Historical evidence shows the Jews at the time of Yahushua were using the first visible crescent method for starting the month. How do you address this point?

Question: Historical evidence shows the Jews at the time of Yahushua were using the first visible crescent method for starting the month.  How do you address this point?

Answer: One thing is certain; the method being used to reckon New Moon Day in Yahushua's day was the correct one.  There is no indication in the New Testament that there was ever a dispute as to when the Sabbaths and Feast Days occurred.  Clearly, the method then being used was correct, as it was endorsed by Yahushua.

While many historians testify that the Biblical month began with the first visible crescent, none offer any real evidence to support their claims.  It seems that all who speak of the historicity of the first visible crescent method derive their understanding from one source: The Babylonian Talmud.  But is the Talmud reliable?  Can we, with Heaven's blessing, sweep all contrary evidence aside in favor of building primarily on the oral traditions of the those who trace their roots to the Pharisees?  

Babylonian TalmudThe Talmud essentially consists of two parts: (1) Mishna: First major publication of the Jewish oral traditions, 220 AD; (2) Gemara: Rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah, c. 500 AD.  In the Mishnah, we find many rules, regulations, and references pertaining to the rabbinical court's role in examining witness to ascertain if the new moon had been sighted.  For example:

"The following are considered incompetent to be witnesses: gamblers with dice, usurers, pigeon breeders, those who deal with the produce of the sabbatic year, and slaves. This is the rule: All evidence that cannot be received from a woman cannot be received from any of the above. . . . Whenever (witnesses) must be on the road a day and a night, it will be lawful to violate the Sabbath to travel thereon, to give their evidence as to the appearance of the moon." (Babylonian Talmud, Section Moed, Rosh Hashana, Chapter I,

Note: The above quotation actually makes no sense in the context of the Biblical luni-solar calendar.  The earliest the moon could be sighted using the first visible crescent method would be following the sunset of the last Sabbath (the 29th).  It makes no sense, then, to make allowances for someone to travel on the Sabbath to testify that they had sighted the moon before a moon sighting would even be possible.  The Talmud, though, does not vindicate the Biblical calendar.  Rather, it promotes Babylonian calendar principles (e.g. sunset to sunset days) and pagan calendation (e.g Saturday Sabbath).

"There was a large court in Jerusalem called Beth Ya'azeq, where all the witnesses met, and where they were examined by the Beth Din. Great feasts were made there for (the witnesses) in order to induce them to come frequently. . . . How were the witnesses examined? The first pair were examined first. The elder was introduced first, and they said to him: Tell us in what form thou sawest the moon; was it before or behind the sun? Was it to the north or the south (of the sun)? What was its elevation on the horizon? Towards which side was its inclination? What was the width of its disk? If he answered before the sun, his evidence was worthless. After this they introduced the younger (witness) and he was examined; if their testimony was found to agree, it was accepted as valid; the remaining pairs (of witnesses) were asked leading questions, not because their testimony was necessary, but only to prevent them departing, disappointed . . . " (Babylonian Talmud, Section Moed, Rosh Hashana, Chapter II, )

"R. Gamaliel had on a tablet, and on a wall of his upper room, illustrations of the various phases of the moon, which he used to show to the common people, saying: 'Did you see the moon like this figure or like this?'" (Ibid.)

The Talmud, though, vindicates many unBiblical doctrines.  For example:

Four beginnings to the year - "There are four New Year days, viz.: The first of Nissan is New Year for (the ascension of) Kings and for (the regular rotation of) festivals; the first of Elul is New Year for the cattle-tithe, but according to R. Eliezer and R. Simeon, it is on the first of Tishri. The first of Tishri is New Year's day, for ordinary years, and for sabbatic years and jubilees; and also for the planting of trees and for herbs. On the first day of Shebhat is the New Year for trees, according to the school of Shammai; but the school of Hillel says it is on the fifteenth of the same month."  [Note: The Babylonian names of the months.]  (  

