Today, as I sit down next to a fireplace and ponder how I will drive over the snow from the home of some friends back to my own home to resume my chores and my normal working life, I am pondering a question that was provoked from conversation I had earlier today with a longtime friend and classmate of mine from back where I grew up. This matter of conversation relates to the question of cycles of time, and reminds me of a subject that from time to time I have thought worthy of bringing up and would like to do so again here . I do not know at this point how precisely long this particular series of posts will be, but I hope in this post at least to set the context of what prompted this examination and also provide some commentary on the scope of what I hope to write about. Not wishing to write a lengthy post that few people will wish to read, and not having the time to write it out and publish it in anything approaching a timely fashion, I thought it worthwhile to at least set my thoughts on where I would like to go and then to see how long it will take to cover it.
At the germ of the conversation I was having with my close friend was a discussion of a difficult scripture that is frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted in the manner that many people do when seeking to turn Paul’s statements into justifications of the antinomian perspectives of those who consider themselves in error to be his disciples and followers. The scriptures in question are familiar ones, Colossians 2:16-17: “ So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Given the larger context of this passage, it is clear that these verses do not in any way speak against following biblical time, but are rather part of a longer discussion against man-made prohibitions and the demands of asceticism that have been chosen throughout religious history both in Christian and other circles (Buddhism springs to mind here) as a way where people sought manmade restrictions to mortify the flesh. The question my friend asked, and I consider a valid one, is the following: what exactly are the new moons a shadow of?
So far as I know, few people have attempted to tackle that task, although it is not surprising that this is the case. For one, few people have tended to write about the new moons in any kind of depth from scripture from any kind of official perspective, except to dismiss them being kept on the same tier as the Sabbath and Holy Days. I would like to note that while I do not wish to make any comments about the observance of these days as a commanded assembly, neither do I think that the lack of obvious standing of these days as holy days means that they are unimportant or should be ignored. The Bible does speak of the new moons in the same context as other days related to the cycles of time that form part of the way that we are to view the lives in which we live, and which are often ignored even by those who claim to be following God’s ways in all aspects, and I think it is worthwhile to examine the larger context of the cycles of time that the Bible discusses, to at least point out how we may be able to recognize these temporal cycles and live and think according to them, rather than simply view them as an afterthought or as an adjunct to the way that time is viewed around us.
I am aware that this is a serious, and perhaps somewhat startling ambition. When I look at calendars, for example, that show activities and future events, I see them in fairly ordinary calendars. I see days marked by the midnight-to-midnight standard of time rather than the biblical marker of sunset-to-sunset time that governs when the Sabbath and holy days are to be kept. I see months in the Gregorian calendar rather than the biblical calendar from new moon to new moon. I see years going from January to December rather than following the lunar-solar calendar that governs when our holy days take place, and so on. I am aware that there is a strong desire not to wish to appear to be too Jewish, but I am also aware that if we are to have a fully biblical lifestyle that we need to be aware of and responsive to the difference between the time that we operate on because of our desires to follow God and the time that the world around us operates on. We may not want to be different or unusual or stand out, but if we are following God in a world that does not we will stand out, regardless of our wishes, and we had best acknowledge those differences and at least be bilingual in the way that we view time.
Perhaps we may understand this in theory, or at least to a slight degree, and not realize the great extent to which the Bible operates on cycles of time that we are blissfully unaware of in the course of our lives. What cycles does the Bible specifically operate on when it comes to its view of time that we may read not according to our own speculations or the ideas of anyone else, but from the account of the scriptures itself? How are we to know what God expects of us in how we divide the time that we live in, how we are to view it? If we understand this time and these cycles of time, do we better understand what the new moons are shadows of, so that we may view them in their proper and honored place and not merely as some sort of undesirable aspect of what the Bible discusses that is too awkward and uncomfortable for us to wish to honestly acknowledge and give proper place to? If so, what do we understand about this aspect of biblical time? It is to these questions that we will now turn.
 See, for example: