Christian Churches of God
The Calendar and the Moon
Postponements or Festivals?
(Edition 2.0 19970308-19990315-20071911)
With the aid of extensive quotes from authoritative sources and Scripture, this paper is designed to enable the reader to see the uncertain and ad hoc derivation of the Judaic postponement system. The postponements were not fully in place until the eleventh century from the admission of the proponents of the postponement system themselves.
The Calendar and the Moon
Postponements or Festivals?
Often termed the Hillel calendar, the calendar of Judaism is actually a creation of more recent derivation than generally known. There is no doubt that the postponement system according to the Encyclopedia Judaica and other reference works was not fully in place until the eleventh century and is not really the product of Rabbi Hillel II from 358 CE, even though it is commonly attributed to him. We should see the progression from the following, and also recognise that we are confronted with either the observance of God’s Festivals or observance of postponements. The intent of the Catholic calendar is to avoid agreement with the original Judaic calendar and the Jewish calendar avoids agreement with the generally universal Christian calendar. These points will become evident in this paper.
We will look first at the month called Tishri.
Tishre: From Aramaic shera or sherei, “to begin” ... Seventh month in the religious or festival cycle; first in chronological or civil cycle... The 1st never falls on Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday. In the twentieth century, its earliest beginning is September 6th and its latest beginning is October 5th (The Jewish Almanac, Bantam, 1980, p. 241).
This postponement rule ensures that the Day of Trumpets (1 Tishri, Rosh HaShanah), and the Day of Atonement (10 Tishri, Yom Kippur) do not have a Sabbath immediately before or after these sacred days. The Jewish postponement rules also preclude correct observance of the Feast of Tabernacles – as in 1997, where the autumnal equinox was on the last day of the Feast (21 Tishri) – and place it a month later (16-23 October in 1997), well after the autumnal equinox (23 September in 1997).
The Jewish Almanac also has an entry on the month of Nisan or Abib.
Nisan: Related to the Babylonian first month Nisannu, “to start”, or perhaps to Hebrew nitzan, “blossoms.” Its pentateuchal name is Aviv [or Abib], “spring”. ... The first never falls on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. In the twentieth century its earliest beginning is March 13th and its latest beginning is April 11th (ibid., p. 245).
The whole Passover season also symbolises the preparation of the first-fruits of God for the First-fruits’ harvest, Pentecost. The above postponement rule avoids the Jewish observance of their Passover coincident with a Tuesday night occurring on 14 Abib (i.e., where a Wednesday is 1 Abib). The rules for Abib do allow for a Sabbath to fall on the 14th (where 1 Nisan is a Sunday), which is a preparation day for the 15th, the first Holy Day of the seven days of Unleavened Bread. However, in Tishri, a Sabbath is not permitted just before the 1st or the 10th of the month.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th edition, article ‘Calendar’, has this to say:
The [spring] equinox is fixed on the 21st of March, though the sun enters Aries generally on the 20th of that month, sometimes on the 19th. It is accordingly quite possible that a full moon may arrive after the true equinox, and yet precede the 21st of March. This, therefore, would not be the paschal moon of the calendar, though it undoubtedly ought to be so, if the intention of the Council of Nice [Nicea] were rigidly followed. The new moons indicated by the epacts [extra days needed to determine Easter Sunday] also differ from the astronomical new moons, and even from the mean new moons, in general by one or two days.... The epacts are also placed so as to indicate the full moons generally one or two days after the true full moons; but this was done purposely, to avoid the chance of concurring with the Jewish Passover, which the framers of the calendar seem to have considered a greater evil than that of celebrating Easter a week too late (p. 599).
We should note that the conjunction, or molad, is the astronomical crossover point from one month to the next and that the determined calendrical New Moon and the molad seldom coincide. An example of the third dehiyyah (postponement rule) is: If the molad of Tishri occurs at 12 noon on Saturday [Under ideal conditions, the very first sliver of the crescent would be visible after the ensuing sunset, i.e. about 6 to 8 hours after the molad], Rosh HaShanah would be deferred to Sunday, “which again is not permitted, so that the festival will be moved one further day, to Monday” (Encyc. Judaica, Vol. V, Jerusalem, 1972, p. 44). In such eventuality some would decide to start the observance of 1 Tishri on Friday evening, some Saturday evening, and those following Jewish reckoning would start observance Sunday evening.
