Sacred Calendar and the New Moon
According to biblical law, the occurrence of the first day of a lunar month must be acknowledged and each annual festival must be celebrated on a specific day of a given lunar month. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the first day of a lunar month in order to ensure that it is acknowledged and that the observance of the Passover and the annual festivals are celebrated in their proper seasons and on the correct days of the lunar month. See. Num.10:8-10; Isa.66:22-23; Ezk.46:1-3,6; Col.2:16-17.
Among those who acknowledge the New Moon as noted in the biblical text, there are basically two schools of thought as to how to determine the exact day on which the New Moon occurs. Some people believe that the current version of the Hillel II calendar must be used to determine the day on which to acknowledge a New Moon, while others believe that the precise occurrence of the New Moon must be determined by the visual sighting of the new crescent at Jerusalem.
Which of these viewpoints is correct? Is either one of them correct? Does it matter how a person determines the day on which the New Moon occurs as long as a person fulfills their obligation to acknowledge the first day of the lunar month? Is it possible to know for certain that one has chosen the correct day on which to acknowledge the occurrence of the New Moon?
This study answers these questions regarding a Christians responsibility and ability to determine the correct day of the New Moon and investigates the two major schools of thought on determining the day of the New Moon.
In order to arrive at a rational conclusion concerning this issue, it is important to first review the logic behind why some people believe they must submit to the authority of the Hillel II calendar and why others believe they have the authority to use a visual sighting of the New Moon at Jerusalem as their guide to determining the first day of a lunar month.
JUSTIFICATION FOR HILLEL II USAGE
Hillel of the tribe of Judah and his descendants presided as presidents of the Pharisaic Sanhedrin that ruled on civil, sacred, and calendar issues for 15 generations in an unbroken succession from 30 A.D. to 425 A.D. when the Calendar Court ceased to function.
The Hillel II calendar as originally set forth in 375 A.D. has been expressed in many different forms over the centuries. Moreover, the Hillel II calendar is the only calendar still in existence that has been authorized by the Calendar Court. However, the current version of the Hillel II calendar does not always accurately reflect the exact day on which a New Moon can be seen at Jerusalem. Therefore, how do those who use the current version of the Hillel II calendar and its method of calculations in their acknowledgment of the New Moon justify its use, especially when its errors continue to increase with time?
The Calendar Court
There is little doubt that while Israel sojourned in the wilderness for forty years, determining the precise occurrence of the New Moon would not have been a problem because of the Creator God's presence and guidance in this matter. However, the precise timing of the New Moon's occurrence became a problem over time. Therefore, qualified men were given the task of making this determination. The judgments of these men in this matter became oral law, which had the same weight as the written law.
The Calendar Court was comprised of men who were well versed in scripture, astronomy, and mathematics. These men calculated and determined the arrival of the New Moons and set the dates on which the commanded observances and holy convocations were to be observed. The Calendar Court had the final and absolute authority in issues concerning the Sacred Calendar for national Israel, even the high priest was not allowed to influence the Court's decisions.
If the Court made a mistake in setting the day of the New Moon, their decision was still final and binding. All were to observe that day as a New Moon. Moreover, all commanded observances or holy convocations that fell within that particular month were calculated based on whatever day that the Court set as the New Moon. Why was this so? These men had the authority to determine the day of the New Moon because they sat in Moses' seat and were the constituted legal authority in matters concerning the Sacred Calendar.
Simply put, the Calendar Court could make a mistake in their calculations, but this mistake was not deemed so in their sanctioning of a day to be acknowledged as the first day of the lunar month or a day to be observed as one of the commanded observances, because God authorized and sanctioned them through Moses to make this judgment; therefore, their judgment was law. Their judgment was as the voice of God because they spoke for God in this matter. See Treaties VIII, Laws Concerning The Sanctification of the New Moon, Maimonides and Deut.17:8-13.
Not only did the Calendar Court have the authority to fix the day of a New Moon during Christ's lifetime, but their calculations and sightings would have been extremely accurate at Jerusalem.
Jesus said, "The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: Therefore, whatever they bid you to observe, that observe and do; but do not you after their works: for they say, and do not" (Matt.23:2-3 Para.).
Why did Jesus admonish the people to listen to the Scribes and Pharisees and submit to their authority? Jesus was just confirming what everyone already knew. No one in Judah contested the fact that the priesthood, the authorized elders, and the Scribes and Pharisees of the Sanhedrin were the absolute authority in such matters as worship and covenant law. They had the authority to set up and administer a court, calculate, and sanctify the New Moon and annual observances, and make other decisions concerning the application of God's law.
Jesus spoke of the authority of the Scribes and Pharisees in regard to "Moses' seat,"which is an authority separate from the authority of Aaron's descendants (i.e., the Levitical Priesthood). However, it is important to understand that Jesus' instruction concerning Moses' seat of authority was given before his death and resurrection and before the establishment of the Sovereign Father's holy nation of earthly children who are subject to both the letter and the spirit of his law, which is superior to the oral interpretation of the written law as set forth by those who sat in Moses' seat.
What was Moses' job? Moses was the nation's civil leader, lawgiver, judge, prophet, and teacher. History shows that many of the Scribes and Pharisees were not a part of the priesthood but were among the nation's civil leaders and teachers of the law.
It is extremely important to understand that the Levitical Priesthood did not have the authority to set the dates of the Sacred Calendar; only the Calendar Court had the authority and the responsibility for calculating the Sacred Calendar. The Sacred Calendar was the responsibility of those who sat in "Moses' seat" (i.e., the constituted legal authority). The Calendar Court alone determined the proper days on which to acknowledge the New Moons and the other commanded observances in compliance with the instructions God gave to Moses. See Ex.12:2.
There is no doubt that the current version of the Hillel II calendar is most often incorrect in its dating of the New Moons when compared with the actual visual sightings of the New Moons at Jerusalem. However, from a purely legalistic point of view, many who follow the teachings of the Bible feel duty bound and justified in their use of the current version of the Hillel II calendar as their guide for the observance of New Moons and commanded observances, because this calendar reflects the will of the last Sanhedrin Calendar Court. In some people's eyes, this renders the Hillel II the authority in this matter until a new Sanhedrin is established and a new Calendar Court is instituted at Jerusalem.
JUSTIFICATION FOR VISUAL OBSERVATION
Because no copies of the Hillel II calendar as set forth in 375 A.D. are available to review, there is no assurance that its methodology is being accurately interpreted today. Moreover, because the version of the Hillel II calendar in use today does not always accurately reflect the exact day on which the New Moon is sighted at Jerusalem, some people feel obligated to use a visual sightings of the New Moons at Jerusalem in order to comply with God's law concerning New Moon observance.
The following are often cited as justification for the use of a visual sighting of the New Moon in order to set the date of its observance: Genesis 1:14, Deuteronomy 5:32, and the Calendar Court's requirement for eyewitnesses to confirm the appearance of the moon's new crescent:
Genesis, chapter 1, verse 14 says, "Then God commanded, let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from night and to show the time when days, years, and religious festivals begin. . ." (GNB).
When the original language of this text is researched, it is easily understood that it speaks to the use of the sun, moon, and stars to calculate the passage of time and to determine the dates of God's commanded observances and holy convocations. Therefore, some proponents of a visual sighting of the New Moon believe that Genesis 1 verse 14, is in the form of a command; thus, a visual sighting of the New Moon is mandatory in order to validate its occurrence and to calculate the Passover and the annual festivals.
"You shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God has commanded you: you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left" (KJV).
There is no doubt that God requires strict obedience to all of his commandments, statutes, and judgments. There is also no doubt that if a person willfully disobeys what they know to be God's will for their life, that person will not enter into the Kingdom of God, but instead suffer the second death in the Lake of Fire. Therefore, some proponents of a visual sighting of the New Moon believe that, because historically the Calendar Court employed visual sighting of the New Moon in order to confirm their calculations of the appearance of the moon's new crescent, that a visual sighting of the new crescent is mandatory in order not to be in violation of biblical law.
