Musings – Biblical Calendar
2013 is yet another year in which disagreements over the calendar will arise amongst believers who wish to “keep” the feasts of the Lord. Many will begin the new year in March while others believe the year will begin in April. As a result, believers will be divided according to their convictions on when to celebrate the Biblical festivals and fingers will be pointed with the claim that the other side is causing disunity. This is a sad fact which undermines the actual purpose of the feasts. The feasts (מודים ‘moedim’) were designed by the Lord to be “wedding rehearsals” for the bride to prepare her to meet her bridegroom. The shadow pictures which the feasts bring forth are to lead believers to the Messiah who came to gather us together in one (Colossians 2:17). The last “speech” Jesus gave focused on this desire of unity amongst His body (John 17:11, 20-23).
Unity comes only through Messiah, the New Covenant in Him (Psalm 50:5; Isaiah 49:3-9; Hebrews 2:11; 13:20-21; Jeremiah 50:5; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 1:20; 2:1-11) and walking with Him (1John 1:3-7).
“Unity in the body of Christ does not rest on uniformity, but on our common ‘blood,’ which is the blood of Christ. We are now members of one family, and that identity cannot be taken from us, no matter how much we disagree or quarrel.” (The Gospel in Human Contexts – Paul Hiebert pg 193)
So while we may have disagreements about doctrine such as the calendar, this ought not to be a source of division amongst His people (Philippians 2:3; James 3:16). Whether you start the year in March or April or are under the conviction that the feasts don’t apply today we can all be in agreement that we are still in unity through Him, not our agreements on doctrine. Let each person be convinced in his or her own mind and follow the Lord wholeheartedly in that conviction (Romans 14:5-6). We all have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling so we ought not to point the finger of condemnation at others as each one of us falls or stands according to the Lord, not man (Romans 14:4).
I have spent a lot of time studying theories about the Biblical calendar and the numerous interpretations thereof. In studying this subject there is one overwhelming conclusion that these theories lead to…confusion. As God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), I decided that after spending scores of hours studying men’s interpretations that perhaps the wise thing to do would be to go to the Bible alone, as the Lord is the author of this Book (2 Timothy 3:15-17) and as a result the confusion in regards to the calendar should dissipate with a reliance therein. This I have found to be true as the calendar which one finds in the pages of the Scriptures is very simple and is only confusing when one begins to compare it with other interpretations out there which contradict. It is man who has brought confusion to the calendar issue, not the Almighty.
In order to get to the purest interpretation of the Biblical calendar possible, I decided to imagine myself as waking up on a deserted island with no previous knowledge of the calendar. Then I imagined an angel showing up with the Bible and proclaiming that everything I needed to walk according to God’s will would be found in these pages. No sermons or teachings of others, no 500 page calendar studies, no calendars to reference, only the Bible. Through the Bible alone can one be able to know when the day starts? Or the week, month or year? I believe the answer to that is yes.
Following is a short and simplified interpretation of the Biblical calendar using only the Bible and the Hebrew language. The focus will be on when to start the year as that is going to be one of the primary sources of contention in 2013 in regards to the calendar. I know that there will be those that disagree about my interpretations of the day, week, month and year but I ask those who disagree to examine their views in light of the imagined scenario of being on a deserted island with only a Bible. Would the opposing interpretation be plausible in that situation? I’m open to changing if I’m wrong so please let me know if you think I’m in error but please give Biblical evidence.
The Biblical Calendar is based upon the sun, moon and stars (Genesis 1:14) and is controlled by the Almighty (Daniel 2:21). God appoints the ordinances of heaven (Jeremiah 31:35-36) not man, man can only THINK to change His calendar (Daniel 7:25). Time is a continual cycle that repeats which is seen when tracing back the Hebrew words that deal with time and the movement of the heavenly bodies.
