Ancient Hebrew Calendar

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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Ged
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Ancient Hebrew Calendar

Post by Ged » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:09 pm

In the following series of posts, I hope to describe an old Hebrew luni-solar calendar which, if understood properly, adds considerable light to our understanding of the scriptures.

The modern Jewish calendar, as we now know it, is not the same as the one described in ancient Hebrew literature. It went through an evolutionary change from about the Persian - Greek period, probably to comply with the governing empires of that time. Commentators are aware of these changes and influences, but are hazy concerning the details of that from which it came. Leap years, for example, are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, so it is assumed they were inserted in much the same way as a second Adar is now, albeit by primitive observation of seasons.

Modern Jewish timekeepers no longer physically observe moons, but use a formula-based method instead, to intercalate months. It was settled by Hillel in the fourth century (AD 359), and it was, for all intents and purposes, the same as that devised by the Greek astronomer, Meton of Athens, (432 BC) whose name is synonymous with luni-solar calendars. It would be fair to say that all luni-solar calendars currently being used are 'Metonic' including the Chinese, although the latter may wish to argue that theirs is older.

Meton discovered his cycle in 432 BC when he noticed that 235 synodic months almost exactly equals 19 solar years. Therefore, a thirteenth month is added to the lunar year on the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th and 17th years, of a 19-year cycle. In so doing, the lunar cycle is synchronised with the solar. It is an effective system, and it is not my purpose to criticise it. However, there is evidence to show that, in addition to the actual sighting of new moons, the original Hebrew calendar used advanced astronomical formulae too.

The following reconstruction describes an old luni-solar system which synchronised the heavenly bodies regularly per seven years, and again in the forty-ninth year. Following that, another forty-nine year cycle would repeat using the same formula. It may well be that the pre-metonic Hebrew calendar was even more excellent than the one which developed after.
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Sabbatical Time Measurement

Post by Ged » Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:29 pm

I'd now like to highlight a unique aspect - the shabuwa (sevens)

Earliest biblical calendar references go back to the book of Genesis, but as far as an exclusive Hebrew system is concerned, the first mention is found with instructions given to Moses at the time of the Exodus. This was the calendar that was employed during the Judges and Kingdom periods of Israel. It begins here:
“This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.” (Exodus 12:2)
It was the month of Abib (later renamed Nisan) and what is being said here is clear; the first of Abib was to become New Year’s Day. It begs the question: If Moses was given a new start to the year, when was New Year under the calendar from which they had come? The Egyptians called it the “opening of the year” and it started with the star, ‘Sirius’, which appeared in the sky in July when the first season was ushered in by the flooding of the river Nile. They associated the life-giving inundation of their crops with Sirius, bringer of new life. In mentioning this I do not mean to discuss the Egyptian Sothic cycle. I only wish to make the point that the Hebrew calendar was not copied from Egypt. The Bible’s calendar was unique in its operation and different from neighboring countries.

The next thing to be noticed is how units of time were distinguished by Sabbath time measurement. The week was seven days, and the years were grouped into heptads. By contrast, the Egyptian 30-day month was divided into three ‘decans’ of ten days each, but the Hebrew calendar was strictly sabbatical. The following is a breakdown of time measurement in it:
  • a ‘week’ of days (7 days)
  • a ‘moon’ (one month)
  • a ‘time’ (one year)
  • a ‘time, times and half a time’ (31/2 yrs)
  • a ‘week’ of years (7 years)
  • a ‘jubilee sabbath’ (49 years)
  • a ’70-week jubilee’ (490 years)
The ‘week of years’ was akin to our ‘decade’, and ‘jubilee’ might be likened to our ‘century’, albeit shorter. The longer ’70-week jubilee’ is alluded to in both Testaments (Daniel 9:24, Matthew 18:22) and is also mentioned in fragments of manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Scroll 11Q13)

A ‘moon’ (lunar month) is typically 29 or 30 days, so when the year was completed it only reached 354 days, about eleven days short of the Sun’s 365¼ day rotation. As a result, the year slipped back each season, and an extra (thirteenth) month had to be inserted every so often. It was added at the end of Adar, according to a sabbatical formula if my proposition is correct – not according to primitive observation of seasons as it is usually assumed to have been done.

