Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Philo the Jew and the Lunar Sabbath
The evidence in this article reveals that Philo's beliefs were representative of those of Judaism during that period of time. The fact that Philo observed the Lunar Sabbaths proves that all the other Jewish sects and groups did the same -- including the Messiah and the early Christians!
by Arnold Bowen
Following is an eyewitness account as to how the Messiah and the “Jews” of HIS DAY kept the weeks and "7th" day of the week -- and it is NOT the way that Judaism and the Sabbatarian churches of today keep them. This article will actually show the Messiah and all the Jewish groups of his day keeping the Lunar Sabbaths.
It is ironic that most Jews and "Christians" accept the scripture where it says that the Israelites would forget YEHOVAH's Name for Baal/lord, but won’t accept where the scripture says that YEHOVAH God would destroy their Sanctuary (Temple) and cause His Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion (Lamentations 2:6.)
Yes -- YEHOVAH's true Name AND Sabbaths were both forgotten and are now being restored to those that are willing to listen.
Why Are the Writings of Philo the Jew So Important?
In the quest for historical evidence as it relates to this subject (Lunar Sabbaths), we have noticed that Philo is not often mentioned by those who support the traditional Saturday Sabbaths. The writings of Philo are VERY IMPORTANT for establishing Jewish practice and belief -- both before and during the Messiah’s time here on earth. Philo lived from approximately 20 BCE until about 50 CE. Thus, his lifetime spanned not only the years prior to the Messiah’s birth, but also the years following his resurrection (not to mention the years in between).
The evidence reveals that Philo’s beliefs were representative of those of Judaism during that period of time. Philo, who was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of more than 100,000 Jews living in that city. When the Roman prefect Flaccus initiated a massacre of the Jews in the year 39 CE, Philo was selected to head the Jewish delegation that went to to plead their case before Gaius Caligula at Rome.
Now pause for a moment and reflect on the significance of Philo having been chosen from among his peers for such a monumental task. Would Philo have been chosen for such a mission if his practice and beliefs had not squared with those of normative Judaism?
Absolutely not! He would not have been chosen unless his views matched those of his peers. We know from Philo’s writings that he observed Lunar Sabbaths. If normative Judaism had practiced "Saturday" Sabbaths while Philo rebelliously observed Lunar weeks and Sabbaths, would this detail have affected their decision to select him to lead a delegation to Rome?
Absolutely. Sabbath observance is one of the most distinguishing marks of Judaism, or as author Dayan Grunfeld put it, the Sabbath "epitomizes the whole of Judaism."
For Philo to have gone against the grain of Judaism with regard to Sabbath observance would have signaled a break with Judaism. We can thus discern that if Philo observed the lunar weeks and Sabbath by the phases of the moon each week, so did the rest of his fellow Jews -- including the Messiah -- because there was NO controversy between the Messiah and the Jews concerning the weekly Sabbath. Many scriptures prove that he kept the SAME weekly Sabbath day as they did.
We believe Philo did a good job of explaining how the weeks are connected to the moon, which are covered in his book.
We also feel that a major blow has been struck to Saturday-Sabbatarian theology since Philo left out of his writings anything pertaining to Saturday Sabbaths.
Not once did Philo mention another week other than the lunar cycle in determining the Sabbath day. In fact, the words "Saturday" or "Saturn’s day" aren't even mentioned once in Philo’s entire work. This is significant since elsewhere in his writings he devotes much space to discussing the cycle of the moon and the number 7. In fact, the day of the New Moon is listed as one of the major Feasts and was NOT counted when counting out the four Lunar Weeks each month -- and he never counted the New Moon when counting the 28 days of the four weeks or four Sabbaths each month/moon.
We find it to be very interesting that Philo mentioned the moon and its phases of waxing and waning in his commentary regarding the Sabbath. In his writings, Philo distinguishes New Moon observance as a separate Feast from the weekly Sabbath, and that is why he never includes the New Moon in counting out the weeks.
