Replacement theology has been the primary catalyst in the creation and implementation of new and deceptive doctrines. As a result, modern messianic theology is becoming fractured. One doctrine that is fracturing messianic unity is the Lunar Sabbath doctrine. Every Lunar Sabbath doctrine teaches that the Sabbath day should be seven days after new moon. The lunar Sabbath is a deliberate attempt to change times and laws. Therefore, lunar Sabbath promoters are fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 7:25 which states: "he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time."
In this age of rapid informational flow Lunar Sabbath teachers are finding fertile ground. Believers are being beguiled into acceptance of this false teaching. Good-sounding doctrines and charismatic teachers will turn people away from the truth. 2Timothy 4:3-4 says "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
To prevent deviation from the truth, we must test the spirit behind this doctrine. 1John 4:1 warns "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." Testing to see if the spirit behind the Lunar Sabbath doctrine is of God or is a false doctrine requires the use of biblical, logical and historical benchmarks. Using these three benchmarks will discern the truth and reveal the spirit behind the lunar Sabbath.
Consider Genesis 1:3-5 which states "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day." This biblical passage makes clear that the first day began with the formation of light and the separation of light from darkness. After this first day God continues the creative process and on the fourth day God creates the sun and the moon. Genesis 1:14–19 declares
"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: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And 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. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day."
God continues to create until the creation is complete. God rests on the seventh day of creation. In Genesis 2:1-3 we read "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."
Lunar Sabbath doctrine ignores the creation week as described in Genesis and teaches that the Sabbath is supposed to occur seven days after the new moon. As a result, Lunar Sabbath doctrine substitutes a Sabbath counting system that does not begin with day one of creation. Lunar Sabbath doctrine fails to acknowledge the biblical standard and implements a counting system based on the moon. This is a biblical fallacy. Genesis 1:14-19 clearly states that the moon was created on the fourth day.
YHVH did not finish creation and rest seven days after the moon was created. The first Sabbath day of rest occurred on the seventh day of creation not on the eighth day of the month. To observe a Sabbath based on the creation week, and not regulated by the moon, is to emulate YHVH's day of rest as He desires. YHVH's day of rest was after the first six days of work. Therefore, it is not seven days after the new moon that is Holy. The seventh day of creation is holy, as Exodus 20:11 states "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
Consider Pentecost (Shavuot) and the Lunar Sabbath. Shavuot and Lunar Sabbath doctrine cannot be reconciled. Counting of seven Sabbaths is commanded to determine the fiftieth day and when Shavuot is to occur. Leviticus 23:15-17 commands "ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD." This biblical passage clearly explains how to determine when the day of Shavuot will occur.
Lunar Sabbath doctrine creates its own standard based on Exodus 19:1. Lunar Sabbath keepers interpret Exodus 19:1 to mean that the children of Israel entered the Wilderness of Sinai on the fifteenth day of the third month. The Hebrew text of Exodus 19:1 does not state that they entered the wilderness on the fifteenth day of the third month. The Hebrew text of Exodus 19:1 would translate like this "the children of Israel arrived at the wilderness of Sinai on the Same day as the day that they came out of Egypt". The term same day does not imply that the Children of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Sinai on the same date that they came out of Egypt. The text in the passage shows that they arrived in the Wilderness of Sinai on the same day of the week that they left Egypt. In fact if it was the same monthly date of the fifteenth of the third month, the text would have specified the date similar to the way the fifteenth of the second month is specified in Exodus 16:1. "They took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt." However, let's assume Lunar Sabbath doctrine is right and the Children of Israel arrived in the Wilderness of Sinai on the fifteenth of the third month.
According to Lunar Sabbath doctrine the fifteenth day of the third month is a weekly Sabbath and is also the seventh Sabbath of the Omer. If the fifteenth day of the third month is the seventh Sabbath as commanded in Leviticus 23:16 then the sixteenth day of the third month would be Shavuot. However, when the Children of Israel entered the Wilderness of Sinai the first commandment of YHVH to them was to purify themselves for three days. This three day purification process is preparation for receiving the Torah from YHVH. When the three days of purification are added, Pentecost (Shavuot) would have occurred three days after the seventh Sabbath. Leviticus 23:16 commands that Shavuot (Pentecost) must occur the day after the seventh Sabbath.
