When is the Biblical Year Extended by a Month?

When is the Biblical Year Extended by a Month?
By
James Scott Trimm

There has been some debate in the movement in recent years, over just how the Hebrew calendar works, and particularly when a additional month is added to the year.

A solar year is 365.2425 days and a lunar year (twelve lunar months) is 354.37 days. As a result the lunar year will fall behind the solar year by 10.8725 days each year. As you can imagine, without some system of correction, the Hebrew lunar calendar would fall behind by more than a month over a period of three year, and in a short time, the seasons will totally fall out of place, the Spring months will soon be taking place in winter. There has been much controversy in the movement about how to resolve this problem.

The Karaite System

The Karaites determine the beginning of their month of Aviv by looking for green ears of the barley. When they find the barley they then declare that next New Moon the month of Aviv. This means that if they do not spot barley before the New Moon immediately following the month of Adar, they enter a limbo period, until a New Moon after barley is spotted. Normally this would be the next New Moon, but if there is a famine and no crop at all that year, it could last twelve or thirteen months.

 

The First New Moon After the Equinox?

Some have argued based on Calendrical evidence found among the Elaphantine Papyri, that the first new moon after the Spring Equinox is always the beginning of the new year (i.e. the first of Nisan), and that Adar II is added to the year whenever calculations show that the first of Nisan would otherwise occur before the Spring Equinox.

This system comes from the Elephantine papyri, however these papyri are from an apostate community in Elephantine Egypt. This apostate group had their own Temple in Egypt which functioned alongside that of the local ram-headed deity, Khnum. They worshiped YHWH as a god within the Egyptian pantheon.

The Elephantine papyri show that the Jewish community of Elephantine used the Egyptian and Babylonian calendars.  (see Sacha Stern, “The Babylonian Calendar at Elephantine”, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 130, 159–171(2000).)

So these Elephantine papyri are not the best source for YHWH’s true calendar.

 

The Modern Rabbinic System

Modern Rabbinic Judaism has another system. Since the discrepancy between the solar and lunar years amounts to about 207 days every 19 years, the “leap month” of Adar Sheni (Adar II) is added to the third, sixth, eight, eleventh, fourteenth, seventeenth and nineteenth year of every nineteen year period, that is, seven times in a 19-year lunar cycle.

The Modern Rabbinic system is a fixed arithmetic mathematical system intended to replace to ancient observational Hebrew system (which we will cover below). The observed calendar required the Sanhedrin to review the facts and make a decree. As we read in the Talmud:
A. Cases involving flogging, [are judged] By three [judges];
B. in the name of R. Ishmael it is said, By twenty-three.
C. The intercalation of the month is effected by a court of three;
D. the intercalation of the year, By three: so R. Meir.
E. But R. Simeon b. Gamaliel says the matter is initiated by three, discussed by five and determined by seven.
F. If however, it be determined only by three, the intercalation holds good.
(m.Sanhedrin 1:2)

And in the Gemara to this Mishna we read:

Our Rabbis taught:
A year cannot be extended
unless the Nasi sanctions it.
(b.Sanhedrin 11a)

The fixed system was established on the authority of Hillel II, Nasi of the Rabbinic Sanhedrin in 358 CE. At this time Rome had outlawed the meetings of the Sanhedrin. Constantius II, following the precedents of Hadrian, prohibited the holding of such meetings as well as the vending of articles for distinctly Jewish purposes. In shutting down the Rabbinic Sanhedrin, Hillel II set the fixed calendar in motion, so that the feasts could continue to be observed in Rabbinic Judaism without a Sanhedrin to regulate the calendar and declare when a year should be extended.

 

The Original Observed Year

So how does the original Hebrew observational calendar regulate the year?

Perhaps we should begin at the beginning. In Genesis 1:14-16 we read:

“And Elohim said:
Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven
to divide the day from the night.
And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.
And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven,
to give light upon the earth. And it was so.
And Elohim made the two great lights:
the greater light to rule the day,
and the lesser light to rule the night,
and the stars.”
(Gen. 1:14-16 HRV)

The word for “seasons” above is MOEDIM (set times) the same Hebrew word used to describe the feasts.