Saturday Sabbath (with a sunset to sunset reckoning) - "The rabbis taught: One shall not send a letter by a Gentile on Friday unless he stipulated a certain sum for the delivery. If such a stipulation was not made, the Beth Shamai says it must not be delivered, unless the messenger has time to reach the house in which it is to be delivered (before sunset); the Beth Hillel, however, maintains: He may do it if the messenger has time to reach the house nearest to the wall of the city where the letter is to be delivered." (Babylonian Talmud, Section Moed, Shabbat, Chapter II,

Was a Saturday Sabbath (Friday evening to Saturday evening) being observed by Yahuwah's faithful during Yahushua's earthly ministry?  No, absolutely not.  Scripture is clear that Yahuwah's calendar is luni-solar, and a Biblical day begins at dawn, not sunset  The unBiblical Saturday Sabbath was clearly adopted by the authors of the Talmud after the first century1, as was the Babylonian practice of beginning the day at sunset.  This point cannot be overemphasized.  We know with certainty that these unBiblical practices were adopted after the time of Yahushua, yet there they are, side by side with the same authors' testimony that the New Moon was reckoned by the first visible crescent.  It does not seem reasonable or responsible to suggest that we should embrace the first visible crescent methodology (and alleged history) espoused by the authors of the Talmud, when we have full knowledge that the same group of individuals penned doctrines that are antithetical to the plain teachings of Scripture.  Clearly, the Talmud is not a trustworthy reflection of the Jewish economy during the earthly ministry of Yahushua.

Also included in the Talmud is an incredibly vast list of almost every act imaginable that is either allowed or forbidden on the Sabbath - according to the rabbis.  The Talmud2 is essentially a compilation of the exactions and traditions set forth by the Pharisees.  How much weight can we give a book whose foundation is established on nothing more than the oral traditions of those who rejected the Lamb of Yahuwah and shunned the Light of the world?

"Then came to Yahushua scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of Elohim by your tradition?" (Matthew 15:1-3, RNKJV)

We must never give more weight to tradition than is due.  While all available information must be taken into consideration when conducting an honest investigation, we must always consider the source and pledge our allegiance to the weight of evidence, even if the conclusion does not agree with our presupposition.

As stated earlier, while many historians, encyclopedias, and Bible dictionaries testify that the Biblical month began with the first visible crescent, none offer any real evidence to support their claims.  It seems likely that they are relying largely on tradition, as the authors of the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia readily admit. 

"Little is known of the procedure of determining the calendar up to the 2nd cent. C.E., when a description is given of the traditional practice, it ran as follows: On the thirtieth day of the month a council would meet to receive the testimony of witnesses that they had seen the new moon. If two trustworthy witnesses had made deposition to that effect on that day, the council proclaimed a new month to begin on that day… If no witnesses appeared, however, the new moon was considered as beginning on the day following the thirtieth." (Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, p.632)

The point, here, is simply this.  We cannot, as responsible Bible students, build exclusively upon the oral traditions of the Jews, while sweeping all other evidence under the proverbial rug.  We must prayerfully commit ourselves always to the weight of evidence, wherever it may lead. 

See: New Moon Day: The Dawn After Conjunction


1 Some have suggested that the Babylonian practice of observing a Saturday Sabbath and beginning the day at sunset was learned by the Jews during their Babylonian captivity.  This is certainly a possibility.  However, we can be sure that Yahushua did not endorse these or any other unBiblical practices.  The point here is simply that the doctrines endorsed by the Talmud are not a trustworthy reflection of the mainstream Jewish economy during the earthly ministry of Yahushua.  That being established, we cannot responsibly use the Talmud to justify using the first visible crescent.

2 The Babylonian Talmud, according to the rabbis who penned it, is more deserving of obedience than the Bible!  "It is written [Ecclesiastes xii. 12]: . . . This means: 'My son, be careful in the observance of the rabbinical commandments (even more than in the biblical); for while the biblical commandments are for the most part positive and negative . . . the rabbinical commandments, if infracted, would involve capital punishment." (The Babylonian Talmud, Section Moed, Erubin 21b, Chapter II,