A Calendar Bias for Biblical Time
(Revised 2023)

By: Shawn Richardson

Section 1:


In this modern age, society has become a world of numbers. Most of us have grown accustomed to seeing life as a series of equations, applying mathematical science to each variable - meticulously calculating and accounting for everything we come across. Man's need for order and precision has seemed, to most, a saving grace propelling us far beyond the ancient, medieval times. Math seemingly provides order to chaos and has made us comfortable knowing that the world around us is not as unknown as we once feared.

Math has also been used to measure and define time itself - seconds, minutes, and hours. From the smallest measurement of zeptoseconds (one sextillionth of a second) to the largest mega-annums (one million years), we have now defined time in terms that contribute to our overall vernacular, helping us describe and reference specific points within time - past, present, and future. Math has also been used in the creation of systemic timetables, or calendars, that serve as both a graphical and mathematical series of 'boxes' that help represent days, months, and years. Calendars help us to standardize and manage both civil and religious observances, provide context to historical events, and help measure and compare timeframes within scientific applications for both consistency and reliability. Because of calendars, we are able to plan for an activity that will take place three days, three years, or even three hundred years from now and we can be in unison with others who use the same calendar system - allowing all of us to be in unity with one another. Today, we rely on this unity by having calendars available on our cell phones or by using printed versions hanging on our fridge or lying on our desktops. Without calendars, most of us would likely feel unorganized or even lost at times.

Calendar systems have also evolved and developed over the centuries. Archeologists have reconstructed such methods of timekeeping as far back as the Neolithic period during the Stone Age - believed to be some 10,000 years ago[75]. The most notable formulized schemes used for timekeeping began in the Bronze Age (between 3300 and 1200 BC). One of the first known calendar systems was the Sumerian calendar, which originated in Babylonia. This ancient system was closely related to the astronomical observations of the moon and lasted an average of 354 days in length (an 11-day variance from the solar year of 365 days). Over time, man has made more and more tweaks, with today's 'de facto' system being the Gregorian calendar. The infancy of this system was first introduced in 1582 as a tweak to the Julian calendar that began as a required edict by Julias Caesar back in 45 BC. The Julian calendar system was fashioned with the aid of both Greek mathematicians and astronomers and its foundation has continued to help shape our own concepts of time today.

Biblical Significance

When it comes to the Bible, time is an important factor to consider - not just because of the many historical events that have taken place and are documented within its pages, but because we are commanded by God Himself to vigilantly observe and recognize particular days throughout the year. These Festival days are spelled out at the time of Moses in Leviticus 23. Therein contains the list of days that Yehovah's followers (the proper Hebrew name of God) were to observe from generation to generation. For example, verses 4-8[1] describe Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

    "'These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.'" {Underlined emphasis added}

A total of seven days a year are specified, in addition to the weekly Sabbath, as being feasts of Yehovah in which we were to have holy convocations. These feasts, referred to as mow`ed (Strong's 4150[3]) in Hebrew, mean:

    "appointed time, place, or meeting"

These seven days are, therefore, more appropriately translated as appointed days and were to be considered as set apart (holy) from all other days. They acted as a scheduled meeting we should keep with God Himself by gathering together in a convocation, or "rehearsal" (miqra - Strong's 4744[3]). These are the days God's assembly of followers gather together to meet with Yehovah God. He is the one that sets the time and it is our responsibility to assure we're there when He asks. Additionally, when we actively keep these appointments with Him and actively practice His law (Torah), we come to a fuller and more complete understanding of just what these days represent - the overall plan of salvation for humanity. The details of what each of these days represent is a topic for another time. However, these appointed days have continued to be observed for thousands of years, even up through the generation of Yeshua the Messiah (or Jesus Christ), where we are told that He and His apostles also observed these important dates. Furthermore, these festivals, or appointments, are specifically described as being kept by all nations throughout the world into the future coming Kingdom of God here on Earth. We are told this in Zechariah 14:16-19[1]:

