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The two equinoxes began each a different year. The new moon which followed the autumnal equinox, after the fruits were gathered in, began the civil year, the common opinion concerning which is, that the world was created in this season, and this was formerly the first month in the Jewish year.
But after the Jews came out of Egypt Moses, to preserve the memory of their deliverance, commanded that the month in which that deliverance was wrought (which was in the time when the earth opens her bosom, and all things begin to bud,) should have the first rank; and by this means the vernal equinox began a second year, which was called the sacred, or ecclesiastical year. But though these years have different beginnings, yet they both consist of twelve months, which are according to their order, called the first, second, third, &c. And formerly there was none of them had any particular name, but the two equinoctial ones; and they were called, the vernal one, Abib, which signifies a green ear of corn ; and the autumnal one, Ethanim. But about the time of the captivity each month had a particular name. The names were these :the first month, formerly called Abib, was called Nisan ; the second, Iyar; the third, Sivan ; the fourth, Tamux ; the fifth, Ab; the sixth, Elul; the seventh, Tisri ; the eighth, Marchesvan; the ninth, Cisleu ; the tenth, Tebeth ; the eleventh, Shebat ; the twelfth, Adar. Nevertheless, there were some years in which they added a thirteenth month, which was called Veadar, or the second Adar. Nor were the planets only
made use of to distinguish time; it was likewise distinguished by the different seasons which succeeded one another, as well as by them. After the earth has closed up her bosom in the winter, she opens it in the spring, and brings forth herbs; and then during the summer the sun warms it, thereby to ripen the corn and fruits, that they may be
gathered in before the return of the winter. Which difference of the seasons arises from the sun's nearness to, or distance from our tropic, according to which it continues more or less time above the horizon.
But, that all this may be the better understood, it is necessary that we briefly explain the first principles of the sphere. Between the poles of the world the astronomers have feigned a circle, which cuts the sphere into two equal parts, and to which they give the name of the equinoctial ; and at a certain distance from this they have made another line on each side of it, which they call the tropics; to which they add a fourth, which they draw from one of these tropics to the other, and which cuts the equinoctial obliquely in two opposite points ; and this they call the zodiac. And upon this zodiac they have marked out four principal points ; two in the places where it touches the tropics, and the other two in its sections of the equinoctial ; and by this means they explain the length of the year, the difference of the seasons, and the inequality of days and nights. For the year is nothing else but the space of time which the sun takes up in running through the codiac. When it is at the points which cut the equinoctial, the days and nights are equal, and we then have spring or autumn. When it advances towards our pole, and comes to our tropic, we then have summer; and when it returns back, and repassing the equinoctial, otherwise called the line, comes to the other tropic, we then have winter. Of these four points, the two which touch the tropics are called solstices, and those which cut the equinoctial are called equinoxes.
The antient astronomers thought that the sun took up three hundred and sixty-five days and six hours : which six hours they joined together every fourth year, and making a day of them, inserted it in the month of February. And the first day of the month was then by the Romans called the calends; and they reckoning backwards, into the days of the preceding month, called them the first, second, third, &c. of the calends. And this additional day being made the sixth of the calends of March, and they reckoning on these years two sixth days of these calends, this was the reason why the years in which these additional days were inserted were called bissextile. So that
four years the month of February, which ordinarily consisted of twenty-eight days, had a day added to it, and was made to consist of twenty-nine. But the astronomers of latter ages having made more exact observations, have found that the year was not so long by eleven minutes : a difference which, how inconsiderable soever it may appear, did yet introduce a confusion in the seasons of the year in a succession of several ages. So that the vernal
equinox, which, at the time of the council of Nice, fell on the twentieth or twenty-first day of March, was found to fall, in the sixteenth century, on the tenth or eleventh. For, the reason why the equi'nox at any time advances or goes back a day is the difference between the bissextile and the common year. And in order therefore to put a stop to this disorder, which in time would have thrown back the month of April, in which nature awakes and begins to dress herself in her vernal ornaments, into the midst of winter, the calendar was reformed about the end of the sixteenth century;' and, by retrenching ten days, the equinoxes were brought back to the same points they were at, at the council of Nice. And they have likewise retrenched one bissextile every hundred years (which nevertheless continues to be ordinarily placed every fourth year as before) because that, in the space of four centuries, the eleven minutes every year (as above mentioned) are so far from making four complete days that they make but little more than three ; and by this means the points of the equinoxes are so fixed for the future that they can never again vary. The reader I hope will pardon this digression which I make; because, doubtless, it may be of some assistance to those who have not thoroughly studied these matters.
Let us now see by what means the Jews regulated their year so exactly, that its first month
* This was done in the year 1582, during the pontificate of Gregory XI. therefore called the Gregorian, or New Stile.
always came in the spring. There were two reasons that engaged them to be extremely exact in this matter; the one of which was, that the law obliged them to offer up to God a sheaf of ripe barley, or at least of such as was pretty nearly ripe, in this first month : and the other was, that the passover, which fell on the fourteenth day of this month, could not be celebrated without offering up a vast number of lambs, which it would have been impossible to have had in winter. And it was therefore necessary that this first month, in which the feast of the passover was celebrated, should not be entirely passed before the vernal equinox, and that it should always fall in the same season of the year.
In the mean time, twelve lunar months make but three hundred and fifty-four days, eight hours, forty-nine minutes, and some seconds. And, consequently, this year must be shorter than the solar one by ten days, twenty-one hours, and some seconds. But it has been already said, that the Jews reguJated their months by the phases of the moon, and not by any astronomical calculations. And when, therefore, their twelfth month was ended, and they found that their spring was not yet come, the next new moon was not made to belong to the first month, but to a thirteenth which they inserted, and therefore called the intercalary month. And this they did so exactly, that the full of the moon of the month Nisan never came before the equinox,that is, before the day when the sun, entering the first degree of Aries, makes the days and nights equal.