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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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Year, Ecclesiastical.
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(שָׁנָה, shanah, lit. repetition, kindred with שֵׁנַי, second; ἔτος ), the highest ordinary division of time, marked by the solar revolutions of the seasons. (See TIME).

I. Years, properly so called. Two years were known to, and apparently used by, the Hebrews. (See CALENDAR).

1. A year of 360 days, containing 12 months of 30 days each, is indicated by certain passages in the prophetical Scriptures. The time, times, and a half, of Daniel (Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7), where "time" (Ch. עַדָּן, Heb. מוֹעֵד ) means "year," evidently represent the same period as the 42 months (Revelation 11:2) and 1260 days of the Revelation (Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6), for 360 x 3.5 = 1260, and 30 x 42=1260. This year perfectly corresponds to the Egyptian Vague year, without the five intercalary days. It appears to have been in use in Noah's time, or at least in the time of the writer of the narrative of the flood, for in that narrative the interval from the 17th day of the 2d month to the 17th day of the 7th of the same year appears to be stated to be a period of 150 days (Genesis 7:11; Genesis 7:24; Genesis 8:3-4; comp. Genesis 8:13), and, as the 1James, 2 d, 7th, and 10th months of one year are mentioned (Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:4-5; Genesis 8:13-14), the 1st day of the 10th month of this year being separated from the 1st day of the 1st month of the next year by an interval of at least 54 days (Genesis 8:5-6; Genesis 8:10; Genesis 8:12-13), we can only infer a year of 12 months. Ideler disputes the former inference, arguing that as the water first began to sink after 150 days (and then had been fifteen cubits above all high mountains), it must have sunk for some days ere the ark could have rested on Ararat, so that the second date must have been more than 150 days later than the first (Handbuch, 1:69, 70, 478, 479). This argument depends upon the meaning of the expression high mountains, and upon the height of "the mountains of Ararat," upon which the ark rested (Genesis 8:4), and we are certainly justified by Shemitic usage, if we do not consider the usual inference of the great height attained by the flood to be a necessary one (Genesis of the Earth and of Prayer of Manasseh 1:2 d ed. pages 97, 98). The exact correspondence of the interval mentioned to 5 months of 30 days each, and the use of a year of 360 days, or 12 such months, by the prophets, the latter fact overlooked by Ideler, favor the idea that such a year is here meant, unless, indeed, one identical with the Egyptian Vague year, of 12 months of 30 days and 5 intercalary days. The settlement of this question depends upon the nature and history of these years, and our information on the latter subject is not sufficiently certain to enable us to do more than hazard a conjecture.

A year of 360 days is the rudest known. It is formed of 12 spurious lunar months, and was probably the parent of the lunar year of 354 days, and the Vague year of 365. That it should have continued any time in use would be surprising were it not for the convenient length of the months. The Hebrew year, from the time of the Exodus, as we shall see, was evidently lunar, though in some manner rendered virtually solar, and we may therefore infer that the lunar year is as old as the date of the Exodus. As the Hebrew year was not an Egyptian year, and as nothing is said of its being new, save in its time of commencement, it was perhaps earlier in use among the Israelites, and either brought into Egypt by them or borrowed from Shemite settlers.

The Vague year was certainly in use in Egypt in as remote an age as the earlier part of the 12th dynasty (cir. 2000 B.C.), and there can be no reasonable doubt that it was there used at the time of the building of the Great Pyramid (cir. 2350 B.C.). The intercalary days seem to be of Egyptian institution, for each of them was dedicated to one of the great gods, as if the innovation had been thus made permanent by the priests; and perhaps rendered popular as a series of days of feasting and rejoicing. The addition would, however, date from a very early period, that of the final settlement of the Egyptian religion.

As the lunar year and the Vague year run up parallel to so early a period as that of the Exodus, and the former seems to have been then Shemitic, the latter then, and for several centuries earlier, Egyptian; and probably of Egyptian origin, we may reasonably conjecture that the former originated from a year of 360 days in Asia, the latter from the same year in Africa, this primitive year having been used by the Noachians before their dispersion.

