This is a lengthy article on a vital subject. It’s deep and heady and will take your full concentration to read. It’s essential that we have a correct understanding of the biblical calendar, so we’ll know when to celebrate YHVH’s feasts. For more background on the biblical calendars if you are new to this subject, I invite you to read three articles I have written previously on this issue available at http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/teaching.html#feast. As you’re reading the article below, please let me know if you find any typos. As many times as I’ve proofread it, I still keep finding corrections that need to be made. Your help in this would be a blessing! Thanks. — Natan
Refuting 14 Pro-Conjunction Arguments in Favor of the Visible Crescent
By Natan Lawrence of Hoshana Rabbah Biblical Discipleship Resources
The Issue at Hand
For most people returning to a spiritual Hebraic understanding and Torah-pursuant lifestyle, the subject of the biblical calendar is a daunting one because of the complex issues involved. Yet understanding the biblical calendar is vital if one is to walk out their Torah faith as the Scriptures reveal is necessary to achieve a higher reward in YHVH Elohim’s eternal kingdom (Matt 5:19). Knowing when to observe YHVH’s commanded seven biblical feasts (Lev 23), which are the seven steps in his plan of salvation, is dependent on a correct understanding of the biblical calendar.
In the Book of Acts, Peter declares that Yeshua the Messiah wouldn’t return to the earth until the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). This is a broad and sweeping statement, and it’s hard to get into Peter’s mind to fully understand what he meant by it, but suffice it to say, it seems that understanding and celebrating the biblical feasts must be part of “the restoration of all things.” But how do we know when to celebrate them if we fail to understand the Creator’s calendar? Understanding when the month starts is crucial to understanding the biblical calendar and hence knowing when to celebrate the feasts.
This is where it gets dicey. There are several opinions among well-meaning Bible teachers as to how to determine when the month starts. These different opinions have given rise to much debate, argumentation and, sadly, acrimony resulting in controversy, strife and division within the spiritual body of Yeshua. Clearly, this isn’t the heart of our Father in heaven, nor are these the fruits of the Spirit of Elohim. They are anything but this!
Since the beginning, it has been the decision of this ministry not to argue about the biblical calendar. We simply put out what we believe to be the truth based on the best biblical and scholarly research possible, and then we quietly live out that truth. Those who want to join us in our walk are free to do so. Those who don’t, are free to do otherwise. We will not fight against them. In the final analysis, we are all answerable to Elohim for our actions. He is the one who judges, not us.
After many years of study, we came to the conclusion in the year 2000 that the biblical month begins with the sighting of the new waxing crescent moon after the moon has been dark for one to three days. We believe that the evidence for this conclusion is incontrovertible that this is how the ancient Hebrews determined the new month. For the documentation behind this assertion, we invite the reader to download our free teachings on this subject at http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/teaching.html#feast.
Having honestly stated our bias in favor of the visible new moon beginning the biblical month, let us now proceed to examine what seem to be some rather convincing arguments in favor of calculating the new moon from its conjunction or alignment with the earth and sun. The conjunction occurs during the time when the moon is dark for one to three days. This period of time is just before the visible new moon crescent can be seen by the naked eye.
This study is detailed and heady. For a brief overview of what is to come, or to quickly ascertain the main points of this article, we invite the reader to skip to the end of this study and review the section entitled, “Summary of Points.”
General Background Information
Before launching into our study of the arguments pertaining to the conjunction versus visible new moon, let’s first lay out some general background information.
The length of moon’s lunar cycle (called a lunation) is approximately 29.53 days. This is the time period from one new moon to another. In modern times, a new moon is figured from the moon’s conjunction with the earth and the sun (when all three line up or have the same ecliptical longitude). In ancient (biblical) times, according to all the ancient sources we have been able to analyze, people lacked the ability to determine the exact timing of the moon’s conjunction; therefore, they relied on sighting the visible new moon crescent with the naked eye to determine the beginning of each month. (This fact we have established in another study paper available at http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/vis_moon.pdf.)
It is true that the moon’s approximate conjunction can be calculated, but only by a complex mathematical formula (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_moon). This formula was discovered in the 20th century by modern mathematical astronomers (Ibid.) So did the ancients have this formula? Did the Jews in Bible times in land of Israel have this formula to be able to calculate the moon’s conjunction? We can find no historical evidence that they or any other ancient astronomers did. There is absolutely no biblical evidence to support this notion either. If so, how would they know the exact timing of the moon’s conjunction, which occurs while the moon is dark — a period of time, which in the land of Israel, apparently can last from anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 days (http://www.karaite-korner.org/new_moon.shtml). What’s more, the actual conjunction occurs for only a brief moment time, while the sun, earth and moon come into perfect alignment as they are quickly moving past each other in their circuits.
As noted, a dark moon describes the time period that the moon is invisible against the backdrop of the sun. This occurs at the end of the moon’s lunar cycle after the waning crescent gives way to a dark moon and before the waxing crescent occurs after the dark moon. The following chart from http://www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases_calendar.phtml (also https://stardate.org/nightsky/moon) shows how long the dark moon phase lasts each month in the northern hemisphere. In most cases it lasts for one day. Occasionally it will last for two days as was the case in November 2015 and in February 2011. Sometimes, there is no dark moon as the waning crescent gives way immediately to the waxing crescent (e.g., November 2012, June 2016 and June 2018). As already noted above, this dark moon period can last from 1.5 to 3.5 days in the land of Israel (http://www.karaite-korner.org/new_moon.shtml). Therefore, before modern mathematics, satellites and other technologies, it was likely impossible to determine the exact timing of the moon’s conjunction. On the other hand, an illiterate farmer standing out in his field could easily spot the visible crescent new moon and know when the month began. It was that simple!