Image

As mentioned before, confusion arises from an assumption that the modern Hebrew calendar is the same as the ancient one. It isn’t. The misunderstanding is not helped by rabbinic experts either, who make the same claims as everyone else. It’s a good calendar, it’s luni-solar, and it works. Why look for another? Also, a false credibility bolsters the assumption since the modern Hebrew calendar is not really modern. It is similar to, and can be traced back to the Greek, Persian, and Babylonian empires. Now, that is old.

But it is not as old as the one of which we speak; it goes all the way back to Moses. In my next post, I hope to look at some strange and interesting references to a ‘lost’ calendar.
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Strange References to a Lost Calendar

Post by Ged » Wed Mar 01, 2017 5:25 pm

The Old Testament makes several unusual calculations that indicate calendar formula. The first is New Year’s Day, as mentioned in the previous post. The next reference is not as obvious because its function related to religious festivals and the release of debts. I am referring to the ‘Jubilee.’
“Count off seven sabbaths of years – seven times seven years – so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you … The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you.” (Leviticus 25:8-11)
However, Jubilee is more than what meets the eye. Apart from radical agriculture and ‘debt release’ provisions, it contained precisely 600 lunar cycles from the 1st of Abib to the 7th month of the forty-ninth year! Apparently Jubilee was part of a luni-solar system designed for the keeping of time.

Then there is the Sabbath system itself. There are various descriptions of the Sabbatical years and although they don’t directly mention calendar matters, when looking beneath the surface of the text they contain formulae relating to the placement of intercalary months. We shall look at these soon.

We notice special calendar terms and numbers which occur in the prophetic writings. An example of how a year was called a ‘time’ is found in King Nebuchadnezzar’s bout of insanity. He was “driven away from human society until seven ‘times’ passed over him.” (Daniel 4:16-32) Similarly, there are mentions of a ‘time, times and half a time.’ It is 3½ years, and is one half of a Sabbatical cycle. Then, there are the curious numbers of 1260, 1290 and 1335 days which appear in the books of Daniel and Revelation. They have baffled students with commentaries calling them ‘unknown calculations’ and popular end-time writers dreaming up fanciful ideas as to what they might mean. Please deduct 30 (one month) off 1290. Please deduct 30 + 30 + 15 (2½ months) off 1335. In both cases it equals 1260 days.

If we select the Day of Atonement, the 10th Tishri (Ethanim) and add 1260 or 1290 days, it always resets itself to the Hebrew New Year Day, the 1st of Abib, three and a half years later. Our observation suggests that these unusual figures might be intercalations to an underlying calendar.

To demonstrate this, let us take the 10th day of Tishri from a known historical date in the Babylonian captivity period. Such a year was Judah’s first year in captivity, 3175 AM. It equates to our western date, 27th September, 587 BC, and has an astronomical value of 1,507,291. Three and a half years afterwards, 3178 AM, the 1st of Nisan (Abib) equals our western date, 10th March, 583 BC, with an astronomical value of 1,508,551. By deducting the astronomical values we do indeed find a difference of 1260 days! The reason why this figure (and 1290) keeps repeating as described, is because it is mathematically linked to the phases of the moon. The math is as follows:
  • D.of A. to end of Tishri = 20 days
    end Tishri to end of year = 5 months
    3 years x 12 = 36 months
    1 intercalary month = 1 month
    TOTAL MONTHS = 42 mths + 20 days
    42 x 29.53 = 1240.26 days
    TOTAL DAYS = 1260 days
The Bible is not the only place that references a unique ancient calendar. My next post continues looking into it, and adds more from extra-biblical sources.
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Dead Sea Scrolls Reveal Hidden Calendar

Post by Ged » Thu Mar 02, 2017 8:24 pm

My calendar reconstruction is based on a relatively small number of biblical texts, but that does not mean to say that extra-biblical evidence does not exist as well.

