From where should the new moon be sighted? Can the lookout party be posted anywhere on earth? Or is Jerusalem the only authorised lookout point?
"In the early times of our history the solution was found by the following practical procedure. The beginning of months were determined by direct observation of the moon. The new months were sanctified and their beginnings announced by the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, after witnesses had testified that they had seen the new crescent and after their testimony had been thoroughly examined, confirmed by calculation and duly accepted. The Jewish communities were notified of the beginning of months (Rosh Hodesh) in early times by kindling night fires on the mountains and later on by messengers."
In short: months began when the new moon was first sighted from Jerusalem. As soon as the new born crescent was sighted from the capital the news was sent to the rest of the country. Such was the practice in ancient days. 'But,' you may well ask 'what of today?' As you can imagine, first sightings of the new moon vary from place to place. The moon may be seen at one place, only to be missed at another. Atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity along the light path, altitude, latitude, longitude, cloud, fog and dust etc. can all affect a first sighting of the new moon. Even a distance of a few hundred miles in any direction could make the difference between seeing the new moon and not seeing it. On top of this is the fact that most city dwellers are not able to get away from the glare of the city lights each month to 'look out' for the new moon.
Some festival-keeping groups believe that:
"A month should begin at whatever moment the new crescent
is first sighted, regardless of location."
The Stewarton Bible School does not agree with this stand, simply because first sightings of the new moon can occur a whole day apart in different parts of the world. Believers assembling at a central point could therefore find themselves in dispute as one party could justifiably claim to have seen the new moon on a certain day and another party deny having seen it. For example a Californian believer could, in certain months, see the new moon a whole day before or after his Jerusalem counterpart. So when he arrives in Israel for the Passover, when will he keep that service? Will he go by his Californian sighting, or will he fall into line with the believers in Jerusalem? The answer is obvious, and it has the backing of history: he will follow the Jerusalem lead. Stewarton Bible School's stand, therefore, is:
The beginnings of months should be decided on the evidence of a first sighting from the standpoint of Jerusalem, because that is the Almighty's spiritual capital of the world and the main assembly point for festival-keeping believers.
Such was the practice of ancient Israel. All new moons were announced
from the main assembly point of Jerusalem. To be sure the folks
from Nazareth, Dan, Beersheba and further afield were equally
able to look out for the new moon, and they probably
did; but even if they had seen the new moon locally, a first
sighting from Jerusalem always took precedence over local
first sightings. Also when Messiah walked the earth the beginnings
of months were proclaimed on the evidence of a first sighting
from Jerusalem; regardless of whether or not pilgrims
had seen the new moon in Asia, Persia, Ethiopia, Mesopotamia
or Rome. Pilgrims from those distant lands (Acts 2: 9-11) all
subordinated their local observations to first sightings from
Jerusalem. And that is exactly what will happen in the
millennium and on the new earth. The beginnings of months will
be proclaimed from Jerusalem and all the world will obey.