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Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar
(Revised 2021)

By: Shawn Richardson

Section 1:

INTRODUCTION

This paper was inspired by my own personal study and findings regarding the Biblical Calendar. It did not involve creating large, complex timelines, researching deep into layers of Biblical prophecy nor did I have a sudden revelation from the heavens. Rather, it was a desire to answer a very simple question. How can I determine when to keep the Sabbath and Annual Festivals that are commanded within the Torah (the first five books of the Bible)? These Festival days are directly commanded by Yehovah (God) Himself and spelled out at the time of Moses in Leviticus 23. Therein contains the list of days that Yehovah's followers were to observe from generation to generation. For example, verses 4-8[1] describe the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

A total of seven days a year are specified, in addition to the weekly Sabbath, as being feasts of Yehovah in which we were to have holy convocations. These feasts, referred to as mow`ed (Strong's 4150[3]) in Hebrew, means:

These seven days are, therefore, more appropriately translated as appointed days and were to be considered as set apart (holy) from all other days. They acted as a scheduled meeting we should keep with God Himself by gathering together in a convocation, or "rehearsal" (miqra - Strong's 4744[3]). These are the days God's assembly of followers gather together to meet with Yehovah God. He is the one that sets the time, it's our responsibility to assure we're there on time. Additionally, when we keep these appointments and actively practice His law (Torah), we better understand what these days represent - the overall salvation of mankind. But what these days represent is a topic for another paper. However, these appointed days have continued to be observed for thousands of years, even up through the generation of Yeshua the Messiah (or Jesus Christ), where we are told that He and His apostles also observed these important dates. Furthermore, these festivals, or appointments, are specifically described as being kept by all nations throughout the world in the future coming Kingdom of God here on Earth. We are told this in Zechariah 14:16-19[1]:

Today, many individuals continue to recognize these days with a few making the choice to do so not out of tradition, but by studying the Bible and living a life according to its principles and instructions. These days are a part of the Torah that Yeshua claimed would continue to be valid until heaven and earth pass away (in Mathew 5:17-19[1]):

I have been keeping the Sabbath and Holy days for over 30 years in one form or another. In doing so, I know that I have been blessed simply by making these days a priority in my life. It's also important that we keep these days with other like-minded individuals. Matthew 18:20 tells us that where two or more are gathered together in His name, Yehovah is there with them (through His Holy Spirit). It is at these appointed dates that we are instructed to gather together in His name as a Body of Believers. Just as His people once gathered together to keep these days at the temple in Jerusalem, today it is His body of followers that serve as His temple (I Corinthians 6:19-20). The example each of us is given on how to live our lives was presented by the Messiah, Yeshua, and He now serves as the temple's High Priest and our intercessor to the Heavenly Father.

For many years, though, I never questioned how to determine when to keep these specific Festivals. Instead of learning for myself what it really meant in the scriptures when it stated the Feast of Tabernacles began on the "fifteenth day of the seventh month" (as instructed in the above verse), I would instead pull out my wallet-sized pocket-calendar card published by my church organization. My card conveniently listed all of the Festival dates that corresponded to the Gregorian calendar (which most of us use today to organize our day-to-day lives - especially in the Western World). Usually, the card provided dates for the next 5 - 10 years from when it was published. It came in very handy whenever I would start making travel arrangements or began to ask for time off from school or work. I never gave it a second thought beyond the simple comprehension that the list was somehow derived from the Hebrew calendar used by the Jews. Even mainstream Gregorian calendars indicate Jewish festival names (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, etc.). It was for this reason that I never questioned why the Feast of Tabernacles, for example, always fell in either September or October.