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the Jews at the time of Yeshua used a visible sighting method to determine the beginning of the lunation according to the Mishnah (ca. AD 165; Rosh Hash 1:1a, 1e, 9a; 2:6), which is the oldest, authoritative non-biblical legal record we have of how the Jewish rulers calculated the biblical calendar.
The astronomical conjunction and the visible new moon sliver never coincide. They are always one to three days apart in the land of Israel, as already noted.
What’s more, if Yeshua followed a conjunction-based calendar, then his days of observing the biblical feasts would have been different than that of the Jews’ days. The Gospel writers would have noted this difference and the conflict this would have caused with the established religious status quo of Yeshua’s day. However, we find no such biblical record of any such difference occurring between Yeshua and his Jewish contemporaries who argued with him about nearly everything else where his beliefs differed from theirs.
The most notable example of Yeshua being on the same calendar as the Jewish ruling elite who used the visible sliver new moon to calculate the beginning of their months was the fact that he was killed on the Jews’ Passover (John 11:55), the date of which was based on the visible new moon, not on the conjunction according to the Mishnah. It is this fact that the new moon conjunction advocates we have studied fail to address. Realizing this fact alone should lay to rest any arguments against the visible new moon being the beginning of the biblical month. However, for those still not convinced, we shall proceed to address the main issues the conjunctionists proffer against using the crescent moon to determine the month’s beginning.
It is interesting to note in this discussion that there is a contingency of rabbinic orthodox Jewish scholars in the land of Israel today who are preparing, when the time is right, to return to a biblical calendar that is based on the sighting of the crescent new moon as was done in Jewish antiquity. This group is called the Israeli New Moon Society (https://sites.google.com/site/moonsoc/Home). On their website, they have the following to say,
The commandment (mitzvah) of sanctifying the month is the first one which the children of Israel were commanded on leaving Egypt. This commandment is of great importance because the dates of the festivals, including over 60 commandments, depend on it. In addition to sanctifying months according to the appearance of the New Moon, the Hebrew calendar depends on leap years (extended by an extra month) that depend on the position of the Sun, ripeness of grains, etc.
For over a thousand years, the Hebrew calendar has been fixed by calculation. Today, the Hebrew calendar does not match that fixed by observing the Moon. Even though the gap between the two calendars continues to increase, we do not have the authority to alter the calendar until a new Sanhedrin (religious high court) is reestablished and is widely recognized. While sanctification of the month according to observation is not practiced today it is important to carry out calculations and practice observing the New Moon in order to be ready for when the Sanhedrin is reestablished. Likewise, there is increasing involvement in the Temple, red heifer, etc. Of course, we are not intending to change the current calendar (this is a task for an authorized Sanhedrin) but just to increase involvement in and embellish the Torah.
In recent years, a number of individuals and groups have begun to observe the Moon each month to practice for the commandment of observing the Moon and for determining criteria for the limits of visibility. There is still plenty of room to improve on the existing criteria using observations and analyzing them in relation to physical, meteorological and physical parameters. We, the Israeli New Moon Society, are asking the public at large to join us by trying to observe the New Moon at the beginning of each month. The Israeli New Moon Society was founded for this purpose by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Rabinovitch, head of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe, Maale Adumim. The society works with the Institude for Kiddush Hachodesh Studies and includes scientists and rabbis from Universities, Yeshivot and elsewhere.
The modern Israeli New Moon Society clearly doesn’t subscribe to the notion that the month begins at conjunction, but rather at the visible new moon crescent.
Now let’s explore some arguments that new moon conjunctionists use to attempt to prove that the biblical month should start at the moon’s conjunction with the sun and earth, while it is in its darkened phase, as opposed to starting the month after the moon emerges from his dark phase and begins to reflect a sliver of light from the sun, which is called the visible new moon crescent.
Was the Day of Pentecost Possible Only With a Conjunction-Based Calendar?
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: Some new moon conjunctionists will assert that the gathering of Jews from many lands on the day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts chapter two would have been impossible without a conjunction-based calendar. Without being able to calculate the new moon months in advance, they say, those coming from far lands couldn’t have planned their travels to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The question is asked that in the days before instant mass communication capabilities, how could these people from faraway lands have known the date be in Jerusalem long enough ahead of time to travel there if they didn’t have the benefit of a calculated calendar information based ahead of time on calculating when the moon’s conjunction would occur?
Refutation: The answer to this question is simple. Pentecost is calculated from first fruits day (usually occurring during the Feast of Unleavened Bread) fifty days earlier, which itself is calculated from the first new moon of the year two to three weeks before that. The time from the first day of the new year to Pentecost is about two months giving people in distant lands plenty of time to travel to Jerusalem.
The Crescent Moon — A Pagan Idol to Be Rejected?
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: Some conjunctionists will refer to the Midianites’ pagan crescent ornaments mentioned in Judges 8:21 and 26 (crescent is the Heb. word saharon; H7720) as proof that using the visible crescent of the new moon to determine the month is a pagan practice. The argument against the new moon goes on to state that the Midianites were the ancestors of the modern Arab Muslims who worship Allah, the moon god with the crescent moon as their symbol. It is then reasoned by those opposed to the visible new moon reckoning for the month that because the crescent was a pagan object, the visible new moon can’t be used to begin the new month.