    "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles." {Underlined emphasis added}

Today, there are many individuals who continue to recognize these days. They do so not just for the sake of tradition (as some Jews do today), but because they have studied the Bible and have chosen to live a life according to its principles and direct instruction. These days - which include the weekly Sabbath and annual Holy Days - are appointments that many find exceptionally important, myself included! Even Yeshua claimed these days would continue to be valid up until the time heaven and earth pass away (in Mathew 5:17-19[1]):

    "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law (Torah) or the Prophets (Writings). I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." {Underlined emphasis added}

When one decides to keep these days, the next question becomes when exactly do these days take place? Because of the unique significance these days represent, many will often attempt to choose or define for themselves a calendar system - or mathematical timetable - in hopes of standardizing when these events take place from year to year. Just as we utilize the Gregorian Calendar system today, the hope is that everyone (at least everyone who uses the same system) can all be in unison - keeping these days together at the same time throughout the world. It is also hoped that such a calendar system can help predict exactly when these dates will take place in the future (and determine when they were kept in the past).

For many, the 'de facto' calendar system used to determine when these Biblical dates are kept is the Hebrew calendar. Mostly used by the Orthodox Jewish community, this lunisolar calendar consists of months that are either 29 or 30 days in length that begin and end at approximately the time of the new moon. Its construction is very similar to that of the Sumerian calendar, which originated in Babylonia thousands of years ago. This is because in Biblical times, months were determined by the lunar cycle.

Just as we are comforted relying on our cell phone-based appointment books today, many also rely on the Hebrew calendar to know when to keep God's festival days. Again, this is because using such a system helps to bring unity and predictability for what may otherwise seem like anarchy and chaos. When questioned for its accuracy, many who attempt to verify the mathematics behind such a system can be daunting. However, is it entirely possible that man's reliance and faith put into this calendar system (or others) has simply become a comfort and bias?

What Is Bias?

A bias is a mathematical term used within the study of statistics and suggests a distortion from fact (usually due to a missing component that was not originally considered). Bias can also mean a disproportionate weight in favor of, or against, a particular idea or thing - in other words, being closed-minded, prejudicial, or one-sided and becoming blind to certain components that are also not fully considered. From a behavioral perspective, biases can be instinctive, but many are learned over time.

Has our reliance on predetermined calendars caused our judgement to become clouded by reality itself, blinding us from the beauty of life's seemingly messy complexity? Or worse, are they keeping us from seeing the simplicity originally intended by the Creator of all things - God Himself? Perhaps we have only succeeded in recreating God's original design, forcing time into these conjectural boxes of mathematical equations and systemic rules to the point that we now only rely solely on man's interpretations of these things? Do we really believe that following a calendar, somehow, makes us more superior and exact to the reality that surrounds us, or could we be off from how Yehovah God Himself defines time?

This is not to say that using mathematics and timetables is inherently evil. However, when we begin to put all our faith and dependence on man's interpretations, we can begin to lose sight of what the original intention was behind these artificial creations of man.

For example, time used to be measured by the movements of the sun itself. As far back as antiquity, time was determined by sundials. These instruments were designed for determining the hour of the day based on the sun's shadow that projected onto a set of lines marked on the ground indicating the current hour. Later, a wonderful invention, called a clock, helped measure days in exact 24-hour increments. While the clock did not use the sun directly, it still required one to synchronize the time, which was usually set to the sun. In fact, many towns had what are sometimes called time balls to help keep watches in synch. Most of us are familiar with the famous time ball in New York's Times Square that is traditionally dropped every New Year's Eve. One of the first time balls was located at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in 1833 outside of London, England, and would be dropped daily at 1pm to indicate to boats on the River Thames the time and captains would then synch their chronometers to this event[76]. Unlike the Times Square ball, though, the time was marked when the ball began to descend the pole and not when it reached the bottom.

