TWO CALENDARS THAT THE JEWS USED

 

ARISTEO CANLAS FERNANDO

Peace Crusader and Echo

 

 

From the time that the Israelites went out of Egypt in 1522 BC, they had been using a lunar calendar.  When Jerusalem fell in 637 BC, they were exiled to Babylonia.  Here, during their captivity, they learned about the Babylonian lunisolar calendar.  They adopted this calendar with slight modification.

 

A lunar calendar keeps track of the moon cycle.  There are 354 or 355 days in a lunar year.  A lunar month is equal to 29.5306 days, hence, a month usually alternates between 29 and 30 days.  A lunisolar calendar also keeps track of the moon cycle.  However, in order for the months to be in line with the seasons, a month is inserted or intercalated during the year.  In the Jewish lunisolar calendar, this intercalation is done on the third, sixth, eighth, eleventh, fourteenth, seventeenth and nineteenth years in a 19-year Metonic Cycle.  In an ordinary or common year, there maybe 353, 354, or 355 days, but in leap years, they maybe 383, 384, or 385 days.

 

The following two tables show the kinds of calendars the Israelites used:

 

Table 1.  Event and the calendars used

Event

Lunar calendar

Lunisolar calendar

Exodus

Yes

No

Babylonian Exile in 637 BC

 

 

     Before

Yes

No

     After

Yes

Yes

Time of Jesus

Yes

Yes

Reformation in AD 358/359

 

 

     Before

Yes

Yes

     After

No

Yes

Present

No

Yes

 

Table 2.  Century and the calendars used

Century

Lunar calendar

Lunisolar calendar

16th BC

Yes

No

15th BC

Yes

No

14th BC

Yes

No

13th BC

Yes

No

12th BC

Yes

No

11th BC

Yes

No

10th BC

Yes

No

9th BC

Yes

No

8th BC

Yes

No

7th BC

Yes

No

6th BC

Yes

Yes

5th BC

Yes

Yes

4th BC

Yes

Yes

3rd BC

Yes

Yes

2nd BC

Yes

Yes

1st BC

Yes

Yes

AD 1st

Yes

Yes

AD 2nd

Yes

Yes

AD 3rd

Yes

Yes

AD 4th

Yes

Yes

AD 5th

No

Yes

AD 6th

No

Yes

AD 7th

No

Yes

AD 8th

No

Yes

AD 9th

No

Yes

AD 10th

No

Yes

AD 11th

No

Yes

AD 12th

No

Yes

AD 13th

No

Yes

AD 14th

No

Yes

AD 15th

No

Yes

AD 16th

No

Yes

AD 17th

No

Yes

AD 18th

No

Yes

AD 19th

No

Yes

AD 20th

No

Yes

AD 21st

No

Yes

 

 

Herewith is a scenario of the festivals/observances that the Israelites were observing in their purely lunar religious calendar from their exile in Babylon to their return to Jerusalem until the calendar reformation in 358/359 AD.  The festivals/observances were not season-related but religious in nature.  Rosh Hodesh or New Moon Festival was supposed to be a regular major festival that is stated in the Torah but it was demoted as a minor festival sometime before 358/359, maybe even during the reformation, because the Jews were using the Julian solar calendar in the places where they lived.  The number represents the month number in the lunar religious year.

 

Table 3.  Festivals held in the lunar calendar (6th century BC to 4th century AD)

Month

Festival

1

Rosh Hodesh (New Moon Festival)

Sabbath

Pesach (Passover Festival)

2

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

3

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

4

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

5

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

6

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

7

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement ) (most likely in this calendar; see Leviticus 25:9)

Hanukah (Feast of the Dedication)

8

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

9

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

10

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

11

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

12

Rosh Hodesh

Sabbath

 

 

From Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 15, page 465b:

“After the conquest of Jerusalem (587 BC), the Babylonians introduced their cyclic calendar and the reckoning of their regnal years from Nisanu 1, about the spring equinox.  The Jews now had a finite calendar year with a New Year’s day, and they adopted the Babylonian month names, which they continue to use.”