Refutation: In this argument, the conjunctionist’s logic is faulty. This is judging the good fruit by the bad fruit, the wheat by the chaff. This is employing the logically fallacious argument of guilt by association. This is tantamount to saying, because the heathen Canaanite used the name YHVH or the idolatrous Israelites used the same name in their worship of the golden calf (Exod 32:5), we cannot, therefore, use the name YHVH because it has been tainted by paganism. Or because heathen quotes from the Bible, we can no longer use it. This, again is employing faulty logic to arrive at a conclusion. Later on, these Midianite crescent moon ornaments become a symbol of idolatrous worship for the Israelites, which was a bad thing. Similarly, the Israelites took the bronze serpent that YHVH told Moses to make, which was a good thing, and later on turned it into an object of worship calling it Nehushtan (2 Kgs 18:4) — a bad thing. Their turning a good thing into an idol doesn’t invalidate the good thing. If so, then YHVH was guilty of leading the Israelites into idol worship. Therefore, when the pagan take the moon that YHVH created (a good thing) and turn it into an object of worship (a bad thing), this in no way invalidates the moon anymore than counterfeit money invalidates genuine money. It’s the heathen practice that’s wrong, not the moon! So the Midianites sinful practice of worshipping the moon in no way invalidates its use as a visible sign in the heaven to determine when the month begins (Gen 1:14–16). Let’s not forget that when Elohim created the moon on the fourth day, he proclaimed it to be a good thing (Gen 1:18). What the heathens did with it later wasn’t Elohim’s fault.
Noah’s 150 Days — Proof of a Conjunction-Based Month?
Does the 150 day, five month period mentioned in Genesis 7:11 (Gen 8:3, 4) prove the ancients used a conjunction-based calendar? One conjunctionist says it does.
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: In Genesis 7:11 and 8:3–4, we find listed a 150 day or five month interval making five 30-day months. This, it is claimed by the conjunctionists, proves that this is a solar (conjunction) and not a lunar (visible new moon) based month, since lunar based months are either 29 or 30 days. It is impossible, they maintain, to have five 30-day months back-to-back on a visible new moon calendar.
Refutation: Genesis 7:11 and 8:3–4 don’t prove the astronomical conjunction new moon month. It only proves that Noah’s calendar had a 360 year day (12 months of 30 days each). This is known among Bible scholars as the biblical or prophetic year. Whenever time periods are prophesied in the Bible, it is always based on a 360 day year. The ancients used a 360 day year, and then had various ways of reconciling it with the solar year of 365 1/4 days (http://360dayyear.com; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/360-day_calendar). A study of the calendars of ancient civilizations (Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, Mayan, Hindu, et al) show that they all used a 360 day year and had various ways of adjusting their calendars by adding days to reconcile this calendar with the 365 1/4 solar year. A thirty day month was a simply round number for calculating longer periods of time. It had nothing to do with when or how the actual month began.
Can the Word Chodesh Refer to the Conjunction?
Some conjunctionists will attempt to prove that the Hebrew word for month chodesh actually is referring to the moon’s conjunction, and not to the visible new moon crescent.
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: Chodesh only or primarily means “new” as in “brand new.” The new moon is brand new when it is at its conjunction, not when it first appears as the first visible crescent.
Refutation: The problem with this assertion is that all the main Hebrew lexicons, word dictionaries and Jewish legal, historical and linguistic experts that I have studied all say that the Hebrew word chodesh means “new moon.” I have found no exceptions to this. How is it that one Hebrew roots Bible teacher with little or no formal linguistic background seems to know more than all the expert scholars who have been studying the Hebrew language and concurring with each other on the meaning of a word for hundreds or even a couple of thousand years? For someone to come along with an entirely new definition for this word and then use it to prove his point is highly suspect if not rather pretentious.
A Study on Psalm 81 — Is the Word Keseh Proof That the Month Is Conjunction-Based?
A source of great controversy has been the meaning of the Hebrew word keseh as used in Psalm 81:3. The conjunctionists use this word as definitive proof that the new moon starts at the conjunctions. Complicating the issue is the fact that this word occurs only two times in the Tanakh, making its meaning all the more difficult to quantify. Let’s now look at the issues surrounding the meaning of this word.
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: In Psalm 81:3 (also Prov 76:10; Job 26:7–9), the phrase full moon is the Hebrew word keseh meaning “concealed, dark, hidden or covered.” This points to a full or dark new moon. The overwhelming use of keseh in the Tanakh (Old Testament) fits the definition above. Job 26:9 backs up this claim, when you link it back to keseh in Psalm 81:3.
Refutation A: There are several problems with this argument. The word keseh/הסכ in Job 26:9 is not the same keseh found in Psalm 81:3. These are two Hebrew words that sound similar and are transliterated the same. In Psalm 81:3, keseh/הסכ (Strong’s H3677) ends in the Hebrew letter heh, while the Job 26:9 kiseh/אסכ (Strong’s H3678) ends with the letter aleph and has a completely different meaning. This keseh means “seat (of honour), throne, seat, stool, throne; royal dignity, authority, power.” This different Hebrew word has nothing to do with concealing or covering. Some lexicons say that both words have the Hebrew word kasah as their root, but as we shall see below, scholars aren’t certain whether keseh derives from kasah or from a similarly sounding Aramaic loan word that doesn’t mean “concealed or covered” at all, but means “fullness or full moon” and hence the alternate reading in Psalm 81:3. Strong’s and TWOT both state that keseh/הסכ in Psalm 81:3 can also be spelled keseh/אסכ, although it is vowel pointed differently and thus pronounced differently than the keseh/אסכ meaning “throne.” Both TWOT and Strong’s list these words separately in their indexes, but the confusion comes when they list the alternate spelling of keseh (with the ending aleph/א under the heading of the keseh that could mean “concealed.”All this confusion between scholars as to the origination of similarly sounding words between two ancient languages makes it difficult to determine the true meaning of a word. For certain, when such uncertainty exists between the experts, laymen must be careful not to base theological arguments on such unclear and ambiguous words and passages. We must seek to find the truth in Scriptures that are clear and unambiguous. Many false teachings have arisen based on misinterpreting unclear passages of Scriptures and then turning these misunderstandings into cult-like pet doctrines.