Notice that there is no mention of barley here, only reference to the Sun, Moon and stars.

It is clear that the Sun regulates the beginning and end of the day and the moon regulates the beginning and end of the month, and that leaves the stars to regulate the beginning and end of the year.

The Karaite system uses barley to regulate the beginning and end of the year, though no barley is mentioned in Gen. 1:14-16. Moreover the Karaite calendar makes no use of the stars at all. Thus the Karaite system is not compatible with Gen. 1:14-16.

Now the Hebrew year was a cycle bisected across the middle, with two beginnings/endings marking the former and latter rains at the Spring Equinox and Fall Equinox.

Every year at the Feast of Trumpets I hear well meaning people insist (based on Ex. 12:1-2) that the Feast of Trumpets should not be called Rosh HaShanna (The New Year).

The truth is that there are two primary “new years” on the Hebrew calendar.

Nissan is the Religious new year:

And YHWH spoke unto Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt, saying:
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months:
it shall be the first month of the year to you.
(Ex. 12:1-2 HRV)

But there is another civil “New Year” Six months later at the month of Tishre.

This is evidenced in the Torah as the Sabbath years are counted from Sukkot to Sukkot:

10 And Moshe commanded them saying, At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of Sukkot,
11 When all Yisra’el is come to appear before YHWH your Elohim, in the place which He shall choose, you shall read this Torah before all Yisra’el in their hearing.
12 Assemble the people–the men and the women and the little ones, and your stranger that is within your gates–that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear YHWH your Elohim, and observe to do all the words of this Torah.
13 And that their children who have not known, may hear: and learn to fear YHWH your Elohim, as long as you live in the land, where you go over the Yarden to possess it.
(Deuteronomy 31:10-13 HRV)

And the Jubilee year cycle begins with Yom Kippur each 50′th year:

1 And YHWH spoke unto Moshe in mount Sinai, saying:
2 Speak unto the children of Yisra’el, and say unto them, When you come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a Sabbath unto YHWH.
3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in the produce thereof.
4 But in the seventh year, shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land–a Sabbath unto
YHWH–you shall neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard.
5 That which grows of itself of your harvest, you shall not reap, and the grapes of your undressed vine, you shall not gather: it shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.
6 And the Sabbath produce of the land, shall be for food for you: for you, and for your servant, and for your maid, and for your hired servant, and for the settler by your side that sojourns with you,
7 And for your cattle, and for the beasts that are in your land, shall all the increase thereof be for food.
8 And you shall number seven Sabbaths of years unto you, seven times seven years: and there shall be unto you, the days of seven Sabbaths of years, even forty and nine years.
9 Then shall you make proclamation with the blast of the shofar, on the tenth day of the seventh month. In the Yom Kippur, shall you make proclamation with the shofar throughout all your land.
(Lev. 25:1-9 HRV)

Moreover Sukkot (also known as the feast of the ingathering) occurs at the “turn of the year” (KJV has “end of the year”):

And you shall observe the feast of weeks:
even of the first fruits of wheat harvest,
and the feast of ingathering at the turn of the year.
(Ex. 34:22 HRV)

For this reason the first day of the month of Tishri (the month in which Yom Kippur and Sukkot occur) is not only the Feast of Trumpets, it is also called “Rosh HaShanna” (the Head of the Year).

Now the word for “turn” in the phrase “turn of the year” in the Hebrew is “Tekufa”.

This word TEKUFA is a key word in understanding the regulation of the year in the Hebrew calendar. The word TEKUFA literally means “cycle” or “circuit”. This word is also used to refer to the two solar equinoxes and the two solar solstices, and by extension, to the four seasons of the year. An equinox or solstice is called a TEKUFA and the Season that each TEKUFA begins is named in connection with the month in which the TEKUFA typically occurs.

Fall/Autumn is called TEKUFAT Tishri.

(The Season of Tishri)

Winter is called TEKUFAT Tevet.

(The Season of Tevet)

Spring is called TEKUFAT Nisan or TEKUFAT Abib.

(The Season of Nisan; or the Season of Abib)

Summer is called TEKUFAT Tammuz.

