A Biblical History of the Calendar

Additional material last posted on the 9th of August 2019

(Scriptural References: ASV American Standard Version; GLV – Green’s Literal Version)

There is much confusion today over the biblical calendar, but in the beginning the calendar was simple.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years.” (Genesis 1:14,16 New International Version)
(Sacred times Hebrew: moed Strong’s H4150 ‘an appointment, a fixed time’.)

This month [Hebrew: chodesh – Strong’s (H2320)] ‘the new moon; by implication, a month’] shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (Exodus.12:2 ASV)

Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto Jehovah thy God; for in the month of Abib Jehovah thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night. (Deut.16:1 ASV)

There are scriptural references to other months – “the second month” (Genesis 7:11, 8:14) etc. up to “the twelfth month”. How many days were there in a solar year?

During Noah’s flood (Gen 7:19) … the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered.
“the waters prevailed over the earth one hundred and fifty days” (v.7:24), from the seventeenth day of the second month” (v.7:11).
and the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters decreased. And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. (ch.8:3-4)

The waters prevailed over the mountains from the 17th day of the 2nd month to the 16th day of the 7th month, i.e. 5 full months, totalling 150 days.

Ancient secular documents agree with the biblical account that a year comprised 12 lunar months of 30 days each.

At first the astronomers of Babylon recognized a year of 360 days, and the division of a circle into 360 degrees must have indicated the path traversed by the sun each day in its assumed circling of the earth.” (Moritz Cantor, Lectures on the History of Mathematics.)

The Assyrians, like the Babylonians, had a year composed of lunar months ….
The calendar assigns to each month thirty full days.” (R. Campbell Thompson, Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon in the British Museum.)

A year consists of twelve months. A month consists of 30 days.” (The Arabhatiya of Aryabhata – an ancient Indian work on mathematics and astronomy)

Yet the fact is that no one has ever established that the 365-day calendar was in use prior to the early seventh century.” (Mark Cohen, The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East.)

All over the world we find that there was at some time the same calendar of 360 days, and that at some later date, about the seventh century before the present era, five days were added at the end of the year, as ‘days over the year’, or ‘days of nothing’ … a series of catastrophes occurred that changed the axis and the orbit of the earth and the orbit of the moon.” (Immanuel Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision)

Daniel, who had been captured and taken to Babylon in the late 7th century BC, declared:
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He causes kings to pass away, and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to those who know understanding.(Daniel 2:20-21 GLV)

What was affecting the Earth and causing the “changing times and seasons”?

At the Babylonian Akitu festival, the high priest would stand before the statue of Bel (a.k.a. Marduk) – see Jeremiah 50:2 GLV: “Babylon is captured, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is broken in pieces, her images are put to shame, her idols are broken in pieces.”

The high priest would then recite the following prayer to Bel:
“My lord is just. Is his name not ‘My Lord’?
My lord causes trembling. My lord is the prince of all the lands …
Jupiter, bearer of signs to the universe! My Lord! My Lord, be calmed!
Mercury, who brings rain! My Lord! My Lord, be calmed!
Saturn, star of justice and right! My Lord! My Lord, be calmed!
Mars, blazing fire! My Lord! My Lord, be calmed!”
The high priest would then turn to pray to Bel’s consort, Beltiya:
“My lady, turn back! Turn back! My lady, be calmed! …
Venus, brightest star – this is a name for my lady,
Bow-star, who fells the mighty – this is a name for my lady,
She-goat star, who scans the heavens – this is a name for my lady,
Star of Abundance, the star of abundance – this is a name for my lady,
Star of Dignity, the star which moves out of orbit …”
(Mark Cohen, The Cultic Calendars Of The Ancient Near East)

Bel, thine abode is Babylon … thou controllest laws by thy laws … thou burnest up the mighty ones by thy flame.” (Stephen H. Langdon, The Mythology of All Races) 

By causing the heavens to tremble and the earth to quake,
By the gleam which lightens the sky,
By the blazing fire which rains upon the hostile land,
I am Ishtar. Ishtar I am by the light that arises in heaven,
Ishtar the queen of heaven am I by the light that arises in heaven.”
(Stephen H. Langdon, Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms)