Furthermore, conjunctionists will claim that the disputed root word keseh comes from the Hebrew word kasah (meaning “concealed or covered), and attempts to prove that keseh in Psalm 81:3 means “covered or concealed” by referencing a number of places in the Tanakh where kasah is used and means “covered or concealed.” The problem is that the dishonest conjunctionist will make no mention of the fact that scholars dispute the meaning of keseh. The argument that such a conjunctionist makes to support keseh meaning “concealed or covered” is not on solid ground logically, hermeneutically or lexically. Therefore, we can’t use this argument from Psalm 81:3 as a proof of that the new moon begins at the conjunction.
Refutation B: Psalms 81:3, Blow the trumpet [Heb. shofar] at the time of the New Moon [Heb. chodesh], at the full moon [Heb. keseh/הסכ meaning “full moon or concealed, covered” — scholars disagree as to its meaning and the origin of the word], on our solemn feast day [Heb. chag] — NKJV. The ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach translates this verse alternatively as follows,
Blow the shofar at the moon’s renewal, at the time appointed for our festive day.
The origins of the Hebrew word keseh behind the phrase “full moon” is uncertain, and there is debate among the experts on this subject. Some Hebrew lexicons relate it to a Hebrew root word kasah meaning “to conceal, to cover” (e.g., Gesenius; Strong’s number H3677 cp. H3678), while other scholars tell us that it means “fullness; full moon” (e.g., Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon; cp. TWOT; Strong’s). BDB tells us that the origin of keseh is unknown and that it may be an Aramaic loan word meaning “full moon.” Gesenius in his lexicon states that the etymology of keseh isn’t clear, but he favors the idea of the moon being covered or concealed in darkness as opposed to being covered in light (i.e., in its full moon state).
The only other usage of keseh in the Scriptures is found in Prov 7:20, which gives us no clue as to the exact meaning of the word.
Orthodox Jewish scholars tell us that keseh means “to conceal or to cover.” They say that the only biblical festival that occurs at the time of the new moon (biblically, when the first sliver of the new moon becomes visible) is Yom Teruah (or Rosh Hashanah), which occurs on the first day of the seventh month (in late summer). At this time, the moon is nearly completely covered or concealed except for a small, visible sliver.
The next phrase in this verse speaks of a solemn feast day, which is the Hebrew word chag. This word refers to the three pilgrimage festivals, which are Passover/the Feast (chag) of Unleavened, the Feast (chag) of Weeks or Pentecost and the Feast (chag) of Tabernacles (Exod 23:14–16; Deut 16:16).
Jewish scholars relate the word chag to Yom Teruah (which they say refers to Rosh HaShanah, see The ArtScroll Tanach Series Tehillim/Psalms Commentary on this verse). The problem with this interpretation is that the Scriptures never call the day of the new moon (rosh chodesh) a chag, nor is Yom Teruah technically a chag either in the strictest sense. Therefore, the word keseh, if it means “concealment” must be referring to both the new moon day (the first day of each month, and to Yom Teruah, which occurs on the first day of the seventh month), while the chag must be referring to the three pilgrimage festivals.
Those scholars who take the word keseh to mean “full moon” say that the phrase in this verse containing this word refers to the pilgrimage festivals (Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks, and Feast of Tabernacles), which all occurred on or very near the time of the full moon.
The bottom line is this: In light of all the uncertainty and controversy among linguists and Hebrew scholars as to the meaning and derivation of the word kesesh, this, on the surface, appears to be a weak scripture on which to base such an important concept as to how to calculate the biblical calendar. It would be wiser to use other clear scriptures to base our understanding of when the new moon begins. (For a detailed discussion of these scriptures, read my articles on the subject of the biblical calendar at http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/teaching.html#feast.)
The Blowing of the Shofar in Psalm 81 —
Proof That the Month Starts at the Conjunction?
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: One conjunctionist proponent presents a novel perspective on Psalm 81:3–4 by saying that the Torah-law commands us to blow the shofar on the keseh. If keseh means full moon, then where in the Torah does it command us to blow the shofar on the full moon (during one of the chag feasts), he reasons? Nowhere. Therefore, he assumes, if keseh means “to cover and conceal” and is a reference to the conjunction, then this makes sense, since this would be a reference to Yom Teruah, which is also a new moon day (Lev 23:24), when the Torah commands Israel to blow the shofar. The conjunctionist continues, if the author of this Psalm 81 is telling us that the law says to blow the shofar on the full moon when the law says no such thing, then the psalmist is guilty of lying and adding to the word of Elohim. This is not possible, since the word of Elohim cannot lie. The conjunctionist rightly states that one can’t rely on Numbers 10:10 as proof that one is to sound the shofar on the feasts, since this passage refers to the silver trumpets and not to the ram’s horn shofar mentioned in Psalm 81:3. Furthermore, he continues, in Psalm 81:3, “on our solemn feast day” should read “toward [or leading to] the feast day.” This is because the Hebrew word l’yom or “on the feast day” should be translated as “toward/leading to the feast day” because the lamed prefix can mean “toward.” Technically, since Yom Teruah isn’t a chag or a feast, this verse should say that our new moon day (i.e., Yom Teruah) points toward or leads to the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles. Therefore, Psalm 81:3 should read something more like this: “Blow the shofar at the time of the concealed moon toward / leading to your solemn feast day [chag]” referring to Sukkot. Therefore, he concludes, this is another proof that the month begins on the conjunction and not on the visible crescent.