There is also a chronological problem that occurs if the giving of the Torah occurred on the sixteenth day of the third month. The span between the fifteenth day of the first month and the fifteenth day of the third month is more than fifty days apart. Lunar Sabbath doctrine clearly conflicts with the commandment in Leviticus 23:16 to "observe the fiftieth day as the feast of Shavuot." To rectify this problem some Lunar Sabbath doctrines teach that some days are not counted. However, as many as ten days must be overlooked to create a lunar doctrine calendar that allows Shavuot to occur on the fiftieth day. As a result, Lunar Sabbath followers are manipulating the calendar to prove Lunar Sabbath doctrine and not observing the commandment given for Shavuot in Leviticus 23:16.
As you can see the counting of the Omer does not work with the Lunar Sabbath. Shavuot (Pentecost) is to be observed on the day after counting seven Sabbaths, making it seven weeks not 60 days. So Biblically speaking, the Lunar Sabbath doctrine is not proven, because it fails the test of the creation week in Genesis 1 and the test of Shavuot commanded in Leviticus 23:16. Therefore, in an attempt to make this doctrine fit the biblical pattern of counting the Omer, Lunar Sabbath keepers create special laws that state some days are not counted.
Lunar Sabbath keepers won't admit that it would be much more beneficial for them to discard this doctrine. Because, it is not confirmed by the creation week of Genesis chapter 1 or the test of Shavuot as commanded in Leviticus 23:16. Next, let us examine the Lunar Sabbath doctrine's logic to discover if this doctrine can be proven logically.
Logically speaking Lunar Sabbath teachers build the foundation of their doctrine on Genesis 1:14, which states "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 literally translates as "let them be as signs". In other words, the sun and the moon are representations of the sign that YHVH is Master Of The Universe. Lunar Sabbath doctrine interprets this passage from Genesis 1:14 as "let them determine the signs". In the first case the moon is the sign. In the second case the moon is to determine the signs. Assuming the moon is to determine the signs allows Lunar Sabbath teachers to associate the Sabbath with the moon. As a result, Lunar Sabbath doctrine teaches the moon is required for the sign of the Sabbath. For this associational logic to hold true it must apply equally to all uses of the Hebrew word for sign.
The mark placed on Cain is also a sign, as Genesis 4:15 states "the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a sign upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him." The context of this passage clearly shows the sign of Cain is not associated with the moon and does not require the moon. Lets consider other passages specifically concerning covenants that God has established with men. For example, the sign of circumcision, which is a covenant between God and man, does not require the new moon as confirmation. Genesis 17:9-11 states "God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, you, and thy seed after you in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after you; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you." Genesis 17:11 is clearly similar in context, as well as wording, to the covenant of the Sabbath spoken of in Exodus 31:17. "It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day, he rested, and was refreshed." In the context of Genesis 17:9-11, as well as the context of Exodus 31:17, there is no mention of the new moon. If Genesis 1:14 truly stated that the moon was for us to use to determine the signs, these other passages concerning signs would verify the significance of the moon. The fact is that Genesis 1:14 literally states the moon is a sign. When compared to other Hebrew passages it is clear that scripture does not state that the moon is to be used to determine signs, such as the Sabbath.
Lunar Sabbath doctrine also encounters logical problems concerning the lighting of fire on the Sabbath. According to Lunar Sabbath doctrine, the seventh-day Sabbath occurs on the eighth, fifteenth, twenty-second and the twenty-ninth days of the month. The feast of unleavened bread starts on the fifteenth day of the month. Lunar sabbatarians declare the fifteenth day of every month is the weekly Sabbath. Therefore, fire should not be created on the fifteenth day of any month. The commandment in Exodus 35:2-3 says, "Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day." However, the first day of the feast of unleavened bread occurs on the fifteenth day of the first month as Leviticus 23:5-6 commands. "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread." When the fifteenth day of the first month is a weekly Sabbath no one is allowed to kindle a fire. However, concerning the Feast of Unleavened Bread Exodus 12:16 states, "in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, except that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you." Exodus 35:2-3 reads you shall not kindle a fire on the weekly Sabbath yet Exodus 12:16 states that you can do work concerning the Feast of Unleavened Bread. When the fifteenth day of the first month is always a weekly Sabbath, Israel would never be allowed to kindle a fire for the preparation of the feast. Therefore, there would be no need for a commandment allowing food preparation on the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Clearly, Lunar Sabbath doctrine is not logically supported by Scripture. Therefore, lunar Sabbath keepers create special non-scriptural laws to justify their doctrine.