So study Philo very carefully and prayerfully because he was an EYE WITNESS of how things were done by the Jews during the Messiah's day -- including when a week begins and ends. We should not ignore the testimony of eye witnesses when searching for the truth on how something was done. Here are a few of the many proofs of how the Jews in the Messiah's day understood weeks and Sabbaths.
In order to have a Lunar Sabbath, you must have a Lunar Week! Did Philo link the Sabbath or the week with the phases of the moon or not? The answer is YES! In fact, the Lunar Week and Lunar Sabbath is the ONLY week or Sabbath mentioned in Philo’s writings. Let us, therefore, begin with his writings:
Notice what Philo says:
"For it is said in the Scripture: On the tenth day of this month let each of them take a sheep according to his house; in order that from the tenth, there may be consecrated to the tenth, that is to God, the sacrifices which have been preserved in the soul, which is illuminated in two portions out of the three, until it is entirely changed in every part, and becomes a heavenly brilliancy like a full moon, at the height of its increase at the end of the second week…" (The Works of Philo, translated by C. D. Yonge. Hendrickson Publishers 2004. "On Mating With the Preliminary Studies," XIX (106), p. 313).
Now let what Philo just said sink in. His readers and fellow Jews of that era (or in those days) understood that the weeks were determined by the moon, and that at the end of the second week there would be a Full Moon.
This statement needs no interpretation. The people of Judea and the Dispersion understood that the weeks were determined by the moon -- just like the Jews in the Scriptures did. If this is so then the sacred seventh day of the week -- which comes at the end of the second week -- must be a Full Moon Sabbath (Psalms 81:3-6). Why? Because in many places of his works Philo speaks of the weekly seventh day, and we all know that the seventh day comes at the end of the week. People would like for us to believe that the months were originally by the moon but the weeks were not!
Philo was making an observation of how a person can be spiritually illuminated to a full brilliance just like a Full Moon at the height of its increase at the END of the second week.
Philo did not count the New Moon when counting out the weeks as the Gregorian Calendar solar calendar does today. This statement is very easily proven from the writings of Philo because he states in other places throughout his book that the Full Moon is on the 15th each month. He also separates the New Moon as a SEPARATE Feast Day from the weeks. Instead people today count the New Moon day in counting their weeks -- but it is obvious from Philo that he DID NOT count the New Moon day when counting out the weeks. This is because at the end of the second week the Full Moon would be on the 14th instead of the 15th -- as Philo plainly declares many times.
In other words, you have your New Moon worship day, then six workdays and then the weekly Sabbath on the 8th day of the moon (Ezekiel 46:1). You then have six more workdays and a Full Moon on day 15 -- or at the end of the second week or second seven, i.e. at the end of 14 days after the New Moon worship day.
This proves the New Moon was NOT counted in counting out the weeks -- just as YEHOVAH God did NOT count it in Exodus 16 when He made the Sabbath known to Moses and the Children of Israel. If the New Moon was ever included in counting out the weeks in Scripture, there would be pinpointed weekly Sabbaths on the 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th etc. However, you cannot find these days pinpointed anywhere in Scripture because these days are always Preparation Days for the weekly Sabbath. When Philo spoke of the 10th or 15th day of the month, he was counting the New Moon day in his count, but it is an absolute that when he counted out the week, he DID NOT count the New Moon -- which in itself proves Lunar Weeks. Remember, Philo is just stating how things were done in his day.
Continuing on with Philo:
”But to the seventh day of the week He has assigned [the beginning of] the greatest festivals, those of the longest duration [Unleavened Bread and Succoth or Tabernacles], at the periods of the equinox both vernal and autumnal and autumnal in each year; appointing two festivals for these two epochs, each lasting seven days; the one which takes place in the spring [Nisan] being for the perfection of what is being sown, and the one which falls in autumn [Tishri] being a feast of thanksgiving for the bringing home of all the fruits which the trees have produced" (ibid., "The Decalogue" XXX (161), p. 532).
