Analysis of the Churches of God's use of the Jewish Calendar
In the paper titled Are the UCG dates of the crucifixion proof of the Jewish calendar?1 it was demonstrated, by comparing multiple sources, that the Jewish calendar does not support a Wednesday Passover in the year 31 CE and therefore does not support a crucifixion in the year 31 CE. Jorge de Campos, a member of the UCG (United Church of God) Council of Elders, replied with an explanation2 on why and how UCG arrives at the year 31 CE. The answer provided by de Campos is that there was a change in the leap year cycle in the Jewish calendar.
In this paper we will explore if there was a leap year cycle change in the history of the Jewish calendar, and examine the evidence provided by de Campos. A technical explanation will follow explaining how the leap year cycles work in the Jewish calendar.
(Mr. de Campos granted permission to publish his response)
The year of Christ’s death is determined by fulfillment of prophecy [...]Jorge de Campos, UCG Council of Elders
De Campos first states that the timing of Christ's death was a “fulfillment of prophecy”. But this creates a conflict with the Jewish calendar, which does support the year 31 CE as the year of crucifixion, so de Campos offers the explanation that there was a change in the Jewish calendar many years ago.
There was a seasonal shift correction in the intercalation sequence of leap years of the HC [Hebrew/Jewish Calendar] sometime during 2nd / 3rd centuryJorge de Campos, UCG Council of Elders (emphasis from original author
The claim is that there was “a seasonal shift correction” in the Jewish calender, this is a reference to the Jewish calendar losing accuracy over time, and the theory is that this was corrected by changing the Jewish calendar's leap year cycle (also called “intercalation sequence”).
It was discovered during the research for this paper that Herman Hoeh created his own leap year cycle and added it to the teachings for the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in the 70s. The rest of the response from de Campos is about the leap year cycle created by Herman Hoeh.
The leap year cycle for the Jewish calendar is similar to that of the Gregorian calendar, only that instead of a leap year every 4 years, it has a complicated pattern that repeats over a span of 19 years.
As we will see in our examination of the evidence, no changes were ever made to the Jewish calendar. Hoeh's leap year cycle change is the source for the UCG teaching that the Jewish calendar supports a crucifixion occurring in year 31 CE.
(Note: Leap year cycles are also called “intercalation sequences”)
The websites’ calculators [standard Jewish calendar programs] which were used as ‘comparison sources’ in the attached document [Are the UCG dates of the crucifixion proof of the Jewish calendar?] did not take into account that delay in intercalation sequence. The UCG Appendix refers to calculators [Jewish calendar programs] which do take that sequence change into account.Jorge de Campos, UCG Council of Elders
One of the Jewish calendar programs used in the UCG study paper (referred to as “calculators” above) was the Ambassador College calendar. The other is CalGraph, created by Frank Nelte. Below is a response from Nelte regarding the use of his program CalGraph to justify a year 31 CE crucifixion.
My son Michael was studying computer programming in high school, and in 1996 I asked him to write me a computer program for the Jewish Calendar, with some specific features that no other computer program offered. We called that computer program "Calgraph", and it was written to work in DOS and up to Windows 95. … One feature I had my son include in that program was the option to change the sequence of leap years in the Jewish 19-year cycles.Frank Nelte, email correspondence
Nelte explains that they had built their program to incorporate a feature to manipulate the leap year cycles. This feature is what allowed UCG to produce results based on Hoeh's leap year cycle. The Ambassador College calendar is the other source in UCG's study papers.
“Once he [a minister in Pasadena] saw that the Jewish calendar calculations produce ABSURD results for dates in antiquity, [someone] in Pasadena figured out that AT SOME PAST DATE they must adopt A DIFFERENT SEQUENCE OF LEAP YEARS in order to avoid obviously absurd dates… Users of the program had no way of knowing that calculations for the year 2016 used a totally different sequence of leap years [Hoeh's leap year cycle] to calculations for the year 30 A.D.Frank Nelte, email correspondence
Nelte points out that the Ambassador College program was using Hoeh's leap year cycle, and that users were not told this when running the program. Carl Franklin, former WCG minister addresses this program in his paper Ambassador College and Recent Calendar History.
Fourteen years later, in 1988/89, Ambassador College issued an automated Hebrew Calendar… The calendar utilized the wrong intercalary cycle [leap year cycle] from 142 AD back through the time of Christ and into the BC period, thereby resulting in many errors. For example, Passover in 31 AD was placed on Wednesday, April 25, when in reality it took place on Monday, March 26. This particular error gave false support to the teaching that Christ was crucified in 31 AD.Carl D. Franklin, Ambassador College and Recent Calendar History
De Campos provides a link to an online Jewish calendar, which he claims proves that the Jewish calendar supports a 31 CE crucifixion. But in fact this calendar does not support this claim.
