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KARAITES

The Karaites (also known as Caraites) were a conservative sect within Judaism.  When the majority of Jews modified their ancient calendar, established by God at Creation, the Karaites broke away from the main body of Judaism.  They urged for a return to the original calendar, pointing out that the new method of calendation was opposed to the law of Moses.  Almost 1,000 years later, the Millerites used the Karaite method of calendation for finding the solution to Daniel’s 2300-day prophecy. 

The following quotes are taken from a variety of sources, some of which are early Adventist publications.  They are given as quoted in “Quotations, Translation and Miscellaneous Materials Related to Karaite Calendar”, Box 6, Folder 3.  Any emphasis is supplied unless otherwise noted.

Advent Shield, Vol. 1, Boston, 1844-1845, 276:

At the present time, the rabbinical Jews commence their year with the new moon nearest the vernal equinox, irrespective of the barley harvest; so that their first month synchronizes with our March, and their seventh with our September; but it is evident that as they disregard the ordinances of Moses, and substitute for them their traditions, they are therefore of no authority as to the true time of the commencement of the Jewish year.

According to the Caraite Jews, the true year cannot commence until the appearance of the new moon in April.  They are strict observers of the Mosaic law.  Rees, in his encyclopedai [sic], says of them, ‘Upon the whole, the Caraites are universally reckoned men of the first learning, of the greatest piety, and of the purest morals of the whole nation.’

Calmet thus writes: ‘Caraites, a sect of the Jews, implying persons consummate in the study of the Scriptures, adhering closely to the letter of it.  This distinguishes the Caraites from the Rabbins, who admit traditions.  The Caraites pass for the most learned of the Jewish doctors. . . .”

The Caraite Jews maintain that the Rabbins have changed the calendar, so that to present the first fruits of the barley harvest on the 16th of Nisan, as the law directs, would be impossible, if the time is reckoned according to the Rabbinical calculation; for barley is not in ear, at Jerusalem, until a month later.

Albîrûnî, Chronology of Ancient Nations, London, 1879, 67:

They [the Rabbanites] derive the beginning of the month by means of calculation from the mean motions of the two luminaries (sun and moon), no regard being had as to whether the new moon is visible or not.  For it was their object to have a conventional time, that was to begin from the conjunction of sun and moon.

Notice in the above quote that it was part of the altered calendar to figure the beginning of the month (the 1st) off of the conjunction.  The ancient, original practice had been to begin the months strictly by observation.  The first of each month, New Moon day (which was in a class all its own as a day of religious exercises), occurred the day following the first visible appearance of the crescent moon.  New Moon was never retroactive to the dark days with the first work day, the 2nd of the month, coming the day after the first visible crescent.

Sir Isaac Newton confirms this:

The month began on the new moon . . . not at the true conjunction, but at the first appearance of the new moon: for the Jews referred all the time of the silent moon, as they phrased it, that is, of the moon’s disappearing, to the old moon; and because the first appearance might be about 18 hours after the true conjunction, they therefore began their month from the sixth hour at evening, that is, at sunset next after the 18th hour from conjunction.  And this rule they called Jah . . .

I know that Epiphanius tells us, if some interpret his words rightly, that the Jews used a vicious cycle, and thereby anticipated the new moons by two days [that is, making the first of the month fall on the conjunction].  But this surely he spake not as a witness, for he neither understood astronomy nor Rabinnical learning, but as arguing from his erroneous hypothesis about the time of the Passion.  For the Jews did not anticipate, but postpone their months . . . lest they should celebrate the new moon before there was any.  And the Jews still keep a tradition in their books, that the Sanhedrim [sic] used diligently to define the new moons by sight: sending witnesses into the mountainous places, and examining them about the moon’s appearing . . . (Isaac Newton, Observations upon the Prophecies,” London, 1733, p. 161 as quoted in “Sir Isaac Newton on the Jewish Calendar, Year of the Crucifixion.”)

The Karaites:

The tenth century controversy between the Babylonian schools and those of Palestine over the calculation of the Calendar, aroused the Karaites, and other sectaries, who refused to acknowledge the existing Rabbinical form of Calendar.  The Karaites declared for observation of the moon for the determining of the new moon day, and the state of the barley-crop for the position of the first month in the spring.

