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Questions/Objections Answered

The King James Version (KJV) is mostly used in these lessons. Click here to access the KJV online.
Click here to start the quiz

(1) Question/Objection: If the New Moon nearest the vernal equinox is the true beacon of the New Year, how can we know in advance which New Moon will be the closest?  How could ancient Israel have possibly known this?

ANSWER: These are very good questions.  There is no doubt that the faithful Israelites had to have known well in advance when the Passover would be observed.  In years when the Passover fell very close to the vernal equinox (e.g. the day after), the Israelites living outside of Jerusalem would have had to begin their journey even before the equinox had taken place.  It is not clear at this time just how the Israelites were able to anticipate when the vernal equinox would occur in relation to the New Moons - so that they could declare with certainty the beginning of the year.  One thing is certain, though: the ancient Israelites had an incredible understanding of the heavens.  We, today, with all of the available technology are likely only approaching what would have been common knowledge to the average Israelite. 

Our ignorance, today, is proof of nothing except the loss of knowledge that comes through rebellion and disobedience.  Our inability to understand the machinations of the heavens as the ancients did in no way negates the overwhelming evidence that it is the New Moon nearest the vernal equinox that begins the Biblical year.

Perhaps, they simply counted 180 days1 from the fall equinox [autumnal equinox] to determine roughly where the vernal equinox would fall, and then calculated where the New Moons would fall in relation to that.  For example, if the fall equinox occurred on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (the 15th day of the 7th lunar month), they could have then worked out the following equation:

  • 180 days = Approximate number of days from the fall equinox until the vernal equinox
  • 180 days - 15 days (the approximate number of days remaining in the 7th month) = 165 days remaining until the vernal equinox, on New Moon Day of the 8th month.
  • 165 days - 29.5 (approximate number of days in a lunar month) = 135.5 days remaining until the vernal equinox, on New Moon Day of the 9th month.
  • 135.5 days - 29.5 (approximate number of days in a lunar month) = 106 days remaining until the vernal equinox, on New Moon Day of the 10th month.
  • 106 days - 29.5 (approximate number of days in a lunar month) = 76.5 days remaining until the vernal equinox, on New Moon Day of the 11th month.
  • 76.5 days - 29.5 (approximate number of days in a lunar month) = 47 days remaining until the vernal equinox, on New Moon Day of the 12th month.
  • 47 days - 29.5 (approximate number of days in a lunar month) = 17.5 days remaining until the vernal equinox, on New Moon Day of the following month.
  • Since 17.5 days is significantly more than 14.77, which is approximately half the number of days in a lunar month, this will likely be a 13th month, and the next New Moon Day (which will fall about 12 days after the vernal equinox) will begin the year.

    Note: Once the current position in the 19-year pattern (Metonic Cycle) has been established with certainty, the number of months in future years (and consequently the first month of each year) can be known well in advance. 

Doing the math in this fashion certainly cannot account for their ability to accurately anticipate the beginning of the year when the vernal equinox fell very close the full moon in the middle of the lunar month, but, again, their knowledge of the heavens was irrefutably superior to ours.  It bears repeating that our inability to understand the machinations of the heavens as the ancients did in no way negates the overwhelming evidence that it is the New Moon nearest the vernal equinox that begins the Biblical year.

(2) Question/Objection: Philo states that the "beginning" of the vernal equinox is the first month of the year.  Does this not indicate that it is the New Moon after the vernal equinox that begins the year?