This following calculator [Jewish calendar program] also takes into account the referred to intercalation sequence [leap year cycle] change.Jorge de Campos, UCG Council of Elders
The cgsf.org site states that the Jewish calendar does not support a year 31 CE crucifixion. The cgsf.org's calendar page provides a link at the top labeled “Calendar Accuracy”, here's what it says.
The “Hebrew” years illustrated here prior to the time of Maimonides are hypothetical, superimposing the Rabbinic computations backward in time through 142 AD. Prior to 142 AD the same Rabbinic methods of computation are used here, except that a change in the arrangement of leap years was made to “correct” a presumed calendar drift, thus allowing for the calculated calendar to support a Wednesday, 31 AD crucifixion of Jesus Christ. (Whether Jesus actually died in 31 AD is another story. But while astronomical evidence would allow for a Wednesday Passover that year, the current Rabbinic computations, without any adjustment, would not.)
This statement by cgsf.org requires some explaining. The cgsf.org site admits that any leap year cycle change to the Jewish calendar is “presumed” and “hypothetical”. The statement “a change in the arrangement of leap years”, is a reference to Hoeh's leap year cycle. The phrase “Rabbinic computations” refers to the math of the Jewish calendar. The statement “...the current Rabbinic computations [Jewish calendar], without any adjustment, would not.” refers to the fact that using the Jewish calendar, without altering it in any way, does not support the claim that Jesus was crucified in 31 CE. The last sentence states that a purely “astronomical” calendar (using only the moon, sun and stars) supports a 31 CE crucifixion, but the Jewish calendar does not.
The following is the explanation by de Campos of the changes in the leap year cycle according to UCG. Here is where de Campos introduces Hoeh's extra leap year cycle, and claims that it is the “original” leap year cycle. Hoeh's leap year cycle is in the “FROM” row in the table below. The “TO” row in the table is the leap year cycle from the standard Jewish calendar.
31AD with intercalation
31AD without intercalation
— The ‘TO’ line is what the HC [Hebrew Calendar] uses today. The ‘FROM’ is what was used in 31AD.Jorge de Campos, UCG Council of Elders
(To understand exactly what these numbers mean, refer to the technical section at the end of this paper.)
This table is de Campos demonstrating Herman Hoeh's theory of two leap year cycles in the Jewish calendar. The “FROM” is Hoeh's leap year cycle, which is claimed to be the “original”.
Another correction [change in leap year cycle] is required by year 6000 of HC [Hebrew Calendar] (because we [k]now in year 5776, it is over 200 years from today) according to www.thesanhedrin.orgJorge de Campos, UCG Council of Elders
De Campos references the Jewish high court, called the Sanhedrin, to backup the claim that since a correction will be needed in the future, that Hoeh's leap year cycle was the original leap year cycle.
The Sanhedrin website does actually contain a page3 that discusses the needed changes to the Jewish calendar due to “seasonal drift”. The Sanhedrin references Dr. Irv Bromberg4 as their math source for the calendar, who is an authority on the Jewish calendar. There are three different leap year cycles found on Dr. Bromberg's site.5 None of the three leap year cycles mentioned by Dr. Bromberg match Hoeh's leap year cycle. Dr. Bromberg was asked “Is your assumption on these alternate leap year rules a theoretical one, or an historically based one?” Here is Dr. Bromberg's response.
[...] I suggested (conjecture) that the sages may have changed the leap rules in that manner. […] Unfortunately the author of Yesod Olam gave these alternate leap rules but stated there that he didn't remember their sources or whether they were ever actually used.Dr. Irv Bromberg, email correspondence
Dr. Bromberg is cited by the Sanhedrin and his document on seasonal drift is the only source found that analyzes any alternate leap year cycles, which he explains are “conjecture”. Dr. Bromberg was also asked if there had been any changes to the Jewish calendar, and he stated he knew of none.
So how and when did Herman Hoeh propose his own leap year cycle for the Jewish calendar? And why did Hoeh create a leap year cycle change to support a crucifixion in the year 31 CE?
A change in the Jewish calendar leap year cycle first appeared in Ambassador College curriculum in 1971. It can be found in a book for the 3rd year class on the math of the Jewish calendar. The book written for this class is The Hebrew Calendar: A Mathematical Introduction6, by John Kossey and edited by Herman Hoeh. On page 21 we find this.
SINCE 142 AD (see footnote 1)7, the years in a cycle that are leap years are: 3 6 8 11 14 17 19 … Before 142 AD, the leap years were: 2 5 7 10 13 16 18John Kossey, THE HEBREW CALENDAR: A Mathematical Introduction, 1971 page 21
In the text following “Before 142 AD” is Hoeh's leap year cycle, the same leap year cycle found in the UCG reply by Jorge de Campos.
Since Kossey was the author of the Ambassador College curriculum it would seem that he created this new leap year cycle. But a letter from Michael Germano in 2004 to Dr. Herman Hoeh clarifies that Kossey didn't base the leap year cycle changes on any known evidence at the time.
What I am writing you about is the matter of the leap years occurring before 142 AD, namely 2 5 7 10 13 16 18. I have not been able to verify this pattern in any of the extant literature. I discussed this with John Kossey and he admitted it was an assumption and he knows of no extant evidence either.Michael Germano, letter to Herman Hoeh, 2004
Why then did Kossey add Hoeh's leap year cycle into the curriculum? Kossey was contacted and asked about the leap year cycle change, here's his reply. (Permission to publish this response was granted by Mr. Kossey)
When I wrote The Hebrew Calendar, I was immaturely irenic and uncritical about historical matters and focused more on instructional design. Appealing to verbal comments from Dr. Hoeh was my primary historical methodology <sigh>. Had I known of better documentation on calendar revisions, I possibly would have included them, although I had no intention of challenging Dr. Hoeh at the time. (FYI: Dr. Hoeh performed the marriage ceremony for my wife Susan and me in 1985.) The best I can recall: the footnote I quoted is charitably an inference that seemed better than nothing. (Later in this email, you can read brief mention for an actual “Calendar Controversy” in 921—922 C.E.)
256 AD represents a historically unsupported revisionist theory”old pattern to new pattern”of calendar change. This date fails to acknowledge that widespread use of a standard, calculated Jewish calendar occurred centuries after the dissolution of the Sanhedrin. Desire to resolve WCG debates about what day of the week is appropriate for celebrating Pentecost may have provided Dr. Hoeh a context for his appeal to a definitive Jewish calendar that suddenly changed the pattern of intercalary years [leap year cycle]”long before any were in widespread practice.
My hunch is that Dr. Hoeh valued simplicity of explanation over muddled and sometimes conflicting historical evidence. Primary sources on the Jewish calendar are in Hebrew, for which he did not have working knowledge. From a retrospective point of view, publishing novel conclusions without competent peer review can paint oneself into an untenable corner. …
I suspect that Dr. Hoeh’s Old Cycle [leap year cycle] was his private inference to align the death of our Lord Jesus to a specific year. Any notion of authoritative New Cycle around 256 C.E. lacks historical grounding on many fronts.John Kossey, email correspondence
Kossey admits he made an error by adding Hoeh's leap year cycle into the curriculum on the Jewish calendar and refers to at least one of Hoeh's concepts as “revisionist theory”. He also admits there was no historical evidence given to him by Hoeh to justify his leap year cycle. His footnote on the Jewish Encyclopedia (reference the footnote in this paper) is what he referred to as an “inference that seemed better than nothing”. He said that Hoeh was his only source, and it was “verbal”. Kossey states that he suspected Hoeh created his version of the leap year cycle to “align the death of our Lord Jesus to a specific year.” We know from de Campos' reply that the year 31 CE is the year Kossey is referring to.
Michael Germano is the President and CEO of the Living Church of God's college, Living University. He is also on the calendar committee for the Living Church of God. Germano currently teaches that Jesus was crucified on 31 CE, but recognizes that the Jewish calendar, while using Hoeh's leap year cycle, is not proof of this.
Germano was the Dean of the School of Education at Ambassador College in 1971, the year John Kossey's The Hebrew Calendar: A Mathematical Introduction was published. (Permission to publish this response was granted by Mr. Germano)
Years later, after the formation of Ambassador College in Pasadena, California, it became clear that using the Jewish perpetual calendar known as the Hillel II calendar, placed Nisan 14 on Monday, March 26 in 31 CE (Julian) not on a Wednesday. Mr. Armstrong, as did COG7 [Church of God 7th day] at that time, taught that the Crucifixion transpired not on a Friday but on a Wednesday. This required Nisan 14 to be a Wednesday in 31 CE.