Although the Calendar Court used calculations to determine the arrival of the new moon and to fix the first day of each lunar month and the first day of the new year, these calculations were always confirmed by a physical observation of the new moon in order to make sure there were no mistakes in the calculations.
At the end of each month, several watchmen were placed at high points around Jerusalem to watch the sky for the new crescent. As soon as the new crescent was sighted, each watchman went to the house called "Beth Yazek" to be examined by the president of the Calendar Court. When the evidence for the appearance of the New Moon was deemed satisfactory, the president rose up and formally announced it by uttering, "Mekuddash" (i.e., "it is consecrated or sanctified").
The New Moon Messengers
The confirmation of the new lunar month was immediately sent throughout the land of Israel from the Mount of Olives by beacon fires on the tops of hills. However, when the Samaritans interfered with this method, messengers were sent throughout the land to confirm the new month.
If witnesses came from afar (up to the 15th day of the month) and testified that they had seen the New Moon earlier than the Court's declaration of the New Moon, the Court was bound to alter the beginning of the month and authorize it to have started a day earlier. In the months of Tishri and Nisan, the Court would accept witnesses up to the middle of the month after which any change would be irrelevant. This is because the first day of Tishri is the first day of the civil year and the Festival of Trumpets; and Nisan is the first month of the sacred year, which also contains the Passover sacrifices in the afternoon of the 14th day and the ceremonial Passover meal in the evening and beginning of the 15th day of the month.
In the event that witnesses had not arrived at the Court within a predetermined time to confirm the visual sighting of the New Moon, the Court had the authority to authorize two consecutive days of New Moon observance, as well as two consecutive days of certain other commanded observances, if they fell within this particular month. This was done in order to avoid missing the proper date of an observance that was commanded for all who worshiped the God of Israel. Moreover, 1.Samuel, chapter twenty clearly shows two consecutive New Moon days being observed by King Saul, David, Saul's son Jonathan, and others of the royal court. This record of two consecutive New Moon observances during the reign of King Saul tells us that determining and confirming the precise moment of the arrival of the New Moon has been a problem for many centuries among the worshipers of the true God.
Messengers were sent out from Jerusalem to outlying areas by the Calendar Court to announce the sanctification of the New Moon for the months of Nisan and Iyar, because the first Passover is in Nisan and the second is in Iyar. In the places where the messengers could quickly reach, each New Moon was only to be observed one day, but in places where it took messengers longer to reach, two days were to be observed because the people would be unsure which day had been declared the New Moon (i.e., 29th or 30th).
If no witness came to the Calendar Court on the 30th day, the month was declared full (30 days long). But, if the witnesses came later and said that they had seen the new crescent moon on the 29th day and their witness was determined to be true by the Court, the month would be adjusted to 29 days. In the months of Nisan and Tishri, the witnesses had to come before the middle of the month in order for either month to be adjusted. This was because festivals that fall within these months would have already been calculated and observed, which would make the change irrelevant.
There is no doubt that the Calendar Court felt it necessary to confirm their calculations by unitizing witnesses to make a visual sighting of the new crescent at Jerusalem before they felt secure in fixing the first day of the lunar month. And there is no doubt that the current version of the Hillel II calendar is most often incorrect in its dating of the New Moons when compared with the actual visual sightings of a New Moon at Jerusalem.
Therefore, from a purely legalistic point of view, many people who observe the New Moon and the commanded observances, feel duty bound and justified to disregard the current version of the Hillel II calendar as their guide for the observance of New Moons and other commanded observances, and rely solely on a confirmed visual sighting of the New Moon at Jerusalem.
Although some people cite Genesis 1:14, Deuteronomy 5:32, and the Calendar Court's usage of eye witnesses of the appearance of the new crescent to establish the validity of visual sighting at Jerusalem for their fixing of the day on which to acknowledge the first day of a lunar month, is this belief any more valid than using the calculations of the Hillel II calendar?
GOD IS A GOD OF LAW
All who worship and serve the Sovereign Father and his Son during the gospel age of salvation must do so within the strict bounds of law; otherwise, one's worship and service is in vain (Matt.7:21-23; Mk.7:6-9; 1.Jn.2:1-4; Ezk.18:1-26). The sanctification of the New Moon and the fixing of the dates of the commanded observances and holy convocations is a legal issue. And under the original covenant with national Israel it came under the jurisdiction of those who sat in Moses' seat of authority.
A point worth noting is that the Sacred Calendar is not the Jewish calendar; it is God's. Although a descendant of Judah (a Jew) could be a member of the Calendar Court, the tribe of Judah as a whole was never given the responsibility for the care of the calendar. This responsibility resided only with those who were selected to participate as members of the Calendar Court regardless of the tribe to which they belonged. Therefore, it is incorrect to call the Sacred Calendar the Jewish calendar.
The Letter of the Law and Moses
The Creator gave Moses the task of explaining, implementing, and applying his law to the nation of Israel. Moses recorded the law of God exactly as it was dictated to him in a very concise manner without great detail or explanation. Moses was not only a prophet to Israel but also its law-giver and administrator of the law. Because the nation of Israel was very large and the problems many, Moses soon found himself consumed with the administration of the law. Moses' father-in-law Jethro advised him to assign other men to help him in his administration of God's law, and he took this advice and authorized a number of men to perform this task.
The Creator sanctioned the system of judges which Moses set up to resolve problems concerning the application of the law within national Israel. These were the first men to sit in Moses' seat of authority. These men were delegated authority directly under Moses; therefore, their judgments had the same legal weight as if their judgments had come directly from Moses himself who derived his authority directly from the Creator God. This system of judges also included a court of last resort for matters too difficult to be decided at a lower level. See Ex.18:12-26; Deut.17:8-13.
NO DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS
"And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. You speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house" (Ex.12:1-3).
The English word month in Exodus 12, verses 1 thru 3 is translated from the Hebrew word chodesh, which can mean new moon or by implication month. There is nothing in this word that would indicate that the beginning of this month was to be the astronomical new moon or the newly visible crescent moon. Only Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites knew if this beginning month was to be determined by the astronomical new moon or the newly visible crescent moon.
If the precise time of the occurrence of a new moon must be known in order to fulfill the letter of the law, it seems logical to assume that the Creator God would have given detailed instructions as to how to calculate and confirm its exact arrival. However, it is an undeniable fact that no such detailed instructions can be found in the first five books of the Bible. Moreover, no instructions are given as to how Moses or those who later sat in Moses' seat of authority were to determine the precise time of a new moon's occurrence. Simply put, the scriptures are silent as to how to determine the precise occurrence of a new moon.
It is also a fact that many of the rules that the Priesthood and the Sanhedrin enforced on the people as being a part of God's law and worship system are not detailed in the Bible, but the rules, however, were never-the-less valid laws that were to be obeyed.
The biblical and historical evidence clearly indicate that the details concerning how to determine the precise arrival of the first day of the lunar month were left to Moses and those whom he authorized to perform this task. Therefore, it is logical to assume that those who sat in Moses' seat of authority had the freedom to determine the rules by which they would calculate, confirm, and issue a declaration concerning the arrival of the first day of the lunar month, as well as how they would handle other matters concerning the Civil and Sacred Calendars to be used by those under their authority. Moreover, historical evidence shows that these men used this authority to change the method by which they determined the arrival of the New Moon as they deemed necessary in order to fit current circumstances.
HOW ACCURATE IS ACCURATE?
Some practitioners of biblical law feel that, in order to be in complete compliance with biblical law, the occurrence of the new moon must be accurately determined without any deviation whatsoever. But does the written law require absolute accuracy in determining the precise occurrence of a new moon? Is it mandatory to know the precise occurrence of the new moon in order to acknowledge and celebrate the beginning of the new lunar month under the gospel age agreement?
The answer to both questions is No. Biblical and historical records show that the Israelites were not required to know the precise occurrence of the new moon in order to acknowledge it and perform the new moon sacrifices. Therefore, it is logical to assume that no such requirement is placed on the Father's earthly children during this age.
If a person is to follow the precise letter of the written law, that person cannot deviate in the slightest from its exacting standards, because even the slightest deviation from the letter of the written law violates it:
"You shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God has commanded you: you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left" (Deut.5:32). See also Deut. 17:11-20, 28:28.
