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Should Christians Observe the New Moon

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Should Christians Observe the New Moon

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Should Christians Observe the New Moon

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It is interesting that the same questions come up within the church over and over- usually not on a point of doctrine. Why does this occur? One reason is that one of the characteristics of those who follow God’s way, is to follow the instructions of the Bible alone in determining doctrines and in determining which day is the Sabbath, and which are the Holy Days, what are the doctrines of the True Church, etc. Our observations are not based upon philosophy, human reasoning, or tradition but rather on what the Word of God says, and sometimes on what the Word of God does NOT say. So what does the bible say about the purpose of the New Moon?

Sermon Notes

Should Christians Observe the New Moon by Chris Shude Freeland, Michigan December 10, 2022

It is interesting that the same questions come up within the church over and over- usually not on a point of doctrine, although that does happen from time to time- but historically, many of these questions revolve around topics that are difficult to resolve 100% by searching through the word of God.  Why does this happen over and over?  I think that one of the biggest reasons is that one of the characteristics of those who follow God’s Way in this world is that we follow the instructions of the Bible alone in determining our doctrines and in determining which day is the Sabbath, and which are the Holy Days, what are the doctrines of the True Church, etc.  Our observations are not based upon philosophy, human reasoning, or tradition but rather on what the Word of God says, and sometimes on what the Word of God does NOT say.

Let’s turn to a Scripture that is misunderstood, used incorrectly, and has caused a lot of confusion both in traditional Christianity as well as in the church from time to time.  Please turn to Colossians 2:16:

16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Today, we will look at one of the questions that comes up from time to time—and speaking of time, the timing could not be better, because today- besides being the weekly Sabbath-  today is the New Moon.  Today, we will look at the background on the subject of the New Moon, we will look more closely at the verse we just read, and we will answer the question:  Should New Testament Christians observe the New Moons?

Now the fact that very few of you were aware that today is a New Moon is evidence that the church does not teach that we are required to observe them- but today we are going to look at the reasons why.  We will look at what a New Moon is, what its purpose is or was, and what the Bible tells us- and what it does NOT tell us in regards to the New Moons.  And finally, we will address the question- Should New Testament Christians observe the New Moons?

The very first questions we must answer are:  What, exactly, is a New Moon?  What is its purpose?  What is the biblical direction in how to determine it? 

It seems like it should be easy to answer the question of what, exactly, the New Moon is- but it is not.  I mentioned a minute ago that today was the New Moon, and it is- according to one method.  According to another method, it was yesterday!  The first point of confusion we run into is this:  There are THREE definitions of the New Moon!  Let’s go through them:

FIRST:  There is the astronomical new moon.  The astronomical new moon was yesterday at 6:10 p.m.  This is based on mathematical calculations that determine exactly when the moon is completely dark- the New Moon.

SECOND:  there is the molad.  Now “molad” is defined as the BIRTH of the new moon.  This occurs in what is called the dark phase of the moon, when the moon’s dark side is facing the earth.  It can last between 1.5 and 3 days depending on the time of day that the conjunction occurs, before you will actually see a portion of the moon again.  Now the molad is roughly in the middle of the period during which the moon is not visible.  The molad is calculated and predictable, but is not as exact as the astronomical based calculation.

THIRD:  there is the observance of the “first crescent”.  This is relying on actually seeing the first sliver of the moon appearing to the naked eye and using this as the key to determining the timing of the New Moon.

Now, here’s the question- which of these methods does God direct us to use in the Bible?  How did God tell Moses to determine the New Moons?  The answer is that He didn’t.  Nowhere in the Bible is there any instruction on this particular question.  If God didn’t give a detailed explicit instruction regarding determining when the New Moon occurred, then what method did ancient Israel use?  According to Jewish tradition and history, the New Moon was determined by calculating the molad, and then confirmed through physical observation.  The responsibility for this calculation was entrusted to the Levitical priesthood.  It is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 23 where David, at the end of his reign over Israel, divided the priests into divisions.  This was the method that was in place well before the time of Jesus Christ, and since there is no record of Him condemning or correcting this method, we can assume that employing this method does result in correctly determining the occurrence of the New Moon.  What we can deduce from all of this is that we are on safe ground by referring to the molad when we are talking about the New Moon.

