Biblical Calendar 2020

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Sunset Times
Crescent New Moon Visibility; Astronomical New Moon; Equinox
The
Crescent New Moon Maps show when the next new moon will become visible.

The dates in 2020 for the seven main ‘Biblical’ calendars observed by the 7th Day Churches of God (within which there are a few variations) are shown in the table below.
[1] Jewish Calendar This is included, firstly because some brethren observe Passover and Shavuot [Pentecost] – and perhaps minor Jewish holidays – on the Jewish calendar dates, and secondly to show the changes made to this calendar by the WCG.
The Jewish calendar is complex, and a general explanation of how it is calculated for 2020 is given underneath the table of dates for the annual festivals and holy days.
[2] WCGs Hebrew calendar, which continues to be kept by its major offshoots, is the same as the Jewish calendar, except for the following:
All the annual ‘moedim’ (appointed times) listed in Leviticus 23 are observed, but for one day each only, not two. Why two days?
At the time of the Second Temple, when the Sanhedrin announced the beginnings of the months on the basis of observation, the communities living far from the seat of the court could not be reached in time by its messengers. Those communities, in doubt about the day of the New Moon and the festivals, established the custom of celebrating an additional day for each of the major holidays. Thus they were certain to observe the festivals at the same time as their brethren in Israel, on the days sanctified by the Sanhedrin …
In the land of Israel, then as well as today, the
Second Holidays’ are ordinary days … Rosh Hashanah is an exception, because it is the only holiday that occurs on Rosh Hodesh. It was often celebrated for two days, even at the seat of the Sanhedrin. Since it was uncertain up to the very last moment when the witnesses [to the sighting of the new moon] would arrive and whether the court would sanctify either the 30th day of Elul or the following day, both days were considered as one long day.[The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, p.11, Arthur Spier]
The observance of two days became a tradition of the Jews, and so must be continued until an official Sanhedrin can be formed, which will have the authority to change the calendar and any traditions associated with it.
(The current unofficial Sanhedrin is practising sighting the new moon.)
Rosh HaShanah, the 1st day of the 7th month, is New Years Day in the Jewish calendar, and all the annual holy days and festivals are calculated from this date.
The WCG quoted Exodus 12:2 and Deuteronomy 16:1 to show that the Biblical year should begin with the 1st month – Abib (Nisan). In order to reconcile using the Jewish calendar to calculate the holy days, the WCG taught that the Jews observe the 1st of Abib as the beginning of the religious year and the 1st of the 7th month as the beginning of the civil year.
This is untrue. In the
Jewish Calendar, Rosh Hashanah is a major holy day, but Rosh Chodesh Nisan is merely one of the other 11 ‘new moons’ – not even a minor Jewish holiday.
Passover/Lords Supper should be observed on the 14th, not the 15th.
Pentecost/Shavuot is not 50 days from the 1st day of Unleavened Bread, but rather 50 days from the Sabbath within the festival, counting inclusively, (i.e. that Sabbath is day 1 of the count), so the count is completed on a Sunday.
Originally Herbert Armstrong kept Pentecost on the Jewish Shavuot (Sivan 6), but later changed to Monday, by counting 50 days exclusively (making Sunday the 1st day of the count).
The
Pentecost Study Material, published in 1974, explains the second change – from Monday to Sunday (start at p.61).
If the Jewish Calendar is God’s Sacred Calendar, as the WCG taught, what authority did Herbert Armstrong have to make changes to it?
In an
interview with WCG minister Jeff Booth in 1980, Herbert Armstrong declared that:
“The title, and the keys, passed from chief apostle to chief apostle, from Peter to Peter. Each chief apostle was the new Peter. ‘Now I am the chief apostle, and I am the Peter’.”
“Whatever I bind is bound in heaven, and whatever I loose is loosed in heaven.”
“The Day of Pentecost is now on Sunday. But, since I had made the decision to observe Pentecost on Monday, for years the Day of Pentecost was actually on Monday.”

The Church of God 7th Day (HQ in Denver) and Church of God 7th Day (Jerusalem) utilize the Jewish Calendar to calculate the time of the Lord’s Supper, which they observe on the evening of the 14th of Abib (Nisan). The Denver group does not regard the observance of annual holy days as mandatory, but is content for any of its congregations to observe them.
For calendars
[3] [5], the year begins according to the Vernal Equinox, which in 2020 occurred at 05.49 on the 20th of March at Jerusalem, and the astronomical new moon, which was at 11.28 on the 24th of March at Jerusalem.
For calendars
[4] [6], the year begins according to the Vernal Equinox, which in 2020 occurred at 05.49 on the 20th of March at Jerusalem, and the sighted new moon, which was visible on the evening of the 25th of March at Jerusalem.
[3] Day of the astronomical new moon (conjunction of sun/moon), nearest to the Vernal Equinox.
[4] Day of the appearance of the crescent new moon – visible in the brief period between sunset and moonset – nearest to the Vernal Equinox.
The Church of God 7th Day (Salem) keeps the Lord’s Supper on the evening of the 14th by this method (see doctrinal point no.15 on this website link).
[5] Day of the astronomical new moon (conjunction of sun/moon), following the Vernal Equinox.
[6] Day of the appearance of the crescent new moon – visible in the brief period between sunset and moonset – following the Vernal Equinox.
[7] Day of the appearance of the crescent new moon – visible in the brief period between sunset and moonset – in the month that the barley in Israel will be ready for harvesting by the Sunday after Passover (Leviticus 23:10-12). The dates are expected to be the same as [4] & [6].