The apostle James said the following concerning a person who seeks justification through keeping the law:
"For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (Jms.2:10). See also Gal.5:1-5.
The only person who perfectly kept the whole written law is Christ our Savior. All others have failed to perfectly comply with the law. See Rom.5:12; 3:10, 23.
Facts and Absolute Accuracy
Although the Calendar Court was concerned with accurately determining the occurrence of the new moon and the setting of the dates on which the annual observances were to fall, they did use their discretionary authority to set these dates.
If the Court had sanctified a day to be the first day of the month and later found that they had made a mistake or that witnesses to the sighting of the new crescent were mistaken or had given false testimony, the day sanctified by the court was still considered to be the first day of that lunar month.
The official announcement of the sanctification of the first day of the lunar month could only be made by the Court during daylight hours. Any sanctification of the New Moon at night was not valid. This is an extremely important point to note, because the New Moon sacrifices and offerings had to be performed before the daily evening sacrifice and offerings.
The rules of the Court demanded the examination of credible witnesses to the sighting of the new crescent moon during the daylight hours of the thirtieth day. Maimonides records an account in which witnesses to a sighting of the new crescent had yet to come late in the afternoon on the thirtieth day. This posed a major problem, because if the first day of the lunar month was announced too late in the day, it would be impossible for the priests to perform the New Moon sacrifices and offerings before the daily evening sacrifice and offerings. See The Code of Maimonides, Treatise III and Num.28:11-15; Ex.29:38-42.
The Court's solution to this problem was to enact a new rule, which in effect, stated that evidence of a sighting of a new crescent moon would not be accepted before the evening daily sacrifice and offerings if there was not enough time left in the day to perform both the New Moon and evening sacrifices and offerings. If credible witnesses arrived after the evening sacrifice and offering, the rest of the day would be observed as a New Moon day, as well as the next day on which the New Moon sacrifices and offerings would be made.
After the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. it was decreed by Rabban Johnanan ben Zakkai and his court that evidence concerning the New Moon would be accepted during the whole thirtieth day. Even if this evidence was given near sunset, this evidence was accepted and that day was accepted as the first day of the new lunar month and was to be observed as such.
In the minds of those of the Calendar Court whose responsibility it was to sanction the first day of the new month, this day was not irrevocably fixed in time. The first day of the new month could be adjusted to fit current circumstances. These men clearly understood that, when the Creator told Moses and Aaron "This month shall be to you the beginning of months" (Ex.12:2), he gave them the authority to accept or reject evidence concerning this matter. This was the understanding before the advent of Christ, it was the understanding during his day, and it is the understanding today within Orthodox Judaism.
Both the Bible and history give the same evidence concerning this issue. And this evidence clearly shows that the first day of the lunar month is not fixed in time when it comes to its observance. The fixing of the first day of the lunar month for the purpose of observing it and the annual observances can be adjusted to fit circumstances.
It is a biblical fact that the weekly Sabbath is shown to be a fixed cycle in time, which is not affected by the orbits of the sun, moon, stars, or yearly seasons. Moreover, the occurrence of the Sabbath cannot be altered by man and must be observed within the specific time frame revealed to the ancient Israelites. However, this is not the case with the New Moons, the Passover, and the annual festivals.
It is a biblical fact that the New Moon, the Passover, and the annual festivals are not fixed to an unalterable cycle of time irrespective to the orbits of the heavenly bodies. But cycle through time being fixed to the harvest seasons in Palestine, which are affected by the orbits of the sun, moon, and stars. Moreover, those who sat in Moses' seat of authority had discretionary authority to fix the dates of these observances within the guidelines given in the written law.
Is absolute accuracy mandatory in order to determine the day on which to acknowledge and celebrate the first day of a lunar month under the gospel age agreement?
Simple logic should tell a person that, although the Father's earthly children are required to acknowledge the occurrence of the first day of the lunar month, knowing the precise moment of its occurrence is not mandatory. Because if it were mandatory to determine the precise occurrence of the New Moon with extreme accuracy, it would be clearly stated in the Bible. However, nowhere in the Bible is the New Moon defined as the astronomical new moon or the visually sighted new crescent moon. Moreover, there is a total absence of any detailed instructions in the Bible as to how to determine the occurrence of a new moon.
The biblical fact is that the determination of the day on which to observe the New Moon does not demand unerring accuracy. No such requirement is set forth in the written law or the oral law.
THE WRITTEN AND ORAL LAW
Many people believe that biblical law is unalterable and cannot be amended, changed in any way, or canceled. This is true for the most part; however, there are many laws noted under the first agreement with national Israel that have been expanded in meaning, amended, changed in one way or another, or canceled. Not only is the foregoing statement true, many new laws have been added as a part of the gospel age agreement.
The Written Law
Listed below are some examples of biblical law that have either been expanded in meaning, amended, changed in one way or another, or canceled:
- The laws concerning murder and adultery are examples of laws that have had their intent and meaning expanded and amended See Matt.5:21,22, 27-28.
- The law requiring a sacrificial lamb on the Passover has been canceled for those of the Sovereign Father's new creation, because the sacrifice of Christ now forgives their sin and takes away its penalty. See Jn.1:29, 1.Cor.5:7-8.
- The law requiring the wearing of tassels and the placing of the commandments on the side posts of doors and gates does not apply to those of the Sovereign Father's new creation, because they have these laws written in their very being and these reminders are no longer necessary for them. See 2.Cor.3:1-3; Heb.10:15-16; Rom.2:10-16; Jer.31:33-36.
- Two new laws set in place by Jesus concern the love for another person and the forgiveness of certain sins of a member of the Father's holy family through the intercession of another member (See Jn.13:34-35; 1.Jn.5:16). Plus Jesus established a judicial system for his Father's earthly nation of kings and priests that is much different from the judicial system of ancient Israel.
- The ceremonial laws concerning Passover observance as observed in ancient Israel were canceled by Christ, and new ceremonial laws to be observed by the Sovereign Father's earthly children were established by him. Moreover, the ceremonies established by Christ will only last until his return, after which a seven-day Passover festival will be established. See 1.Cor.11:26; Ezk.45:21-23.
- The decisions rendered by the apostles that it was unnecessary for Gentile converts to abide by the law of circumcision and other laws issued through Moses to national Israel clearly shows that some of God's written laws can be set aside to fit certain circumstances. See Acts 15:1-29; 1.Cor.5:11; Rom.2:29; 1.Cor.7: 18-19.
As we can see, some of God's law has been expanded in meaning, amended, or changed in one way or another; some portions were canceled and new law was added to fit current circumstances. This is the same situation with the written and oral law concerning the Sacred Calendar. Its application can be modified to fit the circumstances concerning the letter and the spirit of the law as it applies to the Sovereign Father's holy nation of earthly children.
The Oral Law
The current Hillel II calendar is oral law. It is an expression of the authority of those who sit in Moses' seat to make and amend oral law governing national Israel. The Sacred calendar is now determined by calculation only. Visual sightings or witnesses are no longer required. The oral law governing how to determine a New Moon was amended in 375 A.D. and is law for all who come under the authority of Moses' seat.
Although the Calendar Court's determinations were based on calculations that were confirmed by a visual sighting of the new crescent, if the Calendar Court came to the conclusion that the next month would be spring already, they would declare it a regular year and the next month would be Nisan. If, however, they decided it would not be Spring for another month, they would declare the next month Adar, and the year would have thirteen months instead of twelve.
The Calendar Court often made adjustments to the beginning of the first month of the lunar year for the following reasons:
- To ensure that the Passover was observed in its proper season.
- To ensure that there would be grain ripe enough for the Tanufa (i.e., Wave Sheaf Offering).
- To allow time for the rains to cease in order to ensure the safety of travelers to Jerusalem.
- To allow for the repair of river bridges destroyed by rain.
- To allow the repair of rain-damaged cooking ovens used in the roasting of the Passover lamb. To allow those of the Diaspora (i.e., scattered Israelites) who could not reach Jerusalem, because of weather conditions, enough time to make the journey and arrive in season.