 

It was easy for the Jews to adopt the Babylonian calendar because it was lunar like they had been using since the time of Moses.  The new year started at the month of Nisanu, about the same time as theirs, springtime, when they came out of Egypt.  The only difference is that the lunisolar calendar inserts one lunar month about every three years (Adar Sheni) in order for the months to be aligned to the seasons.  Now, they could put Sukkot and Shavuot in the months where the agricultural activities should be.

 

From the time the Israelites came out of Egypt until the Babylonian exile, they had been using only a purely lunar calendar.  When they left Babylonia, they adopted the Babylonian lunisolar calendar but kept the lunar calendar for their Passover Festival and other religious observances.  From their return to Jerusalem from exile until the calendar reformation in 358/359 AD, herewith is the scenario of the major festivals/fast they were observing in the lunisolar civil calendar:

 

Maybe, the other four fasts were placed in the lunisolar calendar because they happened during the Babylonians’ capture of Jerusalem during the sixth century BC.  The four fasts were mentioned in Zechariah 8:19, to wit: “the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth.”  These fasts were Tammuz 17 (Nebuchadnezzar breached wall of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 25:4, Zechariah 52:7, Jeremiah 39:2), Av 9 (Nebuchadnezzar entered Jerusalem, 2 Kings 25:8, Jeremiah 52:12), Tishri 3 (killing of Gedaliah and all the Jews and the Chaldeans with him at Mizpah, 2 Kings 25:25, Jeremiah 41:1-3) and Tevet 10 (Nebuchadnezzar began laying the siege of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 25:1, Zechariah 52:4, Jeremiah 39:1).  

 

In which calendar where these fasts happened?  Most likely, in the lunar calendar.  It says in the ‘fourth month’ and not in Tammuz.  But since the Jews adopted the Babylonian calendar, they could have put these fasts in that calendar like the Fast of Esther. 

 

When did the siege of Jerusalem begin?  It was on the tenth month of their lunar calendar.  Then the breaching of the wall happened two years later on the fourth month of their lunar calendar.  When did these happen?  Historians usually place the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC.  Were they correct? 

 

Table 4.  Festivals held in the lunisolar calendar (6th century BC to 4th century AD)

Month

Festival

Nisan

1 – Rosh Hashana (New Year’s Day)

15 – Fast of Esther

Shavuot (Offering of the first fruit)

Iyar

None

Sivan

Shavuot (Feast of Weeks)

Tammuz

None

Av

None

Elul

None

Tishri

15-21 – Sukkot (Festival of Shelters or Ingathering)

Heshvan

None

Kislev

None

Tevet

None

Shevat

None

Adar

13 – Purim

Adar Sheni

None

 

 

After the calendar reformation in 358/359 AD, the Jewish calendar is like what it is today with some added occasions like Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) and Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial).  The festivals/observances in the lunar calendar were fixed into the lunisolar calendar.  Rosh Hodesh was demoted to as a minor festival.  The Israelites incorporated the lunar calendar into their lunisolar calendar, that is why, using the same physical calendar, the civil year starts in Tishri and the religious year, in Nisan.

 

Table 5.  Festivals held in the lunisolar calendar (4th century AD to present)

Month

Festival

Tishri

1 - Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s Day) – start of civil year

3 – Fast of the seventh month, Fast of Gedaliah (Tzom Gedaliahu)

10 - Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement )

15-21 – Sukkot (Festival of Shelters or Ingathering)

Heshvan

None

Kislev

25 - Hanukah

Tevet

10 – Fast of the tenth month (Asara be-Tevet)

Shevat

None

Adar

13 – Fast of Esther

14 - Purim

Adar Sheni

None

Nisan

Start of religious year

15-21 – Pesach (Passover Festival)

Shavuot Part 1 (Offering of the first fruit)

Iyar

None

Sivan

Shavuot Part 2 (Feast of Weeks)

Tammuz

17 – Fast of the fourth month (Shiva’ ‘Asar be-Tammuz)

Av

9 – Fast of the fifth month (Tisha be-Av)

Elul

None

 

File:  twocalendars.htm     First uploaded:  2008-07-06     Last updated:  2008-07-06     Rev. 0