Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Counting in the Hebrew Idiom
In order to clearly understand the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah, and the events that occurred during the last week he spent on planet earth, we need to know how to correctly count the events that forged this momentous time in history. If we try to pinpoint these events according to the method of counting we use today, we arrive at nothing but error and mass confusion. The KEY to eradicating this error and confusion lies in the way the 1st-century Jews counted time, and the fact that their system of arithmetic knew nothing of the number "0"!
by Jim Sorenson and John D. Keyser
In 1 Corinthians 5:7 we read:
Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
In this passage we clearly see that Yeshua the Messiah is the Passover. Now, what exactly does this passage mean? It means that in the process of becoming that final and perfect Passover, every rule, every law that YEHOVAH God gave in respect to the Passover Lamb -- from its selection to its death -- was obeyed by Yeshua the Messiah to the very letter of the law.
But before we can comprehend this, and the chronology involved, we need to clearly understand the Old Testament scriptures concerned with the Passover lamb. And, most importantly, we also need to understand how to count as THOSE WHO WROTE THE BIBLE counted. We need to go back to our Hebrew roots, if you please. While most Americans would count six days before the Passover as Nisan 8, a 1st-century Jew would have counted six days before Passover as Nisan 9. To understand HOW to count as the authors of the Bible counted, let's look at the way a child's age is counted -- in both American and Hebrew idiom.
Counting in Hebrew and Western Idiom
In America (read Western) culture a child is not considered to be one year old until he has reached his first birthday. But in reality, that child is in his FIRST YEAR from his birth up to his first birthday. He is then in his second year immediately following his first birthday. The term " a son of one year" in the Hebrew language is used to describe a child from birth to his first birthday. In other words, a child "one year old" by American or Western idiom is "a son of TWO years" in the Hebrew idiom. Therefore, in Hebrew thought, a person is not in his 30th year following his 30th birthday, but rather he would be in his 30th year following his 29th birthday! Consequently, he would be in his 31st year following his 30th birthday. This is EXACTLY how the term "a son of (XX) years" in Hebrew is used in the Bible.
Using another example, the Bible tells us that the Israelites were to circumcise their sons on the eighth day after birth -- see Genesis 17:12. Most Westerners would calculate this as follows: Let's say a child was born on the Sabbath -- eight days later is the day following the next Sabbath (i.e. the first day of the week), is it not? NO, IT IS NOT -- not in the Hebrew mind! So just how are those eight days to be counted? The fact is, it doesn't matter if the child was born five minutes into the Sabbath or five minutes before the Sabbath is about to end --
|That Sabbath --------------------------------------------||is the 1st day|
|The 1st Day of the Week -----------------------------||is the 2nd day|
|The 2nd Day of the Week ----------------------------||is the 3rd day|
|The 3rd Day of the Week -----------------------------||is the 4th day|
|The 4th Day of the Week -----------------------------||is the 5th day|
|The 5th Day of the Week -----------------------------||is the 6th day|
|The 6th Day of the Week (Preparation Day) -----||is the 7th day, and|
|The 8th day is the following Sabbath.|
If the child is born on the Sabbath, that child will be circumcised on the NEXT SABBATH -- NOT on the first day of the week following that second Sabbath!
Now when the modern Olympic Games were established they were (and still are) played every four years because this is the way they were played in the ancient world. But Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian and priest, tells us that they were played every 5th year (Ant. 16:5:1)! Why? Josephus was not ignorant, and this is not an error in his book. Since 4 Olympic years overlap 5 Hebrew years, Josephus was simply using normal Hebrew idiom to count time. The Olympic and the Hebrew year do not exactly correspond. The Olympic year overlaps 2 Hebrew years, therefore 4 Olympic years fall during 5 Hebrew years, and by Hebrew idiom the Olympic games are played every 5 years in the Hebrew calendar.
The ability to properly count in Hebrew idiom is AN ABSOLUTE PREREQUISITE for solving many problems in chronology and in doctrine. It is a BASIC requirement before we can even know how to properly count Pentecost, or the Jubilee year -- or 6 days before Passover. Many misunderstandings about scripture, doctrine and chronology would never have occurred if ministers and church leaders knew how to PROPERLY count as the authors of the Bible counted, instead of forcing the interpretation of YEHOVAH God's Word by the use of modern arithmetic and modern Western idiom.
For those of us in our modern Western world culture, using our system of arithmetic is almost instinctual. We are taught this system in the very early years of our education and it has become automatic when we use numbers to simply add or subtract to get the answer to most arithmetic problems.
