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#5a HOURS OF THE DAY, DAYS OF THE MONTH, MONTHS OF THE YEAR IN SCRIPTURE

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Introduction 5a
#5a1 Calculating Hours of the Day in Scripture
#5a2 Calculating Days of the week in Scripture
#5a3 Calculating Days of the Month in Scripture
#5a4 Calculating Months of the Year in Scripture

Introduction 5a

One of the biggest problems facing any student of the bible, especially one who is interested in the Chronology of it, is understanding the way time is computed, and arranging historical events in order. It is the problem of how to calculate biblical time. As far as calculating the hours of the day, the days of the week, and the months of the year is concerned, this is quite straightforward. This is because the first hour starts at exactly the same time as the start of the day, the first day starts at exactly the start of the week, and the month, and the first month starts at exactly the same time as the start of the year. Therefore when we count in ordinal and cardinal numbers, they should match up exactly. The problem comes later when a start time is part way through a day, or a week, or a month, or a year. This is a bible study which explains how to calculate hours of the day, days of the month, and months of the year according to scripture. A cardinal number is a simple number such as 1, 2, 3, etc., and an ordinal number is one which indicates the order or position in a series, such as first (1st), second (2nd), third (3rd) etc. This is a very simple section, but a necessary pre-requisite to understand what comes later.

#5a1 Calculating Hours of the Day in Scripture

The timing of the Jewish day, is not from midnight to midnight like our days are, but from even to even (Leviticus 23:32), or sunset to sunset. At the Passover time of year, about March/April, it would probably be about 6 p.m. our time when their day starts. They describe their time either as hours of the day, or hours of the night, and as there are twelve hours in the day (John 11:9), then there are also twelve hours in the night. As the length of the day varies, so the length of their hour varies also. In the summer when daylight is longer, there are still 12 hours in the day, but each hour is longer than 60 minutes. Also the nights are shorter than our 12 hour period of time, but as there are still twelve hours in the night. Then the night-time hours are shorter than 60 minutes. In the winter the opposite happens, the days are shorter and the hours of the day are shorter that our 60 minutes. Also the nights are longer, and the hours of the night are longer than our 60 minutes. So we can find various expressions in scripture, such as, "the third hour of the day." (Acts 2:15), "the ninth hour of the day" (Acts 10:3), "the same hour of the night," (Acts 16:33), and "the third hour of the night;" (Acts 23:23), which all show how the bible writers recorded their time. So let us make a note of a typical day in Jewish time, comparing the ordinals and cardinals for a typical 12 hour period of day or night.

Ordinal Hours of the Day or Night1st2nd3rd4th5th 6th7th8th9th10th11th12th
Cardinal Hours of the Day or Night12345 6789101112

Because the first hour starts at exactly the same time as the day starts, the first hour is counted as hour one, the second as hour two, and so on. The ordinal and cardinal numbers always match up perfectly. The only time there would be a difficulty would be when a time period is counted from some time part way through an hour, but this is not done in scripture.

#5a2 Calculating Days of the week in Scripture

The Jewish week is strictly a seven day period the same as our western week, but instead on beginning and ending at midnight on Saturday, theirs begins and ends at sunset as the Sabbath day ends. Each day of the week is a 24 hour period of time which begins and ends at sunset. Their 24 hour day consists of 12 hours of darkness followed by 12 hours of light. The days of the week do not have names in scripture, they were counted as as days from the end of the Sabbath, but there is very little evidence of it in scripture. In the Old Testament we have these examples.

(Leviticus 23:15) מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת (Htr. mimmacharat hashshabbat) "the morrow of the Sabbath".
(Leviticus 23:15 Septuagint) τῆς ἐπαύριον τῶν σαββάτων (Gtr. tes epaurion ton sabbaton) "the morrow of the Sabbath".

