A Calendar Bias for Biblical Time
(2009, Revised 2015, 2022)

By: Shawn Richardson

Section 12:

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

We have seen that there is strong evidence for many calculated calendars, including the lunar-based calendar from Babylon, that existed thousands of years ago before the time of Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah. However, the mere existence of these calendars does not prove that God (Yehovah) intended on their usage. When researching this subject, many change their focus from what is Biblically instructed and, instead, turn to question what did Yeshua, Himself, observe? And since there is no recorded event of Yeshua arguing over a calendar conflict with the Jewish leaders of the time, whatever He kept must have been correct.

The problem is most attempt to place the origin of the Hebrew calendar, the version we know today, prior to the first century C.E. We have provided overpowering evidence that this calendar did not exist in its current form, at the earliest, until the 9th century C.E. based on the mathematical drift contained within the Molad calculations. There is also no documented evidence of Jews adopting any of this calendar's concepts prior to the 4th century C.E. with Hillel's publication of the 19-year intercalary cycle. However, many will still attempt to correlate recorded events within Yeshua's ministry with the results of the Hebrew calendar's backpedaled calculations. Then, if those events occur on the same day of the week, this must prove that both the Jews and Messiah followed the Hebrew calendar exclusivey.

With no evidence of the current Hebrew Calendar existing prior to this time, however, all these arguments are purely conjecture and merely create a hypothesis to fit the outcome. In other words, the Hebrew Calendar itself could have been fashioned to purposely match the days of the week. But by implementing a chicken-and-egg fallacy, it's believed that documented evidence can be ignored, and the opposite must be true. Yet even if you can match these events, you must also disprove whether another calendar method cannot possibly have the same result. We have already shown, due to the arbitrary Rules of Postponement, that both the Hebrew calendar and the timing of the moon's crescent can occur on the same day. Then, you must also be certain these events took place in a particular year as there are uncertainties for the exact year the crucifixion took place.

Other complications are involved in disproving when the observation of visual celestial signs took place in the past. You must assume that a particular day was clear of any clouds and that their movements have remained in a constant state of change, remaining exactly as they are today. Additionally, you must then translate elapsed time into certain days of the week, requiring a conversion to the Julian calendar. This is because our current Gregorian calendar, established by Pope Gregory XIII, dropped 10 days from the month of October in 1582 to better align this calculated calendar with the solar year that occurred during the of the Council of Nicea[47]. And while many rely on NASA computations to determine when observations of the moon should have occurred in the past, you cannot accurately calculate which renewed moon coincided with aviv barley in the fields. It is here most, once again, assume the spring equinox instead.

That being said, let's look at some of these arguments. One example comes from the Living Church of God where a minister, Mr. John Ogwyn, cites three primary events described in the New Testament that he claims prove the Hebrew Calendar. His reasoning is that all these events occurred on a specific day of the week that coincide perfectly with the dates calculated for the Hebrew calendar methodology (and not observation)

  1. The crucifixion event in 31 A.D. occurred on a Wednesday afternoon.
  2. The Last Great Day in 30 A.D. occurred on a weekly Sabbath.
  3. The Last Day of Unleavened Bread in 29 A.D. occurred on the weekly Sabbath.

Wednesday Crucifixion in 31 A.D.

The first of these three events places Passover (the 14th of the 1st month) on a Wednesday for Yeshua to fulfill the prophecy that He would be in the grave for a full three days and three nights before his resurrection the following Sabbath at even. By referring to the 70-Weeks Prophecy and assuming a 3 ½-year ministry of Yeshua, Mr. Ogwyn places the crucifixion in 31 A.D.

However, when you compute the likely phases of the moon in 31 A.D., you will also find that mathematical calculations support an observed new moon crescent as being possible on the same day as the Hebrew Calendar's calculated first month that year. This means either methodology would fit this scenario and cannot exclusively conclude the Hebrew Calendar as being the only methodology instituted. In fact, John Ogwyn agrees with the crescent calculations and states that [18]:

    "it is true that the observable new moon of Nisan would have also been seen on Thursday, April 12."

