Day of Atonement of the Karaite Jews in 1844
By Robert K. Sanders
The Karaite Jews has now confirmed that the "Day of Atonement" in 1844 was late September and not Late October. Their research is presented further down in this topic, but first we need to preface why this is important.
Seventh-day Adventists claim that in 1844, a very small Jewish sect called the "Karaites," used a different calendar and thus celebrated the Day of Atonement (10th of Tishri) on October 22, one month later than the Rabbinical/Orthodox Jews who did so on September 23. Thus the entire Seventh-day Adventist teaching regarding the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14, the "investigative judgment", the "great disappointment", and Jesus' entrance into the most holy place, hinges only on the words of their prophet Ellen White and on their claim Karaites celebrated the Day of Atonement on October 22 in 1844. If either of these assertions is incorrect, then Seventh-day Adventism is in serious theological trouble.
The Rabbinical Day of Atonement in 1844 is easy to for anyone to prove from Jewish sources, that it came on September 23, 1844.
Samuel Snow, was first to espouse the October 22, 1844 date and claimed that it was from the calendar of the Karaite Jews.
"SNOW, SAMUEL S. (1806-1870). A Congregationalist, then a skeptic, later a Millerite minister; initiator of the "seventh-month movement." Beginning with an article written Feb. 16, 1843, he emphasized the tenth day of the Jewish seventh month, Tishri, the Jewish Day of Atonement, as the true ending date of the prophetic 2300 years. Later he set forth the specific day as Oct. 22, 1844, our calendar equivalent of the tenth day of the seventh month in that year according to the old Karaite Jewish calendar. At first there was but little interest or response, but when Snow preached on July 21 in the large Boston Tabernacle on the text, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh [on the tenth day of the seventh month]; go ye out to meet him," some began to be roused. —From the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Volume 10, p. 1357.
Ellen G. White put her prophetic stamp of approval on the false Karaite date that S. S. Snow thought up. Ellen was not aware that the Karaite "Day of Atonement," was the same as the Rabbinical date of September 23, 1844.
Ellen G. White: "The tenth day of the seventh month, the great Day of Atonement, the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary, which in the year 1844 fell upon the 22d of October, was regarded as the time of the Lord's coming. This was in harmony with the proofs already presented that the 2300 days would terminate in the autumn ... the close of the 2300 days in the autumn of 1844, stand without impeachment." —The Great Controversy, pp. 400, 457.
FACTS: Seventh-day Adventists have FAILED to provide any Karaite calendar or any documentation from the Karaite Jews to show their Day of Atonement was on October 22 and that it was a month later than the Rabbinical Date. S. S. Snow was wrong in setting the wrong date and Ellen G. White was wrong in endorsing it with her prophetic seal. Ellen's date of October 22, 1844 has been impeached, as well as her sanctuary and investigative judgment doctrine.
We now have official documentation by the Karaites that the Day of Atonement in 1844 is the same as the Rabbinical Day of Atonement which is late September and not late October. Note the underlined statements further down in the letter.
Subject: Yom Kippur 1844
Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 18:07:55 +0200
From: The Karaite Korner email@example.com
In the past you have asked regarding the Karaite date of Yom Kippur 1844. I have recently received further inquiries in this matter and have done some investigation of this subject. Here are my preliminary results:
In the Middle Ages the Karaites ardently maintained that the Biblical year begins with the ripeness of the Barley crop in Israel (called in the Bible "Abib"). The Rabbinic calendar had originally followed this practice but around the 9th century CE they adopted a 19 year cycle of intercalation (leap years) which approximates the Abib but which is far from accurate. This often caused a difference of a month between the Karaite and Rabbanite calendars. The Seventh Day Adventist tradition seems to have heard of this Karaite practice or perhaps they assumed it was the Karaite practice based on their (correct) assumption that the Karaites strictly follow the Bible. The Abib was a central issue to the Karaites and to this day the Karaite marriage contract includes a vow that the marrying couple will celebrate the holidays "according to the visibility of the moon and the appearance of the Abib in the land of Israel." However, already in the Middle Ages there were Karaite communities who slowly adopted the Rabbinic 19 year cycle. At first it was only Karaites in the distant lands of the Dispersion who followed the Rabbinic 19 year cycle. They claimed that it was difficult to receive reports of the state of the Barley crop in Israel from so far away. As late as the 15th century though the Karaites of the Holy Land continued to follow the Abib even though their compatriots in the Dispersion accepted the 19 year Rabbinic cycle. The 15th century Karaite Hacham Elijah Baschyatchi writes:
"Having explained that the beginning of the year according to the law of our Torah is according to the Abib which is found is the Land of Israel in the conditions which we have mentioned, because of our great sins we have been distanced from the Holy Land and we do not have the capability of finding the Abib, we have been forced to follow the Calculation of Intercalation like that done by our brothers the Rabbanites..."
