The Gregorian Calendar Vs The Hebrew Calendar

The Gregorian Calendar Vs The Hebrew Calendar

Last week I wrote about the roots of the Gregorian New Year’s and contrasting it to the Biblical New Year. This week I thought it would be fun to take an in-depth look into all the months of the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars and see their roots, the meanings of the names of the months, and significant holidays or festivals occurring in each month. 

I have always loved history and it has been so fun to learn more about my Hebrew heritage. And if you have been wondering more about the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars I hope this will be interesting for you as well!

The Gregorian Calendar Months, Meanings, and Festivals 

Ancient Rome and the Gregorian calendar

A few of the months of the Gregorian Calendar were named after Roman and Greek gods and two Roman emperors. The rest of the months were named for the season of the year the month occurred or their placement in the calendar, particularly October, November, and December.

One thing to note is the original Roman calendar had 10 months, March to December. In 713 B.C. the first Roman king – Romulus added the months of January and February to the calendar. However, March continued to be the first month of the year until around 450 B.C.

January

The Roman name was Ianuarius. The Saxon term was Wulf-monath meaning wolf-month. Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne called this month Wintermanoth or winter/ cold month. January became the first month of the year in 153 B.C.  

January is named for the Roman god Janus. Janus is the god of beginnings, transitions, time, doorways, passages, and endings. He is depicted as having two heads, one facing the past and one head facing the future. The month of January symbolizes the transition of one year to the next in the Gregorian calendar and the Roman god Janus is the depiction of this change (Wikipedia “January“, “Janus“).

February

The Roman name for this month was Februarius, named for the Latin term februum which means “purification”. In this month the ancient Romans held a purification festival called Februa on the full moon of the month – February 15th (Wikipedia “February“).

In the Catholic religion, the month of February is observed as a month of Purification for the virgin Mary (Wikipedia “February Observances“).

March

March was originally the first month of the Roman calendar. Its Latin name was Martius which was named for Mars, the Roman god of war and the ancestor of the Roman people. This month marked the beginning of the season of warfare, and there were many festivals held in his honor throughout the month (Wikipedia “March“).

April

The Roman name April came from the Latin Aprilis. This name comes from the verb aperire meaning ”to open”. It was believed that April was the time when nature began to open up and flower for spring. April was named in honor of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and sexuality. Veneralia, was a festival that was held in her honor every year on the first of the month (Wikipedia “April“).

May

The month of May or Maius was named for the Greek goddess Maia (name meaning greater or larger). Her Roman equivalent is the Roman goddess Bona Dea, the goddess of fertility. The festival of Bona Dea was held on the 1st of May in her honor by the ancient Romans (Wikipedia “May“).

June

The Latin name for June is Junius. The month of June was named after the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage and the wife of Jupiter. Jupiter was the god of the sky and thunder and was the king of the ancient Roman gods (Wikipedia “June“).

July

July was named for Julius Caesar. Prior to this, July was called Quintilis, meaning “the fifth month”, since it was the fifth month of the previous 10-month Roman calendar (Wikipedia “July“). 

Ludi Apollinaris were solemn games held on July 13th in honor of Apollo, the Greek god of music and divination (Britannica “Apollo“).

In the Catholic tradition, July is the month to celebrate the blood of Jesus (Wikipedia “July Observances).

August

August was originally named Sextilis in Latin, meaning “six”. This month was named for Gaius Octavius Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, in honor of his battle triumphs that occurred in this month (Wikipedia “August“).

September

September was originally named Septem in Latin, meaning “seven”. Emperor Charlemagne called this month “Harvest month”. September was also called Gerstmonath or barley month by the Anglo-Saxons (Wikipedia “September“).

October

October or Octo, means “eight” signaling its position in the original Roman calendar. Halloween and many other Roman festivals were celebrated in the month of October (Wikipedia “October“).

November

November was named for its position in the original Roman calendar, novem meaning “nine” (Wikipedia “November“).

December 

The last month of the Julian/ Gregorian calendar was December or decem in Latin, meaning “ten”. The Ango-Saxons referred to this month as “Yule month”. 

The ancient Romans celebrated four Agonalia, which were religious observances held in honor of various deities. In addition to the many celebrations of the ancient Romans, the Saturnalia festival was held in the month of December. The Saturnalia festival was held in honor of Saturn, the Roman god of plenty, wealth, and agriculture. This festival is thought to be the origin of the modern celebration of Christmas (Wikipedia “December“, Wikipedia “Saturn“, History.com “Saturnalia“).