The present Jewish calendar is lunisolar, the months being reckoned according to the moon and the years according to the sun. A month is the period of time between one conjunction of the moon with the sun and the next. The conjunction of the moon with the sun is the point in time at which the moon is directly between the earth and the sun (but not in the same plane) and it is thus invisible. This is known as the molad (“birth”) (ibid., p. 43).
Since the molad is indeed the conjunction (all authorities agree on that) then time just before the molad is the end of the previous month, and time after the molad is attributable to the next month. The biblical day is evening to evening (or dark to dark). Thus, the day of the New Moon is taken as being that day in which the molad or conjunction falls. This appears to be the only practical way of dealing with the precise event of the conjunction. Also, it seems to be the way in which it has been dealt with in ancient times and is the way nations deal with the fact of the conjunction in normal commercial practice even today. However, those in disagreement with this system would need to reach agreement about a “postponement” rule that does not contravene biblical rule, and which is in line with astronomy. No commercial organisation would appear to accept such a view.
It should be noted in the discussion of the crescent that the crescent is the ancient symbol for the moon god Qamar, and his female consort is Shams the sun. The crescent is not the New Moon and never has been acknowledged as being the New Moon.
Genesis 1:14 tells us that the sun and moon [hence a solar-lunar calendar] are for “signs and for seasons (mo’ed = time(s); season(s); festival(s); assembly), and for days and years”. The LXX confirms this translation. Targum Neofiti has (Gen. 1:14):
And the Lord [‘according to the decree of his Memra’][Memra is the equivalent term for Logos in the Hebrew and Aramaic; Cox ed.] said: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the daytime from the night, and let them act as signs and (sacred) seasons [times] and so that the intercalation of moons (and) months may be consecrated by them (The Aramaic Bible, tr. Martin McNamara MSC; T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 1992).
Another Aramaic Targum, Pseudo-Jonathan, says:
God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs and as festival times, and for counting the reckoning of days, and for sanctifying the beginnings of months and the beginnings of years, the intercalations of months and the intercalations of years, the solstices, the new moon, and the cycles (of the sun) (The Aramaic Bible, tr. Michael Maher MSC, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1992).
It is generally accepted that these Targums pre-date the apostolic times and so their value in revealing the earlier understanding of Genesis 1:14 is rather graphically shown.
Abib or Nisan is the first month of the year by direction of God and the first of Nisan or Abib is therefore the first day of the sacred year and, hence, begins the New Year.
Exodus 12:1-11 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 "This month [Abib or Nisan] shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household; 4 and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening. 7 Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled with water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning, anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's passover. (RSV)
The month of the Passover which is Nisan or Abib is specifically commanded by the Lord as being the beginning of the year (see also Num. 9:1-3; 33:3; Josh. 4:19; Ezek. 45:18,21). This beginning symbolises the redemption of the Israel of God from the world’s system (Gal. 1:4; Rev. 14:4).
The observation of the autumnal equinox, i.e., ‘the going out of the year’ (see Ex. 23:16), and of the spring or vernal equinox, called ‘the return of the year’ (1 Ki. 20:26; 2 Ch. 36:10 AV), was important for controlling the calendar and consequently the festivals. Thus the year began with the new moon nearest the vernal equinox when the sun was in Aries (Jos., Ant. 3.201 [better to see Ant. (Antiquities of the Jews) III.x.5]), and the Passover on the fourteenth day of Nisan coincided with the first full moon (Ex. 12:2-6). (The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, J D Douglas & N Hillyer, editors, IVP, 1980; art. ‘Calendar’, Vol. 1, p. 223).
F. F. Bruce, the writer of this article, goes on to say:
In general, the Jewish calendar in NT times (at least before AD 70) followed the Sadducean reckoning, since it was by that reckoning that the Temple services were regulated. Thus the day of Pentecost was reckoned as the fiftieth day after the presentation of the first harvested sheaf of barley, i.e., the fiftieth day (inclusive) from the first Sunday after Passover (cf. Lv. 23:15f.); hence it always fell on a Sunday, as it does in the Christian calendar. The Pharisaic reckoning, which became standard after AD 70, interpreted ‘sabbath’ in Lv. 23:15 as the festival day of Unleavened Bread and not the weekly sabbath; in that case Pentecost always fell on the same day of the month [Sivan 6]. (ibid., p. 225)
It is quite evident that if 1 Abib is incorrectly calculated then the festivals at the start of the year will be observed on wrong dates and, if 1 Tishri is incorrectly determined, the remaining festivals will also be observed on incorrect dates. How then do we understand Isaiah 1:13-14 and Hosea 2:11?