If the written law concerning the first day of the lunar month and the commanded observances was unalterable, the men who sat in Moses' seat would not have had the authority to make the decisions noted above.
The Judges of the Calendar Court were very sensitive to the severity of their responsibility to calculate and determine with utmost accuracy the New Moons, because many other laws including when to observe the holy convocations depended on their decisions. Moreover, only in Palestine was it permissible to calculate and proclaim New Moons and commanded observances. However, if a great scholar ordained for this purpose in Palestine moved to another territory without leaving another scholar of equal learning in Palestine, he was permitted to continue to calculate the Sacred Calendar and proclaim the New Moons. If there was another scholar of equal rank and superior learning in Palestine, the former was no longer permitted to calculate the calendar. Any such calculation was determined to be invalid (ibid., Maimonides).
The point is that these men made decisions that became law; these decisions were not biblical law before they were rendered, but had the full weight of biblical law once they were rendered. This is an extremely important point, because it speaks to the validity of the law issued by those who sat in Moses' seat over those under their authority. See Deut.17:8-13: Matt.23:2-3.
The question that must be answered concerning the Sacred Calendar is not whether or not the men who sat in Moses' seat of authority had the authority to make and change oral law concerning the sacred calendar and apply it to those under their authority; because they did have this authority. These are the questions that must be answered: Does the authority and jurisdiction of the Levitical Priesthood and Moses' seat extend to the Father's holy nation of earthly children today? If so, what is the extent of their authority and jurisdiction? Once these questions are answered, the question of whether or not to follow the current Hillel II calendar, visual sighting, or some other method of determining the first day of the lunar month can be easily and accurately answered.
AUTHORITY AND JURISDICTION
The problem of whom one defers to concerning the question of the Sacred calendar and the timing of the New Moon and the commanded observances is strictly dependent upon the office of authority and jurisdiction that a person comes under.
The Bible clearly documents that, during the gospel age, there are two distinct and separate entities operating concurrently which have legitimate authority and jurisdiction concerning the application of biblical law:
1. The offices of the Levitical Priesthood linked with those who sit in Moses' seat have authority and jurisdiction over national Israel.
The Levitical Priesthood is responsible for a physical temple in Jerusalem with its attending worship system; whereas Moses' seat is responsible for the application of the strict letter of biblical law.
2. The offices of Christ, the apostles, and elders have authority and jurisdiction over the Sovereign Father's holy nation on earth.
Today, those within the Sovereign Father's holy nation who are diligently seeking his will in their lives are guided by Christ in the application of both the letter and the spirit of biblical law through the holy spirit and certain individuals selected for this function. See Lk.11:8-13; Jn.16:12-14; 1.Cor.12:27-28; Eph.4:11-16.
Nowhere in the New Testament can one find that the authority or jurisdiction of the Levitical Priesthood or those who sat in Moses' seat being transferred to, delegated to, or superceded by the Father's earthly children during this age. It is only after Christ returns and establishes the Sovereign Father's government on earth that the Father's children will be in positions of rulership over national Israel. See Matt.19:22-28; Rev.2: 26-27,3:21-22.
The prophecies clearly show that when national Israel is again established as a nation in the promised land. The offices of the Levitical Priesthood and Israel's judicial system will also be restored. In this author's opinion, anyone who attempts to usurp these offices of authority during this age is making a serious mistake.
If a person is an Orthodox Jew or a follower of Judaism, that person clearly comes under the authority of the Levitical Priesthood and those who sit in Moses' seat. Therefore, that person must follow the last expressed will of the Calendar Court in matters of the Sacred Calendar—the current Hillel II calendar.
The Sovereign Father's Holy Nation
Nowhere in the New Testament can one find that the Sovereign Father's earthly children come under the authority or jurisdiction of the Levitical Priesthood or Moses' seat concerning their worship of him. The Father's earthly children come under his authority and jurisdiction as administered by his son who is the head of the church and their Savior and High Priest. See 1.Cor.11:3; Col.1:13-19, 2:8-12.
If a person is a member of the Sovereign Father's earthly family, that person must follow his will concerning the application of both the letter and spirit of the law in the acknowledgment of the first day of a lunar month and the commanded observances.
THE GOSPEL AGE AGREEMENT
When one considers biblical law as it pertains to the Sovereign Father's earthly children who are his holy nation of kings, priests, and ambassadors during this age, one must consider whether or not a law contained in the first agreement with national Israel applies to them. If a law does apply, how does it apply, and how is it to be practiced?
Although the Father's children are subject to his law, they are not subject to the Levitical Priesthood and the Sanhedrin's legal jurisdiction; they are subject to the legal jurisdiction of Christ as their High Priest who is the administrator of the Sovereign Father's law which governs his earthly children during the gospel age of salvation (Eph.5:23-24; Heb.10:18-21). The Father's earthly children must obey his law, but not under the same terms and conditions of the agreement with national Israel—past, present, or future—because theirs is a different agreement.
Although the Sovereign Father's gospel age agreement for salvation with his elect children has many of the same terms and conditions contained in the Old and New Covenants with national Israel, this agreement is not the New Covenant agreement with national Israel, which will be instituted after Christ returns and establishes his Father's government to rule the earth.
The Sovereign Father's agreement with his earthly children has many new and different terms, conditions, and rewards that only apply to those he calls to participate in the first resurrection. This agreement is a unique agreement for a specific group of people.
The following are some of the aspects of the Father's gospel age agreement, which are much different from the past and future agreements with national Israel:
- The Father's children do not look to Jerusalem for truth and spiritual guidance, because the Father's holy spirit resides within them and guides them in truth. See Jn.14:25-26, 16:13-14.
- The Father's children have no need to worship at Jerusalem because they worship him in spirit and truth through his earthly temples, which they are. See Jn.4:23-24;1.Cor.3:16-17,6:19; 2.Cor.6:15-16.
- The Father's children do not need the Levitical Priesthood to intercede between them and the Sovereign Father, because Christ is the Heavenly intercessor for the Father's earthly children. See Heb.7:15-28.
- The Father's children have no need for rites of purification because they are intrinsically holy and kept in an undefiled state through the blood of Christ. See Col.1:19-22; 1.Pet.2:4-10; Heb.9:13-14; 1.Jn.1:7; Rev.1:4-5.
- The Father's children have no need for animal sacrifice for justification, because the blood of Christ justifies them to the Father. See Heb.9:13-14; 1.Pet.1:18-19.
- The Father's children are required to make spiritual sacrifices and to be a living sacrifice. See Rom.12:1-2; Phil.4:15-19; Heb.13: 8-16; 1.Pet.2:3-5.
- The Father's children are not only obligated to fulfill the letter of a law that applies to them but also the spirit of a law that applies to them. See Rom.3:31, 6:2; 1.Cor.2:12-16; Gal.5:25.
The Father's Holy Nation and Priesthood
The Father's earthly children have a different agreement for salvation with the Sovereign Father from the agreement national Israel had with the Creator God, (i.e., Jesus Christ)— past, present, and future. The Father's elect are of a completely different nation and priesthood:
The apostle Peter said this concerning the status of those called to salvation during this gospel age:
"You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1.Pet.2:5 KJV).
"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy" (1.Pet.2:9-10 KJV).
Although the Father's earthly children will partake of some of the benefits promised to national Israel for obedience to his law, they are not subject to exactly the same rules and laws that govern national Israel, because they are citizens of a completely different nation, which is what the apostle Paul says:
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Phil.3:20-21 NIV).
The Father's children owe their allegiance and obedience to the laws of a different nation because they are not of this world but are of the heavenly realm. Christ said the following about who the elect are:
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you" (Jn.15:18-19 Para). See 1.Cor.5:9-11; 10:20-21; Eph.5:1-11; Rev.18:3-4.
Jesus was not speaking philosophically to his disciples about their earthly status; he said that they were alien to the other life-forms on earth; he spoke of the New Creation that they had been chosen to be a part of as if it were already a reality.