Let’s look very carefully at what Philo is saying. "But to the seventh day of the week He [YEHOVAH God] has assigned the greatest festivals" -- in other words the greatest (longest) festivals have been assigned to the seventh day of the week, and we know from scripture that the 15th begins BOTH of these Festivals and lasts for seven days. Philo just calls it the 7th day of the week. We know BOTH of these seven-day Feasts begin on the 15th (Sabbath). Each of them lasts for seven days, and each one of these 7 day events were assigned to the seventh day of the week (15th) or the weekly Sabbath which begins the Feast and it lasts seven days.
Philo goes on to say that each month (Nisan and Tishri) should receive an especial honor of ONE sacred day of festival, for the purpose of refreshing and clearing the mind with its holiday.
Notice that he did not say they would receive two holydays of festivals, but ONE -- the 15th. To prove the seventh day of the week is the same as the 15th, Philo elsewhere states,
"Again the beginning of this feast is appointed for the fifteenth day of the month [or seventh day of the week] on account of the reason which has already been mentioned respecting the Spring season...And after the festival has lasted seven days, He adds an eighth as a seal, calling it a kind of crowning feast..." (The Works of Philo. "The Special Laws, II," XXXIII (210, 211), p. 588).
In other words, Philo is saying the weekly Sabbath begins these feasts, and is on the 15th. This proves that the Sabbaths were determined by the Lunar Calendar because there is NO WAY the weekly Sabbath (15th) can begin these two festivals on the 15th in the 1st and 7th month [Nisan and Tishri] each year, on a continuous seven day cycle by the solar calendar of today.
Let’s continue. F. H. Colson’s translation of "The Decalogue" XXX (159) reads,
”The fourth, which treats of the seventh day, must be regarded as nothing less than a gathering under one head of the feasts and the purifications ordained for each feasts, the proper lustrations and the acceptable prayers and flawless sacrifices with which the ritual was carried out. By the seventh I mean both the seventh which includes the most creative of numbers, six, and that which does not include it but takes precedence of it and resembles the unit. Both these are employed by Him in reckoning the feast-times” (Colson’s translation of Philo).
What can be plainer than that? Let's analyze it. "The fourth, which treats of the seventh day, must be regarded as nothing less than a gathering under one head of the feasts." How can the weekly Sabbath day be regarded as a gathering under one head of the feasts unless it heads these feast i.e. begins them each year? This also proves Lunar Sabbaths.
Philo continues by saying,
“by the seventh I mean both the seventh which includes the most creative of numbers, six, and that which does not include it but takes precedence of it and resembles the unit."
The word "precedence" means it comes before the number six during the feasts, i.e., one of the sevenths comes before the number six during the 7 day feast and the other seventh comes after it and is combined with it. This is impossible if he used the count for the Sabbath as the people of today do.
The word "precedence" also has a footnote that has the actual Greek word and states, "the verb, derived from the adverb…seem to be used as a thing which gets in front of something else and obscures it so here the idea may be that the unit or monad does not need six to make it equivalent to seven" (Spec. Leg. Iv.52).
This seventh is the weekly seventh and is in front of the six days during the feasts because to the weekly seventh day he has assigned these feasts. The footnote that says "…here the idea may be that the unit or monad does not need six to make it equivalent to seven…" This is because this single unit or monad does not need six to make it equivalent to seven because it is a seventh and both Yonge's and Colson’s translation says it is made to resemble the unit/first or number one.
Last but not least it says, "Both” these are "employed" by YEHOVAH God in reckoning the "feast-times." You cannot reckon feast-times with a seventh that jumps around during the 7 day feast, on a man-made calendar. Both the sevens have to be fixed -- not just the one that is on the 21st or last day of the feast because He employed both sevens in reckoning the feast-times. If one of the sevenths could move it would also fall on the 21st at times and would also be combined with the number six and then there would be only one seventh.
To close we will highlight the facts from Philo's work, found in both the Yonge and Colson translations:
FACT #1: Both translations state that the Full Moon is at the end of the second week. It has been argued that the weeks have nothing to do with the moon.
FACT #2: They both state that the Full Moon is on the 15th.
