QUESTION: Why are the sacred festival dates in the SBS calendar
different from others in some years?
Festival-keeping groups use different methods for determining the
start of a month. Consequently if a group's 1st day of a festival
month is different from others, then all the festival dates in that
particular month will also be different. The methods used by the main
groups are briefly described below.
1. Visual Observation
Ancient Israel started each month when the new moon was sighted
by the naked eye from Jerusalem, Israel. This meant that the
beginning of each month was decided upon - not in advance - but as it
occurred. I quote from Arthur Spier's book The Comprehensive Hebrew
Calendar, published by Behrman House, Inc., 1261 Broadway, New
York, USA concerning this ancient method.
This method obviously didn't allow a calendar to be produced in
advance: but of all the methods discussed here it was - and still is - the
- "In the early times of our history the solution was found by the
following practical procedure. The beginning of months
were determined by direct observation of the moon. The new months
were sanctified and their beginnings announced by the Sanhedrin, the
Supreme Court in Jerusalem, after witnesses had testified that they
had seen the new crescent and after their testimony had been
thoroughly examined, confirmed by calculation and duly accepted.
The Jewish communities were notified of the beginning of months
(Rosh Hodesh) in early times by kindling night fires on the mountains
and later by messengers."
2. Conjunction Times
Modern Israel starts the festival month of Tishri (Ethanim) on the
day of the astronomical new moon (conjunction): but postponements
of one or two days are made in some years to accommodate certain
Jewish traditions. (Spier's book also explains these postponements)
As this arrangement does not rely on the ancient method of 'first
sighting,' a calendar can be produced in advance using this method. The
new born crescent, incidentally, is never visible to the naked eye on the
day of the 'astronomical new moon' (conjunction) but becomes visible
between 15 and 48 hours later. This means that when Tishri is started 'on
the day of conjunction', the feast and fast days in that month are all
celebrated a day or two earlier than if the ancient Israelite method were
Some Christian groups also start each month on the day of a
conjunction: but they do not make any postponements whatsoever.
The dates in their calendars (which are also produced in advance) will
therefore always be a day or two earlier than if the ancient Israelite 'first
sighting' method were used.
3. Conjunction Times + Time Allowed for a First Sighting
The calendar set out by Stewarton Bible School is based on the
ancient Israelite requirement for a 'first sighting.'
To meet this age-old requirement we start with the conjunction date and
time (obtained from Greenwich observatory) and then allow at least 24
hours for a 'first sighting' of the new moon: working always from the
standpoint of Jerusalem, Israel. In other words we never start a month
on the day of the conjunction any more than ancient Israel did. Using
this method we are able to print a calendar in
advance. The end result is that the Festival dates shown in the
calendar we print will usually be a day or two later than those of the
groups mentioned at point 2: but the dates we give will be in line
with the method used by ancient Israel.
4. Which Group is Correct?
Naturally each group will claim to be correct. But it is a simple matter for
an organisation to check each claim against an 'actual sighting' of the new
moon. In 1978 we asked a group of believers in Jerusalem to check the
SBS calendar against 'first sightings' of the new crescent moon. After
looking out for the new moon for several months Elder Charles Dugger
of the Jerusalem Church of God at Zion's Gate wrote:
This is strong evidence that even though we print a calendar in advance, it
is far more accurate than most others. It may not be infallible, but it is
nearer the ancient Israelite method than the others we have examined:
simply because it keeps in step with the 'visible new moon' as opposed
to the invisible 'conjunction.'
- "We find that the moon really is new over Jerusalem each month by
your calendar and is off as much as two days by the Jewish calendar.
Therefore we wish to publish the truth - and we simply need a list of the
moonrise after conjunction at Jerusalem. Brother Loughran just list
them so that we can take the list straight to the printers."
5. An Open Invitation
We take this opportunity to invite believers in Jerusalem to check the
beginnings of months listed at this site against first sightings of the
new moon. Any believers in Jerusalem wishing to take up this invitation should
look out for the new moon crescent on the evening preceding the First Day
of a month. These dates are available
online. Please mail us if you find
us to be incorrect.
6. Signs in the Sun, Moon and Stars
Yahweh's Feasts are extremely important. So important, in fact, that He
created the sun, moon and stars to signal the once in eternity event/date
which they commemorate. According to Bible prophecy He will display
signs in the heavens to highlight important events scheduled to coincide
with His Feasts. When those signs appear, there will be no doubt as to the
correct calendar dates. Let all believers who honour the Almighty's feasts
remember these little-known facts. See our booklet,
The Sacred Calendar of the God of Israel
for more details on this fascinating subject.
Last Updated: April 1996