As springtime approaches that same old controversy rears its ugly head once again among the many followers of Yahweh concerning the beginning of the New Year.
Several questions that are usually brought forward by those concerned regarding the New Year are:
• What is the definition of a scriptural New Moon?
• Is a visible crescent of the moon required to begin the month?
• From what location does one need to determine the New Moon?
• Does one use the spring equinox to determine the month of Abib?
• Does one only use the “green ears of barley” formula for the month of Abib?
• Can one use only calculations for the New Moons?
• Does one use both the spring equinox and barley for the month of Abib?
• What group today has Yahweh’s truth and authority to proclaim and sanctify the true New Year?
• Can we rely on the current Jewish Calendar for the correct dates?
As you can surmise, there can exist much confusion as one tries to sort out the actual truth of the matter.
In previous articles, we have already discussed the issues of visible new moons and calculations as they relate to Yahweh’s sacred calendar.
In this particular discussion, we will address the validity of the so-called requirement of “green ears of barley” to determine the month of Abib and the beginning of Yahweh’s New Year.
Where In Scriptures?
To begin with, it would seem to be logical for one to ask, Where in Scriptures is it required to inspect the ripeness of the barley crop to determine when the first month of the year begins?
Well, if you are having a difficult time finding the answer, there is no need to be upset. The simple answer is, There is no such instruction to be found in Scriptures!
If not found in Scriptures, then where did such a notion come from? In order to find the answer all one needs to do is consult the history books where it all becomes very interesting.
If you are in the least bit interested in finding some answers along with learning some New Year history then just proceed onward.
The Hillelic Pharisees
It all begins to become clear when we realize that the “green ears of barley” issue can be traced back in time to the Hillelic Pharisees of the first century C.E.
The Hillelic Pharisees gave three criteria or primary reasons for intercalating a year as stated by a number of Jewish sources. Maimonides, for example, writes:
Intercalation of the year depended upon the following three criteria: the tequphah (spring equinox), the barley harvest, and the blooming of the tree fruits.1
The tequphah at question for the Pharisees was not just the season of the autumnal equinox as found in Exodus, 34:22, but included the season of the vernal equinox as well, for Maimonides adds:
Namely, if the court had ascertained by calculation that the tequphah (spring equinox) of Nisan would fall on the 16th day of Nisan, or later, it intercalated the year and declared the Nisan of this year to be a Second Adar, so that Passover might fall in the season of the barley harvest.2
After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the Hillelic system required only the day of the omer wave offering—which for the Pharisees always fell on the 16th day of Nisan—to fall after the spring equinox.3
Next, the Babylonian Talmud states:
Our Rabbis taught: A year can be intercalated on three grounds: on account of the premature state of the corn-crops, or that of the fruit-trees, or on account of the lateness of the tequphah (spring equinox). Any two of these reasons can justify intercalation, but not one alone. All, however, are glad when the state of the spring crop is one of them.4
The Jerusalem Talmud and the Tosefta similarly report:
On account of three signs do they intercalate the year, because of the (premature state of) the grain, because of the (condition of the) produce of the tree, and because of the (lateness of the) tequphah (spring equinox). On account of two of these they will intercalate the year, but on account of only one of them they will not intercalate the year. But if (for only one reason) they declared the year to be intercalated, behold, this is deemed intercalated. If the (premature state of the) grain was one of them, they would rejoice.5
Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Huna
Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Huna both included in their consideration of the four tequphoth the Tequphah of Tebeth (Dec./Jan.), i.e., the winter solstice.6 Eliezer also explains that these tequphoth must be accompanied by one of the other two signs.
