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Beginning the New Year – Part 2

In our previous discussion, Beginning the New Year – Pt. 1, we addressed the issue of the Hebrew terms תקופה (tequphah) and תקופת (tequphath).

We learned that a tequphah is a solar event and is a point in time that could be an equinox or a solstice.

It was also recognized that a tequphath represents a season of the solar year. The two seasons for calculating Festival Days being spring-summer and autumn-winter.

With this in mind we will continue in Part 2 with an examination of the Festival of Tabernacles and the Festival of Ingathering. What we will discover is how they both relate to the determination of the scriptural New Year.

Khag of Tabernacles
We must next be cognizant of the difference between the use of the labels “the Khag (Festival) of Ingathering” and “the Khag of Tabernacles,” the latter forming only a part of the former. The instructions from Deuteronomy and Leviticus for the seven-day Khag of Tabernacles state:

You shall perform the Khag (Festival) of Tabernacles for yourself seven days ˚באספך (be-asaph-k; in/with your gathering in)55 from your grain floor and your wine press.56

On the 15th day of the seventh moon, this is the Khag (Festival) of Tabernacles of seven days to Yahweh. . . . Only, on the 15th day of the seventh moon ˚באספך (be-asaph-k; in/with your gathering in) of the increase of the land, you shall keep the Khag (Festival) of Yahweh seven days. . . . And you shall celebrate it a khag to Yahweh seven days in a year.57

The Khag of Tabernacles, therefore, is a “seven day” festival to Yahweh, which is defined as occurring in the seventh moon (month) of the year and ב (be; in, with)58 your “gathering in” from your grain floor and your wine press.

Khag of Ingathering
The instructions for beginning the year become even more specific with the definitions regarding the greater festival consisting of eight days,59 of which Tabernacles represents only the first seven.60 The entire eight days are named the Khag of Ingathering. The instructions for observing this greater period are found in the book of Exodus:

You shall keep . . . the Khag of Ingathering בצאת (be-tsath; in/with the outgoing)61 of the year, ˚באספך (be-asaph-k; in/with your gathering in) of your labors from the field.62

Two points are made. The Khag of Ingathering must:

1. Fall “בצאת (be-tsath; in/with the outgoing)” of the year
2. “In/with the gathering in” of your labors from the field, i.e., during the fall harvest time.

The Eighth Day
Since the Festival of Tabernacles, representing the first seven days of this festival, is specifically stated as beginning on the 15th day of the seventh moon and ending on the 21st day, the eighth day of the greater festival is the 22nd day of the seventh month. In Leviticus we read, “On the eighth day you shall have a sacred gathering,”63 while in Numbers it states:

You shall have an עצרת (Atsarth; Closing Assembly) on the eighth day. And you shall not do any work of service.64

This eighth day (the day following the seven days of Tabernacles) is defined once as a sabbathon;65 and, it is twice called an עצרת (Atsarth; Closing Assembly),66 a term used to describe the day ending a festival period.67

For example, the last day of the seven days of unleavened bread is also referred to as an Atsarth.68 The Jews by the first century C.E. were accustomed to call the entire eight days of the Khag of Ingathering by the designation “Tabernacles.”

For this reason, in the New Testament this eighth day is distinguished by being called, the “the last day, that great day” of the festival.69

The Outgoing of the Year
In these passages, we find that the seventh month of the year is connected with the “outgoing” of the year. Meanwhile, the first moon of the year, the moon of ha-Abib,70 is said to be “the beginning of moons: it is the first moon of the year to you.”71

Since the first six months of the year have already passed and with the seventh month begins the last six months of a normally 12-month year, this description as “outgoing” is generally true.

Nevertheless, the outgoing of the year does not begin with the first day of the seventh month. We discover this detail in the next reference to the Khag of Ingathering, the important passage found in the book of Exodus. It reads:

And you shall observe . . . a Khag of האסף (ha-asaph; the gathering in; Ingathering) of the תקופת (tequphath) of the year. (Exodus 34:22)

The term תקופת (tequphath) proves to be the key to the entire issue of how one begins the sacred year. The LXX renders this passage:

And you shall keep to me . . . the festival of ingathering of the μεσοῦντος τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ (mesountos tou eniautou; middle of the year). (LXX, Exodus 34:22)

The Targum Onqelos translates tequphath in this verse to mean “במפקה (be-maphqah; in/with the outgoing)” of the year, using the same word found in its translation of Exodus 23:16.72

This tequphath, therefore, is a reference to “the middle part of the year” and the “outgoing of the year,” which as we have already seen is connected with the seventh lunar month of the sacred calendar. Indeed, it is with the word תקופת (tequphath) in the instruction from Exodus 34:22, that we shall take our first steps toward solving the riddle of how to begin the scriptural year.

