Questions on the Sacred Calendar
Brief answers to the following 10 questions are given in Part 2 of the
SBS booklet The Sacred Calendar
of the God of Israel.
||When does a month begin in the sacred calendar?
||When does the year begin in the Sacred Calendar?
||From where should the new moon be sighted?
||What are the harvest times in Israel?
||Why do some years in the sacred calendar have 13 months?
||Why do the festival dates in the calendar printed by SBS differ a
day or two from the dates shown in the popular Jewish calendar?
||Do all Jews use the popular Jewish Calendar?
||How does Stewarton Bible School set up the calendar?
||How may a religious organisation check to see if the pre-printed
calendar it uses is correct?
||Where does faith in God come into this matter of keeping feast
Many readers are, however, asking the following question:
QUESTION: Why, in 1997, does SBS start the month of Abib one month
BEFORE the Jews and most other festival-keeping groups?
You should first study the answers to the above 10 questions, paying
particular attention to answers 2, 4, 5 and 6. They will help you
quickly understand what follows. Now to answer the question.
In 1997 SBS begins the month of Abib on the 10th March rather than
8th April simply because the spring and autumn Feasts of the Most High
are linked to the agricultural harvests in Israel. Divine
instructions concerning this link between Yahweh's Feasts and the
harvests in Israel are found in the following verses.
Pentecost (Feast Of Weeks)
||"Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the
seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the
||"And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted
for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it."
||"And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the
sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering;
seven sabbaths shall be complete:"
We can see from the above that the count to Pentecost begins when the
first sheaf of the barley harvest was cut and waved before the
Almighty. The Bible tells us that this count was to begin "on the
morrow after a Sabbath." In our article
Counting to Pentecost you will see
that, in agreement with the Jews, we reckon this Sabbath to be the one
which occurs during the Week of Unleavened Bread.
In short, the Week of Unleavened Bread (15th-21st Abib) is
directly linked to the beginning of the barley harvest in Israel.
Our first task, therefore, is to determine when the barley harvest
in Israel begins: for it is here that we'll find the link to the first
sacred season in the year - the Week of Unleavened Bread. If you read
our answer to Question 4
you will see that the barley harvest in Israel begins in March
and continues into April. This means that the first sheaf of
barely is usually cut in late March. And that is why SBS begins Abib
in 1997 on 10th March, in order that the Week of Unleavened Bread
(24th - 30th March) will coincide with the start of the barley
harvest. Were we to begin Abib on 8th April, as do the Jews and
most festival-keeping groups, the Week of Unleavened Bread would occur
22nd - 28th April, which is a long time after the start of the
barley harvest and more than a month after the spring equinox.
The Spring Equinox
What has the spring equinox to do with all this? The answer is: when
printing a calendar weeks, months or years in advance, and most
festival-keeping groups do this, the spring equinox is a very good
indicator as to when the barley harvest in Israel will begin. That is
precisely why, for the benefit of Jews scattered around the world
following the destruction of the Temple in AD70, the patriarch
Hillel II, in the 4th century, set out the present Jewish
calendar to begin Abib as near as possible to the spring equinox. By
doing so Hillel aimed to ensure that the Week of Unleavened Bread
would coincide with the start of the barely harvest in Israel. Thus
far, Hillel was perfectly correct in his plan: and we in SBS fully
agree with him. The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible also verifies
this point about the start of the 'Year.'
The spring equinox, incidentally, occurs about 20th March. Sad to say,
however, due to the adoption of an inaccurate formula by Hillel to
arrive at the equinox, the dates he used began to drift away from
their true astronomical position. Now, some 1700 years later, the
spring equinox in Hillel's calendar is supposedly occurring on
7/8th April. This 17/18 day drift from the true equinox date of
20th March is pushing the start of Nisan, and by effect the Feast of
Unleavened Bread, towards May. As a result, every group which uses a
calendar similar to Hillel's, will in certain years celebrate the
Passover (Pesah) a whole month later than would have ancient Israel.