The day begins at evening (Genesis 1:5), the work day starts at morning (Psalm 104:23). Evening and morning were the first day, the second day commenced when evening came a second time (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) thus displaying the cycle. Both periods are based upon the sun’s position on the horizon, East in the morning and West in the evening. The Hebrew word for day is יום ‘yom’ which comes from the root ים ‘yam’ which means the sea. The Mediterrean sea is West (Joshua 15:12; Ezekiel 47:20) and the sun sets in the West (Joshua 1:4; 23:4; Isaiah 45:6). Further displaying the beginning of the day at evening is seen in regards to Yom Kippur (Leviticus 23:32) and the sabbath (Nehemiah 13:19).
The week begins “Saturday” evening and continues for seven days in a continuous cycle going back to the beginning of creation. The week is not based upon the movements of the heavenly bodies according to Genesis 1:14. The word for week comes from the Hebrew word for seven which also means oath (שבע ‘sheva’). God’s Word is also His oath (Psalm 105:42; Luke 1:72-73). His Word/Oath went forth on day 1 of creation, thus starting the 7 day cycle.
The month begins at the dark moon (Psalm 81:3; Proverbs 7:20; Psalm 72:7). The first day of the month starts the evening following the morning that the moon is no longer visible in the Eastern sky. This is how David could declare tomorrow (מחר ‘machar’ that evening) is the new moon (1 Samuel 20:5, 18). The waxing crescent can be used as a “bookend” and is seen 2-3 days later (1 Samuel 20:5, 18-19, 27).
The year begins after the sun makes its complete circuit (תקופה ‘tequfah’/תשובה ‘teshubah’), rising directly East (Psalm 19:4-6; 75:6; Hosea 6:3; Ecclesiastes 1:5-6; Exodus 34:22; 23:16; 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Kings 20:22, 26; 2 Chronicles 36:10; 24:23). The next new moon begins the year upon which the feasts follow (Psalm 104:19).
To find out when to begin the new year one need only go to the Scriptures. Genesis 1:14 declares that the heavenly bodies are the basis for finding the new year. The Hebrew word for year (שנה ‘shanah’) literally means to repeat or do something again. This means that the year begins when the heavenly bodies repeat their cycle. Scripture declares Spring as the beginning of the year (Exodus 12:2) with the spring ‘equinox’ (תקופה ‘tequfah’/תשובה ‘teshubah’) as the point at which the heavenly bodies have completed their cycle. The ‘equinox’ is found when the sun rises exactly East, I use the term ‘equinox’ as this is the familiar English term but in reality the תקופה ‘tequfah’ doesn’t necessarily mean “equal night” as the equinox does, but merely the rising of the sun on the eastern horizon. This cycle of the sun rising exactly East each year is the circuit or תקופה ‘tequfah’ (Psalm 19:6) which completes the year. The moon will then follow which will begin the counting of days of the first month for the feasts (Psalm 104:19).
Exodus 34:22 declares that Sukkot must occur after the autumnal equinox (תקופה ‘tequfah’). This can only be guaranteed each year if one waits for the spring equinox/tequfah to occur and then start the year on the next new moon. If one starts the year with a new moon that occurs in the winter before the equinox there will be some years in which Sukkot will occur during the summer before the Fall equinox, thus departing from the requirements of Scripture. Exodus 23:16 says that Sukkot occurs at the “end” of the year. The word for “end” in this verse in Hebrew is יצא ‘yatsa’ which is used in Psalm 19:5 in reference to the sun rising, or “coming out” of his chamber. Psalm 19:6 declares the sun’s “going forth” (מוצה ‘motsa’) is from the “end” of heaven and his circuit (תקופה ‘tequfah’) unto the ends of it. This connects the “end” yet again to the equinox/tequfah.
מוצה ‘motsa’ comes forth from the word יצא ‘yatsa’ and has the same meaning of going out or coming out and is used in various applications, but specifically in reference to the rising of the sun in the East. מוצה ‘motsa’ is translated as East in Psalm 75:6 and links to the Spring season in Job 38:27 as it is translated as the “bud” of the tender herb springing forth. On a deeper level, the ‘advents’ of the Messiah are spoken of as מוצה ‘motsa’ in Hosea 6:3. His “going forth” (מוצה ‘motsa’) is prepared as the morning, again connecting the rising of the sun in the East. He comes as the latter rain which occurs during the time of the spring equinox and former rain which comes during the time of the fall equinox.
