Sabbath Origins (Peter)

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Fri Dec 3 23:26:50 EST 1999

At 20.53 03/12/99 -0500, peter_kirk at wrote:
>But in the same verse (Lev 23:39) the 22nd day of the month is also 
>called a sabbath (actually, $AB.FTOWN, a different but obviously 
>related word). This would fit the idea of each of the four phases of 
>the moon in a lunar calendar being counted as a sabbath, with seven 
>day intervals (but presumably also occasional hiatuses in the seven 
>day cycle).

Leviticus is a transitional text bearing the older tradition (with the
sense of shapattu) and bringing the newer. 

>I think the texts which everyone but you seems to consider relatively 
>old, e.g. Exodus 21-23, point to a lunar calendar being used in early 
>Israel, perhaps temporarily eclipsed by a solar calendar in Persian 
>times and then reintroduced. Of course the Hosea etc passages about 
>new moon festivals presuppose a lunar calendar; and it was widespread 
>in the ancient Near East, as is shown by the very quotations you cite 
>here. So I am not sure where you are going with this calendar point. 
>Both a full moon = fifteenth day of the lunar month sabbath and a 
>seven day cycle sabbath are linked to the lunar calendar.

There have clearly been three steps in the process. As in English the word
for month comes from "moon". We no longer use a lunar calendar, and have
not for millenia, but at one stage in our prehistory we used the moon as an
indicator. This is true with the Hebrews who were still using the moon to
provide the Hebrew word for "month", even though the literary record shows
in many places that there was a solar calendar in use until the conflicts
of the second century. So it's not strange that xd$ has come to be used for
(the start of the) "month" even though a solar calendar was in use. At the
same time the Noah account doesn't use a lunar calendar: five months is 150
days, not 147 or 148. Ezekiel uses a solar calendar (as does Haggai). Where
are the cultic provisions for the second Adar? Where are the lunar month
names before the extremely late books? (Adar was considered a non-Hebrew
(Syrian) word by the writer -- or epitomizer -- of 2Maccabees, 15:36.)

Many times I have pointed out that 1Enoch's Astronomical Book argues for a
364-day calendar in preference to the 360-day calendar in force during the
Persian era. There is no interest at all in a lunar calendar in 1Enoch. By
the time Jubilees was written, there were clear encroachments of the lunar
calendar into the cultus and Jubilees seems to be fighting a rearguard
action, though the mishmarot still use the solar calendar. Greek domination
brought a civil use of a lunar calendar, which was first imposed for cultic
reasons by Antiochus IV.



More information about the b-hebrew mailing list