It was only after several years of keeping these Feasts that it was pointed out to me that the moon had a correlation with the Holy days, as it was nearly always full when certain festivals began each year. But several more years would pass before the first realization hit me that something was amiss. It wasn't until I began searching the internet one day for a list of church organizations that observed the Biblical Festivals. It came as a surprise to me to learn that some organizations were observing these days differently than what showed on my pocket calendar. While a few were one or two days off, some were being held an entire month later. At first, I brushed this off believing these organizations must not have had a complete understanding of the Feast days themselves. After all, it was in my own experience that my family and I departed ways from a rather substantial, established organization called the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) who, just a few years earlier, began to loosely treat the weekly Sabbath and the Festivals as being irrelevant and old fashioned, changing the observation of Festival dates to a more convenient Weekend getaway rather than the full eight days (and more importantly ignoring the first and last days that were to be considered as High Sabbaths). Eventually the organization abandoned them all-together. Perhaps, I thought, these organizations were destined for that same path.

It wasn't until my wife and I learned that a good friend of ours, who also had a background in the WCG organization and continued to keep the Sabbath on her own, also kept the Festivals on different dates. It was then I knew that I needed to learn why there was a difference of opinion. At first I was ready to dive into scripture with the purpose of proving that what I had been practicing for years was correct. Then it dawned on me - I, myself, did not have a clear answer from scripture as to why I kept the dates that I did! I knew that keeping the Festivals was important, but I simply could not explain how my pocket-calendar card was created.

At this point, I knew I had to take a step back and approach this subject with a completely open mind - and I started with the Bible. I Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to "prove all things". It's important to always search the scriptures to prove to ourselves why we believe what He has instructed, as demonstrated by the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who diligently studied the Old Testament scriptures daily. We are told to carefully present our beliefs as approved by Yehovah Himself (II Timothy 2:15). In other words we must use the Bible to prove whether or not any doctrine or belief is intended of the Heavenly Father! Therefore, if a teaching (or doctrine) is not found or supported within scripture (specifically the Old Testament, built upon the foundation of the Torah itself), then it simply cannot be of Yehovah God!

As my research expanded, I quickly learned that this topic has sparked quite a few debates. What surprised me the most, though, was how far back these debates began. While many arguments exist for one or more calendar methodologies (good or bad), many church organizations tend to treat the topic as a craze or fad that they hope will quickly pass away (if not forced out by shunning those asking questions). You quickly learn that the topic of the calendar can become a thorn in the sides of many pastors and teachers. As one minister in a WCG splinter group stated, "You don't want to open that can of worms!" This is because many cannot find the answers to these questions directly using scripture - some will claim that scripture simply does not address any specifics to a calendar methodology and that the subject was left in the hands of the ancient Jews (as Romans 3:2 claims the Jews hold the Oracles of God). Therefore, the traditional Hebrew calendar is chosen as doctrine for the sake of unity, to please the masses and as recognition of the Jews as having an authority on the subject. But my research found that even the Jews find fault in the Hebrew calendar and are split into varying opinions on the subject. It is mostly the strict Orthodox Jews that follow the Hebrew Calendar because of the decrees set forth by their own rabbinical leaders, therefore it has simply become tradition. But even the rabbinical leaders do not deny the fact that the traditions behind the Hebrew calendar's construct are not perfect. Additionally, the documented Hebrew calendar itself has never existed, certainly in its current form, until at least the 4th century C.E. and, as we will discover, this system slowly evolved into the modern format kept today as late as the 12th century C.E. as proven within its own construct.

Yet even the biggest surprise to me was when I took a deeper look and learned that the modern construct of the Hebrew calendar actually contradicts Biblical principles! It was at this point that I knew I had to make a change in how I determined time itself if I were to fully understand when to properly keep the dates, or appointments, Yehovah God ordained within scripture!

There are many that have come to this same realization. The problem is that many individuals have attempted to create their own methodologies based on their own understanding (or look to other men to find the answers) - some using Biblical scripture or events, most using astrological theories and nearly all of them resulting in a tendency to lean toward mathematics to resolve the problem. They believe there must be some mysterious, undiscovered mathematical formula that exists as the basis to Yehovah's calendar. They will often rip apart scripture, make assumptions, and create excuses to fill-in holes in search of mathematical rules mixed with modern scientific astronomy and numbers that can only be contrived by NASA experts. The result is a vast array of calendars. Although I believe most have the right intentions, we must accept the fact that we have developed an overall bias toward calendars as being mathematically perfect, evenly divided into a quintessential table of 24-hour days that will allow us to predict, with certainty, how long into the future we can plan our lives accordingly and to be able to share with others in perfect unity. After all, we have all become accustomed to that great mathematical formula stuck to our fridge or hanging on our wall, referencing it daily on our computers and cell phones - the Gregorian calendar.

