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Thursday, 4 January 2007

Latter-Day Sabbatarianism

CounterAs a historian, I've sometimes wondered how the Jews could observe the new week, new moon, and new year for thousands of years, without managing to keep track of how many had been already celebrated. But I was convinced that every Sunday is, to the exact multiple of seven days, an anniversary of the first day of Creation. It now appears that I may have been wrong.

Troy Wilson advocates what amounts to a Latter-Day Sabbatarianism by claiming to have recovered the ancient Israelite calendar after millennia of Jews everywhere drifting farther and farther from it in their adherence to a rigid seven-day week. I have a lot more puzzling to do over this theory and its implications, but here is how I understand it at present:

Some 17 hours after waning into near invisibility, the Moon crosses the plane between the Earth and Sun, thus beginning the Month. Some 90 degrees to the East, this moment is commemorated at sunset by the commencement of the New Moon celebration, a day of rest but not counted as a Sabbath per se. Seven days later, the moon is now approximately at First Quarter, thus initiating the first Sabbath of the month. Another seven days brings on the Full Moon and the second Sabbath of the month. Almost exactly a week later, the moon moves into the Third Quarter, and the third Sabbath commences. The final Sabbath of the month begins when the moon is no longer visible at sunset. Thus the Sabbaths always fall on the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th days of the month. If a month happens to have 30 days, the 30th day is still celebrated as the New Moon, which in such cases lasts for two days (30th and 1st)--thus throwing off the 7-day week once every blue moon.

As odd and unsubstantiated as this theory my seem to be, it perfectly explains a particular passage of Scripture which would otherwise remain a puzzlement: 1 Samuel chapter 20.

This chapter raises the following questions:

1) How did David and Jonathan know more than 24 hours ahead of time exactly when the New Moon would begin? Pharisees, who marked the New Moon by the appearance of the visible crescent, could only be accurate to within a day in predicting a New Moon.

2) Did every New Moon necessitate two days of feasting, and if so, how would this correlate with observance of the Sabbath and the ban on preparing food during it?

These questions are answered by the theory in question:

1) The New Moon was mathematically calculated from the appearance of previous crescent moons, and was not dependent on visual observation.

2) This particular New Moon turned out to be a two-day event, which could also have been mathematically calculated in advance, and inasmuch as the New Moon celebration always took the place of that week's Sabbath, it would never conflict.

Now, this theory has numerous implications (thus the hard work ahead on the part of this poster's Puzzler), among which are:

1) Creation Week. Was the Moon created at the beginning of its first Phase? If so, the Sabbath would have started off out of sync. The Moon must have been created five days old, so the first Sabbath could commence on the "8th" day of its First Phase.

2)Lunar Recession. Since the moon is gradually lengthening its orbit, it is taking longer and longer to make up a full month. If the months were originally exactly 4 weeks long, how does this square with the Noaic month of 30 days (in which every month would have a two-day New Moon)? Physicists are directed here for a formula that may be useful in back-dating a month in 1100 and 2245 BCE.

3) Continuity. What are the theological implications of God having allowed His Calendar to have fallen out of use by the time of Christ? Or does this perhaps explain why Christ and the Sanhedrin members celebrated Passover on succeeding days?

These questions must be answered, and the biblical evidence for an elongated week must be proferred, before this theory can hope to overthrow the ruling regimen.

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