Our mathematical system has a number which represents nothing -- i.e. the number "0". This number "0" is critical to make our system of arithmetic work, both in holding the "0" place before the number "1" and creating the decimal number system where the number "1" coupled with a "0" creates the number 10, etc.
Strange as it may seem to those of us in the modern world, the ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin (Roman) civilizations did not have the number "0" in their numbering systems. They did NOT, they could NOT use the mathematical system -- that we have come to use so automatically -- with their numbers. They did not know how to do arithmetic the way we do, nor could their numbers allow them to do our kind of arithmetic.
The fact that the ancient world in general did not use the number system which included the number "0" can be proven by the following observations --
1) There is no year "0" between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D. Evidently, there was no number "0" in the system of arithmetic that was used by the Catholic monk who invented the A.D. - B.C. dating system.
2) The Abacus, the ancient counting machine still commonly used in the Orient, does not have a ball to represent the number "0".
If you are familiar with a simple Abacus you will note that it is a pure counting machine. It has a number of balls that represent 1 each and some that represent 10 each. As you count, a ball is moved from one side of the machine to the other, and when you want to count from 9 to 10 the 9 balls which have been moved from one side to the other are moved back to where they started from and a ball representing 10 is moved to its opposite side. There is NO BALL that represents the number "0". Nine balls representing 10 each will allow a count to 99, and at this point one could have 9 balls representing 100 each and continue the count to 999, etc.
"Meta" and "Pro"
Let's now look at two Greek words which must be clearly understood before we can correctly determine the chronology of the last week before Yeshua the Messiah was crucified and resurrected. Turning to Matthew 26:2 we read --
You know that AFTER [meta] two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.
Also, in mark 14:1:
AFTER [meta] two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
In the Jewish method of counting, Nisan 13 is the day specified by the term "after two days is the passover." This may seem strange because it makes the 14th of Nisan the first day before the Passover -- the day we are told in the book of Exodus IS the day of the Passover! How can we make any sense out of this apparent contradiction? To answer this question we must first understand that the New Testament was written in Greek by first-century Jews and NOT in English by 21st-century Westerners! And we must also understand that the language of the New Testament gospels is Greek -- but THE THINKING is Hebrew -- and all the dialogue being quoted was also originally spoken in Hebrew or Aramaic.
The word translated "after" in Matthew 26:2 and Mark 14:1 is the Greek word "Meta." It is absoluteley essential to realize that this word does not have the exact same meaning in Greek as the word "after" has in English. "Meta" (Strong's #3326) can mean "after" under certain conditions, but it can also mean "with" or "into the midst of" with other conditions. "After two days is the Passover" with the concept of "into the midst of" does indeed bring us from the 13th of Nisan to the 14th of Nisan. This is completely in accordance with Hebrew thought and idiom -- i.e. inclusive counting.
If we go now to John 12:1 the following statement is made:
Then, six days BEFORE [pro] the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany...
The word translated "before" in John 12:1 is the Greek word "pro" (Strong's #4253). This word has almost exactly the same meaning as "before" in English. When used as it is in John 12:1, the difference is only in the way of counting. In light of what we already know about the Hebrew way of counting, "pro" constantly takes on an inclusive nature similar to the word translated "after".
In both Matthew and Mark, counting of days before the Passover is by the normal Jewish method -- i.e., the count begins with or using the day of the Passover (the 14th of Nisan) as day one. Two days before the Passover is the 13th of Nisan and six days before the Passover is the 9th of Nisan.
Hebrew idiom simply would NOT use the term "one day before the Passover" in referring to the day of the Passover, but would always use the idiom "two days before the Passover" for the 13th day of Nisan -- the day before the Passover day.
Therefore, the 10th day of Nisan is 5 days before Passover. When this principle is clearly understood, chronology in general and the flow of events up to Christ's crucifixion and resurrection can be CORRECTLY determined.
The Selection of the Passover Lamb
In the book of John (12:1-2) we are told that Yeshua came to Bethany SIX DAYS before the Passover and they made him a supper. Almost all Westerners would calculate six days before the Passover as Nisan 8 (Nisan 14 - 6 days = Nisan 8). But this IS NOT CORRECT -- in fact, it is not even counting! Why? Because adding and subtracting is not counting and, as we have already seen, modern arithmetic CANNOT be used with either Hebrew, Greek or Latin numbers. They did not have the number "0" in their numbering systems.
