Review: “Is the Jewish Calendar Wrong?”
Why Daniel Lancaster’s Calendar Teaching is False1
On the Eve of the Last Great Day, falling on Sabbath Sept. 23/24 this year in 2016, First Fruits of Zion teaching scholar Daniel Lancaster, Educational Director at First Fruits of Zion and Pastor of Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson Wisconsin published a calendar article attempting to defend the authority of the late Rabbinical Calendar that evolved between AD 359 and AD 900.
As a historian and Biblical Chronologist, as well as a Torah-Observant follower of Messiah Yeshua, I take strong issue with this teaching error of Lancaster. Lancaster’s article, to sum it up, is a piece of propaganda for the Rabbinical Calendar. Because of this I will have to take the approach of responding to and explaining his individual statements. I write this on Sept 25, 2016.
First, let me make it clear that I support the historical and biblical validity of the Hebrew Calendar as observed by the Pharisees in the first century, and the explanation of this in the Mishnah. This historic Jewish calendar is NOT the same as the Rabbinical Calendar that came after AD 359. The historic Jewish calendar may be used to confirm all biblical datings given in Scripture, including the dates of the birth, death, and resurrection of Messiah. The Rabbinical Calendar in use today CANNOT be used to confirm any historic Scriptural date. The Rabbinic Calendar was invented for the sole purpose of promoting Rabbinic Authority and control over the Jewish people to effectively bring them under Rabbinic Authority effectively cutting off the Nazarene Community and other Jews that used more biblical methods of determining the calendar. It should be made clear that the Rabbinical Calendar has never enjoyed the universal support of religious Jews, nor has it been the calendar of Jews for the better part of Jewish history. It is a relative late comer.
Lancaster asks, “Who says the Jewish people have the authority to determine the biblical calendar and interpret the dates for the holy days?”
It appears to me at the outset that Lancaster wants to win the argument by labeling the issue his way so that he may prove his case by equivocation and begging the question. Every true Torah observant believer needs to catch on to such tactics because they permeate our modern media culture. First, Lancaster does not define the Jewish people. The Rabbis do not define the Jewish people, or who is a Jew, or who is not a Jew. So this is not an issue of Jewish authority vs. Non-Jewish Authority. As pointed out, the primitive Scriptural Calendar has ample Jewish support in the traditional literature. Secondly, calendar disputes are nothing new to Israel.
One must understand that in Rabbinic Judaism every Israelite is a Jew who is descended from Abraham. In some sense this may be spiritually true of true followers of Messiah who are non-Jews in the strict sense, but it is by no means tribally true. I will bypass this issue for this paper and use the term Jew is the Rabbinic sense.
Historic Jewish Calendar Systems I. Moses’ System (the ideal) II. Jeroboam son of Nebat Canceled Tabernacles and started a feast in the 8th month instead (in 981 BC) III. Qumran Calendar (ca. 150 BC to AD 200). Established a Solar Calendar unlike any other Jewish Calendar. IV. Second Temple Observational Calendar Identical to Moses Calendar V. Rabbinic Hillel II Calendar (4th-5th century) Calculated average New Moon VI. Evolved Rabbinic Calendar (6th-8th century) Added postponements Added rules to dodge Sabbaths VII. Sadducean Calendar (2nd Temple Period) Claimed Lev. 23:11 means weekly Sabbath VIII. Karaite Calendar (since 9th century) Claimed Lev. 23:11 means weekly Sabbath Count Seven Sabbaths a week late Intercalate II Adar with barley IX. The Lunar Sabbath Heresy (21st Century) X. A modern version of the Enoch Calendar (21st Century).
All these Calendars were Jewish or were claimed to be Jewish! But only one of them has the support of history, and that is the Pharisees teaching, which is largely reflected in the Mishnah. The above list could be populated by a lot of minor Jewish sects, e.g. the Falasha Jews. Lancaster does not wish to decide the issue by Scriptural proof. He wishes to decide the issue by the naked authority of the majority sect. This is like the Roman Catholic Church telling Christians that they must observe Easter on their date because they have the keys of the kingdom.