The key is that the tequphath is only connected with the Khag of Ingathering and not with the entire seventh month.

The Solution
The solution to the problem of when to begin the scriptural year does not lie directly with the instructions for the first month (Abib/Nisan) or in the data regarding the Passover, as the later Christians would have it, although the Khag of Passover is commanded to fall within the same solar year as the Khag of Ingathering.

Rather, the solution is skillfully concealed in the instructions regarding the observance of the Khag of Ingathering, which is attached to the Khag of Tabernacles, observed during the seventh month (Tishri) of the sacred calendar.

Often overlooked is the fact that the phrase Khag of Ingathering is both inclusive and exclusive of the Khag of Tabernacles. The question now becomes, “Are all eight days of the Khag of Ingathering required to fall within the khoreph (autumn-winter) tequphath or only its last day?”

Exodus 34:22, allows for both interpretations. Yet on this one question, the entire issue of when to begin the scriptural year hinges, all other instructions being subjoined.

The solution is realized once we compare the evidence for the entire eight days of the Khag of Ingathering with the seven day portion called the Khag of Tabernacles. From the 15th until the 21st day of the seventh moon is the seven-day Khag of Tabernacles.

Ingathering and Passover
This seven-day festival is, in turn, followed by the eighth day, i.e., the 22nd, which is an Atsarth (Closing Assembly) and high Sabbath. This dividing up and renaming of a period of a festival is very much the same as that which happened to the seven day Khag of Unleavened Bread.

At first, even after the one-time celebration of the Passover sacrifice on the first day of unleavened bread in Egypt, the entire seven days were still known as the days of Unleavened Bread. Yet, after the Israelites sinned at Mount Sinai, the sacrifice of the Passover was reinstituted as a permanent part of the Torah of Moses.

The first day of this seven-day festival was renamed the Khag of Passover, leaving the last “six days” to carry on the designation the “Khag of Unleavened Bread.”73 Nevertheless, the entire seven-day period is called both the Khag of Unleavened Bread and the Khag of Passover.

In the same way, there were eight days counted to the Khag of Ingathering. Of utmost importance, this name is the first one applied in Scriptures to this festival, only being found in the book of Exodus. Further, it is only under this name that a connection with the “outgoing of the year” and the “tequphath” is made.74

In the remaining books of Scriptures, the first seven days of this festival were specifically named the Khag of Tabernacles, while the eighth day was left unnamed and merely identified as the “eighth day.”

The Last Great Day
Therefore, this newer construct leaves the eighth day, the “Last Great Day,” to carry on the name “Khag of Ingathering.” The fact that, much later, the Jews referred to all eight days as Tabernacles is not relevant, since it is not a scriptural definition.

The very fact that Yahweh conspicuously did not rename the eighth day (the “Last Great Day”) of the Khag of Ingathering demonstrates that only the last day of the festival was relevant to the instructions in Exodus, 23:16 and 34:22—i.e., that the Khag of Ingathering must always fall within the “outgoing of the year” and in its autumnal “tequphath (season).”

This khag day must follow the day of the autumnal equinox, otherwise part of that 24-hour day will still be in the summer tequphath. This method also reveals why the ancient Israelites did not originally wait for the appearance of new moons to calculate the beginning of their months and years. Rather, they calculated far ahead, first discovering the events of the seventh month in order to calculate back to the beginning of the first month.

With this one factor, the beginning of the year and all of the festivals are set in place. The eighth day of the greater Khag of Ingathering, i.e., the 22nd day of the seventh moon, is determined when that 24-hour day—as calculated by the moon—falls after the 24-hour legal day of the autumnal equinox, as calculated by the sun.

Legal days are determined from sunset to sunset. Therefore, when the autumnal equinox falls on a day reckoned from sunset to sunset, the subsequent day, also reckoned from sunset to sunset, which can be identified with the 22nd day of the moon, dates the seventh month of the year. From this point, one can merely count back six moons until he arrives at the date for the new moon of the first month.

Our final issue deals with the timing of the Passover. The question arises, “What effect does using this scriptural method for calculating the beginning of the year have on the day of Passover?”

Every time that the scriptural formula we have demonstrated above is used, we find that the 14th of ha-Abib (the first moon) will always fall after the vernal equinox.

