Stewarton Bible School


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.
"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."
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 most accurate.

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 used.

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:
"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."
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.'

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.


Author: DBL
Last Updated: April 1996