Lancaster states: “Following the biblical calendar would be easy if it wasn’t based on the moon. Since the cycle of the moon does not quite fill out a solar month, and twelve lunar cycles do not quite fill out a solar year, the calendar slowly shifts over time.” Right, and that is what the Qumran Sect thought. They did away with the new moon completely. The Qumran calendar has 4 quarters in a year of 91 days, and each is composed of a 30 day month, a 30 day month, and a 31 day month. The year was 364 days. Because of this the Qumran calendar drifted with the seasons requiring a correction. The Rabbinic calendar also does away with the new moon! It is just more subtle and a pretense of agreement with the new moon is attempted. The Rabbinic calendar is calculated based on the average lunation, i.e. 29.53 days. It is not infrequent that the actual new moon refuses to cooperate with this average. The Rabbinic calenar not only does away with the new moon. It does away with the sun. It uses a pre-calculated (assumed) length of the solar year, which does not agree with reality. Therefore, the Rabbinic calendar is also advancing in the seasons at the rate of 4 days/1000 years. Lancaster’s misdirection is made plain in his next statement:
“Without occasional correction, we would soon be celebrating Passover in December. Every so often, the Jewish calendar compensates by adding an extra month and thereby shifting everything back.” Astonishingly, he mentioned none of the above inaccuracies of the Rabbinic Calendar! But he equivocates that his “Jewish Calendar” (aka modern Rabbinic Calendar) solves the whole problem of complication with the lunar year by proper intercalation. This is not the truth at all. The 4 day in 1000 year drift I just mentioned has finally caused the Rabbinic month I (Nisan) to fall a month late in the spring of 2016. Therefore, all the spring feasts, and all the fall feasts are a month late. This is because the Rabbis gave up observing when the sun begins the year and substituted an erring astronomical calculation that goes back to about AD 500.
You know this was the sort of error that caught up with the Catholic Church in the 16th century. Up to that time the length of the year was treated as 364.25 days. But the year is not that long. It is 365.2422 days. So the Roman calendar crept ahead of the seasons just like the Rabbinic Calendar is doing today because its year length is too long (by 2 hours every 19 years). So Pope Gregory decided to rid the Church of the Julian Calendar and he started the Gregorian Calendar. All of Christendom did not agree with the Pope, and to this day there are pockets of Orthodox Christians that still follow the Julian dates. The Rabbis are well aware of their calendar drift. But it has not been corrected. That is because they have not had the equivalent of a Pope Gregory to make the change.
None of these errors would have ever occurred if Christianity and Judaism had simply followed the primitive observation calendar used in Scripture and by second Temple Jews. The Scriptural calendar is astonishingly simple: The year begins when the sun sets at its annual circuit due west every spring. And the month begins when the new moon is first seen. After the XIIth month of the year, there is a decision month. If the 15th of this month is projected to fall on the new year day or later, then it is month I. Otherwise it is II Adar, i.e. a 13th month is added. So in short, the correct calendar is simplicity. The Rabbinic calendar is a complicated behemoth in comparison which takes a mathematician and a Rabbi to figure out.
Lancaster warns us, “From time to time, teachers in the Hebrew Roots movement attempt to persuade people to abandon the Jewish reckoning of the biblical calendar and adopt an alternative calendar based upon the ripening of barley or other measure of the seasons. They argue for a stricter and more consistent correlation between the phase of the moon and the date of the month than the Jewish version of the biblical calendar offers. They advocate an alternative reckoning of the calendar on the basis that they perceive their interpretation to be more biblically correct. But is it?”
Apparently “Hebrew Roots” is no longer Jewish in Lancaster’s estimation. That’s a convenient equivocation. But the primitive Jewish calendar is more Jewish than the Rabbinical calendar. It has the support of the traditional literature. The Rabbinical calendar does not. So D. Lancaster’s implication is false on two points: (1) trying to disenfranchise these other teachers the high ground of Jewishness, and (2) trying to make the Rabbinic calendar into the Jewish calendar.
