A History of Today’s Rabbinic Calendar
God’s Biblical Calendar is very simple; When the sun sets the day ends and a new day begins; every seventh day is the Sabbath and after the Sabbath a new cycle of seven begins making the week; each new month begins with the first visible light of the new moon as seen from Jerusalem and the new year begins at the same season that Israel left Egypt. This system was used for generations, but troubles began with the Babylonian Captivity.
A Brief History Overview
In Babylon the Jews learned about the Babylonian Calendar system, and later when Alexander swept through Egypt and the Middle East and conquered Babylon he brought Greek culture and the logic of Aristotle with him.
Many of the Pharisees who remained in Babylon after the Nehemiah / Ezra return to Judea were deeply impressed with Greek logic and began to apply the logic of Aristotle in their interpretation of the scriptures; while many others – especially those who returned to Judea – held to a literal take on the scriptures.
Both of these groups are called Pharisees and for the sake of easy identification I will call one group the “Mosaic Pharisees” and the ones influenced by Greek logic the “Hellenic Pharisees.”
The Hellenic Pharisees grew very influential across the known world and in Palestine; until after endless feuding, the Mosaic Pharisees asked the Romans to intervene in their support and Judea became a Roman province. At that point we find the Sadducees [priests] and scribes and the Mosaic Pharisees in control in Jerusalem and Judea with many Hellenized Pharisees also living there.
Then when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by Prince Titus of Rome in c 70 A.D. the Mosaic Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes went into decline and the Hellenized Pharisees already controlling Judaism in Babylon and Alexandria, began to slowly gain dominance.
The Hellenized Pharisees began to use the logic of Aristotle to change Judaism, just as in the West the Roman emperor Constantine and the church leaders began to use the logic of Aristotle to change professing Christianity from a zeal to live by every Word of God into reliance on blindly following human leaders.
In both cases the issue was the same; whether to live by every Word of God or to live by the reasoning’s of men and the traditions of men.
The Hellenic Pharisees changed much in Judaism, just as the professing Christian leaders changed much in professing Christianity.
This is a fascinating study of how both professing Christianity and modern Rabbinic Judaism were changed from the scriptures, but the subject at hand is the Biblical Calendar.
The Development of Today’s Rabbinic Calendar
After 536 B.C. Cyrus allowed the Jews [and others] to return to their lands and rebuild their Holy Places.
After 536 B.C. some Jews returned to Judea but the majority stayed in Babylon and the Jews in Babylon were exposed to the Babylonian Calendar which did not yet have fixed intercalated months. At the same time those Jews who had returned to Judea continued to keep the Biblical Calendar of observing the moon and spring from Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra.
In 503 B.C. Darius I the Great (if not earlier) established a fixed system of intercalation which contained 7 leap years in a 19-year calendrical cycle. An extra month called “Addaru II” was added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of a 19-year calendrical cycle. This accounted for 7 leap years.
By doing this, the cycle came out even with the solar calendar year, and the first day of the month of Nisanu – New Year’s Day in the calendar – was never far off from the Vernal Equinox (the first day of Spring), resulting in the civil calendar and the seasons never being out of step.
The Levitical priesthood in Jerusalem and Judea rejected Babylon’s fixed intercalation and maintained the system of intercalation by observation of the ripening barley harvest at Jerusalem but many Jews in Babylon began to consider adopting this fixed system of the Persians because of the distance from Judea.
In the fifth century B.C., the Greek astronomer Meton of Athens (Greek: Μέτων ὁ Ἀθηναῖος; gen.: Μέτωνος wiki) discovered that a period of very close to 19 years was nearly a common multiple of the 365 day solar year and the synodic (present 29.5 day lunar) month. He observed that a period of 19 years is almost exactly equal to 235 synodic months and, rounded to full days, counts 6,940 days. The difference between the two periods (of 19 years and 235 synodic months) is only two hours.
Considering a year to be 1⁄19 of this 6,940-day cycle gives a year length of 365 + 1⁄4 + 1⁄76 days (the unrounded cycle is much more accurate), which is slightly more than 12 synodic months.
After it was discovered by the Greek mathematician, astronomer, and engineer Meton of Athens in 432 B.C.E. who worked closely with another Greek astronomer, Euctemon, that 235 lunar months are almost identical to 19 solar years (the difference is only 2 hours); a lunisolar calendrical system of adding months to a lunar calendar to align it with the solar year based on this discovery was created by the Greeks and called the “Metonic Cycle”.