The Father's children should always remember that they are very different from other humans who have only the spirit of man dwelling in them. The Father's children have his spirit dwelling in them and are not human as other humans, because they are the Father's New Creation. A child of God is actually a son of God, a member of the divine and holy Family of God, and a being that did not exist in the physical or spiritual dimensions prior to Jesus. Because those of the new creation are intrinsically holy, they are held to a higher standard and are subject to a higher order of law than that of ancient Israel. See 2.Cor.5:17; Gal.6:15; Eph.2:10; Jms.1:18; 1.Pet.1:13-16; Heb.10:26-31.
Although certain portions of the letter of the law do apply to the Father's earthly children and must be strictly obeyed (e.g., Sabbath observance), the Father's children must apply the spirit of the law to their practice of these laws. This elevates the letter of these laws to their true intended purpose and fulfills the example of Christ in magnifying the law and making it honorable. See Isa.42:21.
While speaking to the Romans about the goodness of God's law the apostle Paul said, "For we know that the law is spiritual" (Rom.7:14).
NO CENTRAL AUTHORITY
During this age, there is much confusion and bewilderment within both the Sovereign Father's holy nation of earthly children and Orthodox Judaism as to the precise meaning and intent of much of the Bible and the more than six hundred laws contained in it. Moreover, there are literally hundreds of opinions on any given law found within the Bible. This situation makes it extremely difficult for those who are attempting to truly understand God's laws, precepts, and principles to do so.
The apostles are dead and the early church and its eldership have disappeared as noted in the following prophecy recorded by Zachariah:
"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd [Jesus], and against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep [the disciples] shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand upon [against] the little ones [the Father's elect children]" (Zech.13:7 KJV). See also Matt.26:31: Acts 20:28-30.
The reason for doctrinal chaos during this age is obvious. No central authority on earth governs the doctrinal integrity of either the Sovereign Father's holy nation of earthly children or Orthodox Judaism. Clearly, we are living in the times spoken of by the prophet Amos in which there is a famine of understanding God's word. See Amos 8:11-13.
Because the members of the Father's holy nation are scattered among the nations of the earth without a central authority to guide them in doctrinal unity, how can one know for sure what to do when it comes to determining the first day of a lunar month or the exact days on which to observe the commanded observances and the holy convocations?
The Priesthood, Sanhedrin, and the Early Church
Under the authority of the Creator God (who became Christ), the Levitical Priesthood and the Sanhedrin (i.e., those who sat in Moses' seat of authority) had legal authority and jurisdiction over national Israel. Moreover, while these offices of authority were in existence, the Levitical Priesthood and the Sanhedrin administered God's law and determined its practical application. There is no doubt that their decisions were legally binding on all those under their authority.
The prophecies of Isaiah and other prophets clearly show that, after Christ returns, the authority of the Levitical Priesthood and Moses' seat of authority will be restored and God's law will again go forth from Jerusalem. See Isa.2:1-3; Mic.4:1-3; Ezk.44:15-16; Isa.1:24-27. Presently, these groups are inactive and without authority over national Israel, and the law does not go forth from Jerusalem.
Although it can easily be shown that the apostles and elders of the early church submitted to the Levitical Priesthood and the Sanhedrin's authority in some issues of law, at least until the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. (See Acts 21:16-26; 23:1-5), it can also be shown that the apostles and elders of the early church did not apply to themselves or the early church some of God's law as it was applied by the Levitical Priesthood and the Sanhedrin. For example, they did not require tithes of the elect; instead, they were sustained by freewill offerings and by their own labor. Additionally, they did not require male converts to be circumcised, which was required of all Israelite males.
The sanctification of the New Moon and the fixing of the dates of the commanded observances is a legal issue, which falls under the jurisdiction of Sanhedrin under both the Old and New Covenants with national Israel. However, are the Sovereign Father's earthly children obligated to follow the last decision made by those who sat in Moses' seat concerning when to observe the commanded observances, when it can easily be shown that the current Hillel II calendar cannot be trusted to always determine the New Moon as it arrives at Jerusalem in the form a new crescent or as it occurs astronomically at the conjunction between the sun and moon during the moon's dark phase?
Questions and Answers:
Q. Did Christ submit to the authority of the Sanhedrin and the Calendar Court in his observance of the New Moons and the commanded observances?
A. Yes he did. A casual reading of the gospel accounts document that Christ observed the New Moon and other commanded observances on the same days as the Jews of his day observed them. This must be true, because he would have sinned if he did not. And if he sinned, he cannot be our Savior. The scriptures clearly show that Christ was sinless; therefore, the logical conclusion is that he observed these days as set forth by the Calendar Court.
Q. Did the apostles and the early church submit to the authority of the Sanhedrin and the Calendar Court in their observance of the New Moons and the Annual Festivals?
A. Yes they did. It is also a biblical and a historical fact that the apostles and the early church observed the New Moon, as well as the other commanded observances on the days set by the Calendar Court long after the death and resurrection of Christ. See Acts 20:6,16; 1.Cor.5:7-8.
Q. Did Christ, the apostles, and the early church follow the errors of the spiritual leaders of the Jews?
A. No they did not. See Matt.12:1-13; 15:1-9; Jn.5:1-17.
Q. Are the Father's children obligated to blindly follow error when it is known to be error for the sake of submission to the authority of spiritual leadership?
A. No they are not to do so. See 2.Thess.3:6; 2.Tim.2:15; 2.Pet.2:1-22.
The examples of Jesus, the apostles, and the early church in their observance of the New Moons and commanded observances clearly show that they all acknowledged and respected the authority of the Calendar Court in regard to the New Moon and the annual observances, but that they did not follow the error of those in authority when it came to the application of the spirit of the law. See Heb.4:15; Matt.26:16-19; Acts 2:1; Col.2:16-17.
TWO CONSECUTIVE OBSERVANCES
Some people believe that God required the Israelites to keep the New Moons and the commanded observances on their prescribed dates with exact precision and without the slightest deviation; however, the biblical and historical records clearly show that there were many discrepancies and deviations in the Calendar Court's calculations, the sighting of the New Moons, and the fixing of the days of the commanded observances.
It is important to remember that God, in his mercy, makes allowances for human error, especially when people do not have the knowledge necessary to make correct decisions or fall prey to circumstances beyond their control.
The men who sat in Moses' seat not only had the authority to sanction the New Moon and set the dates for the commanded observances and holy convocations but also to sanction two observances of the New Moons and commanded observances, which they did many times when they were unsure of the precise timing of the New Moon. One of the more historically significant occasions when the Court did this was in 30
A.D. when they sanctioned two Passovers, which made it possible for all of the prophecies concerning Christ's death and resurrection to be fulfilled in exacting detail in the proper sequence.
Palestine normally did not observe two consecutive New Moon or festival days, because the messengers were able to reach most places in time for its observance on the day it was confirmed as having occurred. However, there were ten places more than ten full days travel away from Jerusalem, which did observe two consecutive days.
Because people could not travel on the civil new year, which was the Feast of Trumpets, messengers could not be sent to declare the day of the New Moon; therefore, the only New Moon observed with regularity for two consecutive days in Palestine was the civil new year (The New Moon of Tishri: The Feast of Trumpets).
If the men who sat in Moses' seat had been constrained to the strict letter of the law concerning the fixing of the day of the New Moon and the days on which the other commanded observances were to be observed; they could not have sanctioned two New Moon observances—which they often did. In the strictest sense of the letter of the law only one day of a New Moon or a commanded observance is authorized, except the option to observe an alternate Passover under special circumstances. See Num.9:1-11.
Those who sat in Moses' seat of authority did not always strictly follow the letter of the law as handed down by Moses. It was sometimes impossible for them to do so due to circumstances beyond their control. Therefore, they deviated from the letter of the law in order to serve the law.
A person attempting to follow the letter of the oral law in the issue of the Sacred Calendar as set forth by the Calendar Court would logically have to choose from the following options in order to determine the day of the New Moon and the other commanded observances:
- Follow the current version of the Hillel II calendar which uses only calculations.
- Follow the calculations of someone who claims to be qualified to make the necessary calculations in order to determine the exact days on which the New Moons and the commanded observances are to occur. However, it would be difficult to determine whom to trust to make these complex calculations and who would be qualified to confirm the accuracy of such calculations.