2. The year used by the Hebrews from the time of the Exodus may be said to have been then instituted, since a current month, Abib, on the 14th day of which the first Passover was kept, was then made the first month of the year. The essential characteristics of this year call be clearly determined, though we cannot fix those of any single year. It was essentially solar, for the offerings of productions of the earth, first-fruits, harvest-produce, and ingathered fruits were fixed to certain days of the year, two of which were in the periods of great feasts, the third itself a feast reckoned from one of the former days. It seems evident that the year was made to depend upon these times, and it may be observed that such a calendar would tend to cause thankfulness for God's good gifts, and would put in the background the great luminaries which the heathen worshipped in Egypt and in Canaan. Though the year was thus essentially solar, it is certain that the months were lunar, each commencing with a new moon. There must, therefore, have been some method of adjustment. The first point to be decided is how the commencement of each year was fixed.

On the 16th day of Abib ripe ears of corn were to be offered as first-fruits of the harvest (Leviticus 2:14; Leviticus 23:10-11): this was the day on which the sickle was begun to be put to the corn (Deuteronomy 16:9), and no doubt Josephus is right in stating that until the offering of first-fruits had been made no harvest-work was to be begun (Ant. 3:10, 5). He also states that ears of barley were offered (ibid.). That this was the case, and that the ears were the earliest ripe, is evident from the following circumstances. The reaping of barley commenced the harvest (2 Samuel 21:9), that of wheat following, apparently without any considerable interval (Ruth 2:23).

On the day of Pentecost thanksgiving was offered for the harvest, and it was therefore called the Feast of Harvest. It was reckoned from the commencement of the harvest, on the 16th day of the 1st month. The 50 days must include the whole time of the harvest of both wheat and barley throughout Palestine. According to the observations of modern travellers, barley is ripe, in the warmest parts of Palestine, in the first days of April. The barley-harvest, therefore, begins about half a month or less after the vernal equinox. Each year, if solar, would thus begin at about that equinox, when the earliest ears of barley must be ripe. As, however, the mouths were lunar, the commencement of the year must have been fixed by a new moon near this point of time. The new moon must have been that which fell about or next afte'r the equinox, not more than a few days before, on account of the offering of first-fruits. Ideler, whose observations on this matter we have thus far followed, supposes that the new moon was chosen by observation of the forwardness of the barley-crops in the warmer parts of the country (Handbuch, 1: 490). But such a method would have caused confusion on account of the different times of the harvest in different parts of Palestine; and in the period of the Judges there would often have been two separate commencements of the year in regions divided by hostile tribes, and in each of which the Israelitish population led an existence almost independent of any other branch.

It is more likely that the Hebrews would have determined their new-year's day by the observation of heliacal or other star-risings or settings known to mark the right time of the solar year. By such a method the beginning of any year could have been fixed a year before, either to one day, or, supposing the month-commencements were fixed by actual observation, within a day or two. We need not doubt that the Israelites were well acquainted with such means of marking the periods of a solar year. In the ancient Song of Deborah we read how "They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river. the river Kishon" (Judges 5:20-21), The stars that marked the times of rain are thus connected with the swelling of the river in which the fugitive Canaanites perished. So, too, we read how the Lord demanded of Job, "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Kimah, or loose the bands of Kesil?" (Job 38:31). "The best and most fertilizing of the rains," in Palestine and the neighboring lands, save Egypt, "fall when the Pleiades set at dawn (not exactly heliacally), at the end of autumn; rain scarcely ever falling at the opposite season, when Scorpio sets at dawn."

That Kimah signifies the Pleiades does not admit of reasonable doubt, and Kesil, as opposite to it, would be Scorpio, being identified with Cor Scorpionis by Aben-Ezra. Therefore it cannot be questioned that the Israelites, even during the troubled time of the Judges, were well acquainted with the method of determining the seasons of the solar year by observing the stars. Not alone was this the practice of the civilized Egyptians, but, at all times of which we know their history, of the Arabs, and also of the Greeks in the time of Hesiod, while yet their material civilization and science were rudimentary. It has always been the custom of pastoral and scattered peoples, rather than of the dwellers in cities; and if the Egyptians be thought to form an exception, it must be recollected that they used it at a period not remote from that at which their civilization came from the plain of Shinar.

