oes the Sabbath day begin at sunset on the north pole (Lev.23:32)? Isn't the International Date Line in the wrong place? Did Joshua's long day destroy the weekly cycle (Josh.10:13)? Should we begin our months with the visible new moon crescent or the astronomical lunar conjunction (Rev.12:1-5)? Should it be viewed locally or at Jerusalem (Ex.12:1-2)? Did the four seasons begin after Noah's flood (Gen.8:22)? Is the new year determined by "green ears" of barley or the spring equinox (Gen.1:14-16)? Should the new moon come before or after the equinox (Deut.16:6)? When is the next modern land Sabbath (Ex.23:10) and Jubilee year (Lev.25:10)? How does a person calculate the feast days (Lev.23) from scratch using an almanac?
The Biblical definition of a day is two-fold. First we find that Christ said in John 11:9, "are there not TWELVE HOURS in the day?," and "God called the LIGHT day" (Gen.1:5). A day is therefore TWELVE HOURS of DAYLIGHT -- sunrise to sunset.
Second, we read that "the EVENING and the MORNING were the first day" (Gen.1:5) and "on the day that I struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt" (Num.3:13) which we know occurred at MIDNIGHT (Ex.12:29). So a day also consists of a dark period and a light period -- sunset to sunset -- 24 HOURS. The sun defines the day when the earth rotates on its axis once every 24 hours (Gen.1:14).
The Roman calendar day begins at midnight but the biblical calendar day begins at sunset or evening. As Leviticus 23:32 says, "from evening unto evening shall ye celebrate your sabbath." And Mark 1:32 says, "at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were sick." And "The soul that touches any (uncleanness) shall be unclean until evening ... and when the sun is down he shall be clean" (Lev.22:6-7).
Christian churches in Europe and early America continued for many centuries to observe a rest day and festivals from sunset the preceding evening. This custom was gradually discarded until by 1800 it was virtually non-existent. Yet we still see such phrases as "Christmas Eve" and "New Year's Eve" showing that the celebrations began at sunset the preceding evening.
How To Define A Day On The North Or South Pole
What are Sabbath-keepers supposed to do north of the Arctic Circle, where it remains dark for several months each year?
In the countries where there is no sunset for months, and no sunrise for months, a person should simply USE THE TIME THE SUN WENT DOWN BEFORE THE PERIOD OF TOTAL DARKNESS, OR TOTAL LIGHT, TO OBSERVE THE SABBATH.
In arctic and antarctic areas, there are times when the sun is invisible for 24 hours, and other times when it is visible for 24 hours. During the time of complete darkness, Sabbath-keepers should KEEP THE SABBATH FROM ABOUT NOON FRIDAY TO ABOUT NOON SATURDAY because that is the time when the sun rose and set in arctic midwinter. In other words, before the sun disappeared, it both rose and set at noon.
Conversely, during the period of complete light, the Sabbath should be kept from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday, because the sun is at its lowest point around midnight during the time of the "Midnight Sun." IN SUMMARY, AT WHATEVER TIME THE SUN WENT DOWN BEFORE THE PERIOD OF TOTAL DARKNESS OR TOTAL LIGHT IS THE TIME TO KEEP THE SABBATH.
In the areas below the Arctic Circle, there is never a period of 24-hour darkness or 24-hour light. When the sun sets on Friday, the Sabbath begins. The antarctic region operates the same way. (See The Lord's Day On A Round World by Robert L. Odom, 1970, Southern Pub. Ass'n.)
The biblical definition of a week is SEVEN DAYS since Jacob "fulfilled her (Leah's) week" (of marriage festivities) and we see there were "SEVEN DAYS of the feast" (Judges 14:12) when Samson later got married. THE SAME MARRIAGE CUSTOM IS IN ONE PLACE A WEEK LONG AND IN ANOTHER PLACE SEVEN DAYS LONG. The word for "week" in Strong's Concordance (#7620 from #7651) means "SEVEN" in Hebrew. God himself established the week by working six days and resting on the seventh (Gen.1:1 to 2:4; Ex.20:8-11).
But which day is the seventh day of the week? God "blessed" and "sanctified" only "the seventh day" (Gen.2:3). A person can't "keep" a day "holy" (Ex.20:8) unless it is holy to begin with. A person can't keep a teapot hot if it is cold. It must first be made hot in order to be kept hot.