Most of us are ingrained to use math when it comes to day-to-day planning and scheduling. We are taught, at a young age, that the Gregorian calendar has 365 days in a year, except every 4th calendar year where an extra day is added - this is known as a leap year. This makes the calendar 365.25 days in length. Now some may not readily know that the leap year rule also excludes a leap year from occurring whenever the calendar year is also divisible by 100 - unless it's also divisible by 1000. This is because the solar year, mathematically speaking, actually lasts 365.24 days. We have learned that our calendar has 12 months in a year and the number of days within each month (with February being that special month where the leap day is added).

As the idiom goes, we tend to not look through rose-colored glasses, but rather math-colored ones. We have grown partial to the comforts and reliability that math gives us when telling time and we have learned to rely on it heavily; even perceiving one averting away from math as being abnormal, or somehow primitive in nature. Ideally, mathematics should be consistent, having only one correct answer for every problem. This is why many of us initially turn to math when it comes to understanding scripture. This has become our bias. The reality is, unless we are told specifically to use math within its instruction, we must be very careful to not assume it should be inserted into scripture. Deuteronomy 4:2[1] states:

This is not to say that math is evil. However, it can be a challenge to overcome our bias toward its usage. If we can accept the challenge and open our minds to the context of the scriptures themselves, we may come to a completely different understanding of time itself. One that is not at all complicated. One that is attainable without requiring a degree in mathematics, physics, or a complete understanding of the universe. Scripture does give us all of the parameters we need to keep His Festivals (appointments) each year whenever the time arrives. To fully grasp the concept of Biblical time, we must first put our mathematical bias aside and see the scriptures using a pure and simple mind. Unless otherwise instructed to use math, we must accept an approach that is free of mathematical formulas and concepts that we have been fashioned to use. As the wise character Yoda stated in the film Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back: "you must unlearn what you have learned."

In this paper, we will use this approach to look at Biblical references to time itself, understand better when to keep our appointments with Yehovah - all using His magnificent, ordained and observable timepiece. We will look at specific examples that will provide witness to the method of observation and the counting of days. We will then research documented history to find how the ancients observed a calendar and we will contrast the concepts of scripture against the development of the current Hebrew calendar system, how it is currently constructed, why it was introduced in its current form and how the Jews perceive its usage.

I encourage you to check all references in this paper - especially the Biblical scriptures! Do not simply take my word for it. This subject is an important, foundational element to the Biblical Festivals and it should be a subject taught to all of Yehovah's children - even the new-born babes just discovering the truth of Yehovah! At what age did you learn about the Gregorian calendar? Do we tell our children today that it's too complicated for them to understand? Understanding Yehovah's time can also be accomplished to those eager to learn - not by becoming a calendar expert or mathematician as some would have you believe but - by researching the Bible and asking for guidance through prayer and His Holy Spirit.

This paper is in no way intended to attack any individual or organization, rather to bring attention to those looking for truth from a Biblical foundation rather than through the many words and ideas of men. At the same time, I don't claim to be perfect and am always open to correction. However, I do implore you to research this topic carefully and not take it for granted. I am aware that various conclusions have been made by many individuals on this subject and I will attempt to cover many of the more popular ones within this paper to compare and contrast. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that iron sharpens iron, suggesting that through our many opinions (without contradicting scripture), our understanding can only increase when we work together as a Body of Believers. Most turn away from this subject and choose to blindly follow tradition (what men tell them to do). To those, I ask: should any topic concerning our faith be like opening a can of worms?

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