How did the nations adjust their calendars to the upheavals in the heavens and on the earth, resulting in changes to the lengths of the lunar month and the solar year? Many retained twelve 30 day months and added ‘5 days of nothing’ at the end of the year, e.g.
“The Peruvian year was divided into twelve Quilla, or moons, of 30 days. Five days were added at the end, called Allcacanquis.” (Sir Clements Markham, The Incas of Peru)

It was subsequently recognized that the solar year was a fraction more than 365 days.
In 238BC a decree at Canopus, Egypt, declared, “from this time onwards, one day, a festival of the Good-doing Gods, shall be added every four years to the five additional days before the New Year, so that all may know that the error of deficiency which existed formerly in respect to the arrangement of the seasons, and of the year, and of the views usually believed concerning the general ordering of the heavens, hath been rectified and filled up satisfactorily by the Good-doing Gods.”

During the captivity in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar found Daniel and his companions to be “skilful in all wisdom, and endued with knowledge, and understanding science” (Daniel 1:4 ASV). “And in every matter of wisdom and understanding, concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his realm.” (Daniel 1:19-20 ASV).

Was it due to their influence that the Babylonians retained a luni-solar calendar?”

The months were strictly lunar (in this case, because it was the first visibility of the new crescent that marked the start off each new month), and those lunar months were combined with a variable year that could average out to the same length as the solar year. Every two or three years an intercalary lunar month was added (usually a second Ulul [6th month] or a second Adar [12th month]).
(Mark Cohen, The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East)

On the basis of three letters which record the announcement of the intercalary year, Parker and Dubberstein [authors of Babylonian Chronology: 626BC-AD75] suggest that, during the Babylonian period, the directives for intercalation came from the king, whereas during the subsequent Achaemenid period [Persian empire], priestly officials in Babylon gave the orders.” (ibid)

A year comprising 13th lunar months is evident in the book of Ezekiel, written during the Babylonian captivity:

…. in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month …. which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, the word of Jehovah came expressly unto Ezekiel.” (1:1-3 ASV).
After Ezekiel had dwelt at Tel Aviv for 7 days (3:15), the word of Jehovah came again, saying that he should lie on his left side for 390 days, then on his right side for 40 days (4:4-6).

More than 437 days had thus elapsed when Ezekiel was sitting in his house on the 5th day of the 6th month in the 6th year, i.e. 14 months later (8:1).
The lunar month now averaged 29½ days:
14 months x 29½ days = 413 days + intercalary month = 442 or 443 days.
An intercalary month is needed to account for there being more than 437 days in this period.

For thus saith Jehovah, “After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” (Jeremiah 29:10 ASV)

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years whereof the word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah the prophet, for the accomplishing of the desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years.” (Dan.9:1-2 ASV)

After the Medes and the Persians had overthrown the Babylonian empire, Cyrus, king of Persia, allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem to “build the house of Jehovah.

… in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Jehovah by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying … “Whosoever there is among you of all his people, his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of Jehovah, the God of Israel (he is God), which is in Jerusalem … When rose up the heads of fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, even all whose spirit God had stirred to go up to build the house of Jehovah which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:1,3,5 ASV)

An account from King Cyrus, inscribed on a clay barrel now in the British Museum, states: “To the sacred cities located on the other side of the Tigris river, I sent back to the ruins of their holy places, the articles which were used in their sanctuaries. I also allowed to return to their homes the former citizens of the land. I also made an effort to repair their dwelling places.”

And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem … And they kept the feast of tabernacles, as it is written. (Ezra 3:1,4 ASV)

And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month …And they found written in the law, how that Jehovah had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month … Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the ordinance. (Nehemiah 8:2,14,18 ASV)

How did Ezra and Nehemiah know when it was the 7th biblical month? If they received instruction from Daniel, it is not recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. We do, however, have detailed information about the calendar that was observed at the Second Temple, as the Jews recorded it in the Mishnah, a collection of 63 tractates, divided into 6 orders, one of them being the Mo’edim (the appointed times of Jehovah).