Isaiah 1:13-14 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. (RSV)
Hosea 2:11 And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. (RSV)
Here we see the pollution of the Feasts, New Moons and Sabbaths. God ends them here because He has not sanctioned the manner in which they have been determined or kept.
Note here the comments of the Encyclopedia Judaica concerning the accuracy or otherwise of the postponements.
Fixing Rosh HaShanah (New Year’s Day). The year begins on Tishri 1, which is rarely the day of the molad, as there are four obstacles or considerations, called dehiyyah, in fixing the first day of the month (rosh hodesh). Each dehiyyot may cause a postponement of two days: (1) mainly in order to prevent the Day of Atonement (Tishri 10) from falling on Friday or Sunday, and Hoshana Rabba (the seventh day of Sukkot; Tishri 21) from falling on Saturday, but in part also serving an astronomical purpose... (2) entirely for an astronomical reason, if the molad is at noon or later Rosh HaShanah is delayed by one day (ibid., p. 44).
The third and fourth dehiyyah are more complex rules involving specific times of the molad and the consequent postponement of 1 Tishri. These moladot are tabulated with specific postponements outlined in the Encyclopedia Judaica article. This rule of postponement was not known at the time of Christ and at the time of the compilation of the Talmud. The Talmud clearly shows that the Day of Atonement fell on a Friday or a Sunday at the time of its compilation and at the time of the compilation of the Mishnah and, hence, at the time of Christ.
(Besah 2:1) On a festival which coincided with the eve of the Sabbath [Friday] a person should not do cooking to begin with on the festival day [Friday] for the purposes of the Sabbath. But he prepares food for the festival day, and if he leaves something over, he has it left over for use on the Sabbath. And he prepares a cooked dish on the eve of the festival day [Thursday] and relies on it [to prepare food on Friday] for the Sabbath as well.
(2:2) [If a festival day] coincided with the day after the Sabbath [Sunday]. the house of Shammai say, “They immerse everything before the Sabbath.” And the house of Hillel say, “Utensils [are to be immersed] before the Sabbath. But man [may immerse] on the Sabbath [itself].”
(Shabbat 15:3) They fold up clothing even four or five times. And they spread beds on the night of the Sabbath for use on the Sabbath, but not on the Sabbath for use after the Sabbath. R. Ishmael says, “They fold clothes and lay out beds on the Day of Atonement for the Sabbath.”
(Sukkah 5:7) Three times a year all the priestly watches shared equally in the offerings of the feasts and in the division of the Show Bread. At Pentecost they would say to him, “Here you have unleavened bread, here is leavened bread for you.” The priestly watch whose time of service is scheduled for that week is the one which offers the daily whole offerings, the offerings brought by reason of vows and freewill offerings, and the other public offerings. And it offers everything. On a festival day which comes next to a Sabbath, whether before or after it, all of the priestly watches were equal in the division of the Show Bread.
(Arakhin 2:2) They do not count less than four full months in the year, and [to sages] have never appeared more than eight.
(Hagigah 2:4) Pentecost which coincided with a Friday – The House of Shammai say, “The day of slaughtering [the whole offering brought in fulfillment of the requirements of appearing before the Lord] is on the day after the Sabbath.” And the House of Hillel say, “The day of slaughtering [the whole offering] is not after the Sabbath.” But they concur that if it coincided with the Sabbath, the day of slaughtering [the whole offering] is after the Sabbath. And the high priest does not put on his garments. And they are permitted to conduct a lamentation or to hold a fast, so as not to affirm the opinion of those who say, The date of Pentecost [must always fall] after the Sabbath [on Sunday].
It is thus impossible for the postponements to have been in place at the time of Christ. We continue:
... the present system was expected to be replaced [emphasis added] again by a system based on true values [as opposed to mean values] more akin to the earlier Jewish calendar in which New Moons (days of the phasis [i.e., the length of the interval from the true conjunction to the first sighting of the new crescent]) and intercalations were proclaimed on the basis of both observation and calculation (ibid., p. 47).
