Why do the Jews hold THEIR Passover a day later than the Passover observed by Moses, Nehemiah and Jesus? How and when did this change come about? WHY DO THE JEWS have double Holy Days — keep Passover one day late — then Pentecost on Sivan 6? Why do they reckon only 5723 years from creation? What is correct? Are the Jews right?
Many in God's Church have been puzzled over the Jewish interpretation behind the Holy Calendar and the Festivals. Since the Jews have been responsible for the preservation of God's Calendar, why could they not also lead us in the interpretation of the Holy Days? Why is it that God's Church does not follow the Jews in every point?
The Jews Responsible for the Oracles of God In Romans 3:2 the Apostle Paul acknowledged, under God's inspiration, that the Jews were responsible for the oracles of God. The expression "oracles of God" was a common Jewish term of the first century which designated "The Holy Scriptures" — our Old Testament (Interpreters Commentary, article "Oracles").
These Scriptures enumerated the seven annual Holy Days which Israel was to keep (Lev. 23). These Holy Days, with the exception of Pentecost, were to be observed on set calendar dates each year. Without an official calendar, there could be 120 Holy Day observances! Correct calendar computations must as well have been given to the custodians of the Scriptures in order that all the oracles of God could be kept.
So the Jews (specifically the priests) were responsible for preserving the Old Testament Scriptures — plus the calendar — which was necessary in correctly performing the Festivals. The certainty of this is found in the New Testament. Christ and the Apostles always utilized the official Jewish day, week, month and year. The early Church also acknowledged the Jewish custodianship over the calendar as well as the Scriptures.
The Differences While the Jews had the responsibility for preserving the correct calendar, the interpretation behind the calendar days was not to be determined by them. The reason for this is plain. Only God retains the right to tell us what date on the calendar to keep His Festivals. No man has that right! In regard to the Passover, it is God. Who tells us to observe it on the evening of Nisan 14 (Leviticus 23:5).
This is the time Christ kept it. But some of the Jews in the first century observed the evening of the 15th. Even though the correct calendar was utilized by the Jews, different DATES on that calendar were used for Passover. It will be noticed that Christ and His disciples kept the Passover on the evening before the crucifixion (Luke 22:13-15), but the next day, some of the Jews refused to come into the judgment hall lest they be disqualified from observing the Pharisee Passover which occurred on the following evening (John 18:28). This shows that Christ observed Nisan 14 (as the Old Testament commanded) but the Pharisees observed Nisan 15. The same practice of keeping Nisan 15 instead of the date commanded by God is still done by all Jews today.
Why Nisan 15? You would think that the Jews need to learn to read their own Scriptures, for they seem to be illiterate in regard to the Passover. God tells us, in the clearest of language, that the Passover is to be held on the evening of Nisan 14. Nowhere in the Bible does it state otherwise. But they keep Nisan 15. Where did such a practice come from?
The answer to this is found in the history of the Jews in the third century before Christ. From 301 B.C. to 198 B.C., the Palestinian Jews came under the control of Egyptians. These Gentiles imposed their philosophies and religious beliefs upon the Jews in profusion. Dr. Lanterbach, one of Judaism's greatest historians, admits that this period was one of religious anarchy among the Jews of Palestine (Rabbinic Essays, p. 200). They accepted, on a very large scale, many outright Egyptian customs. For example, Herodotus who visited Egypt in the fifth century before Christ, reported that the Egyptians would only drink out of pots and pans which had been scoured every day. They would religiously bathe themselves twice each day — they shunned all foreigners, especially Greeks, and would destroy any vessel or utensil which had been touched by a Greek. Such silly laws were inaugurated by the thousands by the Egyptians, said Herodotus (Book 11, pp. 37-41).
Prior to the Egyptian domination of Palestine, the Jews possessed none of these absurd customs, but after that period of religious anarchy, the Jews began practicing, with utmost vigor, those same EGYPTIAN laws. See Matthew 15:2 and Mark 7:3-8. There can be no question of this.
But what about the Passover? It can be shown that prior to this Egyptian domination, the Jews always kept the Passover on Nisan 14. Notice especially Ezra 6:19-22. Here it shows Nisan 14 as Passover and Nisan 15 as the first day of Unleavened Bread (which it is), not as the Passover day. But, after the Egyptian period, the Jews began to observe Nisan 15 for Passover. Why?
Corruption From Egypt! The answer again is found in Egyptian customs. The Egyptian day customarily commenced with sunrise (Wilkinson, Vol. 11, p. 368). God's day, however, begins at sunset (Lev. 23:32). This is where the trouble lay with the Passover reckoning after this period of Egyptian influence on the Jews.
While the Egyptians allowed the Jews to retain their ancient calendar, there was a change made in the beginning of the day — it became common to begin the day at sunrise. This custom was adopted, and persisted among the Jews even down to New Testament times (see The Jewish Quarterly Review, April, 1946). We (God's, ministry) have had personal information from the Hebrew Union College admitting this fact. (The proof of this is also given in The Expositor)! Times, June 1948, pp. 250, 251.)
A single diagram will explain what the new sunrise reckoning did to the Passover!
(See diagram page 12 of PDF) Notice how diabolically clever the above arrangement becomes when the day begins in the morning. With the 14th of Nisan supposedly beginning at sunrise, that puts what God calls the evening of Nisan 15 as still being on Nisan 14. This is where the problem arises. Even later on, when the Jews finally got back to an evening-to-evening reckoning for the day, they refused to abandon what had become the traditional way of observing Passover. The principle, "What was good for my fathers, is good enough for me," was too strong for the Jews to leave it. So, today, they are still one day out of phase with God.