If a person is just one day off in observing the Sabbath, it doesn't count. For instance, if a person is just one day off in observing the Passover, Christ said, "ye have no life in you" (John 6:53). If a bridegroom invited guests to his wedding, and they were a day late, they would miss the wedding (cp.Matt.25:10-12). Let us therefore be like the men of Issachar "who had understanding of the times" (1 Chr.12:32; see also Esther 1:13). The modern Roman calendar is not God's calendar. The Romans rejected God's ways (Rom.1:18-22).
Now the SEVENTH DAY of the WEEK is from FRIDAY SUNSET TO SATURDAY SUNSET. Here are some of the reasons why:
First, we see that all wall calendars have seven columns beginning with Sunday at the left and ending with Saturday at the right. Thus, these calendars admit that Saturday is the seventh day by their very design.
Second, the Jews consider Saturday the Sabbath and "the oracles of God" (Rom.3:2; cp. Acts 7:8) were committed to the Jews. From the time of Moses to our day they represent an unbroken, historical chain that has never deviated from the day Moses gave them. Christ subsequently kept the Sabbath with them (Luke 4:17,20). From 70 A.D. onward, they've been scattered into all parts of the world -- independent, isolated and cut off from one another. Yet everywhere they rest on the same day -- Saturday. There is no confusion among them.
Fourth, in 108 languages of the world, "Saturday" is rendered "Sabbath." Most of the world's leading ancient and modern languages use a word for Saturday that means "rest" and sounds alot like "Sabbath." For example, notice "Sabado" (Spanish), "Sabbato" (Italian), "Subbota" (Russian), "Shubbuta" (Bulgarian), "As-Sabt" (Arabic), "Sabbaton" (Greek), "Sabbatum" (Latin), "Shambin" (Persian), "Shapat" (Armenian), "Sanbat" (Abyssinian), "Sobota" (Polish), "Shamba" (Hindustani), "Ari-Sabtu" (Malay), "Shamba" (Afghan), "Sabatico" (Prussian), "Sab" (Central African) and "Sabtu" (Dayak, Boreno). Although some languages, such as French ("Samedi") and German ("Samstag"), do not preserve this transliteration, the words for Sunday have no significance in any language.
Fifth, Webster's Dictionary defines Saturday as "the seventh or last day of the week; the day of the Jewish Sabbath" (p.1611). This weekly cycle has never been changed by man. As James Robertson, former Director American Ephemeris, U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington D.C., said, "There has been no change in our calendar in past centuries that has affected in any way the cycle of the week." F.W. Dyson, former Astronomer Royal, Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London, stated, "As far as I know, in the various changes of the calendar there has been no change in the seven-day rota of the week, which has come down from very early times." "The week is a period of seven days, having no reference whatever to the celestial motions -- a circumstance to which it owes its unalterable uniformity.... It has been employed from time immemorial in almost all Eastern countries; and as it forms neither an aliquot part of the year nor of the lunar month, those who reject the Mosaic recital will be at a loss, as Delambre remarks, to assign to it an origin having much semblance of probability" (Encyc. Brit., 11th ed., vol.4, p.988). A book giving sunset tables for all major American cities can be purchased from the Nautical Almanac Office, U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington D.C. 20390. It gives the exact times of sunset for every day of the year in any major American city. Simply remember to figure in Daylight Saving Time (From April to October add one hour. Spring ahead; Fall behind. The exact dates vary from year to year but the rule is to move clocks ahead the first Sunday in April.) Hawaii, Arizona, and parts of Indiana do not use Daylight Saving Time.
Isn't The International Date Line Arbitrary?
Someone will argue that two Sabbath-keepers could start out from Jerusalem, one travelling east and the other travelling west, each keeping the same Sabbath every seventh day of the journey. When they meet again on the other side of the globe on the Sabbath, one Sabbath-keeper is reassured that he is still keeping the Sabbath while the other is informed that he is now observing Sunday. Their journeys took the same length of time and yet they are now supposedly 24 hours apart. The same sun shines overhead. But they are separated by the imaginary "International Date Line" in the Pacific Ocean.
By an international agreement in 1884, this line was decided upon. It is therefore arbitrary, recent, and man-made. Furthermore, it isn't even straight. It zig-zags both east and west of the 180-degree line.
But just because the earth is round and has no end or beginning doesn't mean we should discard the idea of a Sabbath. It is not the Sabbath that is arbitrary, recent, man-made or crooked. We just need a proper International Date Line established by scripture to begin and end each day and week. For practical purposes, in most cases we believe that the Sabbath would technically begin on the eastern border of the original Promised Land, and progress westward marked by the exact shadow of the earth. Otherwise, there would be Sabbath-keeping neighbors keeping the Sabbath on separate days -- even though they live nearby eachother -- depending on which side of the line they lived on. As it is, Sabbath-keepers in Australia and New Zealand are out of syncronization with Sabbath-keepers of Hawaii and Alaska. Something is wrong.