Herman L. Hoeh’s solution was to suggest that the Nisan 14 Crucifixion fell on Wednesday, April 25 in 31 CE (Julian). Hoeh discovered that if the normal Hebrew year 3791 (30/31 CE) was made a 13 month Hebrew leap year with the addition of the 30 day month of Adar II, Nisan 14 in Hebrew year 3792 (the year of the Crucifixion) would be on Wednesday, April 25 in 31 AD (Julian).Michael Germano, email correspondence
This explains the possible motives behind the leap year cycle changes Hoeh made to force a Wednesday Passover on the year 31 CE. Hoeh created his leap year cycle to change the calculations in the Jewish calendar to match what was already being taught in the WCG.
To make this proposition succeed, he reduced the leap years in the present-day perpetual Jewish calendar by one year from year 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 in a nineteen year cycle to year 2, 5, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 18. The mathematical result was that Nisan 14 in 31 CE became Wednesday, April 26 (Julian). Hoeh provided no biblical or other authority for the change. This solution provided the “truth” of the matter by placing the Crucifixion on Wednesday in 31 CE, so the task then became to determine when the sequence of Old Cycle leap years [Hoeh's cycle] (years 2, 5, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 18) changed to New Cycle leap year cycle [Jewish calendar cycle] (year 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19).Michael Germano, email correspondence
Germano reiterates what Kossey claimed, that Hoeh “provided no biblical or other authority for the change”. The leap year cycle changes explained by Germano matches de Campos' explanation as well. But Germano contradicts de Campos, and UCG, by stating that the changes were not from the Sanhedrin, but from Herman Hoeh.
He first argued that the change from the Old Cycle [Hoeh's cycle] to the New Cycle [Jewish calendar cycle] took place in 142 AD (Kossey, 1971). He then argued 161 AD as the time of the change (Kossey J. L., 1974). Lastly he chose 256 AD for the change (Hoeh, 2004, p. 1). The latter change made in 1973/1974 was due to the Worldwide Church of God changing its doctrine regarding the counting of Pentecost. Dr. Hoeh believed that the change from the Old Cycle [Hoeh's cycle] to the New Cycle [Jewish calendar cycle] was to keep Pentecost from falling after the summer solstice.
To put Hoeh’s spring Pentecost proposition to the test, I had his Old Cycle leap years made subject of a computer simulation. In this analysis Pentecost did not fall after the summer solstice in 256 AD. The evidence instead points to this first occurring in 807 AD (Penman, 2014, p. 32). In my opinion this finding in and of itself is sufficient to falsify Hoeh’s Old and New Cycle calendar hypothesis.Michael Germano, email correspondence
Germano points out that Hoeh repeatedly changed his mind about which year his own changes to the leap year cycle should occur, in order to force the calendar to support the current teachings of WCG. Germano even tested Hoeh's theories on Pentecost and proved that Hoeh's reasoning was in error. In addition to all of this, Hoeh added that his leap year cycle changes were proof of a Monday Pentecost, a teaching that WCG later rejected.
Hoeh never offered any supporting evidence or proof that his solution was the correct one. He alluded to Jewish history and gave generalized statements but never provided any specific biblical or other literary evidence. Dr. Hoeh undertook advancing his theory and stuck to his interpretation to his death. This assumption was that a Hebrew Perpetual Calendar existed from the Exodus to our day.Michael Germano, email correspondence
Germano reiterates that Heoh provided no proof for his leap year cycle changes, and that Hoeh believed the Jewish calendar existed since the Exodus. But even the Jewish Encyclopedia states that the current Jewish mathematical calendar was created around 365 CE.8
Germano also addresses de Campos' first argument that “The year of Christ’s death is determined by fulfillment of prophecy...”, in the following comments.
For many years, Dr. Hoeh sought to determine the year of the Israelite Exodus from ancient Egypt and postulated several dates. On December 3, 1997, Hoeh reported that the Exodus occurred in 1446 BC. As of October 9, 1998 he concluded it was 1447 BC. On his Old Cycle calendar Nisan 14 fell on a Wednesday in 1447 BC. On November 17, 2004 (ten days before his death) he apparently had concluded the Exodus was in 1448 BC (968 BC plus 480 years).
Hoeh argued that in 968, 967 and 966 BC the first temple ground breaking occurred in the fourth year of Solomon. For years he engaged in the mental gymnastics of showing one of them was preferable.
