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There are several arguments against using an observational calendar, but most are based on an incomplete understanding of observation or an inability to let go of the comforting mathematical bias. Many don't even attempt to use scripture to disprove observation, even though many already use observation of the sun to begin the Sabbath Day. Obviously, the sun and moon move differently in relation to an observer on the Earth's surface, but the action of watching for each of these signs is very similar. There is no scripture that shows any one of these signs as being calculated, much less one being observed and the other calculated. But it does support the blowing of trumpets and gathering for a meal at each expected renewed moon and to begin the year with the renewed moon of the Aviv harvest. But when discussing these aspects of the Biblical calendar, there are concerns that prevent some from fully accepting this methodology. Let's look at some of the more common issues.
Aviv Longer Than One Month
Some will claim that the Aviv barley harvest in Jerusalem can span over several months in length and cannot, therefore, refer to only one specific month. By utilizing observable signs, including that of the Aviv harvest, you begin days, months, and years at the appearance of its related sign, not after it has been completed. We don't wait until sunrise to confirm the sun is going down. We don't wait until the full moon to confirm when it has been renewed. And we don't wait for barley to be harvested in its entirety to confirm when it the time has arrived. Additionally, it should not be a common practice to wait for confirmation and then go back in time and declare the sign did exist, nor should we predict when it will occur in the future.
Therefore, once barley is found Aviv and harvestable (regardless of how long the harvest itself is expected to last), the sign can be confirmed. Only then, when the renewed moon arrives, can the month begin, and it can be considered the month/moon of Aviv barley. You do not go back to claim the previous new moon as Aviv. Finally, it is the first of the barley harvest that is then presented during the Days of Unleavened Bread and the people can then partake in the new harvest.
New Moon Sabbaths?
Another concern is that there is no clear direction to keep New Moons specifically as a Biblical Festival Day or as a Sabbath Day, nor are they listed in Leviticus 23. We have seen, though, the keeping of a New Moon Day supported in the Bible, including David himself. It is true that New Moon days are not listed as a Sabbath or High Holy Day as those listed in Leviticus 23, but just because they are not ordained as such does not mean we should then avoid them entirely. They do serve a purpose, much like the Preparation Day for the weekly Sabbath. The gathering together for a meal allowed God’s people to be gathered in one accord to determine, and then communicate, the arrival of the renewed moon.
This leads to the belief that, since sacrifices are no longer required and the Levitical Priesthood has been dissolved, that references to a New Moon Day in scripture is now useless. However, it is true that if God intended on calculation for His calendar, there indeed would be no need for this day. Indeed, these days are even revealed in the Bible that they will continue to be celebrated in the future coming Kingdom of God (Isaiah 66:23). There is absolutely no reason to believe we should disregard them today - any more than we should disregard the Biblical signs ordained by Yehovah Himself. These days do have a function, and His signs do serve a purpose. Who are we to then claim they should be precluded?
The shape of the crescent moon, as a symbol, can often be found in Pagan-related idols and practices. Because of this, many will negate the new moon crescent as being Biblical because they believe it is, instead, a Pagan symbol. Pagan practices, however, utilize the entire lunar cycle and follow traditional practices that correlate with each phase of the moon (new, waxing, full, waning, dark and eclipse) - not just at the time of the new crescent. Pagan practices, however, that involve the moon do not make the moon itself Pagan any more than Pagan's worshipping their sun god negates observing the sun to begin the Biblical Day or the Sabbath. This is a fickle argument that would require the elimination of any reference of the moon to determine times and seasons (including the Hebrew calendar).
Many Islamic traditions are also attributed to being a mixture of moon-god worship who was referred to as Allah. It is true there are Pagan practices associated with the name Allah, much like mainstream Christianity has adopted the practices of sun-god worship using the title "Lord" that happens to be a transliteration of the Pagan god Ba'al – and then replacing Yehovah's actual name with the spoken name of Ba’al. Similarly, Jews also replace Yehovah's spoken name with the term Adonai, a term transliterated from the god Adonis. Even today, LGBT movements have commandeered the sign of the rainbow to characterize their own agenda. Yet this does not mean that we should then avoid God’s signs just because Pagans and others associate them within their worship. It is Yehovah that first ordained these signs in their courses and no one can hijack what He originally intended – the components that indicate His times and seasons.