For the first time this century the vast majority of groups will be keeping the annual holy days and festivals in 2020 on the same days.
The Jewish calendar and the Worldwide Church of God’s version
[1] [2] are affected by two postponement rules, which result in the Jewish New Year being moved from the molad (conjunction) of the 7th month two days forward to the evening when the new moon can be sighted in Palestine. The arithmetical countback to the 1st month also results in the 1st day coinciding with the sighted new moon.
Some of the groups starting the year according to the vernal equinox start the month at the astronomical conjunction
[3] [5], but the great majority go by the sighting of the new moon [4] [6].
In 2020 the equinox occurred at 05.49 on the 20th of March at Jerusalem, and the astronomical new moon was at 11.28 on the 24th of March at Jerusalem. The new moon nearest the equinox
[3] [4] and the new moon following the equinox [5] [6] are therefore in the same biblical month.
Biblical calendar
[7] – based on the barley harvest in Palestine – goes by the sighted new moon, and in 2020 will be the same dates as [4] [6].
For those starting each month at the astronomical conjunction
[3] [5], the 1st and 7th months begin two days prior to the other calendars.

The dates for the 3 annual festivals (Exodus 23:14-16)
are printed in
green, and the 7 annual holy days are in red.

[1]

[2] [4] [6] [7]

[3] [5]

New Years
Day

Sat-Sun
Sep.19-20

Thu
Mar.26

Tue
Mar.24

Lords Supper/ Passover/Seder
(evening before)

Thu-Fri
Apr.9-10

Wed
Apr.8

Mon
Apr.6

Festival of Passover/
Unleavened Bread

Apr.
9-16

Apr.
9-15

Apr.
7-13

1st Day of
Unleavened Bread

Thu-Fri
Apr.9-10

Thu
Apr.9

Tue
Apr.7

7th Day of
Unleavened Bread

Wed-Thu
Apr.15-16

Wed
Apr.15

Mon
Apr.13

Firstfruits Festival
(Shavuot-Pentecost)

Fri-Sat
May 29-30

Sun
May 31

Sun
May 31

Day of
Trumpets

Sat-Sun
Sep.19-20

Sat
Sep.19

Thu
Sep.17

Day of
Atonement

Mon
Sep.28

Mon
Sep.28

Sat
Sep.26

Festival of
Tabernacles

Oct.
3-9

Oct.
3-9

Oct.
1-7

1st Day of
Tabernacles

Sat-Sun
Oct.3-4

Sat
Oct.3

Thu
Oct.1

Eighth
Day

Sat
Oct.10

Sat
Oct.10

Thu
Oct.8

Some information is warranted on the historical background of the 3 main ways of determining the biblical new year begins: Jewish (Hebrew) Calendar, Equinox, Aviv Barley.
Jewish Calendar
This is
the calendar of the Pharisees – by far the dominant form of Judaism. The Jewish calendars of the Israelite Samaritans and the Karaites are different.
The
Israelite Samaritans observe calendar method [5].
All
Karaite Jews start each month at the sighting of the new moon, but vary as to how each year should start.
The Jewish calendar year is calculated from the Molad Emtzai (conjunction) of the 7th month, which occurs at 2pm on Thursday, 17th September 2020.
(The astronomical conjunction could not be calculated accurately in the 1st millennium AD, so a
‘mean’ conjunction was calculated.) Two postponement rules apply in 2020, which push Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s Day) forward to Saturday, 19th September 2020.

The postponement rule of Molad Zaqen ‘late conjunction’ – states that, if the Molad Emtzai occurs on or after the 18th hour (i.e. noon), Rosh Hashana must be postponed to the next day in this case from Thursday to Friday, the 18th.
The Worldwide Church of God taught that this postponement rule meant that, if the new moon were sighted between noon and sunset, Trumpets must be postponed until the following sunset. (It is impossible to see the new moon until after the sun has dipped below the horizon.) This idea was based on Rosh Hashanah 20b in the Babylonian Talmud, which concerns the visibility of the new moon on Rosh Hashanah.
However, tractate 20b is part of the Mishnah, completed around 200AD, while the rule of Molad Zaqen was unknown before the 9th century AD.
Molad Zaqen is actually one of 3 arithmetical postponement rules needed to govern the length of the months and year:
When Dehiyyah Molad Zaqen is removed from the calendar rules, the calculated time of the molad can be seen to exceed the first day of some months by as much as 5 hours, 23 and 4/9 minutes, which by no coincidence is exactly 6 hours later than its current maximum value.” (The Debatable Dehiyyah Molad Zaqen, Remy Landau)

