A Calendar Bias for Biblical Time
(Revised 2015)

By: Shawn Richardson

Section 11:


While Christians typically do not adhere to Rabbinical authority for doctrinal tenets or follow Talmudic customs, several Sabbath-observing congregations make an exception regarding the Hebrew Calendar. This exception is rooted in the belief that the Jewish people were entrusted with the Oracles of God, as delineated in Romans 3:1-2[1]:

    "What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God." {Underlined emphasis added}

It is important to note that the origin of these oracles were divine, not human constructs. They were Yehovah's! They pertain to the Biblical Scriptures, specifically the Tanakh, which encompasses the directives issued to Moses at Mount Sinai, encapsulated within the Torah (the Pentateuch). Although the Jewish community has largely preserved these original texts, they have also appended various extrabiblical traditions and edicts, both written and oral. There is a common presumption that these oracles included a calendar with its computational aspects, and therefore divinically sourced. But was the calendar system from Yehovah, or was it added? Acts 7:38 sheds light on the nature of these oracles:

    "This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us."

Previously, we examined these very Oracles, which conveyed instructions about the New Moons, the sounding of trumpets, and the alignment of the year with the Aviv barley harvest. The Scriptures mandate that nothing should be added to or removed from the written law, affirming the immutability of the divine. Some contend that the term "Living Oracles" suggests an independent oral tradition with distinct content, potentially conflicting with the written word. However, if any oral oracles were imparted during Moses' time, they would have merely elaborated upon the existing written material, without altering or contradicting it. There is no evidence to support the notion that the Torah was exclusively transmitted orally, even in part. Exodus 24:3-4[1] clarifies:

    "And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel." {Underlined emphasis added}

This passage confirms that the written Oracles encompass all the words of Yehovah communicated to Moses. Despite the introduction of Jewish traditions over the centuries, the integrity of the written Oracles has been meticulously maintained, as Paul elucidates in Romans. Jewish tradition necessitated the scrupulous replication of the Scriptures, ensuring their preservation through a rigorous process of copying and verification, down to the count of paragraphs, lines, words, and letters. Consequently, the transcribed Tanakh remained remarkably faithful to the original, preserving the authentic words well beyond the lifespan of the original materials. Jewish scribes devoted their lives to this preservation effort. Nevertheless, this fidelity to the text does not imply that all Jewish interpretations of these Scriptures are accurate. Moreover, even the Jewish custodians of the Oracles themselves do not assert the preservation of a distinct calendrical system from Moses' era. Orthodox Jewish understanding acknowledges that the Hebrew calendar, as it exists today, is a Rabbinical construct that has evolved over time, and has diverged from the written Torah. Historical records validate that the original calendar was observationally-based, reliant on direct reports, and was a practice chronicled by the Sanhedrin and was grounded in Torah directives.

Rabbinical Authority

Rabbinic authority within present-day Orthodox Judaism is often referred to as Da'as Torah, which translates to "the opinion of Torah." This authority extends beyond matters of Jewish law and encompasses various personal, social, and political issues.

Historically, this authority traces back to the Sanhedrin, the High Court system of ancient Israel. While the modern approach emphasizes halakhic (divine law) foundations, its roots lie in the Pharisees' practices under the Sanhedrin[43].

The Talmud plays a central role in Rabbinical authority. Two schools of thought exist regarding a rabbi's extent of authority: maximalists advocate for broad influence over religious and civic matters, while minimalists limit enforceable rulings. Many Rabbinic texts emerged after the temple's destruction in the first century, reinforcing their influence.

The Talmud also introduces man-made traditions alongside the written Torah. These traditions dictate details as specific as which shoe to put on first[56]. Yeshua Himself challenged these man-made traditions during His ministry.

