FAQ: The Biblical Calendar (and Renewed Moons)
RenewedMoon.com follows that the Biblical calendar is based on observation of the ordained signs (given in Genesis 1:14-19) and that the Biblical day begins at sundown as the stars begin to appear in the sky. Consequently, the Biblical month begins at the start of the day (sundown) when the moon renews its observable cycle as it is first witnessed to be a visible thin crescent seen by the naked eye (or has been reported earlier as being visible by eyewitness accounts). This is based on the Hebrew term chodesh (translated as month or new moon in most English Bibles), which is derived from the Hebrew root word H-D-SH meaning renewed (or to make new). It is at this point of maturity when the moon is renewed in its daily cycle after being hidden from sight for several days. We attempt to provide these eyewitness accounts (Deuteronomy 19:15) of the renewed moon and its visibility to begin the Biblical month on a global basis as the followers of Yehovah God are currently dispersed throughout the world (and His followers currently serve as the spiritual temple today - I Peter 2:5, I Corinthians 6:19). We believe spreading this message every month is mandatory as a spiritual trumpet blast (Numbers 10:10) that both informs and gathers His people together in unity (I Samuel 20:5).
Additionally, the Biblical year begins (Exodus 12:2) with the renewed moon of aviv barley (or abib, the existence of indigenous barley reaching a level of maturity that scripture describes as being firm enough to be destroyed by a hail storm, Exodus 9:31-32, yet able to be presented as an offering when parched in fire or crushed to create flour - Leviticus 2:14). Wild barley (or Hordeum Spontaneum) is observed to begin the year where it grows indigenously within the Fertile Crescent region, which includes Israel.
One stipulation many followers of an observational calendar have is based on the tradition (not directly stipulated within scripture) that observation of the moon should be restricted to Jerusalem (or, at minimum, from within the land of Israel). This is often referred to as Jerusalem Time and is an assumed international date line. This would require that an observer in another part of the world that sees the renewed moon prior to it being seen within the land of Israel would be forced to ignore the ordained sign to begin the month until it can be confirmed (usually on the same day of the week) from Israel (or after a total of 30 days from the previous sighting). The reasoning often used to support this theory is because Jerusalem (or Zion) is where Yehovah has chosen to place His name forever (Exodus 15:17, Psalm 132:13-14) and is prophesied as the future location of the Messiah's coming reign on earth (Zechariah 14:16) where the law (or Torah) will go out from (Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2). Although it may be true that the law (or rules) will go out from here, it does not mean that one following that law is somehow restricted in doing so from this location. If true, this logic would also require observation of the sun to be restricted to Jerusalem. This would force everyone around the world to ignore the sun in their local skies and only begin the Biblical day at the specific moment the sun is witnessed to be down in Jerusalem. Obviously, this practice is not documented anywhere in scripture nor do we find any examples of this being done.
RenewedMoon.com does provide reports of renewed moon sightings based within the modern-day borders of Israel, however, both for the convenience of our audience and as a contrast to show how the two methods differ from one another. Over time, one will find that global-based observation is far more accurate and avoids delays where the length of the month defaults to 30 days in length due to poor visibility. When this happens for Israel-based observers in back-to-back months, it's possible that the following new month may arrive quicker than expected (as there is a minimum of 29 days in a lunar cycle). We feel global reports also serve as an eyewitness to those located within Israel that may, on occasion, have poor visibility and may want to know if the moon has been previously seen elsewhere prior to the sun going down in Israel (just as the Sanhedrin courts historically considered the eyewitness accounts of others that traveled to Jerusalem to offer their testimony of moon sightings during the time of Yeshua/Jesus).
Below are discussion points for how we believe the Bible describes an observational-based calendar that does not rely upon calculated formulas, averages and man-made rules. For a more detailed study, please read Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar by Shawn Richardson.
