Christianity's Forgotten Day of Worship: the New Moon

Why has this day been forgotten?

Christians in general follow a weekly cycle of worship and this can be traced back to the seven days of creation week. Most Christians keep Sunday but some Christian groups keep Saturday, the Seventh-day Sabbath, instead. Either way these two worship days follow a weekly cycle of seven days. And the concept of a weekly cycle of course can be traced back to Genesis where God rested after six days of work.

But did you know that there is also another cycle of worship that can be traced back to Genesis? You don't hear much about it but the Bible also mentions a monthly cycle of worship. And it appears that this other day of worship has been ignored by the majority of Christians in general and has just about been completely forgotten.

Except for some bad press this extra day of worship seems to be mostly ignored by Christians. And apart from some small groups here and there it appears that this extra day of worship has been completely ignored by the majority of Christians in general.

But how in the world could a day of worship be forgotten by the majority of Christians and only regarded by a few groups? How did this happen? The monthly day of worship is known as the new moon worship day and occurs on the first day of the Bible month which is lunar based. Part of the problem is most likely due to the concept of strange bed-fellows. One of the strongest statements in the Bible about the new moon worship day also mentions the seventh-day sabbath:

For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, says the LORD; so shall your descendants and your name remain.
From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD.
Isaiah 66:22,23.

Because of the association with the seventh-day sabbath most Christians relegate the new moon worship day to the period of the Jewish dispensation and consider it irrelevant to Christianity. The main problem with this approach is that this worship day still keeps popping up in the Bible before and after the Jewish dispensation. The references are mostly indirect but they are definitely there. We are told that the new moon is the beginning of the Bible month which is lunar based:

Western nations observe the solar year, based on the time the earth takes to run its course around the sun. Throughout history the Jew has followed the lunar year. His month is regulated not by the sun but by the moon, the word from which "month" is derived. It is a most obvious and easy way of reckoning the passing of time. The phases of the moon can easily be recognized by everybody. The new moon indicates the beginning of the new month.1

And I can imagine someone saying after reading this: well there it is Stephen, the new moon worship day has to do with the Jews and the lunar month. We Christians don't need this.
Don't be too hasty! There is something wrong with this reasoning. Sure the Jews keep a lunar month but just where do you think they got it from? The Bible:

This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.
Exodus 12:2.

This is the main verse that the Jews use to construct their calendar year. And it is based on the lunar month with the new moon being the first day of the Jewish month. Simply put we can refer to this as the Biblical calendar made up of lunar months. Of course a calendar that uses lunar months is not going to fit a solar year so an adjustment is needed:

lunar calendar, a calendar based on the variations of the phases of the Moon as seen from Earth. The lunar year contains 12 synodic months, these consisting of 29.5305882 days, the synodic month being defined as the time interval (synodic period) between new moons. Therefore, the lunar year of 354.3672 days is about 11 days shorter than the solar year of 365.24219 days. A true lunar calendar quickly gets out of step with the seasons and is often replaced by a luni-solar calendar in which every third or fourth year contains 13 as opposed to 12 lunar months, a leap month being intercalated (added) as required.
Excerpted from The Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia.2

Some may consider the Jewish calendar coming into existence around the time of Moses, but the Bible mentions months well before this time. The earliest reference is given as follows:

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.
Genesis 7:11.

Also the moon gets a mention in the early part of Genesis:

And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,
and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so.
And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also.
And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth,
to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:14-18.
Thou hast made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.
Psalm 104:19.
You created the moon to mark the months; the sun knows the time to set.
Psalm 104:19 Good News Bible.

It would appear that the moon and months take us right back to the very creation of this world. And this gives very good support to the new moon worship day being in existence back then. You can't have Bible months without the new moon worship day. And this is a good two thousand years or more [depending which time creation period you believe in] before there were any Jews.
But what about the New Testament? Do the moon and months get a mention there? There are actually quite a few verses in the New Testament where months are mentioned. To quote just a few:

He stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Acts 18:11.
He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke out boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God.
Acts 19:8.
where he stayed for three months. He was about to set sail for Syria when a plot was made against him by the Jews, and so he decided to return through Macedonia.
Acts 20:3.
Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead.
Acts 28:11.
They were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings someone.
Revelation 9:5.
They have tails like scorpions, with stingers, and in their tails is their power to harm people for five months.
Revelation 9:10.
but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months.
Revelation 11:2.
The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.
Revelation 13:5.
through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22:2.

I have purposely chosen verses here that are dealing with the Christian era. They are after the time of Christ. We have a definite mentioning of months. Now someone may say so what? Well these are all Bible months in these verses. The Bible writers were referring to Bible lunar months, not solar calendar months. As Bible months the start of each month was the day of the new moon. That is how Bible months are constructed. And Isaiah tells us that the new moon is a worship day.

So all these verses clearly tell us that the new moon worship day was in existence well into the Christian era.

Now at this point I would expect someone to say—wait a minute Stephen, we are Christians! As Christians we just don't have anything to do with the lunar months, let alone any so-called new moon worship day!

Don't be too sure about that. It may come as a surprise to many people that Christians actually have quite a lot to do with the lunar months!

lunar calendar, a calendar based on the variations of the phases of the Moon as seen from Earth. ...
Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and all Christian festivals except Christmas itself are timed according to the lunar calendar.
Excerpted from The Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia.2

  Yet just as vital an influence on the calendar is the fact that the Christian Church grew up in the Roman Empire, which followed a calendar controlled by the sun.
  ... when the Church began to institute festivals which were of unique importance for itself and not originally Jewish, they were observed on dates in the Roman calendar. ...
  This is the reason why the Christian calendar is a complicated one. Unlike all others it is a double calendar, governed in some parts by the moon and in others by the sun. The Church distinguishes between 'fixed' and 'movable' feasts, but in reality the movable feasts, such as Easter, are fixed according to the Jewish lunar calendar, while the fixed festivals, such as Christmas, run according to the Roman solar calendar.
  For ten months, from Septuagesima to the last of the Sundays after Pentecost (which vary from twenty-two to twenty-eight), the Christian calendar is lunar. The movable festivals during this period depend upon the date of Easter.3

In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox. Easter is delayed one week if the full moon is on Sunday, which decreases the chances of it falling on the same day as the Jewish Passover. The councilís ruling is contrary to the Quartodecimans, a group of Christians who celebrated Easter on the day of the full moon, 14 days into the month.
http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/determining-easter-date.html


Considering all this, there is little reason for Christians to continue to ignore this much maligned day of worship. Christians may have forgotten about the new moon worship day but when they read Bible verses mentioning months, it is my hope that this will bring to their memory the fact that these are lunar months each one beginning with the new moon worship day.

Isaiah 66:22, 23

Bible texts from:
NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION OF THE BIBLE, 1989.

1. R.Brasch, The Unknown Sanctuary: The Story of Judaism--It's Teachings, Philosophy and Symbols, 1969, Angus and Robertson, p. 19.
2. The Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia. Developed by The Learning Company, Inc. Copyright (c) 1997 TLC Properties Inc. All rights reserved.
3. L.W.Cowie and John Selwyn Gummer, The Christian Calendar: A complete guide to the seasons of the Christian year, 1974, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, pp. 7,8.

Old Testament pic from
http://clipart.christiansunite.com/
lion from
http://aplaceforyou.typepad.com/
leopard from
http://blog.goo.ne.jp/
dove from Christian Art


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Stephen Buckley
E-mail: stephen@chodesh.info
Last revised: 24 Nov 2012.