God’s Church decided more than 70 years ago that we must follow the current Hebrew Calendar in order to be able to observe the annual Holy Days at their proper times. (For more information on God’s annual Festivals, please read our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days”). However, over the years, some concluded on their own, without godly authority, that they should deviate from that decision. As a consequence, estimates suggest that there are no less than 500 versions of “calendars” in existence, all claiming that their version is the one and only correct one, and the result is utter confusion, while God states very clearly that HE is NOT the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
It is high time to revisit the issue of the Hebrew Calendar, and to reiterate and reemphasize the Church of God’s BINDING judgment on the matter. In this Q&A, we will deal with the decision rendered by the Church of God. In a subsequent Q&A, we will discuss some of the principles to keep in mind, in order to properly and accurately understand the Hebrew Calendar.
In our Statement of Beliefs, we point out the following:
“The major doctrines of the Church are those, which were taught by Herbert W. Armstrong, derived from the Biblical teachings as followed by God’s faithful servants, and originally established by Jesus Christ through the founding of His Church in the time of His chosen early apostles. Since we are to increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we are committed to review and alter any of our teachings, if and when proven to be wrong by the Bible.”
As early as 1940, Herbert W. Armstrong, the late human leader of the Radio Church of God and the Worldwide Church of God, wrote the following in a Good News Letter:
“… unless God has preserved His sacred calendar through the Jews, then we do not know how to figure Passover or any of the Holy Days… For there is no authority for any other way…”
Through the years, the Church of God has maintained this position. It is based on the biblical revelation that God entrusted the Jews with the preservation of the Hebrew Bible, as well as the “oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2), including the week and the calendar.
We stated the following in our free booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days” :
“We need to understand properly what exactly was given to the Jews—what is meant by the word ‘oracles.’ In Romans 3:1–2, we are told that the ‘oracles of God’ were committed to the ‘circumcision.’ At the same time, we are told that ‘their unbelief’ did not make ‘the faithfulness of God’ without effect (verse 3). The Greek word for ‘oracles’ is ‘logion.’ It is also used in Acts 7:38; Hebrews 5:12; and 1 Peter 4:11…
“The ‘Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,’ by W. E. Vine, points out: ‘Logion, a diminutive of logos, a word, narrative, statement, denotes a Divine response or utterance, an oracle; it is used of (a) the contents of the Mosaic Law, Acts 7:38; (b) all the written utterances of God through the O.T. writers, Rom. 3:2; (c) the substance of Christian doctrine, Heb. 5:12; (d) the utterance of God through Christian teachers, 1 Pet. 4:11’…
“The Broadman Bible Commentary agrees and adds: ‘The oracles of God are the Old Testament in general, not just the promises alone as some commentaries suggest. The Septuagint uses this term for ‘the words of God’ in the law (Num. 24:4,16) or in the Psalms (107:11), and this seems to be the meaning in the New Testament… Possession of the Scriptures would be of no advantage if they were never heard, but Paul assumes they are heard every Sabbath.’”
In our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” we point out on pages 2–3:
“God has revealed in His Word exactly when the Sabbath starts and when it ends. God reckons each day, including the Sabbath, beginning at sunset and continuing through until the following sunset. Today, we would say that the Seventh-Day Sabbath starts Friday evening, when the sun sets, and lasts until Saturday evening, at sunset.
“We know from the Jewish people when to keep the Sabbath. It is the Jews to whom God committed His revelations or His ‘oracles,’ as Paul clearly explains in Romans 3:1–2. These ‘oracles of God’ included the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the knowledge of the week and of the Sacred Calendar. The Jews preserved the knowledge of which day the seventh day of the week is. Without an understanding of when a week begins and ends, we would not have been able to tell, from the Bible alone, which day the seventh day of the week actually is. Today, the Jews keep the Sabbath on Saturday, beginning Friday evening, at sunset. Nobody questions today that the Sabbath, as preserved by the Jews, is the seventh or last day of the week. All understand that Sunday is the first day of the week…”
In 1940, Herbert Armstrong stated this in the above-mentioned letter:
“God did not commit His oracles, or the preservation of His times, to profane history… they have been preserved by the Jews. After thorough study of the Bible, of the Hebrew calendar, of history and every angle… we have unanimously agreed that the Hebrew calendar has been preserved correctly by the Jews…”
In a Good News article of April 1981, titled, “The Hebrew Calendar—Authoritative for God’s Church Today!,” Herman L. Hoeh wrote the following:
“The Worldwide Church of God has followed this authoritative decision ever since. Others can go their own way—till the judgment.”