. . . The Karaite stand against the Rabbinical Calendar in the tenth century is proof, according to Poznanski and others, of the lateness of the fixation of the Modern Jewish Calendar.  [Underline in original, italics supplied.]

CALENDAR (Jewish), Samuel Poznanski, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings, 119:

In the 7th and 8th cents., again, Judaism in the East was disturbed by the rise of various sects, many of which refused to recognize the existing calendar.  One of its outstanding assailants was Anan b. David, the founder of Karaism (2nd half of 8th cent.), who abandoned the method of computation, as being repugnant to Scripture, and reinstated that of lunar observation . . .

The importance of the recognition or repudiation of the then existing calendar may be gauged by the fact that the official circles of Judaism were free to intermarry with the Isawites, who actually recognized Jesus and Muhammad as prophets, but not with the Karaites, the ground of distinction being simply that the former received the calendar while the latter did not (JQR X. 159).

Albîrûnî, Chronology of Ancient Nations, Tr. Sachau,London, 1879, 69:

He [Anan] opposed a community of Rabbanites in many of their observances.  He fixed the beginning of the month by the appearance of the new moon in a similar way, as is prescribed in Islâm, not caring on what day of the week the beginning of the month happened to fall.  He gave up the system of computation of the Rabbanites, and made the intercalation of a month depend upon the observation of barley seed in ‘Irâk and Syria between the 1st and 14th Nîsân . . . .

CALENDAR (Jewish), Samuel Poznanski, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings, 119:

The sole adherents of the latter [observation] were the Karaites, who had reverted in all respects to the ancient practice of determining the time of new moon by observation, and intercalating a thirteenth month when required by the state of the crops, i.e. the ripening ears (‘Abib).  One of the earliest of that sect, Daniel al-Kumisi, held, indeed, that all recourse to astronomical calculation was mere cloud-peering and star-gazing, quoting against it Deut. 18:10 (Harkavy, Studien u. Mitteilungen, VIII. I. 189), and his example was followed by nearly all the Karaites.

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The following quotes were obtained from the Archives and Statistics Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Silver Spring, Maryland.  They were compiled at the time of the Research Committee in 1938-1939 and are given as quoted in their research papers.  All emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted.

“Uniform Witness of Millerites to ‘Change of Moon’ on ‘Evening of Oct. 11’”

Advent Herald, September 25, 1844, p. 60, col. 1:

The Jews began their year at the appearance of the moon, which is usually the second evening after the change; if it was not then visible, they reckoned by the previous moon.

“They reckoned by the previous moon” refers to the calendar rule that if no new moon were visible, the month would start on the day after the 30th.  Originally, no month had more than 30 days.

Midnight Cry, October 11, 1844, p. 117, cols. 2 & 3:

As the moon changes in the evening of October 11th, it will not be visible till the 13th, and that is the most probable time for the commencement of the 7th month . . . We are, therefore, shut up to this conclusion, that the new moon of October begins the seventh month, and the anniversary of the day of atonement will be on Oct. 23.  (Note: This is the Cry’s first tabulation of the 1st and 10th days of the seventh month.  The error of adding 10 to 13 to bring Oct. 23 was corrected in all subsequent statements.  Reprinted verbatim in issue of Oct. 12, p. 127.)

Notice that in this statement, “the most probable time for the commencement of the 7th month” is linked to the 13th – the first visible crescent, not the 11th – the conjunction.

Midnight Cry, October 19, 1844, p. 133, col. 3:

We can see no possibility of beginning the seventh month later than the appearance of the new moon after its change on the evening of Oct. 11.  That is a month later than the rabinnical reckoning, and we believe the rabbins are never more than a month too early, and it is said they sometimes agree with the Caraites . . . . Consequently, the seventh month has already begun.  [Emphasis in original.]

Midnight Cry, October 19, 1844, p. 134, col. 1:

In the true Holy of Holies Christ now sitteth, as mediator of the new covenant, to pardon the chief of sinners until the 10th day of the seventh month, which is the 10th day from the new moon, in this present month.

Midnight Cry, October 31, 1844, p. 141, col. 1:

In New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other places, the wicked manifested the same feelings, and on Sunday the 13th inst., the advent meetings in many places were broken up by them.  This movement on their part was so sudden, simultaneous, and extensive, with its manifestation on the first day of the Jewish seventh month – the new moon being probably seen in Judea on the second evening from its change, when it would be one day and 17 hours old, and which corresponded with 11 A.M. in Boston – strengthened us in our opinion that this must be the month.  [Emphasis in original.]