The Ripening of the barley, which is a method I do not support, would have yielded correct results in 2016 for the Karaites if they had not tossed out the valid witness of believers in Yeshua as to the state of the barley. For those who did not toss out the witnesses because of their faith, they had the year intercalated correctly. What is the other measure that Lancaster alludes to? It is none other than the the equinox rule, which I stated just above. If the 15th day of the decision month falls before the day of the new year then a month XIII is added (II Adar). Now the Rabbinic Calendar professes to follow the equinox rule. But! Instead of making fresh observations of when it occurs, the Rabbinic Calendar is continuing with an incorrect year length, which is too long by 2 hours in 19 years.
Lancaster is right about one thing. We do teach that the new moon should be when the new moon is seen. The Qumran calendar didn’t care when the new moon was seen. Neither does the Julian or Gregorian or Egyptian Calendar. And Neither does the Rabbinic calendar. Do not be fooled by the fact that the Rabbinic “new moon date” is much closer to the actual new moon date, nor be fooled by the fact that the Rabbinic new moon sometimes by accident of calculation plus postponement rules manages to fall on the actual new moon day. It is just as guilty of substituting a new fangled definition of new moon as any of the other calendars which are not so hypocritical as to pretend to align with new moons. The Rabbinical new moon is based on a mathematical average. And the chances of that consistently agreeing with reality are about as good as saying my height agrees with that of the average man. Believe me. Under this wish not to be strict about the reality of when the new moon is lies a den of iniquity.
Lancaster’s Star Argument: Naked Authority
He states, “From my reading of the Bible, the more biblically correct thing to do is to defer to Jewish authority.” Not only is this appeal to naked authority. It is appeal to a particular sect for authority. If we take this logic to its logical conclusion then why are we still believing in Messiah? This is indeed a foolish argument, and especially since we can confirm the principle points of the Messianic Faith using the correct calendar. Messiah died on the 4th day of the week and rose again on the Sabbath. And this may be proved with the historic calendar. It may not be confirmed with “Jewish Authority.” This is because present Jewish Authority has no interest in providing the faithful in Messiah with a calendar that is good enough for Messiah’s atoning Death and life giving resurrection.
Sadly, for Lancaster, Jewish (aka Rabbinic) Authority is above Scripture and supersedes Scripture. It is a fact that Judaism actually claims that the rulings of the sages supersede Scripture, and indeed supersede more ancient traditional positions. Consider Rashi overturning the more ancient interpretation of Isaiah 53.
Lancaster does not wish to discuss what the Bible says about how the calendar works. He only wishes to discuss what the Rabbis say the Scripture says, and then defer us to their naked authority. He does not care that what Scripture says contradicts the Rabbinic calendar. Is it possible that Lancaster does not want to take a stand for the truth because he will be accused of being less Jewish or less Torah observant by Jews with Rabbinic leanings? It is possible. Scripture speaks of Jews who believed Yeshua was Messiah, but did not want to confess it for fear of being persecuted or ridiculed. I really cannot tell in any case, but what other explanation is there for irrational support of the Rabbis to dictate their religious creed to the faithful in Messiah?
Lancaster finally quotes a text, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, these are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts” (Leviticus 23:1-2). The words “that you shall proclaim” are understood to be directed to the Jewish authorities.” Do you see the equivocation here? Here it is: Ye shall proclaim = Jewish Authorities shall proclaim = Present Day Rabbinical Jewish Authorities shall proclaim. But the connection is an assumption. If naked authority is to be compulsion, then the text only means Moses and the elders of Israel and the seventy judges he appointed. And Moses did not use naked compulsion. The Torah lays out the method of fixing the calendar: Gen. 1:14, the light is the sign, i.e. when the new moon is first seen and no other time for the month, and the year is days to days (Exodus 13:10), and you shall not delay the offerings. See my other articles proving this. So what they proclaimed was the proper method. Moses and the elders are still proclaiming the appointed times because they gave us the method to set the times. But the Rabbinic Jews simply do not want to listen to Moses.