In passing, if you have any doubt that God inspires the leadership of His Church to make binding decisions in certain matters, please read our Q&A, “Could you please explain the extent of the power that Christ gave in Matthew 16:19, to ‘bind and loose’?”.
In the above-mentioned article on the Hebrew Calendar, Dr. Hoeh continued:
“But what were the oracles committed in a public way to the Jews? The Hebrew Bible only? By no means! The Hebrew calendar also! For without the calendar, it would be impossible to fulfill correctly what is written in the Hebrew Bible about the hallowed annual times. And not only the Bible and calendar, but the week also. These three—Bible, calendar and week—are all part of the oracles committed to the Jews for all mankind…
“By faith we know we have copies, providentially preserved, of the original Word of God. By faith we know that the leadership in the Jewish courts did preserve the rules of the calendar God committed to them—even though they themselves have not wanted to follow those rules at all times. It is all a question of government—whether God is capable of ruling…”
For a thorough discussion and proof that God DID in fact preserve the writings of the Bible—both the Old and the New Testaments—please read our free booklet, “The Authority of the Bible.” Continuing with the above-quoted article:
“The scribes—copying of the text of the Hebrew Bible was one of their duties—were in authority. Jesus said so [compare Matthew 23:3-4]. They sat on Moses’ seat… And the Pharisees, too, sat on Moses’ seat. It was their court that determined the Hebrew calendar. It was their court’s decision that determined which day was the beginning of each month. Once that was determined it was the people’s responsibility to keep holy the days God made holy—according to the dates on the Hebrew calendar, not on some other calendar. “Were the scribes perfect men, without sin? Were the Pharisees perfect men, without sin? By no means! Jesus made that plain. Yet He also made it plain that they had the responsibility under God to preserve the written Word of God, the week and the calendar. It was not somebody else’s responsibility…
“The Jews’ chief leader, Hillel II, whose responsibility it was to regulate the calendar, was forced to issue a decree for the year A.D. 358-359 to (re)institute the authority of the fixed calendar we know today as the Hebrew calendar… the authority of Jerusalem in the person of Hillel II did speak in A.D. 358-359 to authorize the present Hebrew calendar throughout the future until such time as a new court sitting in Moses’ seat be reestablished in Jerusalem…”
Kenneth Herrmann wrote in the Good News, October 1957, that the information on the system of the calendar calculation was made public “so the broken and scattered Jewish nation… would be able to continue the observance of God’s feast days in accordance with the new moons as calculated from Jerusalem.”
Subsequently, in the July-August 1996 edition of the Global Church News, two articles were published by Raymond F. McNair, titled, “Which Calendar has God Authorized?” and “What are the Postponements?” The first article was also published in the German language (“Welcher Kalender ist in Gottes Augen gueltig?” [“Which Calendar Is Valid in God’s Eyes?”]). It appeared in the January 1999 edition of “Die Welt der Zukunft [“The World of the Future”].” We will discuss postponements in more detail in a subsequent Q&A. But as Raymond McNair pointed out in his article on postponements, they “delay—by either one or two days—the beginning of the first day of Tishri, which is the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year.”
Some who have construed their own calendar, insist that postponements must be rejected. They are wrong. Raymond McNair explained:
“… from the very beginning certain postponements had to be incorporated in the Sacred Calendar—simply because it is not possible to construct it without them… God Almighty gave Moses certain necessary oral instructions regarding His calendar that are not recorded in the Bible. And, through the centuries, God must have inspired the Jews in such a way as to utilize the postponements… The Bible itself says absolutely nothing about postponements. So, if God’s Word does not condemn postponements, then who are we to say that the Jews, the custodians of God’s Word and His Calendar, are wrong in including them…”
In conclusion, we reiterate the Church of God’s long-standing position that we are to follow the current Hebrew Calendar, as preserved by the Jews, for the correct dates of the annual Holy Days. No one else has God-given authority to devise his own calendar. It IS a matter of government, authority and faith—are we trusting in and obeying God and His Word, or aren’t we?
Lead Writer: Norbert Link