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What Calendar Did Yahushua Keep?
This paper demonstrates how astronomical, historical and biblical evidence directly points to Yahushua’s Passover meal as described in Mark 14:12-26 as being:
1) a most significant lawful Passover and not a “last supper”,
2) that Yahushua’s very timing of His Passover meal speaks loudly concerning the biblical calendar He is observing,
3) that 30 CE is the only year where the astronomical events are closely associated to permit precisely 1 day difference between Yahushua’s Passover and the Temple’s calendar for the Passover,
4) that 30 CE is the only year where the timing of the proper astronomical events of the year permit the fulfillment of Yahushua’s sign of three days and three nights, and
5) the timing of the astronomical events occurring in that year, together with the biblical account of Yahushua’s behaviour reveal that the first sliver new moon was not observed by the Temple calendar in the year of His suffering.
The issue of the biblical calendar is not simply a central issue of passion to messianics but, at its highest level it is at the heart of all institutionalized religions of the so-called “Abrahamic faiths”, and as such the most significant theological issue second only to the deity of Yahushua Messiah.
The Main Religions Avoid The Equinox From The Calculations Of Their Calendars
Historical Christianity determines their appointed weekly day of worship as Sunday, having replaced the Sabbath, and their date of Easter in their calendar is determined by the first Sunday which occurs after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The modern Christian calendar, based on the Roman Gregorian calendar, adjusts itself back to the vernal equinox with a leap month day every 4th year.
In the Rabbinical Jewish calendar the determination of the beginning of the year is on the first conjunctive moon closest to the vernal equinox, thereafter counting conjunctive new moons, with a 13th month periodically implemented to readjust to the calendar back to a close alignment with the vernal equinox when it drifts out some, three weeks or more.
In the Karaite calendar, there is no acknowledgement of the vernal equinox, and the calendar is determined by the visual sighting of the first “sliver” of the new moon after the identification of the “aviv’ condition of the wild barely growing in and around Jerusalem. Again, a 13th month is kept periodically to re-adjust the drift of the calendar back to the times of the vernal equinox, given that the “aviv” condition of the Barley is reached through as a biological response to the ratio of hours of sunlight and darkness – although they will not concur with that assessment.
It is interesting to note that all three religious calendars purposely avoid the significance of the vernal equinox as being directly significant to the anchor leap year adjustments of their calendars and all then proceed to differently define the various conditions of the moon to determine the beginning of the months and the appointed times of worship. To be noted is that all three of these calendars practice leap year adjustments, which tacitly means that in the final analysis their calendars are steadily drifting out of alignment of the equinox all the time and need to be readjusted from becoming totally out of season.
The issue at its core is that the Rabbinical and Karaite lunar year calendars can range from approximately 354 days through to 383 days (when a leap month is intercalated), whereas the physical astronomical year (one full 360 degree circuit around the sun) takes 365.242 days.
Some have written me to say that today the average person cannot pinpoint the equinox, therefore how could the ancients have had this ability to have knowledge of the astronomical year and the identification of equinoxes, yet archeology of the ancients bears a different testimony – for instance the mathematics of the great pyramid of Egypt presents a precise witness of the exact measure of 365.242 days in the astronomical year, and certain passages point a line precisely to the star Alcyone of the Pleiades cluster, identifying the precise time of the autumnal equinox in the year of 2144 BC.
How is it that modern archeological evidence reveal the ancients circumnavigated the world far more than modern academia understood, yet in the Hereford Cathedral of England there exists a world map from the 1300’s that shows the known world as flat and consisting of the Mediterranean and the lands of known Roman Empire, surround by a circular ocean, after which one would fall off the earth? The fact is the effects of the darkness of the dark ages that was brought about by Roman Christendom (Edom), are vastly still underestimated.
Not only that, but in more recent history, archeological artifacts from the dead sea scrolls recently released (after many decades of secrecy) indicate that the citizens of Judea in the time of Yahushua Messiah were able to identify the equinox by the use of small portable clay tablet instrument.
The predominant viewpoint of lunar-calendar Messianics today, is that the equinox was simply far too complex for ordinary ancient people to know or identify (a perception possibly influenced by the experience that today it is a fact that the common person has absolutely no knowledge of the heavenly luminaries and no expertise as to identifying the equinoxes), and thus deductively the argument follows that the plain sighting of either the conjunctive moon (Rabbinical Judaism) or sliver moon (Karaite Judaism) is the obvious identification of the beginning of the months and the beginning of the years, thus the lunar conjunction/first sliver is argued to be the authentic calendar rather than that based on the equinox. The plain subjective experience of the condition of the moon then provides first hand support to various theological treatises.
However, in amongst the antiquities discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran was found a small clay tablet instrument, which Archaeologists have determined that this Qumran Sundial was used for the purpose of determining the Spring “tekufah” (circuit of the sun, the vernal equinox). From the picture below, it can be seen that this was a small portable clay instrument, which would have been clearly within the reach of common people and farmers.
The above picture “An Astronomical Measuring Instrument from Qumran” is from :http://www.lightedway.org/year.html
In the New Testament scriptures there appears no straight forward easily understood clear plain teaching by Yahushua Messiah on this subject of calculation of the biblical calendar.
This has had a significant impact by leaving a large degree of room for the Christian traditions to form their own opinions. From the Historical Christian tradition, the theological position has been that whilst the Gospels accounts clearly testify of Yahushua and His Apostles arranged and had a Passover on the night before He was crucified, this was not in fact a authentic legal Passover but could only therefore be a last supper, since the Passover offering at the Temple – which held the authentic authority over the biblical calendar – had yet to happen the next day, when the Messiah would be hung on the tree. Thus to many the 14th of Nisan was marked the next day with Yahushua’s crucifixion along with the sacrifice of the lamb in the Temple, with the feast of Unleavened bread (15th Nisan) yet to commence that evening.
This issue of avoiding the equinox was also well considered in early protestant evangelical theology as we can see from the writings of Newton, who when publishing his calculation of the year of the crucifixion of Messiah as being 33 or 34 CE stated:
“Computing therefore the new moons of the first month according to the course of the moon and the rule Jah, and thence counting 14 days, I find that the 14th day of this month in the year of Christ 31, fell on tuesday March 27; in the year 32, on sunday Apr. 13; in the year 33, on friday Apr. 3; in the year 34, on wednesday March 24, or rather, for avoiding the Equinox which fell on the same day, and for having a fitter time for harvest, on thursday Apr. 22,”
In this case Newton was referring to the “New Moons” as the conjunction moon, rather than the sliver moon, and he noted that when the conjunction fell on the day of the equinox – that day was to be avoided from any counting of the appointed times.