Here are Messiah’s last words about Rabbinical Judaism: I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan (Rev. 2:9). and “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie-- behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you (Rev. 3:9).” What do they say? They say this means something other than Rabbinic Judaism! Can one really read the book of John and come away believing that Yeshua did not tell the Pharisees that their father was the devil when they rejected Him, and then say that the assembly which rejects him is not of the devil? Hardly, that is to take John out of context and Yeshua also. The second Jewish revolt took place because Rabbi Akiνa said that Simeon Bar Koƙba was the messiah. This lie alienated the faithful in Yeshua from most Jews, including the Jewish faithful. So let us use a bit of Rabbinic exegesis here: light and heavy, Qal w'Ӈomɛr, all the more so: קל וחומר. If the Jewish Authorities proclaim that Yeshua is not the Messiah and they are wrong, then if the Jewish Authorities Proclaim a Calendar that is no good for his crucifixion date then are they correct? I hope you get the point. Authority is not a quality that is genetically inherited.
The Doctrine of genetic authority is the same as the false doctrine of papal succession or papal infallibility. It is a superstition that is constantly disproved by reality. How many countless times were the Baal priests the authorities in Israel with the true priests and prophets reduced to a small minority? Who waved the club of naked authority around in those days?
What if the Priests go Astray?
This raises the question. What happens when and if the priests of Israel go astray from the truth? What happens if when the future Temple is rebuilt the priests teach false doctrines? The answer to this is given in principle in Numbers 18:1, 21-23. If the priests proclaim Yom Kippur on a day we know is incorrect, then they will bear iniquity for how they operate the Temple that way and will bear judgment. As for the rest of Israel, we are only required to afflict our souls on the proper day. If they do not proclaim the proper day, they will find out how quickly they loose the respect of the people and the legitimacy of their position. The Pharisees of the second temple period were not the priesthood. The hereditary cohenım were mostly Sadducees and taught false doctrines about the resurrection, angels, demons, fate, and other things, but the Pharisees (because they were the voice of the people) compelled them to obey the laws. Now if the Pharisees had been compelled to obey the naked authority of the priests then they would have ceased to be a voice for proper torah observance. Whom did Yeshua say knew Torah the best? The Priests? The Levites? No and No. He said the Pharisees. See Matthew 23:1-3.
The Rabbis do not even have the distinction of being the priestly class. Most of them are but ordinary laymen. Lancaster states, “The authorities over the Jewish community have the biblical responsibility of proclaiming the festivals, i.e., announcing the annual festivals and fixing their dates. It’s their job to proclaim the new moons, the new months, and the dates of the festivals. God instituted and ordained the seventy elders over Israel (the Sanhedrin) and the Jewish courts of authorities that decided on the reckoning of the calendar.” They may have the responsibility. But we don’t have to listen to them if they proclaim iniquity. It is as simple as that.
Lancaster trots out Romans 13:2, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:2)” This canard has been used to support every contradicting authority there is, and self contradicting also. What reader can fail to see that Paul’s definition of “authority” is recursive? “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval.” A ruler is only a real ruler when their edicts are just and good. Lancaster’s argument is a one way trip to Statism and Totalitarian Government. What about checks and balances? The unwillingness of common people to go along with the evil decrees of evil “rulers” and evil “authorities” is our divinely given right. It is the check that restrains the coming of the Anti-Christ. The sooner the Rabbinic “Authorities” learn that we will not listen to their traditions of men the better. Because they are the one’s who have a constant track record of supporting false messiahs.
The Kingdom of the Almĭghty
The chief priests and the elders of the people came up to Yeshua as he was teaching, and said “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” He said to “the chief priests and the elders of the people....Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, They will respect my son. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance. And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? They said to him, He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons. Yeshua said to them, Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was Yăhwɛh’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of the Almĭghty will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits! (Mathew 21:23-43).”