The word for ‘equinox’ in Hebrew is תקופה ‘tequfah’ which has the following pictograph meaning. The cross (ת) reveals (ה) the sun on the horizon (קוף). The letter ק ‘qof’ spelled קוף in Hebrew is pictographially displayed as the sun rising on the horizon. So then the word תקופה ‘tequfah’ has embedded within itself the point of the equinox. It is at the cross of the horizon which is exactly East. As the sun moves through its course in the sky it will rise directly East at the spring and fall equinoxes, making a cross in the sky each year.
Yet another witness to the spring equinox being the starting point of the year is seen in 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Kings 20:22, 26; 2 Chronicles 36:10; 24:23. In 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Kings 20:22, 26; 2 Chronicles 36:10 the Scriptures speak of the year’s return/expiration. This word is תשובה ‘teshubah’ which means to return to the beginning. The תשובה ‘teshubah’ marks the time in which the sun has made its circuit around the earth beginning again at Spring. It was the time in which nations would go to war in olden days. This is why the first month of the year came to be called Nisan as this word literally speaks of banners raised for war. March, which comes from Mars the ‘god’ of war, comes from this same concept. In 2 Chronicles 24:23 the Scriptures speak of this same time period as the תקופה ‘tequfah.’ So in Scripture, the תקופה ‘tequfah’ and תשובה ‘teshubah’ occur at the same time of year, when the sun makes its full revolution through the sky rising due East at the Spring equinox/tequfah.
The pictograph meaning of תשובה ‘teshubah’ is yet another witness to the Spring equinox as well. The letters mean the cross (ת) reveals (ה) the path to the house (שוב). Job 38:20 speaks of the sun/light in its courses as moving in a path to his house. This links to Psalm 19 which speaks of the sun as a bridegroom in his chamber (חפה ‘chuppah’). This תקופה ‘tequfah’ cross connection is seen further in the Hebrew word תא ‘ta’ which as the meaning of a mark, point, chamber or boundary. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible defines this word as:
The pictograph ת ‘tav’ is a picture of two crossed sticks representing a mark. A mark identifies locations used to mark out a location. Two crossed sticks in the shape of cross were used to hang the family standard or flag.
So again the ‘tequfah cross’ is seen. The flag or banner points to Nisan. The chamber connects to Psalm 19:6 and Job 38:20 with the תקופה ‘tequfah’ being the point of a mark of reference and the boundary as a place separation.
In another equinox/תקופה ‘tequfah’time connection is the Hebrew word for time which is עת ‘et.’ Pictographically עת ‘et’ means to see ע the cross ת.
Again, the purpose of the calendar and the feasts is to prepare the bride of Messiah to meet her bridegroom. Each year these feasts should help us to grow in His grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), not raise up walls of division (Ephesians 2:14) amongst His people and fingers of condemnation (Isaiah 58:4, 9-14). If we disagree on the calendar, let our discussions be to the use of edifying, not tearing each other down and apart (Ephesians 4:2-16).
The main goal of unity is the preparation unto perfection of the bride to meet the Bridegroom (Matthew 5:48; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 13:9-13; Ephesians 4:11-13; Philippians 3:14-15; Colossians 1:28; 3:14; 4:12; Romans 10:4; Psalm 119:1). This is done through love (Colossians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 13:9-13; Romans 13:10; 1 John 4:10, 12, 16; 5:3). Love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4), not puffed up (1 Corinthians 8:1) with knowledge. A believer walking in love understands that we all see through a glass darkly and as a result our foundation is His love, not our knowledge of doctrine (1 Corinthians 13:9-13; 8:2).
True unity will come when Messiah returns and regathers us (Isaiah 52:8; Jeremiah 3:17-18; 31:8-13; 50:3-7; Micah 2:12) where we will be resurrected into His Image (1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 17:15; Romans 8:28-30; Galatians 3:26-29; Hebrews 13:21). This is when believers will see ‘eye to eye’ (Isaiah 52:8) and follow the perfect Biblical calendar according to His teaching and not man’s interpretations (Isaiah 2:2-5).