The calendar of the Mishnah is discussed and debated in detail in both the Palestinian and the Babylonian Talmudim … The fact that no other calendar system is ever referred to in the Talmudim (completed around 500AD) may be regarded as significant.”
(Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community : A History of the Jewish Calendar, 2nd century BCE – 10th century CE, p.164)

During the period of the Second Temple the start of a new year was determined by the Great Sanhedrin which met there, who primarily used two biblical requirements to decide upon intercalation, i.e. whether or not an extra month should be added to the previous year, thereby delaying the start of the new year.

Firstly, the barley (the early summer corn-crop that grows wild all over Palestine) needed to be sufficiently mature for harvesting to begin on the Sunday after Passover.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before Jehovah, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” (Leviticus 23:10-11 ASV)

Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: from the time thou beginnest to put the sickle to the standing grain shalt thou begin to number seven weeks … And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto Jehovah thy God …” (Deuteronomy 16:9-10 ASV)

Secondly, there needed to be a sufficiency of lambs for the Passover.

This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you … In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb.” (Exodus 12:2,3 ASV)

If there was doubt as to intercalation, the Great Sanhedrin considered secondary signs in nature of the end of winter and beginning of summer.

For, lo, the winter is past; The rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land;
The fig-tree ripeneth her green figs, And the vines are in blossom; They give forth their fragrance. (
Song of Solomon 2:11-13 ASV)

The President of the Great Sanhedrin was the ultimate decision maker:
“It once happened that Rabbi Gamliel was sitting on a step on the Temple Mount, and the well-known scribe Yochanan was standing before him with three cut sheets [of parchment] lying before him. He (Gamliel) said to him (Yochanan) … take the third [sheet] and write to our brethren, the Exiles of Babylon and to those in Media, and to all the other exiled of Israel, saying:
“May your peace be great forever! We beg to inform that the doves are still tender, and the lambs are still young, and the Aviv is not yet ripe. It seems advisable to me and to my colleagues to add thirty days to this year.”
Tractate Sanhedrin 11b

The procedure for determining the beginning of a month is described in detail in the Mishnah, Moed Rosh Hashanah:

When Bet Din sanctifies the new month, either on the thirtieth day when there is satisfactory testimony to the sighting of the new moon, or on the thirty-first day when there is no testimony, they send out messengers of the court to inform the distant communities which day is Rosh Hodesh.

If they [the Bet Din that was to sanctify the new moon] did not [personally] know him [the witness or witnesses who sighted the new moon] they [the Bet Din of that city] send another [set of character witnesses along] with him [who are known to that Bet Din, who testify regarding their trustworthiness].

The declarations of the Bet Din were publicized throughout the land and to the diaspora beyond by via messengers, but to the majority of Jews who lived in Babylonia and Persia, a thousand miles away, a chain of torches was originally used.

Immediately upon proclaiming, The day is hallowed!, messengers on horseback were dispatched to bring the news of the sanctification of the new moon to all the villages of Israel and beyond. The swift broadcast of the news was essential in order to enable all to observe Rosh Hashana on the proper day.
Simultaneously, the proclamation of the new moon would go out from Jerusalem by way of torches lit by specially appointed “relay teams” who were located on strategically places hill tops. Using this method, the news could be transmitted quickly all the way to the Jewish communities of Babylon and Persia. Speed was of the essence in order to enable all to observe Rosh Hashana and the following holidays in their proper times.”

(Temple Institute, Rosh Hashana).

Originally [they had no need to send out messengers to inform the people of the new moon, rather,] they used to light [a series of torches which, when sighted, was a sign of the new moon], but when the heretics perverted [justice and tried to mislead the people by lighting their own torches] they enacted that messengers should go forth [to announce the new moon].” (Mishnah, Moed Rosh Hashanah)

Sometimes the chain of beacons failed or the messengers did not arrive by the 15th of the month. Furthermore, the new moon was declared in the morning, so it was impossible for those in the diaspora to receive the declaration of Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets) by the end of that day.