Genesis 1:14-17 describes the sun, moon and stars as being ordained for signs and seasons, days and years - a calendar! It describes each of these signs serving a specific purpose - the sun to rule the day, the moon to rule the night and the stars to divide the day from the night. The term seasons in the original Hebrew is mow`ed which references the appointed times or festivals as described in Leviticus 23 (not the four seasons based on the equinox/solstice cycle). These festivals are determined by counting the number of days (evening and day) starting with the chodesh (renewed moon). These calendar signs are always described from the perspective of an observer and are referenced as such throughout the Bible. Both English terms month and new moon are always used to translate the Hebrew word chodesh because they are interchangeable in their meaning - therefore the first day an observer sees the new moon (chodesh - better translated as renewed moon), it is the first day of the month to that observer.
The Bible gives no specific calculations for determining chodesh or any portion of a calendar other than counting the number of days from the chodesh event or counting the number of chodesh events (months) from the first chodesh that occurs with ripened barley, or aviv, found within the fields (chodesh of the aviv). Although man often uses mathematical calculations as tools to help determine when these events will occur, the events themselves will nearly always vary to an observer. Observed months generally last 29 or 30 whole days (chodesh to chodesh), years last 12 or 13 months (chodesh's). By relying on calculation, man essentially replaces the observance of the ordained signs as given within the Bible. Although mathematics is not evil, man's reliance upon it can cause an observer to no longer act on faith by looking to Yehovah's ordained signs, but rather relying on men's mathematical formulas and averages that may or may not be accurate to a particular observer. Additionally, history shows that when man begins to rely on mathematics for telling time, it becomes a casual excuse to add rules and adjustments for simplification and consistency without much concern (such as leap years, date lines and time zones). But the reality is man adding to the scriptures, which the Bible forbids (Deuteronomy 4:2)!
Finally, these man-made mathematical rules begin to change our way of thinking about time itself causing us to make the Biblical references of His ordained signs seem lacking in detail. Man begins to force these mathematical rules to scripture that should never apply, such as forcing the first day of chodesh to begin on the same day of the week worldwide based on the international date line. Or redefining chodesh as being the dark moon (conjunction) when the earth, sun and moon are mathematically aligned (invisible to an observer). Or delaying the start of a calendar month based on the day of the week or when the calculated conjunction occurs after a digital clock reads 12:00pm in the same timezone as Jerusalem. None of these rules are even remotely described within scripture.
Additional study details
For a more detailed study on the Biblicaly Ordained Signs, please read the study paper Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar - God's Ordained Signs by Shawn Richardson.
Genesis 1 describes the first six days of Creation and refers to each of them consisting of both an evening and a morning. This is the Biblical Day (full day or date on a calendar). The question then becomes, which comes first - the evening or the day? We are given several examples throughout scripture that indicate the day transitioned when the sun "goes down" (sunset). These include Exodus 22:26; Leviticus 22:4-8; Deuteronomy 16:6; 23:11; 24:13; Joshua 8:29; 10:13; 10:27; Judges 14:18; II Samuel 2:24; 3:35; I Kings 22:36; II Chronicles 18:34; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Ecclesiastes 1:5; Jeremiah 15:9 and Daniel 6:14.
All of these descriptions are based from an observer's perspective. Therefore, the Biblical Day ends and begins when an observer (regardless of their location) witnesses the sun go down (takes place in the western horizon). Since the stars serve as separating the night from the day, a new day would begin when stars can be seen after the sun goes down. For an observer located in the extreme northern/southern poles that do not witness the sun going down below the horizon during certain times of the year, their day would begin at the point when the sun is lowest in the sky and begins to observably turn upward again as the sun moves from the western horizon to the eastern.
Day versus Calendar Date
The word "day" in the Bible can refer to either the daytime portion of the day (such as the daily sacrifices being given each day) or to the Biblical Date that includes both the evening and daytime portions (in that order). Biblical Days/Dates as measured for a calendar are relative to an observer based on differences in geography and seasonal positioning of the celestial objects the Bible uses to measure time. For example, the Sabbath Day begins for different individuals at varying times around the globe and does not universally begin at the same time for everyone. Even if two observers are located in the same time zone, one person may begin to observe the Sabbath (starting at sundown) an hour or more earlier than the other depending on how far they are north/south of the equator. Technically speaking, this difference is due to the curvature of the Earth and its axis being tilted in relation to the sun as the Earth completes its orbit. Time zones are merely a man-made mathematical boundary designed to assist in mathematical calculations of time based on fixed regions. The Bible does not support mathematical usage of determining dates, rather it uses an observational-based system based on the ordained sign of the sun and moon (Genesis 1:14-19).
Additional study details
For a more detailed study on the Biblical Day, please read the study paper Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar - Biblical Days by Shawn Richardson.
Seventh Day - end of the Biblical Week
The Bible generally always uses a specific Hebrew term, shabua (Strong's 7620), when referring to Biblical Weeks. Quite literally, this word translates into English as "seven" or "a period of sevens". The scriptures do not give names for the days of the week other than the Seventh Day as being the "Sabbath Day". The remaining days are referred to as the "First Day", "Second Day", etc. and are first referenced in this manner in Genesis 1 which serves as the Weekly model. Although we have adopted Pagan names in our modern secular society, the weekly concept of a perpetual 7-day cycle count still remains. The sole purpose of the Biblical Week is for identifying the Seventh Day as being the weekly Sabbath that is set apart as holy in a perpetual count of seven days. Even though other societies throughout history adopted different ways of counting weeks, the original repeating seven-day count has never been documented as being broken or reset.
International & Biblical Date Line
The Bible does not give an "international date line" (which is strictly a mathematical concept) or instructions to do likewise. However, from an observer's perspective, as mankind has migrated from the middle east (the Biblical origins of the human race), the modern date line would not be far off from those migration patterns of human settlements. Early history supports humans slowly migrating eastward toward India, China and down toward Indonesia while westward migrations lead to the lower portions of South Africa as well as northwestern migrations (primarily by Anglo Saxons) into Europe and Britain and finally to the Western World and the Americas. Although history marks these migrations starting nearly 200,000 years ago, the patterns are fairly accurate. From an observer's perspective, the day of the week would have been preserved based on where groups of people migrated. Although many assume Israel as being a central location on which to base any kind of mathematical equation, there is no Biblical record of anyone observing the day of the week (or the Sabbath, for instance) a day earlier simply because they were located east of the Promised Land - even when Israel was taken into captivity within Babylon (which is located east of Israel). Therefore, today's established international date line (in regard to the Biblical Week) would be roughly similar to an observer's perspective as it would have been perceived throughout history.
Essentially, this means that an observer located in the far east (Japan, Russia or Indonesia) would begin to observe the Seventh Day Sabbath at any given moment in time before an observer living in the far west (Hawaii, Alaska or Canada).
Additional study details
For a more detailed study on the Biblical Week, please read the study paper Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar - Biblical Weeks by Shawn Richardson.
The Hebrew word for month within scripture is nearly always yerach (a lunation cycle - Strong's 3391) or, more often, chodesh (new moon). It becomes quickly obvious that a Biblical Month involves the moon itself and references to the term month are interchangeable to that referencing the moon (or the lunation cycle between new moons).
Semitic languages have a unique feature that other languages, such as English, do not provide. These languages, particularly Hebrew, allow most words to be condensed down into a series of three consonants (referred to as a "root") that provide an additional layer of meaning, causing both words to be connected with the same root. Even if you don't know Hebrew, you can often get a better understanding by identifying and studying the "root" word. In our case, chodesh shares the same root (CH-D-SH) and is constructed (originally derived) from the word chadash (Strong's 2318), which means "to rebuild: renew or repair". You can see examples of this word describing the rebuilding of cities, reestablishing an altar and repairing the temple (see Isaiah 61:4, I Samuel 11:14, II Chronicles 15:8, 24:4 and 12, Psalm 51:10, 103:5, 104:30, Lamentations 5:21 and Job 10:17). In each case, we see the process of making new, or to repair, from what previously existed. By applying this understanding to chodesh, it would be more accurate to translate it as a Renewed Moon.
