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A Basic Guide to the Original Biblical Calendar:
Presented by The Refiner's Fire

Sadly, the calendar of the Bible is made a mess by man! Nowhere in scripture does YHWH tells us how the calendar is to be formulated, so it has become a "free-for-all" with nearly everyone saying their calendar is "THE calendar of God" or "The Creator's Calendar!" Many of those calendars simply "don't hold water" when push comes to shove! Even the traditional (modern) Hebrew calendar is fraught with issues resulting in most of YHWH's appointed times are demonstrably on the wrong days! My goodness! When the established calendar, accepted by Jews all over the world has Passover in the entirely wrong lunar month (as happens some years) - that's as bad as it gets!

It bears repeating: Nowhere in scripture are we told how to determine the calendar! While there are a few scriptures which hint or suggest the rules of the calendar, no Scripture reveals how the year should be determined, none reveal how the month is determined, none say to "sight the crescent" to begin the month, and none actually define the day as sunset-to-sunset! Every calendar determination is a "best guess".

To help put an end to this nonsense, this article provides some "basics" as to how the calendar should be determined. Ready for the ride? Here goes:

Here are the basics, the essentials. For each item listed, a more thorough discussion/explanation follows.

  1. The calendar is established by the sun, moon, and stars. Period. This is in Genesis 1:14.
  2. The year is determined by the sun and stars.
  3. The month ends and begins in darkness.
  4. The month is determined by the moon and the first day of the Hebrew calendar month begins at the sunset after lunar conjunction*.

    *The "sighted moon", that is, waiting to spot the crescent is quite wrong because by the time you see the crescent, the moon is already a day or two old and you clearly started the month too late. The "day of conjunction" is wrong because you've started the month too early, and the new month can't begin while the "old moon" is still existing, though in darkness. This would be akin to starting the "new day" at noon, hours before sunset! The moon must end its "month" during the last solar day because the lunar "month" is over 708 hours long (averages 29.53 days), while the ordinary "day" is 24 hours long. The first ordinary "day" must begin at the first sunset after the moon has been in conjunction. The sun rules the day while the moon rules the month (the numbering of the days)!
  5. The day is determined by the sun. This is sunset to sunset and is amply supported by scripture.
  6. Passover establishes the annual feast schedule and Passover is tied to the year determined by the sun, not the moon, and not the barley.
  7. We are blessed today with the ability to calculate calendar events, thus determining the calendar years in advance. But our modern computations must duplicate the signs of the sun, moon, and stars, which always were, and still are, visible to all, including ancient man who could only rely on the visual evidence.
  8. The Sabbath is the 7th day, in perpetuity, never broken, and not tied to the moon!

Discussion:

  1. The calendar is established by the sun, moon, and stars. Period. This is in Genesis 1:14.

    Genesis 1:14 reads: "God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to divide the day from the night; let them be for signs, seasons, days and years;" (CJB). Is this not clear? Nothing in the verse even suggests that the barley crop must be in the right stage of aviv, so as to "hold off the year if the barley is not aviv"! The English word "seasons" in the verse is actually the Hebrew word "moedim", or "appointed times". This meaning is absent in the English word "seasons" and has led many to err that the word "season" means Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. The moedim (appointed times) are established in the particular months of the year (Leviticus 23), not by the common seasons. The moed are tied to the agricultural seasons, yes, but not established by the crops, which is only an "earth sign" of a "heavenly sign". The verse in Genesis never clarifies which "sign" is for which event, but simply watching the sun, moon, and stars reveals the order (something most have forgotten today):

    The sun determines the day (refer to #5, below), as well as the year by its apparent position against the fixed background of stars (refer to #2). The month is established by the moon (refer to #4) , and the "seasons" or "appointed times" are established in the particular calendar month in which they fall per Leviticus 23.
  2. The year is determined by the sun and stars.

    There are only four positions of the sun, in the heavens, as seen from our vantage point on the earth from which are found identifiable demarks for the "year". Today, we know these positions as the equinoxes and the solstices. Only the equinoxes are practical for determining the year because the day of an equinox is easy to determine by observation alone, to the exact day of the equinox. (The solstices do not work well for the year because it is nearly impossible to know the exact day of the solstice by observation alone as the sun is observed in the same position for 3-4 days.) The equinox used to end and begin the year can be either the Autumnal/"Fall" equinox or the Vernal/"Spring" equinox - it really does not matter to man. The Autumnal Equinox actually makes the most sense, because that period of the year marks the end of the harvests, and the beginning of the planting for the next year's crops. Indeed, the Autumnal Equinox would likely have been the start of the year for the ancient Hebrews, long before their captivity in Egypt. Nevertheless, there are no scriptures revealing which point was used as the end/beginning of the year except...

