The almost perfect solar calendar: part two
The dead sea scrolls are considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. The scrolls that were found in several caves near the northwestern coast of the dead sea, include religious texts from the second century b.c. Among those texts there are all the books of the Bible ( except for the scroll of Esther ), some of the Pseudepigrapha books, such as the book of Enoch and the book of Jubilees, and also texts that were not known before the scrolls were discovered. Those unique texts clearly indicate that they belonged to a sect or a cult, different than the mainstream Judaism of their time.
Early researchers of the scrolls associated them with the Essenes. A cult of Jewish radicals that was described by several historians in the second century AD. But as the deciphering and research of the scrolls text advanced, this association has become more and more doubtful.
The dead sea scrolls are dated to the early years of the Hasmonean kingdom ( circa 170 b.c. ), and much of what is written in them, especially the texts that describe the life habits of the writers, suggests that they were not a cult of radicals, or at least this is not how they saw themselves. Quite the opposite, the members of the cult saw themselves as conservatives that their aim was to preserve original Judaism from the Hasmonean-Hellenistic reforms. One of the most compelling evidence for this, is the calendar that they used. A calendar, very similar to the one that I described in the first part of this post. This calendar is hinted in some of the cult’s unique scrolls, and also in the more known books of Enoch and Jubilees. The cult’s calendar is also the main theme of one of the scrolls that was just recently deciphered.
It was a 364 days calendar which started on the week of the spring equinox. The first day of the first month was always on Wednesday ( since the weeks began on Sunday, as Saturday - the Sabbath, was the resting day at the end of the week ). The calendar marked holidays, similar to modern Jewish holidays but with several noted differences. The system which was used to compensate for the missing 1.25 days at the end of each year is not specified anywhere in the texts, but it is clear that it did exist since otherwise the year would pretty quick not start in the springtime, as the Hebrew bible explicitly commands. Most researchers agree though that 9 extra weeks were added in the course of 50 years.
So who were the people who used this calendar? And what did they believe that they preserve it, as well as their traditions and rituals against? There are several theories about that, but the one that I like the most, is that they were the last remains of the lineage of the true priests of the temple in Jerusalem, struggling to preserve the true commandments of the god of the Hebrews from foreign influences.
If this is so, than perhaps it sheds a light on a different way to look at the history of Judaism. Orthodox Judaism as we know it today is a descendant of the second temple area Pharisees, who did a very impressive work of creating a linear historic narrative for Judaism. The one that most religious Jews and Christians today accept naturally. Part of this narrative is the Hebrew calendar in which all the holidays are actually commemorations of events that supposedly happened on the same Hebrew date. However, this calendar is actually Assyrian/Babylonian. It begins in the Autumn while the Bible clearly indicates that the year should begin in the spring. It has lunar months which have Assyrian names. It must have been the formal calendar of the Assyrian and then Babylonian empires when they dominated the Middle East, at the 8th to the 6th centuries b.c. , the time in which Judaism evolved, and as the Jewish population of these Empires had to adopt this civil calendar, just as later they had to adopt the Persian calendar which is yet another calendar. It seem though that at the same time the Jewish priests remained faithful to the calendar of the temple. The one which according to their belief, they have received from the angles of the one true god, the god of the Hebrews.
So was the priesthood cult in Judea, the one that descended from the tribe of Levi, and not from the tribe of Yehuda, a separate cult with its own traditions and even its own calendar since the time of the first temple, and onward? What does it say about key figures in the Judeo-Christian standard narrative? Why it was so important for example for the writers of the Christian gospels to show that Jesus was a descendant of both Levi and Yehuda? I will leave you to think about it for a while and offer a possible solution in the third part of my post.
And before I finish this part, I awe you an explanation about the length of the earth year - the number that I mentioned, 365.25363, is the length of a sidereal year, that is the time it takes the earth to complete one revolution around the sun, measured against an external point of reference, such as star constellations. The year length of 364.2425 days, on which the Gregorian calendar is based upon, is measured based in terrestrial phenomena such as the turn of the seasons. The cause for the difference is the axial precession, that is the fact that the angle between the earth’s rotation axel and the sun, changes over time. The sidereal year measurement neutralizes the precession effect. It is also probably more representative of ancient middle eastern time measurement which relied on astronomy more than on terrestrial phenomena.