Arguing that other historians are all wrong normally demands falsifying proffered evidence and some extensive analysis and proof, but Hoeh did not deal with this. His dilemma was the irreconcilability of his basic argument. His Old/New Cycle calculated calendar approach makes a 31 CE Crucifixion irreconcilable with a 1448 or 1447 BCE Exodus.
Hoeh simply could not deal with this. He spent five decades attempting to build an accurate chronological structure based on a false assumption. He constantly looked for an elusive solution.Michael Germano, email correspondence
Germano states that Hoeh had irreconcilable contradictions between prophetic dates when attempting to make 31 CE work for a crucifixion. Hoeh's calendar theories conflicted with other historian's dates as well as the Jewish calendar itself.
In 1973 a bible study was given by Herman Hoeh titled A New Look at Pentecost in Light of the Calendar Adjustment in the Second Century.
The fact that this change [Hoeh's leap year cycle] would not have occurred at the time it did, if Pentecost were on a Sunday is proof that Pentecost occurs on a Monday! The calendar thus becomes just one more witness to a Monday Pentecost.Herman Hoeh, 1973, A New Look at Pentecost in Light of the Calendar Adjustment in the Second Century
In the 1970s Herman Hoeh introduced his leap year cycle into church teachings on the Jewish calendar. Hoeh used his own devised leap year cycle in an attempt to prove not only that the crucifixion was during the year 31 CE but also that Pentecost should be on a Monday. In a Jewish calendar study paper, UCG9 uses Hoeh's leap year cycle to attempt to prove that Jesus was crucified in the year 31 CE.
But the actual Jewish calendar does not support a year 31 CE crucifixion, or a Monday Pentecost. The modern day Sanhedrin acknowledges that the standard Jewish calendar is drifting, and future corrections are needed, but Jewish calendar expert, Dr. Irv Bromberg states that no corrections were made to the standard Jewish calendar in the past, and none of the theoretical leap year cycles in his studies match Hoeh's leap year cycle.
Standard Jewish calendar software and online sources, which do not use Hoeh's leap year cycle, show the same dates for Passover in the first century, and they do not match the dates used by UCG.
A leap year in the Jewish calendar is a year with 13 months instead of 12. The Jewish calendar uses a 19 year cycle with 7 leap years. The leap year cycle is when those leap years occur in each 19 year span. In the Jewish calendar the leap year cycle is the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years.
This can also be represented by the difference between each leap year in the cycle, as in 3 3 2 3 3 3 2.
Hoeh's leap year cycle is a modified version of these 7 years, his sequence is 2 3 2 3 3 3 2, which would make the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 16th and 18th years of the 19 year cycle leap year in the Jewish calendar. This is the cycle Hoeh proposed was the “original” leap year cycle, and his theory states that the current Jewish calendar is using a “new” leap year cycle. This theory is what causes there to be an extra month in the year 30 CE, which pushes the Passover back 1 month in the year 31 CE, and thus allowed Hoeh to claim there was a Wednesday Passover for the year 31 CE. This is the error used by UCG to both prove that Jesus supported the Jewish calendar and that the crucifixion occurred in 31 CE.
A complete explanation on how the math and logic of the Jewish calendar works, including detailed use and explanation of the leap year cycle, can be read here:
The original paper sent to UCG that compared multiple Jewish calendar math sources (including the link above) and demonstrates that crucifixion during the year 31 CE is not supported by the Jewish calendar can be read here:
2Entire response from Jorge de Campos: http://www.congregationsofgod.org/ucg_response_to_crucifixion_date_error
6The Hebrew Calendar: A Mathematical Introduction is available here:
7This is the content from “footnote 1” on page 21
“(footnote 1) There is some evidence that an adjustment to the Hebrew calendar may have taken place during the patriarchate of Simon III (140-163). See Cyrus Adler, "Calendar, History of," in "The Jewish Encyclopedia" (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1907), Vol. 3, p. 500.”
NOTE: There are no changes to the calendar in the referenced section of the Jewish Encyclopedia, “Calendar, History of”. Here's the only reference to Simon in this entry:
“Under the patriarchate of Simon III. (140-163) a great quarrel arose concerning the feast-days and the leap-year, which threatened to cause a permanent schism between the Babylonian and the Palestinian communities”a result which was only averted by the exercise of much diplomacy.”
8“Later Jewish writers agree that the calendar was fixed by Hillel II. in the year 670 of the Seleucidan era; that is, 4119 A.M. or 359 C.E. Some, however, as Isaac Israeli, have fixed the date as late as 500.”