The International Date Line is faulty. God "is not the author of confusion" (1 Cor. 14:33). Man's ways are often the exact opposite from God's ways.
The man-made International Date Line cuts off Australia and New Zealand from their kindred Celto-Saxon nations to the east and causes these peoples to unknowingly break the Sabbath even when they rest on "Saturday." Australian Sunday-keepers are unknowingly meeting together on Saturday and Sabbath-keepers are actually resting on Friday. Satan truly has deceived the whole world (Rev.12:9). If Christians are persecuted for Sabbath-keeping in the future, perhaps it would make sense to move to Australia at that time and rest on "Sunday."
To see how ridiculous the International date line is, consider a person crossing the INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE on the Sabbath going east. If he travels east on Saturday sunset, he comes to Friday sunset on the other side and must observe two Sabbaths in a row and only work five days that week, thereby breaking the command to work six days a week. He has also broken the seven-day cycle in his own body.
Consider a person crossing the INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE on Friday going west. If he travels west on Friday sunset, he comes to Saturday sunset on the other side and has missed the Sabbath observance altogether, thereby breaking the command to rest on the Sabbath (not travel). He has also broken the seven-day cycle in his own body.
If a person travels across the INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE going either way on some other day for a short stay of a week or less, it may be better to use local time from the place of origin if he is certain to return quickly because then he will not break the seven-day cycle in his own body. This would apply especially to occupations such as airline pilots, astronauts and international travelers. Policemen and firemen face the same problem.
Did Joshua's Long Day Destroy The Weekly Cycle?
In Joshua 10:12-13 we read, "Then spoke Joshua ... Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Aijalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed ... and hastened not to go down about a whole day."
This did not destroy the seven-day weekly cycle or make two days out of one because God reckons a DAY as being "from evening to evening" (Gen.1:5; Lev.23:32) regardless of how many hours are in between. God doesn't count days according to man-made clocks or 24-hour periods. The Bible calls this a "DAY" singular. As Joshua 10:14 says, "And there was no DAY like that before or after it."
Was The Calendar Changed?
The calendar in use today was first called the Julian Calendar because it had its origin at the time of Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Later it was changed at the order of Pope Gregory, and since then it has been called the Gregorian Calendar.
The Julian Calendar was imperfect because it inserted leap years too frequently. Back when this calendar was designed it was supposed that the year was exactly 365.25 days long. To take care of the extra one-fourth day each year, a day was added to the month of February every four years. It was later learned that the year is 12 minutes and 14 seconds shorter than this. Consequently, by the time of "pope" Gregory, the calendar had drifted ten days away from the seasons. The spring equinox, therefore, fell on March 11 instead of March 21.
To correct this, ten days were dropped from the calendar. But they were dropped only from the number of days in the month, not from the number of days in the week.
A man named Lilius proposed the method which was adopted in making the change. In the Catholic Encyclopedia (1910 edition), volume 9, page 251, under the article "Lilius," we read this explanation of the change: "Thus, every imaginable proposition was made; only one idea was never mentioned, viz., the abandonment of the seven-day week."
Also in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1910 edition), volume 3, page 740, under the article "Chronology," we read: "It is to be noted that in the Christian period, the order of days in the week has never been interrupted. Thus, when Gregory XIII reformed the calendar in 1582, Thursday, 4 October was followed by Friday, 15 October. So in England, in 1752, Wednesday, 2 September , was followed by Thursday, 14 September."
Sun. Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat.
The British countries refused to change the calendar when the "pope" ordered it. They continued with the old Julian Calendar until 1752. And while their days of the month were therefore different from Spain, Portugal and Italy, who had changed in 1582, nonetheless, their days of the week were just the same as in Rome. By 1752 it was necessary to drop eleven days out of the month -- but still the week was unaffected.
Sun. Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat.
In Russia, the calendar was not changed until 1918. In that year the day that we called the 14th of August was the 1st day of August to the Russians. Our calendars were 13 days apart by this time, yet in both countries the same day was called Wednesday. In both countries
Saturday fell on the same day of the week. Through all the Russian changes, their Sunday is still our Sunday and their Saturday is still our Saturday.
Thus we see that the Julian-Gregorian Calendar has been in effect since 46 B.C. -- prior to the birth of Christ -- which proves that there has never been a change in the weekly cycle from the time of Christ until now. The Saturday of today is the same seventh day of the week that it was in Christ's time. We are therefore sure that we have the same Sabbath Day that Christ kept.