Messiah said, “No more from thee may fruit be -- to the age;' and forthwith the fig-tree withered” (YLT). לא־יִהְיֶה מִמֵּךְ פְּרִי עַד־עוֹלָם וַתִּיבַשׁ הַתְּאֵנָה פִּתְאֹם So the Kingdom of the Almĭghty has been taken away from the house of Judah and given to another people, which is the house of Israel. And this is not without precedent. When Solomon sinned, the kingdom was taken away from the house of Judah and given to the house of Israel. And the house of Israel remained faithful for three years. For three years the house of Israel walked in the ways of the Almĭghty of Israel. For three years Israel supported Judah (2Chron. 11:17). But then Judah took the lead in abandoning the Torah of Yăhwɛh (2Chron. 12:1). Yăhwɛh had a mind to destroy them right then and there, but they humbled themselves and said “Yăhwɛh is just.” So he decided not to destroy them, but to put them in servitude to the king of Egypt. The house of Israel sinned also building a false altar with calves and changing the feast of Sukkot to the eighth month and stopped the faithful from going down to Judah. The Kingdom returned to Judah under Abijah (cf. 2Chron 13:8) because Jeroboam continued in sin while Judah repented. So Yăhwɛh gives the kingdom to whom he wills and he takes it away from whom he will. He is no respecter of inheritances, and knows how to bless others when those who are supposed to receive the promises and blessings reject Him. Which is the greater sin? Following false gods or treachery against Messiah?! Both are treachery.
The Rabbinic Argument for
Papal (their own) Authority
Lancaster says, “From my reading of the Bible, the more biblically correct thing to do is to defer to Jewish authority. The Bible says that when debates over the application of a commandment of the Torah arise, we are to default to the Jewish authorities (Deuteronomy 17:8-13). A debate over the reckoning of the calendar falls into this category.” O.k. Let’s look at this text. I have dealt with this before, because the cited passage is used to justify servitude to the Rabbis in all manner of tradition. It is really no different than the Roman Catholic attempt to usurp perpetual authority for the Pope by misinterpreting the verse, “Upon this bedrock I will build my assembly” (καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν) Mat. 16:18. The Greek word in question was what PETRA refered to. Rome claimed it meant Peter and their popes after him. But πέτρᾳ means “bedrock” in contrast to a stone or pebble which is what Peter’s name means. The petra is a massive rock. It is the confession that Yeshua is the Messiah, because he is the building rock the builders rejected. The Rabbinic claim for Deut. 17:8-13 is exactly parallel to that of the Church of Rome for asserting its naked unqualified perpetual authority. In fact, it is the same devil that promotes Catholic Supremacy that promotes Rabbinic Supremacy.
“If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, even matters of controversy within thy gates...” (Deut. 17:8). The key words here are: כִּ֣י יִפָּלֵא֩ מִמְּךָ֙ דָבָ֜ר לַמִּשְׁפָּ֗ט, “When there will be a matter too wonderful for you to judge....” So we may stop right there. If the matter is not too amazing for us to judge, because we can read scripture also, then there is no need to seek a third opinion. So is the question whether Yeshua is Messiah or not controversial in Israel? Should we then submit the decision to the Sanhedrın or Rabbinical court? By no means is this what the text is teaching in this more weighty matter. Therefore it does not teach their naked authority in any other matter either. We know Yeshua is the promised Messiah because Scripture says so. We also know he is the Almĭghty One because the Torah and Prophets say so. Only questions which truly matter and for which the answer is truly unknown have to be submitted to the Levitical Priest serving in the place that Yăhwɛh has chosen. And neither have been restored yet. The place of his Name He profaned because those who were supposed to guard it profaned His name with their decrees against Messiah.
When the chief priests rejected Messiah at the Passover in AD 30 (cf. John 2:13-21), strange signs began to occur in the Temple. “Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open” (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157). What is the meaning of this? Those signs announced the coming judgment on their authority because they began using their authority to oppose Messiah. In exactly forty years the Temple was destroyed. It was a heaven and earth shattering loss. It’s rebuilding may only be permitted so long as its purpose is not to wreck the Messianic Faith. If the priests put the Temple to that end, Messiah will simply see to it that Israel’s enemy is allowed to destroy it again.
