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A Response to the Video:
Seventh-day Adventism, the Spirit Behind the Church

by Bob Pickle

Answers to Questions Raised by:
Mark Martin, Sydney Cleveland
Dale Ratzlaff, The White Lie
. . . and

Discern Fact from Fiction

The Millerite Movement

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#7: ". . . October 22, 1844, supposedly the Jewish Day of Atonement for that year. However, using information from the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia we find that in 1844, the Day of Atonement began after sundown, September 23rd, not October 22nd. So this crucial date in Adventism was flawed, incorrect, from the very beginning."—David Snyder.

#7: October 22 was not the Jewish Day of Atonement. Snow never identified October 22 as being the "Jewish" Day of Atonement per se. He knew better, as did other Millerites. And neither was September 23 the "Jewish" Day of Atonement.

There are many different sects of Judaism, and one prominent sect, the Karaites or Caraites, regularly differed from Rabbinical Judaism in how they began the year. This meant that the Karaite Jews often kept the Jewish feasts one month later than the Rabbinical [p. 18] Jews. Thus, there was often more than one "Jewish" Day of Atonement per year. When this happened, no one date could be called the Jewish Day of Atonement.

The Rabbinical Jews accepted oral traditions in addition to the Word of God, but the Karaite Jews rejected all such traditions and relied only on the Bible. They were therefore a back-to-the-Bible movement within Judaism.

A modern-day Karaite Jewish leader in Israel, Nehemia Gordon, informs us that in 1999, the biblical Day of Atonement was on October 20, not in September like most other Jews thought ("[Karaite Korner Newsletter] #6: Biblical Holidays 1999," Aug. 31, 1999, email newsletter). That's pretty close to October 22.

The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar. Its months are but 29 or 30 days each, with about 354 days to a year. To keep the calendar synchronized with the seasons, a thirteenth month is added about seven times every nineteen years.

When and under what circumstances should the thirteenth month be added? The Rabbinical method uses mathematical calculations to determine this. The Karaite method uses observation of the barley crop in Palestine. Biblically speaking, the Karaites are correct.

The day after the sabbath after the Passover, a sheaf of barley grain was to be waved before the Lord (Lev. 23:10-15). If the barley wasn't ripe enough, this could not be done, and so the Karaites would postpone for a month the beginning of the first month of the year.

Nisan, the first Jewish month, was originally called Abib. This ancient name refers to the barley being in a certain stage of ripening, a fact that lends support to the Karaite practice.

Some critics of Seventh-day Adventism cite Mr. Gordon to show that Karaites in 1844 in Palestine had long before adopted Rabbinical reckoning. However, the point is not what the Karaites were doing in 1844, but what the Bible says they should have been doing. If the barley was not ripe enough, then the year could not begin, regardless of what any Karaite or Rabbi said.

In actuality, Mr. Gordon only provides evidence indicating that the Karaites were using Rabbinical reckoning "for some time" before 1860. This does not prove what they were doing in 1844, as can readily be seen by turning to "Point 5" in the documentation package where some of Mr. Gordon's comments can be found. (The last ellipsis of "Point 5" represents an omission that included Mr. Gordon's signature. He is therefore the author of the "Official Karaite Documentation.")

The April 1840 issue of American Biblical Repository contained a letter written no earlier than 1836 by E. S. Calman, a converted Jewish rabbi and Christian missionary in Palestine. In this letter he discusses something he had discovered:

I will begin by stating one fact of great importance, of which I was totally ignorant before I came to this country, which will prove that the seasons of the festivals, appointed by God for the Jewish nation, have been annulled and subverted by the oral law of the Scribes and Pharisees, which is now the ritual of the Jews.—"The Present State of the Jewish Religion," p. 411.

Then follows an explanation of the biblical requirement that the barley be ripe at Passover time, after which he states:

But, at present, the Jews in the Holy Land have not the least regard to this season appointed and identified by Jehovah, but follow the rules prescribed in the oral law . . . . In general the proper season occurs after they have celebrated it a whole month, which is just reversing the command in the law . . . . Nothing like ears of green corn [barley] have I seen around Jerusalem at the celebration of this feast.—Ibid., pp. 411, 412.

And now for the clincher:

The Caraite Jews observe it later than the Rabbinical, for they are guided by Abib, . . . and they charge the latter with eating leavened bread during that feast. I think, myself, that the charge is well founded. If this feast of unleavened bread is not celebrated in its season, every successive festival is dislocated from its appropriate period, since the month Abib . . . is laid down in the law of God as the epoch from which every other is to follow.—Ibid., p. 412.

So this letter indicates that Karaite Jews in Palestine were keeping the annual feasts generally one month later than the Rabbinical Jews around 1836. The conclusion of the critics that the Karaites had given up their special form of reckoning long before the nineteenth century is therefore unfounded. More importantly, this letter affirms the fact that usually the Rabbinical Jews kept their feasts one month too early, for the barley was not ripe enough.

The documentation package makes no attempt to substantiate the correctness of the Rabbinical date of September 23. Instead, it quotes Nehemia Gordon as saying, "While late September may or may not have been the correct month in which to celebrate Yom Kippur . . . ." This gives away the whole point the video is trying to prove. If late September "may not have been the correct month" for the Day of Atonement, then late October may have been the correct month after all. [p. 19]

S. S. Snow popularized the October 22 date during the summer of 1844, but he didn't come up with the idea of using Karaite reckoning. Karaite reckoning was the acceptable thing for a year or more prior to this.

Miller's associates, though not himself, decided that the Jewish year 1843 began on April 29 and ended on April 17, 1844. In doing so, they used the Karaite form of reckoning, as plainly stated in the June 21, 1843, issue of The Signs of the Times:

The Caraite Jews on the contrary, still adhere to the letter of the Mosaic law, and commence with the new moon nearest the barley harvest in Judea; and which is one moon later than the Rabbinical year. The Jewish year of A.D. 1843, as the Caraites reckon it in accordance with the Mosaic law, therefore commenced this year with the new moon on the 29th day of April, and the Jewish year 1844, will commence with the new moon in next April, when 1843 and the 2300 days, according to their computation, will expire. But according to the Rabbinical Jews, it began with the new moon the first of last April, and will expire with the new moon in the month of March next.—Editorial, p. 123.

Between the start of the Jewish year on Nisan 1 and the Day of Atonement on Tishri 10, we have six Jewish months (averaging 29.5 days each) and nine days. Add these to the month commencing after the new moon of April 1844, and you have October 22, not September 23.

A Response to the Video

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