New Book: Daniel's 70 Weeks

Appendix 3: When did the Jewish Year start?

One decisive argument against the interpretation of Anderson/ Hoehner is that it requires the 70 Weeks to start too early in the year. It is agreed that the starting point is Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year, but the issue is when can the New Year begin? This Appendix provides extra evidence that both Anderson and Hoehner require the Nisan in their starting years of 445/444 BC to start too early in the year. Once it is realised Nisan had to start a month later than they say, their whole calculation is invalidated.

*The Biblical Requirement. Beyond dispute is the Biblical requirement that Passover must be in the Spring (after the Spring Equinox on March 21st Gregorian). This by itself requires Nisan to start after the 8th March (Gregorian). This immediately invalidates Hoehner’s date of February 28th!

This requirement is confirmed by the Jewish first Century practice as recorded by Philo and Josephus which Christ endorsed by His keeping of the Feasts. It could also be argued that the Bible also requires Tabernacles in the 7th month to be in its season after the Autumnal equinox. If this is true then Nisan must start actually after 16th March (Gregorian), which also invalidates Anderson’s date of 9th March (Gregorian).

*Jewish practice at that time (500-400 BC) was influenced by the Babylonians who started the year even later, based on the rule that the New Year starts after the Spring Equinox (March 21st Gregorian, which was March 26th Julian at that time). On this basis both Anderson’s and Hoehner’s dates for Nisan 1 are invalid.

The evidence for this is clear. We have 2 sources that tell us something about the calendar back in the 5th century BC: Jewish scribal papyri from Elephantine,

Egypt and cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia. Both indicate that March 14 is too early in the year to be considered Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year.

At Elephantine, Nisan 1 ranged from March 26 (in 446 and 428 BC) to April 24 (in 465 BC) (Siegfried Horn & Lynn Wood, The Chronology of Ezra 7, p.157-159).

In Babylonia, Nisan 1 ranged from March 26 to April 23 for the years 464 BC to 400 BC (Richard Parker & Waldo Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology, p32, 33).

Elephantine Results: S. H. Horn and L. H. Wood, published a paper in 1954 in Journal of Near Eastern Studies. This paper is an analysis of fourteen double-dated Jewish papyri from Elephantine, Egypt, which attempts to ascertain the nature of the Jewish calendar in the fifth century BC. Because the papyri were dated in both the Jewish Calendar and the Egyptian Calendar, and because those double dates can only coincide in particular years and particular months, it is possible to assign definite dates to these documents to within a day. The Julian dates assigned to these papyri in the article, along with the dates of the preceding Nisan 1, appear in the table below:

 

Jewish Date of Papyrus Julian Date of Papyrus Preceding Nisan 1
Elul 18 Sept. 12, 471 BC Apr. 1, 471 BC
Kisl. 18 Jan. 2, 464 BC Apr. 24, 465 BC
Siv. 20 July 7, 451 BC Apr. 20, 451 BC
Tam. 18 July 13, 449 BC Mar. 29, 449 BC
Kisl. 2 Nov. 19, 446 BC Mar. 26, 446 BC
Ab 14 Aug. 27, 440 BC Apr. 18, 440 BC
Elul 7 Sept. 15, 437 BC Apr. 14, 437 BC
Tish. 25 Oct. 30, 434 BC Apr. 12, 434 BC
Siv. 20 June 12, 427 BC Mar. 26, 427 BC
Tam. 8 July 11, 420 BC Apr. 7, 420 BC
Kisl. 3 Dec. 16, 416 BC Apr. 23, 416 BC
Sheb. 24 Feb. 11, 410 BC Mar. 28, 411 BC
Mar. 24 Nov. 26, 404 BC Apr. 10, 404 BC
Adar 20 Mar. 9, 402 BC Mar. 30, 403 BC



 

The Elephantine papyri give us Julian dates for Nisan 1 ranging from March 26 through April 24. Hoehner's proposed date of March 5 (Julian) for Nisan 1 in 444 BC is therefore as much as three weeks earlier than the earliest Nisan 1 in the Jewish colony at Elephantine, Egypt. We can therefore confidently conclude, based on the very sources that Hoehner cites, that March 5 in 444 BC was actually the first day of Adar (the 12th month). This is confirmed by Richard A. Parker and Waldo Dubberstein’s Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C-A.D. 75 (2nd ed.; Providence, 1956, p.32) where we find that March 4/5th marked the first day of Adar, while Nisan 1 fell on April 3rd (Julian). In other words, according to the very source cited by Hoehner to prove that Nisan began in March 444 BC (on the Julian Calendar), Nisan did not begin until April.

The same arguments apply to Anderson’s dates for Nisan 1 in 445 BC. The evidence we have from both the Jewish and Babylonian records is that Nisan did not start until a month later. It would have begun after the new moon of April, not after the new moon of March, making April 13 (Julian) the true Nisan 1, not March 14 (Julian), as Anderson has it. Thus in 445 and 444 BC, Nisan would have begun after the New Moon of April, not after the new moon of March as Anderson and Hoehner need to make their calculation work.

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