By doing this, the cycle came out even with the solar calendar year, and the first day of the month of Nisanu – New Year’s Day in the calendar – was never far off from the Vernal Equinox (the first day of Spring), resulting in the civil calendar and the seasons never being out of step.
Alexander became king of Macedon in 336 BC and proceeded to conquer Egypt, Palestine and Babylon; bringing with him Greek culture and spreading the Greek Metonic Cycle calendar throughout the conquered lands including Judea, while adopting and maintaining the Persian [Babylonian] added fixed intercalation system.
The Jews who had remained in Babylon and those in Alexandria as well as some who were in Judea became largely Hellenized, adapting much of Greek reasoning methods and slowly apostatized away from Moses; falsely claiming that they had a hidden secret law which was above the law of Moses and which gave them authority over the written Word of God to use their own reasoning’s to do as they saw fit.
From that time on the Hellenized Jews struggled with the Mosaic Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes, until the Mosaic Sadducees [priests] appealed to Rome in 66 B.C. asking Rome to enter the nation and support their control of Judea. The Mosaic Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes remained in control in Judea until the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.
When the Mosaic Pharisees were destroyed in their first century rebellion and the Roman wars, the Hellenized Jews slowly began to dominate the religion and became the forefathers of the modern Rabbins.
In c 359 A.D. the Roman emperor Constantius 2 forbade the Sanhedrin calendar committee to meet regarding calendar matters and ordered the Jews to adopt a fixed calendar. In response the Hillel 2 Sanhedrin adopted the Babylonian Calendar with its fixed months and intercalated years, adding the Biblical Festivals to this non Biblical calendar
Most Jews Rejected the Hillel II Calendar
In fact most Jews did not accept the calendar of Hillel II and there was intense disagreement among the Rabbins for hundreds of years.
Hillel 2 did not create the present Rabbinic Calendar, he only presented the then existing Babylonian Calendar with its fixed months and intercalated years to which he added the Biblical Festivals, this Calendar then went through eight hundred more years of further development.
It is impossible to apply modern Jewish calendric rules to Talmudic dates earlier than at least 500 AD), because the final arithmetic rules for calculating dates in the modern Jewish calendar were developed over time from the 7th or 8th centuries in Babylonia by the heads of the Jewish academies of learning, known as the Geonim and were not finalized until 1178 A.D.
Today’s Rabbinic Calendar went largely unnoticed until it began to gradually develop in theory during the Geonic period [657 to 1034 A.D.].
The postponements were added and the principles and rules of today’s modern Rabbinic Calendar were fully codified by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah in the 12th century [1178 A.D.].
Maimonides’ also began setting the months based on Molads or the average time between the darkness of conjunctions in place of God’s command to begin the months with the first visible light of the new moon; bringing today’s Rabbinic Calendar into full apostasy from the Word of God as given to Moses
Today’s modern Rabbinic Calendar did not exist at the time of Christ and gradually developed until finalized in 1178 A.D. Neither the Molads of darkness nor the unlawful postponements existed until the postponements were added by Maimonides and officially accepted by the Rabbins in 1178 A.D.
Deuteronomy 4:1 Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
The postponements come from Hellenic reasoning and the logic of Aristotle to make the scriptures of no effect by teaching that men can reason around what God has commanded.
Instead, based on the evidence, it is now widely known that the arithmetic rules for calculating dates in the modern Jewish Calendar were not developed until at least the 7th to 8th centuries in Babylonia. While the Molads of darkness and unlawful postponement rules did not exist until finalized by Moses Maimonides in 1178 A.D.
Finally, in 1178 AD, Maimonides finalized in full, all of the rules for the modern Jewish calendar.
It is absolutely certain and beyond question that the Rabbinic Calendar in use today, IS NOT the calendar used by the Jews during the life of Jesus Christ, nor was it finally codified until over a thousand years later; and second, the Rabbinic Calendar has nothing to do with the Calendar that the Creator gave His creation in the Holy Scriptures.
The Bible tells us to begin and to end a day at sunset; and to count six days and to keep the seventh day as a Sabbath of rest. These are the only calendar instructions that the modern Hellenic Rabbins keep.