Interestingly, even most Sabbath-keeping Christian churches do not recognize these traditions, yet they accept Rabbinical authority when it favors the Hebrew Calendar. Jews, however, adhere to the Rabbinical system even when it conflicts with Yehovah's words. The Rabbinical Talmud of Baba Metzia 59b[5] documents their stance, claiming that they need not heed a Heavenly Voice.

    "That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because Thou hast long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline."

If this authority no longer listens to Yehovah, it ceases to be His direct authority. Jews interpret the written Torah independently, leading to new laws and even calendars that can diverge from Yehovah's instruction. Some Jews believe restoring the Sanhedrin would be the only way to properly address these calendar-related issues.

In summary, accepting the Hebrew calendar based solely on Rabbinic authority, simply because Jews were originally given the oracles, lacks scriptural support. Groups should critically evaluate this authority, especially when it contradicts with other topics. Claiming Rabbinic authority for the Hebrew calendar is merely a convenient excuse or is chosen out of ignorance of what that authority represents, and it remains both illogical and unscriptural.


In the realm of church organizations, the concept of authority often intersects with the debate over which calendar to follow. Too often, church organizations claim that proponents of an observed calendar are using their own self-proclaimed authority, despite what is found in Biblical scripture. The United Church of God addresses this matter in their doctrinal paper[19].

    "Some people have taken it upon themselves to determine the calendar. God lets them do so, but does He give them the authority in this matter?"

It's true that individuals who take it upon themselves to look for the ordained signs associated with God's calendar must make a determination if they were indeed found. But the crucial question remains: Does God grant them authority to make this decision? Glenn McWilliams, writing for Torah Keepers, delves into the heart of the matter in his article[14].

    "The central and fundamental debate is over the issue of authority. The true question being asked by the members of this infant movement is not which calendar is right but what authority we are to follow. The authority behind the rabbinic calendar is clearly the rabbis. The rabbis have established their authority through the writings of the Talmud, the oral Torah. It is the Talmud that has established the rabbinic calendar as the calendar for all Israel, including those in the Diaspora. On the other hand, the authority behind the biblical calendar is the written Torah. The tension that is tearing at the unity of the Hebraic Roots/Messianic Movement is simply the tension that exists when the written Torah and the oral Torah do not agree. The calendar is only one of many such issues." {Underlined emphasis added}

While structured authority within an organization is essential, blind adherence to authority - even when it contradicts scripture - poses a challenge. The Bible itself serves as the documented authority of Yehovah. Even the Church of God group, which follows the calculated Hebrew Calendar, does so not because they can prove it from the Bible, but because they self-appoint the authority of the Jews (and thus the Talmud). However, Deuteronomy 4:2 reminds us that no authority surpasses that of Yehovah Himself. We must not overlook the signs within scripture, relying instead on the authority of men and the Talmud.

Choosing to follow an observational calendar involves attempting to apply the instructions given by Yehovah through His authority to the actual events we see and experience around us. Yes, it's up to us to interpret what we've seen. What's important is what we use to interpret it - is it His instructions or our own concepts? Simply following an observed calendar does not automatically mean we are creating our own concepts and ideas, nor is it correct to assume that is the case.

Yeshuah's Rejection of Man's Authority

Even Yeshua Himself did not fully embrace the oral traditions of the Jewish leaders during His time on Earth. On several occasions, He faced threats of stoning for allegedly violating these traditions. Some cite Matthew 23:1-31[1], where Yeshua addresses the authority of the Pharisees and seemingly instructs people to follow their teachings:

    "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.'" {Underlined emphasis added}

At first glance, it may seem that Yeshua is showing respect and acknowledging the authority of the Pharisees, which appears contradictory to how He actually interacted with them. However, when we consider the translation from Hebrew (of which there is strong support for the book of Matthew to have originated in Hebrew), a single letter makes a significant difference. Nehemia Gordon, author of "The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus," explains the history of this translation and the verse above[50]:

    "These are two fundamentally different messages, but in Hebrew, this is a difference of only one single letter! In Hebrew, "he says" is yomar while "they say" is yomru. The only difference between the two in an un-pointed Hebrew text is the addition of the extra vav in yomru "they say". That this is the basis for a completely different message is amazing because the vav is one of the smallest letters in the Hebrew alphabet, really just a single stroke!"