Why would Newton state that the day on which the equinox falls should be isolated from the counting to identify the date of crucifixion? He did so because he understood that this was the practice in place in the establishment of the calendar that in operation by the Temple, in the day of Yahushua Messiah.
It must also be noted, that not only do the Sadducee/ Pharisee/ Rabbinical Jews isolate the equinox from their count of their calendar, but so also do the modern Karaite Jews in their counting of the “sliver” new moon, although the Karaite’s differ in that rather than following the conjunctive moon they substitute the equinox for the sighting of a condition of the barley and then focus on the sighted first sliver moon. In addition, it should also be noted that historical Christendom also avoids the equinox by identifying the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox for its declaration of the day of its Easter celebration.
But What Calendar Did Yahushua Messiah Observe?
This is now a very significant question and brings us back to a careful and detailed consideration of the witness account of Yahushua’s preparations and Passover account as witnessed by the Apostles. In Mark’s Gospel, there are significant details that need to be re-examined as they give evidence to the biblical calendar that Yahushua observed in the year of His crucifixion.
Mark 14: 12 ¶ And the first (Strongs 4413 – “protos” meaning “before”) day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?
13 And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.
14 And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
15 And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.
16 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
17 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.
18 And as they sat and did eat, Yahushua said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.
19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?
20 And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.
21 The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.
22 And as they did eat, Yahushua took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.
24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
We note that:
Many bible scholars have identified this “Goodman” man who was carrying the water pitcher as being an Essene. In both Mark 14:13 and Luke 22:10, Yahushua commanded two Apostles to “follow a man bearing a pitcher of water”. It is known that men in the 1st Century Judah did not carry water. Only women or slaves carried water in Judea. The Essenes carried their jars of water because of their personal practices of ceremonial washing.
Josephus presents a detailed account of the Essenes in The Jewish War (75 CE), with a shorter description in Antiquities of the Jews (94 CE) and The Life of Flavius Josephus (97 CE). Josephus claimed firsthand knowledge of the Essenes and he described the “Essenoi” as one of the dominant religious sects of Jewish philosophy alongside the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Josephus stated that the Essenes lived in communities within the cities in Judea and lived lives of piety, with some observing celibacy, the absence of personal property and of money, the belief in communality and commitment to a strict observance of Sabbath.
Josephus also stated that the Essenes ritually immersed in water every morning, ate together after prayer, devoted themselves to charity and benevolence, forbade the expression of anger, studied the books of the elders, preserved secrets, and were very mindful of the names of the angels kept in their sacred writings.
From the evidence of the Dead Sea scrolls that has been permitted to be made public, other scholars have noted that the Essenses were in fact reflecting much of the tribal communities of the Levites in the cities of Judah, who had exiled themselves from participation of the rites of the Temple in those times because they viewed the Temple as having been taken over by unauthorized leadership and corrupted in its calendar practices. We know however that John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah undertook his course of duty at the Temple in the time around John’s birth so we know that not all Levites had exiled themselves from participation in the Temple even though it had been captured by a biblically unauthorized leadership.
We also know that in the time of Yahushua, the Temple was dominated by the sect known as the Sadducees, who were not the Levites, but wealthy Hasmonean aristocrats that had taken power over the Temple after the time of the Maccabees. We also know that the positions of the priesthood in the Temple in the day of Yahushua, such as Caiaphas the High Priest, were political appointees by the ruling Edomites, such as Herod, and later by the Romans.
Some biblical scholars point to John the Baptist as being qualified as the rightful high priest who should have been in position in the Temple in the day of Yahushua, because he was a direct descendant of the line of Aaron.
Also to be noted is that the Essenes took specific issue with the Temple priesthood hierarchy stating that they were falsely claiming themselves to be the descendants of the Zaddock priestly line.
The Essenes Were A Significantly Large Constituency of People in Judea
It appears that the Essenes were not simply a small group of people in a few isolated communities in Judea as historical Christendom would like to have us believe. According to Josephus, the Essenes were “not in one city” but “in large numbers in every town” (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews. vol 2; p. 124). The Roman philosopher Philo also made similar mention of “more than four thousand” Essaioi living in “Palestine and Syria”, “in many cities of Judaea and in many villages and grouped in great societies of many members.
Consequently the whole population of Judea would have known who the Essenes were, what they believed and what they practiced. Interestingly there was no sign of the common people wanting to rid themselves of the Essenes which would have happened if they were breaking the law of Moses, or if they were the mystical “Gnostics” that Historical Christianity would have us believe.
One perspective on the formation of the Essenes was that they were founded by a Jewish high priest, dubbed by the Essenes the Teacher of Righteousness, whose office had been usurped by one Jonathan (of a priestly but not Zadokite lineage), labeled the “man of lies” or the false priest”.
This points to other historical information confirming that the Levites in the Second temple had been largely usurped sometime after the Maccabean revolt, when the Hasmoneans (an aristocratic wealthy class of Jews who emerge after the great Maccabean wars) and politically claimed the offices of the high / senior priesthood as part of the spoils of war in driving out the Seleucids.
Apparently, there was argument that arose that the Maccabees couldn’t be priests because they didn’t come from the Levites, but that consequently the Levites were pushed aside to a junior position and this take over and oppression of the Levites in the Temple resulted, with the emergence of a foreign priesthood class not qualified by the Law of Moses resulted in many (but not all) of the Levites rejecting the Temple and remaining in communities within their cities which came to be known as the Essenes. This separation was further promoted because the Essenes honoured a biblical calendar which was different to the ruling Hasmonean priesthood, resulting in the keeping of different appointed times of worship. However the Essenes apparently still continued to honour the Temple itself in their taking up of their offerings. Having exiled themselves from the Temple, the Essenes worked mainly as farmers and shepherds in the cities of Judeah and made farm tools or household articles.
There is much that intrigues about the practices of the Essenes, since those who have studied them report that they followed a way of life that closely resembled the early messianic congregations of the Book of Acts. Some mention that the Essenes did not appear to present their sacrifices at the Temple on the days of the Temple calendar, because they believed the Temple calendar was incorrect and the appointed times profaned. However they apparently did present their offerings to the Temple revealing that they revered the geographical place of YHVH’s Name rather than the profaned institution. The Essenes reveal that in the day of Yahushua, a radical challenge to the corrupt political hegemony of the Temple was already in existence.