 Before we talk about the purpose of the New Moon, let’s take a look at what the purpose is of the moon itself. Let’s turn to Genesis 1 for a statement as to one of the purposes of the moon itself, as well as the stars that God placed in the heavens.  Verse 14:

14 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 "and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.

 

Unlike the calendar we use today, the Gregorian calendar, GOD’s calendar is based upon the lunar cycle, the amount of time for the moon to go from a new moon, where it is not visible, through the waxing phase where it moves to a full moon, and then to the waning phase where it returns to another new moon.  And as we know, the length of a year is determined by the amount of time for the earth to orbit the sun.  As it stated in the passage we read in Genesis, an important purpose of the sun and the moon is to be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.  Their purpose is to help determine when God’s Holy Days were to be observed.  All of God’s Feast days are determined by counting the days of the month-  let’s go to Leviticus 23 where we have a list of the Holy Days and when they are to be observed to see that this is the case:  Let’s go first to v.4 where God gives an important instruction:

4 'These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.

Now at this time, Moses was the one who was directed to proclaim, to announce, when these holy convocations were to take place, at their appointed times.  Later, this responsibility to proclaim the dates was transferred to the Levitical priesthood.  How are these appointed times determined?  By counting the months and the days:

5 'On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD s Passover. 6 'And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.

24 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.

27 "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.

39 'Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest.

So we see that counting the days is vital in getting the Feast Days right.  BUT--How do you determine when to start counting?  After all, if you don’t start counting from the right time, then the instructions we just read are impossible to follow.  The purpose of the New Moon is to determine when to start counting!  The New Moon is the first day of the lunar month, and it is the day that is used to begin the counting process to determine when to observe God’s Holy Days. 

Now, we do not have a scripture that we can turn to where God has specifically told us “The New Moon shall be the first day of the month”, so how do we KNOW that the New Moon is the first day of the month?  We know this by putting the pieces together—we know when we are to observe a Holy Day by the instructions given in Leviticus 23 and elsewhere.  We also know the phases of the moon- we know on what days the New Moon occurs.  We can take any of the Holy Days and count backward to the first day of the month and we will find that the first day of the month is always the New Moon.

Let’s review for a moment what we’ve learned thus far:

First, God has given us specific instructions on which days and months to observe His Holy Days.  These instructions are given in terms of counting from the first day of a specific month.

Second, God created the sun and the moon to be for signs and seasons, for days and years.  They are to be used to keep track of time.

Third, the New Moon is the first day of the month, and is the starting point for correctly counting the days and the months to determine the observation of the Holy Days.

Fourth, the occurrence of the New Moon is, and has been, CALCULATED, rather than observed, for thousands of years

Fifth, God has not given specific instructions in how to determine the New Moon.  The system that we use today to determine when the Holy Days are to be observed is the same one that was used in the time of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  We have no record of Jesus Christ or the Apostles making any statement saying that the New Moon was not being determined correctly during their time.  Put that all together, and we can safely draw the conclusion that the Hebrew calendar accurately calculates when the New Moons and Holy Days occur.

Sixth, the responsibility of proclaiming the days on which the Holy Days were to be observed according to God’s commands was given to the Levitical priesthood in the time before Christ.  This responsibility of proclaiming the days was transferred and rests today with the ministry of the church, through the order of Melchizedek as we can read about in Hebrews 7.

Now let’s move on to the heart of the matter- we’ve discussed why the New Moon is important, and what its purpose is- but is the New Moon something that Christians should observe?  For us to answer this question, we must put the clues together, for this is a question that is not answered directly in Scripture.  We must look at what is said, how it is said, and what is NOT said, in the Scriptures in order to draw our conclusion.  Let’s go to Numbers 10 where we have the first instructions in the Scriptures concerning the observance of the New Moons:

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 "Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps.