They reject the Biblical beginning of months with the first LIGHT of the moon Genesis 1:14, in favor of starting a month based on the average time between conjunctions [molads]; which is that period of darkness before the light of the sun begins to brighten the moon; and they reject adding intercalary years by the ripening of the harvest for their artificial insertion of regular intercalary months.
They then start their year in the fall, when God commands us to start our year in the spring, and they postpone the days God declares holy, to other days for their own convenience. They also changed the dates of Pentecost and Passover from the biblical commanded dates.
The Rabbins have rejected God’s Word for their own devising’s. Is that what Moses and those who sit in Moses seat would do?
What is Moses seat anyway? Is it not the body of scriptures that Moses wrote?
Therefore anyone who departs from the words of Moses; does not represent Moses, or sit in Moses seat!
Should those who are called into the priesthood of Jesus Christ; reject God’s Word to follow the teachings of men contrary to the Word of God? If they do so, knowing the truth of God’s Word; it is pure and indefensible idolatry of men!
God commanded Moses to tell us that we are NOT to depart from God’s Word, yet the Rabbinic Calendar is a departure from the Word of God; as the Rabbins themselves openly admit
Deuteronomy 5:30 Go say to them, Get you into your tents again.
5:31 But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.
5:32 Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
5:33 Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.
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“The history of the Jewish calendar may be divided into three periods–the Scriptural, the Talmudic, and the post-Talmudic. The first [Scriptural] rested purely on the observation of the sun and the moon, the second [Talmudic] on observation and reckoning, and the third [post-Talmudic–still used today] entirely on reckoning.” (The Jewish Encyclopedia article: “Calendar, History of” pp.498)
“The beginning of the months were determined by direct observation of the new moon. Then those beginning of months (Rosh Hodesh) were sanctified and announced by the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, after witnesses testified that they had seen the new crescent and after their testimony had been thoroughly examined, confirmed by calculation and duly accepted.” (Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, p.1, section: HISTORICAL REMARKS ON THE JEWISH CALENDAR)
In recent years, a number of individuals and groups have begun to observe the Moon each month to practice for the commandment of observing the Moon and for determining criteria for the limits of visibility.” (Above quote taken from the website of the Israeli New Moon Society [http://www.geocities.com/royh_il/], which was founded by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Rabinovitch, head of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe, Maale Adumim. The society works with the Institude for Kiddush Hachodesh Studies and includes scientists and rabbis from Universities, Yeshivot and elsewhere. They are adherents of Rabbinical Orthodox Judaism and its calculated rabbinical calendar).
“The Jewish calendar as now observed is the product of a long historical development.” (The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p.631)
“There is…unimpeachable evidence from the works of writers with expert knowledge of the calendar that the present ordo intercalationis [sequence of intercalations–the 19 year cycle] and epochal molad were not intrinsic parts of the calendar of Hillel II, these being seen still side by side with other styles of the ordo intercalationis and the molad as late as the 11th century. Also the four dehiyyot [postponement rules] developed gradually. …By the tenth century the Jewish calendar was exactly the same as today.” (Cecil Roth, editor, Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 5, p.50, article: Calendar)
“The Talmudic Rabbis [ca. first half of the third century C.E. (i.e., prior to 250 C.E.) to the end of the fifth century C.E.] recognised the variation in length of the synodic month…and hence they determined the beginning of every month separately by observation of the new moon as well as by calculation.” (W.M. Feldman, Rabbinical Mathematics and Astronomy, Hermon Press, 1965, p.123)
“Further, Gans points out, that it is hardly likely that R. Gamaliel would speak of a mean [i.e. average] synodic month, as in his time the ‘fixed’ calendar was not yet in use.” (W.M. Feldman, Ibid, p.124)
“For as the beginning of a month was fixed on the accredited evidence of witnesses who reported having seen the new moon soon after sunset on a certain day, it was the duty of the Calendar Council not only to test their evidence by stringent cross-examination…but also to ascertain, by mathematical calculation, whether the moon could, in fact, be seen at that particular moment at the particular place from which the witnesses came.” (W. M. Feldman, Ibid., p.160)
