[b-hebrew] Hebrew month names

Michael Banyai Banyai at t-online.de
Tue Aug 31 15:37:00 EDT 2004


Dear Yigal,

thanks for your response. I am quite busy these days but I´ll answer your critique as soon as possible this week. 

I read your mail: all in all very pertinent objections, but I am prepared to offer a meaningfull counter to all. I´ll offer than "en passant" an answer on Peter Kirk´s objections too.

Best regards,

Bányai Michael
Stuttgart
 
> Dear Michael,
> 
> I have not yet managed to answer your previous long post, but I'll try to work in part of it together with the present one.
>  
> You wrote:
> 
> "The etymology of hebrew calendar names is not at all clear, since they not conform to a common meaningfull pattern and there is nowhere an explicit use of the month names"
> 
> This of course is true, since we do not have more than three or four names, we cannot speak of a "pattern". However, when you write:
> 
> "in the sense of for example Abib=ripened barley. This is a modern gloss, maybe correct, maybe wrong."
> 
> I disagree. This is clearly the meaning of the word in Ex. 9:31 and Lev. 2:14, and since March-April IS the season of the barley harvest in Israel, there is no reason NOT to accept this etymology for the name. 
> 
> There is no evidence of any connection between the Hebrew "Abib" and the Akkadian Ab-bi.
> 
> As for the Passover - ALL Biblical references, direct and indirect, point to it's being observed during the early spring. The celebration of Shavuot, 50 days later, as a festival of firstfruits also points to this season. And Sukkot, as a fruit harvest festival "at the turning of the year" points to the fall season.
> 
> As far as the 30-day month - yes, I agree that the "standard" month was referred to as being 30 days. This is why the "month" of mourning was 30 days, and also why the Flood story assumes 30 day months. But in "real life", the new moon (Xode$ or Yerax) was celebrated when the new moon came, and that sometimes happened a day "early". Read the Mishnah tractate Rosh Hashanah to see how this was dealt with during the late Second Temple Period and after - I'm not claiming that it reflects the actual practice in Iron Age Israel, but it certainly supplies a historical model.
> 
> You wrote:
> "Concerning the celebration or non-celebration of Succoth in the month Bul ought be said, that a celebration of Succoth in front of an unfinished temple is uncompatible with the religious beliefs in the ANE. A temple has to be the dwelling of the god to which it pertains. Is the temple not yet finished, that is clear, the god is most probably not yet dwelling in it. The celebration at this place is thus devoid of meaning."
> 
> I think that you misunderstood me (in your previous post as well). The way I read it, the construction of the Temple building was completed in "the month of Bul, which is the eighth month" (1 Kings 6:38) - Marheshvan. There is no ceremony mentioned here. The following chapter then tells of the completion of the Temple implements, bronzework, the altars etc. This took another 11 months. In 7:51 - "And all the work was finished", and then, in 8:1-2, Solomon brings everyone in for the dedication ceremony, "in the festival of the month of Ethanim, the seventh month." This is what we call Tishri (I admit that the identification of "the festival" with Sukkot is not explicit). So you are right - Solomon would not dedicate an unfinished Temple. I say that he didn't. But "the festival" was celebrated in Tishri.
> 
> In your previous post, you pointed out that both the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians knew of both pure solar and lunar-solar calendars, but admitted that the lunar-solar was more common in Mesopotamia. I agree. And since the Hebrew's cultural background was Semitic rather than Egyptian, we should look to Mesopotamia for our model, even BEFORE the Exile. Just as the Semitic world has supplied our model for so much that we now know about biblical language, literature, law, custom, cult, myth and so on, it is reasonable to assume that the ancient Hebrews, like their Canaanite predecessors, used more-or-less the same calendar as did the rest of the Semitic world: a lunar one with some mechanism of keeping in tune with the solar-based seasons. The fact that this is also the calendar that was used by most Jews in later times may or may not be taken as evidence of a tradition continuing from First to Second Temple, and indeed after 70 CE as well. Yes, there were things that changed - the "Babylonian" names were adopted, first as "secular" names, and later, after Akkadian and Aramaic were no longer the language of government and the Greek calendar was used instead, they became identified as "Jewish". (Using different names for the same month is not as strange as it seems: in Arabic today the "civil" months have different names in different places - the month called "October" in Egypt is called "Tishrin" in Syria, and of course all Muslims use their purely lunar calendar for religious purposes). The "New Year" shifted from Tishri to Nisan and back again - not so strange: we all live with different "civil", fiscal, academic etc. "new years". The system of "declaring" the new moon and the intercalary month changed as well, until it was finally "fixed". Remember that when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in the West, Eastern Christians remained with the Julian Calendar, and even when the countries of Eastern Europe adopted the Gregorian Calendar, the Eastern Churches stayed with the old one. Does this mean that the Christian world no longer uses the "Roman" calendar? Of course not - but certain changes have been made through the centuries.
> 
> The same for the Hebrew calendar - it is basically the same as that used in Canaan and Israel, and throughout the Semitic world, with certain changes having been made.
> 
> Yes, I am aware that the Qumran sect, and some other Second Temple Jewish groups, did adopt a solar calendar. They also adopted some other practices that were outside what became "normative" Judaism. But to use them as "proof" of anything is incorrect.
> 




More information about the b-hebrew mailing list