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This page was last updated on 12 January, 2017.

Start of the year

Determining the equinox

Find a flat sunbathed area and put a stick in it. Start a few hours before noon and end a few hours after noon. For example every hour mark the tip of the shadow on the ground. When your measurements are finished draw a line between the points. If the line is almost straight it’s the day of the equinox.

Not relevant but perhaps nice to know; several weeks before and after the equinox the line will be a curve. Find the shortest distance from the stick to the curve. Mark that point on the curve. If you look from the stick toward that point you are looking toward the ‘true north’ (not magnetic north).

The instrument on the left was found in the Qumran caves along wit the Dead Sea Scrolls. It’s at least 2000 years old. It’s use was to determine the equinox.

Pyramid design shows that the fall equinox was not only known but ‘pre-calculated’ for the year 2144 BC. They even knew the year was 365.242 days long.

So the knowledge of the equinox goes back a very long time.

Link    Link    

The spring equinox marks the first month of the year

2:6   In this manner it rises in the first month through the major gate; it proceeds through this gate which is the fourth among those six openings which are located in the direction of the east.

72:7   By this fourth gate through which the sun rises during the first month there are twelve open windows from which a flame flows, when they are opened at the appropriate time.

72:8   When the sun rises in the east in the sky, it goes out through this fourth gate for thirty mornings and descends faithfully through the fourth gate in the western sky.

72:9   During those thirty days the day daily becomes longer and the night nightly shorter, for thirty days.

Enoch defines the first month as the month in which the days start to get longer. That’s exactly what happens after the spring equinox; the days start to get longer. This happens when the sun stays in  ‘the major gate’ for a 30 days.
Because a lunar year is 10 days shorter than a solar year the years are out of sync. A system of leap months makes sure the lunar and solar months never get to much out of sync; but rarely the first day of the month rarely is exactly the same day as the day of the spring equinox.

That means we have to pick a certain new moon tyo start the month/year. But which one? Before, after or closest to the equinox? Something else?

"Moses puts down the beginning of the vernal equinox as the first month of the year, attributing the chief honour, not as some persons do, to the periodical revolutions of the year in regard of time, but rather to the graces and beauties of nature which it has caused to shine upon men; for it is through the bounty of nature that the seeds which are sown to produce the necessary food of mankind are brought to perfection … Now wheat and barley are among the things which are very necessary…" Philo Judaeus. Translated by C.D. Yonge. "A Treatise on the Life of Moses, Book II, XLI." The Works of Philo Complete and Unabridged. Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.

The first new moon of the year is always after the equinox


All ancient documents state that Passover should fall after the spring equinox. If it didn’t a leap month was inserted. Those documents are usually discussing Passover so they only mention Passover. However there also are documents mentioning the start of the month Passover falls in. This month, BTW, is also the start of the year. 1 Nisan

*= The exact date of the equinox changes very slowly of the the years. Click. Likely the Sanitarians kept using the date from Moses' time.

Exod 12:2 This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

January is the first month of our year. How odd would it be if the year started at 13 January. Would that make January the last month of the previous year, or the first month of the new year?
Likewise shouldn’t the first month of Biblical new year fall in it’s entirely in the after the spring equinox with marks the beginning of spring?
An argument against that view is that the first month rarely starts on the day of the spring equinox. That means the last month of the year falls in both the winter and spring season. That’s true. Because the lunar and solar calendar have an 11 day difference in duration it’s impossible to find a rule that avoids all issues.

We have two witnesses that state the entire month should be after the equinox. The other witnesses only mention Passover. Is that really because they only are discussing Passover or did they simply don’t care if the first of the month fell before or after the spring equinox?
The fact that they did mention the spring equinox, at least proves it was relevant from something and that it was tied to that first month in some way.

The first new moon is the one closest to the equinox

"In the month of Xanthicus, which is by us called Nisan, and is the beginning of our year, on the fourteenth day of the lunar month, when the sun is in Aries, (for in this month it was that we were delivered from bondage under the Egyptians), the law ordained that we should every year slay that sacrifice which I before told you we killed when we came out of Egypt, and which was called the Passover..."

Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book III, Chapter 10, paragraph 5

If you Google for “sun in Aries” you will find “21 March 0 20 April”.
That means the sign stays in Aries for 30 days. If the new moon falls 1 day before the equinox and we use the new moon after the equinox we have to wait 29 days until the next new moon. That’s almost the whole duration the sun stays in Aries. After that new moon another 14 days until Passover. That’s 29+14=43 days which is more than 30 days. That means there are years that Passover falls outside Aries (Taurus) when that rule is used. The only way to overcome that problem is if the new moon is allowed to fall before the equinox. The new moon closest to the equinox can be before or after the equinox.


The Biblical year starts in the month with:

The above aren’t 2 different rules. Just 2 rules explaining the same thing.

Equinox definition


An equinox is an astronomical event in which the imaginary plane of Earth's equator passes the center of the Sun, making night and day of approximately equal length all over the planet.

In other words, the equinoxes are the only times when the subsolar point is on the Equator, meaning that the Sun is exactly overhead at a point on the equatorial line. Equinoxes occur twice a year, around 21 March and 23 September.

More info:

Historical quotes

"At the first season which name he gives to the springtime and its equinox, he ordained that what is called the feast of unleavened bread should be kept for seven days, all of which he declared should be honored equally in the ritual assigned to them. For he ordered ten sacrifices to be offered each day as at the new moons, whole-burnt offerings amounting to seventy in all apart from the sin offerings. He considered, that is, that the seven days of the feast bore the same relation to the equinox which falls in the seventh month as the new moon does to the month."

Philo, Special Laws I (181-182) [Colson's Translation]

Philo wrote:

"To seven he gives the chief feasts prolonged for many days, two feasts, that is for the two equinoxes, each lasting seven days, the first in the spring to celebrate the ripeness of the sown crops, the second in the autumn for the ingathering of all the tree-fruits..."

Philo, The Decalogue (161) [Colson's Translation]

Philo wrote:

"...for it was the general festival of the Jews at the time of the autumnal equinox, during which it is the custom of the Jews to live in tents."

Philo, Flaccus XIV (116) [Yonge's Translation]

Again the equinox is mentioned. Tents is a reference to Tabernacles Lev 23:39-42.

"And this is not an opinion of our own; but it was known to the Jews of old, even before Christ, and was carefully observed by them. This may be learned from what is said by Philo, Josephus, and Musæus; and not only by them, but also by those yet more ancient, the two Agathobuli, surnamed 'Masters,' and the famous Aristobulus, who was chosen among the seventy interpreters of the sacred and divine Hebrew Scriptures by Ptolemy Philadelphus and his father, and who also dedicated his exegetical books on the law of Moses to the same kings. These writers, explaining questions in regard to the Exodus, say that all alike should sacrifice the passover offerings after the vernal equinox, in the middle of the first month. But this occurs while the sun is passing through the first segment of the solar, or as some of them have styled it, the zodiacal circle. Aristobulus adds that it is necessary for the feast of the passover, that not only the sun should pass through the equinoctial segment, but the moon also. For as there are two equinoctial segments, the vernal and the autumnal, directly opposite each other, and as the day of the passover was appointed on the fourteenth of the month, beginning with the evening, the moon will hold a position diametrically opposite the sun, as may be seen in full moons; and the sun will be in the segment of the vernal equinox, and of necessity the moon in that of the autumnal [equinox]."

Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, Book 7, Chapter 32,

Eusebius wrote:

"In the month of Xanthicus, which is by us called Nisan, and is the beginning of our year, on the fourteenth day of the lunar month, when the sun is in Aries, (for in this month it was that we were delivered from bondage under the Egyptians), the law ordained that we should every year slay that sacrifice which I before told you we killed when we came out of Egypt, and which was called the Passover..."

Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book III, Chapter 10, paragraph 5

Josephus confirms the above things and adds something ‘technical’.