Certainly the moon itself doesn't physically repair or rebuild itself. So when does the moon begin to renew? It was on Day Four of Genesis 1 that stated the moon's function, as an ordained sign, was to be a light in the firmament. It is this light that eventually recedes every cycle until it can no longer be seen. For an observer, it is not until the visible waxing crescent that one can know that the moon's light has begun to, once again, reappear and begin to mature upon the surface at each lunation cycle. This renewed light would best describe chodesh. There is no other phase that can describe a rebuilding from what once existed in the eyes of an observer. It involves a simple practice of searching for that renewed light. Once seen, it clearly serves as a beacon to an observer that the moment, the new moon, has arrived. This is as easy a task as it is to observe the sun at its going down behind the horizon. Only the new crescent preserves the Biblical description and retains the meaning behind the Hebrew term chodesh and its root chadash.
The event of the visible renewed moon just happens to occur in the western horizon as the sun goes down behind the horizon. Both sunset and moonset take place within minutes of one another at the time of the renewed moon with the crescent first being visible as the sun's light fades away - at the start of the Biblical Day!
Due to a bias toward mathematical calendars, many tend to think that the monthly, Biblical Festivals that are based on a lunar cycle must take place on the same day of the Biblical Week for everyone around the globe. But this is simply not supported within scripture! These two counts (the lunar-based Biblical Month and the solar-based Biblical Week) are not tied together. Since the lunar month is just over 29½ days, at any given point on Earth an observer in one location would witness a lunar month one day longer than an observer located on the opposite side of the globe. The two cycles (lunar and solar) do not depend on one another and there is no scripture to support the forcing of the lunar cycle to fit in with the solar (or vice versa). This would be no different than trying to force a square object into a round hole.
Since the Biblical Calendar is based on observation of the renewed moon, however, we are required to determine a starting point from which to begin counting the days of the month. In an attempt to achieve this, many attempt to pinpoint a specific fixed location from where to measure when any given day begins within the monthly lunar cycle forcing the month to begin on the same day of the week for everyone throughout the world. A large number of observers choose Israel as this specific point and believe that the new moon should only be observed from this location (or more specifically Mount Zion near Jerusalem). Most often, the verse cited to support this practice is Isaiah 2:3 that states "out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." This phrase is repeated in Micah 4:2. Many that follow this method believe that any observer that sees the new moon crescent should heed to the observers within Israel instead of the ordained sign seen for themselves. However, these verses are prophetic in nature describing the future coming Kingdom. In addition, they describe a central location from where the already established law is being distributed among the peoples throughout the world. It does not mean that this law being given can only be followed or practiced strictly within Zion. Observing the lunar cycle and counting the number of days from the new moon is the law that should be followed - not that it should only be done from Zion.
Additionally, followers of an Israel-based Observation are faced with the dilemma of whether those located east of Israel should consider the beginning of the month as being the same day the moon was observed in Israel (even though the day already started for those east of Israel several hours earlier). Essentially, those people outside of Israel would have to wait to hear the news. This is a predicament, however, when it comes to keeping the Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) that falls on the first day of the seventh month. This leads to many observing the Holy Day two days in a row - the first just in case the moon is seen later that evening. Again, trying to force a square object into a round hole.
