The Calendar Court The Hillelic system for determining the New Moon Day and how to intercalate the year operated through a court panel of three judges.25 In the time of the Temple, these judges represented the Court of Elders and, after the Temple’s destruction in 70 C.E., the Great Sanhedrin of Pharisees.
The Mishnah reports:
The intercalating of the month and the intercalating of the year (are decided upon) by three (judges). So (says) Rabbi Meir. But Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel says: The matter is begun by three, discussed by five, and decided upon by seven; but if it is decided upon by three the intercalation is valid.26
In 41 C.E., the Aristocratic system of determining new moons and the intercalation of a year, previously calculated only by the priests who were the descendants of Aaron, the high priest, was officially usurped by the Nasi of the Hillelic Pharisees.
Thus began a process wherein the Hillelic party, beginning with Gamaliel I, using the “traditions of their fathers” and heavily influenced by Babylonian customs, instituted a series of modifications that forever changed the requirements for determining the beginning of a month and a year in what became known as Orthodox Judaism.
As found with the celebration of Passover, there existed a great debate among the various Jewish factions, beginning in about the second century B.C.E., with regard to just how and when one was to count to the Khag of Shabuath (Weeks), also called Pentecost.
This debate was sparked by the fact that there is no direct statement found in Scriptures telling us exactly on which date one is to keep the Festival of Weeks.
A late innovation of the Aristocratic understanding of בין חערבים (byn ha-arabim) arose sometime after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., becoming clearly manifested in records by the 8th century C.E.
This new interpretation (System C) was built under the heavy influence of the Talmudists (spiritual offshoots of the Pharisees). It flourished primarily among the Karaites and neo (later)-Samaritans but was also practiced by some less well-known groups.
Like those of the Aristocratic school (System A), these neo (later)-Aristocratic groups (System C) understood byn ha-arabim as the period of twilight that follows sunset.
There is little doubt that the ancient Samaritans reflected the Sadducean position with regard to the timing of byn ha-arabim (twilight after sunset).
To support this detail, we retain one piece of evidence from an ancient Samaritan writer, Ezekielos the Tragedian, in his work titled ἐζαγωγή (Exagoge; Deliverance).1
This work was composed sometime between the first part of the second century until about 90 B.C.E.,2i.e., as early as the outbreak of the Hasmonaean Revolt or as late as the first decade of the next century.
Clement of Alexandria calls Ezekielos “the poet of Jewish tragedies.”3Important fragments of the Exagoge have survived in the works of Eusebius.4
Internal evidence from this tragic drama reveals that the author belonged to the ancient Samaritan sect, which used the Aristocratic method.5 As we shall demonstrate, the ancient Samaritans held that byn ha-arabim begins the day and that the entire Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread lasts only seven days, beginning with the 14th.
The Aristocratic understanding (System A) of “בין חערבים (byn ha-arabim)” was represented by the Jews called Sadducees, the Boethusian Sadducees, and by the ancient Samaritans.
Moreover, the Aristocratic practice was utilized by Yahushua the messiah, his apostles, and the early assemblies that followed him.1
Very few writings which discuss just how to observe Passover have come down to us directly from any acknowledged Sadducean, Boethusian, or ancient Samaritan source. So, for an acquaintance with their opinions, we are mainly dependent upon their antagonists.2
These antagonists, and records which are derived from the later variations of this view (as demonstrated by the neo-Samaritans and Karaites),3show that, contrary to the Hasidic views, the Aristocratic approach understood that the first ערב (arab; intermixing of light and dark) occurred at sunset and the second at deep twilight (the setting of darkness).
In our first installment titled10. Passover – Sadducees & Pharisees I, we discussed the religious philosophy of the Sadducees. With our second installment we will proceed to address the viewpoint of the Pharisees and their power struggle with the Sadducees.
It is within the framework of the evolving political and religious conflict between the Sadducees and Pharisees that we can understand just how and why the Pharisees ultimately became victorious in the officially recognized practice of Passover and Unleavened Bread which we have labeled “Hasidic System B.”
The Pharisees The “Hasidic System B” Passover and Unleavened Bread method originated among the early Hasidim but became dominant as a religious practice because of the political power of their spiritual descendants, the Pharisees.1
From Pharisaism derived what is now called Orthodox Judaism.2Their conflict with the Sadducees was in force from the time of the Hasmonaean revolt.
With the proper historical and cultural context in hand per our previous posts dealing with “The Dark Period,” we shall now turn our attention toward the two leading Jewish religious parties: the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
These two religious groups held opposing interpretations for בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim; between the evenings), for the day on which the Passover was eaten, and for the seven days of Unleavened Bread.
The Sadducees reflected theAristocraticview while the Pharisees carried on theHasidic tradition.