It follows, from the determination of the proper new moon of the 1st month, whether by observation of a stellar phenomenon, or of the forwardness of the crops, that the method of intercalation can only have been that in use after the captivity, the addition of a 13th month whenever the 12th ended too long before the equinox for the offering of the first- fruits to be made at the time fixed. This method is in accordance with the permission granted to postpone the celebration of the Passover for one month in the case of any one who was legally unclean, or journeying at a distance (Numbers 9:9-13); and there is a historical instance in the case of Hezekiah, of such a postponement, for both reasons, of the national celebration (2 Chronicles 30:1 to 2 Chronicles 3:15). Such a practice as that of an intercalation varying in occurrence is contrary to Western usage; but the like prevails in all Moslem countries in a far more inconvenient form in the case of the commencement of every month. The day is determined by actual observation of the new moon, and thus a day is frequently unexpectedly added to or deducted from a month at one place, and months commence on different days at different towns in the same country. The Hebrew intercalation, if determined by stellar phenomena, would not be liable to a like uncertainty, though such may have been the case with the actual day of the new moon.

The later Jews had two commencements of the year, whence it is commonly but inaccurately said that they had two years, the sacred year and the civil. We prefer to speak of the sacred and civil reckonings. Ideler admits that these reckonings obtained at the time of the second temple. The sacred reckoning was that instituted at the Exodus, according to which the 1st month was Abib; by the civil reckoning the 1st month was the 7th. The interval between the two commencements was thus exactly half a year. It has been supposed that the institution at the time of the Exodus was a change of commencement, not the introduction of a new year, and that thenceforward the year had two beginnings, respectively at about the vernal and the autumnal equinoxes.

The former supposition is a hypothesis, the latter may almost be proved. The strongest point of evidence as to two beginnings of the year from the time of the Exodus, strangely unnoticed in this relation by Ideler, is the circumstance that the sabbatical and jubilee years commenced in the 7th month, and no doubt on the 10th day of the 7th month, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9-10), and as this year immediately followed a sabbatical year, the latter must have begun in the same manner. Both were full years, and therefore must have commenced on the 1st day. The jubilee year was proclaimed on the 1st day of the month, the Day of Atonement standing in the same relation to its beginning, and perhaps to the civil beginning of the year, as did the Passover to the sacred beginning. This would be the most convenient, if not the necessary commencement of a year of total cessation from, the labors of agriculture, as a year so commencing would comprise the whole round of such occupations in regular sequence from seed-time to harvest, and from harvest to vintage and gathering of fruit. The command as to both years, apart from the mention of the Day of Atonement, clearly shows this, unless we suppose, but this is surely unwarrantable, that the injunction in the two places in which it occurs follows the regular order of the seasons of agriculture (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:3-4; Leviticus 25:11), but that this was not intended to apply in the case of the observance. Two expressions, used with reference to the time of the Feast of Ingathering, on the 15th day of the 7th month, must be here noticed. This feast is spoken of as הִשָׁנָה בַּצֵאת, "in the going out" or "end of the year" (Exodus 23:16), and as תְּקוּפִת הִשָׁנָה [at] the change of the year" (Exodus 34:22), the latter a vague expression, so far as we can understand it, but quite consistent with the other, whether indicating the turning-point. of a natural year, or the half of the year by the sacred reckoning..

The rabbins use the term תְּקוּפָה to designate the commencement of each of the four seasons into which they divide the year (Handbuch, 1:550, 551). Our view is confirmed by the similarity of the 1st and 7th months as to their observances the one containing the Feast of Unleavened Bread, from the 15th to the 21st inclusive; the other, that if Tabernacles, from the 15th to the 22d. Evidence in the same direction is found in the special sanctification of the 1st day of the 7th month, which. in the blowing of trumpets resembles the proclamation of the jubilee year on the Day of Atonement. We therefore hold that from the time of the Exodus. there were two beginnings of the year, with the 1st of the 1st and the 1st of the 7th month, the former being the sacred reckoning, the latter, used for the operations of agriculture, the civil reckoning. In Egypt, in the present day, Moslems use the lunar year for their religious observances, and for ordinary affairs, except those of agriculture, which they regulate by the Coptic Julian year.