"Moses puts down the beginning of the vernal equinox as the first month of the year, attributing the chief honour, not as some persons do to the periodical revolutions of the year in regard of time, but rather to the graces and beauties of nature which it has caused to shine upon men . . . Accordingly, in this month, about the fourteenth day of the month, when the orb of the moon is usually about to become full, the public universal feast of the passover is celebrated . . ." (Philo, On The Life Of Moses II, Section XLI (222-224), http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book25.html)

ANSWER:  This is an excellent question.  (WLC originally misinterpreted this commentary in the same way.)  At first glance, it appears that Philo is saying that the first lunar month of the year begins with the vernal equinox.  Philo, here, cannot be referring to lunar months, though; the lunar cycle pays no attention to when the equinox occurs, and consequently, the New Moon does not consistently line up with the vernal equinox.  Philo, here, is apparently referring to solar months, not lunar months.  A solar month is determined by the sun's location in the zodiac; the first solar month begins with the vernal equinox.  In Philo's day, the first solar month was Aries (as noted by Josephus), followed by Taurus, Gemini, etc.  The first solar month of each solar year begins with the vernal equinox. 

Later in this passage, Philo goes on to say "in this month, about the fourteenth day of the month, . . . [the] feast of the passover is celebrated."  Here Philo is clearly referring to the first lunar month.  When viewed together, we see that Philo is restating what we learned earlier from Josephus: The Passover (the 14th day of the first lunar month) was observed in the first solar month (when the sun was in Aries).  This statement says nothing about reckoning the New Year by the first New Moon after the vernal equinox.

(3) Question/Objection: Philo states that months are reckoned "from the vernal equinox."  Does this not indicate that it is the New Moon after the vernal equinox that begins the year?

"(Scripture) thinks it proper to reckon the cycle of months from the vernal equinox.  Moreover, (this month) is said to be the ‘first’ and the ‘beginning’ by synonymy, since these (terms) are explained by each other, for it is said to be the first both in order and in power; similarly that time which proceeds from the vernal equinox also appears (as) the beginning both in order and in power, in the same way as the  head (is the beginning) of a living creature.  And thus those who are learned in astronomy have given this name to the beforementioned time.  For they call the Ram the head of the zodiac since in it the sun appears to produce the vernal equinox." (Philo, Supplement II, Questions and Answers on Exodus, translated by Ralph Marcus, Ph.D., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA:, 1953, pp. 2-3.)

ANSWER: Here, again, Philo is not referring to the cycle of lunar months, but rather to the cycle of solar months, which as we discussed in the previous "question/objection," commences at the vernal equinox.  Further proof of this is found later in this passage, when Philo makes reference to Aries, "the Ram the head of the zodiac," which in the first century, was the first month of the solar year.  Again, this statement says nothing about reckoning the New Year by the first New Moon after the vernal equinox.

(4) Question/Objection: Reckoning the New Year by the first New Moon after the vernal equinox would not allow enough time for the barley to become ripe ("Abib") before the day of First Fruits.

ANSWER: Much could be said on this point, but we need not spend an exuberant amount of time addressing this in order to expose the fallacy.  We need only look at what Scripture actually says about "Abib" and the First Fruits offering.

"And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear [Abib], and the flax was bolled." (Exodus 9:31)

"This day came ye out in the month Abib." (Exodus 13:4)

"Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty." (Exodus 23:5)

"The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt." (Exodus 34:18)

And if thou offer a meat offering of thy firstfruits unto Yahuwah, thou shalt offer for the meat offering of thy firstfruits green ears of corn [Abib] dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears. (See Leviticus 2:14.)

Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto Yahuwah thy Elohim: for in the month of Abib Yahuwah thy Elohim brought thee forth out of Egypt by night. (See Deuteronomy 16:1.)

According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Dictionary, Abib simply means: "(1) fresh, young barley ears, barley; (2) month of ear-forming, of greening of crop, of growing green Abib, month of exodus and passover . . ."  The root of Abib is Strong's #H3, which means "freshness, fresh green, green shoots, or greenery." (Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Dictionary)

Abib does not mean "ripe," nor does it mean 16 days2 from being ripe.  It simply means young or green.  This, really, is the crux of the matter.  When Moses recorded the Abib state of the barley (Exodus 9:31), he was simply stating that the barley had sprung up; it was green and growing.  That is why it was destroyed, while the wheat and the rie (which had not yet sprung up) were not (Exodus 9:32).  When Scripture refers to the "month of Abib," it is simply referring to the month in which the crops mature, or begin to mature.