    ...YHWH changed the start of the year to the Vernal Equinox from whatever it was prior to the exodus. This is recorded in Exodus 12:2. The exodus began when it was already the "month of aviv" which means the Sun was already at that point when the crops were turning green. That means the "month of aviv" always fell in that part of the agricultural season determined by the sun, i.e. it was, indeed, springtime! YHWH says that month was to become the first month of the year from then on.

    It's important to understand that man would still have the "year" if the moon did not exist! And the earth would still have Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall and all annual planting and harvesting would still be done in exactly the same annual cycle. It is also important to understand that the method of establishing the year does not change if the moon were not present. This is why the command to start the calendar with the month of aviv (Exodus 12:2) ties the month to the sun, not the month to the crops! More on this in #6, below.
  3. The month ends and begins in darkness.

    This may sound a bit strange to many of you, but it's important to understand as it establishes what "sign" of the moon determines the 1st day of the month (refer to #6, below). The day, year, and month "begin in darkness", so bear with me: Obviously, the day ends and begins in darkness. At sunset the day ends, and the new day begins, refer to #5, below. Not so clearly, the year can be said to "end" in darkness. One of the meanings of "Adar", the last month of the Hebrew year is “to darken”. So the end of the year "darkens", and the new year begins! (Not convincing, but interesting!)

    While the sun is not visible when it is below the horizon and no one argues that the "unseen sun" cannot be a "sign" of darkness because the "sign" of darkness is not visible, many argue that a "sign" must be "visible" when it comes to the moon! I would agree, in most cases, a "sign" would be expected to be "visible"! (Another no-brainer!) But in the cases of the moon the requirement is nonsense! Here's why:

    The moon is always visible throughout the entire month at sometime during the day - except at conjunction. (I have found this is something of which most people today simply are no longer aware.) So the absence of the moon at the period of injunction is the sign of conjunction! When the moon is not visible at all, it is a very clear sign! (So you can see that not all signs must be visible, and the claim is false!)

    Now it is well known that in the Hebrew mindset, the moon is "renewed" at the time of conjunction. The Hebrew word "molad" means "birth" and very clearly the ancient Hebrews understood that when the moon became invisible, at some time before it once again became visible the molad took place and the "new month" was born. Today, the term "molad" has a specific meaning to the calculation of the modern Hebrew calendar but there can be no argument that the original "molad" of the moon would have been understood as the unseen "moment" of conjunction. Therefore, the "new month" is born in darkness!

    Indeed, darkness is very important to YHWH. The covenant with Avram was made in darkness (Genesis 15:7); Pesach took place in darkness (Exodus 12:12); Yeshua rose in the dark (John 20:1). In fact, YHWH dwells in darkness (Exodus 20:21, 1 Kings 8:12, Psalm 18:11), and the very creation itself began in darkness, (Genesis 1:2), and ends in darkness (Revelation 20:11).

    (Don’t confuse this clear importance of darkness with the equal if not superior importance of light. Yahweh said: “Let there be Light”, and saw that it was good (Genesis 1:3-4), and Yeshua said He is the “light of the world” and that whoever followed him would not walk in darkness [meaning without hope] and have eternal life, (John 8:12). Indeed, light triumphs over dark. (Revelation 21:23, 25). So both light and darkness have clear purpose and importance to Yahweh.)

    More detail is provided here and here, but for now realize that the end of the month happens when the moon is no longer visible, and the first day of the new month (by the sun) must happen after the lunar conjunction. Conjunction is that invisible, unseen moment when the moon is renewed by its passing between the earth and the sun. "But if the conjunction is not visible, how can it be a 'sign'!" Well, please understand that the invisibility of the moon, as described above, is the sign! As stated, the moon is always visible, all month long, except when it is at conjunction, in darkness!
  4. The month is determined by the moon and the first day of the Hebrew calendar month begins at the sunset after the unseen lunar conjunction.

    The very clear evidence that the "month" is determined by the moon is that the moon "reappears" 12 times in a solar year! This is indisputable. Therefore the "year" has always been divided into "12 months". (It is only coincidence with the "12 tribes" of Israel.) The division of the year into 12 months is the natural division of the year when watching how many "new moons" are observed in a solar year.

    Many assume that the "1st visible crescent" marks the beginning of the 1st day of the month. Indeed, the vast historical evidence suggests that this misconception is pervasive. It turns out that there is no such requirement in scripture, and in fact, by the time anyone sees a new crescent, all it means is that it is a sign the month has already begun! In fact, by waiting to begin the month by the crescent, the entire remainder of the calendar month, fails to match the other monthly, visible signs of the moon!