Global-based Observation ignores the day of the week and avoids a fixed date line. The month begins at the location of the first confirmed sighting of the renewed moon. This uses the moon itself to determine the start of the month that varies by geographical location. As commanded in Numbers 10:10, trumpets should be blown communicating to the rest of the world of the moon's arrival. Although the practice of blowing trumpets was performed from the physical temple, today the spiritual temple is scattered throughout the world. Yet communication remains a critical key in providing the unity this command provides. This would then allow others to know when the renewed moon has been confirmed and can then begin their month when the sun goes down in their local region. However, this does mean that the first day of the month in one location on earth may begin on an entirely different day of the week for an observer on the opposite side of the globe (as described above). It does, though, allow an observer to count the number of days from the renewed moon event as commanded within scripture that equally applies to everyone throughout the world.
If one can break free from the habit of trying to force the lunar and solar cycles to match one another and, instead, treat them as two separate cycles, it becomes easier to understand how scripture defines and measures time.
Renewedmoon.com reports on both Global and Israel-based observation. Although we believe the Bible supports a Global-based method, we feel showing the different methods can help one better understand the differences between the two methods. We feel it also alerts those living in Israel to reports of the new moon throughout the world that may not be able to see the moon due to clouds or other poor atmospheric conditions.
Additional study details
For a more detailed study on the Biblical Months, please read the study paper Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar - Biblical Months by Shawn Richardson.
We are told directly by Yehovah Himself in Exodus 12:2 when the first month (renewed moon) of the year begins:
""This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you."
This was the same new moon preceding the exodus of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 13:3-4) - the new moon of abib (or aviv):
"And Moses said to the people: 'Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Yehovah brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. On this day you are going out, in the month of abib.'"
This is confirmed, once again, in Exodus 23:15. The people at the time of Moses would have identified perfectly with Yehovah's description of the first month. They would have understood what "abib" referred to as it being related to the newly matured barley crops. We are also given a very specific description of "abib" during the plague of the hail prior to Israel leaving Egypt in Exodus 9:31-32:
"Now the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head [abib] and the flax was in bud [Giv'ol]. But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they are late crops [Afilot]."
This describes a state of mature barley as being brittle enough to be damaged by hail and not flexible (Afilot) enough to take on the barrage of the storm. Barley is the first cereal grain to be harvested every harvest season. The use of barley crops to determine the year is further supported after Israel would arrive in the Promised Land where we are told that, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Yehovah commanded a wavesheaf offering (Leviticus 23:10-12) that consisted of the first picked barley of the harvest. In fact, this command included that none of the early harvest could even be consumed until this event took place. This wavesheaf offering began the Feast of First-fruits - or the count to Pentecost. Obviously, the requirement of having ripened barley available for the wavesheaf offering was an extremely important factor at the start of each year and, since the people could not eat it until it was offered, it was vital to identify the correct month that would be of abib. Leviticus tells us, in even further detail, what conditions (or stages of growth) the barley would be acceptable as an offering - giving us a further description to the meaning of Abib. Leviticus 2:14 states:
"If you offer a grain offering of your first-fruits [wavesheaf] to the Lord, you shall offer for the grain offering of your first-fruits green heads of grain roasted on the fire, grain beaten from full heads."
This specifies that the first-fruit offering of abib barley could be either 1) parched in fire, or 2) as crushed carmel. Therefore, at the time the grain is given as an offering, if the seed within the barley heads have not matured past the milky stage and would simply burst open when squeezed or parched in a fire, it is not yet abib. However, if it is simply moist, but not quite enough to be crushed into flour, a fire could be used to remove the moisture and, then, be crushed. At this stage of growth, Barley is often visually green in color, but with tell-tale signs of yellowing. This stage would be acceptable for the offering. Additionally, barley stalks at this stage would be better protected against hail damage. All together, these indicators would be considered as being in a state of abib. If the new moon crescent arrived at a time when barley could be found in such a condition to be used in the Wave Sheaf, then the season had obviously arrived and everyone would be gearing up to harvest and partake in what they reaped. They obviously would be ready for the Wave Sheaf so that they could begin to eat of the year's new produce.
If a renewed moon arrived with no abib barley, then declaration of a new year would not begin until the following renewed moon sighting. This would mean that the barley harvest could mature to a level of hardened grain - visibly yellow in color.
