CHCP's Position on the International Date Line Issue

We have posted Samuel Mercado's article The International Date Line and the Mark of the Beast on our website because we believe that it is essentially correct. The essential issue of his article is that the IDL is in the wrong location. This means that those of us living to the east of Israel and west of the International Date Line should wait until the New Moons have been observed in Israel before we begin keeping our new moon day and thus our keeping of the annual Holy Days also must follow Israel.

As we live in the region affected by repositioning the IDL, we are now applying this concept to our worship. The consequence of this is that we now begin our new moons and holy days after they begin in Israel, rather than beginning our holy days many hours before they begin in Israel. We recognize that the same principle also affects the weekly Sabbath. To consistently apply this principle that each day begins in Israel, we now also begin our Sabbaths after they have begun in Israel.

We do, however, differ from Sam in these respects:

Sam says that God's Date Line must run through the tabernacle site in Jerusalem. We think that this would cause major disruption in the area, and instead favour a Date Line which in part runs along the Biblical eastern border of Israel (which is the Euphrates River - Genesis 15:18, Joshua 1:4). We would then expect it to run basically north and south along various national or state boundaries to the two poles, thus minimising potential disruption. This is essentially the same principle used in allocating time zones today.

Sam feels that we should use God's Date Line to determine the times for everything. Again we think that this is currently impractical and unnecessary and we only use it for spiritual matters which require the use of God's calendar. This position is what all of us must currently do anyway: we use our local civil calendar and time for secular purposes.

For the most part, Judaism also only uses their Halacha Dateline (HDL) for religious purposes. Rabbi Judah, quoted in the ucalgary article below, begins by stating that the Sabbath days should begin in Jerusalem.  He then pushes his ideal  HDL massively eastwards to accommodate some odd Jewish assumptions about the location of the light at Creation and a very peculiar claim that the new moon must be seen before noon in Jerusalem. 

These assumptions result in Judaism favouring at least three HDLs, one that is 90 degrees east of Jerusalem, one that is 180 degrees East of Jerusalem and one that roughly approximates the civil IDL. The 90 degree HDL (125 East Longitude from Greenwich) has several versions which place Japan on one side of the HDL or the other, while Australia can be either split, west, or east of their HDL. The 90 degree HDL places New Zealand always east of HDL, while the 180 degree HDL places them west of the HDL. (http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-trav-dateline.htm, http://www.koltorah.org/ravj/The%20International%20Date%20Line%20and%20Halacha.htm, http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/MHCF99_DateLine.html)

Sam feels that the current International Date Line is the Mark of the Beast. We feel that it should at most be called a Mark of the Beast. The IDL is basically placed in the mid-Pacific for practical secular reasons, but it does result in people who live east of Israel and west of the IDL in keeping their holy days and weekly Sabbaths a day too early.

Our main reason for agreeing with Sam that the IDL is not in the right position is due to the impossibility of always accurately pre-determining the visible new moons. This is not a significant issue for Judaism as they long ago abandoned the Biblical Calendar based on the observed new moon and replaced it with the Hillel calculated calendar.  The following issues, all related to God's Calendar, show the importance of the Jerusalem temple site to our Holy Days:

Abib

Our opinion is that the start of the year requires the presence of Abib barley for use in the Wave Offering ceremony within a few hours horse ride from the tabernacle site in Israel. If we do not use a single point for deciding the Abib question, there will always be confusion as to the beginning of the year. The Abib searchers in Israel have proven that we have a viable system for doing this and we have yet to hear anyone propose a more scripturally sound location than the tabernacle site for this purpose.


New Moons

We have three options: we use a calculated calendar which predicts the visibility of the new moon, we use observation of the new moon crescent in Israel or we use observation of the new moon crescent locally.

Calculated calendars are useful for years where observation is not possible, such as the year of Christ's crucifixion, and to give us a reasonable indication of when the future holy days, etc will be so we can plan for them. To be useful, the calendar must match closely with actual observations. But it is not possible to make a perfect calculated calendar. God can, and does, shift marginally visible new moons forward or back a day by clarifying or obscuring the sky. Likewise He can shift the ripening of the barley by several weeks by changing the weather. One of the beautiful aspects of God's Calendar is that He alone has total control of it. This year (2002) was a case in point. he Abib Barley was found earier in the year than anyone really expected to find it and we had to revise our calculated calendar to allow for the possibility of Abib being ready so soon in the year. But this just increases the number of years we will not be certain if we will be needing to/not needing to add a 13th month. Sure, we could set up our calendar so it just calculates the most probable dates and ignores the rest. It would appear to be precise. But we do not wish to ignore God's final say in when we are to observe His Holy Days. The best a calculated calendar can do in the marginal years and months is to point out all the possible alternatives and show which of these is the most likely alternative.

So the best option is observation. But from where?

Let us consider observation of New Moons in Israel first. This works well for us today as we can know within minutes when the New Moon (or Abib barley) are seen (or not seen) in Israel via the Internet. But we can only know for certain that the new moon has been seen (or not seen) there after it happens, not before. If we use the current mid-Pacific IDL, those of us in Australia and New Zealand have already been celebrating (or not celebrating) our New Moon/Holy Days for 8 or 9 hours before we can be sure that we are keeping the right day. As we have stated before, this is the reason we think we need to have an IDL near Israel. Only by beginning our spiritual days after they begin is Israel can we avoid the absurdity of observing (or not observing) Trumpets on the prediction of the New Moon being seen (or not seen) in Israel, only to find that it was not seen (or was seen). We would then need to truncate our New Moon (which could also be the Feast of Trumpets) and start it again the next evening. This is not a problem for Rabbinical Jews as they do not rely on observation, and use only their crude calculated calendar. If you want something simple that you don't need to think about and do not care if the days you are observing are probably not the ones God has personally selected, then use the Rabbinical calendar.

Our other alternative is to use local observation of the New Moon as some are suggesting. We know that if we see the New Moon here (Australia), it will certainly be visible in Israel 8 or 9 hours later. But this option also has problems. Some months we will see the New Moon before it is seen in Israel. -so we will start our month 8 or 9 hours earlier than Israel. Other months we will not see the New Moon first and it will be seen first in Israel as it is just a bit too young for us to see here. In that case we will start our month 15 or 16 hours after Israel. In still other months the New Moon will be seen first in North America, which creates similar issues for them. And it gets worse: two groups looking for the New Moon only 20 kilometers apart could, due to altitude and weather conditions, have a situation where one group sees it and one does not. Do neighbours then keep the same Holy Days on different days? We could all follow local observation of new moons only, but this is much more confusing than everyone agreeing to consistently begin their months (and thus days) after the New Moon has been seen near Jerusalem by two or more reliable observers. As we are already doing this with the Abib, it would be logical to also do this for the new moons and Sabbath.


by Bruce Armstrong and Bruce Harris


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