(The Season of Tammuz)

Sometimes the Season is named without using the word TEKUFAH (season) just as we in English do not always say “The Season of Spring”. As a result the names of these months may refer to their lunar months, or to the season that also bears their name.

As we read in the Talmud:

Samuel stated: The vernal equinox occurs only at the beginning of one of the four quarters of the day viz., either at the beginning of the day or at the beginning of the night or at midday or at midnight. The summer solstice only occurs either at the end of one and a half, or at the end of seven and a half hours of the day or the night. The autumnal equinox only occurs at the end of three, or nine hours of the day or the night, and the winter solstice only occurs at the end of four and a half, or ten and a half hours of the day or the night. The duration of a season of the year is no longer than ninety-one days and seven and a half hours; and the beginning of one season is removed from that of the other by no more than one half of a planetary hour.
(b.Eruvin 56a)

The original Observed Hebrew Year in the Talmud

Now we read in the Torah:

Observe the month (chodesh) of Aviv,
and keep the Pesach unto YHWH your Elohim:
for in the month (chodesh) of Aviv,
YHWH your Elohim brought you forth out of Egypt, by night.
(Deut. 16:1 HRV)

Now the Hebrew word CHODESH can refer either to a month, or to the beginning of something. Rav Hunna understood this verse as referring not to the “month of Aviv” but to the beginning of the SEASON (TEKUFA) of Aviv. As we read in the Talmud:

Rabbi Huna bar Avin sent an instruction to Raba:
When you see that the cycle [TEKUFAT] of Tevet [i.e. Winter]
extends to the sixteenth of Nisan, declare that year a leap year
and be not trobuled, since it is written:
“Observe the month [hodesh] of Aviv”,
i.e. Observe the Aviv of the TEKUFA [the Spring Equinox]
in the earlier portion [hodesh] of Nisan.
(b.Rosh HaShanna 21a)

In other words Rav Huna understood this passage to mean that the TEKUFA of AVIV (the Spring Equinox) must occur in the first half of the month of Nisan.

As we read also in Targum Jonathan:

Be mindful to keep the times of the festivals,
with the intercalations of the year,
and to observe the TEKUFA thereof in the month of Aviv
to perform the Passover before YHWH your Elohim,
because in  the month of Aviv
YHWH your Elohim brought you out of Egypt;
you shall eat thereof by night.
(Targum Jonathan on Deut. 16:1)

The next text of Torah we must examine is the following:

And you shall observe the feast of weeks:
even of the first fruits of wheat harvest,
and the feast of ingathering (i.e. Sukkot)
at the turn [TEKUFA] of the year.
(Ex. 34:22 HRV)

Rabbi Judah understood this verse as meaning that at least part of the Feast of Sukkot should be kept in the TEKUFA Tishri [Autumn/Fall]. As we read in the Talmud:

Rab Judah said in Samuel’s name: A year is not to be intercalated [extended] unless the [spring] Tekufah is short of completion by the greater part of the month. And how much is that? — Sixteen days: so holds R. Judah.

R. Jose said: Twenty-one days. Now, both deduce it from the same verse: “And the Feast of Ingathering at the Tekufah [season] of the year.” (Ex. 34:22). One Master holds that the whole Feast [of ingathering] is required to be included [in the new Tishri Tekufa]; the other, that only a part of the Festival [of ingathering] must [be included].
(b.Sanhedrin 12b)

Now the first day of Sukkot will generally occur 177 days after the first day of Passover. While the Autumn Equinox (Tekufa of Tishri) is about 183 days after the Spring Equinox (Tekufa of Aviv/Nisan). There is generally a six day difference.

If the 15th of Nisan falls on the Spring Equinox, then the first day of Sukkot will fall about six days before the Autumn Equinox. And since Sukkot is seven days long (the eighth day generally thought of as another festival), at least one day of Sukkot would fall after the Autumn Equinox, thus fulfilling the requirement of Ex. 34:22 as understood by Rabbi Judah.

This leads to the rule stated by Rabbi Judah:

“A year is not to be intercalated [extended]
unless the [spring] Tekufah is short of completion
by the greater part of the month [i.e Sixteen days].”