Researching the Hebrew text of Matthew, we find that the verse should read, according to the Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew[49]:

    "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever HE [Moses] will say to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to THEIR [Pharisees] works; for they say, and do not do.'" {Underlined emphasis added}

Yeshua consistently encouraged people to prioritize the 'Law of Moses' over Pharisaic teachings. While respecting human laws is important, they should not contradict Yehovah's original instructions. Rabbinical decrees, known as takkanot, were founded by the Sanhedrin constructing the Seat of Moses within their synagogues. It was believed that this granted the occupant of that seat authority to create binding rules - even over Yehovah Himself. Mr. Gordon further explains that this scripture continues in the Hebrew as:

    "Therefore, all that he says to you, diligently do, but according to their reforms [takanot - Hebrew text omitted] and their precedents [ma'asim - Hebrew text omitted] do not do, because they talk but they do not do. In the Hebrew Matthew, Yeshua is telling his disciples not to obey the Pharisees. If their claim to authority is that they sit in Moses' Seat, then diligently do as Moses says!"

Levitical Priesthood

Some church organizations contend that Jews were specifically granted authority over the calendar in the Bible. Mr. John Ogwyn, in his article for the Living Church of God, references Leviticus 23:2[1]:

    "The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts."

Mr. Ogwyn explains that the Hebrew word for "convocations" is "miqra," signifying an assembly. He also points out that the same Hebrew verb "qara," meaning "to proclaim," which is used in Leviticus 23:2, was also employed in Genesis 2 when Adam named the animals. His argument is that Adam's act of naming each animal granted him authority to create names for the creatures. Mr. Ogwyn continues:

    "How does this relate to the holy days? In Leviticus 23, we learned that a certain group, ('you,' plural) was responsible for naming or designating the days on which the congregation was to assemble before God. Numbers 10 explains that this refers to the priesthood, and shows the means God gave them to announce the designation of new moons and festival days. It was not an individual matter for each Israelite to arrive at by himself; rather it was a collective matter to be proclaimed by an authoritative body."

Mr. Ogwyn concludes that the Levitical Priesthood, using terms like "you," "proclaim," and "convocation" in Leviticus 23, had the authority to name or ordain Yehovah's appointed worship days. This authority extended to changing the days of holy convocations and the calendar. However, he assumes that because Adam named the animals, the Levitical Priesthood had the freedom to alter Yehovah's previously ordained signs from Genesis 1. Yet, it's essential to note that the animals named by Adam were not yet named when presented to him, and their naming occurred under Yehovah's command. Genesis 2:19 states:

    "Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name." {Underlined emphasis added}

Furthermore, in Leviticus 23, Yehovah instructs Moses to convey His message to a particular group of people regarding the Feasts:

    "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feast of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.'" {Underlined emphasis added}

Moses, as the appointed spokesperson for all Israel, did not possess special authority to alter Yehovah's laws or instructions. His role emerged from the people's request in Exodus 20:18-19, following their awe-inspiring encounter with Yehovah at Mount Sinai:

    "And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" {Underlined emphasis added}

Moreover, any authority granted to the Levitical Priesthood or the children of Israel did not empower them to modify Yehovah's ordained signs. Yehovah, unchanging by principle, held them accountable for precise adherence to His instructions throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The tragic fate of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, serves as a stark reminder. They offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, resulting in their demise (Leviticus 10:1-2):

    "The Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." {Underlined emphasis added}

When evaluating calendar systems, any claims of "authority" must align with the preserved Words of Yehovah within the scriptures. Simply asserting "because we say so" or "because the Priests say so" falls short of the ultimate authority that rests in Yehovah's revealed truth.