Rather than use local new moon sighting, the Babylonian rabbis, desiring unity, ordered the observation of each annual holy day for two days, to ensure that the day the calendar court had sanctified was being kept. This tradition is continued today by Jews living outside Israel (except for the Day of Atonement – as they do not want to fast for two successive days!).

The Babylonian rabbis introduced a ‘rule of the equinox’ for fixing the start of the year, for those occasions when news from Palestine regarding intercalation was late – and if this proved to be wrong, correction was made for the subsequent appointed times. Their guideline was to begin the year at the nearest new moon to the equinox, so that Passover would begin close to the equinox but always after it.

The procedure for determining the beginning of a year is described in detail in the Tosefta, Tractate Sanhedrin, section 5:2. The Tosefta (meaning addition, supplement) contains much rabbinic opinion on the Mishnah.

Herbert Danby writes, in the introduction to his translation of Tractate Sanhedrin:
“The Mishnah and Tosefta, which are here translated, may be regarded as together giving the bulk of the traditions on the subject in the form in which they existed at the close of the second century A.D. The Mishnah gives an ordered, comprehensive sketch of the regulations which governed the legal courts; while the Tosefta goes over similar ground in a freer manner, frequently repeating, occasionally contradicting, and constantly supplementing not always relevantly the substance of the more authoritative and final code.”

Since much of Tractate Sanhedrin 5:2 contains rabbinic opinion, the basic reasons given for determining the new year must be compared with Scripture.

5.2.2. There are three signs which make it evident that the year should be intercalated:

(a) the premature state of the corn-crops.

If barley, the early summer corn-crop that grows wild all over Palestine, will not be ready for harvesting to begin on the Sunday after Passover, the new year is delayed by one month.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before Jehovah, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” (Leviticus 23:10-11 ASV)

Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: from the time thou beginnest to put the sickle to the standing grain shalt thou begin to number seven weeks … And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto Jehovah thy God …” (Deuteronomy 16:9-10 ASV)

(b) The undeveloped state of the tree products.

And He spoke a parable to them: ‘You see the fig tree and all the trees … Now when they sprout leaves, seeing it, you will know from yourselves that now the summer is near.’ (Luke 21:29-30 GLV)

For, lo, the winter is past; The rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land; The fig-tree ripeneth her green figs, And the vines are in blossom; They give forth their fragrance. (Song of Solomon 2:11-13 ASV)

Here are included two other Biblical indicators of the end of winter and the beginning of summer: the end of the rainy winter season and bird migration.

(c) The lateness of the Spring Equinox

The astronomical equinox occurs at a specific time each year, so how can it be deemed to be late? (see below)

5.2.7. The year is not to be intercalated unless the spring equinox is still distant the greater part of a month. How much is the greater part of a month ? Sixteen days, R. Jehuda says : Two thirds of a month, twenty days, R. Jose says : Account is taken of the year and if, before Passover, there still lack sixteen days of the equinox, they intercalate another month.

The biblical calendars used today stipulate that either Passover must be after the equinox [3] [4], or that the new year must start after the equinox [5] [6].

It was quite usual for the rabbis to have differences of opinion, but whatever date they chose to begin the year, this rule was only a guideline for the Babylonian rabbis, as calendrical decisions had to come from Palestine, because of the Talmudic prohibition of intercalation outside the land.

The word ‘equinox’ is not found in scripture. It is translated from the Hebrew word tqufah – Strong’s H8622: a revolution, i.e. (of the sun) course, (of time) lapse. Tqufah is found in 4 verses:

And you shall observe a Feast of Weeks for yourself, the firstfruits of the harvest of wheat; also the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.” (Exodus 34:22 GLV)
‘And it happened when the time had come around, Hannah conceived and bore a son.’ (1 Samuel 1:20 GLV)
‘And it happened, at the turn of the year, that the army of Syria came up against him …’
(2 Chronicles 24:23 GLV)
‘his going forth from the end of the heavens, and his orbit to their ends’ (Psalm 19:6 GLV)

T’shubah (Strong’s H8666) means the ‘end of the year’ – i.e. the end of winter in 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Kings 20:22,26; 1 Chronicles 20:1; 2 Chronicles 36:10.
It is used in a different sense in 1 Samuel 7:17, Job 21:34 and Job 34:36.
The kings usually waited until the end of winter to begin their military campaigns, because the rains had ceased
(Song of Solomon 2:11), facilitating easier troop movement.

