A new movement marking the growing ways many Christians are moving closer to their Biblical roots is calling for Christians to switch from the Gregorian calendar to the Hebrew calendar. But though such a move could bring the two Abrahamic religions closer, it may be a source of further conflict. The current year is an expression of when the Messiah is expected to arrive, and when (or whether) he already came – questions the religions have been arguing over for millennia.
Pastor Mark Biltz is an outspoken advocate for Christians to change from the Gregorian calendar to the Hebrew calendar used by the Jews, and wrote a bestselling book on the subject. His El Shaddai Ministries has 40,000 followers and its website receives millions of hits from over 40 nations around the world every year. His original interest in the Hebrew calendar came from a fascination with the Biblical festivals, but this led to a difficulty with the Christian interpretation.
“Every month has special significance. The problem is most Christians are plucking at planting time and planting at plucking time because they don’t know what day it is,” Pastor Biltz told Breaking Israel News, giving a practical example of this confusion.
“Passover is when Jesus died and Easter is when he was resurrected. Last year, Easter came one month before Passover. How can you celebrate the resurrection before the death?”
He gives a powerful reason for using the Hebrew calendar. “It is God’s calendar and not man’s,” stated Pastor Biltz, basing this on a Biblical verse.
And God said: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.” Genesis 1:14
He understands this as the source for the Hebrew calendar being lunisolar, a blend of lunar and solar. The Hebrew month begins with the sighting of the new moon. An extra month is added seven times in a 19-year cycle, ensuring that the holidays remain in their proper seasons.
Changing to a Hebrew calendar is not a simple matter. From the start of the year (Rosh Hashana rather than January 1) to the start of the day, the calendars are supremely different. Jews begin their day at sunset, based on the verse in Genesis, causing days to be offset.
And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Genesis 1:5
Even the weeks of the calendar are different. The Jewish week is focused on the Sabbath, which begins Friday evening and lasts until Saturday evening. The Christians have their Sabbath on Sunday. In the modern business world, this means that the Israeli work week begins on Sunday, usually with a truncated Friday, while the rest of the world begins their work week on Monday morning.
The years are also divided according to different reference points. Christian years are ordered in base ten, packaged as decades and centuries, while the Jews in the land of Israel measure the passage of the years in base seven, with seven shmittah (sabbatical) years adding up to one jubilee every 50 years.
The Gregorian calendar is a product of the Catholic Church. Established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 by papal decree and used by most Western countries, it is a solar calendar of 365 days, with one day added every fourth year. This ensures that the months correspond to specific seasons. There is no correlation between the date and the phases of the moon.
The calendar year is an even deeper conflict. The Gregorian calendar begins in the year of Jesus’s birth, whereas Jewish calendar is counted from the year of Creation, though it is not understood as literal by most Jews, who interpret the first days of creation as lasting for potentially millions of years.
In an article comparing the Hebrew and Christian calendars, Dr. David Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries noted an implication for the Hebrew date, 5776, relevant for both Christians and Jews: the arrival of the Messiah. The Jewish sages taught that the latest possible date for the Messiah to come was at the end of the year 6000, based on the six days of creation followed by the Sabbath. This concept, originally adopted in Christian Apocrypha, faded due to Roman Catholic amillennial teachings, but Dr Reagan cited a recent resurgence.
“The turning point came with World War I. It destroyed the concept of postmillennialism which most Protestants had adopted,” explained Dr. Reagan.
Postmillennialism is the belief that Jesus’s second coming will be after a Golden Age in which Christian ethics prosper, as opposed to premillennialism which places the second coming before this prophesied Golden Age.
But Pastor Biltz gave an additional, simpler reason for following the Hebrew Calendar: “5777, next year, is very auspicious for the Messiah, so that’s the year I go by.”