But Mr. Ogwyn attempts to discredit the method of observation through his bias by stating:

    "The equinox was March 23 at that time, and there would have certainly been some ripe grain for the priests to offer on the day of the Wavesheaf."

But, as we have learned, the equinox is not a variable given within scripture and does not come into play when using the observational method based on Aviv barley. Mr. Ogwyn is merely assuming that barley would have matured the month prior. The prior new moon, however, would have been on March 13th. This is several days prior to the spring equinox. Historical observation has often found barley within Israel to not yet having reached the stage of Aviv by this time of the month. In fact, Aviv barley often falls in the same year as the Hebrew calendar. After all, the 19-year intercalary cycle, introduced by Hillel II, was based on historical observations of observed barley within Israel and often match one another - especially in its early stage of use before it began to slowly drift over the years.

Mr. Ogwyn also points out that the Hebrew Calendar happens to coincide with celestial evidence of a lunar eclipse occurring on the same day as the crucifixion. The use of lunar eclipses to coincide with the crucifixion is irrelevant. Many attempt to make this correlation to describe a darkness that covered the land during the time of the crucifixion (Matthew 27:45[1]) and then claim this was caused by a lunar or solar eclipse. But this event took place on Passover (the 14th day of the new moon) from around noon ("sixth hour") until around 3:00pm ("ninth hour"). A solar eclipse would be impossible as this only occurs at the time of the moon's conjunction (at the beginning of the lunar month) and a lunar eclipse would have only been visually noticeable when the full moon could be seen in the sky, which does not rise until sundown. A full moon cannot be seen at 3:00pm ("sixth hour"), much less noon. A lunar eclipse also would not have caused any noticeable darkness for an extended period - especially during the day, and one lasting three hours as described here in scripture. It would be pure speculation, and not a very good one at that, to look for lunar eclipses as the basis for choosing a particular year as being significant here. Any lunar eclipse would have only been visible in another part of the globe this time of day.

The Last Great Day a Weekly Sabbath in 30 A.D.

The second one of these three events is based on New Testament testimony given in John 7 through 10. The claim is that the Last Great Day, described in chapter 7, also took place on the weekly Sabbath. Lunar calculations place the crescent moon event two days later than the Hebrew calendar. This claim assumes, though, that the events in John 7 took place during the evening portion of the Last Great Day and that, subsequently, the events in chapters 8, 9, and part of 10 took place during the daytime portion. It is also stated in John 9:14 that Yeshua healed a blind man during this time, which is described as taking place on the weekly Sabbath.

There is strong evidence that the events in John 7 took place on the Last Great Day, as we are told this in verse 37-38:

    "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" {Underlined emphasis added}

This reference to living waters was most likely a direct reference to the traditional Jewish water ceremony that was held during the Feast of Tabernacles. While this ceremony did not traditionally occur on the Last Great Day, the claim is that Yeshua was referencing this event that took place earlier that day and, therefore, this verse was given during the evening portion (as the Last Great Day was just beginning). The chapter continues until the day (or evening) comes to an end. We are told in John 7:53:

    "And every man went unto his own house."

The next chapter, John 8:1-2[1] states:

    "But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them."

Do we really know how much time passed between John 8:1 and 2? All we really know is that Yeshua's next visit to the temple took place early in the morning. It is just as possible that John 7:37 was describing the Last Great Day when everyone was gathered in the temple, the day following the Jewish water ceremony, and when the day had ended, everyone then went home? Remember, many people traveled to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, a pilgrimage festival. If this was, indeed, taking place in the evening, would they have gone home when the Last Great Day had not yet concluded, only to return to the temple the very next morning? For that matter, would Yeshua have gone up to the Mount of Olives? Although a few translations of John 8:2 state that Yeshua entered the temple the next day, most state it was simply early in the morning. A literal translation of John 8:2 from the Greek text is simply (Young's Literal Translation [2]):

    "And at dawn he came again to the temple."