“In mishnaic times [the Mishnah was completed c 200 C.E.], though the authorities were familiar with astronomical calculations, the new moon was fixed on the basis of observation, which meant that, as a rule, the bet din formally proclaimed the New Month only after it had heard evidence of witnesses who had actually seen the new moon.” (Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume 14, article: Rosh Ha-Shanah, p.311)
“The Mishnaic tractate Rosh Hashanah describes the way in which the calendar was determined in the days before there was a set, calculated calendar which we have today. Witnesses would appear before the Sanhedrin each month to testify that they had seen the ‘new moon.’ They were carefully cross-examined and, if the judges were satisfied, the Sanhedrin proclaimed the beginning of a new month.” (Behold, A Moon is Born! How the Jewish Calendar Works, Arnold A. Lasker and Daniel J. Lasker, Conservative Judaism, 41:4, Summer, 1989, p.8)
“But unless all indications are deceitful, they did not in the time of Jesus Christ possess as yet any fixed calendar, but on the basis of a purely empirical observation, on each occasion they began a new month with the appearing of the new moon…”  (Emil Schurer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, p.366)
“Now there are ten festivals in number, as the law sets them down….The third [festival] is that which comes after the conjunction, which [festival] happens on the day of the new moon in each month. …(140) Following the order which we have adopted, we proceed to speak of the third festival, that of the new moon. First of all, because it is the beginning of the month, and the beginning, whether of number or of time, is honourable. Secondly, because at this time there is nothing in the whole of heaven destitute of light. (141) Thirdly, because at that period the more powerful and important body gives a portion of necessary assistance to the less important and weaker body; for, at the time of the new moon, the sun begins to illuminate the moon with a light which is visible to the outward senses, and then she displays her own beauty to the beholders.” [first century Jew, Philo Judaeus, The Special Laws, II, XI. (41), XXVI. (140) & (141), as translated by C.D. Yonge in The Works of Philo: New Updated Edition, Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Hendickson Publishers, 1993, pp.572, 581]
“Jews calculated the month according to the phase of the moon, each month consisting of either twenty nine or thirty days, and beginning with the appearance of the new moon. But this opened a fresh field of uncertainty. It is quite true that every one might observe for himself the appearance of a new moon. But this would again partly depend on the state of the weather. Besides, it left an authoritative declaration of the commencement of a month unsupplied. And yet not only was the first of every month to be observed as ‘New Moon’s Day,’ but the feasts took place on the 10th, 15th, or other day of the month, which could not be accurately determined without a certain knowledge of its beginning. To supply this want the Sanhedrin sat in the ‘Hall of Polished Stones’ to receive the testimony of credible witnesses that they had seen the new moon. To encourage as many as possible to come forward on so important a testimony, these witnesses were handsomely entertained at the public expense.
If the new moon had appeared at the commencement of the 30th day — which would correspond to our evening of the 29th, as the Jews reckoned the day from evening to evening — the Sanhedrin declared the previous month to have been one of twenty-nine days, or ‘imperfect.’ Immediately thereon men were sent to a signal-station on the Mount of Olives, where beacon-fires were lit and torches waved, till a kindling flame on a hill in the distance indicated that the signal had been perceived. Thus the tidings, that this was the new moon, would be carried from hill to hill, far beyond the boundaries of Palestine, to those of the dispersion, ‘beyond the river.’ Again, if credible witnesses had not appeared to testify to the appearance of the new moon on the evening of the 29th, the next evening, or that of the 30th, according to our reckoning, was taken as the commencement of the new month, in which case the previous month was declared to have been one of thirty days, or ‘full.’ It was ruled [much later in history, and by the so-called “rabbis,” not God] that a year should neither have less than four nor more than eight such full months of thirty days” (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, pp.156-157)
“It is generally accepted that the Jewish festivals were, in Biblical times, fixed by observation of both the sun and the moon. Gradually, certain astronomical rules were also brought into requisition, primarily as a test, corroborating or refuting the testimony of observation….It has been authoritatively proved that in spite of a more advanced knowledge of astronomy the practice of fixing the new moon and the festivals by observation was in force as late as the latter part of the fifth century [C.E.]….It was only after the close of the Babylonian Talmud, in the sixth or perhaps later, in the seventh century, that the observation of the moon was entirely given up, and a complete and final system of calendation introduced [in the tenth century].” (Henry Malter, Saadia Gaon: His Life and Works, Chapter IV, Saadia’s Controversy with Ben Meir, pp.70-88, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1921)