It is interesting to see how many of the months of the Gregorian calendar are either named for a false deity or hold some sort of pagan festival celebration. 

Biblical Calendar and Biblical Events

Ancient Israel and the Hebrew calendar

Now let’s look at the Biblical calendar. The Hebrew calendar starts in the springtime, which is in contrast to the Gregorian calendar which begins in the winter. 

Many of the names of the Hebrew calendar that are used today, are not the original Biblical names but were adopted during the Babylonian Captivity of the Hebrews. 

Throughout the Bible we see significant events occurring on specific days. By knowing the Hebrew calendar we can better understand when these events took place. 

Nisan

Nisan, also known as Abib or Aviv is the first month of the Hebrew calendar. This month has 30 days and it corresponds to March or April of the Gregorian calendar. This month was named Abib or Aviv in the Bible and was called the “beginning of months” by God. 

Shemoth (Exodus) 12:2: “This month to you the beginning of months: it is the first to you among the months of the year.”

Shemoth (Exodus) 23:15: “Take heed to keep the feast of unleavened bread: as I charged thee at the season of the month of new [abib], for in it thou camest out of Egypt: thou shalt not appear before me empty.”

The name Nisan is Sumerian and it means “first fruits”. In the Babylonian calendar, this month was named “Arah Nisanu” meaning the month of beginning (Wikipedia “Nisan“). 

The first three spring High Holidays are celebrated in the month of Nisan – Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 1 Nisan – The floodwaters subsided from off the earth (Genesis 8: 13)
  • 14 Nisan – the Passover is celebrated (Leviticus 23:5)
  • 15 Nisan – Exodus from Egypt and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is celebrated (Exodus 12: 16 – 17, Leviticus 23: 6)
  • First Fruits is celebrated (Leviticus 23: 9 – 16, Matthew 28: 1 – 6)
  • Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, dies (Numbers 20: 1)
  • Nehemiah talked to King Artaxerxes about returning to Israel to rebuild Jerusalem, (Nehemiah 2: 1 – 2

Iyar

Iyar is the second month of the Hebrew calendar and its name means ”rosette” or “blossom”. It has 29 days and corresponds to April or May. Before the Babylonian captivity, this month was called Ziv, a Hebrew name meaning “light” or “glow” (1 Kings 6:1; 6:37 KJV, Wikipedia “Iyar“).

The Second Passover is celebrated during this month. This is a day for people to celebrate the Passover who were either unclean or out on a journey during the first Passover observance in the month of Nisan (Numbers 9: 4 – 14).

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 14 Iyar – Second Passover is celebrated (Numbers 9: 4 – 14)
  • 27 Iyar – The rain started for the floodwaters (Genesis 7: 11)
  • 27 Iyar – The earth was dry from the floodwaters and Noah and his family left the ark (Genesis 8: 14)

Sivan

Sivan is the third month of the year, it has 30 days and occurs in May or June. The name Sivan means “season or time” was adopted during the Babylonian captivity. Lastly, the High Holiday of Shavuot occurs during this month (Wikipedia “Sivan“).

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 6 / 7 Sivan – The High Holiday of Shavuot is celebrated commemorating the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples  (Leviticus 23: 15 – 22; Exodus 33 – 34; Acts 2)

Tammuz

Tammuz is the fourth month of the Hebrew Calendar, it has 29 days, and occurs in June or July. The Babylonian name Tammuz is named after the Mesopotamian god Arah Dumuzid (Wikipedia “Tammuz“). 

The Hebrews in Biblical times would fast four times in the year for significant events concerning the destruction of the first and second Temples and the destruction of Jerusalem. The first fast day occurs in the month of Tammuz. The 17th of Tammuz commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar. This day is referred to in the Bible as “the fast of the fourth month”. 

The Prophet Zechariah prophesied that these fast days would turn from days of mourning and sadness to days of mirth and gladness. 

Zechariah 8: 19: “ Thus saith the Lord Almighty, The fourth fast, and the fifth fast, and the seventh fast, and the tenth fast, shall be to the house of Juda for joy and gladness, and for good feasts; and ye shall rejoice; and love ye the truth and peace.”

I believe Jesus coming as our Savior fulfills these prophecies because we no longer need a Temple and we shouldn’t be sad as a result. 