- The third option is to use only a visual sighting of the New Moon at Jerusalem. But it may be impossible to find someone qualified to make and confirm these visual sightings?
- The fourth option is to follow a calendar determined by both calculation and visual sightings. However, following any other calendar than the Hillel II would put you in violation of the amended oral law handed down by the last Calendar Court in 375 A.D..
Out of the four options noted, the only option that will totally satisfy the strict letter of oral law as set forth by those who sat in Moses' seat is to follow the current Hillel II calendar, which is the last expressed will of the Calendar Court. However, if a person decides to follow this calendar, that person must be willing to overlook its many errors in determining the appearances of the New Moon and the days on which the commanded observances occur.
A Leap in Logic
It seems to be a leap of logic to say that any one of the options noted is a totally correct option for those of the Father's holy nation who do not come under the authority of the seat of Moses.
The more important issue here is whether or not the Sovereign Father's earthly children who are not under the Creator God's original agreement with national Israel but are of the Sovereign Father's holy nation of kings, priest, and ambassadors are obligated to follow the dictates of the Calendar Court in the administration of calendar law. Or are they free to follow the spirit of the law in determining when the New Moon appears in order to acknowledge it and observe the holy convocations?
There is no doubt that the Father's earthly children are obligated to respect those in Moses' seat and the Levitical Priesthood, just as Christ instructed (See Matt.23:2-3) and as in the Apostle Paul's example (See Acts 23:1-5). However, just because one is obligated to respect these offices of authority over Israel, it does not mean that one is obligated to follow their error or instructions concerning the written or the oral law.
Many people who study into the subject of the Sacred calendar from the aspect of how it applies to the Father's earthly children, become entangled in the minute details surrounding the calculations of the appearance of the New Moon, the postponement rules, the visual sighting, the witnesses, when to pick the first ripe grain of the barley harvest for the Passover, the nineteen year time cycle, and other details which simply do not apply to the Father's earthly children in the same way as these things applied to national Israel.
An additional complication to an already seemingly unsolvable problem is the fact that, in all scientific and educational arenas today, the new moon is considered to occur during the dark moon when the moon cannot be seen during the conjunction. Moreover, the newly illuminated visible crescent moon is referred to as a young moon or early phase, not the new moon.
Once a person is entangled in these minute details, it is almost impossible to see the issue for what it is. This is an issue of who has the authority and jurisdiction over the Father's holy nation of earthly children in these matters. This is also an issue of the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law.
If one will apply the simple principles the apostle Paul set forth concerning the spirit of the law, it is possible to know for certain that one is observing the New Moon and the holy convocations on the correct days. See 1.Cor.2:11-13.
If one can set aside the urge to follow the strict letter of the oral law concerning the Sacred Calendar as set forth by Calendar Court under the Creator God's covenant with national Israel, and focus on conforming to the spirit of the law when determining the days on which to acknowledge the first day of a lunar month and the observance of the holy convocations, one can be absolutely certain that they are fulfilling the Father's will in this matter.
A person does not have to be a Bible scholar or be well versed in the Hillel II calendar, astronomy, or mathematics in order to make sound spiritual decisions concerning how to determine the arrival of a new moon. All it takes is a sincere desire to do the Father's will and the earnest and diligent seeking of truth through the study of and meditation on God's word, while asking the Father to guide one's understanding through his holy spirit.
The apostle Paul said the following about the elect's ability to discern truth though the Father's holy spirit:
"For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, but the spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things we also speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the holy spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual"
If a person has the Father's holy spirit dwelling within them, that person has the ability to understand the spirit of any law as it applies to them. That is, if that person will follow the biblical instructions which tell one how to gain spiritual understanding.
"But the natural man receives not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is discerned of no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ" (1.Cor.2:14-16).
If a person has the Father's holy spirit dwelling within them, that person has the ability to discern between the letter and the spirit of a law as it applies to them, because the holy spirit and the mind of Christ in them will guide them, if they are sincere in their search for truth.
THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW
The writings in the New Testament leave no doubt that many in the early church had great difficulty determining the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Many members of the early church believed that strict obedience to the written and oral law was still necessary in order to be justified before God, just as some believe today.
Is there a difference between the administration of the letter of the law and the spirit of the Law? Absolutely! While speaking to the Corinthians about the ministry and God's law, Paul said that they were made able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. See 2.Cor.3:1-8.
Over time, the issue of the Sacred Calendar has been a major cause of disunity within the Father's earthly family, but it does not have to be a cause of disunity for those who come to understand that they are not under the authority and jurisdiction of the Calendar Court in this matter, but have the freedom as kings and priest of the Father's holy nation to determine this issue predicated on the spirit of the law.
Having said the foregoing. Am I saying that a person should disregard the letter of the law? No, I am not saying this at all. What I am trying to say is that we should heed the apostle Paul's instructions to apply the spirit of the law to this issue instead of the letter of the law as set forth through the Calendar Court:
"For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit to death. But now we are delivered from the law [i.e., delivered from the penalty of the law], that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet" (Rom.7:5-7 KJV). See also Rom.8:1-6.
The Law, The Blood of Christ, And Justification
Another teaching of Paul, which differentiates between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law is found in his letter to the Romans, where he speaks about the circumcision of the foreskin and the circumcision of the heart, and the superiority of being circumcised in one's heart. Clearly, circumcision has some physical value for a male today and will be required of all males who want to worship God at his sanctuary in Jerusalem after Christ returns (See Ezk.44:7-9). However, the strict letter of this law does not apply to the Father's earthly children today, because they are not constrained by its letter, but are instead subject to its spiritual intent and meaning. See Rom.2:23-29; 3:28-31, 1.Cor.7:18-20: Gal.5:6.
Circumcision was a major issue of concern for some in the early church, because under the covenant that the Creator God had made with national Israel, if a male was not circumcised, that male did not have a covenant relationship with God and was to be cut off from Israel. However, the Father's holy nation is not national Israel. Neither are the Father's children justified to him through strict obedience to the letter of his law; but are instead justified through the blood of Christ. This is why the apostle Paul warned the Galatians about becoming entangled in the letter of the law on this issue:
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage [i.e., come under the letter of the law]. Behold, I Paul say to you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect to you, whoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace" (Gal.5:1-4 KJV).
Paul's admonition to the Galatians concerning attempting to be justified to the Father through strict adherence to the letter of the law of circumcision is applicable in principle to anyone today who seeks justification through the letter of the law as set forth by the Calendar Court concerning the fixing of the first day of a lunar month and the commanded observances.
Jesus said the following concerning the agreement between the elect and their Heavenly Father:
"No man would patch an old garment with unshrunk cloth? For the patch would pull away and make the tear worse. Neither do men store new wine in old wineskins. Because if they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. But men put new wine in new wineskins, and both are preserved" (Matt.9:16-17 Para.).
Just as it is unwise to patch an old garment with an unshrunk piece of cloth and it is foolish to put new wine into old wineskins, it is just as unwise and foolish to attempt to apply the oral law of the Calendar Court to the Sovereign Father's children who have a different and superior agreement for salvation from that of ancient Israel.
If a person feels obligated to follow the dictates of the Calendar Court, that person must keep all of the oral law issued by those who sat in Moses' seat of authority. One cannot pick and choose which oral laws they will or will not obey.
"You shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God has commanded you: you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left" (Deut.5:32). See also Deut.17:11-20, 28:15-28.
The apostle James said the following concerning a person who seeks justification through keeping the law:
"For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (Jms.2:10). See also Gal.5:1-5.
The Early Church and Today
Does the authority and jurisdiction of the Levitical Priesthood and Moses' seat extend to the Father's holy nation of earthly children today? If so, what is the extent of their authority and jurisdiction?
The Levitical Priesthood's authority and jurisdiction encompasses their responsibilities at a physical temple in Jerusalem, but not over the Sovereign Father's earthly temples of flesh, which the Father's earthly children are. Those who sit in Moses' seat only have authority and jurisdiction over national Israel, not over the Sovereign Father's holy nation of earthly children.
