Stewarton Bible School


The International Date Line

After the capture of Jerusalem in the first century (AD) the Jews fled the Promised Land to the four corners of the earth carrying with them the knowledge of the true weekly Sabbath. For them the 7th day of the week (now known as Saturday) has remained the true weekly Sabbath down through the ages. Anyone who is in any doubt as to which day of week is the Sabbath of the 4th commandment, need simply contact the nearest synagogue and the Jews there will put him/her right.

We all know that on this globe the sun rises and sets at different local times. It rises in the far east some six or even seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Since the earth revolves west to east (causing the sun to apparently travel east to west) there must of necessity be some dividing line on earth (running north/south) where people living east of the line would be a day ahead of those on the west.

THE QUESTION IS: Where should that line be? Should it run north/south along the International Date Line in the Pacific ocean as it currently does, or should it run north/south through Jerusalem Israel?

ANSWER: We have no record in Scripture concerning festival pilgrims to Jerusalem from countries east of Israel (e.g. Edom, Moab, Syria, Babylon and India etc.) reckoning that they were hours or days ahead of Jerusalem time. Nor do we read of western visitors to Jerusalem (e.g. from Greece, Italy and Spain) reckoning that they were hours or days behind Jerusalem time. They all simply fell in with the believers in Jerusalem and kept the Feasts with them. There was no problem, as the sacred calendar was determined month by month by the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. The question of a dateline and various time zones just didn't arise.

After the Diaspora, however, when the Jews were scattered abroad, they were unable to visit Jerusalem three times a year: nor could they speedily contact Jerusalem for details as to when each month or feast day was to begin. Communication in those days was very, very slow. It could take months to cover distances we now travel in hours. Telecommunications have now reduced those times to seconds. Moreover, today we can determine - to the minute - and in Jerusalem time - when a conjunction occurs; that is when the sun, moon and earth are in a straight line. You will read in our booklet on the Sacred Calendar that we in SBS believe that the beginnings of months are still determined when the new moon is sighted from Jerusalem, Israel. The method we use to determine the beginning of months and sacred Feasts that occur in the year is as follows:

All this obviously means that people in the far east can be several hours into a day before the same day begins in Israel: and those in the far west several hours behind. In order to be certain that they were observing the same feast days as their brothers in Israel, the Diaspora Jews began celebrating two days at each feast: (i.e. two days Shavuoth (Pentecost), two days Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets) and two days at Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles). Many Jews still do this. However, we in SBS do not celebrate two days as did the Diaspora Jews, simply because we can now calculate beforehand the date and time of a conjunction and also when the new moon will be seen at Jerusalem. This means that we can, regardless of where on earth we live, celebrate the annual Sabbaths as they come to us.

Of course this still means that here in the UK we will begin observing the Almighty's Sabbaths two hours after the believers in Jerusalem. Others in the far east may start observing them up to seven hours before. It doesn't matter, so long as the correct day is being observed. Moreover we now have the ability to determined beforehand which day is to be kept. This allows us to celebrate Yahweh's Feasts as they come to us - regardless of where we live.

Is it not exactly the same with the weekly Sabbath? Sure it is. All over the earth, Sabbath-keepers celebrate the seventh day as it comes to them. In like manner once we have determined when the annual Sabbaths occur, we celebrate that day as it comes to us: whether we be in the far east or the far west. In other words, the same day can be celebrated around the world - albeit its start and end time would differ from country to country.

If, however, a believer wants to celebrate the weekly or annual Sabbaths at exactly the same time as those living in Israel, he will need to regulate his calendar and clock accordingly. But this would mean that for many hours every weekly or annual Sabbath he would be working when Sabbath-keepers in his own country are resting; and resting when they are working. Everyone will agree that this is not a sensible policy to follow. Much rather would I suggest that we believers should first determine which day begins each month - from the standpoint of Jerusalem - and then count to the Feasts as directed in Leviticus. Having done that, we can then observe each Feast or Fast as it comes to us. This means that those in the far east would begin (and end) the weekly and annual Sabbaths several hours before the people in Israel: and those in the far west would begin (and end) the weekly and annual Sabbaths several hours after the people in Israel. There really is no other sensible alternative for us who live on this revolving globe we call Earth.


Author: DBL
Last Updated: November 1997