It ought to be noted that we are being told that the present Jewish calendar is not correct and needs revision! Furthermore, we are informed that the Day of Trumpets is rarely on the day of the molad (the conjunction) which means the ‘holy’ day is often not observed on the correct day as are the subsequent festival days. Please recall the earlier references to Genesis 1:14.
Historical. According to a tradition quoted in the name of Hai Gaon (d. 1038), the present Jewish calendar was introduced by the patriarch Hillel II ... in 358/59 AD ... While it is not unreasonable to attribute to Hillel II the fixing of the regular order of intercalations, his full share in the present fixed calendar is doubtful (ibid., p. 48).
The intervals of intercalation were at first irregular, intercalation being in part due to the prevailing state of various agricultural products and to social conditions. ... the state of crops is ultimately determined by the sun’s position in its annual path (ibid., p. 49).
Readers may have already noticed that some calendar commentators seem to put more store in local weather conditions in determining whether spring has started or not. Surely it is recognised that it is the Earth’s spring equinoctial position that determines the start of the annual spring, and the full moon (the night of the 15 Abib) after the equinox determines the timing of the Passover season.
There is, on the other hand, unimpeachable evidence from the works of writers with expert knowledge of the calendar that the present ordo intercalationis and epochal molad were not yet intrinsic parts of the calendar of Hillel II, these being seen still side by side with the other styles of the ordo intercalationis and the molad as late as the 11th century. These are likely to have affected the remaining two dehiyyot ... By the tenth century the Jewish calendar was exactly the same as today (ibid., p. 50).
The methods of determining the calendar evolved around the traditions of Judah until the tenth century when they were then in place. Since then, Judaism has been following its own system, which places and determines its new year from its traditions and not the first of the first month as ordained by God through Jesus Christ.
The New Moon was the most important aspect of determining the months and the New Moon of Nisan determined the year, not Tishri as observed by Judaism. Rosh HaShanah, under its present system of determination, cannot be regarded as a correct biblical observance or as being a correct Christian observance.
Philo of Alexandria (tr. by F H Colson (Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, MA, 1937); The Special Laws, II, XI,41) tells us: “The third [feast] is the new moon which follows the conjunction of the moon with the sun”. And in II, XXVI,140: “This is the New Moon, or beginning of the lunar month, namely the period between one conjunction and the next, the length of which has been accurately calculated in the astronomical schools”. It should be noted that the popular Hendrickson Publishers edition (1993) of C. D. Jonge’s 1854 translation does not have the same information that the Colson translation gives. And the indications are that the conjunctions were determinative in deciding the first of the month.
The Calendar of “Christianity”
Readers should note the indications of no postponement rules in the early Church, admittedly Catholic, but nevertheless pertinent to our decision-making on these matters of determining what calendar Christians ought to observe.
Hippolytus (170-236 CE) in his work The Refutation of All Heresies (VIII.xi, in ANF, Vol. V, p. 123) states:
Easter should be kept on the fourteenth day of the first month, according to the commandment of the law, on whatever day (of the month) it should occur.
Anatolius of Alexandria (ca. 230-ca.280 CE) in The Paschal Canon (ANF, Vol. VI, pp. 146-147) says:
(I) just as they [Isodore, Jerome, Clement] differ also in language, have, nevertheless, come harmoniously to one and the same most exact reckoning of Easter, day and month and season meeting in accord with the highest honour for the Lord’s resurrection. But Origen also, the most erudite of all, and the acutest in making calculations, .... has published in a very elegant manner a little book on Easter. And in this book, while declaring, with respect to the day of Easter, that attention must be given not only to the course of the moon and the transit of the equinox, but also the passage of the sun, (II) 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 six and twentieth day of the month called by the Egyptians Phamenoth. But, according to the months of the Macedonians, it is on the two-and-twentieth day of Dystrus. And, as the Romans would say, it is the eleventh day before the Kalends [first] of April. (III) And this may be learned from what Philo, and Josephus, and Musaeus have written ... the two Agothobuli, who were surnamed the Masters, and the eminent Aristobulus, who was one of the Seventy who translated the sacred and holy Scriptures of the Hebrews for Ptolemy Philadelphus and his father.... These writers, in solving some questions which are raised with respect to Exodus, say that all alike ought to sacrifice the Passover after the vernal equinox in the middle of the first month. And that is found to be when the sun passes through the first segment of the solar, or, as some among them have named it, the zodiacal circle. (IV) But this Aristobulus also adds, that for the feast of the Passover it was necessary not only that the sun should pass the equinoctial segment, but the moon also.