Making the claim that this Last Great Day must have been a weekly Sabbath (referenced two chapters later) is a bit of a stretch. While it's very possible that these events, starting in John 8:2 and continuing into John 10:21 began on a weekly Sabbath, the only certainty we have is that it occurred sometime between "that last great day of the feast" (starting in John 7:37) and the very next identified event in John 10:22[2] which simply states:

    "And the dedication in Jerusalem came, and it was winter"

Obviously, the Feast of Dedication does not also immediately occur the very next day following the Last Great Day. With the earlier mention in 7:53 of everyone returning to their own homes, there seems to be an obvious break given here within the timeline that provides no definitive link to the events in John 8:2 - regardless of which calendar method you use. Additionally, what would be the point of describing where everyone had gone other than to signify the Feast had ended?

In fact, you could make this same connection that the events starting in John 8:2 took place during the Feast of Dedication (or the Feast of Lights). After all, John 8:12 also has Yeshua referencing lights:

    "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

Hanukkah is called the Feast of Dedication because it celebrates the Maccabees' victory over Greek oppression and the rededication of the Temple. But Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, as referenced by Josephus in his book the Jewish Antiquities. But this assumption would also be a stretch.

While it would fit nicely into their argument for the Hebrew calendar being used at this time, you cannot force it, and then claim it as being evidence. With no further description of time given within these chapters, it's just as likely that events beginning in John 8:2 took place on any weekly Sabbath between the Last Great Day, after everyone went home in John 7:53, and the Feast of Dedication, described in John 10:22. And again, this argument assumes this Feast of Tabernacles occurred in 30 A.D.

The Last Day of Unleavened Bread a Weekly Sabbath in 29 A.D.

The third of these three events is, once again, based on New Testament testimony of a weekly Sabbath in 29 A.D. Special focus is given to Luke 6:1[1] that states:

    "Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields."

The phrase "second Sabbath after the first" is cited by Hebrew Calendar supporters that this Weekly Sabbath was also the Last Day of Unleavened Bread - a scenario supported by today's Hebrew Calendar calculations in 29 CE. This is assumed since the Last Day of Unleavened Bread is the Second High Sabbath of the year. Once again, though, computer-generated models also make this scenario possible for an observed calendar, if aviv barley were seen a month prior to the Hebrew calendar (which would have intercalated a 13th month in 29 CE). Regardless of this fact, when we investigate Luke 6:1 further, we find that the argument using the phrase "second Sabbath after the first" is also very weak because it is based on the translation of an unusual Greek term "en sabbato deuteroproto".

Mr. T.C. Skeat (author of Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus) convincingly conjectures that the original copyist-publishers (or scribes) incorrectly interpreted this Greek phrase into what would be considered today a typo (smudge or blunder) of the original manuscript creating what is coined as a "ghost-word" (or a word which never had any real existence). When investigating this Greek phrase further, you will find that this is the only place in scripture - or in generally accepted documentation (including the Septuagint) - where this specific phrase is used. Barnes New Testament Notes [13] discusses this Greek word in Luke 6:1 and says:

    "the word occurs nowhere else. It is therefore exceedingly difficult of interpretation."

Even this same event described in Matthew 12:1 and Mark 2:23 simply refer to this day simply as the Sabbath with no mention of it being a Festival Day. Neither do they use this same Greek term. There is also no Hebrew term or phrase that would relate to "en sabbato deuteroproto". The generally accepted translation of the Greek word in Luke is "second-first" Sabbath. But without a secondary witness of this word being used anywhere in literature, we will never be able to adequately confirm its meaning within this context and is just as possible that this should be translated as being the second Sabbath in the count of seven Sabbaths to Pentecost.

Conclusion

None of these three cited events at the time of Yeshua, as shown, can be used to definitively determine the day of the week coinciding exclusively to the Hebrew calendar method. When we look to secular and Jewish history, however, we find that the Sanhedrin Court system of observation was still in effect during Yeshua's time on Earth and would likely have been the same method that Yeshua, the Messiah, kept. Any other method would have certainly caused concern for Yeshua's actions from the members of the Sanhedrin and claims against Him would have been far beyond simply breaking the Sabbath and Rabbinical laws with miraculous acts.