Dropping down to v.10:

10 "Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the LORD your God."

We see that there is a specific instruction that the silver trumpets were to be blown at the beginning of your months- on the first day of the month- the New Moon.  Note that this is mentioned separately from the appointed feasts- this is an important distinction that is being made here.

Prior to the New Covenant, the Levitical priesthood with its sacrificial system was in place, and one of the places we can turn to in order to read about the sacrifices that God commanded is in Numbers.  Let’s turn to Numbers 28 to begin.  This chapter as well as the following chapter gives specific instructions as to what would be sacrificed on which days.  Let’s walk through these chapters to see what it says, and what is does not say.

1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Command the children of Israel, and say to them, 'My offering, My food for My offerings made by fire as a sweet aroma to Me, you shall be careful to offer to Me at their appointed time.'

Now we are given information as to what these appointed times will be as well as to how they are to observed.  First, there are the daily sacrifices, described in verses 3-8.  Then we see the instructions for the weekly Sabbath offerings in verses 9 and 10.  Now we come to the sacrifices for the beginning of the months- let’s go ahead and read them starting in verse 11:

11 'At the beginnings of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish; 12 'three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, for each bull; two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, for the one ram; 13 'and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with oil, as a grain offering for each lamb, as a burnt offering of sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. 14 'Their drink offering shall be half a hin of wine for a bull, one-third of a hin for a ram, and one-fourth of a hin for a lamb; this is the burnt offering for each month throughout the months of the year. 15 'Also one kid of the goats as a sin offering to the LORD shall be offered, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.

What we have, then, are specific instructions on what will be sacrificed for the burnt offering and the drink offering.  In addition, as we read in Numbers 10, the silver trumpets were to be blown to proclaim that day as the first day of the month, the New Moon.

The remainder of chapter 28 and chapter 29 details the sacrifices for the Holy Days.  Let’s quickly skim through them in order to understand a key difference between the Holy Days and the New Moons.  Let’s go first to verse 16:

 16 'On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the LORD. 17 'And on the fifteenth day of this month is the feast; unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days. 18 'On the first day you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.

25 'And on the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.

  26 'Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.

Let’s continue in Numbers 29:1

1 'And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.

  7 'On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work

12 'On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work, and you shall keep a feast to the LORD seven days.

 35 'On the eighth day you shall have a sacred assembly. You shall do no customary work.

Now let’s turn back to Numbers 28:11 where we have the instructions regarding the monthly sacrifices to be made on the New Moon.  There is no instruction here for holding a holy convocation or sacred assembly.  There is no instruction from God that you shall do no customary work on the day of the New Moon.  In addition, the New Moons are conspicuously absent from the list of the feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23, which includes the weekly Sabbath as a feast of the Lord.

We have now covered all of the specific instructions regarding the New Moons in Scripture- and what we are told is that the trumpets were to be blown, and that specific sacrifices were to be made by the Levite priests.  Everything associated with the observance of the New Moons beyond this is tradition—and there were traditions that grew up around the New Moons.

There was no question in the minds of ancient Israel that the New Moon was an important day, but it was also understood that it did not rise to the same level of importance as the weekly Sabbath or the annual Holy Days.  We have zero evidence that Jesus Christ or His apostles did anything special on the day of the New Moon or that they ever participated in any type of celebration on the New Moon.  In fact, we already read at the beginning of today’s message the ONLY scripture in the New Testament that references the New Moon in any way.  We will take a closer look at it a bit later to see exactly what it says and what it doesn’t say.

What were some of these traditions?  A tradition that we can infer from Scripture is that King Saul brought his royal court together during the New Moon period in ancient Israel.  Let’s turn to a passage in 1 Samuel 20 where the New Moon plays a pivotal part in the story.

At this time, David was distancing himself from Saul knowing that the king wanted to kill him- and we have an exchange between Jonathon, Saul’s son and David’s best friend, and David.  Let’s pick up in v.5:

5 And David said to Jonathan, "Indeed tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat. But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening.