The Babylonian Talmud explains how the legal system during the period of the Judges of Israel kept track of events in terms of Sabbatical and Jubilee cycles. (Tractate b. Sanhedrin 40 a,b) The court would make a formal record of contracts, crimes etc. by writing down the 'Septennnate' (week of years) when the event took place, then by determining the Jubilee cycle in which the Septennnate belonged. For example, "The accused committed the crime on the 1st day, of the 2nd month, of the 3rd year, of the 4th Septennate, of the 5th Jubilee." This information should dispel any doubt as to whether Sabbath years and/or Jubilees were ever practiced or not, at least for the Judges era. It also expresses calendrical terminology.

Such calendar language as described above is also used in the ancient 'Book of Jubilees', copies of which were found among the Dead Sea scrolls. For example, it relates Jacob's move to Egypt as follows: "And Israel went into the country of Egypt, into the land of Goshen, on the new moon of the 4th month, in the 2nd year of the 3rd week (of years), of the 45th Jubilee." (Jubilees 45:1) For whatever else we might think about parabiblical literature, one thing is sure; Jewish readers as early as the second century BC were aware of a former Sabbatic method of dating.

When studying the inter-testament era, it becomes apparent that Babylonian, Persian and Greek elements had been added to the original calendar. The all-important month of Abib reappears after the captivity as ‘Nisan,’ a Babylonian name. (Nisanu) Sometime after that, Jubilee observances ceased, then New Year was shifted from Abib to Tishri. We don’t know exactly when these changes took place. I suspect Jubilee stopped soon after Nehemiah. Hecataeus of Abdera, a Greek historian who lived during the conquests of Alexander, is credited with saying, “Under the rule of nations during latter times, namely, Persians and Macedonians ... the Jews greatly modified the traditions of their fathers”. (Diodorus Siculus 40:31)

Alfred Edersheim adds, “after their return from exile, the Jews dated their years according to the Selucidic era.” (The Temple, ch. 10, page 204) It is known that the Seleucid New Year was Dios which was the Greek equivalent to Tishri, so it would be fair to surmise that the New Year change came about then.

Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal a serious debate concerning changes to the inter-testament period calendar. "All the children of Israel will forget and will not find the path of the years, and will forget the new moons, and seasons, and Sabbaths, and they will wrongly determine all the order of the years. For this reason the years will come upon them when they disturb the order ... they will go wrong as to the months and Sabbaths and feasts and Jubilees.” (Jubilees 6:33-37) Thus the Essenes of Qumran rejected the post-Babylonian calendar and the temple authority’s festival dates, because they believed the true calendar had been abandoned by the priests and replaced with an alternative system. Their scrolls show instead a 364-day solar year that was divisible by seven. This, they believed to be the original system founded by Enoch, and those who departed from it were "apostate."

Attempts to apply leap-year formulae to the Enochian year have not been satisfactory, but the fact that the Essenes attempted to recover a 'lost' Sabbatical calendar speaks loudly that there was one to be found! The following reconstruction does indeed find such a pre-Metonic calendar, and I would now like to put forward for consideration the precise intercalation formula and astronomical details of the original Hebrew calendar.

btw, you are welcome to reply. It's getting kinda quiet here. :wave:
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iskander
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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls Reveal Hidden Calendar

Post by iskander » Fri Mar 03, 2017 9:01 am

Ged wrote:My calendar reconstruction is based on a relatively small number of biblical texts, but that does not mean to say that extra-biblical evidence does not exist as well.