The count would be as follows in proper Hebrew idiom:
|Nisan 14||1st day||Nisan 11||4th day|
|Nisan 13||2nd day||Nisan 10||5th day|
|Nisan 12||3rd day||Nisan 9||6th day|
Now let's prove this from scripture!
Yeshua the Messiah is the Passover Lamb, therefore he had to fulfill ALL the instructions pertaining to the Passover lamb as given to Israel. For example: He was born in Bethlehem because that is where the Passover lambs were born and raised. The shepherds that visited him were probably Levite priests who had the responsibility of raising the Passover lambs. Yeshua had to be selected as the Passover Lamb on the 10th day of Nisan and sacrificed exactly as YEHOVAH God commanded "between the two evenings" on the 14th day of Nisan -- see Exodus 12:3, 6. The simple fact is that if that selection occurred on the 9th day or the 8th day -- or if he was sacrificed on the day after YEHOVAH's instruction or at any other time -- he was NOT the Passover Lamb! It's that simple! So WHEN did the selection of Yeshua as the Passover Lamb occur? The account of this selection is given in the book of John --
six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany....There they made Him a supper....The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast....took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!" Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written...
This glorifying of Yeshua occurred on the DAY AFTER he came to Bethany, and therefore 5 days before Passover. This act by the people -- along with the anointing after supper the previous evening -- are the only accounts in the New Testament that occurred on the six days before Passover and that can fulfill the Biblical requirements of selecting Yeshua as the Passover Lamb. Therefore, they must have occurred on THE 10TH DAY OF NISAN. Remember, a day in Hebrew culture is reckoned from sundown to sundown. But now let's back up to verse 2 --
There they made Him a supper....Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair....Then Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial." -- John 12:2-7.
Yeshua came to Bethany on the sixth day before Passover, then during, or just after supper, he was anointed for his burial. Since supper is usually at the end of the day, this anointing must have occurred after sundown, and ON THE 10TH OF NISAN. YESHUA WAS BEING ANOINTED (SELECTED) AS THE PASSOVER LAMB, for the Passover lamb was to be killed 5 days later on the 14th of Nisan. (Remember, this would be 5 days counting as the Bible counts in Hebrew idiom -- 4 days using modern Western idiom).
This next day, after he came to Bethany, was the daylight portion of the 10th day of Nisan. (Every day is accounted for in scripture from his arrival in Bethany to his resurrection and presentation to YEHOVAH God the Father as the Wavesheaf offering, and there is simply NOTHING ELSE in the Bible -- other than this -- which reveals or indicates to us his selection as the Passover Lamb). The account of these two days in scripture is very revealing because
1) We can verify the correct way to count.
2) We can prove that those teaching that the Biblical day begins at sunrise are teaching nonsense. (The evening following the supper on that 6th day before Passover was NOT the 9th of Nisan -- it had to be Nisan 10, or Yeshua was anointed on the wrong day).
3) The next thing we can prove is that the crucifixion could not have occurred in the middle of the week.
4) The explanation given by some ministries (especially the Churches of YEHOVAH God) for Daniel 9:27 "that Christ was cut off in the midst of the week" cannot be correct.
If Nisan 14, the day of Yeshua's crucifixion, was in the middle of the week (4th day of the week as the Jews counted) then Nisan 10 would have been on a Sabbath!
Count it for yourself -- but remember to count it as a 1st century Jew would have counted it, and not as a 21st-century Westerner would figure it:
Jewish Idiom Based on
American Idiom Based on
|4th Day of the Week
(Middle of the Week)
|Nisan 14||1st Day||Day "0"||14 Nisan|
|3rd Day of the Week||Nisan 13||2nd Day||Day "1"|
|2nd Day of the Week||Nisan 12||3rd Day||Day "2"|
|1st Day of the Week||Nisan 11||4th Day||Day "3"||- 4 days|
|Sabbath||Nisan 10||5th Day||Day "4"||10 Nisan|
The walk from Bethany to the Mount of Olives is over 1 1/2 miles. Now when Yeshua arrived at the Mount of Olives he mounted a colt of a donkey and rode into Jerusalem -- see John 12:12. If this occurred on the Sabbath day, he directly violated the law as spelled out in Exodus 23:12 and Deuteronomy 5:14. If Yeshua the Messiah walked from Bethany to the Mount of Olives on the Sabbath day, then rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on the Sabbath day, the crowds who met him with "Hosannah" and palm branches would have instead met him with rocks! And at his trial a few days later -- when the priests brought false charges against him -- this surely would have been an issue. He probably would have been found guilty on that charge alone.