Wellington Waterfront Shed J Wool store showing Accumulator tower with time ball on approach to railway wharf near Waterloo Quay prior to tower burning down c.1909 [Public Domain]
US Naval Observatory (Washington, District of Columbia) featuring original time ball [Public Domain]

In the United States, time balls would traditionally begin to drop at High Noon (when the sun was directly overhead)[79] and would indicate to everyone to set their clocks to 12:00pm. The term High Noon became popular in the Old West as it was the infamous time of day to schedule a gunfight. Various towns and communities across the nation depended on these types of tools that were directly linked to the observation of the sun. That is until the railroad system became a factor.

As towns progressed, people began travelling longer distances via train, and they needed to know the time of day when trains would be arriving and departing. The problem was each town had its own local observation of time, causing other towns at greater distances to be out of synch with one another. If a passenger left one town at 12:00pm local time and travelled for 10 hours to another town 500 miles west, they would expect the time of their arrival to be at 10:00pm. However, they would likely find that the locals claimed it to only be 9:28pm instead. This is because they had observed High Noon at that location 32 minutes later than the other town.

This led to the use of standardized time zones. First proposed by Sir Sanford Fleming back in 1878[77], the idea of time zones was to divide the world into 24 zones, each being 15 degrees of longitude apart from one another. This is because the earth rotates this distance every hour for a total of 360 degrees in 24 hours. Praised as a sensible, mathematical solution to a seemingly muddled issue, the railroad adopted this system in the United States in 1883.

It is at this point that clocks were no longer being set based directly on the sun itself. While it is true that 12:00pm was approximately around the time of High Noon, it was no longer inherently linked. Eventually, people became conditioned to associating Noon with 12:00pm on a clock rather than looking at the sun itself. This 'disconnect' became even more apparent with the introduction of a new rule called Daylight Savings Time [78]. This concept began in the United States in 1966 and was widely adopted during an energy crisis. The idea was to postpone time by advancing the clocks one hour during the warmer months so that darkness began later on the clock. The result further disassociates what we perceive 12:00pm as having anything to do with the sun at all.

Today in our modern world, we now rely solely on clocks to tell us the time of day. Most of us don't even pay attention to the movement of the sun to tell time any longer. This is an example of how our bias has changed and why it affects how we translate time. Our systemic approach of using clocks and time zones, we believe, makes us more precise and practical. It brings unity to the masses and makes old-fashioned observations seem archaic, unpredictable, and downright wrong. But if we consider that time should relate to the movement of the sun, what time used to be based upon, our systemic approach is anything but precise. Yes, we are all in unison using clocks and time zones, but we are all united in error when it comes to being in synch with the sun itself.

Even in the Bible, the sun was vital for measuring the day. We are told the amazing story of Joshua's Long Day in Joshua 10 where he, while fighting the Amorites at Gibeon, prayed to God to extend the day to assist them in their battle. God obliged and doubled the length of the day by halting the movement of the sun in the sky (essentially stopping the earth from rotating on its axis). Imagine, for a moment, if Joshua and his army wore watches back then. Would they have just accepted the new time that their watches reflected after this miraculous event, or would they have re-synched them to be more in line with the new rotation of the sun?

The reliance we put on the mathematical concepts of time has completely replaced our observation of celestial objects, meaning we have conditioned ourselves to be biased toward these mathematical systems rather than observing the sun itself. So much so, in fact, that we could care less when additional rules postpone time even further to help save energy, for example - as long as everyone is in synch.

The fact is that the Hebrew Calendar (and other such timetables) use similar mathematical tricks and rules that end up disassociating them from the reality one can observe in the sky. Yet most of us have been conditioned to prefer these calendrical systems because we consider them to be more accurate, are more predictable, and we are comforted knowing we are in unison with everyone else who use the same thing. Therefore, we apply a calendrical bias (or as we will refer to as having a calendar bias) to determine when to keep the Biblical Holy Days throughout the year, even though they should be based directly on the movements of the moon.