It also has as its consequence the fact that the Passover festival will normally fall during the first of the 12 solar segments (each segment consisting of 30º of the solar circle), each lasting approximately 30.5 days. At the same time, the single day called “the Khag of Ingathering” (the 22nd day of the seventh month) will normally fall within the seventh section of the solar year.

Another point of interest is the fact that under our current solar year—with 365.2422 days and lunar cycles of about 29.5 days—there exists an average of 186 days between the vernal and autumnal equinoxes (conversely there are 179 days between the autumnal and vernal equinoxes).75

Therefore, if the 22nd of Tishri comes one day after the day of the autumnal equinox, Passover cannot come any earlier than two days after the day of the vernal equinox.

Remarkably, even with the calendar used by the quasi-Quartodeciman Christian writer Anatolius76—which was based entirely upon the more ancient Aristocratic system used by the Jewish priests and Quartodeciman Christians—Passover was never dated any earlier than the third day after the day of the vernal equinox.

They dated the vernal equinox during this period to the 24th of March,77 and the earliest that Anatolius had calculated the Passover was March 27.78

Ancient Testimony
Therefore, Aristobulus correctly states that the sun would be in the vernal equinoctial segment of the solar circle. Referring to the most ancient Jewish writers (i.e., those following the Aristocratic practice), he reports:

These writers, in solving some questions which are raised with respect to Exodus, say that all alike ought to sacrifice the crossing-festival (Passover) AFTER THE VERNAL EQUINOX in the middle of the first month. And that is found to be when the sun passes through the first segment of the solar, or, as some among them have named it, the zodiacal circle. But this Aristobulus (third century B.C.E.) also adds, that for the festival of the Passover it was necessary not only that the sun should pass the equinoctial segment, but the moon also. For there are two equinoctial segments, the vernal and the autumnal, and these diametrically opposite to each other, and since the day of the Passover is fixed for the 14th day of the month, at twilight, the moon will have the position diametrically opposite the sun; as is to be seen in full moons. And the sun will thus be in the segment of the vernal equinox, and the moon necessarily will be at the autumnal equinox.79

The first century C.E. Jewish writers Philo and Josephus also recognized that, for the Khag of Passover to occur, it had to be within the spring season and the sun would normally be in the segment called Aries (the first segment of the solar circle).80

Socrates Scholasticus reports that this was also the view of the early Quartodeciman Christians:

“For,” they (the conservative Quartodecimans) said, “it ought to be celebrated when the sun is in Aries, in the month called Xanthicus by the Antiochians, and April by the Romans.”81

The Christian writer Anatolius, citing Origen’s book of Passover, states:

And in this book, while declaring, with respect to the day of Passover, that attention must be given not only to the course of the moon and the transit of the equinox, but also to the transcensum (passage) of the sun.82

Why would the early Christians insist that the early Jewish priests up until the time of Yahushua the messiah always observe 14th of Abib, the day of the Passover, after the vernal equinox and never mention the connection with the Khag of Ingathering and the autumnal tequphath?

There seems little doubt that the early Quartodeciman Christians did, in fact, use the autumnal calculation to begin their year for the following three reasons:

1. It is known that they continued to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.83
2. Their calculations agreed with those of the early Aristocratic Jews.84
3. They always celebrated Passover after the vernal equinox.

But later Christians, especially under the influence of the Roman Church, began to move away from celebrating the Festival of Tabernacles and in doing so discarded any discussion regarding that issue. Nevertheless, they did strongly continue in their own versions of the celebration of Passover and Pentecost. This circumstance led to the modified approach of mentioning only those aspects of the calendar pertinent to their own celebrations.

The later Christians received their information from the earlier Aristocratic Jews and Christians, who followed the more ancient priestly system. This system was based upon two pillars:

First, the Khag of Ingathering must come after the day of the autumnal equinox.
Second, it must fall within the same solar year as Passover.

Both rules, as we have shown above, are scripturally based. Nevertheless, if one were to strictly follow the later Christian rule, which required only that Passover should follow the day of the vernal equinox, he would again find himself falling into error.

For there would always be those occasions when the 14th of the moon will fall only the day immediately after the vernal equinox. In these cases, if the 14th of such a moon was established as the sole measure for the celebration of Passover, it would mean that the Khag of Ingathering would come “before” the autumnal equinox.

Interpretation of the Roman Church
Furthermore, under the late interpretation of the Roman Church, the 14th of Abib was no longer admitted as a day on which one should celebrate Passover, only the first day of the week which fell from the 15 through 21st days of the first month.