"And the Hacham R' Aharon [ben Elijah] author of the book 'Etz Haim' also said** that in the 269th cycle we heard that in the 4th year of the cycle [i.e. 1354/1355 C.E.] what was for us the month of Elul was for the people of the Land of Israel the month of Tishrei...' ... And this has also happened in our [Baschyatchi's] times in the year 5240 [i.e. 1479/1480 C.E.], the 15th year of the cycle, people went from our community in the Holy City [i.e. Jerusalem] and said that the 14th year of the 276 cycle, which we are in, which was for us an intercalated year [i.e. 13 months] was for them a regular year [i.e. 12 months]. And our faith should not be weakened by this because they [in Israel] go after the observable and we [in the Diaspora] go after approximation... The end of the matter is, all maintain the legal decision that the inhabitants of the Land of Israel should go according to the Abib in the Land of Israel and those far away should go after the calculation of intercalation of leap years and simple years." (From Aderet Eliyahu by Elijah Baschyatchi, Israel 1966, p.39a (written in the 15th century) [translation from the Hebrew by Nehemia Gordon, square brackets added by translator for clarity])
As can be seen, in Baschyatchi's's own time the Karaites of the Dispersion followed the Rabbinic 19 year cycle while those of Israel followed the actual appearance of the Abib and at times this caused a difference of one month in the calendar.
Nevertheless, by the 19th century the Karaites universally followed the 19 year Rabbinic cycle both in the Diaspora and in Israel. The 19th century Karaite Hacham Shlomoh ben Afedah Hacohen wrote an abridged paraphrase of Elijah Baschyatchi's Aderet Eliyahu. In his abridgement, Shlomoh Afedah paraphrases the above quoted passage but adds the following words:
"And for some time now the quest for the Abib has been abandoned even in the Land of Israel and they [the inhabitants of Israel] intercalate years using the above mentioned system [i.e. the 19 year Rabbinic cycle] like we do outside of Israel, [this is] against the legal decision of the Rav [i.e. Baschyatchi] and the Hachamim [mentioned in the above quoted passage of Aderet Eliyahu] perhaps in order to unite with all the communities and so that we will not have a disagreement between them and us in fixing the year."—From "Gefen Ha'Aderet", Shlomoh ben Afedah Hacohen, Israel 1987, pp.22-23 (written in 1860) [translation from the Hebrew by Nehemia Gordon, square brackets added by translator for clarity.]
Clearly in the time of Shlomoh ben Efedah Hacohen (c. 1860) all Karaites everywhere had for many years been using the 19 year Rabbinic cycle. Therefore, Yom Kippur must have been celebrated by the Karaites in late September 1844 in accordance with the 19 year Rabbinic cycle and not in late October 1844. While late September may or may not have been the correct month in which to celebrate Yom Kippur (only a crop report from that year would decide that issue) it was undoubtedly the month actually observed by Karaites everywhere.
