE shows that different people in different places used different calendars (e.g. Julian, Egyptian, Syro-Macedonian, Jewish, etc.). Sometimes, more than one calendar was used, as seen in the study of the calendar at Elephantine in the fifth century BCE. With this being the case, a writer would probably be aware of this if he were educated and/or had travelled. Therefore, he would not focus as much effort in describing calendar rules instead providing general information. His task would be to give a synopsis of the culture as opposed to pursuing exactness.

It seems that the treatise makes a significant effort to dismiss Josephus' accounts of events. The attitude toward Josephus seems to stem from the issue of Sadducees versus Pharisees, because the treatise notes Josephus' statement that the Sadducees were forced to observe temple ritual in accordance with the Pharisaic understanding.[31] There is no discussion of the fact that both Philo and Josephus, in concert with the mainstream from the time of the Exodus through the second temple Pharisees to the modern day, understood Shavuot to be counted from the 16th day of Nisan which caused that moed to occur on days other than Sunday in most years.[32]

Perhaps it is believed by proponents of this calendar that Philo must be excused for not understanding the proper day for observance of Shavuot because, in their minds, he was given scriptures that were improperly translated in the LXX. The treatise indicates that Philo did not have Hebrew scriptures.[33] However, Philo says that he traveled to Jerusalem with offerings. [34] It is quite likely that he would have been exposed to Hebrew scriptures while there.

Moreover, while we do not know how many times Philo travelled to Jerusalem and we do not know if he attended a feast, it is not difficult to believe that Philo would choose to make his journey to coincide with one and that he knew when all of the feasts were observed. To assert otherwise seems disingenuous. If the feast that he attended was that of the Passover, he would be hard pressed not to know when the count of the omer commenced just as he would obviously know when Shavuot occurred if that was a feast which he attended. Given his intense interest in documenting and commenting on all things Judaic, including detailed descriptions of the temple and its courts, we know that he was obviously knowledgeable.[35]


Those who know the history of today's mainstream Jewish calendar are aware that it is not exactly like that of the second temple period and will remain so until a court is set up in Israel to decide when the years and months begin. However, as this study has shown, the other calendars are not like that of the second temple period either. It will be interesting to see if those who follow these alternate calendars will accept a calendar ordained by a Sanhedrin in Israel if it does not agree with the one they are using.

In the meantime, various groups of people go about confident that they have the correct calendar. Some following these alternate calendars complain of the postponements in the mainstream Jewish calendar. However, months were postponed in biblical times because of bad seeing conditions occurring shortly after the sundown ending the 29th day when the crescent moon would have otherwise been seen. Some condemn the mainstream Jewish calendar for its calculation, yet the calendars of the Karaites and do just that when they begin the new month whether the crescent is visible or not if the calculations show that it should be seen in Israel. However, some are still unnerved by the "ordaining" of months based on these calculations which are employed because of visibility issues, given that this would not have been done in the time of the second temple.

Some are likely adding the extra day onto the end of the month in these situations, leading to even more division which prevents people from coming together in unity on the appointed days. What choice will those who observe these calendars make if a situation occurs where the new moon of a month (e.g. the seventh) occurs at a time in which calculations cannot with complete reliability inform them as to when the new crescent will appear (resulting in the need to access information on visibility shortly after it occurs or does not occur in Israel) and they lose the ability to receive news from Israel or it is not published for some reason?[36] What if world events cause a breakdown in the ability to communicate this information that people so confidently believe allows them to follow the "correct" calendar? These alternate calendar theories do not show how people across the world in even the fairly recent past did (or even could have possibly) come together in unity at the appointed times using their respective calendars. At best, they can argue that with the advent of modern technology, the mainstream Jewish calendar should be modified. Additionally, the review of the beliefs of those who follow these alternate calendars uncovers what seems to be a belief in some supposed conspiratorial effort made by most all of Judaism to subvert the will of the Creator, an effort not necessarily directed at calendar making only.

The Eternal accepted the method by which His people set the month when the new moon crescent was not visible because of seeing conditions during biblical times. It would seem then that He has no issue with the modern mainstream calendar beginning a month on a day that the actual first crescent is not seen in Israel. If He had wanted such exactness, He probably would have designed the system to be more exact in its time periods, or given Israel exact calculations, and removed the weather equation. Moreover, He obviously understood that His people would be dispersed. In fact, He had many prophesy to many people in many different times about the serious issues that would affect them. Mainstream Judaism of today is aware of the need to reassess the calendar given the scientific and technological advances of the modern age and those connected with this study submit that it will be done if the Creator wills. However, in the past when such tools were unavailable, mainstream Judaism (which obviously saw the necessity) devised a method that unifies around the world those who want to observe the Torah including those who also believe in Yeshua Messiah.