At this point Lunar Sabbath doctrine has failed the test using biblical and logical standards. However, biblical and logical standards are not the only means available to test a doctrine. The historical standard is also a valuable tool in testing doctrinal beliefs. To discern fully the truth of the Lunar Sabbath doctrine requires examination of the historical statements proponents of the lunar Sabbath claim. Discerning the truth historically will require the use of as many primary sources as possible. However, when primary sources are not available it will be necessary to use secondary source material.
Primary sources are sources written during the time period being historically evaluated. Secondary source materials are materials gathered, researched and written about after the period in question. Prior 300 C.E. very few primary source materials exist. However, lunar Sabbatarians often quote the primary source of Philo of Alexandria. Philo is a Jewish philosopher known to have lived from 20 B.C.E – 50 C.E. Therefore, research and study in the teachings of Philo are required to see if Lunar Sabbath doctrine is historically accurate.
Lunar Sabbath supporters quote Philo to prove that Yeshua and his disciples kept a lunar Sabbath. One quote that is often used comes from Philo's writings on The Special Laws I and states "The moon receives the perfect shapes in periods of seven days-the half-moon in the first seven days period after it's conjunction with the sun, full moon in the second." (Philo, p39, 178). The portion of this quote from Philo that Lunar Sabbatarians use is not the complete context. In context Philo is speaking of the new moon sacrifices that were offered. The exact quote from Philo's The Special Laws I states:
"After he had ordered these things concerning the seventh day, he said that for the new moons it is necessary to offer ten whole burnt offerings in all: two young bulls, one ram, seven lambs. For since the month is perfect in which the moon makes its way through its cycle, he thought that a perfect number of animals should be sacrificed. The number ten is the completely perfect number which he most appropriately assigned to the animals which have been mentioned: the two young bulls since there are two motions of the moon as it continually runs its double-course — the motion of waxing until full moon and the motion of waning until its conjunction with the sun; one ram since there is one principle of reason by which the moon waxes and wanes in equal intervals, both as it increases and diminishes in illumination; the seven lambs because it receives the perfect shapes in periods of seven days — the half-moon in the first seven day period after its conjunction with the sun, full moon in the second; and when it makes its return again, the first is to half-moon, then it ceases at its conjunction with the sun." (Philo, XXXV, pp 38-39, 177-178)
In context Philo only states that the moon has a perfect cycle throughout all of the moon's phases. Philo also specifies that there is seven days between each lunar phase and for this reason seven lambs are sacrificed. Anyone who has observed the monthly cycle of the moon has witnessed the fact there are seven days between phases. Philo does not state that the seven day cycle of the moon is used to determine the seven day cycle of the Sabbath. Philo is only explaining the new moon sacrifices that were offered during the time of the Second Temple and why ten burnt offerings were offered. Philo makes it clear that the instructions concerning the sacrifices offered during the new moon were given after the orders were given concerning the seventh day Sabbath when he writes "After he had ordered these things concerning the seventh day, he said that for the new moons". Clearly, Philo shows that instructions concerning the Sabbath were given before the instructions concerning new moon. Lunar Sabbatarians take Philo's quote out of context. Philo shows no connection between the new moon and the Sabbath. We need a second witness to verify Philo's intent. Let's see if Philo ever speaks about the new moon and the Sabbath in the same contextual thought, thereby linking the observance of the Seventh-day Sabbath to the new moon.
In Philo's The Decalogue, he comments on the ten commandments. Philo speaks extensively on the fourth commandment. The fourth commandment is the commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Philo states:
"The fourth commandment has reference to the sacred seventh day, that it may be passed in a sacred and holy manner. Now some states keep the holy festival only once in the month, counting from the new moon, as a day sacred to God; but the nation of the Jews keep every seventh day regularly, after each interval of six days; and there is an account of events recorded in the history of the creation of the world, comprising a sufficient relation of the cause of this ordinance; for the sacred historian says, that the world was created in six days, and that on the seventh day God desisted from his works, and began to contemplate what he had so beautifully created: therefore, he commanded the beings also who were destined to live in this state, to imitate God in this particular also, as well as in all others, applying themselves to their works for six days, but desisting from them and philosophising on the seventh day, and devoting their leisure to the contemplation of the things of nature, and considering whether in the preceding six days they have done anything which has not been holy, bringing their conduct before the judgment-seat of the soul, and subjecting it to a scrutiny, and making themselves give an account of all the things which they have said or done;" (Philo XX, 96-98, p21-22).