The biblical definition of a month can be found by comparing Numbers 10:10 which says, "in the BEGINNINGS of your months ye shall blow with the TRUMPET" and Psalm 81:3 which says "Blow up the TRUMPET in the NEW MOON." Thus the BEGINNING of a month is the NEW MOON.
Another set of scriptures that define a month are Numbers 28:11 which says, "in the BEGINNINGS of your months ye shall offer a BURNT OFFERING" and 2 Chronicles 8:12-13 which says "Solomon offered BURNT OFFERINGS ... on the NEW MOONS." Once again we conclude that the BEGINNING of a month is the NEW MOON. In fact, the Hebrew word "chodesh" is translated "new moon" 20 times and "month" 220 times in the Old Testament. The month begins with the thin, new-crescent moon in the western sky after sunset.
The Bible reveals that originally the synodical month (the time from lunar crescent to lunar crescent) was exactly 30 days. In Deuteronomy 21:13 it was the law to mourn for the dead "a full month." This mourning lasted a full "thirty days" when Aaron died (Num.20:29) and another "thirty days" when Moses died (Deut.34:8). Another proof that originally the synodical month was exactly 30 days can be found by comparing Genesis 7:11 with 8:4 which tells us that five months equalled 150 days. Thus, each month had to consist of 30 days. Also, in order for three-and-one-half years (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:5-7) to equal 42 months (Rev.11:2) or 1260 days (Rev.11:3; 12:6), we know that each month must have 30 days.
Of course, today months can be 29 or 30 days in length since the lunar cycle is 29.5306 days or 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds, but it can vary as much as 13 hours.
Should We Use The Visible Crescent Or The Lunar Conjunction?
But is the biblical new moon the first faint visible crescent or the invisible astronomical lunar conjunction? Here are a number of reasons why we should use the crescent rather than the conjunction:
First, the ancient Hebrews had no almanacs or telescopes to figure out when the lunar conjunction would occur. The discoveries of Newton were millenia away. They had no choice but to use the visible crescent.
Second, the Hebrew words "yerach" and "lebanah," translated "moon," are never used to describe the first day of the month. Only the Hebrew word "chodesh" is translated "new moon." In Gesenius' Hebrew/Chaldee Lexicon we find that the term "hodesh" (#2320) comes from #2318 and means to be new, or TO POLISH WITH A SWORD. In other words, it appears as a SCIMITAR, or CURVED SWORD. It is not invisible.
Third, Psalm 81:3 says, "Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed (Heb. "keseh" meaning "full moon"), on our solemn feast day." Since we know that the new moon and feast of the full moon must be the first and fifteenth days of the month respectively, it naturally follows for us to ask whether or not there can be a full moon fifteen days after a crescent; or must we use the lunar conjunction in order to come out right? The truth is that "The necessary time for full moon varies from 13.73 to 15.80 days after conjunction" (over two days -- depending on how the ellipse is oriented with respect to the sun and earth since it is off-center) (The Calendars Of Ancient Egypt by Richard A. Parker). The new crescent is not seen until one, two, or rarely three days after conjunction. So from crescent to full moon would have even greater variability than this. When 200 such months were fed into a computer at random, it was found that the full moon proper occurred the 12th day after the crescent only once; 13th day after, 44 times; 14th day after, 94 times; 15th day after, 60 times; and 16th day after, once. In other words, the full moon proper doesn't always fall on the 15th day, so Psalm 81:3 means JUST BASICALLY ROUND -- not hair-splitting. But even the full moon proper occurs on the 15th day quite often using the crescent. Incidentally, the date of the new moon crescent cannot be reckoned accurately by visual observation of the full moon.
Fourth, Revelation 12:1-5 says that "there appeared a great wonder (Heb. "SIGN") in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and THE MOON UNDER HER FEET, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.... And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron." If an astronomer were to read this passage, he would automatically think of the constellation Virgo at the point in time when the sun's path in the heavens crosses through her body. This event always occurs in mid-October, the exact time of the Feast of Trumpets in many years. Trumpets can occur as many as 29 days after September 21-23 (Autumnal equinox) or as few as the same day if the equinox and the crescent occur on the same day. Thus, mid-October is a very typical time for this feast. Christ wasn't born on December 25. Furthermore, in mid-October, at the time of the new moon crescent, we SEE this phenomenon in the western sky soon after sunset. Rosh Hashanah actually means "Head of the year" or the first day of the civil year (cp. Ex.23:16-17 & 34:22-23). Since the Virgo Constellation begins the 12 zodiac constellations, we know that all 12 stars (or constellations -- Gen.37:9) are "on her head." In other words, she heads the yearly progression -- not Leo. Even today, the Jews begin the year on the Feast of Trumpets. If Christ's first coming was on this feast, as we think his second coming will be, then we know it was a new moon that was VISIBLE to John. Since John SAW the moon under her feet, it couldn't have been the lunar conjunction.