“…Rejecting the fixed calendar as a heretic innovation, the Karaites held that by law of Scripture the beginning of the months must be determined by the appearance of the new crescent and no other means, and that this had been the practice of ancient Israel at all times. Rabbanite refutation of this extreme assertion found its most outspoken exponent in Saadia Gaon, who went to the opposite extreme in ‘demonstrating’ that the fixed calendar, computation of molad and tekufah, has the force of a Mosaic-Sinaitic law that had been followed at all ages of the past, while observation of the new crescent was merely a passing episode in the history of the Jews, introduced at the time of the Sadducees to show that it confirmed the correctness of the prescribed calendaric regulation by calculation. Although this contention could easily be refuted by the Karaites as fanciful to the point of ridicule, Saadia’s prestige was so great that his theory was accepted even by leading scholars…..Maimonides [12th century A.D] is one of the few medieval Rabbanite authorities known to have taken issue with Saadia’s and his followers’ contention, and his refutation amounts to unmitigated reproach, indeed to expression of intellectual as well as religious indignation. [Maimonides commented:] ‘I am truly astonished over a personage who rejects clear evidence, asserting that the religion of Israel was based, not on observation of the new moon, but on calculation alone–and yet he [Saadia] affirms the authority of all these (just mentioned) Talmudic passages! I think indeed that he did not believe his own assertions, but he merely wished to repel his [Karaite] adversary by any notion that just occurred to him, be it true or false, when he had found himself unable to escape the force of (his adversary’s) argument.'” (The Code of Maimonides, book II, treatise 8, translated by Solomon Gandz, Yale Judaica Series, Volume XI, pp.lii-liii)
“In 432 B.C.E. the Athenian astronomer Meton had reformed the Athenian calendar on the basis of a cycle of nineteen years, consisting of 235 lunar months adding one month seven times in the cycle to take care of the excess (235 is 7 more than 19 times 12). This calendar was widely adopted, and was eventually [in post-Talmudic times] followed by the Jewish teachers…”  (The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p.632)
“The intervals of intercalation were at first irregular [i.e., they were not set in a fixed calculated pattern such as the current CRC’s 19 year cycle of intercalating the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, & 19th years of its cycle], intercalation being in part due to the prevailing state of the various agricultural products….R. Akiva (died 135 [A.D.]) once intercalated three successive years…” (Cecil Roth, editor, Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 5, p.50, article: Calendar)
“…intercalation [i.e., including a 13 month in a year] was carried out as the need arose, on the basis of an empirical observation made on each occasion without any advance calculation. The following two passages demonstrate that this was still the case in the time of the Mishnah: (1) mMeg. 1:4…(2) mEduy. 7:7…The two passages are so clear that they require no further commentary…there was absolutely no calculation [of intercalary months] in advance.” (Emil Schurer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, p.593)
“This method of observation [i.e., the first visible moon light] and intercalation [i.e., adding a thirteenth month based on the season and status of the barley crop] was in use throughout the period of the second temple (516 B.C.E. – 70 C.E.), and about three centuries after its destruction, as long as there was an independent Sanhedrin. In the fourth century, however, when oppression and persecution threatened the continued existence of the Sanhedrin, the patriarch Hillel II took an extraordinary step to preserve the unity of Israel. In order to prevent the Jews scattered all over the surface of the earth from celebrating their New Moons, festivals and holidays at different times, he made public the system of calendar calculation which up to then had been a closely guarded secret. It had been used in the past only to check the observations and testimonies of witnesses, and to determine the beginnings of the spring season.” (Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, p.2)
“The day begins and ends at sunset, or more precisely, after dusk when the first three stars of medium size appear. This rule applies to the theoretical beginning and ending of Sabbaths, festivals, fast days and the hours for the daily prayers. However for calendar calculations, especially for the computation of the Moladoth (the times of the new moon) and the Tekufoth (beginnings of the seasons), the day begins and ends at 6 o-clock in the evening, Jerusalem time. — The beginning and duration of the months depend on the Moladoth and the time which elapses from one Molad to the next one (lunation). The average figure given by tradition for this interval is 29 days and 12 hrs and 793 parts” (Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, p.13)