Philo says that Jewish people counted the Sabbath as it was counted in the six days of creation. This passage from the The Decalogue also shows the Sabbath is not linked to the new moon at all. In fact, Philo affirms that the weekly Sabbath is a reflection of the week of creation and not a reflection of the new moon. This passage also confirms that YHVH blessed mankind by allowing us to emulate Him by resting on the same day He rested. Philo lived during the Second Temple period, so we can see that Philo verifies the Second Temple period worship was in accordance with the Biblical understanding of the Sabbath as a reflection of YHVH and YHVH's creation rest.
Yeshua challenged some of the man-made laws that had been established during his time. However, Yeshua never mentions the new moon when speaking about temple worship. Yeshua never states that they are not observing the correct Sabbath day. In fact, Yeshua confirms Jewish worship when asked by the Samaritan woman about true worship. Yeshua makes this statement, as John 4:22 confirms: "you worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews." Yeshua affirms that the Jewish people of the Second Temple Period know who they worship. According to Philo, one of the worship practices of the Jewish people during Yeshua's time was the keeping of a Sabbath that was not determined by the new moon.
Secondary sources may also be beneficial when doing historical research. Secondary sources may include archeological analysis and anthropological analysis. Anthropological analysis generally studies a culture and how the culture functioned. The research areas that anthropologists' study include religious practices and the calendar. Lunar Sabbatarians believe that at some point in history the religious calendar changed from using a lunar Sabbath calendar to a calendar where the Sabbath is independent of the new moon.
Research shows that two forms of a seven-day week originally existed. The first form was the seven-day Jewish religious cycle. The other form of the seven-day week was the Babylonian week. The Jewish seven-day week numbered the days consecutively starting at day one and continuing until day seven. The Babylonian seven-day week named each of the seven days of the week after the planets, as page 34 of Time And The Calendars states, "Our seven-day week emerged in two forms, the Jewish religious cycle of seven days ending with the Sabbath or Day of rest and religious observance and the planetary week of astrological significance in which each day for the name of one of the seven planets known in antiquity, namely the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter (Jove), Venus and Saturn (Colson, 1926)." (O'Neil) Besides naming the weeks after the planets, the Babylonian week also used the moon to calculate the seven-day week. Page 482 of the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia states “The idea of the week, as a subdivision of the month, seems to have arisen in Babylonia, where each lunar month was divided into four parts, corresponding to the four phases of the moon. The first week of each month began with the new moon, so that, as the lunar month was one or two days more than four periods of seven days, these additional days were not reckoned at all. Every seventh day (sabbatum) was regarded as an unlucky day."(Cohen). As the Jewish people began returning from Babylonian captivity they brought with them the pagan idolatry of Babylon. One of the pagan practices that they returned to Israel with is the idea of a lunar-based week, as stated on page 482 of the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia which concludes "this method of reckoning time spread westward through Syria and Palestine, and was adopted by the Israelites, probably after they settled in Palestine."(Ibid)
Fortunately, the pagan Babylonian practice of a lunar-based week did not continue in Israel. Returning to the creation-based week from the lunar-based Babylonian week occurred before the building of the Second Temple, most likely during the period of Ezra and Nehemiah's return from Persian exile. This is understandable considering that Ezra and Nehemiah's mission was to turn Israel away from Babylonian ways. As a result, by the time the Second Temple was built, the weekly Sabbath was returned to its non-lunar status. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia states "With the development of the importance of the Sabbath as a day of consecration and emphasis laid upon the significant number seven, the week became more and more divorced from its lunar connection, so that by the time of the Second Temple it was merely a period of seven days and no longer depended on the new moon."(Ibid) The week was returned to the seven-day Jewish religious cycle that existed before Israel went into Babylonian captivity. During the time of Yeshua the Second Temple was still in existence and Philo verifies that observance of the Sabbath was independent of the new moon. Therefore, Yeshua worshiped and accepted a culture that observed a Sabbath without any connection to the new moon.
There are many secondary sources available for historical examination of the Lunar Sabbath doctrine. One of these secondary sources is Alfred Edersheim. Alfred Edersheim was a nineteenth century Biblical scholar who was born to Jewish parents and eventually converted to Christianity. Alfred Edersheim's forte was studying and writing about the culture and religious practices during the time of Yeshua. Alfred Edersheim wrote a book titled The Temple Its Ministry And Services. In this book he clarifies the understanding of first century ritualistic Jewish practices. On page 123 of The Temple Its Ministry And Services Edersheim notes that if the new moon or a feast day occurred on a Sabbath a special hymn was sung in the temple. If they were following the lunar Sabbath, new moon days and the weekly Sabbath would never occur on same day. On Page 123 of The Temple Its Ministry And Services Edersheim wrote “new moon” fell on the same day, the Sabbath hymn was sung in preference to that for the new moon" (Edersheim).