Fifth, the historical precedent is VISIBLE crescents. As Hastings Dict. of the Bible, art. "New Moon," p.522 says, "There was no fixed calendar till the fourth century ... and the New Moon was declared from ACTUAL OBSERVATION. The EYE-WITNESSES were carefully examined on the 30th day of each month ... If no witnesses were available, then the following day was New Moon." As the Jewish Encyc., art. "New Moon," p.243 says, "The Sanhedrin was assembled in the courtyard ("bet ya'azek") of Jerusalem on the 30th of each month from morning to evening, waiting for the reports of those appointed to OBSERVE the new moon." (See also Mishnah R.H.i.7, ii.5-7; Sanh.102) The article "Calendar, History of," p.498 says, "The history of the Jewish calendar may be divided into three periods -- the biblical, the talmudic, and the post-talmudic. The first rested purely on the OBSERVATION of the sun and moon, the second on OBSERVATION and reckoning , the third entirely on reckoning." As the Encyclopedia Judaica, art. "New Moon," p.1039 says, "Originally, the New Moon was not fixed by astronomical calculations, but was solemnly proclaimed after witnesses had testified to the REAPPEARANCE of the crescent of the moon. On the 30th of each month, the members of the high court (Sanhedrin) assembled in a courtyard in Jerusalem, named Beit Ya'azek, where they waited to receive the testimony of two reliable WITNESSES; they then sanctified the New Moon. If the Moon's crescent was not seen on the 30th day, the new moon was automatically celebrated on the 31st day."
Sixth, each month is 29 or 30 days. The Israelites were able to predict ahead of time the new moon accurate to a two-day period simply by counting 29 days from the last new moon. This is why Saul held a two-day festival (1 Sam.20:27,34). David and Jonathan knew in advance that there would be a new moon festival the next day (1 Sam.20:5,18), and the day after that, because of their mentioning waiting until the third day (1 Sam.20:5,12,19). But they didn't know in advance whether the crescent would appear the first day or the second. The very fact that two days were celebrated rather than just one is proof of their INABILITY TO PREDICT with certainty the new moon day. Calculating the lunar conjunction is precise and unambiguous. Only one day is needed using that method.
Seventh, we know that Ezra the priest (Ezra 7:11-12) and Nehemiah both used the Babylonian names for the months of the calendar (Neh.1:1; 2:1; 6:15). Since they had just come from Babylon, it stands to reason that they were actually using the Babylonian Calendar which used VISIBLE crescents -- not conjunctions. And God was with them (Ezra 5:1-2; 7:27-28).
But the astronomical new moon (Hebrew "molad") is totally BLACK from the vantage point of the earth, so can't be the biblical new moon. Yet this is the "new moon" we find labeled on secular wall calendars and mentioned in secular newspapers and almanacs. This is the "new moon" used in the unbiblical "Jewish Calendar."
This INVISIBLE "new moon" occurs anywhere from 14 to 72 hours before the biblical new moon depending upon four predictable astronomical factors: "the interval from the true conjunction to the ensuing sunset(s) (or the average angular deviation of the moon from its point nearest the sun), the season of the year (or the longitude of the sun -- the measure of the sun from the vernal equinox of the ecliptic), the lunar latitude (as observed from earth), and the geographical longitude and latitude of the place of observation " (p.45, art. "Calendar," Encyc. Judaica; comments mine in brackets).
In other words, the interval between conjunction and crescent varies not only with the hour of conjunction (what time of the day or night) and the locality, but also with the speed and angle of the moon's course which are variable. When the moon is seven degrees from the sun, the contraction of the sunlit crescent, due to lunar mountain shadows, is also seven degrees. In other words, no sunlit crescent is visible. For an elongation of seven degrees or less, the entire crescent is hidden by the shadows of the lunar mountains and can't be seen from earth. Thus, the crescent becomes visible WHEN ITS ANGULAR DISTANCE FROM THE SUN IS OVER SEVEN DEGREES and this is largely unrelated to the moon's age. At any particular age, the moon can be near apogee or perigee and can vary widely in latitude. (See p.96, Feb. 1972, Sky And Telescope). But this seven-degrees-plus sighting is rare.