    Only by assessing the day of the unseen conjunction to establish the sunset which begins the new month do all the signs of the moon fall on the proper days of the calendar. This requirement is overlooked in almost all "Hebrew calendars". The calendar should match the visible signs of the moon! Why would a calendar, based on a single sign of the moon for the month (i.e. the sighted crescent) be considered valid if only that one sign of the month was matched as the determinant of the month? Are the other signs invalid? If so, why?

    The greatest signs of the month are the beginning and the middle of the month! Only one of the annual moed occurs at the 1st of the month (Yom Treruah) but two of the most important moedim of the year occur at the middle of the month (Passover and Sukkot)! Ignoring the calendar for the moment, what event marks the middle of the "moon's month"? Why full moon of course!

    Without interference by the many biblical scholars, it is another "no-brainer" that if the calendar month is determined by the moon, then the 1st of the month would be when the moon is "renewed" and the middle of the calendar month would be at the middle of the moon's month. Both the renewal of the moon and the moon's middle of the month are marked by signs! The end/beginning is marked by the absence of the moon and the middle is marked by the full moon! Why do most calendars ignore one of the two signs (if not both)? (Centuries of "tradition" establishing the 1st day of the new month by the "sighted crescent" while the equally important sign of the middle of the month is completely ignored is no justification for the practice!)

    The only demonstrable method to establish the beginning of the month is the sunset after conjunction. Only by doing so are both the beginning and middle of the calendar month established to match the signs of the moon. If the 1st day of the month is established as the day of conjunction, then the middle of the calendar month precedes the day of the full moon, and if the 1st day of the month is established by the sighted moon, then the middle of the calendar month is 1-3 days after the full moon. So the month must begin at the sunset following conjunction. Of course, the objection is that since conjunction is unseen, how would it be known on which day is the new month?

    It's rather simple actually. By watching the moon in the last days of the month as it nears conjunction, the many signs of the moon reveals the day of conjunction. Hence, we can always know, days in advance, which sunset after conjunction will be the 1st day of the month! Again, a marvelous benefit by this method of establishing the new month is that come the middle of the calendar month, the sunset of the 14th is always met with the full or nearly full moon rising in the east at, or not long before sunset, a beautiful heavenly announcement, aka, "sign", of the middle of the month! When the month begins by the sighted crescent, the heavenly sign of the actual, observed full moon always occurs a day or two (sometimes three) before the calendar says the date is changing from the 14th to the 15th.

    There are actually two visual methods, long forgotten and overlooked, how the day of conjunction can be determined by observation alone. The first is to simply continually watch the old crescent moon at the end of every month to build a visual "database" of how the moon looks in the last days of the month as a "pointer" to the 1st day of the new month. This is not so hard. When I was working, I did this routinely because I was on the road every morning well before sunrise and I routinely watched the old crescent and used its many signs to make a declaration of the day of conjunction, and hence, the 1st day of the new month. I was always correct, and it's not that hard to do.

    The second method is only a bit more involved. It requires the measurement of the "daily motion" of the moon in the 2-4 days before conjunction so you can compute the number of days to conjunction. This technique is remarkably accurate, requiring only a measurement to the nearest 1/2 degree (the apparent width of the moon itself), yet is mostly forgotten. When you have computed the daily motion, you know not only the day but also the approximate hour of the unseen conjunction so it is a simple matter to know which sunset would be the 1st day of the new month! This technique was not beyond the capabilities of ancient people as it only requires measuring the apparent angle of the visible moon from the time and point of sunrise. Two or three mornings of gathering this information (which is actually a measure of the moon's "elongation") would yield the day and estimated hour of the unseen conjunction!
  5. The day is determined by the sun.

    This should be a no-brainer for the sun clearly determines the day - no matter the definition of the "day"! But there are those who argue the day should be sunrise-to-sunrise, while others say it is "noon to noon" and the modern, civil calendar (with no relation to scripture) says it is midnight to midnight! But what does scripture say?

    Scripture provides evidence that the (whole) day is determined as sunset to sunset. In Genesis 1 we find the description that "there was evening, and there was morning, one day", repeated as the day count of the creation continued to add days. While countless, endless arguments exist about the meaning of each word in Genesis 1 the fact remains that scripture conveys, in Hebrew, "evening [evev] and morning [boker] are one [echad] day [yom]." This is a pretty clear definition, almost as though there was intent in the words! Indeed, throughout the Tanakh, we find that sunset marked the end of the day, (Leviticus 23:32; Deuteronomy 21:22; Nehemiah 13:19; Judges 19:9, for example.) This truly should not be arguable. Only does modern man find that there is some argument as to when the day ends and begins.