The ultimate question is, why should we care? When we begin to study the Bible, it's important to realize that the biases, around the time when the Bible was written, were much different than our biases today. Using our example of clocks, if God said He wanted to make an appointment with us at a particular location at Noon - sharp - would we rely on our bias of the sun being directly above our heads to determine when that appointment took place or would we, instead, use our modern bias of relying on our watches to show us when it was 12:00pm? Today, where I currently live and thanks to the Daylight Savings rule, High Noon takes place as early as 12:10pm for me in November and as late as 1:36pm in March. That's an 86-minute variance throughout the year! If I wanted to meet with God at noon, as He commanded, and I showed up at 12:00pm on my clock, would I miss that appointment? Perhaps the actual time had already passed, or perhaps it's still 86 minutes away? If the bias I used was so engrained into my way of thinking, would I even know the difference? Perhaps I would simply be disappointed God didn't show up.

This reminds me of the story of the 10 Virgins in Matthew 25. Here we are told of five wise Virgins and five foolish Virgins who took oil lamps to light their way and went out to meet their bridegroom. However, they learned the bridegroom would not show until midnight later that night and the foolish Virgins were running out of oil to continue burning their lamps. When failing to negotiate with the wise Virgins to use their oil, instead, they left to purchase more oil only to return to find the bridegroom had already arrived and had shut the door - missing their opportunity.

If we wish to keep the appointed times with God and do so only using our calendar bias to determine time, could we be foolish and miss our opportunity? Throughout history, man's downfall has been our desire to be superior - even beyond God Himself. Much like our bias toward clocks (a clock bias) that is no longer directly associated with the sun, our calendar bias - used to determine dates - could also cause us to be off from the moon by days - or even a month! How important is this difference to you? Should we strive to be on-time to meet with God on the days He has appointed?

My Story

This paper was inspired by my own personal studies and findings regarding the Biblical Calendar. It did not involve creating large, complex timelines, researching deep into layers of Biblical prophecy, nor did I have a sudden revelation from the heavens. Rather, it was a desire to answer a very simple question. How can I determine when to keep the Sabbath and Annual Festivals that are commanded within the Torah (the first five books of the Bible)?

I have been keeping the Sabbath and Holy days for nearly 40 years in one form or another. In doing so, I know that I have been blessed simply by making these days a priority in my life. I've also learned that it's important that we keep these days with other like-minded individuals. For many years, though, I never questioned how to determine when to keep these specific Biblical festivals. Instead of learning for myself what it really meant in the scriptures when it stated the Feast of Tabernacles began on the "fifteenth day of the seventh month" (as instructed in the above verse), I would instead pull out my wallet-sized pocket-calendar card published by my church organization. My card conveniently listed all the festival dates that corresponded to the Gregorian calendar (which most of us use today to organize our day-to-day lives - especially in the Western World).

My handy pocket card provided me with all the dates for the next 5 to 10 years from when it was published. It came in very handy whenever I started making travel arrangements or began to ask for time off from school or work. I never gave a second thought to how the card was created - beyond the simple thought that the list was somehow derived from the Hebrew calendar used by the Jews. Even mainstream Gregorian calendars indicate Jewish festival names (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, etc.). It was for this reason that I never really questioned why the Feast of Tabernacles, for example, always fell in either September or October.