God-Given Authority?

Carl Franklin, author of "The Calendar of Christ and the Apostles,"[6] published under the Christian Biblical Church of God, attempts to show that an authority was specifically given by Yehovah to calculate a calendar by citing Psalm 81:3-5, which states[1]:

    "Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon [chodesh 2320], at the full moon [kece' 3677], on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute [choq 2706] for Israel, A law [mishpat 4941] of the God of Jacob. This He established [suwm 7760] in Joseph as a testimony, when He went throughout the land of Egypt, where I heard a language I did not understand."

Mr. Franklin gives meanings to the Hebrew words in these verses. The first, chodesh (Strong's 2320), he agrees means "occurrence of the new crescent". However, he believes this is only referring to the seventh month (crescent). The second, kece' (Strong's 3677) is translated full moon in the New King James. The third, choq (Strong's 2706), Franklin refers to Brown Driver Briggs (p. 349) who claims this word means "law of a religious festival". The fourth, mispat (Strong's 4941) he says is related to the verb chaqaq (Strong's 2710) and means "something prescribed". Finally, suwm (Strong's 7760) he claims means "to compute". Franklin then concludes [6]:

    "When we understand the meaning of the Hebrew words, it is evident that at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, God issued to Moses and Aaron 'a law of a festival' ({chog} 2706). The festival for which this law was issued was the new moon ({chodesh} 2320) of the seventh month. This law decreed that each year the new moon of the seventh month was to be presented for judgment ({mispat} 4941) by computation ({suwm} 7760), and that a written prescription ({chaqaq} 2710), or calendar, was to be issued."

By rearranging the words according to Mr. Franklin's interpretations, he constructs a sentence - shown above - that he asserts commands us from the Psalm (not within the Torah) to calculate or compute our calendar. However, even if we accept Franklin's meanings for these Hebrew words, he does not further explain how we are granted the freedom to establish our own rules that modify Yehovah's previously ordained signs, nor does he clarify how we should base our computations on scripture. Moreover, Mr. Franklin's interpretations of the Hebrew words are not entirely accurate and are slightly taken out of context. For example, sewm (Strong's 7760) in the Strong's Hebrew Lexicon [4] is described as follows:

    "7760 suwm soom or siym {seem}; a primitive root; to put (used in a great variety of applications, literal, figurative, inferentially, and elliptically):--X any wise, appoint, bring, call (a name), care, cast in, change, charge, commit, consider, convey, determine, + disguise, dispose, do, get, give, heap up, hold, impute, lay (down, up), leave, look, make (out), mark, + name, X on, ordain, order, + paint, place, preserve, purpose, put (on), + regard, rehearse, reward, (cause to) set (on, up), shew, + stedfastly, take, X tell, + tread down, ((over-))turn, X wholly, work."

And in Aramaic:

    "7761 suwm soom (Aramaic) corresponding to 7760:--+ command, give, lay, make, + name, + regard, set."

Nowhere in the Strong's Lexicon is the term 'compute' or the phrase 'to compute' ever used to describe the Hebrew word 'suwm.' While there is an example in Psalm 81 that suggests we determine when New Moons and Festivals are to be observed and, in turn, blow trumpets to announce their commencements - thus setting the start of the Biblical calendar as commanded - this does not grant us the liberty to alter Yehovah's signs that have already been ordained by Him. Otherwise, we would have the freedom to change any of Yehovah's appointed times (including shifting the Sabbath from the seventh day to Sunday simply by delaying the trumpet blast or altering the method of calculating the day of the week).

Even though we have already covered the Psalm 81 verse as it relates to the Biblical calendar, it's worth noting the specific word used here (as well as in Proverbs 7:20), kece' (Strong's 3677), is translated as full moon in the New King James. This word is further described in Strong's Lexicon [4] as:

    "3677 kece' keh'-seh or keceh {keh'-seh}; apparently from 3680; properly, fulness or the full moon, i.e. its festival:--(time) appointed."