This post-Nicaean letter from the emperor, Constantine I (306-337 CE), should further illustrate the kind of calendrical problem with which we are confronted.
Constantine, august, to the churches. ...
When the question arose concerning the most holy day of Easter, it was decreed by common consent to be expedient, that this festival should be celebrated on the same day by all, in every place. ... it seemed to every one a most unworthy thing that we should follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity, who, polluted wretches! having stained their hands with a nefarious crime, are justly blinded in their minds. It is fit, therefore, that, rejecting the practice of this people, we should perpetuate to all future ages the celebration of this rite, in a more legitimate order, which we have kept from the first day of our Lord’s passion even to the present times. Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews. We have received another method from the Saviour. A more lawful and proper course is open to our most holy religion. In pursuing this course with a unanimous consent, let us withdraw ourselves, my much honored brethren, from that most odious fellowship. ... As it is necessary that this fault should be so amended that we may have nothing in common with the usage of these parricides and murderers of our Lord; and so that order is most convenient which is observed by all the churches of the West, as well as those of the southern and northern parts of the world, and also by some in the East, it is judged therefore to be most equitable and proper, and I pledged myself that this arrangement should meet your approbation, viz. that the custom which prevails with one consent in the city of Rome, and throughout all Italy, Africa and Egypt, in Spain, Gaul, Britain, Lybia, the whole of Greece, the diocese of Asia, Pontus and Cilicia, would be gladly embraced by your prudence, ... and to have no fellowship with the perjury of the Jews. And, to sum up the whole in a few words, it is agreeable to the common judgment of all, that the most holy feast of Easter should be celebrated on one and the same day (A Historical View of THE COUNCIL OF NICE; with a TRANSLATION OF DOCUMENTS by Rev. Isaac Boyle, D.D.; T Mason and G Lane, New York, 1839; pp. 51-54).
Not only do we perceive a high level of manipulation of power, propaganda, and religious belief, but we see also the expression of roots of anti-Semitism in Western culture from the world government of the day.
It is worthwhile to see how the last larger bastion of resistance, Britain, fell to the onslaught of calendrical and further religious distortion. The British historian and bishop, Bede (ca. 672-735 CE), in his The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, especially in chapters 25-26 of Book III, has much to say about the Synod of Whitby of 664 CE and the discussions presided over by King Oswy (612-670), particularly between Bishop Colman and the Rome enthusiast, the Abbot of Ripon, Wilfred, in the monastery of Streanaeshalch (lit. The Bay of the Beacon, later known as Hilda’s Abbey).
Bede makes it very clear that the calculation of the date of Easter was not merely a technical or isolated issue. The movement of Easter was one of the many things which argument in terms of symbols (as we would say, but symbol is for us a limiting word, mysteries they would say) showed to be loaded with significance. Easter had to be just at the equinox, for the lengthening days represented Christ’s triumph over the powers of darkness. It had to be in the first month of the lunar year, for this was the month in which the world had been created and in which it ought to be newly created. It had to be as the moon was about to wane, for the moon turns from earth to heavenly things [Rev. 12:1; Mal. 4:2; Lk. 2:32; Isa. 60:1-3]. It was appropriate that Easter should always fall within a space of seven days, for seven was a number of divine significance. Considered from another point of view, Easter was to be calculated in such a way as to fulfil both of the Old Law of the Jews and the New Law of Christ. If it was celebrated at the right time, then all was in harmony. (Introduction, p. xviii, by James Campbell, who translated Bede’s The Ecclesiastical History of the English People for The Great Histories Series by Washington Square Press, NY, 1968).
That is why we celebrated the Wave Sheaf on Sunday of 15 Nisan in 1997 and from which date we counted Pentecost. That is also why the mainstream church system waited until the next or following Sunday – which was effectively 22 Nisan in 1997 – to celebrate Easter Sunday and from which to count Pentecost.
Before quoting directly from Bede, let us look at a footnote.
Both the Celts and their opponents agreed that Easter was to be calculated by reference to the full moon which came on or first after the spring equinox. But the Celts held Easter Sunday to be that which came in between the fourteenth day of the moon (i.e., the day of the full moon) and the twentieth, both included. That is to say, that if the full moon came on a Sunday, they made this Easter Sunday. The other churches refused to make the day of the full moon Easter Sunday. Thus the system which Bede used, and which became universal in the west, reckoned Easter Sunday as that which fell between the fifteenth and the twenty-first days of the moon. If the full moon on or next after the equinox came on a Sunday, then the next Sunday was Easter Sunday (ibid., n. 44, pp. 400-401).