It was only after several years of keeping these Feasts that it was pointed out to me that it was the moon that had a correlation to the Holy days, as it was nearly always full when certain festivals began each year. This was, indeed, an interesting discovery to me, but several more years would pass before the first realization hit me that something was amiss. One day, I began searching the internet for a list of church organizations that observed the Biblical Festivals. It came as an even bigger surprise to learn that some church groups were observing these days differently than what showed on my pocket calendar. While a few were one or two days off, some were being held an entire month later. At first, I brushed this off, believing these organizations must not have had a complete understanding of the Feast days themselves. After all, it was in my own experience that my family and I departed from a rather substantial, established organization called the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) who, just a few years earlier, began to loosely treat the weekly Sabbath and the Festivals as being irrelevant and old-fashioned, changing the observation of Festival dates to a more convenient Weekend getaways rather than the full eight days (and more importantly ignoring the first and last days that were to be considered as High Sabbaths). Eventually, this organization abandoned keeping them altogether. Perhaps, I thought, these church groups keeping different days were destined for that same path.

It wasn't until my wife and I learned that a good friend of ours, who also had a background in the WCG organization and had continued to keep the Sabbath on her own, also kept the Festivals on different dates. It was then I knew that I needed to learn why there was a difference of opinion. At first, I was ready to dive into scripture with the purpose of proving that what I had been practicing for years was correct. Then it dawned on me - I, myself, did not have a clear answer from scripture as to why I kept the dates that I did! I knew that keeping the festivals was important, but I simply could not explain how my pocket-calendar card was created.

At this point, I knew I had to take a step back and approach this subject with a completely open mind - and I started with the Bible. I Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to "prove all things". It's important to always search for the scriptures to prove to ourselves why we believe what He has instructed, as demonstrated by the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who diligently studied the Old Testament scriptures daily. We are told to carefully present our beliefs as approved by Yehovah Himself (II Timothy 2:15). In other words, we must use the Bible to prove whether any doctrine or belief is intended by the Heavenly Father! Therefore, if a teaching (or doctrine) is not found or supported within scripture (specifically the Old Testament, built upon the foundation of the Torah itself), then it simply cannot be of Yehovah God! We must diligently strive to obey Him and do what is right in God's eyes - not our own - by listening to His commandments and guarding His laws (Exodus 15:26). This is done using scripture, not following the traditions of man. If those traditions conflict with scripture, something is wrong.

As my research expanded, I quickly learned that this topic has sparked quite a few debates. What surprised me the most, though, was how far back these debates began. While many arguments exist for one or more calendar methodologies (good or bad), many church organizations tend to treat the topic as a craze or fad that they hope will quickly pass away (if not force one to stop asking questions entirely under the threat of shunning those asking the questions). You quickly learn that the topic of the calendar can become a thorn in the sides of many pastors and teachers. As one minister in a WCG splinter group stated, "You don't want to open that can of worms!" This is because many cannot find direct answers to these questions using scripture - some will claim that scripture simply does not address any specifics to a calendar methodology and that the subject was left in the hands of the ancient Jews (as Romans 3:2 claims the Jews hold the Oracles of God). Therefore, the traditional Hebrew calendar is chosen as doctrine for the sake of unity, to please the masses and as recognition of the Jews as having an authority on the subject.

But my research found that even the Jews find fault with the Hebrew calendar and they, too, are split into varying opinions on the subject. It is mostly the strict Orthodox Jews that follow the Hebrew Calendar because of the decrees set forth by their own rabbinical leaders. Therefore, it has simply become a tradition to follow it. Yet even the rabbinical leaders do not deny the fact that the Hebrew calendar's construct is not perfect. Additionally, the documented Hebrew calendar itself never existed, certainly in its current form, until at least the 4th century C.E. and, as we will discover, this system slowly evolved by being tweaked into the modern format kept today with the latest changes being instituted as late as the 12th century C.E. as is proven within its own mathematical construct.

Yet even the biggest surprise to me was when I took a deeper look and learned that the modern construct of the Hebrew calendar contradicts Biblical principles! Much like using a clock to determine when Noon takes place rather than looking to the sun, I found that I had been relying solely on the Hebrew calendar to tell me when the first day of the seventh month takes place rather than looking to the moon itself and to fully understand when to properly begin counting months from the start of the year. It was at this point that I knew I had to make a change in how I determined time itself when it comes to keeping God's appointments and break away from my calendar bias and rely on Yehovah Himself to show me when He ordained them within scripture!