The lateness of the tqufah, the turn of the year, meant that the season had not yet turned – the weather was still wintry, but the rabbis began to teach that the ‘turn of the year’ in Exodus 34:22 may be interpreted as ‘equinox’ – thereby fixing the Day of Trumpets as the closest new moon to the September equinox (and consequently fixing the 1st day of Abib as the closest new moon to the March equinox. They then taught that the March equinox was also a tqufah – and subsequently that the two solstices were also tqufahs – thus four seasons. (Biblically there are only two seasons – winter and summer.)

The rule of the equinox is attested in a single passage in the Babylonian Talmud (Rosh ha-Shanah 21a) … implies that 15 Nisan, the first day of Unleavened bread, cannot occur before the vernal equinox. In this recension, the term aviv is treated as synonymous with tequfah (equinox).” (Sacha Stern, ibid, p.167)

The computation of the equinox – Tequfah Nisan – was based on a solar year of 365¼ days, which is inaccurate for long term use, but it remains part of the modern calculated calendar for ritual purposes. Tequfah Nisan is now April 7-8 – 18 days later than the true equinox.

5.2.3 On the basis of evidence (of aviv barley) derived from three countries used they to intercalate the year: Judaea, the land beyond Jordan, and Galilee. They may intercalate on the basis of two of these, but not of one only; though in this latter case the intercalation would hold good. And if Judaea were one of the two they rejoiced, because it was from there that the offering of the firstfruits came.

5.2.4, 5.2.5 & 5.2.6 These were additional indicators in years when there was doubt about the barley being ready for harvesting.

5.2.4 The season of the kids or lambs or pigeons had not yet arrived.

5.2.5. R. Jannai said in the name of Rabban Shimeon, the son of Gamaliel: He used to say: “In that the pigeons are still tender (Song of Solomon 2:12) and the spring Iambs thin (Exodus 12:2,3,5), it is fitting in my opinion to add thirty days to this year.”

5.2.6. It happened once with Rabban Gamaliel (see Acts 5:33-39) and the elders, that they were sitting on the steps in the Temple Mount … And to our brethren, the exiles of Babylon, and those in exile in Media, and all the other Israelites in exile, “May your peace be increased! We make known to you that the pigeons are still tender and the lambs thin, and that the season of spring is not yet come. It seems fitting to me and to my colleagues that we add to this year thirty days.”

This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you … In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb.” (Exodus 12:2,3 ASV)

The Talmudic sources report that the Council intercalated a year when the fruit had not grown properly, when the winter rains had not stopped, when the roads for Passover pilgrims had not dried up, and when the young pigeons had not become fledged. The council on intercalation considered the astronomical facts together with the religious requirements of Passover and the natural conditions of the country.”
Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar (1952).

The calendar described in the Mishnah could be observed only by those peoples who could be reached by messengers from Jerusalem. In Romans 15:24-28 Paul expressed his intention to travel to Spain. According to the Sonnini manuscript, Paul preached on Mount Lud in London, where St. Paul’s Cathedral now stands. This document might not be considered credible, but there is plentiful evidence of Christianity in Britain and Ireland centuries before Emperor Constantine sent Augustine to Britain in 597AD.
(Review of
The Celtic Church in Britain, by Leslie Hardinge.)
Synod of Whitby in 664 signalled the end of Celtic Christianity in Britain.

So how did Christians living far away from Palestine decide when the first month should be?
Documents on the
Quartodeciman controversy in the 2nd century AD, concerning the new observance of Easter on the Sunday after Passover, do not explain how the western churches were determining this.

