The Postponements:  Addressing the Issues

by
Dale D. Carmean and Jack M. Lane





Section 3:
The Postponements

The postponements are rules set down by men, not God, which can change when a new year begins on the Hebrew calendar. By changing the beginning of the year by a day or two, this causes a shift in the entire year, including the Holy Days, of one or two days.

The Hebrew calendar is not strictly a lunar calendar. It does not actually observe each new moon as the first day of each new month. As with our Gregorian calendar, the Hebrew calendar begins on a certain date and follows through in a pre-determined pattern of months. In the Gregorian calendar, the first day of each month has nothing to do with new moons, but only helps in dividing each year into twelve somewhat equal pieces. The Hebrew calendar, as it turns out, has a similar philosophy.

THE RULES OF POSTPONEMENT

The Astronomical Companion, by Guy Ottewell, 1994 ed., p. 30, under "Calendars (Jewish)," says: "After centuries of controversies between conservatives relying on observation (of moon and seasons) and innovators recommending calculation, and between religious authorities in Palestine and Babylonia, the system was settled in the 10th century A.D. (in favor of calculation and Babylon)." (Emphasis ours.)

The official Hebrew calendar has computed the new moons, and has averaged the dates for the new months.  The Hebrew calendar does not rely directly on the conjunction or on observation of the crescent.

The rules of postponements, along with the calendar rules, are found in the book, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, by Arthur Spier. On pages 218-219, Spier outlines the calendar and postponement rules. Here are some excerpts:

D. The first day of the year, Rosh Hashanah.

11. Every month must begin on a day close to the molad. [A true lunar calendar would begin each month on the molad, which is the conjunction of the moon. The Hebrew calendar is not figured this way.] For the beginning of the year, the first day of Tishri, the calendar follows this rule: Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Tishri, must be on the day of the molad.

There are exceptions, the so-called dehioth (postponements), which take place in four specific cases.

Note that the rule says, "Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Tishri, must be on the day of the molad." This is the Feast of Trumpets. Yet, the rule goes on to say, "There are exceptions." Itís unfortunate that the Hebrew calendar doesnít seem concerned if the Holy Days are on the correct days!

Letís stop to ask a question: Is there one scripture from God that can be cited to allow, justify, or permit an exception, to move or put off the Feast of Trumpets, and thus all the Holy Days? We donít know of any.

Letís go on to the postponement rules themselves. You will see that, rather than being the exception, postponing Trumpets is done a majority of the time!

12. These are the four dehioth (postponements):

a. When the molad Tishri occurs on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday, Rosh Hashanah [Tishri 1] is postponed to the following day.

b. When the molad occurs at noon (18h) or later, Rosh Hashanah is postponed to the next day. (Or, if this day is a Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, [it is postponed] to Monday, Thursday, or Sabbath because of dehioth a.).

c. When the molad Tishri of a common year falls on Tuesday, 204-parts after 3 a.m., i.e., 3d 9h 2014p or later, Rosh Hashanah is postponed to Wednesday, and, because of dehioth a., further postponed to Thursday. [Emphasis ours.]

d. When, in a common year succeeding a leap year, the molad Tishri occurs on Monday morning, 589 parts after 9 a.m., i.e., 2d 15h 589p or later, Rosh Hashanah is postponed to the next day.

Note: In more than 60% of all years, Rosh Hashanah does not occur on the day of the molad, but is postponed according to one of the dehioth. Therefore, the dehioth are actually not the exceptions to the rule, but the rule.

It is obviously not the intention of the calendar calculation to establish Rosh Hashanah and the beginning of the months on the day of the conjunction. It would rather appear that the beginnings of the years and the months are generally adjusted to the days on which the Sanhedrin would have sanctified them on the basis of observation of the new crescent. ... In order to understand how the dehioth a. and b. affect adjustment, it is necessary to study the astronomically-exact hours when the new moon becomes visible in Jerusalem after conjunction.

Note that the conjunction was calculated in order to foretell when the crescent would become visible.
Dehioth a. mainly fulfills the following three religious requirements: Yom Kippur (Tishri 10) shall not occur on the day before or after the Sabbath, and Hoshana Rabba (Tishri 21) [the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles] shall not occur on the Sabbath.

In order to make the dehioth a. and b. possible, the calendar has established an axiom, which determines the length of the years, and which accomplishes the balancing of the solar with the lunar years according to the rule of intercalation. ... Dehioth c. and d. are mathematical consequences of this axiom. ...

There they are. If you thought the calendar rules were difficult, you were right! In contrast to Godís simple instructions, itís the man-made rules of postponement that are confusing and non-biblical!

