Names of the months?


I’ve read biblical fiction which defines a chapter as, for example, “April, 33 AD”, and it made me wonder… In the time of Jesus, were there twelve months, as there are now? I realize they might have had different names (in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic) that may have been similar to what we have now. Is it known? Or one of those things no one knows? Time had to have been measured somehow. In the case that there might not have been the twelve months we have now, then, to say Jesus lived two-thousand-some years ago wouldn’t be accurate by our standards. It might have been a longer, or shorter time ago, if all along, years weren’t measured within twelve months.


The Jews have a different calendar of their own really, which they still use now for religious purposes. Yes, there are twelve months, but their months don’t match up exactly with ours. For instance, the month of Nisan (aka Abib, the older name), corresponds to our March-April.

Nisan (30 days) - March-April
Iyar (29 days) - April-May
Sivan (30 days) - May-June
Tammuz (29 days) - June-July
Ab (30 days) - July-August
Elul (29 days) - August-September
Tishri (30 days) - September-October
(Mar)ḥeshvan (29/30 days) - October-November
Kislev (30/29 days) - November-December
Tebet (29 days) - December-January
Shebat (30 days) - January-February
Adar (29 days) - February-March

In leap years, an extra month (Adar I, of 30 days’ length) is added after Shebat: the regular Adar is referred to as Adar Beit or “Adar II.” The modern Hebrew names are derived from the Babylonian names for months (Nisan = Nisānu ‘(Month of) the Sanctuary’, etc.); the Jews got it during their exile in Babylon. In the older parts of the Old Testament, you see four months referred to by different, Canaanite names (Nisan = Abib ‘Spring’; Iyar = Ziv 'Second; Tishri = Ethanim ‘Strong’ in the plural; Ḥeshvan = Bul).

The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) is in Tishri 1-2, Yom Kippur is in Tishri 10, Sukkot (Feast of Booths) is held during Tishri 21, Hanukkah occurs in Kislev 25, Passover is at Nisan 14, Shavuot (Pentecost) is at Sivan 6. But since the Jewish calendar isn’t synchronized with our modern Gregorian calendar, the dates these feasts fall on our calendar changes every year. For example, Jewish New Year fell last year on September 24-26 last year, but this year it would fall on September 13-15.


the ancients were more obsessive about the calendar than we are right now. besides, translating the dates from the ancient calendars to the proleptic gregorian calendar dates are well defined.


Isn’t the Hebrew calendar a lunar calendar also?


It’s a lunisolar calendar, properly speaking: the months are lunar but the years are solar (brought into line with the course of the Sun). Though the months follow the lunar cycle, the lunar months must always align themselves with the seasons of the year, which are governed by the sun. A lunar year (= twelve phase cycles of the moon) would equal 354.37 days, but a solar year (the time for the sun to return to the same position in respect to the stars of the celestial sphere) would add up to approximately 365 days. You have eleven days extra. So after about three years, the lunar months would be out of sync with the solar year by about a month. That’s why every so often the Jewish calendar would have an extra month, to keep the two in sync.

As this page explains:

The problem with strictly lunar calendars is that there are approximately 12.4 lunar months in every solar year, so a 12-month lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than a solar year and a 13-month lunar is about 19 longer than a solar year. The months drift around the seasons on such a calendar: on a 12-month lunar calendar, the month of Nissan, which is supposed to occur in the Spring, would occur 11 days earlier in the season each year, eventually occurring in the Winter, the Fall, the Summer, and then the Spring again. On a 13-month lunar calendar, the same thing would happen in the other direction, and faster.

To compensate for this drift, the Jewish calendar uses a 12-month lunar calendar with an extra month occasionally added. The month of Nissan occurs 11 days earlier each year for two or three years, and then jumps forward 30 days, balancing out the drift. In ancient times, this month was added by observation: the Sanhedrin observed the conditions of the weather, the crops and the livestock, and if these were not sufficiently advanced to be considered “spring,” then the Sanhedrin inserted an additional month into the calendar to make sure that Pesach (Passover) would occur in the spring (it is, after all, referred to in the Torah as Chag he-Aviv, the Festival of Spring!).

Our modern (Gregorian) calendar, by comparison, is completely solar: its 365 days are divided into twelve segments of 30 or 31 days, but the months have lost all connection with their original association with the moon.


I’ve always wondered why the Church, after the fall of Rome, and when it became the sole source of order and authority, didn’t - as part of calendar reform - change the names of he months to eliminate the tributes to pagan gods and Caesar.


Good question! Too bad we couldn’t have a Catholic calendar!


Months can be defined in different ways, for instance lunar vs. calendar months, but as far as I know, years are defined by the seasons, or by equinox and solstice, which even the ancients understood well. So I think the number of years since the time of Jesus is well established.

It’s another question why the Old Testament tells that certain people lived so long:
*]Adam, 930 years
*]Noah 950 years
*]Methuselah 969 years (oldest)
Perhaps those ages are not literally (historically) true. I don’t think the years were shorter or that people lived longer in those days.


Actually, they are literal ages. If you read through the geneaologies in Genesis, it tells us how old each of them were when they had sons. After the Flood, the ages rapidly decreased until the “leveled out” between 175 to 200 years old, around the time of Abraham. By the time we get to Moses, Exodus states that he lived to 120, which is possible even today. The fact that the same author wrote both Genesis & Exodus (Moses), there is no Scriptural reason to believe that they didn’t lived that long before the Flood.


That is interesting to think about.


I believe that in those days people had no objection to using the old traditional terms. For example, look at where the term “Easter” came from.


Part of that’s because Christians can’t even agree on how to reckon eras. Many Eastern Christians reckoned it starting from the supposed year the world was created as per the Septuagint (5493 BC as per the Alexandrian reckoning, or 5509 BC as per the Byzantine version), Copts in Egypt began their years with Domitian’s reign (AD 284), others continued to use the ab urbe condita (‘from the founding of the city’ of Rome, 753 BC) system, those in Spain used the Spanish Era (starting from 38 BC), Syriac Christians used the Seleucid Era (beginning at 312/311 BC), while yet others continued to use the old Roman method of naming the two consuls who took office in that year. This was before the Anno Domini system became widespread in the West (it only became more common after the 9th century; it was only in the 14th century that it became fixed).


,+ 1.

If plotted out mathematically, the Flood can be seen to be the turning point for the length of life.

Something changed in the earth, or in the Noahic genes, or both, to decrease the length of human life.



There’s the “canopy theory” (based Genesis Ch.1) that there was some kind of “layer” of water (perhaps ice crystals) that was above the earth before the Flood that blocked out dangerous UV rays & other harmful radiation from the sun that would have otherwise deteriorated our genes. Once the Flood occured & this protective layer was gone, the lifespan rapidly decreased & leveled out. It’s speculation at best, but it would account for both the long pre-Flood ages, as well as lower post-Flood ages.


Personal names based on the month names were very popular in the Roman Empire, and many martyrs bore such names. (I found this out when I was researching why April could be a Christian name.)

Even people who were really, really interested in staying away from pagan things didn’t object to the names of the months or the days. Using “the spoils of the Egyptians” for Christian purposes was a victory over the world.


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