“Nowadays the day, hour and parts of each Molad are announced before the Proclamation of the New Moon in the Sabbath morning service preceding the week of the New Moon. This custom keeps alive the memory of the time when the Sanhedrin sanctified the months on the basis of observation [of the new crescent]. It calls our attention to the fact that today we determine our new moons and holidays according to the decision of Hillel’s Beth Din. ” (Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, p.13)
“It is uncertain what the calendar of Hillel originally contained, and when it was generally adopted. In the Talmud there is no trace of it.” (The Jewish Encyclopedia, “Calendar, History of”, pp. 502-503, Funk and Wagnalls, 1903)
“The name Rosh Ha-Shanah as it is used in the Bible (Ezek. 40:1) simply means the beginning of the year, and does not designate the festival. The months of the year were counted from the spring month (Ex. 12:2), later called by the Babylonian name Nisan. The month known by the Babylonian name Tishri is, therefore, called the “seventh month” in the Pentateuch. When the festival on the first of this month is recorded, it is referred to as the festival of the seventh month and a day of “memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns,” or “a day of blowing the horn” (Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 29:1-6). In the Bible, the festival lasts one day only; the two-day festival arose out of the difficulty of determining when the new moon actually appeared.” (Encyclopedia Judaica, volume 14, article: Rosh Ha-Shanah, pp.305,306)
“Môlêd is a Hebrew word meaning renewal, rejuvenescence. It would be properly applied to the phase of the moon at the instant of time when her Conjunction with the Sun takes place. It is, however, commonly used not for the actual time of New Moon, but for the computed time, which governs the commencement of each year and of each Cycle…The length of a Lunation, as adopted by the founders of the present permanent calendar, is a constant quantity, whereas the Lunations of the true Moon are variable in their duration. The Moon of the Jewish Calendar is a mean or average Moon moving uniformly, in the same way as the artificial Moon of Hilarius [i.e., the “moon” (molad) of the CRC is likewise artificial], which is used in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars.” (S.B. Burnaby, “Elements of the Jewish and Muhammadan Calendars“, London: George Bell & Sons, 1901, p.40)
“The moment that the moon passes between the Earth and the sun is called the Molad – the birth of the moon. It is the theoretical beginning of the new month”  (Understanding the Jewish Calendar, Rabbi Nathan Bushwick, pp.39-40 –emphasis mine)
“Every month of God’s Calendar begins about the time of the new moon when the moon’s first faint crescent is visible at sunset in Jerusalem. According to the Roman calendar a new moon may occur at any time during the month. Most people today probably don’t even know when a new moon appears.” (Herman Hoeh, The Crucifixion Was Not On Friday, p.34)
“God’s months begin with the new moon….The observation of the new moon is to be made from Jerusalem, not from the North American continent. The seven to ten hours difference in time between Jerusalem and the part of the country (i.e. United States) you live in will make actual observation of the new moon from America misleading…The appearance of the new moon in the western sky just after sunset is used to determine the beginning of a new month.” (Kenneth Herrmann, The Good News magazine, March 1953, article: “God’s Sacred Calendar,” p.8, col.1&2)
“The first day of the new year always begins with the day nearest the Spring equinox  when the new moon is first visible to the naked eye AT JERUSALEM (not in the United States).” (Herbert W. Armstrong, “WHEN, and How OFTEN, Should We Observe THE LORD’S SUPPER?,” second to last paragraph–emphasis HWA’s)
“This law further decreed that at the sighting of the new crescent, the first day of the seventh month would be sanctified as a solemn assembly by the blowing of trumpets” (Dwight Blevins and Carl D. Franklin, The Feast of Trumpets 2000 A.D., p.25)
“new moon in Scripture, the visible crescent as seen from Jerusalem. Not the same as the astronomical new moon, which is not visible.” (Dwight Blevins and Carl D. Franklin, The Feast of Trumpets 2000 A.D., p.38, section: Glossary of Terms)
“One thing is for certain, the fixation of the month in Temple times was determined on the basis of both calculation and observation, a fact you can be sure Jesus was aware of.” (The Hebrew Calendar: Is It Reliable?, Church of God, The Eternal 1994)
1. Citing the Jewish Encyclopedia as a source, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia likewise states: “The Hebrew or Jewish calendar had three stages of development: the preexilic, or Biblical; the postexilic or Talmudic; and the post Talmudic. The first rested on observation merely, the second on observation coupled with calculation, and the third on calculation only.” (James Orr, editor, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol.1, article: Calendar, H. Porter, pp.541).