The Jews' Pentecost The Jews' error concerning this Festival has been fully treated in our booklet on the Holy Days. What is the Jews' reason for having it on a set calendar date (always Sivan 6) instead of a set day of the week — Monday? Their general answer is that all other Holy Days are on calendar dates so they make Pentecost follow suit. The only problem with this is that God says differently! It must be on a set day of the week, not a day of the month.
The Double Holy Days of the Jews Attention should now be called to, what have become known as, the Jewish "Second Holidays." It is today customary for many Jews to reckon the first two days of Unleavened Bread as Holyday Sabbaths. This is followed by the next annual Sabbath — the last day of Unleavened Bread — on which they tack another Sabbath, making, again, two annual Sabbaths. This is repeated with Pentecost when two days are celebrated, not one. Trumpets is the same way. So is the first day of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. The Day of Atonement, on the other hand, is reckoned as only one day.
Where do the Jews get authority for doing such things? There is certainly nothing in the Word of God to support these additions. Perhaps it will be best to let the Jews give their own explanation:
"At the time of the Second Temple [the time of Christ], when the Sanhedrin announced the beginnings of the months on the basis of observation, the communities living far from the seat of the court could not be reached in time by its messengers [that is, they might not know when the New Year would begin). Those communities, in doubt about the day of the New Moon and the Festivals, established the custom of celebrating an additional day for each of the major holidays. Thus they were certain to observe the Festivals at the same time as their brethren in Israel, on the days sanctified by the Sanhedrin, Whenever the Bible had prescribed one day of holy convocation and prohibition of work, they celebrated two days except the Day of Atonement to avoid two successive days of fasting.
"The second holidays were adopted by the entire Dispersed Jews, the communities living beyond the confines of Israel. Their observance was continued by succeeding generations for more than 2000 years, and became a generally accepted law.
"In the land of Israel, then as well as today, the 'Second Holidays' are ordinary days" (Spier, Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, p. 11).
There you have it! Because the calendar computations were not then made public for all the Jewish communities, those outside of Palestine depended upon the direction of the Palestine Sanhedrin for the beginning of years. And even though the far-flung Jews (99 times out of 100) would have known the right day for the beginning of the New Year, they nevertheless put in the safeguard of an extra day. There is no need of these "safeguards." The Jews plainly recognize that the "Second Holidays" are now non-essential. And in the nation of Israel they are not observed. Away from Israel they simply keep them for traditional reasons. They are NOT to be kept by God's Church for they represent an addition to God's law and this is prohibited (Deut. 12:32).
The Jewish Creation Date Another point of apparent difficulty relative to the Holy Calendar, is the Jewish date for creation. They say that our present year 1963 is 5723 years after creation — they say creation was 3761 B.C. This date is given in all Jewish calendars. But Bible chronology shows almost 6000 years have passed from that time. Is there a discrepancy in the Bible and the calendar on this matter? The answer is NO!
Let us first understand what the calendar is not! It is not an instrument for measuring historical time! The calendar simply furnishes us with the length of any given year and the positions of the various days and months within that year. The computations nowhere tell us how many years have passed since creation. They just tell us how to figure each year. If we want the full number of years which have passed from creation to the present, we must go to the document which is intended to reveal that information — the Holy Bible, not the calendar.
The creation date which the Jews have set on their calendar year is of their own manufacture and has nothing to do with the calendar itself. It is an arbitrary date. It can be explained in this way.
Suppose Americans wanted to call attention to the founding-year of the Republic. This was 1776. All American calendars could be altered from A.D. dates to "Founding-Year" dates. Thus, 1963 would be reckoned on American calendars as year 188. However, the British may want to honor the Norman Invasion as their "Founding-Year," i.e. 1066. This present year on their calendar would be 898. Now, we would all have the SAME CALENDAR without any changes, but different years on them according to what nation we lived in. So it is with the Jewish year from, what they call, "creation." It is clearly an arbitrary date chosen by them. The Bible does not support it.
Why a Late Creation Date? We are told that the acceptance of 3761 B.C. as the creation date by the Jews goes back no further than the 10th or 11th century (Spier, ibid., p. 218). But traces of this fictitious date can be traced back to the fourth century. But why this late date? The Bible shows plainly that Adam was created just over 4000 B.C., not 3761 B.C.
The answer is simple.
The Jews in the time of Christ had a strong tradition that this present world would last for 6000 years while the Messiah would reign for the last 1000. This teaching was true for the apostles tell us about it (II Peter 3:8; Hebrews 4:1-10). But coupled with this belief, they felt that for the first 2000 years the world would be without the codified law, then would be 2000 years under the law, and finally 2000 years when the Messiah would be known and worshiped (Schurer, History of the Jewish people, Div. 11, vol. 11, p. 163). In other words, shortly after the year 4000 from real creation, the Messiah would appear. And He did!
This tradition in the first century put the Jewish rabbis on the spot, for they were saying the Messiah would come after 4000 years. Christ did come but they were also rejecting Him. This led them to a novel invention.
They arbitrarily lowered the creation date, disregarding the Bible, some 250 years. By doing this, they said that Jesus could not be the Messiah for He appeared too early. This was a plain LIE! Of course, no Messiah came at the end of their NEW 4000 years, but the Jews answered this by saying that the people were too sinful for Him to appear (Schurer, ibid.).
Thus, the Jewish late date for creation was invented as a counteraction to the claims of Christ. By accepting it, they completely disregarded the chronology of the Bible. This Jewish date has nothing to do with the accuracy of God's Calendar. We can be thankful for that!
We can clearly see that it is God's Church which is right after all — not the Jews!