(Nehemiah 13:19) אַחַר הַשַּׁבָּת (Htr. 'achar hashshabbat) "after the Sabbath".
(Nehemiah 13:19 Septuagint) ὀπίσω τοῦ σαββάτου (Gtr. opiso tou sabbatou) "after the Sabbath".

In the New Testament there are more examples, but only for the day after the Sabbath.

(Luke 24:1, John 20:1, 20:19, Acts 20:7) μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων (Gtr. mia ton sabbaton) "one from the Sabbath".
(Mark 16:9) πρώτῃ σαββάτου (Gtr. prote sabbatou) "first after the Sabbath".

The New Testament examples are usually translated "the first day of the week" in most bibles. There is no scriptural evidence for any other day of the week being counted this way, but there is some evidence in the Didache.

Didache 8:1 Αἱ δὲ νηστεῖαι ὑμῶν μὴ ἔστωσαν μετὰ τῶν ὑποκριτῶν. νηστεύουσι γὰρ δευτέρα σαββάτων καὶ πέμτῃ,
Didache 8:1 And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week;

Here we have an example of early Christian writing, thought to be second century, where δευτέρα σαββάτων is said to refer to the second day of the week. These examples of how the bible counts the days of the week is supported by the fact that the Jews in modern Israel do not have any names for the days of the week like we do in the west, but count them as "first day", "second day", etc. This method of just numbering the days is used by God in Genesis chapter 1 where he numbers the first six days of the week (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). So here is what the week looks like in ordinal and cardinal numbers.

Ordinal Days of the Week1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th
Cardinal days of the Week1234567

Because the first day starts at exactly the same time as the week starts, the first day is counted as day one, the second as day two, and so on. The ordinal and cardinal numbers always match up perfectly. The only time there would be a difficulty would be when a time period is counted from some time part way through a day.

#5a3 Calculating Days of the Month in Scripture

The Jewish days are based on the rotation of the earth on its axis, and are measured from sunset to sunset (Leviticus 23:32).
The months of the year are based on the lunar cycle, the rotation of the moon around the earth, which is approximately twenty nine and a half days long. Days of the month are simple to calculate. Months are alternately 30 and 29 days each, see our Hebrew / Jewish Calendar, so for a 30 day month the cardinals and ordinals would look like this.

Ordinal Days of the Month 1st 2nd 3rd 4th ..........27th28th29th30th
Cardinal days of the Month1234.......... 27282930

Because the first day starts at exactly the same time as the month starts, the first day is counted as day one, the second as day two, and so on. The ordinal and cardinal numbers always match up perfectly. The only time there would be a difficulty would be when a time period is counted from some time part way through a day. There is one peculiarity to be mentioned in counting the days of the month, and that is that the "first day" sometimes uses the cardinal אֶחָד (Htr. echad) meaning "one" (Leviticus 23:24, Deuteronomy 1:3, 2 Chronicles 29:17) instead of the ordinal רִאשׁוֹן (Htr. roshon) meaning "first" (Exodus 12:15 twice, 12:16, 40:2).

#5a4 Calculating Months of the Year in Scripture

The months of the year are based on the lunar cycle, the rotation of the moon around the earth, which is approximately twenty nine and a half days long. Months are alternately 30 and 29 days each, see our Hebrew / Jewish Calendar. The year is based on the cycle of the earth round the sun, and is approximately 365 and a quarter days long. The number of months in a year is therefore not exact, and varies between 12 and 13 months. The months of the year are easy to calculate as the first month always starts at the beginning of the year, so here is how we calculate the cardinals and ordinals of 12 month year.


Ordinal Months of the Year1st2nd3rd4th5th6th 7th8th9th10th11th12th
Cardinal Months of the Year 12345678 9101112

Because the first month starts at exactly the same time as the year starts, the first month is counted as month one, the second as month two, and so on. The ordinal and cardinal numbers always match up perfectly. The only time there would be a difficulty would be when a time period is counted from some time part way through a year.

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