THE OTHER TYPE OF POSTPONEMENT

An additional thirteenth month, the intercalary month, is necessary every few years because there are fewer than 365 days in a twelve-lunar-month year. Every few years, a thirteenth month is needed to balance out the year, to keep the Holy Days at their appointed times. If it was noted that Passover would fall too early, before the beginning of spring, that would call for the addition of the thirteenth month, so Abib would fall one month later, and Passover would be in the spring.

However, the times when these extra months occur in the Hebrew calendar are not determined by the need for a thirteenth month in a given year. Instead, the additional month is scheduled by averaging out the years, rather than observing when the extra month is actually necessary. The computation is based on the idea that, on the average, the intercalary month is needed every so many years, so it is scheduled for that many years. This averaging of the years over a 19 year period is what Spier referred to as an "axiom" in the dehioth rules above.

This means that there may be years when there is an extra month that is not needed, and other years where the extra month is not scheduled but is needed. As a result, the new year may be offset either forward or backward by a whole month from where it should be set! For example, two or more times in the 19 year cycle, Trumpets is postponed to what is actually the eighth new moon!

ORIGIN OF THE POSTPONEMENTS

Who invented these postponements? Where did the rules come from? No one really knows! Some think God gave these postponement rules to Moses, but there is no evidence for that. The actual rules came into effect long after Moses, and were not set the way they are today until long after the time of Jesus -- until as late as the 10th century A.D.

Humanly speaking, it is easy to understand why the Jews would want to postpone the calendar. If certain Holy Days occurred on a Friday or a Sunday, there might be some inconvenience to the people to have two consecutive Sabbath days. If it was not permitted to prepare food on the Sabbath (by manís laws, not Godís), and Atonement fell on Friday or Sunday, there would be two days of not being able to prepare food. Surely the people would faint from hunger! There were actual reasons why these rules of postponement came into being.

However, from a mature Christian perspective, wouldnít it be better to suspend the man-made law against preparing food on the weekly Sabbath, to be able to appropriately observe the Day of Atonement, rather than making Godís law yield to manís traditions, even adding another man-made law, changing the entire year, just to try to patch things up?

We believe the man-made rules of postponement should not take precedence over Godís laws, His Holy Days, or His people.

WHEN DID THE POSTPONEMENTS DEVELOP?

There are some who insist that the calendar of Jesusí day and the calendar today are identical. But in the introduction to Sanctification of The New Moon, we read:

The plain fact is that, as seen by recent scholars, the system of the fixed calendar was not developed until fully three to four centuries after the close of the talmudic period, about a.d. 485. Hence there is nothing to be found in the writings of that period concerning the refined value of the solar year. ... Nor can anything be found in the Talmud about such weighty calendaric matters as the regulated succession of full and defective months within the year, the four "postponements" of New Year's Day, the 19-year cycle, or the number and succession of intercalated years [years with 13 months] in this or any other cycle. ... Indeed, there is no talmudic evidence of a practical chronology according to the Aera Mundi, and Maimonides [the 10th century Jewish philosopher credited with the final calendar reforms] himself refers to that system of chronology as something of rather recent date.
The Talmud, which was written during the first two centuries A.D., does not mention the postponements, but it does mention a Saturday Sivan 6 (the Jewish calendarís Pentecost or Shavuot). Under the rules of postponement, Sivan 6 cannot fall on a Saturday. This is one indication that the rules of postponement were not in effect at that early date.

A SECRET ORAL LAW?

What about oral tradition? Many claim that the Jews were entrusted with the oral law or traditions, and that gives them authority over the calendar, and, presumably, over us.

Any oral law handed down among the Jews, or even among early Israel, would not have been Godís law, for He openly gave us what He wanted us to have (Deuteronomy 29:29). Jewish laws, customs and traditions, handed down over the generations, have no bearing on how we live today, either as civil law or as religious law.

Was there really a secret oral tradition that reached clear back to Moses? If there was, does it seem likely, or even remotely possible, that these traditions could have been handed down, generation after generation, with no change or modification, during all the various periods of total apostasy and upheaval -- for instance, during the repetitive apostacies during the time of the Judges and during the monarchy, through the Babylonian captivity, in the middle of the Roman occupation and Maccabean revolt? Could these traditions possibly have remained intact and unchanged, faithfully handed down by an unfaithful people, over all those millenia, finally to be written down, still correct in every detail, in the second century A.D. as the Talmud and Mishnah? Is that reasonable? What does history tell us?