After Bishop Colman had indicated that his observance of Easter was received from his elders and was “the same which the blessed Evangelist John, the disciple especially dear to the Lord, celebrated”, the founder of the Benedictine Order in Britain, Wilfred, responded:
The Easter which we observe we saw celebrated by all at Rome, where the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul lived, taught, suffered, and were buried. This is what we saw observed by all in Gaul and in Italy when we travelled through them to study and to pray. This we have learned to be practiced in Africa, Asia, Egypt, and Greece, and by the whole world wherever the faith of Christ has been spread through various races and tongues; all make use of the one single way of determining the date of Easter. The only exceptions are these people and their accomplices in obstinacy, I mean the Picts and the Britons, with whom (the inhabitants of the two last islands of the ocean, and only on part of those) they stand against the whole of the world, struggling foolishly (ibid., pp. 160-161).
Wilfred’s next comment is fascinating, especially when we note that both were wrong; but Wilfred was obviously the more cunning and informed.
Far be it from us to charge John with foolishness, for he observed the precepts of the Law of Moses literally, at a time when the church still followed the Jews in many things; and the Apostles were not able suddenly to set aside the entire observance of the Law laid down by God ... So, John, according to the custom of the Law, began the celebration of the feast of Easter on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, paying no attention to whether it fell on the Sabbath or on some other day [So there were no postponements here!] (ibid., pp. 161-162).
Wilfred then proceeds to contradict what he said and espouses the Catholic convention.
This pattern of universal imposition of the dating and mode of observance in the Passover/Easter controversy has persisted through the centuries. The New Catholic Encyclopedia comments:
Since the majority of the early Christians were Jewish converts, it is understandable that from the outset the Christian calendar was governed by the fact that the death and Resurrection of Christ had taken place at the time of the chief Jewish feast, the Pasch, or Passover, celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, i.e., at the full moon following the Spring equinox. However, rather than literally follow the Jewish Passover, since this would necessitate the commemoration of the Resurrection on a different day of the week each year, Christian custom (sanctioned by the Council of Nicaea I in 325; ConOecDecr 2-3, n.6) fixed the anniversary of Christ’s Resurrection on the actual day of the week (the first day) on which the Resurrection had taken place. As a result, Easter falls on the first day of the week (Sunday) after the first full moon following the spring equinox, and thus can be as early as March 22 and as late as April 25 [which would make it the second full moon after the equinox] (ibid., McGraw Hill, NY, 1967, pp. 1062-1063).
The latest dates here do not deal with the determination of the Passover dates of 14‑15 Nisan but refer to the latest dates on which Sunday falls and which may be many days after 14 Nisan. The latest possible dates on which the Passover may fall are dictated by the ancient rules which also state that the sun is in the sign of Aries. The sun leaves Aries from the 10-20 April, and the latest possible date for the Passover is thus 20-21 April.
What is most important with the quotes here is that we see that the influence of both Rome and, later, Judaism has all but obscured the true Passover. The later Orthodox schisms have made the problem even more complicated in that they adopted the later Jewish postponements and then kept their Easter a week after the Jewish dates for 14-15 Nisan.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (St Pauls, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994, Item 1170) says: “At the Council of Nicaea, in 325, all the Churches agreed that Easter, the Christian Passover, should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon (Nisan 14) after the vernal equinox. The reform of the Western calendar, called “Gregorian” after Pope Gregory XIII (1582), caused a discrepancy of several days with the Eastern calendar. Today, the Western and Eastern Churches are seeking agreement in order once again to celebrate the day of the Lord’s Resurrection on a common date”.