The offices of the Levitical Priesthood and the seat of Moses do not have authority or jurisdiction over the Sovereign Father's holy nation of earthly children, its application of its written and oral law, or its system of worship, which is much different in many aspects from that of national Israel.
Just as Moses had delegated some of his authority over Israel, before his death, Jesus delegated certain authority and jurisdiction over the Sovereign Father's earthly children to the apostles. These men in turn delegated some of their authority to qualified men and gave these men certain responsibilities within the church. See Matt.16:18-19; 18:18-20; Acts 14:21-23.
Although the apostles are dead and the eldership having the same authority as those of the early church seems to have disappeared with the demise of the early church, determining the first day of the lunar month and when to observe the commanded observances should not be a problem, if one will apply the spirit of the law instead of attempting to apply the letter of the law as orally set forth by the Calendar Court of national Israel.
The apostles and the men to whom they delegated authority made decisions that became law, which governed the early church. These decisions were not biblical law before they were rendered, but had the full weight of biblical law once they were rendered.
This is an extremely important point because it speaks to the validity of the law issued by those who were authorized by Christ to make binding decisions governing the Father's earthly family (See Acts 5:1-11; 15:1-29; 1.Cor.5:11; 2.Thes.2:6). These men were to make law concerning the church and each member of the church, even today, is responsible for carrying out the law of the church and applying the spirit of this law to themselves. See Matthew, chapter 18; Rom.14:17-23.
A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE
The application of many of God's laws requires a person to make decisions based on their knowledge and understanding of God's mind, what he is attempting to accomplish through his law, best scriptural evidence, and the dictates of one's conscience. The written law concerning the weekly Sabbath is one of the laws that fits this decision making criteria. It is a law that has a number of very specific rules governing its observance. However, much of its application is left to the discretion of the individual. For instance, there are no detailed instructions in the Bible as to the precise moment in time when the Sabbath officially begins and ends.
It is impossible to determine from the scriptures the precise moment in time when a day begins and ends; therefore, it is impossible to determine when a weekly Sabbath official begins and ends. Just as it is impossible to determine from the scriptures if a new moon is defined as the astronomical New Moon or the first visual sighting of the moon's new crescent. Because the scriptures only record guidelines for the beginning and ending of a day, it is logical to assume that the intent is for each person to make this determination for themselves. Therefore, a person's decision becomes a matter of conscience. See Rom.14:22-23.
Because there are no detailed instructions as to the precise moment in time when the Sabbath officially begins and ends, it is apparent that God did not intend the beginning and ending of the Sabbath to be determined by the strict letter of the law. He intended for an individual to apply the spirit of the law to the beginning and ending of the Sabbath. This also seems to be the intent concerning how to determine the arrival of the New moon and its beginning and ending.
Until that time when doctrinal chaos on this issue ceases to exist within the Sovereign Father's holy nation on earth through the direct intervention of Jesus Christ, determining the occurrence of the new moon and the days on which to observe the commanded observances logically seems to be (at least to me) a matter of individual conscience:
"Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; . . ." (Phil 2:12-16 Para.).
Today, no central authority on earth governs the entire church. And because each person is responsible to work out their own salvation before their Heavenly Father, it seems that a person's decision concerning this issue is a matter of conscience.
Everyone who has been given an opportunity for salvation during this age must give an account for what they have done with this opportunity:
"For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he did, whether good or bad" (2.Cor.5:10 Para.).
"But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you also despise your brother? For we all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it has been written, I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will confess to God. So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God" (Rom.14:10-12 KJV Para.).
A major principle of the teachings in the Bible is that a person is only held accountable for what they know and what they do with that knowledge. Therefore, because no clear instructions are given in the Bible as to how to determine the precise arrival of the New Noon, it seems to be a matter of conscience as to how one makes this determination, just as it is with many other issues concerning the letter and the spirit of the law as it applies to the Sovereign Father's earthly children.
The prophecies tell us that, after Christ's return, the law will again go forth from Zion (Mic.4:1-2); however, at present the law does not go forth from Zion. How the Sovereign Father wants to be worshiped and how he wants his children to apply his law is not revealed through the Levitical Priesthood or Moses' seat of authority; it is revealed through his written word and through his holy spirit (Jn.16:12-13).
Jesus told the woman of Samaria that there would come a time when true worshipers of God would no longer worship at Jerusalem, but they would worship him in spirit and truth (Jn.4:19-24). Today, the Father's holy children are his personal temples in which his spirit dwells (1.Cor.3:17). The Father's earthly children do not look to Jerusalem (i.e., The Levitical Priesthood and Moses' seat of authority) for guidance as to how to apply the written or the oral law; each of the Father's children must study the law for themselves and look to the holy spirit for guidance (2.Tim.2:15; Jn.16:12-13).
Currently, Jerusalem is not the focal point of the Heavenly Father's worship system; it is his children who are the focal point of his worship system on earth, because, it is his children who are his personal temples on earth where his holy spirit resides. Therefore, why would his children look to Jerusalem as the point of origin for the beginning of the new lunar month, when the Father's children are scattered over the entire earth?
WHEN DOES A NEW MOON OCCUR?
The occurrence of the New Moon is when it is astronomically. The astronomical new moon occurs at a fixed point in its relationship to the earth. That is, all phases of the moon occur astronomically at a specific time, regardless of the observer's location on earth. Therefore, the astronomical date and time of each New Moon can be precisely determined.
Although the astronomical new moon can easily be determined, the exact time of a sighting of the illuminated new moon cannot always be predicted with accuracy, because there are many factors that affect whether or not the first illumination of the new moon can be seen at a specific location on earth:
- The degree of the moon's surface illuminated in relation to a specific geographical viewing location on earth.
- Any number of atmospheric conditions (e.g., clouds, diffusion, or absorption of the reflected light from the surface of the moon into the earth's atmosphere).
- The illuminated new moon occurs at different times throughout a given period of time, depending on the specific latitude and longitude used as a point of reference.
Because of the above noted items, the ability to visually sight the new crescent moon can vary widely from one geographical location to another. However, for practical purposes, the phases of the moon and the percent of the moon illuminated are independent of the location on earth from where the moon is observed.
As the moon orbits the earth, there are about three days during which no illumination of the moon can be seen with the naked eye. It is during this dark period, that there is one moment in time when the moon is exactly between the earth and the sun. This point in time is called the conjunction. However, because of the length of the moon's orbit around the earth and various other considerations, the exact moment in time of the conjunction may vary considerably during this dark period.
The conjunction between the orbits of the earth, moon, and sun happens at a fixed point in space regardless of time zones or a person's physical location on earth. The conjunction occurs independent of mankind's time keeping systems.
In a purely astronomical sense, it is during the dark phase of the moon and at the exact moment of the conjunction that one lunar month ends and another begins.
Although the conjunction is exact and can be calculated with unerring accuracy, the visual illumination of the moon's new crescent never occurs at the exact moment of the conjunction. By the time the moon's new crescent can be seen with the naked eye, the conjunction of the new moon has already occurred and the astronomical new moon is one or more days old.
DETERMINING THE DAY OF THE NEW MOON
The reality is that the controversy between various congregations and individuals concerning how to determine precisely when to acknowledge the New Moons and the observance of the holy convocations will remain a problem for some people during this age until one or more of the following occurs:
- A temple is built in Jerusalem and a new Sanhedrin establishes Calendar Court to determine the appearance of a new moon.
- The arrival of the Third Elijah to restore all things, which would surely include an understanding of the Sovereign Father's will concerning how to determine the New Moon and the commanded observances.
- The arrival of the Two Witnesses who would surely have the knowledge to guide the Sovereign Father's holy nation in doctrinal integrity.
- The return of Christ, at which time all questions concerning the written law, the oral law, and the spirit of the law will be resolved through the office of Christ.
Until one of the events noted above happens, this problem can easily be solved if the spirit of the written law is applied. It is not difficult to determine precisely when the astronomical new moon or the visual new moon occur. In fact, today we live in an age where the study of astronomy has reached an extremely high degree of accuracy. There is no place on earth where the arrival of the astronomical new moon or the percent of the illuminated new moon cannot be determined with extreme accuracy.