2. This admission that the current Calculated Rabbinical Calendar (CRC) has only been in use for just over a thousand years is met with agreement from other Jewish sources (such as the previous quote from The Jewish Encyclopedia and footnote #1, and the quote following this of the Israeli New Moon Society–that from Encyclopedia Judaica, which states that the CRC was finalized in the tenth century).
Other religious sources also concur: “Such a continuous calendar, according to tradition that goes back to Hai Gaon (1038), was constructed by Patriarch Hillel II in A.D. 359 (or, according to another version, 500, though by this time the day of Patriarchs was past). But the tradition [that the CRC was fully constructed by Hillel II], which stands quite alone, is confronted with grave objections. Of these the following two are of special weight: (1) The supposed calendar is never referred to in the Talmud, which received its final redaction at the end of the fifth century. Nothing whatever is said there about the length of the month, or the nineteen-year cycle, or anything else of the kind. (2)…Moreover, from the earliest post-Talmudic age we have dates which cannot be reconciled with the regular calendar in use today. [article footnote: “One such date is the year 506, and another the year 776”]
“In point of fact, everything goes to indicate that the calendar, like all other productions of the kind, passed through a developing series of forms, and that it assumed its final shape in the schools of the official representatives of Judaism (called Geonim) in Babylonia. To the period of the Geonim, say the 7th and 8th cents., likewise belong two tractates relevant to the subject. One of these is entitled “Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer”, and contains almost all the elements of the modern calendar (caps. 6-8), but it shows so many instances of self-contradiction that we must assume the presence of various interpolations…” [Encylopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 1908, Vol.3, article: CALENDAR (Jewish), p.118]
“After centuries of controversies between conservatives relying on observation (of moon and seasons) and innovators recommending calculation, and between religious authorities in Palestine and Babylonia, the system was settled in the 10th century A.D. (in favor of calculation and Babylon).” [Guy Ottewell, The Astronomical Companion, 1994 ed., p.30, under “Calendars (Jewish)”]
3. “Owing to inequalities in the rate of both the solar and the lunar motion in longitude, the mean conjunction [i.e., molad] may precede or be preceded by the true conjunction.” (Cecil Roth, editor, Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 5, p.46, article: Calendar). The molad does not consistently match any phase of the moon. One month, the molad may occur on the conjunction, while another month, the molad may be on the day of the crescent, while yet another month, it may be a day or two either side of new crescent.
4. The Jews readily admit that the current calculated calendar in use is indeed in error and needs reform. Note the following from Encyclopedia Judaica: “the present [calendar] system was expected to be replaced again by a system based on true values more akin to the earlier Jewish calendar in which New Moon (days of the phasis) and intercalations were proclaimed on the basis of both observation and calculation.” (Cecil Roth, editor, Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 5, p.47, article: Calendar). “The rebirth of the state of Israel rekindles in us the hope that a new Sanhedrin, recognized by the whole people of Israel, will be established again in our time. It will be the task of the Sanhedrin to make a decision as to when and how the sanctified calendar of Hillel II is to be modified in accordance with the requirements of astronomy and the Torah.” (Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, p.227). While God’s Word does state that we are to walk within the bounds of the laws of the land (i.e., Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; I Pet 2:11-20), this by no means suggests that we need wait for a new “Sanhedrin” to be formed to follow God’s commands for His appointed times. When the established laws of men are at odds with the Laws of God, we are by no means bound to such–God’s Law always reigns above (see Acts 5:29 where Peter and the others plainly rejected a ruling of the Sanhedrin in order to obey God instead).
5. The Mishnah, spanning the time period of 200 B.C. – 200 A.D., contains evidence that the CRC was not in use in the first century, nor even at that time of the Mishnah’s collection into book form (ca. 200 A.D.). It shows that, unlike the CRC with its postponements, Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets) could be observed on a Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday; the Day of Atonement could be observed on Fridays and Sundays; the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles could be observed on a Sabbath; etc.