Some organizations turn to modern writings. For example, many Church of God groups will refer to the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong. We read some of his material earlier that showed Mr. Armstrong accepted the Hebrew Calendar in his Good News article written in 1940. You find that many Festival-keeping organizations use Armstrong's viewpoint to establish doctrine (rather than scripture). Although Mr. Armstrong, I believe, was a strong follower of Yehovah's ways and established a solid foundation for the current-era Churches of God, he was still just a man capable of errors just as much as anyone. There is even historical evidence seen of his errors regarding the annual Festivals when the Worldwide Church of God rectified Pentecost from a Monday observance to Sunday in 1974. Before keeping Mondays, Mr. Armstrong personally observed Pentecost on the fixed day of Sivan 6 (the third month of the Hebrew calendar). Obviously when Armstrong recognized his errors he made a change, but there is no reason to believe that he was perfect in his doctrinal beliefs before his death (and neither should any of us). In the end, we all need to be able to defend our faith before the judgment throne as judgment begins with the House of Elohim (I Peter 4:17). If you place your faith in the opinions of men, you may find yourself in serious trouble when that day comes for you.
Forms of Communication
Another primary concern is that of communication and consistency that mathematics provides. Today, we have the modern conveniences of telephones, faxes, email, etc. for near-instant communication around the globe. Since these methods of communication were not around during the time of the Sanhedrin or earlier, how would people living long distances away from Jerusalem, such as pilgrims, know that the new months had begun if they missed the sign? This would mean that people around the world would possibly keep different days (or even a different month). Therefore, many assume mathematics resolves this problem. But, regardless of the methodology you believe was originally instituted during the time of the Sanhedrin (calculation or observation or both), the challenge of communication throughout the Diaspora remains the same! Since any calculation that may have been used was not always documented, a form of communication would still be needed to spread the mathematical findings of those entrusted to have obtained such calculations. As we covered earlier, many believe the calculations of the Hebrew calendar were held secret by a Yehovah-chosen group of individuals. Obviously, any possibility of inconsistency remains the same. The exception is if the Sanhedrin used secret calculations, they would not have needed to institute a method of witnesses and observing Feast of Trumpets for two days. This makes this argument moot for either method. Modern conveniences would, though, further reinforce the accuracy and consistency of an observational method through regular communication, whereas using a published mathematical calendar serves as its own form of communication - right or wrong.
We have also discussed that people who lived in Biblical times were agrarian in nature - living directly off the land - and were highly aware of their natural surroundings (including crops and the movements of heavenly bodies). Geographically speaking, areas outside of Israel - including Egypt - were not very far away and rarely required travel beyond a few weeks' time. Many would have allowed for any such variance. We have seen communication historically taking place using signal fires and messengers to spread the word more quickly. However, in most cases, those living great distances away from the Temple and from the Sanhedrin courts would still be able to observe Yehovah's signs locally, and most would have aligned themselves with those in Jerusalem. Even though it is possible some could be off by a day, they would be immediately corrected upon local eyewitness accounts, or at the next cycle along with the majority.
For individuals that may keep a Festival Day on the wrong date (without knowledge otherwise), there is no reason to believe Yehovah would not recognize their efforts. Surely, we are blessed when we attempt to keep Yehovah's holy festivals. Do we question whether those in the Churches of God that celebrated Pentecost on Mondays were not blessed? Yet they saw fit to modify their determination of the Holy Day to a Sunday and corrected their path when they realized they were astray. This is where the calendar becomes a process of faith - a faith in Yehovah to show us His signs and for us to look narrowly and search for them attentively rather than become complacent with mathematical averages.
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