Refutation: This is one of the more novel and creative arguments we have heard against using the visible new moon crescent as the beginning point for the month. On the surface, it seems rather convincing. The command in Psalm 81:3 to blow the shofar on new moon day as an act pointing toward the feast of Sukkot has merit. According to TWOT, the Hebrew prefix lamed/ל may indicate direction or physical movement (e.g., that I may go to/toward my country). BDB tells us that when used in conjunction with certain types of verbs, ל can mean “toward, in reference to” or express it the idea of “direction towards.”
However, this is not the only way to look at this verse. Let’s view Psalm 81:3 from the perspective of the broader context of this passage. Verses one and two of Psalm 81 open up with the author instructing us to sing aloud, make joyful shouts and to play musical instruments in praise of Elohim. In other words, we are to rejoice before him. In verse three, the psalmist gives us some examples of when Elohim’s people are to rejoice. They are to do so at the new moon and when the moon is full or at the appointed time at the three chag feasts, which are the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles. Verse four then states that “this is a statute for Israel, a law of the Elohim of Israel.” So what is a law for Israel? Blowing a shofar on the feasts? No, since the Torah never commands us to blow the shofar on the feasts as the conjunctionist teacher referenced above correctly notes. However, the Torah does specifically command Israel to rejoice at the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:40; Deut 16:11, 14, 15). This is what Psalm 81:1–4 is telling us to do in its fuller context. Blowing the shofar on the new moon and on the feasts that occur at the full moon is one aspect of rejoicing. Psalm 81 is therefore commanding us to rejoice on the feasts as the Torah instructs us to do of which blowing the shofar is given as an example of how to rejoice. This passage, however, is not saying that sounding the shofar is something the Torah commands us to do at the feasts. If it were saying this, it would be inaccurate, since the Torah never commands us to blow the shofar at any of the chag feasts — only at Yom Teruah, which, technically, isn’t a chag feast.
As we’ve just noted, to prove his point, this conjunctionist teacher makes the assertion that the word keseh in Psalm 81:3 cannot mean “full moon” (from the Aramaic), but must mean “concealed moon” (from the Hebrew) because nowhere does the Torah command us to blow the shofar at the time of the full moon (when the three pilgrimage feasts occur) as verse four seems to indicates. The teacher then goes on to correctly state that Yom Teruah is the only appointed time or moed on which the Torah commands the shofar to be blown (Lev 23:24). There is no biblical Torah command to blow the shofar on any of three pilgrimage feasts (Unleavened Bread, Weeks or Tabernacles). This is, therefore, proof positive in the conjunctionist’s mind that the command to blow the shofar in Psalm 81:3 is referring to blowing it on the new moon day of Yom Teruah (which falls on the new moon day of the seventh month) towards or pointing to the upcoming Feast/Chag of Tabernacles. The problem with this argument is that this teacher shoots himself in the foot with his own argument. To insist that the Torah command of verse four refers back to blowing the shofar on a chag would also be saying that the Torah commands us to blow the shofar on the new moon, which it in no place does. Therefore as already noted above, the Torah-law that the psalmist must be referring back to is not to the blowing the shofar in verse three, but to the Torah-law commanding us to rejoice before YHVH as stated in verses one and two (see Lev 23:40; Deut 16:11, 14, 15).
As a validation to the idea that keseh (Strong’s H3677) derives from the Hebrew root word kahsah, (Strong’s H3680), in Jewish thought, the new moon is still considered covered even when the first glimmer of the sun’s light begins to shine on it after its conjunction (The ArtScroll Tanach Series, Psalms, commentary on Ps 81:3/4, p. 1027). Keseh (Strong’s H3677) can also relate to the Hebrew word for throne (Heb. kisay, Strong’s H3678). On the new moon day of Yom Teruah, prophetically this is when Yeshua returns to the earth in the last days to take his rightful position as King of kings over the earth. This is certainly cause for celebrating and sounding the shofar — a practice the ancient Israelites did when a new king was crowned!
Is the Biblical Calendar an Adapted Egyptian-Based Calendar?
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: One conjunctionist goes so far as to use a modern Egyptologist scholar to prove his point that the ancient Egyptian calendar was the one that Moses borrowed and used as the basis for the Torah calendar because of his understanding of the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22).
Refutation: The problem with this argument is that if the Israelites simply co-opted the Egyptian calendar for their own use, then why did YHVH have to tell his people in Exodus 12:2 when to start the new year? Surely if the Israelites were borrowing the Egyptian calendar that Moses gave them, they would have known when new years day was!
Jewish Historical Records, Modern Linguists and Historians
Are Against a Conjunction-Based Month
Conjunctionists that we have studied who attempt to prove that the moon’s conjunction starts the month instead of the first visible crescent, fail to address the following vitally important issues:
Why do all the main modern lexicons and other linguistic experts, Jewish historical books, Jewish encyclopedias, Jewish scholars and historians (rabbinic and Karaite) solidly and unanimously affirm that the ancient Jews based the new month on sighting the new visible moon? If the biblical month begins at conjunction, then how could all these authorities be so mistaken? If they are, then provide the solid linguistic and historical evidence to prove how the ancients used a conjunction-based calendar, as well as why the Jewish sages and the linguists are so mistaken on this vital issue. Also, explain to us (as noted earlier at the beginning of this work) why Yeshua kept the Passover on the same day as the Jewish Passover. If he was a conjunctionist, then his Passover would have been one to three days earlier. Certainly the controversy this would have caused would have been noted in the Gospel accounts.