The Babylonian Talmud explains how the legal system during the period of the Judges of Israel kept track of events in terms of Sabbatical and Jubilee cycles. (Tractate b. Sanhedrin 40 a,b) The court would make a formal record of contracts, crimes etc. by writing down the 'Septennnate' (week of years) when the event took place, then by determining the Jubilee cycle in which the Septennnate belonged. For example, "The accused committed the crime on the 1st day, of the 2nd month, of the 3rd year, of the 4th Septennate, of the 5th Jubilee." This information should dispel any doubt as to whether Sabbath years and/or Jubilees were ever practiced or not, at least for the Judges era. It also expresses calendrical terminology.

Such calendar language as described above is also used in the ancient 'Book of Jubilees', copies of which were found among the Dead Sea scrolls. For example, it relates Jacob's move to Egypt as follows: "And Israel went into the country of Egypt, into the land of Goshen, on the new moon of the 4th month, in the 2nd year of the 3rd week (of years), of the 45th Jubilee." (Jubilees 45:1) For whatever else we might think about parabiblical literature, one thing is sure; Jewish readers as early as the second century BC were aware of a former Sabbatic method of dating.

When studying the inter-testament era, it becomes apparent that Babylonian, Persian and Greek elements had been added to the original calendar. The all-important month of Abib reappears after the captivity as ‘Nisan,’ a Babylonian name. (Nisanu) Sometime after that, Jubilee observances ceased, then New Year was shifted from Abib to Tishri. We don’t know exactly when these changes took place. I suspect Jubilee stopped soon after Nehemiah. Hecataeus of Abdera, a Greek historian who lived during the conquests of Alexander, is credited with saying, “Under the rule of nations during latter times, namely, Persians and Macedonians ... the Jews greatly modified the traditions of their fathers”. (Diodorus Siculus 40:31)

Alfred Edersheim adds, “after their return from exile, the Jews dated their years according to the Selucidic era.” (The Temple, ch. 10, page 204) It is known that the Seleucid New Year was Dios which was the Greek equivalent to Tishri, so it would be fair to surmise that the New Year change came about then.

Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal a serious debate concerning changes to the inter-testament period calendar. "All the children of Israel will forget and will not find the path of the years, and will forget the new moons, and seasons, and Sabbaths, and they will wrongly determine all the order of the years. For this reason the years will come upon them when they disturb the order ... they will go wrong as to the months and Sabbaths and feasts and Jubilees.” (Jubilees 6:33-37) Thus the Essenes of Qumran rejected the post-Babylonian calendar and the temple authority’s festival dates, because they believed the true calendar had been abandoned by the priests and replaced with an alternative system. Their scrolls show instead a 364-day solar year that was divisible by seven. This, they believed to be the original system founded by Enoch, and those who departed from it were "apostate."

Attempts to apply leap-year formulae to the Enochian year have not been satisfactory, but the fact that the Essenes attempted to recover a 'lost' Sabbatical calendar speaks loudly that there was one to be found! The following reconstruction does indeed find such a pre-Metonic calendar, and I would now like to put forward for consideration the precise intercalation formula and astronomical details of the original Hebrew calendar.

btw, you are welcome to reply. It's getting kinda quiet here. :wave:
The Jewish calendar is defined in terms of religious duties .
Since the calendar is fixed from the time of creation, there is no human involvement in the setting of time – it is divinely mandated for all of eternity. This stands in stark contrast to the rabbinic halacha as described e.g. in m. Rosh Hashanah, in which witnesses and the beit din, the rabbinic court, played an integral role in declaring the new month, and thus the length of the previous month. Similarly, various derashot (homilies) in rabbinic literature emphasize that the festivals were established based upon human control over the calendar.
http://thetorah.com/jewish-calendar-in- ... olar-year/

Does God need the help of the rabbis ?