Also, notice what Nehemiah 13:15-19 says --
In those days I saw in Judah some people treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions. Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, "what evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath." So it was, at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, that I commanded the GATES TO BE SHUT, and charged that they must not be opened till after the Sabbath. Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, so that no burdens would be brought in on the Sabbath day.
Since the custom of closing the city gates on the Sabbath was continued down to the Messiah's day, there is absolutely no way he could have rode into Jerusalem on a colt and received the adoration of the crowds.
The Road to Emmaus
Even the time from the crucifixion to the walk on the road to Emmaus -- when properly counted as a Hebrew did -- proves the crucifixion did not occur in the middle of the week.
Let's go now to Luke 24 --
Now behold two of them [Christ's disciples] were traveling that SAME DAY to a village called Emmaus....And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed...Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?"....Cleopas answered and said to Him...."The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth who was a Prophet....and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, TODAY IS THE THIRD DAY SINCE THESE THINGS HAPPENED. -- 24:13-21.
According to this passage in Luke 24, what was the period of time from Yeshua being condemned to death and crucified to the time Yeshua was walking with his disciples on the road to Emmaus? THREE DAYS -- in fact, it says "today is the THIRD DAY since these things happened." Now what day were the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus? That same day! The same day as what? The SAME DAY as Mary Magdalene and the others found the tomb empty (Luke 24:1-12). This was THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK.
If the crucifixion occurred in the MIDDLE of the week, according to proper Hebrew counting it would have been FIVE DAYS from the crucifixion to that walk along the road to Emmaus -- NOT three days!
Some people will tell you (including William F. Dankenbring) that we must count, not from the crucifixion as the Bible says, but from the setting of the watch over the tomb, which occurred the day after the death and burial of Yeshua -- see Matthew 27:62. This is patent nonsense! Why? Because even this interpretation of scripture is a count -- in Hebrew idiom -- of FOUR DAYS and not three days to that walk along the road to Emmaus!
Consequently, the Messiah was not "cut off" in the midst of the week, and we need to look for a better understanding of Daniel 9:27.
The Passover Seder
The fact that Yeshua was the Passover Lamb can resolve another controversy in the Churches of YEHOVAH God. While The Jews keep the Passover at THE END of the 14th of Nisan (killed at the end of the 14th but eaten after sundown and therefore the 15th of Nisan), there are some groups who claim that the Passover was originally kept after sundown as the 14th BEGINS -- at the time of the so-called "Last Supper." Are the Jews keeping the Passover Seder on the wrong day? Was the Passover Lamb killed at the beginning or at the end of the 14th of Nisan?
The answer to these questions is very simple! YEHOVAH God commanded the Israelites to kill the Passover lamb "at EVEN on the 14th day of Nisan" (Exodus 12:6). "At even," or "twilight" as some versions of the Bible state, is from the Hebrew "ben-ha-arbayim" -- meaning "between the two evenings." To determine the correct meaning of the term "ben-ha-arbayim" ("between the two evenings") all we have to do is look to the "Final and Perfect Passover Lamb" Yeshua the Messiah, and ask the question: When was this "Passover Lamb" killed? Yeshua died at about 3:00 p.m. on the afternoon of the 14th day of Nisan -- at exactly the SAME TIME as the first Passover lamb was killed in the Temple precincts. Therefore, the correct interpretation of "ben-ha-arbayim" ("between the two evenings") is the time that our Savior died. Anything else is sheer nonsense and claptrap and is, in fact, a denial that Yeshua the Messiah is the Passover.
The Passover Lamb was killed on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, and the Passover meal was actually eaten AFTER SUNDOWN on the 15th of Nisan. I do not understand how anyone can come to any other conclusion!
To claim that Yeshua did not die at the EXACT TIME YEHOVAH God said to kill the Passover lamb has the effect of proving that he was not the Passover. BUT YESHUA THE MESSIAH WAS THE PASSOVER!! Therefore, the Jews have NOT made an error in keeping the Passover Seder on the 15th of Nisan. (Whether they correctly determine and observe the new moons which begin the months, and correctly determine the weekly Sabbaths, is another story).
The Wavesheaf Offering
1 Corinthians 15:23 indicates that Yeshua the Messiah was also the Wavesheaf Offering. This knowledge can solve two more controversies within the Churches of YEHOVAH God:
1) The TIME of the resurrection, and
2) The proper days to begin and end the count to Pentecost.