Romans 3:1-2:

1What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? 2Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

It is not outlandish to understand that Paul is referring to mainstream Jewish understanding and not that of a fringe group of Jews.

Ephesians 4:1-16:

1I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." 9(Now this, "He ascended" -- what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ -- 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.


1New King James Version used throughout this study unless otherwise noted. Also, bold words indicate the emphasis of this study's authors. Copyright statement: "Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

2Jacob Neusner, "Tractate Rosh Hashanah 2:1", The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988). Minim is defined as heretic. This translation is used throughout the study. Numbering may be different from other translated resources.

3Ibid, Rosh Hashanah 4:4. Thus, months can also be intercalated (have a day added). The Mishnah also records that the authorities limited the full months to no less than 4 and that not more than 8 occurred in any one year (Arakin 2:2A).

4Maimonides, "Hilkhot Qiddush HaChodesh 11:4", Mishnah Torah.

5Karaite Judaism. NOTE: The treatise at that site is not static. It has undergone changes. This essay at is written based on the information contained in the treatise at in the PDF dated January 11, 2008. A link to that PDF stored on for research purposes is located here. While some information on that site has changed, the focus on starting the yearly calendar always after the vernal equinox has not changed.

7Something Different: Lunar Sabbaths, See the section "Where Did This Teaching Come From, Anyway?!" Local PDF of page located here.

8Karaites in Byzantium, The Formative Years, 970-1100, Zvi Ankori. Columbia University Press, 1959, p. 305-306.

9Ibid, p. 303.

10Ibid, p. 307-8.

11Ibid, p. 325-6.

12Ibid, p. 336-9.

13Ibid, p. 343-4.

14Ibid, p. 345.

15Ibid, p. 347.

16Ibid, p. 352.

17Potential Visibility, Karaite Korner Newsletter.

18Treatise on the Biblical Calendar,, (From PDF dated January 2008), 41-42 p.119-122.

19Sacha Stern, "The Babylonian Calendar at Elephantine" Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 130 (2000) 159-171.

20Neusner, J. (1988). The Mishnah : A new translation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

21Online text of the Babylonian Talmud. See Tractate Sanhedrin Folio 11a, seventh and eighth full paragraph and Tractate Sanhedrin Folio 11b the first (incomplete) paragraph and the next one (full).

22Lawrence H. Schiffman, "New Light on the Pharisees: Insight from the Dead Sea Scrolls," Bible Review (June 1992) p. 31.

23Treatise on the Biblical Calendar,, (From PDF dated January11, 2008) Section 15D p.55. See footnote 6 above for link to the PDF stored on

24Ibid, (From PDF dated January 2008) Section 15D p. 55. See footnote 6 above for link to the PDF stored on

25Ibid, (From PDF dated January 2008) Section 15J p. 61-62. See footnote 6 above for link to the PDF stored on

26Ibid, (From PDF dated January 2008) Section 15G p. 60. See footnote 6 above for link to the PDF stored on

27Ibid, (From PDF dated January 2008) Section 15D p. 57. See footnote 6 above for link to the PDF stored on

28Ibid, (From PDF dated January 2008) Section 44 p.127. See footnote 6 above for link to the PDF stored on

29Ibid, (From PDF dated January 2008) Sections 70, 72, 73 p. 169. See footnote 6 above for link to the PDF stored on

30 Google - Works of Philo, Equinox Search. This is a partial list of places where Philo used the word equinox. After clicking to a page in the Google search, use your browser's Find function to locate the instances of the the word equinox to see the context.

31Treatise on the Biblical Calendar,, (From PDF dated January 2008) 70A p. 173.

32For information on this site regarding how Shavuot is counted, see Counting the Feast of Weeks. For information on the meaning of the firstfruits, see The Meaning of the Waved Firstfruits of Barley - A Reexamination. For information on when the Torah was given, see Was the Law Given at Mount Sinai on Shavuot?

33Treatise on the Biblical Calendar,, (From PDF dated January 2008) 44 p. 126. If Philo did not have access to Genesis 1:14 in the Hebrew scriptures, then it is likely he did not have access to Leviticus 23 in the Hebrew scriptures.

34Philo, On Providence, Fragment II, 64.

35Philo, Special Laws I, 66-97 (XI-XVII).

36New Moons 2008-2009 obtained from Karaite Korner. The treatise at also recognizes that there are times when even calculations cannot absolutely determine if the new crescent will be able to be witnessed in eretz Israel.


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