Challenging the "new moon" advocates
It never fails - with the advent of nearly every Biblical Feast, Messianic believers become split over whether to celebrate the Feasts according to the Hebrew calendar, or to wait until the sighting of a new moon, (i.e. the "sighted crescent"). These arguments become especially vicious during Passover when the crescent advocates become adamant that the Feast can't start until after a new moon has been sighted and "the barley has ripened"....
There are also those who insist God's calendar is not solar and we must concentrate only on the moon. If that's true, then YHWH is a liar, because the following passages clearly show that the moon and the sun work together to bring in the signs, seasons, days and years - see 1 Chronicles 27 and also the following:
Genesis 1: 14 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; 15 and let them be for lights in the dome of the sky to give light to the earth"; and that is how it was. 16 God made the two great lights - the larger light to rule the day and the smaller light to rule the night - and the stars. 17 God put them in the dome of the sky to give light to the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 So there was evening, and there was morning, a fourth day.. (CJB)
Psalm 19: 1 For the leader. A psalm of David: The heavens declare the glory of God, the dome of the sky speaks the work of his hands. 2 Every day it utters speech, every night it reveals knowledge. 3 Without speech, without a word, without their voices being heard, 4 their line goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world. In them he places a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom from the bridal chamber, with delight like an athlete to run his race. 6 It rises at one side of the sky, circles around to the other side, and nothing escapes its heat. (CJB)
Revelation 12: 1. And a great wonder was seen in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2. And, being with child, she cried and labored, and had the pangs of giving imminent birth. (AENT)
Man had to watch the signs in the heavens (all the signs) in the days before calendars were devised, but we know relying solely on the 1st crescent today isn't good - and the reasons are many...one of them being that the 1st crescent is observed at the same "age" month after month. The appearance of the 1st crescent only means, without exception, that "new moon*" has already happened. If one relies only on the "sighted crescent" then all the other signs of the moon have been ignored!
(*Note: The term "new moon" takes on many meanings. For most people today it only means that the moon has returned to the night sky after sunset appearing as a crescent. What you see is called "new moon". But the actual "new moon" is the period immediately following the passing of the moon through the imaginary plane between the sun and the earth. Though this "moment" is not directly observable, this must be the definition of "new moon" because it has passed from "old" to "new", even though the first visible sign (the first crescent) will not be manifested till sunset one or two nights after it actually became "new". Truthfully, when you can see the new crescent, it is only a sign that the new moon has already happened.)
YHWH never prescribed the determination of the beginning of the month by the sighting of the moon. He only decreed that certain days of the month were to be observed, and some observances are at the "middle" of the month, (centered on the full moon - the "sign" of the middle of the month), so it is very important to determine when the month should begin so the proper day of the full moon can be observed when the calendar says it is the middle of the month! Even the ancients were smart enough to determine when the New Month began, and the sighting of the 1st crescent was nothing more than a celebratory confirmation that it had happened.
The Hebrew calendar, based on the sun for the year, and the moon for the month, never has a month of fewer than 29 days or more than 30 days because the "day", which is by the sun, must be a full day, while the actual lunar month is never exactly 29 or 30 days. It averages 29.53† days, with a maximum of 29.84 days and a minimum of 29.27 days. A "lunar month" of 29.53 days doesn't fit into any 29 day or 30 day calendar month! So you will find a new moon always occurs sometime during the period between the last day of the month and the first day of the next month - whether the current month is 29 or 30 days!
(†Note: Some argue that the ancients did not know this number but the truth is they did! It takes only a few consecutive months of watching the moon, noting the number of days between some observable phase of the moon to the same-phase the next month. This is easily done by watching the 1st quarter moon to 1st quarter moon or last quarter to last quarter. The number of days in the lunar month is rapidly found to converge to the average of 29.53 days. The ancient Hebrews determined the number to be 29.53059 day, remarkably close to the modern value.)
If one adheres to the reasoning of the "1st sighted crescent" group, beginning the month only upon the sighting of the crescent, their calendar will begin at least 1 day off and sometimes 2 days off from the real occurrence of the New Moon (which is conjunction), and the remainder of their calendar for the entire month will be off. The Full Moon is observed up to two days early, and if it is the sunset of the 30th day and the crescent is not sighted, the new month must begin since the month cannot contain more than 30 days!
And what do crescentists suggest we do when another part of the world does not sight the New Moon until then next night? Are we to keep many different calendars by location where the crescent is spotted? And if the whole world must wait for the announcement of the sighting of the crescent in Israel before the month is known, how are feast days scheduled and planned? For example, the very first day of the month of Tishri is a High Holy Day - the Feast of Trumpets! If we must wait till the moon is sighted in Israel to know which day is the special Shabbat of the Feast of Trumpets, half the world would miss the proper day! This is why we have to apply some rationality to this situation. Even the ancients knew this! And that's where the proper calendar comes in!
If YHWH said that a certain feast falls on a certain day of the month, then that is when the feast should be held.
Leviticus 23: 5 "'In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between sundown and complete darkness, comes Pesach for ADONAI.
Note YHWH said "in the first month on the fourteenth day"; not "when you see the crescent, the 14th day is..."; yet the crescentists are all over Facebook and every other kind of blog putting down and making fun of those of us who wish to keep the day YHWH said - and the 14th at sunset should be "announced" by a full or nearly full moon rising! It's the middle of the month!