Why does the Mishnah record in the second century AD the process by which the Jewish leaders determined the new moon each month based on the visible crescent sighting? There is no mention in the Mishnah whatsoever of the dark moon of conjunction being a factor for determining the month.
Do the Biblical Patterns of Light Out of Darkness Prove a Conjunction-Based Calendar?
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: The biblical pattern of darkness preceding light, or that light comes out of darkness was the established pattern in Genesis chapter one. There was darkness on the earth, then light. There was night, then day. Moreover, a baby is conceived in darkness, then born into the light. On one’s spiritual journey, one comes out of spiritual darkness into the spiritual light. Moreover, Yeshua who is the Light of the world will return in a time of great spiritual darkness at the end of the age to bring spiritual light of his truth and kingdom to this earth. Additionally, the three pilgrimage feasts occur when the moon is full. Yom Teruah occurs when the moon is dark, which is when the shofar is sounded calling people to wake up out spiritual darkness. Based on Genesis 1:14–16, the sun is the timepiece for the day. In the Bible, the day starts with darkness then gives way to light. The moon is the timepiece for months. The lunar cycle starts in darkness, then gives way to light. Thus the month begins in darkness in conjunction.
Refutation: The concept that darkness comes out of light is a biblically accurate model, yet it can’t be applied universally in all situations. To use the idea that because darkness preceded light and night precedes day; therefore, the darkness of the moon’s conjunction must determine the months is a faulty leap of logic. If this principle were universally applicable, then why doesn’t the biblical new year start immediately on the day following the winter solstice when the daylight is at its shortest time of the year at the end of December? In fact, the new year begins in the spring some three months later. Therefore, the darkness out of light model fails in the biblical reckoning of the new year.
The moon was to be a visible sign (Heb. owt) of the month (Gen 1:14). Conjunction isn’t a visible sign. Moreover, the ancients didn’t use the conjunction for the beginning of months, since they weren’t able to determine the precise moment of conjunction, for the moon can be dark in Israel for one to three days. Thus, the visible new crescent moon fulfilled the requirement of a visible sign or owt, and it was easy for the common man to determine by sight (instead of having to guess when the exact moment of conjunction occurred). Furthermore, there is no indication from history that the Jews ever used the conjunction as a basis for determining months.
Using Mathematical Formulas to Calculate the New Moon
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: The moon’s conjunction only occurs for a few minutes. It occurs just before the light of the sun begins to hit the earth, which is when the sliver of the new moon just begins to appear. Therefore, conjunction and sliver occur back to back and are only a few minutes apart. However, because the moon is so faint at this point and not visible to the human eye, it can take one to three days after conjunction before it’s visible to the human eye. To calculate the exact moment of conjunction, one must use a mathematical formula.
Refutation: To calculate the exact moment of the conjunction, the conjunctionists assert that a mathematical formula is necessary. Yet they assume, but can’t prove that the ancients had such a mathematical formula. Furthermore, there’s no indication in the Bible or from Jewish historical sources that the Israelites ever used a formula to determine the new moon. All historical sources we can find tell us that the ancients, including the Jews, started their month at the visible crescent. As noted above, the formula to determine the precise moment of the moon’s conjunction wasn’t discovered until the mid-twentieth century — about 50 or 60 years ago!
Was David a New Moon Conjunctionist?
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: The time between the conjunction and the visible new moon is one to three days in the land of Israel. In 1 Samuel 20:5, David knew when the new moon was going to appear. Since the Israelites knew in advance the exact day the beginning of the new month would be, this proves the ancient Israelites were using the conjunction to determine the new month. What’s more, Saul held a new moon dinner for two nights indicating that they were celebrating the time between the conjunction and the visible sighting of the new moon (1 Sam 20:18, 27, 34). The conjunction marked the beginning of the new moon feast and the visible crescent marked the end of the feast. It was an ancient tradition in Israel to celebrate the new moon at the conjunction and to keep the feast until they saw the crescent sighting. This is why Saul had a new moon feast for several days and why David hid himself during this time.
Refutation: In 1 Sam 20:18 Jonathan and David knew that the next day would be the new moon day. How did they know this? Was it because they were able to determine the exact moment of the moon’s conjunction, or could they know the exact day another way? Yes, there is another way. Evidently, the day their conversation occurred was on the 30th day of the month, and for some reason (due to cloud cover, dust or haze), they had not been able to spot the new moon the previous evening. This made the next day after the 30th day of the current month the first day of the next month. This is why Jonathan and David that knew the next day was new moon day.
What about the feast for two days that Saul held for his court lasting into the second day of the month (1 Sam 20:27). What’s going on here?
On new moon day, the Torah instructed the Israelites to offer up burnt offerings, peace offering or voluntary peace offerings (Num 15:3 cp. Ezek 46:6–8; Num 28:11–14; 1 Chron 23:31; 2 Chron 2:4; Ezr 3:5; Neh 10:33). If the celebrants chose to offer a voluntary peace offering, this would explain why Saul’s court would still be feasting on the second day of the new month (1 Sam 20:27), for the Torah prescribes that a voluntary peace offering could be eaten for two days, but not on the third day (Num 7:16).