Furthermore, there is no need to worry about when the Spring Season begins in Palestine because current civil calendars make allowances for this. Moreover, a person can simply note which conjunction of the moon occurs nearest the spring equinox to determine when the first lunar month of a new year (i.e., Abib/Nisan) begins. There is no need to be concerned with the barley harvest in Palestine, because the Father's children are not constrained by the application of the calendar Court's oral law concerning the worship of their Heavenly Father. Simply put, none of the Calendar Court's oral law applies to sons of the Father's new creation, because the Father's holy nation is not under their authority or jurisdiction; therefore, this oral law does not apply to them.
With the aid of a computer, most local newspapers, an ocean tide book, a calendar containing the phases of the moon, academic organizations, and governmental agencies, such as the United States Naval Observatory, almost anyone can determine the occurrence of the new moon for themselves.
It is also a simple task to determine the dates on which the commanded observances fall, because the Bible tells us the Hebrew months in which they are to be observed and on which day of the month to observe them. Therefore, all one has to do is to acquire a calendar containing the Hebrew months and cross reference it with a standard Gregorian Calendar that most people use today, and then count the days from the new moon to a commanded observance.
If a person wants to wait for the visual arrival of a new moon, the process of determining when it arrives is simple. A person can either sight it visually in the sky or use any number of publications or other sources that predict when a visual new moon arrives at a specific location on earth.
If a person wants to determine the occurrence of the astronomical new moon at one's geographical location in order to acknowledge it during that twenty-four hour day or during the biblical day (evening to evening), this can easily be accomplished, because there are many sources that document the date and time of the occurrence of the astronomical new moon (e.g., most wall calendars, United States Naval Observatory, and local news papers) contain phases of the moon.
Universal Time and Greenwich Mean Time
The times of various events, particularly astronomical and weather phenomena, are often given in "Universal Time" (UT) which is sometimes referred to, as "Greenwich Mean Time" (GMT). The two terms are often used to refer to time kept on the Greenwich meridian (longitude zero). Times given in UT are almost always given in terms of a 24-hour clock. Thus, 2:42 is 2:42 A.M. and 14:42 is 2:42 P.M. at the Greenwich meridian.
Data concerning the conjunction of the Moon and the percentage of the moon's illumination is provided by the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory free of charge and is used in various publications around the world. This data when used with a time zone map, makes it possible to determine the exact time of the moon's conjunction, the phases of the moon, and the percentage of the moon illuminated at any location on earth.
From the perspective of the elect's responsibility to conform to both the letter and the spirit of the law and the lack of a central authority on earth guiding the Sovereign Father's holy nation in unity of doctrine concerning this issue, it seems logical that determining when to acknowledge the first day of the lunar month and the commanded observances is a personal responsibility and that one's decision should be predicated on best evidence and one's conscience.
Regardless of the method a person decides to use in order to determine the arrival of the new moon and the dates on which the commanded observances occur, that person should be convinced in their own mind that they have made their decision predicated on the best evidence available to them, because the principle of having a clear conscience in what one decides to do applies to this issue. See Rom.14:22-23.
FACTS AND ASSUMPTIONS
- Fact: The law as handed down by Moses in the first five books of the Bible is completely lacking instructions of any kind concerning how to determine the arrival of a new moon.
- Assumption: Lacking any biblical or historical documentation, it can be safely assumed that the men who were delegated to sit in Moses' seat of authority over national Israel chose the method by which to determine the occurrence of the appearance of the New Moon or the Creator revealed the method to them. Whichever may be the case, the method by which these men determined the arrival of a new moon is not the written law but an oral interpretation and application of the written law as noted in Genesis 1:14 and Exodus 12:1-3.
- Fact: Determining the occurrence of the New Moon by calculation or visual sighting are not written biblical law. Both are oral law as set forth by men who sat in Moses' seat of authority over national Israel.
- Assumption: The Calendar Court determined the arrival of a new moon at Jerusalem by both astronomical calculations and visual sightings, because, in their minds, neither calculations or visual sightings independent of each other could be trusted as being totally accurate.
- Fact: The Calendar Court arbitrarily set the dates of the New Noon and the commanded observances to fit the circumstances predicated on the best available evidence, because both calculation and visual sightings were often found to be unreliable due to unforeseen circumstances, such as cloudy skies, no witnesses to a visual sighting, or the lack of reliable witnesses to a visual sighting in order to confirm the Court's calculations.
- Fact: The occurrence and acknowledgment of the new moons, and the annual observances are not fixed to a specific unalterable point in time like the weekly Sabbath is. But, they cycle through time being subject to the yearly seasons with allowance being made for the discretionary fixing of the day of their observance predicated on best evidence and other circumstances as evidence in the Bible and the historical record.
- Fact: Only the first and seventh months of the lunar year are critical to the observance of the commanded observances, because it is the first day of these two lunar months that dictate on which days the spring, summer, and fall observances occur.
- Fact: Normally, the Calendar Court determined the first day of a new month by calculation and the sighting of the new crescent. However, the Court postponed the beginning of the first and seventh months for various reasons, none of which apply to the Sovereign Father's earthly children today, because they are not under Moses' seat of authority.
- Fact: After 70 A.D., visual sighting was discontinued and only calculations were used to determine the first day of the lunar month. The discontinuance of visual sighting amended the oral law concerning how to determine the first day of a lunar month.
- Fact: In 375 A.D., the patriarch Hillel II made public the Calendar Court's secret methods and criteria for determining New Moons and commanded observances, and he formally sanctified all months in advance of their occurrence.
- Fact: In 425 A.D., the Pharisaic Sanhedrin and the Calendar Court ceased to function, thereby leaving only the continuance of the oral law and its method as a guide to determining the first day of the lunar month and the commanded observances. This oral law is in fact biblical law for all who come under the original covenant the Creator God made with national Israel.
- Fact: The Father's holy nation of earthly children are a separate nation from that of ancient Israel and do not come under the authority or jurisdiction of that nation's religious or civil leadership.
- Fact: The Father’s holy nation of earthly children are to obey both the letter and spirit of all of his law as it pertains to them. Because the written law only states that lunar months must be used to determine when to observe the commanded observances and holy convocations, it follows that this determination must be based on best evidence.
- Fact: If one feels obligated to follow the dictates of the Calendar court, one must keep all the oral law; if one oral law is valid, they are all valid. One cannot pick and choose which of the oral laws one will or will not obey.
- Fact: Although the first day of each lunar month is to be acknowledged, no where in the holy scriptures or the historical record do we find any indication that the first day of the lunar month is to be acknowledged in the same way as the weekly Sabbath or an annual festival. To apply such a quality to the acknowledgment of the first day of a lunar month is to add something to God's law that simply is not there.
Hillel II Resources
For those who are interested in details concerning how the Hillel II calendar is currently calculated the following are five good reference works:
"The Hebrew Calendar A Mathematical Introduction", By John Kossey, available from The Paper Egret, 169 St. John Street, Pasadena, 91105.
"Understanding The Jewish Calendar", By Rabbi Nathan Bushwick, available from Moznaim Publishing Corporation, 4304 12th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 11219. tel. (718) 4238-7680.
"The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar", by Arthur Spier, available from Feldheim Publishers, 200 Airport Executive Park, Nanuet, New York 10954, or P.O. Box 35002 Jerusalem Israel.
"The Code of Maimonides" Treatise III, Translated by Solomon Gantz
"Studies in Hebrew Astronomy and Mathematics" by Solomon Gantz
For those with internet access, the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory internet web site addresses for the following information are:
U.S. Naval Observatory home page http://aa.home page usno.navy.mil/
The conjunction of the moon and its phase http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/MoonPhase.html
The percentage of the moon illuminated http://aa.usno.navy.mil/faq/docs/moon_phases.html
The World Time Zone Map http://aa.usno.navy.mil/faq/docs/world_tzones.html
Two additional internet sites that have helpful information are:
The World Clock Meeting Planner http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html
This site shows the actual time in the cities chosen, as well as the corresponding Universal Time.
Graphic illustration of moon phases http://www.space.com/spacewatch/mystery_monday_030908.html
By B.L. Cocherell b5w18