That Yom Kippur 1844 was celebrated by the Karaites in September and not October is confirmed by a Karaite Tomb Stone inscription cited by Abraham Firkowitz in his book Avnei Zicharon (lit. Stones of Remembrance, published Vilna 1872). It should be noted that while claims have been made that Firkowitz altered some of the inscriptions cited in his book, all of these dubious accusations are in regards to Tomb Stones from the early centuries of the Common Era and there can be no doubt as to the authenticity of the later Tomb Stones, especially those from the 19th century. On p.242 Firkowitz quotes from a Karaite Tomb Stone from the "New Cemetary" in Gozlow which reads:
"And Yosef Shlomoh died at seventy five years of age. And all Israel mourned him and cried for him 'Woe master and woe his glory'. And they buried him in great honor on the 12th day of the month Tevet in the year 605 of the sixth millenium since creation according to our counting, and according to the counting of Rome, the tenth of the month December in their year 1844 here in Gozlow, or Yeupetoria, on the Crimean Peninsula in the reign of the master the great and mighty Czar, King of Russia and the other lands, that is, the Emporer his majesty Nicolai the first Pavelovitz in the twentieth year of his reign, and in the sixty-first year of this Crimean Peninsula being under the rule of the Kings of Russia since the days of the Czarina Catherine the Second who conquered it from the hand of the Tartaric king and Shekhan Gari Khan who was king of Crimea at that time." [Translation from the Hebrew by Nehemia Gordon]
As can be seen the Karaite date 12 Tevet corresponds to December 10, 1844. Bearing in mind that the Russian Empire used the Julian calendar, December 10 of the Julian year must be understood to refer to December 22 in the Gregorian year (i.e. the system used universally today). If 12 Tevet was equivalent to December 22, 1844 (Gregorian) then Tevet would have begun on December 10 (Gregorian). Bearing in mind that Tevet is the tenth Hebrew month and Tishrei (in which Yom Kippur falls out) is the seventh Hebrew month it becomes clear that Yom Kippur 1844 must have been celebrated in late September and not late October. This is illustrated in the following correlation of months for months in late 1844:
- September 14/15* = Tishrei 1 (Yom Kippur = September 23)
- October 13/14* = Heshvan 1
- November ? = Kislev 1
- December 10 = Tevet 1
*The correct date for the beginning of these months, based on the predicted visibility of the New Moon, would have been September 15 and October 14 (both beginning the prior evening). However, it is possible that with some of the inaccurate calculation system used by the Karaites in the 19th century some Karaites may have observed the beginning of these months one day earlier. It would seem that according to the system of Isaac ben Solomon, which was wide-spread in the 19th century, some Karaites would have celebrated September 14th as the beginning of the month and not September 15th [this last fact has been relayed to me by Magdi Shamuel, an expert on the Karaite calendar and lunar crescent visibility]. October 13th would not have been celebrated as the beginning of the month even according to Isaac ben Solomon's system. However, further investigation is required to rule out the possibility that some Karaites would have celebrated the beginning of the month on October 13th instead of October 14th.
**The original report of Aharon ben Elijah regarding the difference of one month between the Karaite calendar in Israel and the Diaspora in 1354/1355 C.E. can be found in his book Gan Eden, Israel 1972 (written in the 14th century), p.22a
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Note: We would like to ask the Seventh-day Adventist researchers why they did not go to the Karaite Jews for documentation as we have done and as was done by Ballenger in 1941. Could it be they did and did not reveal their findings as it would nullify their prophet's date?
E.S. Ballenger found the truth by a letter from the Karaite.
The defenders of the creed declare that while the orthodox Jews may have celebrated the Day of Atonement on Sept. 23, the Karaite Jews observed it on Oct 22. We have made careful investigation, and we find that this is a false claim. The leading Karaite rabbi of Cairo, Egypt, Youseff Ibrahim Marzork, in reply to an inquiry as to the day on which they celebrated the atonement in 1844, wrote:
As to the dates of the Passover and Yom Kippur they are the following:— "According to the Karaite Jews in the year 1843 the Yom Kippur is on Wednesday the 4th October, and just the same date according to the Rabinnical." "In the year 1844 it is on Monday 23rd September for the Karaite and Rabinnical. —The Gathering Call by E. S. Ballenger, May-June 1941, pp. 14-15.
Ellen G. White had the wrong year, wrong month, wrong day of the return of Jesus Christ, and when that failed, she had the wrong year, month, and day to begin her false Sanctuary and Investigative Judgment doctrines that were to begin on the Day of Atonement in 1844.