Eastern computations of the date of Easter were based on the rule of the equinox, first attributed to Dionysius of Alexandria in the mid-3rd century with an 8-year cycle, and then reiterated in c.277CE by Anatolius, also from Alexandria but residing in Laodicea (Syria), with a more accurate 19-year cycle …
We do not know how early the Easter cycles were used in practice by Christian communities, but by the early 4th century, and certainly by the Council of Nicea (325CE), the Roman cycle of 8 or 84 years had become standard in the West, and the Alexandrian cycle of 19 years in the East.” (Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community, a History of the Jewish Calendar, 2nd Century BCE – 10th Century CE, p.224-5.)

Tables of these yearly cycles were constructed, so that the start of the biblical year could be known years in advance. A 13th month was added, for example, 3 times in the 8-year cycle and 7 times in the 19-year cycle.

(Some people think of the equinoxes as the days when daylight and night are equal. Modern astronomers call them equiluxes, which occur a few days before the equinoxes. The times of equiluxes vary according to latitude, and equinoxes according to longitude. There is no equilux at or close to the equator, as day and night are always 12 hours each.)

After the Council of Nicea Constantine informed the Syrian and Palestinian absentees that: “It was resolved by the united judgement of all present that this feast ought to be kept by all and in every place on one and the same day … And first of all it appeared an unworthy thing that, in the celebration of this most holy feast, we should follow the practice of the Jews.”

Although the Council had agreed that Easter Sunday be kept by all on the same day, no decision was made as to the method of calculation. Subsequent history of the Easter question reveals continued confusion within the Catholic church over the next 200 years.

It was not until after 525AD, when Dionysius Exiguus published his Easter table, that the Roman Catholic church agreed on a unified system. His paschal table was an adaptation of the 19 year Alexandrian cycle, with intercalations in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 & 19 – a sequence that will be familiar to students of the Hebrew calculated calendar.

Dionysius ignored the existing tables used by the Patriarchate of Rome, which were prepared in 457 by Victorius of Aquitaine, complaining that they did not obey Alexandrian principles … Ultimately, Dionysius Exiguus’s Easter table … must have been adopted at Rome and also have arrived in Britain and Ireland, where however in both cases certainly not before the second quarter of the seventh century.”
Dionysius in Wikipedia)

In the 7th century the Islamic Empire came to power in the Middle-east. The Caliphate, which by the 9th century stretched from the border of India to Spain, gave to the Pharisees in Babylonia religious autonomy across the empire under a system known as the Exilarchate. Jewish dissidents known as Karaites vigorously opposed the rabbinic traditions and laws, but could not prevent the Pharisees from becoming by far the dominant force in Judaism.

The raised status of the Pharisees is exemplified by the Exilarch of Babylon’s letter in 835/36AD, in which he referred to himself as “the head of the yeshivot, the rabbis and all Israel.” He acknowledged one exception to his authority. The Talmud prohibited decisions on the calendar being made outside Palestine, so the Exilarch was obliged to support the Palestinian calendar court’s decisions … “we always rely on them, lest Israel be split into factions.”

By the early 6th century AD the Babylonian calendar was based on the conjunction, but this and other calendar changes were not implemented until the Geonim, the rabbinic leaders in Babylon, seized control of the calendar in the 10th century.

The date of R. Ahai b. R. Huna’s demise does confirm, however, that in the early sixth century the rabbinic calendar was based on the conjunction … corroborated by another date in R. Sherira’s epistle …
Of far greater importance, however, is a much later document from the Cairo Geniza: a letter of a Babylonian exilarch … with detailed calendrical instructions for the year 835/6 CE … According to the Exilarch, the setting of Passover on Tuesday was dictated by a concern to avoid visibility of the new moon before the first day of the month. This concern does not exist in the present-day rabbinic calendar. Once discovered and published in 1922, the exilarch’s letter proved beyond doubt that, almost five hundred years after R. Yose and ‘Hillel the Patriarch’, the fixed calendar in its present-day form had still not been instituted.”
(Sacha Stern, ibid, pp.183-5)

The story of Hillel II supposedly publishing the present-day Hebrew calendar in 358/359 AD was one of several historical myths introduced into the Worldwide Church of God by the church’s ‘biblical historian’ Herman Hoeh. This fairy tale did not emerge until the 12th century, and therefore the important reason for it will be discussed later.

[to be continued]

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