3. We must here notice here theories of the derivation of the Hebrew year from the Egyptian Vague year, as they are connected with the tropical point or points and agricultural phenomena, by which the former was regulated. The Vague year was commonly used by the Egyptians; and from it only. if from an Egyptian year, is the Hebrew likely to have been derived. Two theories have been formed connecting the two years at the Exodus.

(1) Some hold that Abib, the 1st month of the Hebrew year by the sacred reckoning, was the Egyptian Epiphi, called in Coptic, Epepi, and in Arabic, by the modern Egyptians; Abib, or Ebib, the 11th month of the Vague year. The similarity of sound is remarkable, but it must be remembered that the Egyptian name is derived from that of the goddess of the month, PEP- T or APAP-T (?) whereas the Hebrew name has the ense of "an ear of corn, a green ear," and is derived from the unused root אָבִב, traceable in אֵב, "verdure," Chaldee, אֵב , "fruit," Arabic, ab, "green fodder." Moreover, the Egyptian P is rarely, if ever, represented by the Hebrew ב , and the converse is not common. Still stronger evidence is afforded by the fact that we find in Egyptian the root AB, "a nosegay," which is evidently related to Abib and its cognates. Supposing, however, that the Hebrew. calendar was formed by fixing the Egyptian Epiphi as the 1st month, what would be the chronological result?

The latest date to which the Exodus is assigned is about 1320 B.C. In the Julian year 1320 B.C., the month Epiphi of the Egyptian Vague year commenced May 16, 44 days after the day of the vernal equinox, April 2, very near which the Hebrew year must have begun. Thus, at the latest date of the Exodus, there is an interval of a month and a half between the beginning of the Hebrew year and Epiphi 1. This interval represents about 180 years, through which the Vague year would retrograde in the Julian until the commencement of Epiphi corresponded to the vernal equinox, and no method can reduce it below 100. It is possible to effect thus much by conjecturing that the month Abib began somewhat after this tropical point, though the precise details of the state of the crops at the time of the plagues, as compared with the phenomena of agriculture in Lower Egypt at the present day, make half a month an extreme extension. At the time of the plague of hail the barley was in the ear and was smitten, with the flax, but the wheat was not sufficiently forward to be destroyed (Exodus 9:31-32). In Lower Egypt, at the present day, this would be the case about the end of February and beginning of March. The Exodus cannot have taken place many days after the plague of hail, so that it must have occurred about or a little after the time of the vernal equinox, and thus Abib cannot possibly have begun much after that tropical point half a month is therefore excessive. We have thus carefully examined the evidence as to the supposed derivation of Abib from Epiphi, because it has been carelessly taken for granted, and more carelessly alleged in support of the latest date of the Exodus.

(2) We have founded an argument for the date of the Exodus upon another comparison of the Hebrew year and the Vague year. We have seen that the sacred commencement of the Hebrew year was at the new moon about or next after, but not much before, the vernal equinox the civil commencement must usually have been at the new moon nearest the autumnal equinox. At the earliest date of the Exodus computed by modern chronologers, about the middle of the 17th century B.C., the Egyptian Vague year commenced at or about the latter time. The Hebrew year, reckoned from the civil commencement, and the Vague year, therefore, then nearly or exactly coincided. We have already seen that the Hebrews in Egypt, if they used a foreign year, must be supposed to have used the Vague year. It is worth while to inquire whether a Vague year of this time would further suit the characteristics of the first Hebrew year. It would be necessary that the 14th day of Abib, on which fell the full moon of the Passover of the Exodus, should correspond to the 14th of Phamenoth, in a Vague year commencing about, the autumnal equinox. A full moon fell on the 14th of Phamenoth, or Thursday, April 21, 1652 B.C., of a Vague year commencing on the day of the autumnal equinox, October 10, 1653 B.C. A full moon would not fall oil the same day of the Vague year within a shorter interval than twenty-five years, and the triple near coincidence of new moon, Vague year, and autumnal equinox would not recur in less than fifteen hundred Vague years (Encyclop. Brit. 8th. ed. "Egypt," page 458). This date of the Exodus, 1652 B.C., is only four years earlier than Hales's, 1648 B.C., and only six years later than that adopted in this Cyclopcedia, 1658 B.C. In confirmation of this early date, it must be added that in a list of confederates defeated by Thothmes III at Megiddo, in the twenty-third year of his reign, are certain names that we believe can only refer to Israelitish tribes. The date of this king's accession cannot be later than about 1460 B.C., and his twenty-third year cannot therefore be later than about 1440 B.C. Were the Israelites then settled in Palestine, no date of the Exodus but the longest would be tenable. (See CHRONOLOGY).