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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls Reveal Hidden Calendar

Post by Ged » Fri Mar 03, 2017 10:06 am

iskander wrote:
http://thetorah.com/jewish-calendar-in- ... olar-year/

Does God need the help of the rabbis ?
Thanks for bringing up the Dead Sea Scrolls calendar. Their 364-day system certainly was sabbatical, but it would have fallen behind the seasons after a few years. Interesting none the less. DSS scholars have wondered if they added 7 days to their solar calendar every 7 years in order to keep it on track?
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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls Reveal Hidden Calendar

Post by iskander » Fri Mar 03, 2017 10:29 am

Ged wrote:
iskander wrote:
http://thetorah.com/jewish-calendar-in- ... olar-year/

Does God need the help of the rabbis ?
Thanks for bringing up the Dead Sea Scrolls calendar. Their 364-day system certainly was sabbatical, but it would have fallen behind the seasons after a few years. Interesting none the less. DSS scholars have wondered if they added 7 days to their solar calendar every 7 years in order to keep it on track?
How to construct calendars was well beyond the understanding of the ancients. Apparently the earth takes 365.25636 days to go round the sun which is not a whole number of days.

Cesar introduced an extra day every four years to be added to the 365 days of one year and pope Gregory added another modification to the Julian calendar to better approximate the passing of time.

What does your research tell you about the reasons for the changes in the Jewish calendars?

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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls Reveal Hidden Calendar

Post by Ged » Sat Mar 04, 2017 12:45 am

iskander wrote:What does your research tell you about the reasons for the changes in the Jewish calendars?
There is some mystery concerning the changes to the Jewish calendar. Jewish information websites get this question sometimes, and they acknowledge that changes came about after the Persian period, but tend to be light on detail. The New Year change has a novel explanation; they simply say that there was more than one New Year.

However, a reading of the O.T. historical books always numbers the months from Nisan. For example: "The king's scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day.” (Esther 8:9) See diagram on 2nd post.

My thinking is that the changes were enforced by the Seleucids. The Persian and the Ptolemaic empires were generally tolerant of the traditions of client states, but the Seleucid empire attempted to stamp out Jewish customs. However, there were some who tried to hang on to the original calendar. The Essenes would be an example; the Qumran community another; John the Baptist would be another IMO.
iskander wrote: How to construct calendars was well beyond the understanding of the ancients.
They may have known more than we think. There seems to be numbers indicating luni-solar formula. Ill try to explain what Ive found tomorrow.
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iskander
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Re: Ancient Hebrew Calendar

Post by iskander » Sat Mar 04, 2017 4:11 am

Ged wrote:My thinking is that the changes were enforced by the Seleucids
Thank you, A brief note until tomorrow. :)
There seemed to have existed a conflict between the supporters of a solar based calendar and a moon based calendar. See attached file
Attachments
calendar 2.PNG
calendar 2.PNG (122.43 KiB) Viewed 1080 times

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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls Reveal Hidden Calendar

Post by DCHindley » Sat Mar 04, 2017 9:34 am

Ged wrote:
iskander wrote:
http://thetorah.com/jewish-calendar-in- ... olar-year/

Does God need the help of the rabbis ?
Thanks for bringing up the Dead Sea Scrolls calendar. Their 364-day system certainly was sabbatical, but it would have fallen behind the seasons after a few years. Interesting none the less. DSS scholars have wondered if they added 7 days to their solar calendar every 7 years in order to keep it on track?
In 4Q320 (I think) the priestly cycle of service (the "liturgical" calendar") is reconciled to the 364 day "Schematic" year as follows: 24 priestly courses x 13 weeks of service each = 312 weeks = 2,184 days = 6 x 364 years.

Now it should be theoretically possible to intercalate this with a Luni-Solar calendar such as was used in Macedon, Babylon, and by the Judean High Priests, but we really don't know if it actually was. I believe that there are DSS fragments that attempt to equate them, at least for a three year period (before breaking off), but whether this was a developed system or just a sample period (some historical names are mentioned) used pesher style I do not know.

My calendric prowess is not deep, but there are festivals mentioned in the DSS that deal with the 364 day calendar that are not in the Luni-Solar calendar, and one or more of these may refer to intercalations.

DCH

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