On account of three signs is the year intercalated, on account of trees, grass (i.e., grains), and the tequphoth (seasons of the equinoxes and solstices). If two of these (i.e., trees and grass) be available and not the third (the tequphoth), they do not intercalate the year, (that is to say) neither because of the trees nor because of the grass. If one (the tequphoth) be available and the other two (trees and grass) be absent, they do not intercalate the year on account of the tequphoth. If the Tequphah of Tebeth (the winter solstice) had occurred on the 20th day of the month or later, they intercalate the year; but till the 20th day of the month of Tebeth or earlier they do not intercalate the year.7
The condition of the fruit trees and the barley crops, therefore, were given equal weight, for either one or the other had to stand along with the lateness of the tequphah before a year could be intercalated.
Accordingly, even if the barley crop was mature, but the development of the fruit trees was deficient, the condition of the fruit trees, when coupled with the lateness of the tequphah, was grounds to intercalate the year. The immaturity of barley, coupled with the lateness of the tequphah was the other grounds.
Nevertheless, if the tequphah was not late yet both the fruit trees and the barley crop were not mature enough, these two factors together were not grounds sufficient to intercalate the year.
This detail is our first indication that the Hillelic method for the intercalation of the year ultimately sprang forth from the earlier system, which was based solely upon the timing of the tequphah.
Maimonides argues that, unless expediency was a factor, the court was obliged to intercalate the year for two of these three signs. He writes:
It occurs to me that the statement of the sages that no intercalation should be declared in a year of famine or in a Sabbath year refers only to cases in which intercalation was indicated by reasons of expediency, as, for example, the state of the roads and bridges or similar considerations. If, however, the (regular) year required intercalation on account of the tequphah or on account of the barley harvest and the fruits of the trees, the court was obliged to intercalate the year at all events.8
In his annual letters to the Jews, the Nasi would usually mix his primary and auxiliary reasons. Maimonides states that the Nasi would put it thus:
This year requires intercalation on account of the lateness of the tequphah, and because of the lateness of the barley harvest or the unripe condition of the tree fruits: moreover, the kids are too young, and the pigeon squabs too tender.9
Barley and Tree Fruits
Nothing whatsoever is said in Scriptures regarding the maturity of the green ears of barley or of the state of fruit trees for determining the beginning of a year. Indeed, the Hasidic material from Qumran and even the more conservative first century C.E. Pharisees, like Philo and Josephus, make no mention at all of the maturity of barley or of fruit trees as a determinant for beginning a new year.
The issue makes its first appearance with the more liberal Hillelic Jews beginning in the year 41 C.E. How then did the Hillelic Pharisees come to rely upon these two items as primary reasons to be associated with the tequphah (spring equinox) for intercalating the year?
Rabban Gamaliel I
To begin with, the notion that the barley crop or fruit trees had to be mature enough by Adar 30, the date on which the new year was sanctified, were originally only auxiliary conditions and not primary reasons at all. To demonstrate, in a letter sent by Rabban Gamaliel I (41–60 C.E.) to those of the diaspora, we read:
We beg to inform you that the doves are still tender and the lambs still too young and that the time of green ears (of barley corn) has not yet arrived. It seems advisable to me and my colleagues to add thirty days to this year.10
In this passage, the lateness of the tequphah (spring equinox) is not even mentioned; rather, it was understood. It was certainly the deciding issue during this time, for Gamaliel I’s son, Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel I (60–70 C.E.), with no mention of any other condition, states that the year was intercalated “on account of the (lateness of the) tequphah.”11
Meanwhile, in the above letter from Gamaliel I, the maturity of doves and lambs are placed on a par with the maturity of the green ears of barley. As we have already seen, later rabbis report that the year could not be intercalated based upon the maturity of lambs and doves, but they were used as auxiliary reasons.12
Next, the style of the letters of the Nasim was quite different after 70 C.E. We see this contrast in the form letter quoted above by Maimonides, which we will provide here again for comparison’s sake:
This year requires intercalation on account of the lateness of the tequphah, and because of the lateness of the barley harvest or the unripe condition of the tree fruits: moreover, the kids are too young, and the pigeon squabs too tender.13
As you can see, the lateness of the tequphah (spring equinox) is coupled together with either the lateness of the barley harvest or the unripe condition of the tree fruits. Then listed separately as “moreover” come the auxiliary conditions.