The Dead sea scrolls give evidence that the Essenes observed the equinox and the earth’s solar circuit of the sun as the foundational count of the annual biblical calendar and the calculation of months and that they gave no acknowledgement whatsoever to the new moon lunar conjunctions or sighted slivers for the calculation of the months, nor did they observe the condition of the Aviv barley as espoused by contemporary Karaites. In the Essenes’ “Book of Jubilees”, also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the practises of the lunar calendar by those who were in control of the temple is described in this way:
6:34. And there will be those who will make observations of the moon, for this one (the moon) corrupts the stated times and comes out earlier each year by ten days. (35) And in this way they will corrupt the years and will observe a wrong day as the day of testimony and a corrupted festival day, and every one will mix holy days with unclean ones and unclean with holy; for they will err as to months and sabbaths and festivals and jubilees.
From the Dead Sea Scrolls, we find that the Essenes revered the Book of Jubilees and considered it an authoritative text. The injunction of Jubilees 6:34 explains much as to why the Essenes, being the tribal Levitical priesthood who had been superseded and then subsequently chose exile themselves from their office and function of a corrupted Temple priesthood, refused to bring sacrifices up to the Temple on the days of religious calendar days that the Temple practiced.
Further historical evidence of this usurping of the Levitical priesthood is confirmed to us in the in the gospel accounts, that the Temple was controlled by the Hasmonean Sadducees and Caiaphas in Yahushua’s day, as described. With the political hegemony that the Sadducees and Pharisees held over the Temple in an alliance with the infiltration of Edomites who eventually ruled the Jews through Herod, it is not difficult to understand why both John The Baptist and Yahsuhau Messiah would ultimately be killed, because they would have both been highly regarded by the Essenes and the common people as front line leaders of the way of Moses.
Christian Theologians across the board have collectively told us that the Essenes were essentially Gnostics, and of course this label has scared many to seriously consider what they actually stood for in relation to the Sadducees and Pharisees. It is probable that in Yahushua’s time they were not all gnostic in their ways, and that many Essenes would have followed the way of Yahushua Messiah, leaving those who did not to remain behind and become more mystical and isolated in their communities as they continued to struggle against the dominance of the Saduccees and Pharisees. Ultimately we know that with the Roman conquest of Jerusalem of 70 CE, the Sadducean hegemony over the Temple was destroyed, the Essenes were isolated into small communites in the wilderness, but the Pharisees consolidated their position as Rabbinical Judaism was able to quickly adapt to the Roman exile. However 20th century Roman Christendom and Rabbinicalism appears to have controversially guarded the Dead Sea Scroll artifacts from being made available to the public for many decades causing some commentators to argue that was a deliberate theologically motivated conspiracy marking the most significant Christian controversy of the 20th Century.
The book “The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception” details the explosive contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the Christian Church was concerned to suppress them. Whilst the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1945, it has taken 60 years for just some of the archeological information to leak out about these extraordinary people. Information has been released in little parts over the years with the last release of texts being occurring in 2011. It is not known what still remains under lock and key. What apparently was so shocking to the scholars who have examined the ancient documents is that they presented evidence of a Jewish sect practicing a faith in many instances congruent with the ethics of the early messianic believers and the Apostles, for nearly 200 years before John the Baptist and Yahushua.
The Essenes believed in the resurrection from the Dead, and the keeping of the Law of Moses and they, specifically in contrast to the Sadducees and Pharisees were prophetically expecting the imminent arrival of the Messiah to come and redeem them. They lived in a way whereby they held all things in common with no private properties, as was the experience and testimony of the early congregation of Yahushua described in the book of Acts.
It is significant to note that John the Baptist was ministering to the people of Jerusalem and Judea when he saw the Pharisees and Sadducees pitch up, whereupon he directly rebuked them both as being vipers and snakes, and he called on them to do some serious repentance back to the written scriptures.
Matthew 3: 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 ¶ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
We remember that Yahushua himself also gave admonishment to his disciples to watch out and to beware the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees (Matthew 16:6).
We also know from the book of Acts that it was the Pharisees and Sadducees who, in the endeavor to preserve their hegemony, undertook actions to destroy the both the testimony and the individual people of the messianic congregation, as recorded in the martyrdom of Stephen.
We should also take notice that nowhere in the Gospel accounts or the Book of Acts, is their evidence of either John the Baptist, Yahushua Messiah or the Apostles rebuking the Essenes or giving warning to the early congregation to avoid the teachings of the Essenes. This is not to say that the Essenes are to be seen as teaching John and Yahushua Messiah, but that John and Yahsuhua would have been received as teachers by the Essenes. In this historical reality is it not a curious omission in the annals of historical Rabbinical and Christian history that the Essenes have been brushed aside as a minor aberration to mainstream religion, when in fact they were such a large part of the religious fabric in Judea at the time of both John the Baptist and Yahushua messiah?.
The fact that the Essenes were such a large and significant part of the struggle over the biblical calendar leads some today some conclude that a significant conspiracy still continues to be afoot by Christian and Jewish institutional religious powers, to keep the historical information about Essenes from being publicly known. This is especially so when it comes down to the matter of which biblical calendar did Yahushua actually observe – the lunar calendar or the astronomical solar calendar?
From this we note that:
Thus in this historical context, what is of particular significance to us is the religious calendar of the Essenes, and given the Gospel of Marks testimony, whether the Passover of Yahusha can be explained by the close proximity of the astronomical calendar similar to that being observed by the Essenes against the lunar calendar being observed by the Temple at the time of Yahushua.
The Essenes kept the astronomical solar calendar, which is completely different to the Sadducean /Rabbinical lunar calendar. The Essenes used the reference point of the equinoxes and solstices as the 4 markers of the biblical year. Theologically the Essenes began counting their calendar from the first Wednesday (Day 4) following the vernal equinox (about March 20, Gregorian), given their understanding of the account of creation, and consequently the 14th of Aviv – the Day of Preparation for the Passover always fell on a Tuesday. This is a very significant point when we come to consider Yahushua’s behaviour in choosing the day of preparation for His Passover as we saw previously record in Mark 14:12-26.
It is beyond the scope of this article to make a full consideration of the Essene religious calendar here and whether the way they initiated the calendar is correct. What we need to be aware of though is the historical reality that in Yahushua’s days there were two completely different religious calendars being observed in Judea.