There’s a lot here that we can infer:

First- David knows when the New Moon is ahead of time.  This indicates that by this time, Israel was not relying on observation but rather on calculation.  The Levitical priests would still make the official pronouncements, but when the New Moon would occur was known in advance.

Second – Saul apparently had a standing tradition of bringing his court together at the time of the New Moon, and part of that tradition was for the court to dine with the King.  Just as businesses and government leaders have regular staff meetings to review what is happening and to make plans and decisions, Saul would have much to talk about with his advisors.  Doing it at the beginning of the month makes a lot of sense since everyone would know exactly when it would be and they would all be able to adjust their schedules around it.

Third—There is some significance to David’s request to hide until the third day at evening.  What is this significance?  Keep your place here, because we will return to it shortly.

Now we read in Numbers 10:10 that “you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offering and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings.”

The key here is “peace offerings”.  We can read more about them by turning to Leviticus 7:15

15 'The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day it is offered. He shall not leave any of it until morning. 16 'But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offers his sacrifice; but on the next day the remainder of it also may be eaten; 17 'the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day must be burned with fire. 18 'And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, nor shall it be imputed to him; it shall be an abomination to him who offers it, and the person who eats of it shall bear guilt.  

What we can see here is that peace offerings that were a vow or a voluntary offering could be eaten on the day of the sacrifice as well as the next day, but anything that remains on the third day could not be eaten- it must be burned.  Let’s keep this in mind as we turn back to 1 Samuel 20 and continue in verse 24:

  24 Then David hid in the field. And when the New Moon had come, the king sat down to eat the feast. 25 Now the king sat on his seat, as at other times, on a seat by the wall. And Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul's side, but David's place was empty. 26 Nevertheless Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, "Something has happened to him; he is unclean, surely he is unclean." 27 And it happened the next day, the second day of the month, that David's place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, "Why has the son of Jesse not come to eat, either yesterday or today?"

Based on what we read about peace offerings in Leviticus 7, we see that this could fill in the blanks for us.  It appears that Saul may have had a personal tradition of making a voluntary peace offering at the New Moon and then used the meat from that offering in meals on both the first and second day when he brought his court together.  That would account for Saul asking Jonathon why David had not come to eat either yesterday, or today.  When Jonathon tells him that David had requested permission to be away at this time, Saul loses his cool knowing that his plot to kill David at dinner was going to fail.  Any food that was left over from the voluntary peace offering would be burned the next day and his chance to kill David in this manner was gone.

Now a question that we should ask is this—Does this passage command us to observe the New Moon by having a dinner like Saul did?  No, it does not.  Remember that what was likely being served at the feast was the voluntary peace offering.  Today, peace offerings…or any animal sacrifices, are not commanded, and even for Saul, it was a voluntary offering, if we are correct in our supposition - therefore there is no reason for us to hold a feast on the New Moons.  Another thing to consider- the fact that Saul was holding a special feast for his court at the time of the New Moon argues against its having the status of a Sabbath or Holy Day.  Why?  Because putting on a meal of that size would require the servants to work, something that would not be done if the day were a Sabbath!

Another tradition that was observed in ancient Israel was that the New Moon was a time when people sought instruction from the priests, and from prophets.  We can see this from a passage in 2 Kings 4.  It’s a quick reference, so there’s no need to turn there- I’ll just quote it:  A woman intends to ask Elisha to heal her dead son.  And we see in Verses 22-23:

. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, "Please send me one of the young men and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and come back." 23 So he said, "Why are you going to him today? It is neither the New Moon nor the Sabbath."

Notice that the New Moon and the Sabbath are mentioned separately here, just as they are differentiated in all other passages where the New Moon, Sabbath, and Holy Days are mentioned.

Another tradition was that unnecessary work was discouraged on the New Moon, and this is something that we have mention of in Scripture- let’s turn to Amos 8:5.  

"When will the New Moon be past, That we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, That we may trade wheat?

