Happy New Year! (four months early)

Last year (2018), about a year into my exploration of the Hebrew Roots of the Christian faith, I decided to focus my studies into a series of essays I wrote for my family to explain the significance behind the Appointed Times (mo'adim) of the Bible. As with most who tread this path, one of the first things we do is jettison Catholic holidays such as Easter and Christmas and begin fumbling through the feasts which have been faithfully kept by Judaism for over 2,000 years since the return from Babylon. There is a great deal of meaning in them which is even enhanced for us as disciples of Rabbi Yeshua.

In the next few posts, I will be reprinting those letters, mostly as they were written but with a few updates here and there to fix holes in my understanding that have filled through a further year of study. I sent each letter to them on the holiday in question. While I am still learning, I hope these essays will be of benefit to somebody just stepping out in their spiritual journey toward the truth of Scripture, especially if they are alone and don't have access to good teaching. I've linked all of them below for easy navigation.

  1. Happy New Year! (four months early)
  2. Shabbat shalom!
  3. Passover & Unleavened Bread
  4. Pentecost
  5. The Day of Loud Noise
  6. The Day of Atonement
  7. The Grand Finale
  8. That Jewish Christmas?

Happy New Year! (3/18/2018)

What?? is likely your response to that. You know that was back on January 1, right? Yes, and in fact I sat down to write this on December 31, 2017. But while we go by the Gregorian calendar year for everything regarding work, school, and political, I am speaking of a different new year—the biblical new year.

Various cultures around the world have different calendars that they use alongside the Gregorian calendar that is the standard of the Western world. The Gregorian calendar is a strictly solar calendar. That is, the number of days is configured by a precise reckoning of how many days it takes for Earth to make one full orbit around the sun. Muslims, on the other hand, have a lunar calendar; it is based exclusively on the moon's cycle, which means each month has 29 or 30 days. Since the solar year is ~365.25 days, while the lunar cycle is ~360 days, lunar calendars like the Islamic one do not correspond months with seasons.

There is another well-known calendar system, if only for one specific day that has become increasingly popular with Americans—the Chinese calendar. Many Americans recognize the Chinese New Year, if for no other reason that the fun of adopting another culture's holidays, the same way we've incorporated St. Patrick's Day or Cinco de Mayo. The Chinese calendar is what is known as a lunisolar calendar. This type of calendar is based on the lunar cycle (each month being one lunar cycle in length), but it is adjusted with a 13th leap month every so often to keep the months in the correct season. The Chinese New Year falls roughly a month later than the Gregorian New Year, but this is an approximation, since it is determined by the cycle of the moon.

Where is he going with all of this? Don't worry, I'm getting there.

There is another lunisolar calendar that exists which is of much greater relevance to us as Christians. That is God's calendar, which he gave to Moses after rescuing Israel from slavery in Egypt.

This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.
—Exodus 12:2

This verse in English doesn't tell us when that actually is, but it does set the framework for very important events that serve both to remind us of God's work in the lives of his people in the past, and also to point to the greater redemption from sin that is offered to us through Jesus the Messiah. In many ways, Jesus represented Israel as a whole. Many statements made about Israel (“Out of Egypt I called my son,” Hosea 11:1) are interpreted to apply to Jesus (cf. Matthew 2:15). So it stands to reason that if Jesus represented Israel in his life on earth, the most significant events of that life would fall on key events in Israel's history.

These key events are known as mo'adim in Hebrew. A mo'ed is an “appointed time” or a rehearsal. This word is often translated as “season” or “feast”, but it refers to a day or week which God has set aside as particularly significant in his dealings with his chosen people. God does not operate randomly; he causes important events to fall on specific dates to encourage us to consider the significance of those events and how they build upon each other. In the Bible, time is like a spiral, not a straight line. Events that occur on important dates each year build upon the significance of events in previous years. So although these are traditionally thought of as “Jewish” holidays, they take on a whole new meaning in the life, death, resurrection, and second coming of Christ.

So why is this the New Year of God's calendar? Let's go back to Exodus, specifically 9:31. This verse says that the barley crop was “in the head”. This means the barley was nearly ripe. Since nearly everyone in Israel was a farmer, this was an easy way to tell what time of the year it was. When the barley in the fields is “in the head”, we know the new year is weeks away. Today, since most people aren't farmers, there are volunteers in Israel who keep track of this for us. The other key is in the very word “month”. This word is related to the word “moon”. In the biblical calendar, the new month is set by the new moon. In this case, we can say the first day of the new month begins at sundown whenever the first sliver of the moon is spotted after the dark moon. So the new year falls on the first new moon after the barley crop has become “in the head”.

While this no doubt seems needlessly complicated, I hope you will bear with me. These things aren't merely matters of trivia. When we understand the calendar of God, and especially the “appointed times” on that calendar, it can greatly enhance our understanding of the Bible—whether we're talking about the events in the Old Testament, the life of Jesus, or his Second Coming. It is my goal to explain each of these mo'adim as each one comes. Perhaps your own faith may be strengthened as mine has been from learning about these things.

May the grace of God our Father be with you in Jesus our Messiah.

Seth שת


Popular posts from this blog

Why I Left Answers in Genesis

Problems with the Ark Kinds

Dangers of the Anti-Nomian Movement: A Rebuttal to Answers in Genesis