They will also celebrate ALL the sacred festivals in those years a
whole month late. In our answer to
Question 6 you will see
how Arthur Spier, a leading Jewish authority on the Hebrew
Calendar, states that the spring and autumnal equinoxes in Hillel's
calendar have slipped some 17 days from their true astronomical
positions. They are now supposedly occurring on the 7/8th April and
the 7/8th October. I quote from page 227 of Spier's book The
Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar.
"The year began with the month of Abib or Nisan (Ex.12:2; 23:15;
Esther 3:7), with the new moon next before or next after the vernal
equinox, when the sun is in Aries" (Jos. Antiq. iii 8,4; 10,5).
This year (1997) is a perfect example of this error. In 1997 the Jews,
who mostly use Hillel's calendar, will begin Abib on 8th April with
the new moon nearest that incorrect equinox date of 7/8th
April. They will then celebrate the Week of Unleavened Bread on
22nd - 29th April, which will be a long time after the first sheaf of
barely is cut. In ancient Israel this would never have happened:
because the beginning of the barely harvest should coincide with the
Week of Unleavened Bread.
"The Tekufoth of Samuel, (Yarhinai) which are based on the length of
365.25 days for the solar year, deviate considerably from the true
astronomical time. They are 17 days later than the astronomical
equinoxes and solstices in our century, a difference which grows by 1
day almost every 100 years. The rebirth of the State of Israel
rekindles in us the hope that a new Sanhedrin, recognised 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."
The safest way to produce - in advance - a correct calendar,
is to begin Abib with the new moon nearest the correct spring equinox.
That is why in 1997 we will begin Abib (Nisan) a month before the Jews
and most other festival-keeping groups. We have simply reverted to the
Biblical rule that the Week of Unleavened Bread (15th-21st Abib)
should coincide with the beginning of the barley harvest in Israel.
The Metonic Cycle
About the year 433 BC the Greek astronomer Meton of Athens
discovered that after a lapse of 19 years (235 lunar months) the
phases of the moon recurred, within a few hours, on the same day of
the same month. For example if a new moon occurred on the 1st January
at 9am in one year, then 20 years later when the next cycle began a
new moon would again occur on 1st January within a few hours of 9am
(subject to leap year disturbances). Meton concluded, that if the
dates of the new moons are known in any one 19 year cycle, they are
known for all the cycles following.
In the course of time, Jewish calendar makers began to use the
Metonic Cycle to regulate the sacred calendar and after a few
changes the following seven years in the cycle, 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th,
14th, 17th and 19th, were declared to be leap years with 13 months
each. Ordinary years would have 12 months.
The year 1997 is the 19th year in the Metonic Cycle when the Jewish
calendar will add an extra month (called Adar II) after Adar. This
additional month will move the start of Nisan (Abib) a month forward:
which will result in EVERY sacred festival in 1997 being celebrated
a month late.
SBS does not use the Metonic Cycle, nor the rigid Jewish rule of
making years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19 of the cycle leap years - with
13 months each. To be sure we add a 13th month periodically to keep
the 1st Abib as close to the equinox as possible: but we do not use
the Metonic Cycle to do this. We follow the simple rule of selecting
the new moon nearest the true spring equinox to begin Abib (Nisan).
This ensures that the START of the barley harvest will coincide with
the Week of Unleavened Bread when the first sheaf was waved.
The Best Method
The best method of organising a calendar, would, of course, be to have
a group of watchers in Jerusalem, Israel. They would not only announce
the first sightings of the new moons each month: but, when deciding
upon Abib's new moon, would also take account of the natural
conditions in Israel. These natural conditions are:
This select group would be similar to the Sanhedrin of old.
They would broadcast to the whole world as to when each year
and each month throughout the year was to begin. That was the
method used in ancient Israel: and is still, in my opinion, the best
method. But since we do not live in Israel and cannot note those
natural conditions or lookout each month for first sightings of the
new moon, we have opted to print a calendar in advance by using the
spring equinox as a guide when determining the beginning of the year.