Examine the time of the Exodus. We are told the day of the month of the original Passover. The lambs were slaughtered at dusk on the 14th day of the month. That night, i.e. the 15th of the month, YHWH "passed over" Egypt and killed all the first born. Therefore, we know Passover was at Full Moon - sunset became the 15th of the month, the must have been a Full Moon. Therefore our calendars today must synchronize Nisan 14-15 with the Full Moon and that means the New Moon must be established when it was not seen. (Many don't realize this simple fact. The calendar is supposed to reflect the moon! When the moon indicates it is at its "middle", i.e., a full moon, our calendar should be at the 15th!)
A calendar which follows the signs of the moon is necessary now, and it was necessary to the ancients. Given the variance in the orbit of the moon, Full Moon might be early or it might be late when the day passes from Nisan 14 to Nisan 15. But YHWH said "on the fourteenth day of the month [i.e., the 'middle' of the moon's month], between sundown and complete darkness, comes Pesach". He did not say, "in this month....wait for the crescent."
To argue otherwise, that the month cannot begin until new moon is sighted, is to elevate the importance of the moon to an idol or a god. YHWH said not to do this.
Deuteronomy 4: 19 For the same reason, do not look up at the sky, at the sun, moon, stars and everything in the sky, and be drawn away to worship and serve them; ADONAI your God has allotted these to all the peoples under the entire sky.
Insisting the month can't begin until the New Moon is spotted is perilously close to moon worship!
Leviticus 23: 23 ADONAI said to Moshe, 24 "Tell the people of Isra'el, 'In the seventh month, the first of the month is to be for you a day of complete rest for remembering, a holy convocation announced with blasts on the shofar. 25 Do not do any kind of ordinary work, and bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI.'"
Ancient translations of Psalm 81:3 (reproduced below) do not mention the full moon. The fact remains that we are commanded to blow the shofar at the new moon but not necessarily "sight" the crescent. The Hebrew word shomer means to "guard, keep or take count of" (Genesis 26:5). It can only indirectly mean "to observe." Furthermore, if the crescent could not be sighted we still have to blow the shofar while the moon is astronomically new; that is to say, while in darkness.
Psalm 81:3, modern reading: Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. (ESV.)
Ancient reading: Blow the trumpets in the new moon in the time appointed on our solemn feast day. (Lamsa Aramaic reading.)
Ancient reading: Blow the trumpet at the new moon, in the glorious day of your feast. (LXX, Lance Brenton translation)
But the fact remains nevertheless that there is not one Biblical example of sighting the crescent as a forward looking marker of "newness". Instead, when we look at one of the main meanings of "new"
above, we find clear evidence that its state begins in darkness:
“You have heard, look at them all. And do you not declare it? From now on I shall make you hear new [chadash] ones, even hidden ones, which you have not known. “Now they shall be created and not long ago. And before this day you have not heard them, lest you should say, ‘Look, I knew them.’ (Isaiah 48:6-7, ISR)
So here we see clearly that "new" means "hidden, unknown things". If we then see evidence of it, like a first crescent, then it isn't "new" anymore!
Here's another example:
“See, the former predictions have come, and new [chadash] ones I am declaring; before they spring forth I let you hear them.” (Isaiah 42:9, ISR)
Now we have two additional details: First, something is "new" before it springs forth. Again, wouldn't a crescent moon then be the precise form of "springing forth" that indicates a "past", hidden newness? Second, it says the old things, "have come to pass" which in Hebrew really means, "gone away". This is why the lunar month actually ends with the conjunction, at that time that it has literally "gone away"! For that reason Isaiah can't help believing that the same applies to the whole cosmos:
“For look, I am creating new [chadash] heavens and a new [chadash] earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come to heart. (Isaiah 65:17, ISR)
The reason why the former things are not remembered is again, because they are gone. Even here though Isaiah is not finished with defining "new" and linking it across the board:
“For as the new [chadash] heavens and the new [chadash] earth that I make stand before Me,” declares יהוה, “so your seed and your name shall stand. “And it shall be that from New [chadash] Moon to New [chadash] Moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” declares יהוה. (Isaiah 66:22-23, ISR)
The imagery could not be clearer. When dealing with a brand new month, the new heavens and earth follow the same pattern as the "new things", starting from before they spring forth into the physical world! At a minimum this "strong suggestion" demands that said definition be taken into serious consideration rather than just cast aside for some visible crescent!
Finally, notice YHWH never said, "The new month begins when you actually sight the crescent"; He said, "The FIRST DAY of the month". That does not tell us how to establish the first day! We all know the 1st day of the month because a proper calendar has determined it, in proper relation to the Moon.
YHWH says the sun, moon, and stars are for "signs, seasons, days, and years" (Genesis 1:14). And he said the sun (larger light) and the moon (smaller) light were to rule over the day and night (Genesis 1:16-17). Notice He never said the "sighting" of moon determined the precise beginning of the month! It is a sign of the new month, yes, but so is the complete absence of the moon a sign! The moon is not and should not be elevated to a role for which it was not created.
The bottom line is: YHWH doesn't want us bickering over these things; He simply wants us to obey the command to keep His Feasts! We'll know who was right and who was wrong about the timing of the feasts once we're out of our "earth suits." Nowhere are we told that we will not be allowed into Heaven if we failed to keep His feasts perfectly!