Advent Shield, January 1845, p. 273:

According to the rabbinical reckoning, it [Day of Atonement] fell this year on the 23d of our September; and many of the religious editors and their correspondents have made themselves quite merry that the Adventists should have supposed it synchronized with the 22d of October, -- “not one of the Adventists,” as these learned men say, “having discovered the mistake.”  From a full and careful review and examination of the question, we are still convinced that the true Jewish seventh month could only synchronize with our October, -- commencing with the first appearance of the new moon on the 13th of that month, and ending with the appearance of the new moon on the 11th of November.  [Underline in original.]

Advent Shield, January 1845, pp. 278 & 279:

It is therefore very evident from the foregoing testimony, that the Rabbinical Jews are incorrect in their time for their commencement of the Mosaic year; so that, according to the Caraite reckoning and the ripening of the barley in Judea, the new moon of April is the proper commencement of the Jewish year.  Consequently, this Jewish year began with the appearance of the moon on the 18th of April, bringing the passover on the 1st of May – an entire month later than the Rabbinical passover.  Reckoning from this moon, the seventh Jewish month commenced with the appearance of the moon on the 13th of October; so that the tenth day of the seventh month synchronized with the 22d of that month . . . . It is therefore evident that the seventh month must have commenced with the new moon in October; and that the tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish Sacred year, in A.D. 1844, could only synchronize with the 22d of that month.  [Underline in original, italics supplied.]

 

“Millerite Understanding of
Moon’s Translation Period

Signs of the Times, December 5, 1843,
p. 134, col. 1:

In the commencement of the Jewish year no reference was originally had to astronomical accuracy.  They reckoned from the first appearance of the moon.  And we are informed that on the appearance of the moon near the ripening of the barley harvest, if from the appearance of the harvest it would be ripe by the 14th day, they made that the commencement of their year; but if it would not be ripe till after the 14th day, they added the whole of that moon to the old year, and commenced their year with the first day of the next moon.  This was the custom of the Jews till after their dispersion by the Romans, when being scattered all over the world, it was difficult to observe the ripening of the barley harvest in Judea; and in some countries where the Jews were, it was observed earlier, and in some, later.  [Underline in original, italics supplied.]

Prideaux, History of the Jews, Vol. 1, p. 51, as quoted in Signs of the Times, December 5, 1843, p. 135, col. 1:

When they saw the new moon, then they began their months, which sometimes consisted of 29 days, and sometimes of 30, according as the new moon did sooner or later appear.  The reason of this was, because the synodical course of the moon (that is, from new moon to new moon) being twenty-nine days and a half, the half day, which a month of 29 days fell short of, was made up by adding it to the next month, which made it consist of 30 days; so that their months consisted of 29 and 30 days alternatively.  None of them had fewer than 29 days, and therefore they never looked for the new moon before the night following the 29th day; and, if they then saw it, the next day was the first day of the following month.  Neither had any of their months more than 30 days, and therefore they never looked for the new moon after the night following the 30th day!

Midnight Cry, October 31, 1844, p. 142, cols. 2 & 3:

The practice of commencing the civil year with the new moon of September, and the ecclesiastical one with the new moon of March, is a modern invention.  God specially directed the Hebrews to regard the month Abid [sic] or Nisan, in which they left Egypt, as the first month in the year.  The beginning of this month, according to the modern calendar, is with the new moon nearest the 20th of March, so that it may commence nearly 2 weeks before or nearly 2 weeks after that day.  This year its commencement was almost exactly at the middle, between the two extremes, as the new moon was on March 18th.  Now, whatever regulations men may adopt, the true time must conform to the law of God.  That law says: “When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, THEN ye shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest unto the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, on the morrow after the Sabbath.”  This Sabbath might or might not be the seventh day of the week.  It must be the 15th day of the month Nisan, -- the day of the Passover.  See the whole law on the subject, in Lev. 23:9-22.  Now the Caraite Jews maintain that it would be impossible to present the first fruits of the barley harvest on the 16th of Nisan, if time is reckoned according to the rabbinical calendar, since barley is not in the ear at Jerusalem until a month later . . . . Our readers also remember the statement we copied from Calmet, who says that barley begins to turn yellow about the middle of April, particularly in the southern district of Palestine.  The season of reaping barley must, of course, be in the last part of April or the first of May.