And the definition of the primitive root, Strong's 3680:

    "3680 kacah kaw-saw' a primitive root; properly, to plump, i.e. fill up hollows; by implication, to cover (for clothing or secrecy):--clad self, close, clothe, conceal, cover (self), (flee to) hide, overwhelm."

The festivals mentioned likely correspond to occasions that occur around the moon's fullness, under the moon's cover, or when it is at its fullest (referred to as 'kece'). However, it is essential to clarify that there is no Biblical instruction to base Yehovah's festivals solely on the phase of the full moon itself within this poetic book. The instructions provided in Leviticus, the Torah, and throughout the Bible specifically use the term 'new moon' ('chodesh') from which to count days - not from the full moon ('kece'). Therefore, we cannot assume from this one verse that any of Yehovah's Festivals must always coincide with the Full Moon or its fullest point, as some may interpret. In fact, no calendar method can consistently align a month starting at the new moon (regardless of one's definition of what constitutes a new moon) with the 15th day of the same month and have the result precisely align with when the moon is full. This is because the length of time from the astronomical new moon to the full moon can vary between 14 and 15 whole days, depending on when the day begins. Using Psalm 81 to rigidly associate the new moon and full moon with the first and fifteenth days is mathematically unfeasible within a calendrical system. Instead, this poetic Psalm likely refers to festivals that naturally occur around the 15th, coinciding with the full moon's light covering the night-time terrain. It certainly does not mean that have been granted authority to simply change this fact by instituting new computations for a calendar.

Armstrong Almost Had It

Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the Radio Church of God and Worldwide Church of God, penned a letter in the 1940 Good News Magazine addressing the topic of the calendar. Numerous splintered Church of God groups, with which I have been associated with, place significant reliance on Mr. Armstrong's findings. In this context, he states (quoting from Bill Bratt's Web Page: 'How to Figure Passover!'):

    "The true sacred calendar is no more lost than the weekly Sabbath. Then WHO HAS PRESERVED THIS TIME, this sacred CALENDAR? To whom did God give it? To whom were "the oracles of God COMMITTED"? To ISRAEL and JUDAH, of course! Israel LOST the Sabbath, LOST time, LOST even her national name and identity. But JUDAH NEVER DID. Judah has kept TIME in respect to the weekly Sabbath. The Jews rejected Christ. They apostatized in doctrine, BUT THEY WERE STRICT STICKLERS FOR THE LETTER. Would such a people have lost their CALENDAR? If so, TIME IS LOST! There is no other source thru whom God could have committed AND PRESERVED His calendar. He did COMMIT it to them. Therefore it must be thru them He has preserved it!"

The Jewish people did not lose time; rather, they adapted their calendar system. Historical evidence from the Sanhedrin and the meticulous preservation of the written Oracles have maintained the original calendar, which relies on observation. However, Mr. Armstrong appears to overlook this fact and assumes that a mathematical calendar system has always been in place. Despite acknowledging that the Jews rejected Yeshua and deviated from doctrine, he contends that their modern calculated calendar must have been preserved - despite their own historical record of transitioning away from observation and now awaiting the Messiah or proper authority for reinstatement.

While it is true that the Oracles were preserved, Orthodox Jews have introduced man-made rules and traditions that extend beyond the written Oracles, as we have already discussed. These traditions, which Yeshua himself disputed, continue to endure today and have left their mark on the various Churches of God that still regard Herbert Armstrong's contributions. Notably, Armstrong also recognized that the Jews once relied on observation. He quotes in God's Sacred Calendar for the Worldwide Church of God for 1986-1987[12] after citing Exodus 12:2 that:

    "The beginning of this month and of all God's months basically correspond with the appearance of the first faint crescent of the new moon in the west just after sundown. (Traditionally observed from Palestine.) The astronomical new moon calculated for the United States is, in general, a day or two earlier." {Underlined emphasis added}