We must look very closely at a Scripture like this-  what does this say, and what does it not say, and what can we reasonably infer from it?  What we can deduce is this:  At the time of Amos, it was customary for the selling of grain to be prohibited on the New Moon.  We can be on reasonable footing to assume that this ban on selling grain extended to other marketplace goods.  Taken alone, one could argue that this passage is stating that the New Moon has the same status as a Sabbath, especially since the same ban on selling is in place here.  However, we have already seen by looking at numerous other Scriptures that this simply is not the case- we have no instructions from God commanding that we cease from customary work on the New Moon.  It leaves us with the conclusion that the strictures on commerce on the New Moon was a civil law, not a commandment of God- and in fact, by the time of Jesus Christ and the Apostles we have no record that these traditions were still being observed.

Do we have any indications that ancient Israel understood that the New Moons, although they were to be observed through sacrifices and the blowing of trumpets, did not rise to the level of the Sabbath or Holy Days?  Yes, we do!  We will look at two examples out of several to establish this.  Let’s look first at what King Solomon says in regard to temple worship- in 2 Chronicles 2:4

4 Behold, I am building a temple for the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to Him, to burn before Him sweet incense, for the continual showbread, for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, on the New Moons, and on the set feasts of the LORD our God.

Notice that the order in which these things are stated are the same order that is given in Numbers 28 and 29 that we looked at previously:  daily, weekly, monthly, and annual sacrifices.

If we turn back to 1 Chronicles 23 we will see in verses 30-31 that the priests are instructed to “stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at evening; and at every presentation of a burnt offering to the Lord on the Sabbaths and on the New Moons and on the set feasts”. 

Does the fact that God provided specific instructions regarding sacrifices on New Moons as well as the Sabbath and the set feasts mean that the New Moon should be regarded in the same manner as a Sabbath or Holy Day?  NO!  What we see in both of the passages that we have just read is that the subject is the sacrifices.  Although the New Moons are specially mentioned, these passages do not raise them to the status of Sabbaths and Holy days. Let’s turn back to Numbers 28 once again to make this point clear: 

1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Command the children of Israel, and say to them, 'My offering, My food for My offerings made by fire as a sweet aroma to Me, you shall be careful to offer to Me at their appointed time.' 3 "And you shall say to them, 'This is the offering made by fire which you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs in their first year without blemish, day by day, as a regular burnt offering. 4 'The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, the other lamb you shall offer in the evening,

Here we have instructions regarding DAILY sacrifices.  Does this mean that because there are sacrifices that every day is a Sabbath?  We know that’s ridiculous.  It illustrates, however, that arguing that the New Moon is equal to the weekly Sabbath or the annual Holy Days because it has a unique sacrifice associated with it is the same as arguing that every day is a Sabbath.  It simply does not hold up.

We have confirmation of observance of the New Moons continued through the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.  In the time of Nehemiah, a temple tax was created to support the service.  The New Moon is mentioned here, but just as in the previous passages, there is nothing there to state that it is raised to the level of the Sabbath or Holy Days.

Now, let’s move to one other section of Scripture:  Psalm 81 has been used by some to support the idea of the New Moon being observed as a monthly Sabbath.  Let’s take a look at it and see what it says and what it does not say.  Psalm 81:3-4

3 Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.
4 For this is a statute for Israel, A law of the God of Jacob.

First, we have the reference to blowing the trumpet at the time of the New Moon—no problem there.  We have already read that this is commanded in Numbers 10:10.  But this also has reference to a solemn feast day.  There’s also a reference to the FULL moon here as well!  How do we sort all of this out?

There is only one Holy Day that occurs on the day of the New Moon- and that is the Feast of Trumpets on the 1st day of the 7th month.  So we have a New Moon here with special significance as it coincides with an annual Holy Day!  This takes care of the reference to the New Moon and the solemn feast day. (Remember the New Moon, the first day of the month, the moon is not visible-it’s the darkest point of the month).  What about the full moon?  The full moon is on the 15th day of the lunar month.  What occurs on the 15th day of the 7th month?  The beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles!  The emphasis on the blowing of trumpets indicates the importance of the Feast of Trumpets as the beginning of the fall festival season.  We do not have any indication here beyond the recognition that the Feast of Trumpets falls each year on a New Moon just as God commanded in Leviticus 23.