Verification that the new moon could occur on a weekly Sabbath is also in the Talmud. The Talmud was codified to preserve the oral teachings and rituals that had been passed down from the time of the Second Temple. Rosh Hashanah 20a of the Soncino Talmud states "‘For the fixing of two New Moons the Sabbath may be profaned, for those of Nisan and of Tishri’. Now if you say that the Adar which precedes Nisan is always defective, there is no difficulty; the reason why Sabbath may be profaned is because it is a religious duty to sanctify the New Moon on the strength of actual observation."(Soncino). The sighting of the new moon was considered work. Therefore, debate concerning profaning the Sabbath occurred. If the new moon could not possibly occur on the seventh-day Sabbath this argument would not have been necessary.
From Philo, Edersheim, and the Talmud, it is clear the seventh-day Sabbath was independent of the new moon. Therefore, these primary and secondary sources make it clear that the Lunar Sabbath fails the historical test. These sources also make it clear that Israelite history shows that the lunar Sabbath was a pagan practice that came from Babylon. However, by the time of the Second Temple, it was replaced by the more ancient and biblical practice of a weekly Sabbath independent of the new moon. Therefore, the lunar Sabbath was never practiced during the Second Temple period or in the time of Yeshua by those worshiping YHVH.
In the age of the Internet, information is available at the speed of light. However, there is no guarantee that this information is accurate or truthful. Unfortunately, there are many documents on the Internet which are fabrications promoted as the truth. This is extremely concerning when it comes to the establishment of religious doctrines. Because many false doctrines have arisen. One recent false doctrine is the Lunar Sabbath. The Lunar Sabbath doctrine teaches that the seventh-day Sabbath is determined by the new moon. Testing the Lunar Sabbath doctrine with biblical, logical and historical tests, makes it clear that the Lunar Sabbath doctrine is a fabrication.
Biblical testing makes it clear that the Lunar Sabbath doctrine does not follow the pattern of creation and cannot reconcile the fifty days between the first wave offering and Shavuot. Logical testing also determines that the Lunar Sabbath doctrine is false, because Lunar Sabbath doctrine teaches that the moon determines the signs of God. The Hebrew wording of Genesis 1:14 states that the moon is a sign of God. Lunar Sabbath doctrine also fails logically in its conclusion that the fifteenth of the month is always a weekly Sabbath. This conclusion is not acceptable because the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the fifteenth day of the first month. Scripture states that work concerning the feast may be done, this includes the kindling of fire. Scriptures state that no kindling of fire may occur on the weekly seventh-day Sabbath. Clearly, these two commandments are not logically reconcilable.
In addition, historical testing of the Lunar Sabbath shows the failure of this doctrine. Quoting Philo, Lunar Sabbath teachers cite the statement that refers to seven days between the phases of the moon as proof of the Lunar Sabbath. However, all Philo states in the passage is that seven days exist between the phases of the moon. This is a mathematical conclusion not a religious observance. Philo never states that the seven days between moon phases is linked to the Sabbath. In Philo's Decalogue he makes the statement that while some nations keep a Sabbath counting from the new moon, the Jews keep a weekly Sabbath after every six days of labor. Philo verifies that the weekly Sabbath occurs after every six days labor and is not counted from the new moon. Philo even states that the Jewish practice represents the creation week. Historically, it is easy to prove that during the Second Temple era, the Jewish people practiced a Sabbath that was not based on the new moon. However, it is also historically clear that after Babylonian captivity the Lunar Sabbath crept into Israel along with other pagan practices and by the time of the Second Temple, this pagan practice ceased. When Yeshua walked on the earth the pagan Lunar Sabbath was no longer practiced in Israel.
Biblical, logical, and historical research of the Lunar Sabbath, proves that the practice of the Lunar Sabbath in Israel is not historical or biblical. Historical research also shows that the lunar Sabbath is a return to Babylonian paganism. We live in a time when false doctrines will lead many astray. Believers need to wake up and not accept, tolerate, or allow this false doctrine to enter our congregations as Ephesians 5:11 warns "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."