This means that at least 16 days of Nisan must occur after the Spring Equinox, meaning that the 14th of Nisan must occur after the Spring Equinox. If calculations how that the 14th of Nisan will occur before the Spring Equinox, the additional month of Adar II is added, thus pushing the 14th of Nisan (and all of Passover) beyond the Equinox and at least part of Sukkot beyond the Automn Equinox.

You may have noticed that Rav Huna instructed Raba:

When you see that the cycle [TEKUFAT] of Tevet [i.e. Winter]
extends to the sixteenth of Nisan, declare that year a leap year
and be not troubled,…
(b.Rosh HaShanna 21a)

This is not stating the rule, it is stating that in this hypothetical situation, it is not even a close call, and one can “be not troubled” in adding the additional month. Huna’s rule is stated in the words which follow these: “Observe the Aviv of the TEKUFA in the earlier portion [hodesh] of Nisan.” Meaning that the Spring Equinox must occur in the first half (before the 14th) of Nisan.

The Spring Equinox was determined by the Hebrews by tracking the path of the sun through the constellations.  As Josephus writes:

In the month of Xanthicus, which is by us called Nisan, and is the beginning
of our year, on the fourteenth day of the lunar month, when the sun is in Aries, (for in this month it was that we were delivered from bondage under the Egyptians,) the law ordained that we should every year slay that sacrifice which I before told you we slew when we came out of Egypt, and which was called the Passover; and so we do celebrate this passover in companies, leaving nothing of what we sacrifice till the day following.
(Josephus, Antiquities, 3:10:5)

Thus this system involves use of the stars in establishing the set times, which the Karaite calendar does not.

 

The Original Observed Year Before Messiah

Now one might suggest that these rules and understandings laid out in the Talmud were late inventions, and not the true ancient tradition of the Hebrew Calendar.

However we have an even more ancient sources, which verify the antiquity and authenticity of this rule.

Philo writes (who wrote about the same time as Paul) wrote:

 (161) But to the seventh day of the week he has assigned the greatest festivals, those of the longest duration, at the periods of the equinox both vernal and autumnal in each year; appointing two festivals for these two epochs, each lasting seven days; the one which takes place in the spring being for the perfection of what is being sown, and the one which falls in autumn being a feast of thanksgiving for the bringing home of all the fruits which the trees have produced. And seven days have very appropriately been appointed to the seventh month of each equinox, so that each month might receive an especial honour of one sacred day of festival, for the purpose of refreshing and cheering the mind with its holiday.
(Philo; Decalogue 30, 161)
So according to Philo, Passover must occur “in the Spring” (after the Spring Equinox) and at least part of Sukkot must occur “in the Autumn” (after the Autumn Equinox).

Moreover we read in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius:

12. The church of Laodicea was honored by two such pastors in succession, who, in the providence of God, came after the aforesaid war from Alexandria to that city.

13. Anatolius did not write very many works; but in such as have come down to us we can discern his eloquence and erudition. In these he states particularly his opinions on the passover. It seems important to give here the following extracts from them.

14. From the Paschal Canons of Anatolius. “There is then in the first year the new moon of the first month, which is the beginning of every cycle of nineteen years, on the twenty-sixth day of the Egyptian Phamenoth; but according to the months of the Macedonians, the twenty-second day of Dystrus, or, as the Romans would say, the eleventh before the Kalends of April.

15. On the said twenty-sixth of Phamenoth, the sun is found not only entered on the first segment, but already passing through the fourth day in it. They are accustomed to call this segment the first dodecatomorion, and the equinox, and the beginning of months, and the head of the cycle, and the starting-point of the planetary circuit. But they call the one preceding this the last of months, and the twelfth segment, and the final dodecatomorion, and the end of the planetary circuit. Wherefore we maintain that those who place the first month in it, and determine by it the fourteenth of the passover, commit no slight or common blunder.

16. And this is not an opinion of our own; but it was known to the Jews of old, even before Christ, and was carefully observed by them. This may be learned from what is said by Philo, Josephus, and Musæus; and not only by them, but also by those yet more ancient, the two Agathobuli, surnamed `Masters,’ and the famous Aristobulus, who was chosen among the seventy interpreters of the sacred and divine Hebrew Scriptures by Ptolemy Philadelphus and his father, and who also dedicated his exegetical books on the law of Moses to the same kings.