But barley is grown today in various locations around the world and at different times of the year. In fact, barley is grown during the late fall and winter months quite regularly in farmlands located in the southern hemisphere (as this is their warmest months). Of course, we do know that the Passover season took place in the spring timeframe, but large amounts of barley are also grown within North America at about the same time of the year, but its maturity levels of growth can vary from that in Egypt or Israel significantly to deter results depending on various factors, including area weather conditions. Furthermore, crops can be grown in controlled environments, such as greenhouses, any time of the year. If abib barley is instructed as our sign of reference, how do we know which barley is accurate?
Although barley may be located in various locations throughout the world, it hasn't always been the case. Obviously referring to barley grown in controlled conditions under man's guidance should not be considered when looking for abib barley at the time of the renewed moon. This, then, would lead us to question the authenticity of barley exported to various locations around the world that take advantage of climate conditions at various times throughout the year. This means that our best, most logical choice would be to look to indigenous barley - the geographical origin where barley historically grew naturally.
Natural, or wild, barley is referred to as Hordeum Spontaneum. Its origins spread from regions of North Africa and Crete in the west (primarily Egypt), to Tibet in the east. It grows most abundantly in the Fertile Crescent region (with modern-day Israel located in the middle of this region). According to the scriptures, the original borders of the Promised Land extended well beyond the modern-day borders of Israel. Yehovah's borders included all of the land from the river of the Nile in the east (in Egypt) to the Euphrates River in the west (located in modern-day Iraq). This entire region is located directly inside the Fertile Crescent. The earliest evidence of wild barley in an archaeological context comes from the Epipaleolithic at Ohalo II at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. In other words, barley originated in Israel with the Fertile Crescent having the natural conditions in which it grows naturally. Therefore, this geographical region would provide a point of reference that would match that within scripture. This area would have included Egypt, which is where the people of Israel were located when they were instructed to use the Abib to begin their Biblical Year. Although the Fertile Crescent region contains both harvested (Hordeum Vulgare) and wild (Hordeum Spontaneum) barley, the wild barley is much rarer the further you go outside of this region. In addition, the wavesheaf offering offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread was commanded to be given by the people after entering into the Promised Land region.
Various organizations outside the Israel region sponsor aviv barley searches as well as provide reports from within the Fertile Crescent region annually. Although some still use alternative methods of referencing the equinox or the calculated 19-year intercalary cycle created in the 4th century C.E. to begin the year mathematically (due to Jews being forced out of the region), there is no reason to not reference the Biblical source of indigenous barley directly while we currently have access to the region.
Additional study details
For a more detailed study on the Biblical Years, please read the study paper Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar - Biblical Years by Shawn Richardson.
Why it is not a Biblically sound doctrine
Historically, Orthodox Jewish sources admit that the calendar method used during the period of the Second Temple (and the time of Yeshua/Jesus) was determined empirically rather than relying on calculated formulas. Given there are no calculations given within the Bible for determining any fixed mathematical formula, only by observing the signs given as a reference (Genesis 1:14-19) can we determine time as defined within the Bible. By creating man-made tables and mathematical averages that do not coincide with these ordained signs we are essentially adding additional details and rules to scripture, which is forbidden (Deuteronomy 4:2).
Documented practice of the Orthodox Jews indicate a change from empirical observation to calculated formulas occurred sometime in the 4th century (around 359 A.D.). Over time, the calculated calendar developed into, what was confirmed in the 12th century, as the Hebrew Calendar currently used by most Orthodox Jews today. This calendar includes the use of the calculated molad (what is essentially the modern-day dark moon conjunction), fixed lengths of months, years determined on a mean pattern of repeating 19-year periods and rules that postpone certain dates to not occur on particular days of the week.
Additional study details
For a more detailed study on the Modern Calculated Hebrew Calendar, please read the study paper Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar - Current Hebrew Calendar by Shawn Richardson.
Abib (or Aviv)