The Biblical New Year

In the earliest days of the Bible, mankind in general counted the year as ending and beginning in the Fall, probably related to the harvest of crops. However, the Lord in His instructions to Moses regarding the choosing of the Passover lamb and the preparations for the first Passover declared that this month was to be the first month of the year. (Exodus 12:2) The month in question is not named, but we know it as Nisan or Abib, which usually coincide with March or April.

Each month of the Hebrew calendar begins at the sighting of the New Moon. The year was to begin at the start of the New Moon if the barley was ripe. The barley crop is an early Spring grain and was necessary for the wave offering required in the Feast of Firstfruits. (Leviticus 23:10-11) The barley must be ripe, or abib, to be used in the wave offering. Hence, the name of the first month is Abib, or ripe. Later, it also became known as Nisan, which possibly refers to “their flight” from Egypt.

We just experienced a New Moon on March 17, 2018. According to the Hebrew calendar, that day is the beginning of Nisan. According to Israelis who recently have searched the barley fields of Israel, the barley is ripe, or abib. Therefore, the New Year started on March 17th.

However, this conflicts with the Jewish New Year which always occurs in the Fall, and is known as Rosh Hashanah or “head of the year.” So, which is correct?

The Karaite Jews only accept the authority of the Tanakh, the teachings of Moses, the Prophets and the Writings. They do not accept the many extra-Biblical writings such as the Talmud, as did the Pharisees in times past.

According to Karaites, the practice of calling the beginning of the Fall month of Tishri the New Year began during the Babylonian Captivity. The Babylonians celebrated their New Year on this date, and the Jews living in Babylon simply combined the Babylonian celebration with their own Tishri 1 celebration, the Feast of Trumpets. And it became known as the Jewish New Year.

We Christians cannot point too many fingers at the Jews for combining a Holy Day with a pagan practice. Resurrection Sunday, the greatest day of the Christian year, the day celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus and remembering the promise of our own future resurrection, has been combined with the pagan fertility festival of Astarte, Ishtar or Easter, and is celebrated with chicks, eggs and bunnies.

Let us dispose of the many traditions that we are burdened with as Christians. Every denomination and church has its traditions, as do the Jews. The Lord stated that this month, Nisan or Abib, is the beginning of year for His calendar. Let us only follow His Word and not the doctrines of men (Matthew 15:8-9), and let us praise Him for the wonderful salvation He provided for us through the Lord Jesus!

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