The Postponements: Addressing the Issues
Dale D. Carmean and Jack M. LaneNever in the recent history of the church of God has one idea stirred so much excitement and emotion, as it races through the church like wildfire! What are the facts? What should we do? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the Hebrew calendar. The information in this article may surprise and astonish you! In fact, you may never look at the Hebrew calendar the same way again!
Foreword and Introduction
Section 1: Do the Jews Have the Authority?
Section 2: Problems With the Calendar
Section 3: The Postponements
Section 4: What Is a New Moon?
Section 5: How to Determine the Conjunction of the New Moon
Without a Computer or Time Tables
Section 6: Which New Moon Is the New Year?
Section 7: Concluding Remarks
This small book was initially released in 1996. We had originally intended to publish a book on the various calendar subjects, but the more we researched, the more we became convinced that there are several ways to approach the calendar issues. Most of these different calendar approaches can be backed up by biblical and historical evidence to support each position taken, but none of them emerged clearly identified as the one right understanding.
We finally had to admit that we could not authoritatively take any one position and defend it successfully against all others. We also saw many people whom we were convinced were true God-followers, and sincerely dedicated in their service to God, who had come to different conclusions about the calendar than we had.
So, progress on the book came to a complete halt. There were simply too many unanswered questions. We could not find enough biblical and historical evidence to convince everyone that one certain calendar concept was right while all others were wrong. And we could not at that time understand why it was that all this could be happening to a people about whom God cared very much.
After I attended a calendar conference before the 1996 Feast, and after our own calendar panel discussion at the Feast, I came to these conclusions:
(1) The Hebrew Calendar (or, more accurately, the Jewish Calendar) is being widely dismissed as authoritative in our lives, as more people discover that it is not a biblical calendar, or "God's Calendar," but rather a hodge-podge of Jewish tradition that didn't become finalized until the tenth century A.D.
(2) There are two major theories as to what constitutes a new moon: Those of us who first studied materials presenting the conjunction of the moon as the new moon became proponents of that concept, while those of us who first became acquainted with the new moon as a visible crescent tended to follow that way of doing things. You will notice in the enclosed article a heavy slant toward the conjunction as being the new moon, since that was "where we were coming from" at the time we wrote the article. However, "crescent people" are very dedicated to what they believe and can also provide strong arguments to back up their position.
(3) Both major schools of thought (conjunction and visible crescent) have valid reasoning to explain their idea of what the new moon might be. However, neither group can come up with conclusive scriptures that put all argument to rest. The second best guide would be history, but history indicates that Israel observed both types of new moon and the calculated calendar at various times in its history.
(4) We have noticed that people from each camp, once they become acquainted with the other side's perspective, have said, "I wasn't aware of all that. Iíll have to study into this some more." Both sides are (for the most part) willing to listen to each other, and to continue to cooperate, as brethren should. We all must continue to study into the matter, in an atmosphere of truth-seeking, not just trying to win people over to our way of thinking.
(5) If a body of men arose who might be considered authorities on the calendar, such as a reconstituted Sanhedrin in modern day Israel, you can imagine that not everyone in the New Testament church would be willing to bow to their conclusions or to their authority. No doubt, such a Sanhedrin would be devoted to tinkering further with the calculated Jewish calendar, which many of us have already rejected, rather than answering our questions regarding the new moons.
(6) These and other issues are still up in the air. (For example, should we use Jerusalem time versus local time, which new moon would be Abib 1, etc.) There are many compelling arguments and "proofs" on both sides of every issue, plus more than a reasonable doubt. Without a valid human authority to whom we can all look, each one of us must make his or her own decisions and bear the responsibility for them. It reminds us of the situation in Judges 21:25: "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." This was not necessarily a horrible turn of events. It was merely the way things were.
Because of these difficulties, and others, we must admit that the jury is still out in reference to the calendar issues. We can address some of the issues, which our article has done, but no final answers have as yet been reached. There are many people who firmly believe their answers are the correct ones, but we're not as yet prepared, in this examination of the calendar, to be so bold. The greater the number of people studying into these issues, and sharing their findings with others, the better able we will be to arrive at the correct conclusions -- in God's good time.
The final answer I have reached is this: Either we can't know, or we simply don't know at the present time, or we may not be confident with the answers we have found, regarding the real answers to the questions we will be examining. Many people on various sides of the issues may feel they have found the right answers, but we must recall that we had been convinced in the past regarding various doctrinal understandings, and we were surprised to find out that we really didn't know, after all!
There is much good information in this book. We don't claim to have all the answers, nor do we believe we will convince everyone who reads this that these are the true answers. Learn what you can from this booklet, and from every source you have available to you. Learn as much as you can, and draw your own conclusions, with much prayer and beseeching God. We must always be seeking His will, not our own.