To assert that Saul and his court were celebrating the time interval between the conjunction and the sighting of the visible new moon is pure conjecture and without any basis in Scripture or the historical record of the Israelite people. However, the idea that they were doing a voluntary peace offering at the beginning of the month that would last for two days, though not specifically stated in the text, is not outside the realm of possibility given the fact that the Torah commands that burnt and peace offerings be made on the moedim such as new moon day. Although the Scriptures doesn’t specifically call rosh chodesh or new moon day a moed or an appointed time (or divine appointment), in the Millennium YHVH will require everyone to come and worship him on new moon day (Isa 66:23), thus indicating that YHVH views it as a moed. Not only that, the Scriptures list new moon day in conjunction with other appointed times in several places in Scriptures (Num 10:10; 2 Chron 8:13; Ps 81:3; Hos 2:11; Col 2:16–17). Therefore, we can safely conclude that new moon day is a moed, thus a two-day long voluntary peace offering meal could be enjoyed on that day.
The New Moon, Yom Teruah and the Second Coming
New Moon Conjunctionist Assertion: Yom Teruah occurs on the first day of the seventh month meaning that it occurs on the new moon day (Lev 23:24), which occurs on a conjunction. Yeshua comes back when the moon is dark. It is totally dark only on a conjunction, and not when the crescent is just visible.
Refutation: Nowhere do the Scriptures say that Yeshua will come back when the moon is totally dark. To say this is reading into the Scriptures something that isn’t there. What the Scriptures say is that the dark moon is a sign of his coming, not that he’s coming on the day when the moon is totally dark (Matt 24:29–30). The moon can be dark for a variety of reasons including a lunar eclipse, cloud cover, smoke, or the moon is in its dark phase. It is true that Yeshua will likely return on the first day of the seventh month, which is Yom Teruah or the Day of Trumpets. This is a new moon day because the first day of every biblical month is a new moon day when the moon is mostly dark, although it shows a slight sliver of light on its edge. But nowhere in the Scriptures does it say that the moon has to be totally dark on the day of Yeshua’s return.
Philo on When the Biblical Month Starts
Some new moon conjunctionists quote the first century Jewish historian Philo who lived in Egypt and wrote about the Jewish laws and customs. A cursory reading of Philo might lead one to believe he and his Jewish counterparts in the land of Israel were pro-conjunctionists. However, a thorough reading of Philo shows quite the opposite to be true. He actually confirms the new month begins at the sighting of the visible crescent. Let’s examine the evidence.
In The Works of Philo, Special Laws II, XI, 41 (Hendrickson, 1997) we read, “The third [festival] is that which comes after the conjunction, which happens on the day of the new moon in each month.” He goes on to say in Special Laws II, XXVI, 140, speaking of the new moon, “[A]t this time, there is nothing in the whole heaven destitute of light [that includes the moon],” and … [A]t the time of the new moon, the sun begins to illuminate the moon with a light which is visible to the outward senses, and then she displays her own beauty to the beholders.” In these passages, Philo clearly tells us that the new moon (which for the ancient Jews marked the beginning of the new month) falls after the conjunction when the light of the sun is just starting to be visible on the moon. From this passage, we also learn that the ancients (at least in first century AD) knew more or less when the conjunction was. We don’t know, however, if they knew the exact moment of the conjunction in that one to three day period during which the moon is dark in the land of Israel. Knowing the exact moment of the conjunction is essential in order to calculate the new month, since if the conjunction occurs on the dividing line between two days, a few minutes one way or another could change the day of the new month. However, this passage from Philo, doesn’t prove that the ancients knew the exact timing of the conjunction some 1500 years earlier when Moses wrote the Torah. As noted above, in modern times, the mathematical calculations to determine the exact timing of the conjunction weren’t discovered until late in the twentieth century.
In Special Laws II, 142, after having defined the new moon in verses 41 and 140 as the day after the conjunction when the moon is just beginning to show its light, we come across this interesting statement from Philo:
[T]he law [presumably the Torah] has honored the end of its [the moon’s] orbit, the point when the moon has finished at the beginning point from which it began to travel, by having called that day a feast so that it might again teach us an excellent lesson that in the affairs of life we should make the ends harmonious with the beginnings.
One new moon conjunctionist biblical researcher quotes this passage as proof in his mind that Philo (and, hence, the Torah) figured the new moon from the point of its conjunction. However, the researcher fails to mention this verse in context with the previous verses (40 and 141) that state that the new moon day occurred the next day after the conjunction when the moon was first beginning to show the light of the sun. Rather than a proof that new moon day occurs on the conjunction, verse 142, for it to make sense with Philo’s previous statements about the new moon, states that new moon day (i.e., when the moon begins to show its light) memorializes immediately after the conjunction the end of the previous lunation or lunar cycle and, at the same time, celebrates the beginning of the new lunation. This conjunctionist’s conclusion, therefore, is in error because he failed to examine all the evidence at hand on the subject. For scholars to come to the correct conclusions when studying documents, it’s vitally important to read everything the document’s author has to say on a subject and refrain from cherry picking statements out of context in an effort to prove one’s pet theory. This is called prooftexting, and is an unacceptable activity in the process of pursuing the logical steps necessary to arrive at the truth of a matter.
The Gospel Record Disproves a Conjunction-Based Month
As already noted twice previously in this work, the Gospels say nothing about Yeshua being on a conjunction-based calendar. This is perhaps the strongest proof against the conjunction that we can present, and it’s an important point to make, which is why we keep reiterating it. If the conjunction new moon is a biblically-based concept, then why did Yeshua follow the first century Jewish calendar that was based on the visible new moon? We know he did because, for example, he was crucified on what the Gospel writers call “the Jew’s Passover,” which Yeshua and the Gospel writers also call the Passover. If Yeshua were on a conjunction-based calendar, his Passover would have been anywhere from one to three or days earlier, and not on the same day the Jews were doing their Passover. Had Yeshua been on a conjunction-based calendar, the controversy this would have caused with the antagonistic and super-critical Jewish leaders certainly would have been recorded in the Gospels.