At the beginning of the message, we read the only reference to the New Moon in the New Testament, found in Colossians 2:16- let’s go back and read this passage again:

“16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,”

What is the context of the passage?  Paul is addressing the issue of being judged in food or in drink while observing the Sabbaths and Holy Days.  This issue stems from ascetics in the church.

What in the world is an ascetic?!  By the time Colossians was written, Gnosticism in various forms was creeping into the church.  One of the forms was asceticism- and this is a belief that you are able to achieve greater spiritual strength, holiness, etc. by abstaining from the things of the flesh—to the extreme.  This is not something unique to Christianity- it is often found throughout other Eastern religions- Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.  Some of the characteristics include severe diet restrictions (the Buddha, according to legend, spent years eating a single grain of rice each day), abstaining from sexual contact, and would essentially make themselves as physically miserable as they possibly could thinking that it would make them stronger spiritually.

But remember that these ascetics were still members of the church, and thus still observed the same Sabbath and Holy Days-  what Paul is addressing is not, as traditional Christianity likes to believe and teach, the validity of the Sabbath and Holy Days, but rather the issue of the ascetics in the congregation and their tendency to judge people in the MANNER in which they observed the days, especially in terms of how food and drink were associated with them.  Now notice that Paul here uses a form that is very similar to the passages that we read in the Old Testament where the Sabbaths, the festivals, and the New Moons were separately referred to.  Paul is referring to three categories of days.  The reasonable conclusion to draw is that a festival is not exactly the same as a Sabbath, and that the New Moons is not the same as a Sabbath or a festival.  We see consistency between what Paul wrote and what the Old Testament scriptures state.  Just as there is nothing in the Old Testament to support the idea that the New Moon is a Sabbath or Holy Day, neither is there anything in this verse to do so.

In addition, there is actually nothing in this verse that states that church members observed the New Moon in a special way. 

But why the reference to the New Moon at all here?  We can only speculate, but we can make some reasonable deductions.  Remember the purpose of the New Moon?  It is to determine the first day of the month in order to determine the correct days to observe God’s annual Feast Days.  In many of the early churches of God, this was easy to do because of the large number of Jewish converts- but it was a different story in Colossae!  This was a church largely made up of Gentiles- Gentiles who were not familiar with the Hebrew calendar!  What calendar were they familiar with?  At that time, the civil calendar by which the Roman empire measured time was the Julian calendar, forerunner to the Gregorian calendar that we use today. 

There’s an interesting history behind our calendar.  Its roots go back to ancient Rome.  Ancient Roman writers claim that Romulus, one of the founders of Rome, developed a calendar of 10 months, with 61 days in the winter that floated.  The months were named for their position in the calendar, and that is where we get September, October, November, and December (7, 8, 9, and 10!).  There were several more versions of the calendar over the course of the next 700 or so years, and then Julius Caesar put a stop to the whole mess.

He declared a new calendar as a reform of the Roman calendar that had been in place in various forms up to that time.  The Julian calendar reforms were based upon a solar year of 365.25 days.  This is what we all learned in school, right?  So to correct for the ¼ day each year, it included an extra day every fourth year.  Problem solved, right?  Not quite- because the length of the solar year falls short of that ¼ day by 11 minutes!  For the short-term, no problem!  But let 1600 years go by, and you’ve got a problem.  Rather than having a fixed date, the Roman Catholic church calculates its celebration of Easter based on the vernal, or spring, equinox and the date moves around.  However, because of that 11 minutes year after year, even after you adjust with a leap year, Easter kept creeping back further and further in the calendar, coming earlier and earlier!  Without fixing this problem, eventually Easter would be on top of Christmas as the entire calendar shifted!  What we consider to be fall months, like October, would become spring months, summer months would become winter months, etc.  This had to be fixed!