In accordance with this newer interpretation, the 14th was now permitted to fall on the day of the equinox.85 The result of a strict adherence to this late Christian view, therefore, would be a mistake in the calculations for the beginning of the year and the timing of Yahweh’s festivals.

Hasidic Interpretation
The scriptural rules for beginning the year also explains the unusual Hasidic system found at Qumran. The Qumran Covenanteers argued that originally both the entire festivals of Passover and Tabernacles were required to fall after their respective equinox.86 By doing so, they argued that this system of following the equinox was still to be used.

Yet they were only half right. Not realizing that the solar year previous to 701 B.C.E. was 360 days with only 12 months, each 30 days long, they unfortunately tried to apply the results from the more ancient practice to a new calendric reality with a solar year of approximately 365.25 days.

Nevertheless, their claim that originally the complete festivals of both Passover and Tabernacles came after their respective equinox was true. They, no doubt, found a record of this fact and established their views upon it.

Always After the Equinox
Yet, if we return to that older solar year and month system and follow the two basic rules (i.e., that all three festivals must come in the same solar year and the Khag of Ingathering must follow the autumnal equinox), we will find that the Khag of Passover and Ingathering would always fall after their respective equinox. 

The first day of the seven days of unleavened bread under both the older 360-day and newer 365.25-day solar years would always come after the vernal equinox in order to remain in the same solar year.

Yet conversely, whereas today only the last day of the Khag of Ingathering need come after the autumnal equinox so that the 14th of Abib will come after the vernal equinox, in that by-gone age—when every month was 30 days long and the time between the spring and autumnal equinox was only 181 days87—it was not possible that the first day of unleavened bread (later called “Passover”) could follow the day of the vernal equinox unless the entire eight days of Ingathering also followed the day of the autumnal equinox.

Interesting support for this earlier length of 181 days between the vernal and autumnal equinoxes comes with the fact, with 30-day months, that the 14th of Abib (Passover) and the 15th of Tishri (the first day of Tabernacles) would have been exactly 181 days apart.

During an ideal year, the Passover would fall on the day after the vernal equinox and the first day of Tabernacles would fall on the day after the autumnal equinox. Therefore, when the additional factor of the length of the year and months prior to 701 B.C.E. is taken into consideration, the error of the unusual practice at Qumran is readily uncovered.

Summation of Parts 1 and 2
According to the above evidence from Scriptures, the beginning of the scriptural year is reckoned from the Promised Land by a simple formula:

1. The eighth day of the Khag of Ingathering (i.e., the 22nd day of the seventh lunar month) must always come after the 24-hour legal day of the autumnal equinox.

2. All three khag periods (the Khag of Passover and Unleavened Bread, the Khag of Weeks or Pentecost, and the Khag of Tabernacles and Ingathering) must fall within the same solar year.

In essence, the Khag of Passover, the first day of the first festival of the year (Abib 14), will always follow the vernal equinox and the Khag of Ingathering, the last and eighth day of the last festival of the year (Tishri 22), must always follow the autumnal equinox.

If either one of these festivals is placed before its respective equinox, it is not a proper scriptural year. At the same time, when these instructions are followed, Passover will normally fall within the first of the twelve divisions of the solar circle, while the Khag of Ingathering will normally fall within the seventh division.

Within this arrangement the beginning of the year is established and the early Aristocratic Jewish and Christian views are understood.

Note: Adapted from a chapter from the forthcoming publication by Qadesh La Yahweh Press.


Click this link for Bibliography and Abbreviations.