Since Yeshua was the First of the Firstfruits (i.e. the Wavesheaf Offering), he was presented before YEHOVAH God the Father at exactly the SAME TIME as the Wavesheaf was offered on the altar. When Mary Magdalene saw him in the garden after the resurrection he told her, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended" (John 20:17). These are the EXACT words used by the priest as he took the Wavesheaf to the altar if another priest came near him. If that priest bringing the Wavesheaf offering to the altar was touched, the offering was contaminated and the offering had to be done over. Not only that, but the Wavesheaf offering was covered with oil and called "The Anointed," and was also striped and punctured.
This understanding that our Savior was the Wavesheaf offering also gives us a clue as to the exact time that Yeshua was resurrected from the grave. In John 19:31 we read that the day after the Messiah's crucifixion was BOTH a regular weekly Sabbath AND an annual holy (high) day (first day of Unleavened Bread) -- in other words, the weekly Sabbath day and the annual high day fell on the SAME day. Now, since Yeshua's resurrection occurred at the EXACT TIME the Wavesheaf was being cut -- not at some arbitrary time, not 5 minutes, not 30 minutes, not 1 hour, not 3 hours before the assigned time -- we need to know when that took place. If we go to Leviticus 23:11 we read:
He [the priest] shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; ON THE DAY AFTER THE SABBATH the priest shall wave it.
We read more about this in Edersheim's The Temple:Its Ministry and Services:
A little later on in the evening of that same day [15th of Nisan], JUST AS IT WAS GROWING DARK, a noisy throng followed delegates from the Sanhedrin outside the city and across the brook Kedron....They were to be engaged in a service most important to them....The law had it, "Ye shall bring a sheaf [literally an omer] of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest; and he shall wave the omer before Jehovah, to be accepted for you: ON THE MORROW AFTER THE SABBATH the priest shall wave it"....Now, this Passover-sheaf was reaped in public the evening before it was offered....Already, on the 14th of Nisan, the spot whence the FIRST SHEAF was to be reaped had been marked out by delegates from the Sanhedrin, by tying together in bundles, while still standing, the barley that was to be cut down....When the time for cutting the sheaf had arrived, that is, on the evening of the 15th of Nisan, JUST AS THE SUN WENT DOWN, three men, each with a sickle and basket, formally set to work. But in order clearly to bring out all that was distinctive in the ceremony, they first asked of the bystanders three times each of these questions: "HAS THE SUN GONE DOWN?" "With this sickle?" "Into this basket?".... Having each time been answered in the affirmative, they cut down [the] barley....The ears were brought into the Court of the Temple, and threshed out with canes or stalks, so as not to injure the corn; then "parched" on a pan perforated with holes, so that each grain might be touched by the fire, and finally exposed to the wind....The omer of flour was mixed with a "log," or very nearly three-fourths of a pint of OIL, and a handful of frankincense put upon it, then waved before the Lord...(Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1987: Grand Rapids, MI. P. 256-259).
The Wavesheaf was cut just after the sun went down at the end of the weekly Sabbath and the end of the first day of Unleavened Bread (i.e. the 15th of Nisan) -- which was the beginning of the 16th of Nisan. Then this offering of the Wavesheaf was presented on the altar to YEHOVAH God ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK (16th of Nisan) -- and this, then, is the day to BEGIN the count to Pentecost. This "DAY" is called in the New Testament "The First of the Weeks" -- see Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1 and others. A number of Bible versions show the word "weeks" in the singular, which is an error. This word is in the PLURAL in the original Greek. The word "day" has been added to these scriptures and is NOT, once again, in the original Greek. The term "The First of the Weeks" is a Hebrew idiom meaning the "first day in the count to Pentecost." It DOES NOT mean the first day of the week -- even though this count always begins on the first day of the week. In other words, this term ("the first of the weeks") could not be used to define any other first day of the week during the year.
When seven Sabbaths -- SEVEN COMPLETE WEEKS -- are counted as we are told to do (Leviticus 23:15-16), we cannot come to any other day of the week but the FIRST. (Remember, the Jews of 1st-century Palestine did not name the days as we do today -- they just said "first day of the week", "second day of the week," etc.). In Strong's Concordance (#8549) the Hebrew word for "complete" means PERFECT, WITHOUT BLEMISH; and unless a week begins on the first day of the week and ends on the Sabbath it has a blemish by definition. Counting seven complete weeks AND then 50 days to Pentecost ALWAYS begins and ends on the first day of the week!
Learning to count in Hebrew Biblical idiom is the KEY that unlocks the solution to these and a number of other controversies. The failure to properly count as the Bible authors counted is a major reason why there is so much CONFUSION surrounding the life and death of Yeshua the Messiah.
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