Secondly, the change in definition came after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. After that time a new method for beginning the year was instituted. Prior to 70 C.E., all the various Jewish groups required that the Passover had to follow the vernal equinox.14 After that date, the formula for the Pharisees was altered so that only the day of the omer wave offering was required to fall after the vernal equinox.15
As a side note, the Samaritan Jews (originally a Sadducean-based group which had by the fourth century C.E. been heavily influenced by the Pharisees)16 also adhered to a custom that required the maturity of fruits to begin the year.
Yet they differed from the Pharisees in three ways: they continued to keep Passover after the vernal equinox, they looked for the maturity of first-fruits in general, not just of barley and fruit trees, and the issue of maturity was secondary to their main reason of intercalation—that Passover must fall after the vernal equinox.
Sozomenus (mid-fifth century C.E.) writes:
Further, the Samaritans, who are scrupulous observers of the Torah of Moses, never celebrate this festival (of Passover) until the first-fruits have reached maturity; they say it is, in the Torah, called the Festival of First-fruits (Lev., 23:9–14), and before these appear, it is not lawful to observe the festival (of Passover); and, therefore, necessarily the vernal equinox must precede. Hence arises my astonishment that those who profess to adopt the Jewish custom in the celebration of this festival, do not conform to the ancient practice of the Jews.17
Thirdly, for the Pharisees, it was the connection between the omer wave offering, which they always held on the 16th of Nisan, and the name of the first month of the year, ha-Abib, that helped motivate their doctrinal shift. Maimonides begins to explain the connection between intercalation and the month-name ha-Abib by stating:
And why is just this month (Adar) added (for intercalation)? Because of the season of the barley harvest—that is, in order that Passover be celebrated in that season. For it is said: “שמור (shamur; carefully watch over)18 the moon of ha-Abib” (Deut., 16:1), which means, give heed that this moon (i.e., ha-Abib) falls in the season of the ripening ears. Without the addition of this month (of Adar), however, Passover would fall sometimes in the summer and sometimes in the winter.19
First Month of ha-Abib
The name of the first month of the scriptural year, ha-Abib (the Abib), was connected by the Pharisees with fresh ears of barley. The name אביב (abib) derives from the root word אב (ab), meaning, “a green plant:—greenness, fruit” and often is a general reference to “fruit.”20 The word אביב (abib) itself means, “green, i.e., a young ear of grain.”21
As William Holladay’s Lexicon describes it, abib represents “ears (of grain), ripe but still soft, the grains of which are eaten either rubbed or roasted.”22
In the LXX, the month name ha-Abib is translated as νέος (neos),23 meaning “new”24 and implying new grain crop.
Meanwhile, the book of Leviticus includes among the first-fruits offered to Yahweh, “אביב (abib), roasted with fire,”25 implying ears of grain. At the same time, the book of Exodus speaks of “the barley אביב (abib),”26 translated in the LXX to read, “κριθή παρεστηκύια (krithe paresthkuia; barley standing in the ear).”27
Abib, therefore, refers to green ears of grain. The fact that barley can be described as abib (in green ears) shows that the term abib includes, but is not limited to, barley.
Israel is described as “a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates.”28 The two great harvests were the “barley harvest and wheat harvest.”29 Wheat was the chief grain from Pentecost to Tabernacles.30 Barley, on the other hand, was the chief spring crop of the Jews and in the post-exilic period it was used for the spring omer wave offering.31
Therefore, the Pharisees identified the name ha-Abib specifically with the green ripening ears of barleycorn. Accordingly, for them, the moon of ha-Abib could not just fall in a general time of the greening of the spring grain bearing crops but at a time when the ears of barley corn were themselves ripening.
At the same time, we must keep in mind that the definition of the month-name ha-Abib as “the green ears of barley” is nowhere found in Scriptures. Yet one would certainly include spring barley under that label.
This concludes Part 1 of our two-part series dealing with the subject of “green ears of barley” and its consideration in determining the month of Abib, the first month of the New Year.