55 The Hebrew נ (be) when attached to the beginning of a word means, “in, among, with, near, before” (Hebrew-English Lexicon (HEL). Zondervan Edition, 1970. Catalog #6264. Samuel Bagster & Sons, LTD., London. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 30), though the implication of “before” is certainly not in this passage. The LXX, for example translates נ (be) in our relevant verses as ἐν (en), meaning, “in, within, surrounded by” and “during the time” of something (A Greek-English Lexicon [GEL]. Compiled by Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott. At the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996, pp. 551f); and אסף (asaph), “collected, gathered . . . ingathering, harvest of fruits” (HEL, p. 21), “a collection (of fruits)” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible [SEC], Heb. #625); and ˚ meaning, “Your.”
56 Deut. 16:13.
57 Lev. 23:34, 39, 41.
58 See above n. 57.
59 Num. 29:12-35.
60 Lev. 23:36b, compare with Lev. 23:34-36a, 39-42. This dual system of names is equivalent to the Khag of Unleavened Bread, which was a seven day festival that was divided between the Passover of the 14th and the six days of unleavened bread extending from the 15th through 20th of Abib (Deut. 16:1-8; Lev. 23:5-8; compare with Exod. 23:15, 34:18).
61 The Heb. נ (be) when attached to the beginning of a word means, “in, among, with, near, before” (Gesinius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Samuel Bagster and Sons, Paternoster Row [GHCL], 1846, p. 30); and צאת (tsath), a form of יצא (yatsa), meaning, “to go (causat. bring) out” (SEC, Heb. #3318); “go out, go forth” (GHCL, p. 112).
62 Exod. 23:15-16, compare with Targum Onqelos. The Bible in Aramaic: Based on Old Manuscripts and Printed Texts. Vol. 1, “The Pentatuech According to Targum Onkelos.” Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1959; and the LXX, “the festival of completion at the outgoing of the year in the gathering in of the works out of your field.”
63 Lev. 23:36.
64 Num. 29:35.
65 Lev. 23:39.
66 Lev. 23:36; Num. 29:35.
67 See discussion in The Festivals and Sacred Days of Yahweh (FSDY). Volume 1. Qadesh La Yahweh Press, Garden Grove, 1998, p. 162, n. 63, pp. 162-164, 248, 251. This discussion will also prove that the Jews referred to the 50th day of the Khag of Weeks (Pentecost) as an Atsarth as well.
68 Deut. 16:8.
69 John 7:37, compare with context of 7:1-37, esp. v. 7:2, 8, 10, 14.
70 The reference to “this moon” is to the moon or month named האביב (ha-Abib; the Abib) (see Exod. 13:4, 23:15, 34:18; Deut. 16:1). During the post-Exile period, this month-name was changed by the Judahites to the Babylonian form ˆsyn (Nisan) (see Neh. 2:1; Esther 3:7).
71 Exod. 12:2.
72 Targum Jonathan. The Bible in Aramaic: Based on Old Manuscripts and Printed Texts. Vol. 2, “The Former Prophets According to Targum Jonathan.” Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1959, Exod. 34:22, compare with 23:16. Also compare these verses with those in the Masoretic Text.
73 Deut. 16:1-8; compare with Lev. 23:5-8; Num. 28:16-25. An in-depth discussion of the evidence will be presented in the forthcoming work FSDY, Vol. 2.
74 Exod. 23:16, 34:22.
75 The 365 Days, by Keith Gordon Irwin, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1963.
76 For the quasi-Quartodeciman views, see FSDY, 1, p. 139.
77 Pseudo-Chrysostom, Paschal Hom., 9, SCXLVIII, 119.
78 Anatolius, Canon Paschalis, 14.
79 Anatolius, Canon Paschalis, 3, 4, 5.
80 Josephus, Antiquities, 3:10:5; Philo, De Specialibus Legibus, 1:35 §181, 2:28 §253, 160, De Vita Mosis, 2:41 §222.
81 Socrates Scholasticus, Historia Ecclesiastica, 5:22.
82 Anatolius, Canon Paschalis, 1.
83 Chrysostom, Adver. Jud., 1 (PG, 48, p. 848).
84 Anatolius, Canon Paschalis, 10, compare with 3, 4, 5, 6.
85 Bede, Opera Historica, 5:21.
86 Vermes, G. The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Penguin books, Middlesex, England, rev. ed. 1968, p. 43; Goudoever, J. Van. Biblical Calendars. 2nd rev. ed. by E.J. Brill Leiden, 1961, pp. 62-70, 112-115; compare with The Book of Jubilees, 6:23, 29-30, 16:20-31; 1 Enoch, 72:1-82:20; Community Rules, 10:1-7, frag. 2, col. iv, 1-6; and so forth.
87 At present, we have a 365.25-day year. There are 186 days between the vernal and autumnal equinoxes and 179 days between the autumnal and vernal equinoxes (The 365 Days, by Keith Gordon Irwin, p. 9). The previous orbit of the earth, which consisted of only 360 days during a year, was effected during the early spring in 701 B.C.E. (Clover, R. The Sabbath and Jubilee Cycle. Vol. 1 of the series on Ancient World Chronology. Qadesh La Yahweh Press, Garden Grove, 1992, sec. i). As a result, only that part of the earth’s orbit lying between the vernal and autumnal would have changed. This circumstance indicates that the number of days between the autumnal and vernal continued to be about 179 days. The number of days between the vernal and autumnal, on the other hand, was less than our present year system by approximately five days, being only 181 days.

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