Christian Churches of God
Tishri in Relation to the Equinox
(Edition 2.0 19960824-20080404)
In defending the postponement system under the Hillel calendar, some reactionary ministers of the Churches of God have resorted to misinterpreting Scripture to justify their arguments. This paper analyses these claims in light of the irregularity that occurred for example in 1997.
Tishri in Relation to the Equinox
Some reactionary ministers within the Churches of God have sought to justify the postponements under the Hillel calendar by resorting to misconstruction of Scripture. One such false argument rests on the premise that the determination of the Molad or First of Tishri under the Hillel system has a relationship to or is in some way dependent on the position of the September equinox. The New Moon of Tishri is simply that – the New Moon of the Seventh month. The term Molad is perhaps a convenient term because, quite incorrectly, the First of Tishri under the Hillel system does not always fall on the New Moon.
In defence of the postponement system and the irregularity that occurred for example in 1997, some extraordinary arguments are advanced. One individual has quoted Exodus 34:22 as a proof text that the Feast of the Seventh month must occur on or after the September equinox. The text merely states:
Exodus 34:22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end. (KJV)
This text can be interpreted also as being at the turn of the year from the use of teqûphâh (SHD 8622) meaning a revolution (of the sun), a course (of time) lapse, hence a circuit, a come about or end. This can mean the end of the growing season or the end of the year’s activities. It in no way infers a specific relationship to the equinox or that it must succeed the equinox.
There is no rule known to either the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Babylonians or the Canaanites, or by the early Church that postponed the declaration of Nisan[u] or Abib based on a calculation of the Seventh month in relation to the equinox. The Seventh month is determined from the calculation of the First month in the Hebrew and other calendars. The Macedonian Seleucid calendar begins its year from the month corresponding to Tishri and, hence, seemingly around the northern autumnal equinox. This calendar was used in addition to the Babylonian system for the calculation of some events of Seleucid rather than Jewish history proper, during the time of the Maccabees and subsequently (1Maccabees; see Schürer, History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Vol. 1, pp. 18-19 and pp. 125-126 for bibliographical data). However, the Maccabees began their year in the northern spring also (Schürer, ibid.).
This argument seems to confuse the application of the Macedonian Seleucid calendar with the Babylonian-Hebrew system. The postponement rules do not apply or relate to the northern autumnal equinox. The rule is simply that in all circumstances Passover must fall after the vernal equinox (Schürer, ibid., p. 590; based on the authorities, Schürer states: “when the sun stood in the sign of Aries”, ibid., p. 593). The sign of Aries begins on approximately 21 March and ends on 20 April, in Gregorian terms. Thus, Passover after 21 April is clearly prohibited under the ancient rules. (It must also be remembered that Astrology and Astronomy were not separated into distinct areas of discipline until the Reformation. Thus, this is an astronomical and not an astrological indicator.) Schürer notes that Anatolius, according to Eusebius (HE, vii 32, 16-19) says this is the unanimous view of all the Jewish authorities including Aristobulus, the philosopher in the time of Ptolemy Philometor, and also Philo and Josephus (Schürer, op. cit.). The Macedonian calendar was used in Syria from the beginning of the Seleucid dominion until well into Christian times.
It was used:
(1) to designate real lunar months;
(2) to designate the twelve months of a solar year identical with the Julian calendar, except that their beginnings were fixed differently. The Macedonian Seleucid calendar was, moreover, inexact in its determination from area to area, showing that the rule did not relate specifically to the autumnal equinox even then. In Tyre, the year began on 18 November (Schürer, p. 595), after the equinox. In Gaza, however, it began on 29 August (Schürer, ibid.; cf. Bickerman, Chronology, p. 50), well before the equinox.
(3) In later times the Julian months were simply called by the Macedonian names (Schürer, ibid.). The Syrian names, which were more or less identical to the Jewish, were used to correspond to the Macedonian.
Thus, there is no known system that defines Tishri, the Seventh month, in relation to the autumnal equinox. This is a device to defend the Hillel system, which has no validity. It is also needed to attempt to defend the fiction of a 31 CE crucifixion as advanced by Herman Hoeh under direction of Herbert Armstrong (see the paper The Timing of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (No. 159)). Herman Hoeh even invented a postponement rule of his own for this purpose (cf. The Crucifixion was not on a Friday).
