THE SABBATH AND THE CALENDAR: LUNAR OR SOLAR?Back to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
There will always be people with new and innovative excuses for not obeying God, especially when it comes to observing his fourth commandment: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." One such argument revolves around the idea that the lunar/solar calendar in use today by the Jewish people is not the same kind of calendar that was in use when Israel was organized as a nation under Moses. This argument also includes the belief that the calendar of Moses was purely a solar calendar where the months were not set by the moon. The principal teacher of this belief is Curtis Clair Ewing in his booklet "Israel's Calendar and the True Sabbath," which is based on a book by Samuel Walter Gamble "Sunday - the True Sabbath of God," published in 1900.
In his booklet, Ewing states, "Israel retained a thirty-day month, twelve months to a year, but instead of adding five days at the end of the year, they added three days at the end of the sixth month and two days at the end of the twelfth month. The governing principle was that the extra days should be added only when and where needed . . .. Seven supplementary days, or one week, were added every twenty-eight years to provide for the fraction of a day" (p10).
Ewing's calendar is based on the interpretation of scripture that requires the annual festivals of Leviticus 23 to be weekly sabbaths, and the various prophecies and other scriptures that seem to indicate that a year should be 360 days, with twelve thirty day months. This calendar has the effect of moving the Sabbath forward one day each year following Pentecost, so that in seven years, the Sabbath cycles through all seven days of the week. If this calendar is the true calendar of Moses and the one Jesus used, we would not know which day the Sabbath should be observed based on today's calendar. Moreover, we would not be able to obey the fourth commandment. Additionally, we would have to accept a new Sabbath as promoted by Ewing and Gamble.
The sincerity of the authors of these publications is not being called into question, but sincerity does not define truth. Admittedly, their calendar is very impressive, but is it the calendar used by ancient Israel or during the time of Christ?
In answering these questions, it is important to keep in mind that, although Jesus condemned the Scribes and Pharisees for their many perversions of the law, he did not call into question the calendar that was in use in his day. He observed the Sabbath and annual observances according to the sacred calendar in use at that time.
It should also be kept in mind that all historical and archeological evidence, and Jewish and Christian writings and traditions refute such a solar calendar as presented by these authors. But, this evidence is not the final proof and does not need to be presented here to refute this calendar. Because the very foundational argument of Gamble and Ewing is that ancient Israel had a 365-day solar calendar, we need to turn to the Bible to see if there is scripture that will prove or disprove this 365-day solar calendar as the inspired calendar of ancient Israel.
If the Bible shows that the calendar year used by ancient Israel could not have possibly been a 365-day solar-calendar year, all other arguments presented by these authors collapse with their foundation and do not even need to be considered. Their premise that the Sabbath of ancient Israel has not been preserved, and that a new Sabbath has been established will have no basis for belief.
PROOF OF A LUNAR/SOLAR CALENDAR
Ezekiel was inspired by God to date his prophecy and to enumerate a number of days between the two dates given, which supports a a 365-day lunar/solar calendar, not a 365 day calendar.
A lunar/solar calendar bases the month on a moon cycle of approximately 29.5 days per month, and it requires the month to be made of complete days and the year to be complete months. Therefore, a year of 12 months will have 353, 354, or 355 days to a year, depending on the number of 29 and 30 day months in that year. If no adjustments are made, the seasons will cycle through different months over a period of time. However, God commanded his Annual Observances and Festivals to be kept in specific months and in specific seasons of the year (Lev.23:4-5). To keep the months in the proper seasons, a 13th month must be added periodically in this calendar, which creates a year of 383, 384, or 385 days.
Ezekiel began his book by dating it while he was by the river Chebar in the 5th year of King Jehoiachin's captivity on the 5th day of the 4th month (Ezk.1:1-2). He was commanded by God to go to the House of Israel and speak to them (Ezk.3:4-5). Then, he sat before them seven days (vs.15-16). In chapter 4, God commanded Ezekiel to act out a prophecy concerning Israel and Judah. Acting out this prophecy required Ezekiel to lay on his left side for 390 days, then turn to his right side and lay on it for 40 days (Ezk.4:1-6). After Ezekiel had completed God's instructions, he again dated his prophecy in the 6th year, 6th month, and fifth day (Ezk.8:1)exactly one year and two months later.
If Ezekiel was using the calendar as described by Curtis Ewing, this period of time should have been 425 days or possibly 432 days if it was the 28th year when an extra week was added. Adding up the days that Ezekiel counted (this does not include any travel time), we get 7 + 390 + 40 = 437 days.
With this number of days in this period of time, it is not possible for the calendar to be the solar calendar described by Ewing, nor could it be a regular lunar/solar calendar year of 12 months. The only possibility is a lunar/solar calendar year that has the extra month added. Adding up the time allowed in a 13-month year plus two months, gives a period of time that lasts 443 days plus or minus one or two days to correct for the variable number of 29 or 30-day months. This agrees with Ezekiel's account of 437 days plus a few days of traveling time.
It is obvious from scripture that the calendar of Israel during the time of the prophets was a lunar/solar calendar and not the calendar as promoted by Gamble and Ewing. It should also be beyond doubt that the cycle was not lost from the time of the prophets to the time of Christ. Jesus Christ was sinless, he did not violate any of God's laws and he kept the same Sabbath as the Jewish nation of his day.
The weekly cycle, as well as knowledge of what day is the seventh day of the week, has been preserved by Catholics, Protestants, Moslems, and Jews, without change since the time of Christ to this day. The Sabbath was indeed from Friday evening to Saturday evening (on today's calendar), both then and now. Gamble's calendar, as promoted by Ewing, is shown by the Bible to be just another deception that promotes the violation of the fourth commandment"Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy" (Ex.20:8).