The "Lunar Sabbath" is a fringe Christian belief that the Sabbath day is not fixed at the 7th day of the week but is dependent on the phase of the moon, Since seven does not divide evenly into the 29.5 day lunar cycle, it requires some days of the month not to be counted. Yet if an interpretation of the Bible requires you to change how you count to seven in order to fit Scripture, could it really be what God meant?
Overview of Lunar Sabbath Theory
If you are a Sabbath keeper, you may one day encounter the "Lunar Sabbath" or "Lunar Shabbat" doctrine. This theory says that the fixed traditionally Jewish timing for keeping Sabbath of Friday sunset through Saturday sunset is a corruption of an "original" Biblically instructed reckoning of Sabbath based on the lunar cycle.
Under (one version) of this model, the Sabbath falls on the 8th, 15th, 22st and 29th day of each lunar month, or at the first quarter, full moon, last quarter, and new moon. The claim is made that God intended that one can just look up in the sky and know when the Sabbath is.
Hopefully using the sky as your calendar is easier than it sounds, because the lunar Sabbath can fall on any day of the week, and with each new lunar month, it falls a day or two later in the week than the last month. As a result, to follow this system one must deal with the difficult, if not impractical, situation of having to take a day off from work during the five day work week over 70% of the weeks—on a rotating schedule, no less.
Of course, the fact that a commandment of God is hard to follow would not be a valid reason to discount it or doubt it. But if you are sensing already that something does not sound right with this theory, you are not alone. In my experience much false doctrine comes from breaking the rules of how to properly read the Bible. We will see that is exactly the case here.
The Fatal Flaw
Let's review the biblical instruction for reckoning the Sabbath:
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the Sabbath of YHVH thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days YHVH made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore YHVH blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
At first glance, the Lunar Sabbaths on the 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th, spaced 7 days apart, resemble the biblically prescribed seven day Sabbath cycle. However, this resemblance ends once you pass a month boundary. Instead of there being the required six intervening work days between one Sabbath and next, you instead have alternately seven or eight days between the last Sabbath of the month on the 29th and the first Sabbath of the next month on the 8th. This is due to the fact that the lunar cycle averages 29.5 days, instead of the needed 28 days to make this idea work.
This should be a fairly obvious death knell to the Lunar Sabbath theory. You may wonder how anyone could answer this clear mathematical impasse? Proponents sidestep it by claiming that those one or two extra days at the end of the month while the moon is dark do not count because hidden days are "void" days. In other words, the seven or eight days interval between Sabbaths at month boundaries are equated with the required six day interval. If this sounds irrational to you then you are not alone.
The other explanation I have been given, which stunned me even more, was that "Scripture never says that shabbat is a cycle of seven, just that we are to 'accomplish' our work in six days and rest in the seventh. It is never stated that we must go back to work the next day 🙂" This comment comes from the author of a book on Lunar Sabbath, an authority on the subject. Yet, if God was not describing a seven day cycle, then why does he say things like...
Leviticus 23:15-16— And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days...
...which naturally cause most of us to reasonably conclude that the Sabbath is the last day of a repeating seven day weekly cycle? Is God capricious and prone to playing tricks on us to trip up sincere truth seekers? Why not just tell us, "You shall surely keep one day every quarter of the moon as a Sabbath unto me" instead of explicitly describing a repeating seven day weekly cycle for reckoning Sabbath?
Obviously, these are irrational answers to the clear conflict between Lunar Sabbath and the Bible. When a doctrine is in conflict with pretty clear and explicit Scripture, it should be rejected, without fear. When this theory is so easily proven false mathematically just by following it across the month boundary, then it must be rejected. It is not necessary to hear any more of the mountains of support usually presented for the theory. The God of the Bible does not expect us to use irrational logic to interpret his words.
How We Approach the Bible Makes All The Difference
And this is exactly the point where most people misstep in evaluating the Lunar Sabbath. They accept (at least momentarily) the irrational math to make it fit a seven day cycle, and keep listening to the rest of the inferred scriptural support offered for it. And there are entire books full of evidence for this error, in fact. This should be no surprise, though. If you have been around long enough, you probably have heard the Bible used to support many things it was never intended to.
Indeed, anything is possible when you abandon the proper and reasonable approach to handling the Bible. As a matter of fact, over the years I have adopted a guideline regarding this. Once I realize a person is using different rules of interpretation for the Bible, I end discussion with that person. For such people, it is not simply a matter of showing them a literal verse that plainly contradicts their theory as it is with most people who come to me asking for help. They will say, like Lunar Sabbath proponents, that the verse does not contradict their theory but means...something else. So the likely result with such types is an endless debate.
For example, proponents will claim, "every single shabbat in the entire Bible which can be pointed to a specific date, occurred on 8-15-22-29 - EVERY one. Coincidence?" Some even offer cash bounties to anyone who can find a case in the Bible that contradicts this claim. But, to do this would be an exercise in futility. Whether it is true or not that all the Sabbaths fall on those days, this, once again, is not how to properly determine the timing of Sabbath. There are clear scriptures telling us explicitly when it is, and those should be our foundation (along with consistent universal counting from the number one to seven), not circumstantial evidence. And if you somehow did get them to admit this claim is erroneous, they have dozens of other arguments left waiting to be disproved. It's better to learn to spot the key false assumption that all false doctrines have and avoid getting lost in a sea of side issues.
When In Doubt...
But if you did not recognize the unsurpassable problems with this theory, hopefully you at least recognized how radical it is, and have the wisdom to know to tread carefully before adopting it. For whenever you are presented with something new and radical as God's instructions (like this "Lunar Sabbath" is purported to be a restoration of) we need not and should not accept it hastily. We need not fear missing what God might be trying to tell us while waiting until our doubts are addressed properly. We should trust that if God is really trying to correct us on a point, then he will be able to remove all doubt and rationally convince us of it. God is more than able to give us all the reasonable proof we sincerely need to be sure something is of him before we adopt it Never doubt that. It is important to pray and wait before doing something so radical and life-changing.
If a teaching requires you suspend good common sense, such as how to count properly, then do not accept it no matter how much "supernatural" or even scriptural confirmation you believe you have received. You can support anything from the Bible to fool people who have not yet acquired well-developed discernment and critical thinking skills (skills that are not stressed in our education systems which reward you mainly for accepting and regurgitating what your teachers tell you).