I Divisions of the Year.

1. Seasons. Two seasons are mentioned in the Bible, קִיַוֹ, "summer," and חֹרֶ " winter." The former properly means the time of cutting fruits, the latter, that of gathering fruits; they are therefore, originally, rather summer and autumn than summer and winter. But that they signify ordinarily the two grand divisions of the year, the warm and cold seasons, is evident from their use for the whole year in the expression קִיַוֹ וָחֹרֶ, summer and winter" (Psalms 74:17; Zechariah 14:8; perhaps Genesis 8:22), and from the mention of "the winter house" (Jeremiah 36:22) and "the summer house " (Amos 3:15, where both are mentioned together). Probably חֹרֶ, when used without reference to the year (as in Job 29:4), retains its original signification. In the promise to Noah, after the flood, the following remarkable passage occurs: "While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Genesis 8:22). Here "seed-time," זֶרִע, and "harvest," קָצַיר, are evidently the agricultural seasons. It seems unreasonable to suppose that they mean winter and summer as the beginnings of the periods of sowing and of harvest are not separated by six months, and they do not. last for six months each, or nearly so long a time. The phrase "cold and heat," קֹר וָחֹם, probably indicates the great alternations of temperature. The whole passage, indeed, speaks of the alternations of nature, whether of productions, temperature, the seasons, or light and darkness. As we have seen, the year was probably then a wandering one, and therefore the passage is not likely to refer to it, but to natural phenomena alone. (See SEASON).

2. Months. The Hebrew months, from the time of the Exodus, were lunar. The year appears ordinarily to have contained 12, but when intercalation was necessary, a 13th. The older year contained 12 months of 30 days each. (See MONTH).

3. Weeks. The Hebrews, from the time of the institution of the Sabbath, whether at or before the Exodus, reckoned by weeks, but, as no lunar year could have contained a number of weeks without a fractional excess, this reckoning was virtually independent of the year as with the Moslems. (See WEEK).

4. Festivtals, Holy Days, and Fasts. The Feast of the Passover was held on the 14th day of the 1st month. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted 7 days; from the 15th to the 21st; inclusive, of the same month. Its first and last days were kept as Sabbaths. The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, was celebrated on the day which ended 7 weeks, counted from the 16th of the 1st month, that day being excluded. It was called the Feast of Harvest, and Day of First-fruits. The Feast of Trumpets (lit. "of the sound of the trumpet") was kept as a Sabbath on the 1st day of the 7th month. The Day of Atonement (lit. "of Atonements") was a fast, held the 10th day of the 7th month. The Feast of Tabernacles, or Feast of Gathering, was celebrated from the 15th to the 22d day, inclusive, of the 7th month. Additions made long after the giving of the law, and not known to be of higher than priestly authority, are the Feast of Purim, commemorating the defeat of Haman's plot; the Feast of the Dedication, recording the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple by Judas Maccabaeus; and four fasts. (See FESTIVAL).

III. Sacred Years.

1. The Sabbatical year, הִשְׁמַטָּה שְׁנִת, "the fallow year," or, possibly, "year of remission," or שְׁמַטָּה alone, kept every seventh year, was commanded to be observed as a year of rest from the labors of agriculture and of remission of debts. Two Sabbatical years are recorded, commencing and current, 164-3 and 136-5 B.C. (See SABBATICAL YEAR).

2. The Jubilee Year, שְׁנִת הִיּוֹבֵל, "the year of the trumpet," or יוֹבֵל alone, a like year, which immediately followed every seventh Sabbatical year. It has been disputed whether the jubilee year was every forty-ninth or fiftieth; the former is more probable. (See JUBILEE).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Year'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​y/year.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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