Assuming good vision and perfectly clear skies, the youngest crescents observed will be in those months WHEN THE INSTANT OF LUNAR CONJUNCTION (local time) FALLS SOMETIME BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND SUNRISE (at the observer's location). If the lunar conjunction occurs sometime after sunrise, then at sunset that day, the crescent will be an impossible-to-see twelve hours young, whereas next evening it will be a very old 36-hour new moon (24 + 12). Season of the year is also important. In north, temperate latitudes, AROUND THE MARCH EQUINOX, THE YOUNGEST EVENING CRESCENTS ARE SEEN, since that is when the ecliptic crosses the horizon most steeply. Around the September equinox is the time for youngest morning crescents. A CRESCENT CAN ALSO BE SEEN YOUNGER IF THE MOON IS AT PERIGEE at the date of sighting the crescent since this increases the angular distance of the crescent from the sun ( pp.78-79, Aug. 1971, Sky And Telescope).
"Do His will as if it were your own, so that He will do your will as if it were His. Nullify your own will before His so that he will nullify the will of others before you" (Pirke Avot 2:4).
How To Determine Which Day Is The New Moon
Even though Christians don't need to celebrate new moons or rest on them, new moons are essential in determining when the annual festivals occur. If a Christian doesn't know how to determine which day is the new moon, he will not be able to celebrate the annual festivals on the proper days. It is vital to take notice of new moons, and to become skilled in determining when they occur.
If the sky is not cloudy or rainy, a person should look at the western sky with the unaided healthy eye to see the first faint crescent of the new moon which is only possible to see when the moon sets AT LEAST ONE HALF HOUR or more after sunset (from Michigan State University records; also p.10, vol.36, #1, Jan.1973 "The Faith" magazine -- Ezra Stone) (Moon trails sun by only 7.5 degrees.) This is the minimum time possible to see the crescent (but very rare). Herbert Solinsky says 35 minutes minimum (p.35, The Calendar God Gave To Moses). Since 24 hours is the maximum amount of time that can exist between sunset and moonset, the proportion is set up this way: .5hrs./24hrs. = 7.5 degrees/360 degrees
If the moon sets 48 MINUTES OR MORE after sunset, the lunar crescent will definitely be visible (p.34, July 1988 Sky And Telescope.) (48 minutes is a 12-degree difference.) This is the maximum parameter of uncertainty. Muhammed Manzoor Khan, an Islamic Imam, says 45 minutes, as does Herbert Solinsky (p.23, ibid.).
When the crescent is visible, it is usually visible for only a few minutes. The HIGHER one gets, the easier it is to see the moon because of atmospheric conditions. LOOKING OVER A BODY OF WATER is also helpful since the first faint crescent is sometimes resting right on true horizon. To determine the height location in the sky to look for the crescent, simply subtract 20 minutes (the time from sunset to dark) from the sunset/moonset difference, then divide the remaining minutes by 4 degrees per minute (360 degrees = 1440 minutes) to get the degree height of the sighting. Each four minutes equals one degree.
If the crescent isn't seen on a clear night the 30th, it can be assumed on a cloudy night the 31st (since new moon crescents occur every 29 or 30 days). If both the 30th and 31st are cloudy/overcast, celebrate any festivals TWICE in the coming month. About 60 percent of biblical months are 30 days each. It is possible to have three, four, and rarely five months of 30 days each in succession. Also, sometimes we have two, and rarely three, months of 29 days in succession (p.42, Solinsky and Anderson's The Calendar God Gave To Moses).
Should We Use Local Sightings Or Jerusalem?
Sometimes east-coast Americans can't see the crescent till ONE DAY AFTER west-coast Americans. Sometimes Jerusalem can't see the crescent till ONE DAY AFTER America. In fact, a city such as Indianapolis, one third of the distance around the earth from Jerusalem, would see the crescent A DAY AHEAD of Jerusalem ONE THIRD OF THE TIME . A place such as Hawaii would see the crescent A DAY AHEAD of Jerusalem about HALF OF THE TIME because it is about half the distance around the earth from Jerusalem. Therefore, those who ignore local sightings in favor of using Jerusalem as the standard will find that they celebrate festivals ONE DAY LATER OR EARLIER than other Christians occasionally.