In his 1986-1987 calendar article, Mr. Armstrong discusses the distinction between the visible crescent and the modern-day conjunction phases of the moon. He acknowledges that the terms "month" and "new moon" convey the same meaning (cognates) - see illustration underlined in red. However, he swiftly concludes that the calculated Hebrew calendar, influenced by what appears to be his calendar bias, is essential for maintaining God's time. He further states in his Good News Magazine letter:

    "Research reveals two basic points on this question, 1st, GOD DID NOT RECORD IT IN THE BIBLE, which gives us absolutely NOTHING more to go on that I have stated above. 2nd, History is vague on the subject, shedding little light that can be asserted and trusted. Yet we know God gave HIS PEOPLE a FIXED RULE for calculating TIME PERIODS, and for figuring WHEN to hold the Festivals of Jehovah. Otherwise, the prophecies, so full of definite time-periods, can never be understood. Otherwise God's people could not obey Him!" {Underlined emphasis added}

Mr. Armstrong contends that God must have given His people a fixed rule for calculating time periods and determining when to observe the Festivals despite God not explicitly recording it in the Bible. He later states in the same letter:

    "In conclusion, unless God has preserved His sacred calendar thru the Jew, then WE DO NOT KNOW how to figure Passover or ANY of the holy days this year. For there is NO AUTHORITY for any other day.... There is NO BIBLE AUTHORITY WHATSOEVER for (for example) figuring the 1st day of the month from the new moon NEAREST the spring equinox!" {Underlined emphasis added}

Mr. Armstrong's concepts include 'a fixed rule' for calculating time periods, 'figuring' (or computing) Passover or the holy days. He also considers the spring equinox as a contributing factor in determining 'the Festivals of Jehovah.' These requirements are assumed due to his mathematical or calendrical bias. However, he fails to distinguish between what the Jews historically preserved and their current practices. Armstrong's viewpoint suggests that the calculation behind the Hebrew calendar is based on traditional observations, possibly including the faint crescent. His calendar bias leads him to assume that the absence of calculations in scripture means the Jews have preserved and continue to practice them through the current Hebrew calendar.


The example of the Bereans diligently searching the scriptures daily to verify teachings and doctrines underscores their recognition of the sole authority vested in the inspired Word of God. The Torah - the foundation of all scripture - centers around the law of Yehovah. While the Jews played a crucial role in preserving the scriptures, they do not possess special authority to alter Yehovah's laws, nor can any human override His divine authority, including matters related to the calendar.

Seeking an external authority beyond scripture or not attempting direct communion with Yehovah through His Holy Spirit and our advocate, Yeshua, often reflects a desire to justify our own personal preferences. It is our inclination to conform to our own understanding that draws us toward average mathematical timetables (calendars) in pursuit of predictability. However, it is essential to recognize that this desire for predictability is not a requirement set by Yehovah. Instead, He invites us to place our faith in Him, trusting that He will reveal His appointed times, when it comes, through His ordained signs.

  • Hebrew Calendar Exception: While Christians generally do not recognize Rabbinical authority for doctrinal beliefs or Talmudic traditions, many Sabbath/Festival-keeping church groups make an exception when it comes to the Hebrew Calendar.
  • Oracles of God: These groups base their exception on the Jews being entrusted with the "oracles of God," as mentioned in Romans 3:1-2. These oracles refer to the Biblical Scripture, including instructions given to Moses at Mount Sinai.
  • Written vs. Oral Torah: The tension lies between the authority of the Talmud and the written Torah. The former relies on oral traditions, while the latter emphasizes the preservation of Yehovah's written words to Moses.
  • Debate Over Authority: Some Church of God groups follow the calculated Hebrew Calendar because they self-appoint the authority of the Jews that follow that Talmud and oral traditions, even though this authority is not directly supported from the Bible or recognized by Yeshua.

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