In The Abib and Barley Error – Pt. 2 we will present evidence which will conclusively prove the fallacy of the requirement for “the green ears of barley” formula as a determining factor to begin the scriptural New Year.
Note: Adapted from a chapter from the forthcoming publication by Qadesh La Yahweh Press.
Click this link for Bibliography and Abbreviations.
1 Maimonides, Code, 3:8:4:2.
2 Maimonides, Code, 3:8:4:2.
3 B. R.Sh. 21a; cf., J. Sanh. 1:2 (fol. 18d); B. Sanh. 12b.
4 B. Sanh. 11b.
5 J. Sanh., 1:2:7a-d; Tosef. Sanh., 2:2a-d.
6 Eliezer, 8, p. 56-57.; B. R.Sh. 21a; cf., J. Sanh. 1:2 (fol. 18d); B. Sanh. 12b.
7 Eliezer, 8, p. 56-57.
8 Maimonides, Code, 3:8:4:16.
9 Maimonides, Code, 3:8:4:8.
10 B. Sanh. 11b; J. Mas. Shen 6:6 9 (fol. 56c), J. Sanh. 1:2 (fol. 18d); Tosef. Sanh. 2:6.
11 B. Sanh. 11b.
12 B. Sanh. 11a; J. Sanh. 1:2:7, l-m.
13 Maimonides, Code, 3:8:4:8.
14 Jos. Antiq. 3:10:5. Philo Spec. 2:28 §160. 21 Philo Spec. 1:35 §181. 22 Philo Moses, 2:41 §222. 23 Cf., Philo Spec. 2:28 §153, “But the month of the autumnal equinox, though first in order as measured by the course of the sun, is not called first in the Torah, because at that time all the fruits have been gathered in and the trees are shedding their leaves and all the bloom which the spring brought in its prime already scorched by the heat of the summer sun is wilting under the dry currents of air.” The idea that the seventh month, Tishri, was the first in order as measured by the course of the sun is based upon the Jewish notion that Tishri is the first month according to their civil calendar, which in reality is based upon an early Egyptian calendar that was later practiced by the Macedonians (cf., Jos. Antiq. 1:3:3; S.O. 4; R.Sh. 1:1; B. A.Zar., 10a; etc.). Philo, Spec., 2:28 §150. Philo, Spec., 2:28 §151f. Philo, Exod., 1:1.
15 B. R.Sh. 21a; cf., J. Sanh. 1:2 (fol. 18d); B. Sanh. 12b.
16 Due to their common beliefs and roots, the Samaritans were often identified by ancient writers as Sadducees (Hippolytus, Ref. Her. 9:24; Epiphanius, Pan. 1:14; John Dam. 16). Also see FSDY 1, pp. 229-233, 240-243, 252.
17 Sozomenus 7:18.
18 CHAL, pp. 377-378, “watch, guard . . . be careful about, protect . . . save, retain . . . observe, watch . . . carefully, attentively . . . keep watch, stand guard . . . observe, keep . . . revere” and so forth; SEC, Heb. #8104, “prop. to hedge about (as with thorns), i.e. guard; gen. to protect, attend to, etc.”
19 Maimonides, Code, 3:8:4:1.
20 SEC, Heb. #3 and 4; CHAL, p. 1, “shoot of a plant growing close to the earth,” cf., Job 8:12.
21 SEC Heb. #24.
22 CHAL p. 2.
23 LXX of Exod., 13:4, 23:15, 34:18; Deut., 16:1.
24 GEL 1889, p. 529.
25 Lev. 2:14.
26 Exod. 9:31.
27 LXX Exod. 9:31.
28 Deut. 8:8.
29 Ruth 2:23; cf., Jer. 41:8.
30 Exod. 34:22; Philo, Spec. 2:30 §179; Jos. Antiq. 3:10:6.
31 Jos. Antiq. 3:10:5; Philo Spec. 2:29 §175.