Yes, it is true that "the law shall go forth from Jerusalem" (1 Chr.23:25; 2 Chr.33.4; Deut.11:12; Isa.2:3) and Jerusalem is the biblical precedent where crescents were first observed after entering the Promised Land. But if we revert to calculation, we are not actually using the moon. We are ignoring the first faint crescent in our local areas. But when God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament (expanse) of the heaven ... for seasons (Heb. "moed" means "feasts"), he was not talking to the residents of Jerusalem. God "appointed the moon for seasons" (Heb. "mowadah" means "feasts") (Ps.104:19) and made it visible ALL AROUND THE EARTH. When God made the original statement to Moses that "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months" (Ex.12:2), Moses was in Egypt, not Jerusalem (Ex.12:1). Jerusalem is irrelevant. It is the "LIGHTS in the firmament" LOCALLY that matter.
We don't observe the weekly sabbath beginning when residents of Jerusalem see the sun go down. Instead, we keep the Sabbath by LOCAL sighting when the sun sets in our area. New moons, to be consistent, should operate on the same LOCAL-VISIBILITY principle.
For thousands of years, Seth, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham determined new moons without consulting Canaanites or living in Jerusalem. For hundreds of years, Joshua, Deborah, Gideon and Samuel didn't check Jerusalem (a Jebusite town) for new moons.
Instead of having one standard at Jerusalem to go by on this round earth, we must operate on LOCAL VISIBILITY because "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Cor.14:33) and THE MONTH MUST BEGIN AND END SOMEWHERE. But we have already discarded the International Date Line as arbitrary and recent and man-made and inconsistent. So we need an International Month Line as the place to begin each month.
Where Is The International Month Line?
The MONTHLY DATE LINE must fall wherever the new moon crescent is first seen from month to month. This MOBILE MERIDIAN (a parabola as shown above) would move every month to a new location. Whichever city on this round globe is first to see the crescent becomes the new position of the MONTHLY DATE LINE for that month so that any religious festivals in that 30-day period start and end on that line. So we see that the INTERNATIONAL MONTH LINE determines where to start and where to end the annual festivals in the same way that the International Day Line determines where to start and where to end the weekly Sabbath festival. Of course, when we see sunset in our local area, we know a day has begun for us. In the same way, when we see the first crescent in our local area we know the month has begun for us. LOCAL VISIBILITY is the guiding principle.
In other words, local sunset and local crescent tell locals when a day or month or year begins and ends for that location.
When an American city sees the crescent ahead of Jerusalem, this method would place the observance of the holy days one day of the week before they are observed in Jerusalem, but on the same day of the month as Jerusalem, biblically speaking. This method spares us the uncertainty of trying to decide if the new moon will be seen in Jerusalem tonight, or tomorrow night. And we don't have to rely on calculation, astronomers or observers in Jerusalem.
The artificial "time zones" are ignored by Sabbath-keepers. Instead, each Sabbath-keeper makes LOCAL SIGHTINGS of the sunset regardless of what time it is and regardless of whether or not his city is one hour later than a city to his east which has just seen sunset. He knows that the artificial hour line may separate two cities which are only minutes apart, like Louisville and Bowling Green Kentucky.
In the same way, the International Date Line creates an artificial "time zone" of a day difference, and must be ignored by new-moon watchers. Each observer makes LOCAL SIGHTINGS of the crescent regardless of whether or not his location island is considered one day ahead of a location to his east. He knows he isn't a whole day ahead of those to his east. He knows that this arbitrary month line may separate two islands which are only hours apart, like the Samoan Islands and Fiji.
Once a crescent becomes visible at a particular location, it will certainly be visible west of that location at the same latitude and height above sea level especially, because sunset occurs later as one travels west, and the earth rotates eastward roughly 30 times faster than the moon travels eastward, so the CRESCENT WAXES WEST.
If the sky is cloudy and rainy, a person must either phone a feast-keeper to his east in a clear-sky area or rely on an almanac or crescent-visibility chart. The Old Farmer's Almanac only gives data for American and Canadian cities. If you're planning a European vacation, buy a different almanac. If you can't buy an almanac (Rev.13:17), then choose the 30th and 31st days from the last new moon as the next new moon and celebrate all festivals twice in that month.
When the sun drops behind a mountain range, we call it sunset because we don't go by a sea-level horizon but instead by the real horizon full of mountains and trees. God holds us accountable from where we live -- not from some ideal plain in Kansas or a mountain top in Hawaii. In the same way, if the new moon crescent is too low in the sky and too close to the horizon to be visible behind a mountain range, we wait till the next night for the new moon. We can't be held responsible for a crescent we can't see.