The other postponement rule, which is for religious purposes, does not allow Rosh Hashana to fall on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday therefore the Jewish calendar new year 5781 (2020-2021) is postponed for a second day, from Friday to the Sabbath of 19th September 2020.
“Another rule, that appears to have only emerged in the Amoraic period [c.300-500AD], is that the Day of Atonement cannot occur on a Friday or Sunday [thus Rosh Hashanah cannot occur on a Wednesday or a Friday] Reasons for this rule are given in the Babylonian Talmud: it was difficult to keep fresh food (Ulla’s opinion) or an unburied corpse (R. Aha ben Hanina’s opinion) over two consecutive days of forbidden work.
This rule is unknown in the Mishnah
[completed c.200AD] where the possibility of the Day of Atonement’s occurring after the Sabbath or vice-versa is completely taken for granted. In Y. Avodah Zarah, where this rule first appears, a R. Honia is said to have objected to it and to those who remove the Day of Atonement from its right place.”
Calendar and Community : A History of the Jewish Calendar, 2nd century BCE – 10th century CE, pp.166-167, Sacha Stern)

The only WCG article that addresses the purpose of the postponement rules is The Hebrew Calendar – Authoritative for God’s Church Today! (Good News, March 1981, by Herman Hoeh).
“If Atonement were to fall on Friday, housewives would have to prepare food for the weekly Sabbath on a Thursday. And that is exactly what the Pharisees anciently required be done!
The Pharisees put major emphasis on precise visual observation of the first faint crescent of the new moon … They were more concerned with the visual appearance of the moon’s first crescent than they were with the spiritual requirements of the Day of Atonement.
God, of course, had to correct that – and He did!”

Herman Hoeh contradicts what Kenneth Hermann wrote in Prove God’s Calendar Correct! (Good News, October 1957)
“What are God’s instructions? If the people of Jerusalem, where God’s permanent headquarters are to be, cannot see this crescent of the moon following sunset, then the entire world east and west of that city must delay beginning the month till the following sunset. This is the ordinance as it was given by God. We are not free to begin earlier because of the way we see it.”

Equinox
The
Equinox occurs on 20-21 March and 22-23 September).
Starting the
biblical year according to the March equinox is dependent upon interpreting the Hebrew word tequfah in Exodus 34:22 to mean equinox.
“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, Calendar and Community : A History of the Jewish Calendar, 2nd century BCE – 10th century CE, p.167)
Tequfah (Strong’s H8622: a revolution, i.e. (of the sun) course, (of time) lapse) 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 Green’s Literal Version)
“Turn of the year” here refers to the turn of the season from Summer to Winter. (The seasons of Spring and Autumn are not found in the Bible.)
And it happened, at the turn of the year, that the army of Syria came up against him…’ (2 Chronicles 24:23)
‘And it happened when the time had come around, Hannah conceived and bore a son’ (1 Samuel 1:20). Tequfah here obviously does not mean the equinox.
‘… his going forth from the end of the heavens, and his orbit to their ends’ (Psalm 19:6)
Teshuvah (Strong’s H8666) also means the ‘turn of the year’, i.e. from Winter to Summer – 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.
Although some groups observe the Feast of Ingathering
at the turn of the year, the majority begin the 7th month at the new moon after the equinox, and so often observe the festivals one month later.

Aviv Barley
Interest in this method has grown markedly since various independent Christians first travelled to Israel in 2002 to report on the Aviv Barley.
The Jewish Talmudim record that this was the method used during the period of the Second Temple, and was continued for hundreds of years thereafter, when the Sanhedrin convened at Yavneh on the Mediterranean coast and later in Galilee.
The
Temple Institute website describes in detail how the day of the new moon was determined during the period of the Second Temple, however it says nothing about how the month of the Aviv (Nisan) was determined then, and will be in the Third Temple.
This is understandable when we read through the conflicting rabbinic opinions in
Tractate Sanhedrin 11b of the Babylonian Talmud, and also consider that the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) is the 1st day of the 7th month – so what to them is the relevance of the maturity of the barley 6 months earlier?
(The reference to “the lateness of the Tekufah” in this link might seem puzzling, since the equinox is a fixed time and so cannot be late – or indeed early. Tekufah is used here in its original meaning of turn or revolution of the year, i.e. the weather was still wintry, so the season had not yet turned from winter to summer.)
What will the nascent Sanhedrin do when it achieves official status and has the authority to change the calendar? The
Sanhedrin website states:
“The Jewish Calendar has a discrepancy of about one day every century. This means that by the year 6000, Pesach will come out two new moons (Sivan) after the first day of spring.” [Sivan is the 3rd month of the biblical year.]
“Our current calendar will exceed halachically acceptable limits and we will be celebrating Biblically commanded holidays at times other than when Scripture requires them to be celebrated. One could argue that, if a change is necessary in any event, it would be most correct according to Biblical and Jewish Law to once again use the system of witnesses. But it is certain that we will not longer be permitted to use the mathematical calendar of Hillel II in the near future.”

 

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