The Rabbinical lunar calendar we know today is derived from the foundational precepts of the practice of those who controlled the Temple in the time of Yahushua – that being lunar based, whilst the Essene followed the astronomical equinox calendar, and it can be reasonably assumed that this calendar was also followed by many common people across the cities of Judea. The Essene calendar was not a hidden or minor movement in that historical time and all of Judea at that time would have known about this calendar and how it differed from the Sadducean / Pharisee lunar calendar.
Hence, when Yahushua said to his disciples they were to go and find the man carrying the water pitcher, who was “the good man” we now can understand that they knew they were looking for an Essene, a Levite in the city who was living in the “Way of the Torah of Moses”, and that this man would be keeping a different calendar date for the Passover than to the Temple. Hence we do not find recorded in the scriptures any protest or comment being made by the Disciples that Yahushua might have surprised them by electing the wrong date for His Passover.
We know that Yahushua’s Apostles were mainly selected from among the supposedly religiously uneducated common people (as perceived by the Sadducean and Pharisaic perspective that is), and that the disciples were not surprised at Yahushua command for His Passover date. The reality is that the common people including the Apostles were very familiar with the Torah of Moses and the writings of the prophets and the Essenes and their practises concerning the biblical calendar. What the common people and the Essenes did not know was what Yahushua, as Messiah, would come to correct in His teachings of how Moshe was pointing to Him concerning “the Way, the Truth and the Life” in YHVH.
In addition, the Qumran materials point out strongly that the Essenes were apocalyptic in their worldview and were looking for imminent appearance of the Messiah who would come and redeem them and restore “the Way”, and having already experienced John the Baptist’s ministry, many would have already become disciples of John and clearly would then have been open to receive Yahushua into their community home at his request that He would keep the Passover there in their residence. The Sadducees and Pharisees however would have rejected any request from Yahushua to keep the Passover in their homes, particularly since their calendar dates were for the appointment to be a day later.
With Yahushua commanding His disciples to go to the house of the water carrier ( the “good man”) He is very clearly demonstrating by His behaviour that He is in accord with the Essene calendar identification on that specific year for the Passover.
We do not have any evidence whether Yahushua supported the method of how the Essenes began their count of their calendar on a Wednesday, since it will be shown below in that specific year the vernal equinox fell out during the daylight part of Wednesday, making the 1st of Aviv to fall out on the Tuesday evening/night previous. But what we do know, is that when Yahushua chose his Passover meal on the evening beginning Aviv 15, the Essene water carrier was there at the house on the very day and evening that Yahushua chose to keep the Passover.
For the sake of repetition, it is important remember that neither a Pharisee nor a Sadducee would have accepted such a request from Yahushua since they did not keep the solar calendar and their day for the observance of Passover would, from the account of the Gospels, only be occurring the following evening.
Consequently we now know from the history of the Essenes and the dead sea scrolls that the account of scripture that Yahushua indeed kept His LAWFULL Passover, but it was on a calendar concomitant with the traditions of the Essenes, that was different to the lunar based calendar of the Sadducees and Pharisees.
The Year of the Yahushua’s Crucifixion
With this information we can also work out the year in which Yahushua Messiah was crucified, since Yahushua called the Sadducees and the Pharisees who were testing Him for a sign that He was the Messiah, a “wicked and adulterous” generation – terminology by which he was referring to them as the religious sects which dominated the Temple – that there would specifically be three days and three nights after which He would rise from the dead. When we bring together this prophetic sign together with knowledge of the Essene calendar which observed the astronomical year beginning with the vernal equinox, and with the knowledge of the Rabbinical lunar calendar which altogether had to fall together with 1 single day separating them, whilst still preserving the sign of the three days and nights, astronomically I have discovered that that it was only possible to have occurred on only one but one specific year in the known time of Yahushua Messiah. That year is 30 CE and is demonstrated in the data tables below.
The following tables will demonstrate, based on astronomical data of the luminaries, that 30 CE appears as the only year the two religious calendars (the calendar of the “water carrier” the “Good Man” and the Saducean Temple calendar), occurred singularly to the proximity of just one day separating them, with the Yahushua holding His Passover at the house of the “Good Man” in the evening exactly and precisely on Aviv 14/15, precisely a day before the concomitant Rabbinical calendar date of the Temple’s practicing of their Nisan 14/15 date, for Passover / Unleavened Bread, whilst at the same time exactly fitting Yahushua’s sign to the “wicked and adulterous generation” of three days and three nights before the occurring of the resurrection. In no other years examined between 25 CE and 34 CE was this be an astronomical reality found to be realised because of the variations in the dates occurring between the vernal equinox and the conjunction new moon in each other year.
Table 1 presents the JULIAN Calendar dates for the astronomical events of the vernal equinox, the new moon conjunction and the first visible crescent moon:
Table 1: Julian Calendar Dates Of Astronomical Events: Years 25-37 CE
|Year||Vernal Equinox (Julian)||Astronomical New Moon (Conjunction)||First Visible Crescent|
|26 CE||Fri. Mar. 22, 0||Sat. Apr. 6, 7 a.m.||Sun. Apr. 7|
|27 CE||Sun. Mar. 23, 6 a.m.||Wed. Mar. 26, 7 p.m.||Fri. Mar. 28|
|28 CE||Mon. Mar. 22, noon||Mon. Mar. 15, 4 a.m.||Tues. Mar 16 / Wed. Apr 14|
|29 CE||Tues. Mar. 22, 6 p.m.||Sat. Apr. 2, 7 p.m.||Mon. Apr. 4|
|30 CE||Wed. Mar. 22, 12.00 a.m.||Wed. Mar. 22, 8 p.m.||Fri. Mar. 24: 7 pm|
|31 CE||Fri. Mar. 23, 5 a.m.||Tues. Apr. 10, 2 p.m.||Wed. Apr. 11|
|32 CE||Sat. Mar. 22, 11 a.m.||Sat. Mar. 29, 10 p.m.||Mon. Mar. 31|
|33 CE||Sun. Mar. 22, 5 p.m.||Fri. Mar. 20, 9 a.m.
Fri. Apr. 17, 9 p.m.
|Sat. Mar. 21
Sun. Apr. 19
|34 CE||Mon. Mar. 22,11 p.m.||Tues. Mar. 9, 6 a.m.||Wed. Apr. 10|
Some who support the first sliver of the moon calendar have pointed to 31 CE as the week of the crucifixion simply because the new moon sliver occurred a Wednesday (April 11), as this they believe would mark Nisan 1, (day 1 of the 14 day count to Passover). However the vernal equinox of that year occurred some 19 days previous and given the Essenes would have begun counting Aviv 1 on Wednesday 28th March, the falling of the days proves that in that year the Essene Water Carrier would have already be keeping his Passover on that day when the sliver moon would be indicating that the year was just beginning. In other words the sliver moon was about two weeks late that year! So the year 31 CE does not fit the scriptural account of Mark 14:12-26.