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 5 Tammuz – The prophet Ezekiel receives his chariot vision (Ezekiel 1)
  • 9 Tammuz – The walls of Jerusalem were breached by Nebuchadnezzar II  (Jeremiah 39: 2; 52: 6 – 7 KJV)
  • 17 Tammuz – The golden calf was offered by the Hebrews following the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, and Moses smashing the first Ten Commandment tablets (Exodus 24; Exodus 32)
  • 17 Tammuz – The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Roman Empire 

Av

Av is the fifth month of the Hebrew Calendar, it has 30 days and occurs in July or August.

The name Av means ‘father’ in Hebrew, however, this month was named ‘the month of Abu’ or ‘Abu” which also means father in Akkadian language spoken in Ancient Mesopotamia during the Babylonian captivity (Wikipedia “Av“). 

During this month, the second of the mourning fast days of the Hebrews occurs. The 9th of Av is a fast day that remembers the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple. This day is referred to in the Bible as “the fast of the fifth month” (Zechariah 8: 19).

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 1 Av – The death of Aaron the High Priest (Numbers 33: 38 – 39)
  • 7 / 10 Av – Solomon’s Temple was burned down and walls the Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25: 8 – 10; Jeremiah 52: 12 – 14)
  • 9 Av – The Fast of the Fifth Month. The fast day to commemorate the destruction of the first and second Temples

Elul

This is the sixth month of the Hebrew Calendar, it has 29 days and occurs in August or September. The name Elul comes from the Akkadian word for “harvest” and was adopted during the Babylonian captivity (Wikipedia “Elul“). 

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 1 Elul – The Prophet Haggai commands the Hebrews to rebuild the Temple, following the return of the Hebrews from the Babylonian captivity (Haggai 1: 1 – 11)
  • 24 Elul – The Lord stirred up the spirits of Zorobabel the son of Salathiel, Jesus the son of Josedec the high priest, and the remnant of the people to work on rebuilding the Temple (Haggai 1: 14 – 15)

Tishrei

Tishrei is the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, it has 30 days and occurs in September or October. Its name comes from the Mesopotamian language Akkadian and it means “beginning or to begin”.  The original Biblical name for this month was Ethanim or Athanin (1 Kings 8: 1 – 2).

Rosh HaShanah (the new year) was celebrated in the past during the month of Tishrei, however, this is not the Biblical new year that occurs in the month of Nisan in the spring (Wikipedia “Tishrei“). 

The month of Ethanim or Tishrei holds the third fast day that the Hebrews observed during Biblical times. The fast of Gedaliah – honors the death of the righteous man Gedaliah, the governor placed by King Nebuchazzar over the people left in Israel following the destruction of Jerusalem. This day is called “the fast of the seventh month” (Zechariah 8: 19).

Tishrei also has the last three High Holidays – Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 1 Tishrei  – Yom Teruah or the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23: 23 – 25)
  • 10 Tishrei – Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23: 26 – 32)
  • 15 – 22 Tishrei – Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23: 33 – 44)
  • 15 – 22 Tishrei – King Solomon dedicated the Temple and celebrated Sukkot (2 Chronicles 5:1 -3; 7:1 – 11)
  • 21 Tishrei – The Lord tells Haggai to encourage the people who were sad because the Second Temple wasn’t as glorious as the First (Haggai 2: 1 – 10)
  • 27 Tishrei – Noah’s Ark rested on Mount Ararat (Genesis 8: 3)

Cheshvan

Cheshvan or Marcheshvan is the eighth month of the Hebrew calendar, its name means “eighth month” in Akkadian. The original Biblical name for this month was Bul (1 Kings 6: 38 KJV). This month is between 29 – 30 days long and occurs in October or November (Wikipedia “Cheshvan“). 

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 15 Cheshvan – King Jeroboam in an attempt to keep his kingdom appointed an alternative feast to Sukkot which was celebrated on the 15th of the eighth month (1 Kings 12: 32 – 33)

Kislev

Kislev is the ninth month of the Hebrew Calendar, it has 29 – 30 days, and it occurs in November or December. The name of the month is from the Akkadian word “kislimu” (Wikipedia “Kislev“). In the Bible this month is referred to as Chaseleu (Zechariah 7: 1).

The Hebrew festival of Hanukkah occurs during this month on the 25th. This festival commemorates the rededication of the Temple after it had been defiled by the Greeks during the Maccabean period. This is not a commanded High Holiday by God, but it is a wonderful time of celebration to remember this day in our history.