The second very important point we need to address is Yahuwah's instructions regarding the First Fruits offering. 

And Yahuwah spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before Yahuwah, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto Yahuwah. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto Yahuwah for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your Elohim: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings." (See Leviticus 23:9-14.)

Simply put, there is no mention here of "mature" barley.  The command is simply to bring a sheaf of first fruits to the priest to wave on the appointed day, and not to eat of the fields until this had been done. 

As responsible Bible students and seekers of truth, we cannot ignore the weight of evidence identifying the New Moon closest to the vernal equinox as the beginning of the year in favor of the Karaite Jewish tradition, and a presumed understanding of the ripening crops in ancient Palestine.

(5) Question/Objection: I was always taught that the New Year could not be declared until the Palestinian barely was ripe.  Why do you not take the ripeness of the barley into consideration?

ANSWER: There are many insuperable issues with the supposition that the New Year revolves exclusively around the ripeness of Palestinian barley:

  • Nowhere in Scripture is there any mention of a "barley harvest law."
     
  • Genesis 1:14 declares that the heavenly bodies are "for seasons, and for days, and years."  While we can logically conclude that the barley would need to be ripe for the day of firstfruits, and we can contextually verify that the barley was nearing maturity when the hail plagued Egypt (Ex.9:22-31), nowhere is Scripture does it say that vegetation (i.e. barley) is to be for "for seasons, and for days, and years."
     
  • The concept of "years" is introduced pre-sin, pre-flood, and pre-curse (Genesis 1:14), at least 1,500 years before the flood (2,500 years before the Exodus).  It does not seem reasonable to presume that the antediluvian world was dependent upon barley for determining the New Year.  It does make sense, however, to conclude that they were dependent upon the heavenly bodies, Yahuwah's ordained calendar, for determining "seasons, . . . days, and years."
     
  • Noah was able to accurately keep track of time during the flood (without planting barley).
     
  • The children of Israel were able to keep track of time during their wilderness experience (without planting barley).  Numbers 9:1-14 explains how the children of Israel kept the Passover in the wilderness.
     
  • To suggest that the ripeness of Palestinian barley is the only way to determine the beginning of the year is to suggest one of two things:  (1) Those living outside of the geographic region of Palestine are entirely dependent upon internet technology (for receiving witness to the state of Palestinian Barley, which is itself incredibly trivial, given the nature of today's agricultural practices); (2) Yahuwah's faithful must rely on tradition and man's version of history which declares the acceptable parallel of Gregorian dates in which the "latter rains" would have fallen two thousand plus years ago.  In a sense, this implies that we need the Gregorian calendar to determine the beginning of the New Year, for without it, we could not know the satisfactory dates for beginning the New Year.  It is not acceptable to suggest that Yahuwah's faithful must rely on man's guesswork or the papal Gregorian calendar for reckoning the Biblical New Year.  Nor is it acceptable to suggest that the faithful must rely on internet technology and modern agricultural practices in the middle east.
     
  • Adhering to the supposed "barley harvest law" demands that we believe that the faithful prior to Israel's entrance into Canaan (including the children of Israel in the wilderness) could not begin their year correctly, or that the method for reckoning the beginning of the year changed once Israel had entered the promised land.  This is an absurd proposition.  Are we to believe that the faithful, up to this point, calculated the beginning of the year based upon an assumed ripening date for barley in a land in which they were not even living?  Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Palestinian barley is to determine the new year.  The Bible states in plain language that years are to be determined by the heavenly bodies.  "And Elohim 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."  (Genesis 1:14)
     

1 There are approximately 180 days between the autumnal equinox and the vernal equinox.  (http://community.novacaster.com/showarticle.pl?id=11110;n=4001)

2 The First Fruits offering was to take place on the 16th day of the first month, following the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread.  (See Leviticus 23:9-11.)