The truth is that the Rabbis would rather see the Temple remain a pile of ruins and the Torah changed into a bunch of traditions before they will explain it straightly. Because if they ever do, it only bears witness to Messiah. It seems they would rather prefer to be atheists than teach or interpret the Law rightly. This describes the Sadducean spirit, they who denied the resurrection and therefore the power of the Almĭghty.
Making an Unsolvable Controversy
The goal of the Rabbis is to get Israel to submit to their unquestioned authority. That is in fact the goal of all religious dictators. So in order to be the authority they may the law so that only they can understand the law. That is the goal of all statists. Make the law so complicated that only certain people can figure it out, or better make it so that only certain men are allowed to figure it out. “Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed! (John 7:48-49).” In order to cause the people to defer to the lawyer the lawyers make the law complicated! They use technical terms on purpose. It has always been that way, and always the worse it will be the more unjust the society is. It means more money in their pockets.
Lancaster warns us, “Sighting of the moon depends upon subjective observations, circumstances, and weather conditions—variables that could lead to multiple opinions about when the new month had begun. In order to keep the whole community on the same day of the month, the nation needed a system of consensus for determining the calendar. Otherwise, those who lived in different areas or who may have been less careful in their observations of the sky would fall out of synchronization with the rest of the people.”
Lancaster is trying to persuade the ignorant here. The Israel New Moon Society regularly posts the testimony of vetted witnesses of the new moon. The process is no where close to as subjective as he makes it out to be requiring the legal experts to settle a controversy. A new moon observation is not subjective. The viewer either sees the moon with the naked eye or the viewer does not. The examination is only to make sure beyond reasonable doubt that the viewer is being truthful or has not been fooled by some low probability streak of light. The examiners know under what conditions the moon may be seen or may not be seen. And the criteria of these conditions are no longer secret. An ancient times the calendar council tried to keep things a secret. The reason? More control in their hands.
In 2016 for the month of Tishri (which began Sept 2) there was a controversy. But it was not because the sighting of the new moon was subjective or unclear. It was all politics. The controversy was because a lot of Torah observant Christians are following Nehemiah Gordon, and he denies Messiah. This year he decided to ignore the barley reports of believers in Messiah and also the new moon testimony of believers in Messiah. So the reason for the controversy is Messiah, no more, no less. The post Temple calendar council decided that they would not receive testimony from anyone who followed Yeshua, and it appears that Gordon followed that precedent. He may dissimulate or be inconsistent, but this gives no support to the notion that the calendar is so difficult that only the Rabbis can decide it. The matter was made controversial because men teaching false doctrines wanted it to be controverted, and not because the matter is truly difficult.
The very idea that keeping everyone on the same day after the Temple was destroyed and after it became difficult to send out reports was a rabbinic innovation. It had been customary for local Jewish communities outside of Israel to observe the new moon locally if they could not get a trustworthy report from Israel, or if they lived at too great a distance. These communities did not regard it as a terrible thing if they might observe a feast day or fast one day different than a community a hundred miles away, or different by one day from Israel. It was not considered a terrible thing in Israel if weather prevented observers from seeing a new moon and the month was accordingly made to be 30 days whereas it might have been 29. The Rabbinic demand for unity is religious code for uniformity and control, and not for stricter or more accurate observance. It is a proven fact that the calendar the Rabbis innovated to achieve their goal is in fact less accurate than local observation of the new moon! Also, the whole Jewish world did not cave into their dictates all at once. The Rabbis had to convert the Jewish world to its viewpoint.
When the Messianic Faith began to spread different Jewish communities made decisions one way or another for or against Messiah. Many were divided down the middle. This was because they were not directly linked to the dictates of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They followed Messiah because they had the freedom to differ with other Jews on matters of doctrine and practice for the sake of obeying the Scripture. The Rabbinic movement was precisely to put an end to this freedom and to shut the doors of the Kingdom of the Almĭghty.