The word "tradition" does not occur in the OT, but between the Testaments much teaching in explanation of the OT was added by the rabbis. Tradition was handed down from teacher to pupil, and by Jesusí day had assumed a place alongside scripture. This equation of human commentary with divine revelation was condemned by the Lord. By such tradition the Word of God was "transgressed," "made of none effect," laid aside, and rejected (Mt. 15:5, 6; Mk. 7:8-9, 13). The doctrines taught by tradition were "the commandments of men" (Mt. 15:9, Mk. 7:6-7). Jesus placed his own teaching alongside the Word of God as an authoritative commentary, which he handed down to his disciples. Thus in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus quoted from the Law, but put beside it his own words, "but I say to you" (Mt. 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44; cf. 6:25). His justification for so doing is found in his Person. As the spirit-anointed Messiah, the Word made flesh, he alone could make a valid and authoritative commentary on the Spirit-inspired Word of God. Likewise the Epistles emphasize the Person of Christ in contrast to tradition. In Col. 2:8 Paul warns against falling prey to "philosophy and empty deceit ... according to human tradition ... and not according to Christ." So in Gal. 1:14, 16 ... Christ not only created the true tradition but constitutes it. ...

Apostolic tradition was at one time oral, but for us it is crystallized in the apostolic writings containing the Spirit-guided witness to the Christ of God. Other teaching, while it may be instructive and useful and worthy of serious consideration, cannot claim to be placed alongside OT and NT as authoritative without manifesting the same defects as condemned Jewish tradition in the eyes of our Lord. (New Bible Dictionary, Article "Tradition," p. 1211-12)

MORE THAN ONE TALMUD!

It may come as a surprise to learn that there is not only one Talmud. There are two! The Babylonian Talmud is not exactly the same as the Palestinian Talmud. Why? Wouldnít the understanding of the Mishnah by the Jews in one location be the same as, or at least similar to, the understanding by the Jews in the other location? Wouldnít these commentaries on the words, supposedly given to Moses by God, contain the same understanding, if the "oral law" were transmitted accurately?

Here is what The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says about the differences in the two Talmuds:

To give one simple example, while Leviticus Rabbah contains exegeses [definitions and explanations] of scripture found also in one of the Talmuds, it does not subject a single passage of the Mishnah to modes of analysis common in the two Talmuds, even though on rare occasion a Mishnah sentence or paragraph may find its way into Leviticus Rabbah. So the two Talmuds stand together as well as take up a position apart from the remainder of the canon.

While the two Talmuds treat the Mishnah paragraphs in the same order, they do not say the same thing about them. ... Where the two sets of authors deal with a shared lemma, however, each group does exactly what it wishes, imputing words to the prior authority (as if the said authority had actually spoken those words) simply not known to the other group. (ISBE, Volume IV, Article "Talmud," section V. "The Relation Between the Talmuds," p. 719)

This may be of interest for historical study, but the New Testament church of God is not under any obligation to follow the customs and traditions of ancient Israel or ancient Judah. Therefore, any customs or traditions used by the Jews of Jesusí day, for example, would have no application to our modern Christian religious observance. In fact, Jesus condemned many of those ancient practices. The church is not under any obligation whatsoever to the Talmud(s) or the Mishna.

AUTHORITY TO PRESERVE AND CHANGE?

The Jews preserved the calendar, so it is taught that they can also change it. Yet, preserving the calendar is one thing; altering the calendar is another. The scribes who copied the scriptures were meticulous about their work, lest they change the holy words of God; and even at that, mistakes crept in. The Jews who set the calendar were not under the same tight guidelines. Why? Might it be that they knew the calendar was not the same as scripture, or of the same origin?

Lest we forget, these are also the same individuals Christ reproved because their oral law nullified the written word of God (Matthew 15:1-14). They are also the same people who sought to destroy Christ. Having the law and obeying it are not at all the same thing! Their preservation of the scriptures does not give them the authority to legislate man-made rules that violate the very scriptures they were to preserve.

If we look to the tradition of the Jews, or any other religious leader for that matter, in place of the word of God, we are turning our back on God and are in danger of idolatry. Note this admonition to us: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).

Note also this stern warning from Moses: "Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you" (Deuteronomy 4:1-2). No traditions mentioned here!

God tells us to look to the new moon and convene on the appointed times He set aside by that method. We must make a choice between doing that and using a calendar devised by men and altered by men.  Actually, God is not all that interested in calendars. He is interested in whether we will obey Him (1 Samuel 15:22)! For the most part, God allows men to alter their calendars or devise new ones any time they wish. There is one important exception, though: God has not authorized anyone to move His Sabbath or His Holy Days!

When does God tell us to observe, for example, the Day of Atonement? Does He allow it to be moved one or two days, or a month, for any reason? If we donít observe it when He says to, does He pronounce a curse? Is there any other Holy Day God gives His people that is as clear and precise as to when we are to observe, sanctify, and afflict ourselves as is the Day of Atonement?

"And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ĎSpeak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are my feasts."í ... These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times" (Leviticus 23:1-2, 4).