    Though the apparent definition of the day does indirectly come from scripture as just described, there is yet another reason for the "day" to be from sunset-to-sunset. It has to do with the month. Since the sun determines the day and the moon determines the month, and it is the visibility of the "new moon" so often associated with the beginning of the month, one finds that there is no other demarcation of the day when the moon can be used to start the month! The new moon (defined for the sake of argument as the "first crescent") cannot, ever, be observed at sunrise! So if sunrise marked the new "day", one would never know the new month had begun until sunset, when the "1st day" was already half over! A sunset day-change is the only time of the day when the moon and sun can be that "echad" (one) event composed of the two separate signs.
  6. Passover establishes the annual feast schedule and Passover is tied to the year, not the moon, or the barley.

    This is the most important determinant of the calendar as this month sets all future commanded observances for the year! I hope you are still with me! As suggested above, Passover was tied to the Spring equinox which had already happened when the exodus began (Exodus 12:2). In Deuteronomy 16:1 we find: "Observe the month of Aviv, and keep Pesach to Adonai your God; for in the month of Aviv, Adonai your God brought you out of Egypt at night." (CJB). The "month of Aviv" is established by the sun! When the sun has "declared" springtime has begun, the calendar month necessarily must be the month of aviv*. If the calendar has the month of aviv too early or too late, then the calendar is wrong, for the month of aviv is that month in which the crops begin to turn green, i.e., Spring! The charge to Moshe in Deuteronomy 16 was to make sure the future observance of Passover happens on or after Spring as it was in the year of the exodus to be remembered forever (Exodus 12:14)!
    *Remember, prior to the year of the exodus, the "month of aviv" was still the "month of aviv" even though the first month of the year had been established at some other, prior month! The month of aviv had not been "set" by the barley before the exodus, and there is no reason to assume the month of aviv was subsequently tied to the barley in Exodus 12! No, the "month of aviv" was simply "the month in which the crops would begin to turn green." In Exodus 12, and Deuteronomy 16, YHWH fixed the date of Passover to the Vernal Equinox! And from that point, the 1st month of the year was to be established to keep Passover on or after the equinox.
    Thus the "rule" was established in scripture though it takes some real understanding of the sun, moon, and stars to see the rule. Many fail to see that it was not the new moon anchored to Spring. Passover was fixed to the spring, not the new moon! Many fail to see that the month of aviv is not tied to the "ripening barley"! The ripening barley is only the result of the month of Spring established by the sun, clearly not the "determinant" of the calendar month!
  7. We are blessed today with the ability to calculate calendar events, thus determining the calendar years in advance and not have to rely on observation. But our modern computations must duplicate the signs of the sun, moon, and stars, which always were, and still are, visible to all, including ancient man who could only rely on the visual evidence.

    This is important because if our modern calendar relies on some fact or feature which the ancients could not readily observe, then our calendar is not the same as the calendar they would have produced. Worse, if our calendar establishes Passover at an impossible time, as often happens with the modern, calculated traditional calendar, and the Karaite "barley" calendar, then the entire year's feast dates are wrong.

    No. Recognising rule #6, establishing the proper date of Passover goes a long way to establishing the proper calendar for the whole year. Of course, choosing the correct day for the first day of the month is also important, but slightly less so than the correct month of Passover.
  8. The Sabbath is the 7th day, in perpetuity, never broken, and not tied to the moon!

    This "rule" is included here only because the determination of the Sabbath has it's own controversy. Some actually argue that the Sabbath, 7th day, is tied to the moon. But the 7th day Sabbath is clearly its own, defined, weekly, perpetual moed with YHWH. It is the 1st moed identified in Leviticus 23. It is clearly recognized as completely separate from all other moedim (Leviticus 23:37-38). In Exodus 20:11; 31:17; and Leviticus 23:3 it is made clear that the 7th day of the week, not at all related to the moon, the 7th day is the perpetual Sabbath. In this there can be no argument.

We are not naive enough to think this short article actually "settles" the arguments of the calendar. We realize there are many learned scholars out there who will challenge the comments presented here by using the Talmud, Mishnah, Zohar, or the Kabbalah. But we stand by our conclusions that the sun, moon, and stars speak for themselves and that their many signs are still available, today, for all to see if they would only take the time to see them. The calendar must match the signs of the sun, moon, and stars or it is flawed.