17. These writers, explaining questions in regard to the Exodus, say that all alike should sacrifice the passover offerings after the vernal equinox, in the middle of the first month. But this occurs while the sun is passing through the first segment of the solar, or as some of them have styled it, the zodiacal circle. Aristobulus adds that it is necessary for the feast of the passover, that not only the sun should pass through the equinoctial segment, but the moon also.

18. For as there are two equinoctial segments, the vernal and the autumnal, directly opposite each other, and as the day of the passover was appointed on the fourteenth of the month, beginning with the evening, the moon will hold a position diametrically opposite the sun, as may be seen in full moons; and the sun will be in the segment of the vernal equinox, and of necessity the moon in that of the autumnal.

19. I know that many other things have been said by them, some of them probable, and some approaching absolute demonstration, by which they endeavor to prove that it is altogether necessary to keep the passover and the feast of unleavened bread after the equinox. But I refrain from demanding this sort of demonstration for matters from which the veil of the Mosaic law has been removed, so that now at length with uncovered face we continually behold as in a glass Christ and the
teachings and sufferings of Christ. But that with the Hebrews the first month was near the equinox, the teachings also of the Book of Enoch show.”
(Eusebius; Eccl. History 7:32:13-19)

So according to Eusebius:

“…the Jews of old, even before Christ, …Philo, Josephus, and Musæus; and not only … them, but also by those yet more ancient, the two Agathobuli, surnamed `Masters,’ and the famous Aristobulus, who was chosen among the seventy interpreters of the sacred and divine Hebrew Scriptures by Ptolemy Philadelphus and his father, and who also dedicated his exegetical books on the law of Moses to the same kings.)”

Relayed the rule that:

“all alike should sacrifice the Passover offerings after the vernal equinox,”

And specifically Eusebius quotes Aristobulus as follows:

It is necessary for the feast of the passover, that not only the sun should pass through the equinoctial segment, but the moon also. For as there are two equinoctial segments, the vernal and the autumnal, directly opposite each other, and as the day of the passover was appointed on the fourteenth of the month, beginning with the evening, the moon will hold a position diametrically opposite the sun, as may be seen in full moons; and the sun will be in the segment of the vernal equinox, and of necessity the moon in that of the autumnal.

Aristobulus lived around 200 years before the time of Yeshua. So here we have our rule stated from a source much older than the time of Messiah.

Restoration of the Observed Hebrew Year

Now the Modern Rabbinic fixed system for determining the beginning of the year, was originally intended to produce the same result as the observational Hebrew calendar, however over the 1,600 years since it was enacted, the Spring Equinox has drifted, so that the fixed calendar does not always produce the same result as the observed calendar.  In fact in 2008 the two diverged, the fixed calendar added the additional month of Adar II, but the original observed calendar would not call for the addition until 2009.

Some voices in Rabbinic Judaism have suggested that an equal authority (a modern Rabbinic Sanhedrin) can either amend it or reinstate the observational Hebrew calendar. F or example, the Temple Institute website site suggests:

“A new Sanhedrin sits today in Jerusalem. May [Yahweh] grant them the authority to accept testimony and proclaim the new month throughout the land. For the real battle in Israel is the battle over the calendar: for he who controls the calendar, controls the spiritual seasons of all living souls.”

Of course the ancient Nazarenes had their own Sanhedrin (as we see in Acts 15). A true and correct understanding of Col. 2:16-17 and Romans 13-14 also reveals to us that the Beit Din holds the authority to regulate the calendar. While the meetings of the ancient Nazarene Sanhedrin would also have been outlawed by the same decree in 358 CE, which had outlawed meetings of the Rabbinic Sanhedrin, a restored International Nazarene Beit Din was established in 1996 which can, and should assume its natural historical role in declaring when a year should be extended with the additional month of Adar II (and when it should not be extended) following the rule that was used by our forefathers since long before the time of Messiah. Part of the marvelous work and wonder of the restoration, is the restoration of the original observed Hebrew year.

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