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Understanding Scripture in Light of a Jewish Timeline

Major Paradigm Shift

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In previous posts we have talked about how the Jewish festival Shavuot marked major paradigm shifts and how God’s plan for inclusion expanded over time. We saw how the forming of the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai was a major paradigm shift which occurred on the very first Shavuot (Ex 24). God started working through a nation to reach out to the world rather than continuing to work through specific families or patriarchs. We then saw how inclusion occurred on a national and individual level (Js 2-6; Ru 1-4).

As we approach the New Testament, we see God making another major paradigm shift. God was on the verge of setting a new pattern of inclusion: going from inclusion occurring through a nation to it occurring through individuals. To understand this one, we must understand another Jewish Festival: Rosh Hashanah. Today, we know this as the Jewish New Year. Yet, it wasn’t always known as that. When first instituted, it was known as the Feast of Trumpets (Lv 23:23-25) and was the fifth of seven festivals. While all the feasts were memorial, as they pointed to how God worked in their past, how he was working in their present, and how he would work in their future, this particular feast was a special type of memorial. This was a festival to request God to remember his covenant with Israel. Why? Shortly after this festival was Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement (Lv 23:26-32). This was a day of reckoning. Israel knew they had no good on their own to stand before a holy God. Their only chance was for God to remember his covenant with them. Therefore, trumpet blasts were made to request God to remember. Does this imply God forgot? No, this was really for Israel to remember what God had done for them in making an everlasting covenant with them and to help them prepare for the upcoming Yom Kippur.

So, how is this tied to the New Testament. Well, how does the New Testament open? It opens with the announcement to Mary that she would bear a son, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and would call his name Jesus (Mt 1:18; Lk 1:26-31). This announcement occurred on Rosh Hashanah, Feast of Trumpets. Why? Because God was stating he was remembering his covenant. This marked the end of what had been termed the 400 years of God’s silence. Ever since Malachi, it seemed God was silent. It wasn’t that he was not working, but he sent no prophets after Malachi. His next voice came through the angel Gabriel to Mary(Lk 1:26). God remembered his covenant and Mary conceived a child through the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35). Yes, this was to be a very special child. He was to save his people from their sins (Mt 1:21).

So, if Jesus Christ was conceived on Rosh Hashanah, when was he born? He was most likely born on Shavuot. Doesn’t it seem apropos that he would be born on the festival that marks paradigm changes? Can you say Christ’s birth was not a paradigm change? Yes, that makes sense, but something doesn’t seem quite right. For most years, the time between Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot isn’t long enough for a normal gestation period for an infant. Gestation is a very crucial period for a fetus, and every week is important for fetal development and especially for adequate lung formation in the third trimester. A normal gestation period is considered to be 40 weeks (a range of 37-42 weeks). Yet, normally, the time between Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot is just shy of 35 weeks. Not enough time for an adequate gestation period. Could we be mistaken?

As they say, timing is everything. And that is definitely true here. Rick Larson has done some astounding work on the timing of the birth of Christ and the events which occurred at this birth. According to his work, Christ’s conception occurred on Rosh Hashanah in 3 BC. Something very interesting occurs in that year. To keep Passover near the Spring Equinox, and because the Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar with only 29 or 30 days per month, an extra month is added every so often to make Passover and the Spring Equinox realign properly. And, lo and behold, this is the year this extra month is added to their calendar. Then, the period of time from Rosh Hashanah to Shavuot becomes a normal gestation period (39 weeks) and can support the fact that Christ was likely born on Shavuot in 2 BC.

Christ’s birth was definitely a paradigm change for Israel – and for the world. He brought the true meaning of Scripture back to life and his death was for all of mankind and not just for the Jews. Again, this is a message of inclusion. Jesus paved the way for inclusion to be very personal. Isn’t that just what we would expect from a God who values relationships?

Don’t you find it interesting that God keeps the meaning of these Jewish festivals and makes them happen at just the right time to keep all the full meaning he intended for each one. Why? Well, he is a God of order after all (1Co 14:33). Also, I think it is a way for him to get our attention. It shows he pays attention to detail. If he can do that, he can certain pay attention to us individually. You, and we all, are a detail that he definitely cares about. How will you respond?

Randy DockensComment