Table 2 presents the Vernal Equinox calculated from NASA are presented in the Gregorian dates (see: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/ar5/srvernal.html (NASA)
Table 2: Gregorian Calendar Dates And GMT Of Equinox Events: Years 25-37 CE
|Vernal Equinox||GMT Time|
**Middle East time is 2 later than GMT and would be precisely 14:06 hours (2pm).
Before continuing further, the Gregorian dates need to be converted to Julian dates. The 20th March CE converted from the Gregorian Calendar to the Julian Calendar dates falls out on Wednesday 22nd March 30 CE (see http://www.csgnetwork.com/julianmanycalconv.html ).
Note: because the equinox occurs during the day of Wednesday 22nd the Essenes would not have looked to a Wednesday a week later to start their beginning of year count, but would have counted Aviv 1 from Tuesday evening 21st at even, in alignment with the Apostles’ account of Passover in
Table 3: Counting the Days Between The Two Religious Calendars In 30 CE
From the above table it is clear that the sighted sliver moon calendar fell even further out by yet another day as compared to the conjunctive moon calendar, revealing that the new moon first sliver moon calendar (as proposed by the contemporary Karaites) was simply not observed in the Temple or in Judea in the time of Yahushua, and that if one was observing the moon sliver calendar that year of 30 CE one would be keeping Passover on the Friday evening – 3 days after Yahushua kept His Passover! This also points out that the Karaite lunar sliver calendar is invalid when explaining the events described in Mark 14:12-26.
It also becomes apparent from the table as presented that the date of Aviv 1, as instructed by Moses, is not necessarily the date of Nisan 1 proclaimed by the Rabbinical lunar calendar.
The difference between the two calendars in 30 CE was just one day, which explains that the Passover of Yahushua was authentic and lawful, but the crucifixion carried out by the religious leaders of the day was an illegal act undertaken by a “wicked and adulterous generation” who did not hold any respect for the calendar the Essenes claimed has existed from ancient times before the Noah. Yahushua, however having kept His Passover a day earlier was lawfully correct, and the institutional religion of the day was iniquitous and wrong, and thus Yahushua was unjustly condemned and illegally crucified by an illegal priesthood who imposed an illegal calendar on the temple and the Jewish people. Consequently everything about the crucifixion reveals the grace and mercy of YHVH that Yahushua would submit his life to such an idolatrous and apostate religious authority, which he described as “wicked and adulterous”.
Historical Christendom would have us believe that Yahushua consequently never kept the Passover on the date that He did but only a last supper, colluding with the perspective that the practise of the temple in that day was lawful. This is an entirely wrong perspective, since Yahushua Messiah is the face of YHVH, and according to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, He was in the wilderness with Israel at Mount Sinai when the law was given. Thus the proper perspective should be that Yahushua was correct and righteous in holding His Passover on the date that He chose, according to the law of YHVH given at Mount Sinai.
When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to Yahushua asking for a sign from heaven to test him in a claim that he was Messiah, Yahushua responded by calling them a “wicked and adulterous generation”. There is no evidence that Yahushua showed any of such vehemence to the Essenes, but rather called the Water Carrier the “good man”
Mathew 16: 1 ¶ The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
It was the “wicked and adulterous generation” that murdered John the Baptist. It was the “wicked and adulterous generation” that was ruling the Temple and had over ruled the Levites. From Yahushua’s example, it was the “wicked and adulterous generation” that observed the lunar calendar and thereby changed the appointed times of YHVH as instructed by Moses. It was the “wicked and adulterous generation” that was the presiding religious authority who had control over the Temple in Yahushua’s day.
This being the case, how can one continue to proclaim that Yahushua’s Passover was but a “last supper” and that it is the time of His crucifixion was the time when His role as the Passover lamb was Divinely proclaimed? Rather the text indicates that His proclamation of being the Passover Lamb occurred at his very Passover meal. Is Yahushua not YHVH – did He not make the proclamation that He was the Lamb at His own Passover and did He not offer participation in the renewed covenant directly to His Apostles at that specific Passover?
In the day of Yahushua ministry, the “wicked and adulterous generation”, under the sovereignty of the Sadducean Temple, Herod the Idumean (Edomites) and later the Romans (Edomites), the biblical biblical calendar was compromised and Yahushua was thus illegally and wickedly murdered under the iniquitous, adulterous religious calendar of the Sadducees and Pharisees. Was the Shekinah presence of YHVH in the Temple at that time, or was the glorious presence of YHVH in the midst of the Apostles in the very time of the Gospel witness of the time of Yahushua’s Passover meal when He said this is my body…this is my blood..given for you? Whose report will we believe?
Having discovered the historical, astronomical and biblical witness, I now am convicted that it was all accomplished and fulfilled at Yahushua’s Passover. The events of the next day was just a carrying out of the what needed to be done, and the timing of it was to fulfil the only sign of three days and nights that Yahushua had given the wicked and adulterous generation. It was the only sign that these wicked were given since they were not invited to Yahushua’s Passover meal.
It is but the grace and mercy of YHVH that He reached through the adultery of the Temple and permitted His Son to be crucified in the very heart of an apostate religious Temple system, yet still identifying with a Passover Lamb when it was being sacrificed in the temple.
Thus we have to re-examine our view of Yahushua’s Passover – it was indeed a lawful Passover and Yahushua sacrifice was lawfully put in place for His people when He identified himself at His Passover meal as the Lamb of YHVH, at the very time when HE broke the bread and gave the wine as His body and blood sacrifice been given in our place – that was that lawful time when His identification of the Lamb was lawfully consecrated in Heaven, rather than when He was sacrificed on the tree by an apostate religious system. Then, according to Yahushua’s prophesy, the sign given to the wicked and adulterous generation was that he would be resurrected 3 days and 3 nights from the time when they had themselves illegally organised to have him executed, would be fulfilled.
It is not possible to exhaustively review the theology of the Karaite calendar concerning the anchor condition of the Aviv Barley precept for identifying the beginning of the biblical year. However, having considered the timing of the luminary events of the equinox and the conjunction and sliver moons around the Passover in its historical 30 CE context, and from Genesis 1:14 we find that YHVH’s law is not compromised in anyway by the Calendar Yahushua observed (which we know from the archaeology of the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls which the Essenes observed, and which was based on the equinox).