The preparation day or 14 Nisan, termed the day of the Lord’s Supper, is not the Passover proper as stated by some. This was an erroneous view advanced by Herbert Armstrong and defended by some of his ministry, and quite incorrectly (see the paper The Passover (No. 98)).
The Passover in 1997 was a month late in the Jewish calendar because it relied on the postponements under the Hillel system, which has no validity in Scripture or in history prior to the fourth century of the current era. What the apologists of this system are doing, in effect, is to invent a new rule and to say that the rule for the determination of Nisan is that the month is determined from the New Moon nearest to the northern vernal equinox, with Passover/Unleavened Bread being the first full moon sequence following the equinox except where the Feast of Tabernacles would fall before the northern autumnal equinox (even if the Last Great Day falls on the equinox), in which case Passover/Unleavened Bread becomes the second full moon sequence following the vernal equinox. No such rule exists or indeed ever has existed, and if used would throw the calendar into further chaos. The construction placed on Exodus 34:22 in support of the Hillel system is without basis in history or in fact. It relies on rabbinical thought in circular justification.
Similarly, the Molad of Tishri calculation is another construction of the Hillel system. There is no biblical rule whatsoever that determines the so-called Molad of Tishri other than as the New Moon of the Seventh month. Thus nothing is pivotal to this day except the day sequence for Tishri as it determines Atonement and the Feast. The centrality of the Molad of Tishri is a fabrication of rabbinical (from Pharisaic) Judaism, as is a 6 Sivan Pentecost. The month of Nisan, or Abib (not Tishri) shall be the beginning of months to you (Ex. 12:2); nor is the First month determined from Tishri.
Another misconception voiced in this dispute is that 1 Nisan should not precede the vernal equinox. The New Moon of Nisan preceded the equinox, for example, in 1988, 1991, 1994 and 1996. 1997 was thus the fifth time in the last ten years that 1 Nisan preceded the equinox. Thus, it is equally common for this to be the case. This fact will also determine the commencement of Tishri well before the equinox in many cases. Arguments that seek to establish a rule regarding the proximity of Tabernacles to the equinox are false and ignore historical fact.
In 1994 all the Feasts of Tishri fell before the September equinox except the Last Great Day, as was the case in 1997. Those who raise objection on such grounds for 1997 did not object in 1994, presumably because the people involved were comfortable with the view as it was also that of the rabbinical system. The position of 1994 against that of 1997 shows that there is no rule regarding the September equinox.
In relation to the days of the New Moons, the New Moon is a precise astronomical event. The information is supplied throughout the United Kingdom, to both defence and commercial operations on land, sea and air, by Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office (HMNAO). This is NOT a book called the Queen’s Almanac as one uninformed fellow thought in a recent very poor critique of some of our work. The information on the precise New Moon can be supplied in Greenwich Mean Time (International time) and assistance can be given for details in the calculation of Jerusalem time and other times for both the conjunction and for End Evening Nautical Twilight (EENT) for Jerusalem, and also for local areas. EENT is required for the determination of the day for purposes of the calendar. The precise event of the New Moon thus determines the time for the conjunction worldwide. Local moonrise times will differ.
The times in some constructed calendars, such as, for example, that being advanced by Frank Nelte, do not appear to relate to the time of the conjunction as determined by official sources in any clear way. Perhaps there is some confusion between moonrise times and those of the conjunction.
This is an opportunity to clear up another misconception. The New Moon is NOT a crescent moon. The mid-day postponement rule holds that if the conjunction occurs after mid-day then the determination of the New Moon is postponed to the following day.
This mid-day rule is based on the premise that it takes at least six hours to develop a crescent from the conjunction. This rule is of itself proof that the conjunction, not the crescent, is the determining factor.
It is probable that this postponement rule was introduced for the Asian Jews, as the further east one goes the New Moon is pushed into the next day. The calendar determination from Jerusalem thus places the New Moon in Asia up to eight hours ahead, and hence occurs on the previous day in these later appearances. Thus the calendar is sometimes one day ahead of the New Moon in the East especially in Australia and New Zealand. This is the only postponement rule that makes any sense whatsoever in empirical observation and historical fact. The problems with the Hillel calendar are in the paper God’s Calendar (No. 156).
Regardless of the merits of this sole position, and it does not correctly solve the problem, the Christian Churches of God has opted for the Jerusalem calculations free of all postponements in the interest of calendrical uniformity of the Churches of God on a worldwide basis until such time as a world conference of the Churches of God further discusses the matter.