We have found that "It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out" (Proverbs 25:2). God doesn't tell us every detail. We need to search them out. That's how we know "it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God" (1 Peter 4:17). God is judging us on how we seek Him and His truth. Perhaps, to God, the answers we arrive at are not as important as how we conduct the search! Whether we act like ladies and gentlemen, in love for one another, or whether we act like worldly, uncoverted barbarians, God is watching to see how we approach this search for answers.
When Messiah comes, He will tell us the answers. In the meantime, we must continue to do our best with what limited understanding we have, and with the limited mental capacity we have!
-- Jack M. Lane
It's exciting! It's history in the making! Discussions about the Hebrew calendar have erupted in many Church of God congregations and corporate Church headquarters around the world!
The Hebrew calendar is a complex topic, with many issues to explore. Two particular points have become most prominent recently in calendar discussions: (1) the postponements, and (2) the new moon. In this booklet, we will attempt to answer several questions that have arisen surrounding these issues. We intend for this booklet to serve as an immediate means of getting preliminary information into the hands of those who would like to know the answers, without too much technical detail.
The information contained in this article is our opinion, based on what we have found in the Bible and in history. Articles written by other people will, likewise, reflect their own opinions. There are some areas where it would be difficult to be dogmatic, as there are many areas where there is no clear "Thus saith the Lord."
We do not maintain that we have discovered absolute truth, or that we are the final word on this subject. All of us in the faith are in this together, and we should all be seeking truth, putting our findings together, rather than pulling apart.
Many people made the mistake in the past of choosing a religious leader, and then suspending their own thinking ability, accepting everything the religious leader taught, often without bothering to prove whether what was taught is true. Some are still making this mistake, and will believe what a clergyman says simply because he is a clergyman. We urge our readers to take back their ability to think and to reason, and to come to their own conclusions.
Since it is not possible to understand what is actually correct in many areas at this time (1 Corinthians 13:9-12), the best we can do is to study into those areas and draw conclusions based on our findings. Some people will arrive at one finding, some at another. This is not to say that one is right and the other wrong, but only that we have arrived at different findings. We should still treat our church brethren with respect and dignity, even if we disagree.
GOD CONCEALS AND REVEALS
God's word contains some advice we can apply in our studies:
"The glory of God is to conceal a thing; but the glory of kings is to search out a matter" (Proverbs 25:2, Literal Translation of the Bible).
"The secret things belong to Jehovah our God, and the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).
There are those who maintain that the calendar is one of those secret things of God, and that knowledge of the calendar was entrusted to the priests, or to a secret society of Jews. But God did not give any cryptic knowledge to the priests and Levites so they could control the people or be revered in some way. It was the pagan mystery religions of the nations around Israel that practiced secrets in their religion, including clandestine societies and hidden mysteries. Did God set up a secret society? Where are the scriptures to show that?
No, the scriptures above make it very plain that whatever God wants us to know, it is available even for our children to verify. Otherwise, how would the Israelites know, for example, that a false religious leader was trying to get them to follow other gods, as the true God warns in Deuteronomy 13?
Using the knowledge which God allows us to have, we have studied into the matter and have arrived at the conclusions presented here.
It has been pointed out that we should talk about "the Jewish calendar" rather than "the Hebrew calendar," because the traditional calendar is a product of Jewish thought, reason, and calculation. However, we have elected to refer to "the Hebrew calendar" because that is the name by which it is more widely known, and it is so called by those who prepare and publish the calendar.
WE'RE NOT EXPERTS
We have noticed that in virtually every sermon tape or article from the clergy designed to defend the Hebrew calendar, they attempt to denigrate those who teach other things by derisively referring to them as "self-appointed experts." We make no claim to be experts. We are like so many others who have studied into the matter and found something other than the usual dogma to be the case.
As for the clergymen who continue to deride others by calling them "self-appointed experts," what are their credentials that would make them any more a calendar scholar than anyone else? Many officials and clergy of various church organizations are now examining the calendar for the first time, and finding that they were not experts, after all. The clergy should realize that they are speaking negatively about a large and growing segment of the church, who are not content to follow a man or stick with the way things have always been done. More and more people in the faith are attempting to correct past wrongs in doctrine. It doesn't make sense for the clergy to try to thwart that effort.
We would like to call on everyone involved in this search for God's truth to stop, take a deep breath, and count to ten. Then, in a relaxed attitude, let's all go forward together, honestly searching for answers to this perplexing question. Hostility serves no useful purpose. We should be confronting the facts of history, not each other.
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