To figure out where the INTERNATIONAL MONTH LINE will fall in a particular month, go to moonwatch.com (Moslem) or astro.ukho.gov.uk (British government) or crescentwatch.org, etc. or some other crescent moon watching site that allows you to accurately determine the crescent's visibility for any given year at your location on the globe. Learn how to use the crescent visibility charts. Before the internet, feast-keepers used the Old Farmer's Almanac to determine the sunset/moonset difference in that month for different cities around the globe until you find a city where the sunset/moonset difference is finally more than 48 minutes. Since there is a 30 to 48-minute grey area of uncertainty, perhaps the INTERNATIONAL MONTH LINE would more appropriately be called a BAND or ZONE several hundred miles wide. This band is a curved parabola, not straight. But it is a line boundary nonetheless. Using the almanac, feast-keepers located the city with the lunar conjunction and worked their way west from that starting point.
Should We Celebrate New Moons Today?
There is NO RECORD of new moons being celebrated prior to Moses' time. However, they were kept track of (Gen.8:5,13). New moons are NOT MENTIONED in the original Old Covenant (Ex. 19-24), but once the tabernacle was erected on "the first day of the first month" (Ex.40:2,17), then "the glory of the Eternal filled the tabernacle" (Ex.40:34). New moons are also TOTALLY OMITTED from the Book of Deuteronomy, yet we find that it was "on the first day of the month" (Deut.1:3) that Moses first preached the words that became the "Book of Deuteronomy." It is therefore correct to say that the celebration of new moons came LATER, and was an "ADDED" law (Gal.3:19).
New moons DO NOT further define the fourth commandment against Sabbath-breaking, because NEW MOONS ARE NOT SABBATHS. There is no command in the Pentateuch or elsewhere forbidding work on the new moons. Amos 8:5 says, "When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn?" but this was a human restriction, not a divine law. NEW MOONS WERE NEVER MADE HOLY LIKE THE SABBATH (Gen.2:3), so how can a Christian keep them holy?
A new moon meeting was held in Numbers 1:1 and we find in Numbers 10:2 that silver trumpets were used "for the calling of the assembly." Numbers 10:10 says, "in the beginnings of your months (new moons), ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings." Thus the Israelites were called to assemble on new moons. This is the only command in the entire Torah to meet together on new moons -- and it is associated with a sacrificial system. Obedience to this command is found in scriptures such as 1 Samuel 20:5,18, 2 Kings 4:23, 1 Chronicles 23:31, 2 Chronicles 2:4 and 8:13. But we can't blow these trumpets over our burnt offerings or peace offerings today because WE HAVE NO SUCH OFFERINGS. We can still blow silver trumpets and meet together however. The question is whether attendance is required in the absence of a sacrificial system?
There is NO RECORD of Christ celebrating a new moon or commanding his disciples to celebrate new moons. The same is true of Paul. However Colossians 2:16-17 says, "Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink (eating or drinking), or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days (or "a sabbath day" -- ASV), Which are a shadow of things to come; but (let) the body of Christ (do the judging)." The phrase "the new moon" may refer to the Feast of Trumpets which occurs on a new moon because the article "the" is used rather than "a." A more likely possibility is that new moons were public assemblies of the early church, perhaps because there were no telephones or quick communications to let everyone know if the crescent had appeared any other way. The postal system was not fast enough. Or perhaps because the sacrificial system was still in force.
New moons are not abolished, but neither are they commanded assemblies. They are important benchmarks in time, and there is nothing wrong with meeting together on a new moon. In the millenium, new moons will, once again, be public celebrations and assemblies (Isa.66:23; Ez.46:1,3).
The Horns Of The New Moon
"When the new moon is seen above the horizon after sunset, its horns must point AWAY from the horizon" (W.M. Feldman's Rabbinical Mathematics And Astronomy, p.183). Also, "The inclination of the ecliptic (path of the sun) to the horizon, and hence of the moon's path, has another interesting and conspicuous effect. In the SPRING, in northern middle latitudes, the horns of the growing crescent, as seen in the evening, point NEARLY STRAIGHT UP. In the FALL, on the other hand, they point TOWARDS THE LEFT AS ONE FACES WEST" (Dean McLaughlin's Introduction To Astronomy, 1961, Houton Mifflin). The ecliptic (path of the sun) is not 90 degrees from the horizon. Instead it is inclined slightly. Also the apparent paths of the sun and moon can be at most five degrees apart. For these reasons, and others, the new moon's horns may not be perfectly level at the time of the vernal equinox. All we can say with certainty is that the horns of the new moon are pointed UP IN THE SPRING, and TO THE LEFT IN THE FALL. In the spring of 1988, for example, there were three new moons with equal horns, so equal horns are not the criteria for the Passover month.