In 1997, the Western churches celebrated Easter one week after the Sunday which fell on the true 15 Nisan in March. The Orthodox system, of which the Ukrainian church is an example, held its Easter on the Sunday a week later than the Jewish postponements on 27 April. The Jews are a month later than the West in the eighth and the nineteenth years of their calendar cycle. There is an additional consequence in that Pentecost and the end of the sacred year’s festivals (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles) will be a month later. An effect similar to that of the Jewish postponements was taken into the Orthodox system. Originally the Western convention was not accepted by the Eastern church in Syria and Mesopotamia, especially from Antioch. They kept to the Quartodeciman system until that matter was resolved. Canon I of the Council of Antioch of 341 shows that the Eastern bishops were coerced into accepting the Roman system as determined from Alexandria (see the paper Jeroboam and the Hillel Calendar (No. 191) for details). The Russians were converted to Christianity following the baptism of Olga of Kiev in 955. Her son Svyatoslav of Kiev sacked the Khazar Jewish kingdom of the Askenaz in 967. Thus, they were absorbed into Russia, and Olga’s grandson Vladimir accepted Christianity and officially adopted the religion in 988/989 (cf. Milner-Gulland and Dejevsky, Cultural Atlas of Russia and the Soviet Union, Time-Life Books, 1994, p. 8).
The influence of the Khazar Jewish system should not be underestimated. The Judaic influence on the Russian Orthodox system was so great that by the latter half of the fifteenth century it was considered necessary to place it under severe repression (see ERE, art. ‘Russian Church’, Vol. 10, p. 869). Until 1480, with Ivan III Vasilievich, Russia had been under the Tartars or Mongols (ibid., p. 870) and they had been extremely tolerant of religions as had Khazaria before them. Russia was divided into two political aggregations in the middle of the fifteenth century and the western section under Lithuano-Polish Catholic domination repressed the Orthodox in every way (ibid., pp. 869-870). Combined with the effect of the failure of the Orthodox Church to adopt the Gregorian calendar, this probably accounts for the variation in the Easter dating. It is a combination of the failure to adjust the errors in the calendar to coincide with the Gregorian system and the postponement to the following New Moon which, in 1997, corresponded to the Jewish postponements.
When Jesus Christ met with the Apostles for what Paul calls the Lord’s Supper (1Cor. 11:20; see also Jn. 13:2,4; 21:20), that night was the night before the Jewish Passover. The event that Christians should observe is on the evening of the 14 Abib, whereas Jews observe only the evening of 15 Abib, with the killing of the Passover lambs in the afternoon immediately preceding that night as described also in Exodus 12:40-42. The Lord’s Supper for 1997 fell on the evening of Friday, 21 March (14 Abib), since the vernal New Moon was 9 March and the vernal equinox was just before midnight of 20 March. Is it ironic that 22 March coincided with the Jewish Purim (14 Adar II)? (See Esther 9:18-19.)
The evening of 15 Nisan is described as the Night to Be Much Observed and the Christian thus observes both evenings – but the emphasis is on 14 Nisan not 15 Nisan, and the Passover proceeds until the Sunday (as is recorded by Tertullian) regardless of when 14 Nisan falls. According to Tertullian, the crucifixion and the resurrection were treated equally, and the word Pascha (or Passover) designated both days or the period of the crucifixion commencing from 14 Nisan to the Sunday (which was the Wave-Sheaf Offering and from which Pentecost was determined) (cf. Cath. Encyc., Vol. III, art. 'Calendar', pp. 159ff.). It should also be remembered that the fixing of the Easter system is accorded to the Council of Nicaea, but there is no record in the canons of the Council of such a decision (cf. Cath. Encyc., ibid., p. 160; cf. Turner, Monumenta Nicaeana 152; cf. Cath. Encyc., Vol. V, art. ‘Easter’, p. 228).
The intent of calendrical history makers, as shown in this brief paper, seems to be to create sufficient confusion to make it impossible to keep the true Passover season based on the correct dates as determined from the true New Moon of the northern spring. Biblical calendars and hence the times of the Feasts are determined from the First month, Abib (Ex. 12:2; 23:14-16 [v.16 says that the Feast of Tabernacles is at the end of the year (or, more correctly, the turn of the year); see also Ex. 34:18-22]; Lev. 23:4; Num. 9:1-2; 28:16; Deut. 16:1; Josh. 4:19; Ezek. 45:18-21). Postponements are in effect a denial that the Calendar is determined from the First day of the First month! The flow of festivals is from the First month, Abib, and not the Seventh month, Tishri.
It is therefore self-evident that we have an awesome responsibility to faithfully observe the correct sacred days and also help to fully restore them so that others may keep them in rewarding obedience to the Word of the Almighty God. See also the paper Distortion of God’s Calendar in Judah (No. 195B).
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