Summary of Points
The following is a brief summary of the points enumerated above for why we follow the visible new moon crescent and not the conjunction as a way to determine the new biblical month.
- There is no record in the Gospels that Yeshua was following a different calendar than that of the Jewish establishment of his day. Had be been following a conjunction-based calendar, his day for Passover would have been one to three days earlier than the Jewish Passover. The Jews at that time followed a visible new moon-based calendar. The Gospels record that Yeshua’s Passover coincided perfectly with the Jewish calendar. Therefore the biblical record proves that Yeshua followed a visible new moon-based month, not a conjunction-based month.
- The Jewish believers from distant lands who gathered together on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) didn’t need a calculated, conjunction-based calendar to do so. They would have had ample time to make travel arrangements to be in Jerusalem, since they would have known fifty days earlier the exact date of Pentecost. This could easily have been done based on the month beginning on the visible new moon.
- When Philo, the first century Jewish historian, is read in context, his writings in no way prove a conjunction based calendar, but, rather, one that is based on the visible new moon. Hypothetically, if Philo were pro-conjunction, then he would have been out of sync with the normative Judaism of his day.
- The argument that the visible new moon can’t be used to determine month’s beginning because the pagans used and still use the crescent moon for their idolatrous practices is a specious one. This makes Satan and his heathen followers to be greater than YHVH Elohim, the Creator of the moon. What of YHVH’s creation has the devil not corrupted? Everything! That’s like saying that because a heathen or a sinner uses the Bible to supposedly justify his sinful behaviors this corrupts the Bible therefore invalidating it. This, of course, is absurd logic!
- Was Noah a conjunctionist based on a statement we find in Genesis 7:11, which indicates months were 30 days each in length? Absolutely not. This merely proves that the ancients followed a 360 year day comprised of 12 months of 30 days. These were round numbers that the ancients used to delineate longer periods of time and had nothing to do with the actual calculating of the new month.
- The idea that the Hebrew word chodesh doesn’t mean “visible new moon” is contrary to what all modern and ancient linguistic experts and ancient biblical Hebrew understanding tell us. Therefore, we reject this minority and revisionist view as being contrived by non-linguists who don’t know Hebrew and refuse to listen to the experts who do.
- The Hebrew word keseh as found in Psalm 81:3 is a mainstay argument used in attempts to prove the conjunctionists’ theory. The problem is that this is a weak argument. Keseh is found only in one other place in the Tanakh, and because of this, it is not a word we have a lot of understanding about. Furthermore, modern linguists are in a quandary about its origination whether it derives from Aramaic or Hebrew. Therefore, to choose a word that linguists know so little about and to use it to prove when the month begins is basing one’s argument on a weak text, not a strong one; a weak argument, not a strong one. A fundamental rule of biblical interpretation (and logic) tell us to base biblical doctrine on multiple clear Bible passages, and not on one or two weak and difficult to understand passages. Therefore, we reject the idea that keseh is positive proof of a conjunction-based new moon.
- Does Psalm 81:3–4 tell us to blow the shofar on the new moon conjunction day of Yom Teruah in anticipation of the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles? Not at all. When read in the context of verses one and two along with verses four and five, we see that the psalmist is telling the saints to make a joyful noise to YHVH of which sounding the shofar is a part. This is what the Torah commands us to do.
- The idea that the Moses borrowed a lunar conjunction calendar from the Egyptians and adopted it for the Israelites to use is absurd. This is pure speculation and wishful thinking. There is not a shred of biblical proof for this theory, and, in fact, the Torah records that YHVH gave his calendar to the Israelites (Exod 12:2). They didn’t get it form the Egyptians.
- There are no linguistic or historical sources ancient or modern that say the Hebrews used a conjunction based calendar in biblical times. Every source we can find is unanimous in stating that the Hebrews based their months on the visible new moon crescent. For one to say that the ancient Hebrew calendar was conjunction-based is contrary to all the reputable and expert historical sources we can find on the subject.
- The biblical pattern of darkness preceding light is a true one, although it isn’t universally applicable in all instances. For example, the biblical new year starts in spring with the awakening of the earth from its winter sleep as new life emerges. For the light out of darkness model to hold true in all cases, the biblical new year would have to start the next day after the winter solstice in late December when the days start getting longer. So, because of this, we reject the idea that the new month must start when the moon is totally dark in its conjunctive state. This argument is grasping at straws.
- We know of no mathematical formulas available to the ancients to be able to predict the exact moment of the new moon’s conjunction, and the conjunctionists are unable to provide us with any. In fact, it wasn’t until the twentieth century that such a formula existed. Once again, this is another proof that the ancients had to use a visible sighting method to determine the month’s beginning, since they had not other way to determine this.
- The fact that David, Jonathan and Saul knew ahead of time in 1 Samuel 20 when the new moon day would occur isn’t proof that they followed a calculated conjunction-based calendar. They could have known several days in advance as they came to end of one month the approximate date of the new month based on projecting when the new moon would be visible.
- Because many believe Yeshua is returning on Yom Teruah, which is on a new moon day, and because one of the signs of his coming is a dark moon, this supposedly proves that new moon day is a conjunction. The problem with this argument is that while it is true that one of the astronomical signs of Yeshua’s second coming is a dark moon, nowhere do the Scriptures say that the actual day of coming is a fully dark moon. This is pure speculation on the part of the conjuntionists and is reading into the Scriptures something that isn’t there. This, therefore, is not a proof that the new moon must occur on a conjunction.