6. Philo a Jew who lived from about 20 B.C. to about 50 A.D., and was thus a contemporary of Jesus and His disciples. Philo here testifies of the reckoning of the new moon in their day stating that it occurs “after the conjunction….at this time there is nothing in the whole of heaven destitute of light…because at that period the more powerful and important body gives a portion of necessary assistance to the less important and weaker body; for, at the time of the new moon, the sun begins to illuminate the moon with a light which is visible to the outward senses.” (italicized emphasis mine). Plainly, Philo testifies that the new moon is the fresh visible crescent.
7. “The Assuan Papyri yield ample proof of the fact that at the time after the Exile no such fixed cycle was in use among the Jews, and this would appear to be true also of the Talmudic period….Explicit mention of the nineteen-year cycle is first made in post-Talmudic writings. [article footnote: “It is related in the Talmud (Sanhedrin, 12a) that Akiba (first half of 2nd cent. A.D.) reckoned three successive years as intercalary–a fact which proves the non-existence of any intercalary cycle at that time.”].” [Encylopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 1908, Vol.3, article: CALENDAR (Jewish), p.117]
“As already indicated, the Jewish year is a composite arrangement. Its months are lunar, but from time to time an extra month is intercalated in order to effect an adjustment with the solar year. This was done even before the establishment of a continuous calendar. It was regarded as a matter of special importance that the month of Nisan should not begin before its tequfa (beginning of spring), and a second Adar was intercalated as required; but at that time nothing was as yet known of a regular and periodic intercalation, recurring according to definite rules. Such an arrangement was in all probability first introduced along with the continuous calendar itself, when the Metonic cycle was adopted.” [Encylopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 1908, Vol.3, article: CALENDAR (Jewish), p.122]
“The earliest known reference to the ‘tequfa of R. Adda’ under that designation is made by Isaac b. Baruch Albalia of Cordova (A.D. 1035-1094); cf. Abraham b. Hiya’s Sefer ha-‘Ibbur, iii. 4), but the period it indicates is already referred to by al-Biruni (Arab. text, p. 183 = Eng. tr. p. 163)…this tequfa…agrees with a date (776) mentioned in the Baraitha of Samuel…Moreover, the intercalary system in common use among the Jews, of which we shall treat presently, could never have been framed except on the basis of R. Adda’s–not Samuel’s–tequfa. In all probability, therefore, its duration was calculated about the 8th cent. A.D., i.e. at the period in which the Jews in the East began to study astronomy, and became acquainted with the Almagest.” [Encylopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 1908, Vol.3, article: CALENDAR (Jewish), p.122–boldface emphasis mine]
8. As Spier relates in the next sentence, the usage of the three stars of the second magnitude is a “theoretical beginning and ending”–not an actual one. This is of Jewish tradition. The former demarcation (i.e., sunset) is the precise end of a day according to Holy Scripture: “…from sunset to sunset…” (Lev 23:32, Schocken Bible Vol. 1, Five Books of Moses, translated by Everett Fox). The CRC however, is not calculated according to the Scriptural “sunset to sunset” reckoning, or even the traditional “three stars” method, but rather is calculated using 6pm as the beginning/ending of a day. Hence, the CRC not only utilizes an erroneous reckoning of the month (i.e., molad), but likewise, an erroneous reckoning of the day.
“Here, therefore, we find a corroboration of our theory that the constant calendar of modern Judaism is of relatively late date. The calculation of conjunctions, for instance, cannot have been finally established even as late as A.D. 776, for, according to the Baraitha of Samuel, the conjunction of Tishri in that year took place as 4 d. 0 h. 363 p.; while, according to the modern reckoning, it did not occur till 4 d. 3 h. 363 p. This fact is of great importance in the history of the Jewish calendar.” [Encylopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 1908, Vol.3, article: CALENDAR (Jewish), p.122, col.1, footnote 3]
10. As stated in footnote 3 above, the molad does not consistently match the actual conjunction, or any phase of the moon. The actual conjunction of the sun, earth, and moon occurs in the midst of what is generally three days of the moon being concealed. Given that molad means “birth,” would this concealed moon constitute a birth (i.e., molad)? Is a baby “birthed” at 4 and 1/2 months from conception, in the midst of the nine month gestation period, or rather is it birthed at the conclusion of its concealment in the womb? It is born when we see it (i.e., just as the crescent moon), and not before.