We therefore feel perfectly safe in reckoning this sacred year as commencing with the new moon of April 17, which would bring the passover early in May, and the seventh month in October.  The passover could not be so late as June, for the law expressly provides that the people should eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until they had brought the offering to God. 
Here, then, we rest in the assurances that the true seventh month began October 13th, and could not be a month earlier or later.  [Capitalization in original, italics supplied.]

This quote again reveals that the Millerites also used the Biblical method of starting the months – the New Moon day followed the evening in which the first crescent was observed.  It was never retroactive back to the dark moon.  The first crescent moon appeared the evening of April 17, which made April 18 to be Nisan 1.  In the seventh month, Tisri, the new moon appeared the evening of October 12 so that the New Moon, Tisri 1, corresponded to October 13 with the 10th day of the 7th month on October 22.

Advent Shield, January, 1845, p. 274:

The Jews, we are told, commenced their months with the first appearance of the moon, which, in that climate, was usually the second evening after the change [i.e., conjunction].  And they commenced their year with the appearance of the new moon nearest the ripening of the barley harvest.  Their years consisted sometimes of twelve and sometimes of thirteen moons, an intercalary moon being added about once in three years.  If, on the appearance of the moon at the end of Adar, the 12th moon of the preceding year, there was a probability that the barley would be ripe by the fourteenth day of the month, they made that moon the first month of their year; but if the barley would not probably be ripe till after the 14th day, they added the whole of that moon to the old year, calling it Ve-Adar, or the second Adar.  If, therefore, we can ascertain the time in the year of the ripening of the barley harvest in Judea, we may know very nearly the commencement of the Jewish sacred year.  [Underline in original.]


 

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The Karaite sect arose in the 8th century to oppose the fixed, rabbinical calendar, calling it a heretical perversion of scripture.  The Karaites tried to restore the original method of calendation used by Moses.  This controversy raged for several centuries.

The controversy within Judaism over the calendar was really a rivalry between Palestine and Babylon for control of the calendar.  “Though the Karaites were Biblically correct, in the end the Babylonian Jews gained control of the calendar, and Karaism dwindled.”  (“Final Report,” Part V, p.30.)

“Back in the period of the establishment of the modern Jewish calendar and even a long time after, the Babylonian Jews counted the years beginning with the 1st Tishri while the coreligionists of Palestine continued to start the years 1st Nisan in conformity with the direction of the Bible.”  (M. D. Sidersky, “Étude Sur L’Origine Astronomique De La Chronologie Juive,” Paris, 1913; trans. from French: Erna Borm.)

“The tenth century controversy between the Babylonian schools and those of Palestine over the calculation of the Calendar, aroused the Karaites . . . who refused to acknowledge the existing Rabbinical form of Calendar.  The Karaites declared for observation of the moon for the determining of the new moon day, and the state of the barley-crop for the position of the first month in the spring.” (“The Karaites,” Box 6, Folder 3, Collection 154, emphasis original.)

“The Karaite chronology differes from that of the modern Jews by the conservation of the principle of the physical appearance of the crescent (astronomically calculated), for the fixation of the new moons” (M. D. Sidersky, “Étude Sur L’origine Astronomique De La Chronologie Juive,” in Mémoires présentés par divers savants a l’Académie des Inscriptions et belles-lettres de l’institut de France, Vol. XII, Part 2, Paris, 1913, as quoted in Box 6, Folder 3, Collection 154.)

“Ultimately the Karaites became scattered . . . In time they wholly fell back upon calculation . . . [Today, the Karaite and the Rabbinical calendar] dates may differ by one or two days only”  (“The Karaites,” Box 6, Folder 3, Collection 154.)

The Millerites did not simply copy how the modern Karaites calculated the calendar.  Instead, “the Millerites ascertained this astronomical knowledge for themselves.”  Grace Amadon 

Starting in 1780, the Karaites began a series of compromises with the rabbinical calendar.  By 1844, their Yom Kippur was in September and today they follow a fixed calendar. 

“It can be briefly stated that the September Yom Kippur in 1844 was based upon modern Jewish calculation, while the October 22 date was computed in ancient Jewish time, in harmony with the calendar of Moses.”  Grace Amadon