[b-hebrew] Hebrew calendar

Michael Banyai Banyai at t-online.de
Sun Aug 29 05:14:00 EDT 2004


Dear Yigal you should not wonder, that I contradict by present answer your previous posting.

My arguments are taking in consideration all data available in our primary source, being in this case the bible, but takes distance from contemporary asumptions made on basis of later documents like Josephus, or such which do not come from Judea itself, thus not directly representative for the Jerusalemite calendar practice, like the Elephantine Papyri.

Your first statement:

> There is
> no reason to think that the Hebrew calendar was NOT lunar-solar, that is,
> based upon the appearances of the new moon, with an occasional intercalary
> month in order to "keep up" with the solar seasons - just like most ANE
> calendars (and unlike the Egyptian). The new moon (Xode$) is mentioned
> enough times in the DH, in D and in P, not to mention in the pre-exilic
> prophets, to convince me that it was an important event.

You are profoundly wrong in this point. The Egyptians used even a third calendar besides the one´s we have been talking till now about, namely a lunar calendar (see for example the standard work of Parker concerning this calendar). Thus would the mention of moon-observances not contradict my argument concerning a calendar complex similar to the Egyptian one, but rather complete it.

It is however obvious, that the moon calendar was NOT the main calendaristic feature for the Hebrews. All mentions of month lengths in the Bible without any exception are of standard 30-day months. There is not a single case of a 29-days long month or of a intercalation month explicitely named . In practice is about half of the lunar months shorter than 30 days. This has something to mean. This is not a problem I have to deal with on my model, but a problem for an unilateralistic hebrew lunar calendar.

BTW, even in Babylon exist mentions of a solar calendar besides to the (in Mesopotamia dominant) lunar calendar. Complex calendar combinations seem to have been rather the rule than the exception in the ANE.

For example does the Qumran calendar (not directly stated but resulting out of the number of its full weeks) have probably 365 days (364 on acount of the number of 52 full weeks). This is probably not a 364 days (solar) calendar but a real 365-days one, like in the case of the Egyptian one having 12 months of 30 days each BUT plus 5 days which are out of the year (the epagomenes), having to be counted at the end of the year without finding a place within any month. You will surely not try to make out of the Qumran calendar a lunar one. We have the current discussion concerning the attribution of the texts: mainstream or sectarian? But exactly in the case of this calendar dealing with the Temple service we could assume, that even on the extreme assumption of a sectarian provenience, it reflects curent temple practice.

> As for a few of your arguments:
> 
> 1. "Take for example Zechariah 8.18 (prophecies made 520-518 BC):" The fast
> of the fourth month (Passover), and the fast of the fifth (destruction of
> the temple) and the fast of the seventh (Pentecost), and the fast of the
> tenth (Tabernacles)".
> 
> Says who? "The fast of the fourth month" is the 9th of Tammuz, which is the
> fourth month as counted from Nisan. This was the date on which the walls of
> Jerusalem were broken by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 39:2; 52:6). "The fast of the
> fifth" does indeed commemorate the destruction of the Temple - in Ab (Jer.
> 52:12; 2 Kings 25:8, although one says it was on the 7th of the 5th and the
> other says it was the 10th). "The fast of the seventh" commemorates the
> murder of Gedaliah and his group (Jer. 41:1 ff.) - in Tishri. "The fast of
> the tenth", the tenth of Tebeth, was the day on which Nebuchadnezzar began
> the siege (Jer. 39:1; 52:4, 2 Kings 25:1). All of these fasts were
> instituted by the Judean exiles in commemoration of the cycle of events that
> let to the final loss Judahite independence. Zechariah promises that in the
> future, these days of mourning will become days of celebration.

Yigal, such celebrations/mournings as you are mentioning (except to the destruction of the temple) are unknown. Should they have turned after the rebuilding of the temple to celebrations, who is the one who has ever celebrated them in historical times? Do you know a feast of the murder of Gedaliah? Or a public mourning thereof? A feast of the breaking of the walls of Jerusalem? I abstain from comments.

However taking 2 Macabees 1,19, in consideration "And now keep the festival of the booths in the month of Chislev" would mean indeed that the month Abib was either identical or consecutive on the Babylonian month of Ab (the destruction of the temple). Permanent identity was not possible, since the month of Ab was a lunar month deviating from the solar calendar. For this position of Abib June-July I have brought already clear evidence from astronomical (like the observation of Halleys comet), to biological (like the exclusivity of coturnism for mid-August migration of the quails thus a month after Abib) and to historical sources (like Egyptian one´s mentioning a ritus similar to the Hebrew one in conection with the Sothic New Year in June, to late antique testimonies concerning the solar solstice observation at 8-th of Abib) or ethimological (the name similarity Ab/Abbin/Abib). So do Zechariah + Macabees make sense together, as they are too reinforced by all other mentioned sources.