Genesis 1:14 ¶ And Elohiym said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
No where in this declaration of Genesis 1:14 is the Barley Aviv mentioned for the counting of days and years. Thus the Aviv Barley is not a sign for biblical days or years, or appointed times of YHVH, but is a purely constructed (oral) theology that seems right in the eyes of some men.
By the behavioural witness of Yahushua, the Aviv barley condition for the identification of the new biblical year is thus a constructed theology and is merely indirectly a result of the changes occurring around astronomical equinox. However, both Rabbincs and Kairates, do not accept the Apostles testimony of Yahushua as The Messiah of YHVH.
In my understanding, the Barley is but a blessing of first fruits from YHVH to His people when they were in the land for the time approaching for the required offering of the First Fruits, and the very provision of the First Fruits offering, so that, as a blessing of being in the land, it could the people of Israel could present the offering before YHVH at the appointed time. It was also the season when Israel would remember they were brought out of Egypt on the first exodus.
Exodus 13:4 This day came ye out in the month of Abib
The “month of Abib” means the month of newly ripened grain, the month when the barley is ripening. Where does the scripture plainly say that it say that the next new moon signals the beginning of the new year? A lot of theological inference is being added don’t you think?
Moreover, neither did Moses and the Israelites receive the Barley report when they were in the wilderness for 40 years, yet the year and the appointed times were declared and the months were heralded by the blowing of silver trumpets by the priests at the Tabernacle.
The Aviv Barley condition however does enable the Karaite to keep their version of the lunar calendar from completely drifting away from the equinox, since the growth condition of plants is directly impacted on by the amount of light they receive and so is linked to the equinox.
Is there a 13th Month Leap Year in YHVH’s Biblical Calendar?
The Essene astronomical calendar only permited 12 months to be the biblical year and never a 13th month as needed for intercalation in the lunar calendar. In the Essene calendar an adjustment of 7 days was intercalated on the 5th or 6th year, but other than that their calendar was very stable an the appointed times occurred each year on the same dates, given the equinox role in the start of the count, thus making the calendar very orderly and predictable which enabled the Israelites, who residing in distant lands, to be able to know when they had to begin their journeys for the “going up” times that was required three times a year, without being dependant on either Aviv or lunar sightings in the land of Judea.
In 1 Kings 4:7 it is written that there were 12 months in the year during the time of King Solomon.
In 1 Chronicles 27:1-15, it is written that there were 12 months for the changing of the royal guard, with each month set delegated one of 12 months. Whose Report Will You Believe?
The last days are upon us and we are about to meet our Redeemer, Yahushua Messiah. So whose report will we believe concerning the biblical calendar? Will it be Yahushua’s testimony and the witness of His Apostles as plainly written in the text of the Gospels that we consider to be the true way, or will it be the Rabbis, the Karaites or the Christians, with their forbidding treatises of avoiding the astronomical equinox.
Abba is calling His remnant to deep repentance and acknowledgement that we have inherited deceptive lies from out fathers (Jer 16:19). Praise YHVH for He has called us in these last days to remember the words of Moshe and in doing this the ground has been prepared that we might be able to understand the difficult matters of our faith. Yet He is testing us to see if we will seek Him with all our hearts. Then He will enable us to find Him and to know His Way!!
I certainly do not make any claim have all the answers on YHVH’s biblical calendar or the Essene calendar, and I am convinced from this study that all of us probably still have the calendar incorrect at this time – but we are learning and He will bring us into greater revelation as He brings us back from the exile and sets us free from the prison houses of Babylon.
I found myself called by Abba to examine this subject for myself after Shavuot this year as I became increasingly convicted of the significance of the Day of Atonement this year and my anticipation of what Yahushua Messiah might prophetically accomplish on this day, this year, in the heavenly place. I am on a journey of faith and still do not consider to have everything all right at this point, however a re-consideration of Yahushua’s testimony concerning the calendar He observed, has struck me with far greater significance now.
If the 1st day of the first biblical month and the 1st Day of seventh biblical month can be correctly identified, then it is simply a matter of counting days according to the law of Moses (Lev 23) to be able to identify the correct days for all the appointed times.
Should we follow the Essenes? No, we are not instructed by the scripture to do this. Our way, according to the Apostles, is to follow Yahushua’s Messiah’s way and to believe His testimony and leave all religion of men behind us, as the prophet Jeremiah declared religion is nothing but vanity. Praise YHVH that Yahushua Messiah will redeem us in the coming days and will lead us to the highway of righteousness!
In the end, we who care to follow Yahushua and are called must continue to study the matter for ourselves and to pray that Abba brings us into His truth. Whether this be a matter of truth in accordance to the Word of YHVH, and the Gospels of the Apostles, will be established in the end – and to each we need to be fully persuaded in our own minds.
There are some who have written to me that I should refrain from discussing the significance of equinox to the biblical calendar since it is a matter that it only serves to further exacerbate division” at a time when so-called “Messianic Movement” is (denominationally?) divided on this issue. In answer to my critics I am reminded of the words of Polycrates, who in the matter of the Quartodeciman Disputes between the Eastern congregations (represented by Polycrates) and the Western congregations (represented by Bishop Victor) in the late second century, stated “greater men than I have said we must follow YHVH rather than men”.
I thank Abba for His grace and mercy even in these very late hours He has extended to me, in opening my eyes to the fuller testimony of Yahushua’s worship calendar! It has become evident to many across the globe that there are an increasing number other sincere believers in Yahushua, who keep the commandments of YHVH, who are also being woken up to this issue of the historicity of the astronomical biblical calendar and the behavioural testimony of Yahushua Messiah with His last Passover meal. Contrary to the few who have written to me of their objections in this matter, a good number have written to me to commend my defence of the biblical calendar. I thank you for your encouragement.
As this matter is at the heart of our walk in faith and testimony of Yahushua, I do expect that if what I have reported here is indeed biblically and astronomically true, then we are soon facing a great Elijah type wake up call in the coming days – it is the last days and decisions will be made, as to whose report we will follow – the Rabbis, the Karaites, (who both reject Yahushua Messiah), or the Messianic Rabbis, the Messianic Karaites, or the report of Yahushua’s Apostles. Its seems to me this might be our final call to come out of the “prison houses” of Babylon.