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 4 Kislev – The Lord spoke to the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 7: 1 – 3)
  • 15 Kislev – The Greeks set up the Abomination of Desolation in the Temple (1 Maccabees 1: 54)
  • 24 Kislev  – Lord spoke to Haggai to tell the people that they were defiled and calls them to live holy (Haggai 2: 11 – 24)
  • 25 Kislev – The Greeks desolate the Temple by offering pagan sacrifices (1 Maccabees 1:59; 2 Maccabees 10: 5)
  • 25 Kislev – 3 Tevet – The Temple is rededicated to the Lord and Hanukkah is celebrated (2 Maccabees 10: 1 – 9)
  • Nehemiah was in distress at the state of Jerusalem before the Babylonian Captivity returned (Nehemiah 1: 1 – 4)

Tevet 

Tevet is the tenth month of the Hebrew Calendar, it has 29 days and occurs in December or January. The month of Tevet in the Babylonian calendar was called Tebetum meaning the “muddy month” (Wikipedia “Tevet“). 

Hanukkah celebrations continue into the month of Tevet. Tevet also holds the last fast day of the Hebrews in Biblical times. The Tenth of Tevet or “the fast of the tenth month” observes the siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar (Zechariah 8: 19; 2 Kings 25: 1). 

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 1 Tevet  – The heads of the mountains were seen as the floodwaters subsided (Genesis 8: 5)
  • 25 Kislev – 3 Tevet – Hanukkah celebrations continue (2 Maccabees 10: 1 – 9)
  • 10 Tevet – the Tenth of Tevet, a fast day to remember the siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25: 1)

Shevat

Shevat is the eleventh month of the Hebrew Calendar, it has 30 days and occurs in January or February. The name of this month is derived from the Hebrew name Sabat (Zechariah 1: 7, Wikipedia “Shevat“). 

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • 1 Shevat – Moses repeats the Torah to the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 1: 3)
  • 24 Shevat – The prophet Zechariah receives a prophecy from the Lord (Zechariah 1: 7)

Adar

Adar is the twelfth and final month of the Hebrew Calendar, it has 29 days and occurs in February or March. The name of this month was adopted during the Babylonian Captivity from the name “addaru or Adar”. 

A leap month is sometimes added to the Hebrew Calendar. Adar I is the added leap month and Adar II is the original Adar. During leap years, the festival of Purim is celebrated in Adar II (Wikipedia “Adar“). 

Purim or the Festival of Lots commemorates the time when the Hebrews were almost destroyed by Haman by the command of the Persian King Artaxerxes, but the Lord delivered us. This holiday is not commanded by God, but it is a wonderful time to remember our deliverance.

Things that happened in this month in Biblical History

  • Esther becomes the queen in the month of Adar (Esther 2: 16 – 18)
  • 14 – 15 Adar – Purim or the Festival of Lots is observed (Esther 9: 19 – 22)

Days of Remembrance

In contrast to the clear pagan influences of the Gregorian calendar, the names of the Hebrew months are either Biblical names or were adopted during the Babylon Captivity. 

The Bible records the dates to many important events – the dates for the High Holidays, the dates of the siege and destruction of the Temples, the days when God spoke to His prophets, etc.

We also see dates of seemingly lesser importance such as the day when Aaron died, when the floodwaters started, when the ark rested on Ararat when the ground was dry from the flood water; when Nehemiah was upset about the rebuilding of the Temple, and more. 

These dates seem unnecessary, but I believe all these dates are important. God didn’t have to tell us when the date of Biblical events but He did. I believe knowing these days helps us to be more connected to the events of the past and to His calendar. I love to write down the dates of the Hebrew calendar in my journal each day because it helps me to be closer aligned to God’s calendar and to know when certain events happened. 

Throughout the Bible, God wanted his people to set up markers or to do things in remembrance of something he did for us. A few examples of this would be: wearing tzitzits (Deuteronomy 22: 12; Numbers 15: 37 – 41) – to remind us of God’s laws and commandments, having scripture on our walls and doorposts to remind us of his commandments (Deuteronomy 6: 6 – 9), the setting up of the rock altar in the Jordan river to remember the crossing (Joshua 4: 1 – 11), and communion to remember Jesus and his sacrifice for us (Luke 22: 13 – 22).

I believe that knowing the dates of Biblical events and trying to stay aligned to His calendar is one way we can remember God and the things he has done for us in the past. And I hope that by remembering the things that God has done in the past we can continue to have faith that he will continue to work in our lives now and in the future. Shalom!

Read More

If you want to learn more about all the High Holidays

If you want to buy Tzitzits – I sell them in my Etsy shop

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