And that is exactly what the patriarch Hillel did when the
Sanhedrin of old was no more and the Jews were scattered around
- The end of the winter rains.
- The maturity of the barley harvest and the growth of plant life in
- The age of the new born lambs and pigeons; which before Messiah's
death on Calvary were sacrificed by the faithful.
- The conditions of the roads and camping sites which incoming
pilgrims would be using during the Passover week.
The Passover Not Before Equinox
Please note that by choosing the new moon nearest the equinox, the
Passover, which occurs 14 days later, will never fall before
the equinox; that is - before the 20th March. The Passover may
coincide with the equinox, when the sun will also be
'passing-over' the equator, but it should not fall before the
equinox. This means that when a calendar is printed in advance, the
very earliest date for the 1st Abib will be the 7th March. It is
perfectly in order to begin Abib before 20th March: the Jews do
this in many years. But the Passover (14th Abib) should not be
celebrated before the equinox.
Some groups will not even start Abib before the equinox. They
always select the first new moon after the equinox to begin
Abib. Consequently in their calendars the Feast of Unleavened
Bread always occurs in April and in some years falls well over
a month after the equinox. This is a long time after the start of the
barley harvest. With due respects, we think these groups are wrong in
Tabernacles (Feast Of Ingathering)
Divine instructions are also given concerning the timing of the
Feast of Tabernacles. We are told in Scripture that this autumn
Festival-week should occur at the 'year's end.' In other words,
the Feast of In-gathering (Tabernacles) should be celebrated at the
end of the agricultural year, when all the harvests in Israel are
gathered in. If you refer to our answer to
Question 5 you will see that
the harvests in Israel are all gathered in by late August / early
||"And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours,
which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which
is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out
of the field."
||"And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits
of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end."
The Hebrew word 'tekuphah' here translated "year's
end" means the 'turn of the year,' the
'equinox.' See our answer to
Question 2 for more detail.
In short the starting date of Ethanim (Tishri) is geared to occur
after the autumn wheat, grape, date and fig harvests are in-gathered
or gathered in. The harvests in Israel are normally all gathered in
before the autumn equinox (September 22nd). See our answer to
Question 4. Therefore to meet
those two divine requirements mentioned in Scripture, that:
any calendar produced in advance should be geared to the spring and
- The Week of Unleavened Bread should occur in spring when
the first sheaf of the barley harvest in Israel is cut and waved: and
- The Feast of Tabernacles should occur when Israel's
harvests are all gathered in,
And that is exactly what Stewarton Bible School is doing. In this
year (1997) the Week of Unleavened Bread will begin on 24th
March, which is just a few days after the spring equinox; and the
Week of Tabernacles will begin on the 17th September, which is
just a few days before the autumnal equinox.
Were we to follow the popular Jewish calendar, which is tied to the
drifting equinox dates of Samuel Yarhinai and which is also inflexibly
tied to the Metonic Cycle, we would, in 1997, be well out of step with
the harvests in Israel and a whole month late for EVERY
festival in this year.
The Jews Know All This
Please note that the calendar makers and rabbis of Israel knew all
these facts long before we did. They know:
Yes, the Jews are well aware of all these facts: but they are awaiting
the appointment of a new Sanhedrin, recognised by all Israelis,
to make the necessary changes to their present calendar.
- That their equinox dates are drifting towards May.
- That, as a result, the Passover is - in certain years - a whole
- That the Feast of Tabernacles is also -in certain years - a whole
month late and slowly advancing towards November.
If you study this answer along with Answers 1 - 10 mentioned at the
start of this article, you will see that Stewarton Bible School is
following Yahweh's instructions as laid down in His Word. Nevertheless
we still look forward to the time when the starting date of each year
and each month will be decided in Jerusalem and announced to the world
as in the days of old. That is by far the best method of all. But so
long as we need to produce a calendar in advance we will continue to
select the new moon nearest the equinox to begin Abib. This will
ensure that ALL Yahweh's Feasts throughout the year will be in
step with the harvests in Israel.
Last Updated: February 1997