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Biblical Hebrew Calendar

By: David Deschesne

Editor/Publisher, Fort Fairfield Journal

The Biblical Hebrew calendar is based upon a lunar cycle from New Moon to New Moon. Since twelve lunar months are about 354 days and the solar year is about 365 days, an extra lunar month, known as Adar I is added between Shevat and Adar II every two or three years in accordance with a 19 year cycle of 235 lunar months.

According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, in ancient times, the testimony of two witnesses to a New Moon would signal the start of a month. In order to convey the message to other villages in surrounding areas, fires were set on higher ground. When this became impractical due to “counterfeit” fires, messengers were sent instead.

In the Bible, the first reference to a calendar is in Exodus 12:2, where the Lord refers to it as the “beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.”

The names of the months of the Hebrew Calendar are of Babylonian origin. The pre-exilic books of the Bible generally referred to the months by their numerical order.1 We see this in the Bible as “First month,” “Second month,” and so on.

Unlike our Julian calendar which marks the New Year on January 1, the Hebrew calendar paradoxically features two different months to designate the start a new year. Each depends on the event to be recognized.

Since the Lord listed the First month in Exodus as being during the time of the Passover, Nisan (which roughly corresponds to our March/April depending on the lunar cycle) is generally considered the first month of the Hebrew Year.

The major Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah is known as their “New Year’s Day” and occurs in the month of Tishri, which usually lands in or around September, or the time of the harvest of crops. Rosh Hashanah serves two functions; 1.) it marks the commencement of the annual Ten Days of Penitence, which reach their climax on Yom Kippur, translated in English as “Day of Atonement;” and 2.) It is also used to reference certain agricultural-related laws such as the Sabbatical Year and Jubilee Year.

The Hebrew calendar presumes a literal six-day creation of the earth with the first day at 1 Tishri, 1 being roughly equivalent to October 7, 3761 BC. Added to our current year of 2007, this Biblical precept would have the earth at 5,768 years old.

Creationists who want to believe the Biblical date of the Earth compared to a universe that appears many millions of years older are encouraged to read the book Starlight and Time by Dr. Russell Humphreys Ph. D. (1994 Masters Books). In his book, Dr. Humphreys describes how varying gravitational forces within a gigantic sphere of water, acting as a “white hole” (inverse of “black hole”) contained our solar system and galaxy could have acted to skew time in relation to the rest of the universe outside of our sphere of existence.

Other theories place mankind on Earth prior to Adam (Adam’s name in Hebrew is not a proper name, but rather a compound word meaning “First Blood”) with a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2

The day in a Hebrew calendar begins at sunset and ends at nightfall on the following day. This is likely due to the order given in Genesis 1:5, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

The month of Tisheri is generally considered to be the month Christ was born in (late fall), rather than the middle of winter. This will be a topic for further study in the future.


1. Encyclopedia of Judaism, ©1989, 2002 Jerusalem Publishing House, p. 150