I am sure one can bagatelise each evidence piece one for one, but which is the sense of such an activity by discarding one for one the bulk of evidence even if it speaks a common language?


> Once again, you are ignoring the historical context. The writer of this
> "letter" is talking about what was later called Hanukkah. In 164 BCE, the
> festival of Sukkot was not celebrated in Tishri as it should have been,
> because Jerusalem was under siege of the Maccabees. It was only celebrated
> in Kislev, after the Temple had been "cleansed" - this "late Sukkot", which
> later became Hanukkah, is what the writer of 2 Macc. is referring to.

This is a nice late explanation. But why does the autor state than "And now keep the festival of the booths in the month of Chislev"? This is the situation almost 40 years later, not the situation 164 BC, or am I not able to understand a text anymore. 

Not to forget, your argument is rendered to what it is - a painful attempt to bring things by violence to harmony - by 2 Maccabees 10,5. 25 Kislew is the same day at which the helenists brought sacrifices on the altar 2 years before. It is highly probable that Antiochus overtook elements of the jewish cultus, even parts of the jewish clerus, and that the altar was rendered impure by these bringing sacrifices at the temple on the ocasion of the usual jewish high feasts. 

It is up to you to identify 25 Kislew on the calendar of the helenistic feasts, should it have been the date of one helenistic festival, like of Dionysos, and different from the known jewish ones. Should this not be possible, it remains as sole posibility its identity with the very festival of the booths (why does appear Dionysus in Maccabees - not because of the similarity of the festival of the booths with Dionysus cult - feast of drunkedness?). Antiochus has simply remarked the similarity of the jewish booths festival (drunkedness etc. as an inheritance of the Egyptian festival of drunkedness)with Greek customs around Dyonissos and declared this to be a Dionyssos festival.

> 3. "The celebration of Succoth at the time of Salomo and Jeroboam I in the
> 8-th month, Bul. Thus, the Temple of Salomo should have been finished "In
> the month Bul, that is the eighth month..." I Kgs. 6: 37, whereas its
> inauguration was in the 7th month, at Succoth.This statement represents a
> problem, easily solved if - at least during the inauguration year of the
> temple - Succoth was held in the eighth month."
> 
> But it wasn't. According to 1 Kings 8:2, it was held in the month of
> Ethanim, on the Festival of the seventh month. So the building was completed
> in Bul, the eighth month (Marheshvan). But then the whole next chapter and a
> half tell of the additional preparations - what's so strange about all of
> this having taken 11 month, until the following Tishri?


I have no problems with later glosses trying to explain seeming anachronisms.
So you want to say, the temple was still not ready, but the inauguration festival was held? I suppose King Salomon hanged the whole construction crew for not having been able to complete the temple in time after 11 years of building. He was however able to wait several years before. Why this sudden hurry? Have you ever found the precedent of such an inaugurative feast held before a sanctuary was ready, anywhere in the ANE?


What a coincidence, that Jeroboam I did instate a feast like the one in Jerusalem in this same later month. He probably did so to make it easy to his citizens to visit Jerusalem a month before and return in time to observe the feast at Beth-El later on. Should he want to create concurence to Jerusalem, this would have functioned by tying the people to Beth-el, and rendering it impossible to visit Jerusalem too for the same feast at the same time. So far I understand, the pilgrims have indeed ceased to come to Jerusalem, after this feast was held in Beth-El. How curious...

And how strange that not any voice polemics against the Israelite malpractice of not attending the jewish feasts at their right time.

And how strange that, once one accepts my hypothesis concerning the calendar, one arrives to results consistent with the chronology of the judges, and with similar calculation-results derived from other pseudo-anachronistic festival. 

Please do not take this as a personal flame, Yigal. I realy respect your profound competence, but I respectfuly try to wake you up. 

How strange, I mean, that every time a festival happens it involvs anachronisms. I can bring further examples beyond these ones. We should next time declare an exception a rule, and discard the general case as being an exception. But once the exception from the rule is the rule, is the rule false.

Best regards,
Bányai Michael
Stuttgart





More information about the b-hebrew mailing list