This bulletin comes as a result of my own wake up call and repentance from the lunar calendar, which I understood to be correct in the past, and to explain to the many who have asked as to why I am keeping a slightly different calendar dates to what is considered mainstream. I do not claim to have all things understood at this time – I find it to be as in the time twenty years ago when I first began discovering the Hebraic roots of the faith and I trusting in Abba to lead me into his truth of His remnant return. As it was then, so I find myself again crawling and again trust in Abba to both convict, to guide and to reveal His Way.
Website Readings etc:
NASA: Time And Date of the Vernal Equinox: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/ar5/srvernal.html
Gregorian / Julian Calendar Converter: http://www.csgnetwork.com/julianmanycalconv.html
Calendar for Israel Year 30 CE: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/?year=30&country=34
Timing and Calculating the Holy Days – Calculating the Beginning of the Biblical Year http://www.lightedway.org/year.html
The Essenes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essenes
Essenes: Profile of the Essenes – Creators of the Dead Sea Scrolls: http://bible.org/seriespage/essenes
The Essenes: http://bible.org/seriespage/essenes
Who Were The Essenes? http://www.essortment.com/were-essenes-20344.html
The Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls
What does the discovery of these scrolls reveal about first century Judaism and the roots of Christianity? http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/essenes.html
The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is the introduction from noted scholar Hershel Shanks’ book (Random House April 1998), an illuminating and readable background summary on the scrolls. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/scrollmeaning.html
Enoch’s Calender – How The Books were removed & The Calender changed
“From the sun to the moon”
The scene could be out of the Haggada – a group of rabbis sitting on the floor in a circle through the night, probably reclining on pillows, scrolls scattered about them, engaging in heated disputation until the pale light outside signals that a new day is upon them. The fact that this particular gathering, mentioned in the Talmud, is held in an attic (aliyat gag) might suggest to a modern reader that there is something clandestine about it, perhaps a desire to take distance from Roman ears or even from the surrounding Jewish population. Clandestine or not, this meeting, and all the similar gatherings that preceded and followed, contained the seeds of revolution – the radical restructuring of Jewish religious thought and practice that followed the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. According to Prof. Rachel Elior of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the rabbis were involved in nothing less than “a reinvention of Judaism…
They were closing an old world based on prophecy and angelic revelation and opening the sacred canon to human reinterpretation.” A glimpse into that intellectual ferment is provided in the brief depiction in the talmudic tractate Shabbat (13b) of the rabbinic gathering, perhaps in Yavne – which had become the major center of Jewish learning after the destruction of Jerusalem. “That man should be remembered with favor,” the passage says in reference to one of the participants in the meeting, “his name being Hanania son of Hezekiah, for if it were not for him the Book of Ezekiel would have been suppressed and withdrawn as its teachings contradict those of the Torah. What did he do? They brought him jugs of oil [for lamps] and he sat in the attic and expounded upon the texts [through the night].” What Hanania and his colleagues were engaged in was a culling of all the Hebrew religious texts composed until that time. The works they would choose from this library would constitute the Jewish canon which henceforth would be the only texts deemed to have divine authority. In the end, a consensus formed around 24 works, including the five books of the Pentateuch, which together would make up the Bible. But what of the works excluded from the canon? Many were of comparable literary and religious quality to those chosen, says Elior, a professor of Jewish philosophy and Jewish mystical thought.
“To many of the Jews of the first millennium BCE, all the texts had been equally holy,” she says. “The [excluded] Book of Enoch or Book of Jubilees were certainly not considered less sacred than the [canonical] Book of Judges or Esther or Daniel.” Yet the excluded texts – close to a dozen major works – were not just abandoned but excised as if they were a malignant growth. “Whoever reads them,” declared Rabbi Akiva, one of the foremost sages involved in the process, “will have no place in the world to come.” Left to die, some of the expelled texts were rescued and adopted by another religion. Newborn Christianity, which regarded itself as the successor of Judaism, incorporated these texts into its own corpus of holy works along with the Old Testament, as the Hebrew Bible came to be called. In time, Jewish scholars would rediscover the repudiated texts of their ancestors in Greek, Ethiopian (Geez), Syriac, Armenian and Slavic church translations. These writings, known as Apocrypha (“hidden scriptures” in Latin) would never be reincorporated into the Jewish library but would remain for scholars to puzzle over as they tried to understand by what criteria the texts had been rejected. HALF A century ago another lost library with a mystery attached surfaced on the shores of the Dead Sea, this one having been literally lost for 1,900 years after being hidden in the caves of Qumran. Many of these Dead Sea Scrolls would have been suppressed, says Elior, for the same reasons that the previously known apocryphal books were suppressed. In her recently published (Hebrew) book, Memory and Oblivion – The Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, she offers a bold and coherent narrative to explain events about which scholars have long held contrary views. The short reason for the canon/Apocrypha divide, she suggests, was a dispute over the calendar.
The more profound explanation involves a power struggle between the old priestly order that believed its rulings to be divinely inspired and an emerging class of rabbis espousing a different narrative, one which gave human reason and laws a role in shaping the religion.
Elior demonstrates how mystic notions like cosmic calendars and heavenly chariots were part of a power struggle whose outcome would affect how Judaism is practiced to the present day. For centuries the Israelites had marked time according to a solar calendar drawn up by the priestly caste but regarded as divinely inspired. The calendar emulated the pattern set by God when He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The number seven would become a mystic measure of Jewish time. The Israelites adopted a seven-day week, apparently the first people in the world to do so, and they too rested on the seventh day. Every seventh year was designated a shmita year when the earth itself rested and lay fallow. Each cycle of seven times seven years, 49 years in all, would be followed by a jubilee year, a new beginning when indentured servants were freed and leased land reverted to its original owners. The time between the exodus from Egypt to Moses’s meeting with God on Mount Sinai would be remembered as seven weeks. Joshua would lead the Israelites across the Jordan in a jubilee year.