God appointed their times and didnít give anyone authority to change it.

"And the LORD said to Moses, saying: ĎAlso the tenth day of this month [the seventh chodesh, or seventh new moon] shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your soul, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. For any person who is not afflicted of soul on that same day, he shall be cut off from his people. And the person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your soul; On the ninth day of the month [new moon] at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbathí" (verses 26-32).

God says it is the tenth day of the month, or the tenth day following the new moon. The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, the actual calendar used by the Jews, identifies the cycle of the moon as "from its molad (birth, conjunction) to the next new moon," not whenever it suits the people setting the calendar! If the man-made calendar does not begin the new month on the new moon, Godís precision still requires the Holy Days to be figured from the new moon, or the commandment is not being kept!

When a postponement rule is implemented, people are keeping their own tradition (Mark 7:8-13) by saying that the day of Atonement is, in reality, on the eleventh or twelfth day following the seventh new moon, rather than the tenth.

God allowed men to set up their own calendar systems. Our modern, western Gregorian calendar is just one more man-made calendar system. God does not interfere with these things. Men can change their calendars all they like, as long as we know how to compute the right time to assemble for Godís Holy Days.

OBSERVING THE CORRECT DAY

In one sense, it is vitally important that we observe Godís Holy Days on the correct day. If we grow lax in our eagerness to obey God, we may slip in a number of other ways: in prayer and fasting, in time set aside to study the Bible, in areas where sin may creep back into our lives, in deciding when the weekly Sabbath begins and ends, or even in what inappropriate activities we may allow ourselves on the Sabbath. We must remain vigilant in all areas, including doing our best to observe Godís special appointments with His people on the days He set the appointments!

However, many of us are aware that we have missed our appointments with God, in all innocence, without knowledge, and God has not abandoned us. For instance, before we were called into the faith, we may have worshipped God with all our hearts on Sunday. Once we became aware of the Sabbath, we immediately changed, or at least should have. That was the test God was putting us through.

The lunar month begins with the new moon. Because of the complicated calculations added by the Jews over the centuries, as quoted earlier, it became permissible, in the eyes of the Jews, to begin a month somewhere near the molad. (The molad, according to The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, is the conjunction of the earth, moon and sun, giving us the dark moon.) The major exception to this "near miss" rule was the first day of the fiscal year, which is the Day of Trumpets. According to the calendar rules, that day is "New Yearís Day," and must be on the molad -- unless, of course, one of the man-made rules of postponement applies!

DETERMINING TISHRI 1

The concept that Tishri 1 is New Yearís Day also disregards Godís clear instruction that Abib, at Passover time, was to be the first new moon of the year!

The first day of the seventh month (Tishri 1) is sometimes referred to as the first day of the civil year on the Hebrew calendar. However, it is referred to as "New Yearís Day" in the Jewish literature, which shows that Tishri 1 is actually the beginning of the year to the Jews!

Why do the Jews set the year based on Tishri 1 rather than Abib 1? The Bible says that the Fall festivals must be at or near the fall equinox (Hebrew tekufah) (Exodus 34:22). Those who set the calendar apparently decided to be sure the seventh month was in the right place, then set the rest of the year from that. (We will address this issue in Section 5 of this article.)

In John Kossey's book, The Hebrew Calendar, A Mathematical Introduction, the author notes: "At the outset, you should understand that a conjunction of the earth, moon, and sun takes place completely apart from manís doings. The molad cannot be postponed by human enactments! Tishri 1, the civil New Year in the Hebrew calendar, is what is postponed" (Kossey's emphasis).

This is an important point. What God set in the heavens cannot be touched or altered by man. The calendar, devised by men, is easily within reach, and can be altered numerous times. Indeed, it has been!

Once the Jews had decided which new moon would be New Yearís Day (the seventh new moon, Tishri 1, which is also the Feast of Trumpets) for the upcoming year, they would then count backward from that point in time a predetermined amount of time -- not six moons, which would be the logical thing to do, but 177 days -- and they call that day Abib 1. Abib 1 on the calendar may or may not be on a new moon day.

The first day of each month on the Hebrew calendar should be in accordance with the new moon. Yet, such is not the case.

For those not following the Hebrew calendar, the rule of thumb for determining the first day of the year, in the spring, is to find the new moon which begins the year in the spring (see Exodus 12:2 and Leviticus 23:5). This, however, is not without its controversy.  Some methods of calendar preparation use the first new moon following the spring equinox.  Other systems use the new moon closest to the spring equinox, whether it falls before or after the equinox.  By these two systems, the day of Abib 1 may be offset from someone else's Abib 1 by a month.

So we see that part of the calendar controversy is determining what constitutes a new moon.
 
 


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