There is no real dispute over when the Sabbath is, but Rabbinically inclined members of the Messianic Faith have to lighten up about the unity issue. They would claim unity with Rabbinic Jews because they observe on the same dates and disunity with non-Rabbinic faithful who observe according to the moon. Yet the fact that Rabbinic Jews reject Messiah is the weighter matter. Those with Rabbinic inclinations should beware that they are not promoting the naked authority of the Rabbis at the same time. Because if they are they are betraying the rest of Israel to an anti-messiah agenda! Since Lancaster has made the argument for obeying the naked authority of the Rabbis, it is crystal clear that he is deluded by their anti-messiah agenda! I will welcome him back to the camp of unity on the day he says it is his preference to follow the Rabbinic calendar and that there is no guilt in anyone else who wishes to observe it the way the Scripture says. But so long as he implies those he disagrees with are in error, he is creating disunity. That is disunity with brothers in Messiah for the sake of false unity with Jews who have cast their lot against Messiah. I don’t reject his wish to follow the calendar his conscience deems best, but only his argument that it is justified because there is an obligation to listen to Rabbinic authority.
Lancaster argues that if Israel was not unified on the new moon date during the Exodus that many would be dead because they put the blood on the door posts on the wrong date. This is begging the question because as Lancaster himself admits, the Almĭghty informed Moses which day was the new moon that year, and Moses confirmed his authority with signs! If life is on the line then the issue is always clarified. The feast days are not the weekly Sabbath. Therefore, Scripture gives no penalty for observing a day late or early so long as everyone is convinced in their own mind that it is the right time. The death penalty is only for breaking the weekly Sabbath. And I daresay that no one in Israel is currently qualified to enforce it at present. I also will say that the demand for unity on the exact day of the Rabbis choosing has a legalistic spirit in it that goes beyond what the scripture says. This is because the argument is partly based on making people fearful of crossing the “divinely appointed representatives of God” as the Rabbis make themselves to be by implying that everyone who does not dot the i and cross the t of the law the way they do exactly is somehow immoral or to be held guilty.
At this point, I will reply to Lancaster’s arguments in summary form. He suggests that because the Sanhedrın had a formal role in announcing the month, and even a responsibility to determine when it was, that we are legally bound by the every decree they make. So the argument is, if they are held responsible by Scripture, then we have to listen to exactly what they say. Were not the elders of Israel held responsible to recognize the coming of Messiah? Was it not their responsibility to announce it to Israel? And when they denied his coming and did not announce that he had been sighted in Israel, are we bound to listen to their decree? Of course not! His logic fails the most important attempt to confirm it.
He states, “Therefore, the responsibility of determining the calendar does not fall to us.” That is a non-sequitur. The logic does not follow. All parties are responsible, just some more than others. All parties are held responsible for sin, just some more than others. And all parties who know what the right thing to do is are to do the right thing. The scripture says that we should not follow a majority in doing wrong.
Lancaster writes, “Different congregations and communities would fight over the “correct” day for celebrating festivals, and the sanctity of the holy days would be trampled in the mud.” Uh huh. Different Jewish sects have been fighting over this from time immemorial! And they cast judgment on each other in the fight. Our unity is in Messiah. And the key is having unity when there are honest disagreements. And only in Messiah is that truly possible. Unity is not cow towing before naked Rabbinic authority. Disunity is not disagreeing with their abuse of authority. Spiritual Unity is in Messiah and the fact our punitive debt has been released through his sacrifice.
Anyone who studies Church History knows the key argument that the Roman Catholic Church used to promote its growing lawlessness. It was the unity argument, but they did not mean spiritual unity and the freedom that Messiah gives because we are forgiven. They meant organizational political unity. They meant unity lined up behind their authority. Do not be deluded by this definition of unity. It is the sort that is easily hijacked by Satan. It is easy to equivocate with the word unity. But they do not mean what Messiah meant.