Pope Gregory XIII, in 1582 issued a papal bull instituting a calendar reform, now known as the Gregorian calendar.  It contained revised leap year rules that correct for the 11 minute shortfall, and it also did something else—it skipped 10 days to make up for 1600 years of errors occurring from the Julian calendar!  Most of the Catholic European countries made this switch in 1582, but the British, owing to their anti-Catholic Protestantism, resisted the change until 1752.  When they made the change, Brits went to bed on September 2, and they woke up on September 14!  We think it’s confusing sometimes when we change time zones- imagine being eleven DAYS different from your neighbors!

 What all of this illustrates is this:   The calendar that man uses is artificial and arbitrary, and is not tied in any way to the lunar cycle.  Man’s calendar, in fact, seems to be designed to pull him away from God!  Consider that the New Moon can occur on any day of the month in the Gregorian calendar, but is always the FIRST day of the month in the Hebrew Calendar.  God defines a day as being from sunset to sunset- something that is easily observed, while man chooses to define a day from midnight to midnight, something that again, is quite arbitrary.  And the Hebrew calendar, being a lunar calendar, is 364 days in length vs. the 365 ¼ for the Gregorian, so it is impossible to correctly calculate when God’s Holy Days occur by using the Gregorian calendar!

This was the challenge that faced the church members in Colassae- Because they were Gentiles accustomed to using the Julian calendar that was completely arbitrary in determining months, they had to observe the New Moons in order to determine the correct days to observe God’s Holy Days because they simply could not do it using the Julian calendar that they used in their daily lives.

Let’s sum up what we’ve learned today and come to our conclusion:

  1. The New Moon is the first day of the month in the Hebrew Calendar
  2. God does not give specific instructions in how to calculate the New Moon.  He left it to man to figure this one out, and the method that has been in use for thousands of years is the method used to calculate the molad, the time roughly in the middle of the period when the moon cannot be seen.  Since we don’t have any Scriptures stating that this is incorrect, we can assume that man got that one right.
  3. There are only two passages in the Old Testament that give explicit instructions regarding the New Moons.  Numbers 10:10 tells us that the trumpets were to be blown on that day, and Numbers 28:11-15 describes the sacrifices that were to be made on that day
  4. Through Scriptural references we can deduce that man-made traditions surrounded the New Moon.  It was a day when people would visit the priests and prophets, when King Saul would convene his royal court, and when customary work was discouraged.  None of these traditions have Scriptural support as being commanded by God
  5. Old Testament references to New Moons clearly differentiate between the New Moons, Sabbaths, and Holy Days and do not in any way support the idea that the New Moons are equal to Sabbaths or Holy Days.
  6. The single New Testament reference to New Moons in Colossians 2:16 is focused on addressing the ascetic element of the church, not on the keeping of the Sabbath, New Moons, or Feasts.  In addition, Paul uses the same structure as we find in the Old Testament where they are listed separately, again supporting the idea that the Sabbath is different from the New Moon or the Feasts, and the New Moons are different from the Sabbath or the Feasts, etc.
  7. As the writer of Hebrews makes crystal clear, the Levitical priesthood is obsolete as are the animal sacrifices they administered.  Since the instructions regarding the observation of the New Moons pertain to the sacrifices and the blowing of trumpets, both duties of the Levitical priesthood, we come to the conclusion that these observations of the New Moon are no longer in force. 

When we sum it all up, our final conclusion is this:  The United Church of God is eager to observe the institutions commanded by God in Scripture.  However, we do not have any command to observe the New Moons and we also take to heart the warning that God gave to ancient Israel in Deuteronomy 12:32 which states:

“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it or take away from it”

No man can declare a day holy nor can a man make a day unholy that God has made holy.  Therefore, the New Moon cannot be a Holy Day, since we have no explicit statement from God declaring it to be such.  There is no command for worship or assembly on these days.  We cannot find support in the Scriptures for declaring the New Moon a Holy Day or a Sabbath day with any special ceremony.