There would be, until this day, seven days of mourning, seven days between birth and male circumcision, seven days of female menstrual impurity. Elior terms the priestly calendar an exceptional mathematical construct that reflected a presumed cosmic order revealed to Enoch (Hanoch, in Hebrew), an intriguing biblical figure central to the priestly narrative but shunted aside by the rabbis. In Genesis (5:18), he is mentioned briefly in the long list of descendents of Adam – the seventh generation of the patriarchs of mankind, and thus safely distanced from the incest that necessarily marked the earliest generations – but his listing is unique. As with all the others, it gives the number of years he lived – 365 in his case, not coincidentally the number of days of the year – and tells whom he begot – Methuselah, who lived 969 years and who in turn begat Noah. However, the thumbnail biography of Enoch does not end like all the others with the words “and he died.” Instead, it says “And Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.” The Bible does not elaborate on this, but the Apocrypha does. Several versions of the Book of Enoch preserved by the church have been found in different languages. (Several scrolls of Enoch turned up in Qumran as well, in Aramaic.) They describe Enoch being brought up to heaven and granted immortality along with a two-way ticket. At God’s direction, he is taught by angels to read, write and calculate numbers – the first human given this knowledge. He then returns to earth to share with humankind what he has learned, including the solar calendar.
The priests, wrote Elior in an earlier book, The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism, viewed this calendar as “a cyclic reflection of an eternal divine order.” The priests were the calendar’s guardians, privy to secrets imparted by angels and, like Enoch, would serve as conduits between the heavenly and the terrestrial. It was members of the priestly caste and prophets, many of whom were priests, who wrote the books that would form the Bible, and they wrote the books that would become the Apocrypha as well. Everything the priests wrote was considered sacred because they were, in effect, taking dictation from the angels.
They regarded the angels as their heavenly counterparts and saw themselves as working with them to ensure a synchronization of the cosmic order in heaven and on earth. THE MOST tangible earthly manifestation of the solar calendar was the priestly work roster on the Temple Mount. Twenty-four priestly families, the same number as the number of hours in a day, took weekly turns attending to animal sacrifices and other Temple rituals. Like army reservists today, members of one of these families would go up to the Mount on Sunday morning and officiate until relieved by the next family a week later. These priestly “watches” gave a time frame to the life of the entire community, says Elior.
From the time the Temple was built by Solomon in the 10th century BCE, the High Priest was chosen from a family line descended from the priest Zadok, who had carried the Ark of God in David’s time and anointed David’s son, Solomon, as king. The last Zadokite (Sadducee) high priest was ousted during the political chaos that preceded the Hasmonean revolt in the second century BCE.
The Hasmoneans, a priestly family but not of the Zadokite line, cast out the Hellenizers from Jerusalem but instead of restoring the Zadokite line installed their own members in the high priesthood. Some of the Zadokites and their followers challenged the legitimacy of the Hasmonean priestly leadership and seceded from Temple service.
This conflict between the Zadokite “secessionists,” as Elior calls them, and the Hasmonean usurpers is the theme of many of the most interesting scrolls found at Qumran.
Elior views the Qumran scrolls as a Zadokite library, not an Essene library as has been the consensus view. Amid the chaos and intense religious ferment of the Hasmonean period (152-37 BCE), new voices began to be heard – those of scholars known as Pharisees who disputed the legitimacy of the Hasmonean priests and kings and who argued with the Zadokite priests about the solar calendar and their claims to possess an open line to the divine.
These scholars, who would become known as rabbis or sages, were unhappy about the exclusiveness of the priests and the power they had accrued through their claims to esoteric knowledge as confidants of angels. In a game-changing move, the rabbis declared that the age of prophecy had long since ended and that the priesthood had been severed from ongoing access to higher authority. According to one rabbinic tradition, prophecy had ended with the destruction of the First Temple in the sixth century BCE. According to another, it ended when Alexander the Great and the Hellenizers arrived two centuries later.
The priests vigorously rejected this downsizing. The rabbis favored a lunar calendar, says Elior, because they saw it symbolically freeing the nation from dependence on a closed priestly caste locked into the solar calendar and claiming divine authority. They wanted to symbolize instead man’s share in the determination of time and of his own fate. “They declared that human understanding of sacred writings was a legitimate source of authority.” The month would now not commence according to a solar calendar precalculated for eternity but by mortals scanning the sky for the new moon, perhaps disagreeing about the sighting among themselves, perhaps even erring.
A MODERN-DAY reminder of the rabbinic victory in their epic struggle with the priests can be witnessed outside Orthodox synagogues one night a month, when the congregation emerges to pronounce the prayer for the new moon. In choosing the works that would comprise the biblical canon, says Elior, the principle criteria of the rabbis was to exclude those which invoked the solar calendar and endowed the priests with ongoing divine authority. “They were saying by this, ‘The old age has ended and a new age has begun.’” Similar symbolic moves would follow the French Revolution when a radically new calendar, including a 10-day week, was adopted, and following the Russian Revolution when the Gregorian calendar used in the West was substituted for the Julian calendar followed by the Russian Orthodox Church. The issue was less the measure of time, notes Elior, than the measure of man’s sovereignty.
Alongside the texts that the rabbis accepted into the canon, they created a parallel framework of oral law which they themselves – not the priests – would develop and which would become ever more relevant over the centuries to the evolving circumstances of Jewish life. The first major compilation, the Mishna, would be completed by 200 CE. In the following centuries, sages in Palestine and Babylonia would complete the Talmud.
These compilations would remain oral – the ancients having a capacity for memorizing enormous texts – until the eighth or ninth centuries when they were finally put into writing. The sages represented a strongly democratic strain. Study was open to all Jewish men and was not a matter of dynasty and inherited privilege. Rabbi Akiva had been a shepherd. Other sages had been farmers and craftsmen. Resh Lakish was a reformed bandit. The Oral Law, says Elior, was “open to study and interpretation by the entire male Jewish population.” The meritocracy that emerged displaced the hereditary leadership of the priestly clans which had traced their dynasty, link by link, back to Moses’s brother, Aaron. “The rabbis transferred the center of gravity,” says Elior, “from a regular, priestly ritual, anchored in holy time and holy place, to an ever-changing order entrusted to sages from all classes of the population, who took charge of humanly declared time and taught a new perception of holiness.” The debate between the sages and the priests ended abruptly with the Roman conquest.
Following the destruction of the Temple, the priestly order was shattered and the rabbis were free to reconfigure the playing field. They not only discarded the apocryphal texts but, according to Elior, probably amended some passages in the books they would include in the Bible to minimize references to the solar calendar, to angels and to the story of Enoch. By doing so, the sages prepared the Jewish people for the long haul through the ages. The conduit to the divine was no longer a monumental building in Jerusalem served by a priestly caste. As they went into exile, the Jews took with them the Sabbath and the Bible but were no longer dependent on a specific holy place or on priestly intermediaries. From now on a quorum of 10 ordinary Jews assembling in the humblest of rooms, or in no room at all, could, anywhere in the world talk directly to God.