Lancaster, “Some communities would be celebrating their break-fast at the end of Yom Kippur while others were just beginning the fast. Some would celebrate a month earlier than others.” I say, if both sides are convinced in the conscience, then SO WHAT! The matter is for the Almĭghty to judge who judges hearts. We are only to judge those who rebel against Messiah and to remind the faithful in Messiah what the Torah actually says. And it does not say what Lancaster claims it says about Jewish Authority. If two people truly believe Yom Kippur should be on two different days, then I simply hope that one of them does not provokingly eat breakfast in front of the other. Then unity will be preserved. And if one party does not want to discuss it face to face, then I hope the other will respect that and forgo an argument. Then unity will be preserved. It is so human nature to run roughshod over another persons conscience. I don’t know any human being who has never been guilty of this except Messiah Yeshua.
Lancaster is right to reject the infighting and strife over these issues where it really is strife and not just two people having an honest disagreement. Such is unprofitable and worthless. But this in no way supports his argument for following the Rabbinical Calendar. The suggested equivocation of peace and tranquility under Rabbinical Authority vs. strife and hostility disagreeing with it is false.
Lancaster suggests that the Qumran community made themselves irrelevant. This is far from proved, but I will not argue whether they were or not here. This argument is basically of the form that whoever succeeds in becoming relevant has the moral right to be the authority.
Sometimes the authorities teach the right thing and proclaim the right thing. That is why the Apostolic Writings do not have to footnote a disagreement on the calendar with the ruling Pharisees. Yet Lancaster implies that the lack of a note on calendar deviation shows that they accepted the naked authority of the Pharisees. That is not so. The Apostolic Writings are careful to demolish the arguments of the Pharisees when they were wrong, viz. hand washing, healing on the Sabbath, and other items. Most importantly on who the Messiah is.
Lancaster labels his opponents, “Some modern Karaites and Hebrew Roots enthusiasts....” Lancaster appears to reject what is “more astronomically correct,” and then labels it a case of fulfillment of everyone doing what was right in his own eyes because there was no king in Israel (Judges 21:25). He seems to consider this less preferable than having a king. We have a King. His name is Yeshua. The Rabbis are neither king nor nobility. And when Israel did ask for a mere human king, they were told they had sinned a great sin.
Lancaster pushes for fellowship with the Jewish people. But this is not how fellowship is defined. Fellowship is with Messiah (cf. 1John 1:3,6, 7) and in Messiah, and our fellowship is on the basis of Messiah. If you have not figured it out yet, Jews who do not believe in Messiah want Torah observant Christians to go away and disappear. They are grateful for our support, but only support on their own terms, and never our witness to Messiah. For a Jew to profess Messiah is an excommunicable offense. For a non-Jew to keep Torah without the permission of the Rabbis or apart from their authority is also an excommunicable offense. One cannot please the world and Yeshua at the same time, and without Messiah the Rabbis are of the world.
Incredibly, amazingly, Lancaster states this, “No rabbi, leader, or group of leaders has the authority to alter what has been set in place by the leadership of Israel.” I say that Yeshua has already overruled this dictate. And on many points he did overrule them. He was one witness and his Father the other. What Lancaster is effectively saying is that no one can change the course of Judaism unless the change agents are first defined as “the leadership of Israel.” Is not Scripture full of examples of erring leadership?
The Errors are not Trivial
As a chronologist and historian, I will say that the problems caused by the Rabbinic calendar are not trivial. This is because the Rabbinical calendar cannot be used to confirm the times and seasons of Messiah’s birth, death, or resurrection. The historic empirical calendar meets that needs. It is my conviction that honoring Messiah requires using the calendar that confirms his redemptive activity.
The moon of the ever-flowing streams, day 23
May the ever flowing stream of Messiah bless everyone who is faithful in him.
1. http://ffoz.org/discover/messianic-jewish-calendar/is-the-jewish-calendar-wrong.html [Accessed 9/24/2016]. All quotes taken from this article are exactly as quoted.