FACT #3: They both teach that the 15th begins both of the 7-day feasts/festivals each year [Unleavened Bread and Succoth/Tabernacles], which is the same 15th/Full Moon that is at the end of the second week. (This is impossible with the Roman calendar).
The question is, could this same 15th be the weekly seventh day that the festivals are assigned to? YEHOVAH God says both of these festivals have been assigned to the seventh day of the week. Yes -- it is the 15th that is at the end of the second week and it is the 7th day of the lunar week and the same seventh day that begins theses feasts. They were keeping Lunar Weeks. Let’s examine fact number four and see.
FACT #4: Both translations conclusively teach that there are two sevenths in each of these festivals -- and both are connected in some way with the number six.
When Philo states that there are two sevenths in both the Festival of Unleavened Bread and the Festival of Booths/Tabernacles is he somehow missing the point that Saturday Sabbatarians would bring up today -- that there is a third seventh that will hit in between the 15th and the 21st the majority of years that the feasts come around? Why does Philo not mention this third seventh? It is because none exists. Philo only mention TWO SEVENTHS in relation to the Feast -- and the FIRST of these two sevenths is none other than the weekly seventh-day Sabbath that leads the feasts and is considered the first day of the feast -- the 15th!
Does Philo speak about the Sabbaths in connection with the waxing and waning of the moon? He certainly does!
On page 17 of Ralph Marcus' translation of Philo’s work entitled “Questions and Answers, Exodus, Book 1” it says,
“9. (Ex. xii. 6a) Why does He command (them) to keep the sacrifice until the fourteenth (day of the month)? (Consisting of) two Sabbaths, it has in its nature a (special) honour because in this time the moon is adorned. For when it has become full on the fourteenth (day), it becomes full of light in the perception of the people. And again through (another) fourteen (days) it recedes from its fullness of light to its conjunction, and it wanes as much in comparison with the preceding Sabbath as the second (waxes) in comparison with the first. For this reason the fourteenth (day) is pre-festive, as though (it were) a road leading to festive rejoicings, during which it is incumbent upon us to meditate”.
In conclusion we would like to present several passages from Flavius Josephus:
"Moreover, they [the Essenes] ARE STRICTER THAN ANY OTHER OF THE JEWS IN RESTING FROM THEIR LABORS ON THE SEVENTH DAY; for they not only get their food ready the day before [the Preparation Day], that they may not be obligated to kindle a fire on that day, but they will not remove any vessel out of its place, nor go to stool thereon" (The Complete Works of Josephus, "Wars of the Jews", chapter VIII. 9).
Now, if the Essenes were keeping a different day for the Sabbath, Josephus would certainly have made note of it here. Instead he ADMIRES them for being stricter in the way they keep keep the Sabbath -- "And as for their piety towards God, it is very extraordinary..." (chapter VIII. 5).
Further on, in the "Wars of the Jews," we find evidence of the Sabbath falling on the 8th of Elul which clearly indicates that the Jews, during the time of the conflict with Rome (66-70 A.D.) were keeping Lunar Weeks and Sabbaths. Notice!
"But Manahem and his party fell upon the place whence the soldiers were fled, and slew as many of them as they could catch before they got up to the towers...and set fire to the camp. This was executed on THE SIXTH DAY OF THE MONTH GORPIEUS [Elul]. But on the NEXT DAY [7th of Elul] the high priest was caught where he had concealed himself in an aqueduct; he was slain, together with Hezekiah his brother, by the robbers....And thus were all these men barbarously murdered, excepting Metilius; for when he entreated for mercy, and promised he would turn Jew, and be circumcised, they saved him alive, but none else. This loss to the Romans was but slight, there being no more than a few slain out of an immense army; but it still appeared to be a prelude to the Jews' own destruction...it so happened that this murder WAS PERPETRATED ON THE SABBATH DAY [8th of Elul], on which day the Jews have a respite from their works on account of divine worship" (chapter XVII. 8, 9 and 10).
-- Edited by John D. Keyser.
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Proclaiming the Good News of the Soon-Coming Kingdom of YEHOVAH God Here On This Earth!
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