There are many that have come to this same realization. The problem is that many individuals continue to revert to their bias toward calendrical timetables, sometimes by creating their own. They may even create new rules based on their own understanding, or by looking to other calendar systems to find alternative answers. Some will attempt to use Biblical scripture by focusing on specific events that took place and trying to match those up with how dates align with another calendar system entirely. Others turn to complicated astronomical theories that nearly all require mathematical formulas, using modern scientific astronomy, that can only be contrived by NASA experts and are most certainly not described within scripture. All hoping for unity now and into the future believing there must be some answer - perhaps mysterious or undiscovered - that fits all the aspects of Yehovah's calendar. The desire to be exact and unified leads to the belief that looking directly at the sky is too messy and disorganized, being too archaic and less precise! The result is a vast array of different calendrical systems. Although I believe most have the right intentions behind them, we must accept the fact that we have developed an overall bias toward these types of systems. We want to evenly divide time into equal quintessential boxes in a table representing exact 24-hour days that will allow us to predict, with mathematical certainty, just how long into the future we can plan our lives accordingly and be able to share with others while being in perfect unity.


The reality is, unless we are told specifically to use math within its instruction, we must be very careful to not assume it should be inserted into scripture and then relied upon as dogma. Deuteronomy 4:2[1] states:

    "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." {Underlined emphasis added}

Again, this is not to say that math or calendars are evil. However, it can be a challenge to overcome our bias toward their usage. If we can accept the challenge to open our minds - much like the wise Virgins of Matthew 10 - and understand the context of the scriptures themselves, we may come to a completely different understanding of time itself. One that is not at all complicated. One that is attainable without requiring a degree in mathematics, physics, or a complete understanding of the universe. Scripture does give us all of the parameters we need to keep our appointments with God at His Festivals each year whenever the time arrives. To fully grasp the concept of Biblical time, we must first put our calendar bias aside and see the scriptures using a pure and simple mind. Unless otherwise instructed to use math or timetables, we must accept an approach that is free of bias and concepts that we have been fashioned to use. As the wise character Yoda stated in the film Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: "you must unlearn what you have learned."

In this paper, we will use this approach to look at Biblical references to time itself, understand more accurately when to keep our appointments with Yehovah - all using His magnificent, ordained, and observable timepiece in the sky. We will look at specific examples that will provide witness to the method of observation and the counting of days. We will then research documented history to find how the ancients observed a calendar and we will contrast the concepts of scripture against the development of the current Hebrew calendar system, how it is currently constructed, why it was introduced in its current form and how the Jews perceive its usage.

I encourage you to check all references in this paper - especially the Biblical scriptures! Do not simply take my word for it. This subject is an important, foundational element to the Biblical festivals, and it should be a subject taught to all of Yehovah's children - even the new-born babes just discovering the truth of Yehovah! At what age did you learn about the Gregorian calendar? Do we tell our children today that it's too complicated for them to understand? Understanding Yehovah's time can also be accomplished to those eager to learn - not by becoming a calendar expert or mathematician as some would have you believe, but by researching the Bible and asking for guidance through prayer and His Holy Spirit.

This paper is in no way intended to attack any individual or organization, rather to bring attention to those looking for truth from a Biblical foundation rather than through the many words and ideas of men. At the same time, I don't claim to be perfect and am always open to correction. However, I do implore you to research this topic carefully and not take it for granted. I am aware that various conclusions have been made by many individuals on this subject and I will attempt to cover many of the more popular ones within this paper to compare. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that iron sharpens iron, suggesting that through our many opinions (without contradicting scripture), our understanding can only increase when we work together as a body of believers. Most turn away from this subject and choose to blindly follow tradition (what men tell them to do). To those, I ask: should any topic concerning our faith be like opening a can of worms?

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