Ogwyn's theory above is also based on the assumption that Christ's ministry was 3 ½ years in length, and many accept this as fact. To achieve the years above, most will first start with Yeshua's birth in 4 B.C.E. and determine the start of His ministry after He turned 30 years of age. They then add this 3 ½-year ministry to end up with a 31 A.D. crucifixion.

Let's consider, for a moment, an alternative scenario. Mr. Michael Rood, author of the book The Chronological Gospels, suggests that Christ's ministry was 70 weeks in length, beginning with His baptism. This directly correlates with Daniel's Messianic prophecy of 7 and 62 weeks (totaling 69 full weeks) and a 70th week being cut off in the middle (with the crucifixion occurring on a Wednesday and His resurrection when the week completed). Rood places the crucifixion in the year 28 A.D. Passover also falls on a Wednesday based on calculations of an observable crescent that year. With Yeshua turning 30 years of age that prior year (at the Feast of Tabernacles), He would have also been crucified in His first year of His coming-of-age (just as the Passover lamb was required to be of its first year) In his study, Mr. Michael Rood states [73]:

    "It was Eusebius who first proposed a three-and-one-half-year ministry, three hundred years after the resurrection of Yeshua. Every church 'father' and historian for the first three centuries either clearly stated, or never contradicted, that Yeshua's ministry was 'about one year.' Eusebius proposed his undocumented assertion as a fulfillment of Daniel's 70 week prophecy, and now, after 1600 years, his eschatological adherents continue to voice his unprovable invention with unwavering conviction. His assumptions destroyed any chance of understanding the prophecy of Daniel that he was purportedly solving. Furthermore, Eusebius' followers have been left with unsolvable contradictions if his inventions are maintained."

Above, Michael Rood illustrates the recorded Gospel records in a sequential timeline. The top graph shows a 3 ½-year ministry with large gaps of time highlighted in yellow where no recorded events take place. The bottom graph shows a 70-week ministry containing all the Gospel records, all correlating with calculated lunar cycles.

In fact, Michael Rood has constructed an entire timetable, day by day, based on the calculated timing of visible new moon crescents within Israel, using a 70-week ministry that fits within the entire gospel accounts in sequence. When compared to a possible 3 ½-year ministry, he shows how large gaps of time, up to a year, exist with no scriptural events being recorded whatsoever - which seems highly unlikely given the significance of His ministry. Rood's 70-week timeline synchronizes the four gospels surrounding one common event - the feeding of the 5,000. By placing the events of the gospels within this period, it brings great clarity to the life of Yeshua, and it presents His teachings in their proper context. For example, John 6:4 describes events as taking place at Passover, yet He is not in Jerusalem to keep the commanded pilgrimage festival and is, instead, distributing leavened bread.

Now, whether one fully accepts Rood's timetable or not, this only shows that backtracking dates to fit more than one calendar method (including observation) is possible with the events in the Gospel record. While informative, Ogwyn's approach here alone CANNOT serve as evidence that any one method was, in fact, used during the time of Christ over another.

Summary

  • Referencing a lunar eclipse at the time of the crucifixion is pointless as the crucifixion occurred in the early afternoon hours when the moon was not yet visible (the moon is full at the time of Passover and rises at sundown).
  • The Hebrew calendar is not historically documented to have existed any earlier than Hillel II - and he is only attributed to the 19-year intercalalary cycle.
  • Attempting to show the dates of the Hebrew calendar system match that of a Biblical event is pure conjecture since there is no evidence the calendar system ever existed at that time (as it could have been purposely designed to fit these events after the fact).
  • Additional arguments proving certain Biblical events occurred on a particular day of the week are also weak.
  • Many of these attempts rely on the assumption of a 3 ½-year ministry, which is simply accepted as fact despite evidence to the contrary.
  • Utilizing today's mathematics of lunar cycles and applying a 70-week ministry, a pure observation method was also possible matching all the events within the Gospel record with a crucifixion in 28 A.D.





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