Friday, December 9, 2016

The Ancient Jewish Hour – Part II

Continuing from the last post which ended with an introduction to the Jewish variable-length hours that were variously known as temporal, unequal, or seasonal hours and were in use until the appearance of the mechanical clock, which furthered the adoption of equal length hours—obviously, such changing hours would not have been of any use to the astronomer.
Astronomers in Egypt's Middle Kingdom (9th and 10th dynasties) observed a set of 36 decan stars throughout the year, and such star tables have been found on the lids of coffins of the period. The heliacal rising of the next decan star marked the start of a new civil week, which was then 10 days. The period from sunset to sunrise was marked by 18 decan stars. Three of these were assigned to each of the two twilight periods, so the period of total darkness was marked by the remaining 12 decan stars, resulting in the 12 divisions of the night. The time between the appearance of each of these decan stars over the horizon during the night would have been about 40 modern minutes. During the New Kingdom, the system was simplified, using a set of 24 stars, 12 of which marked the passage of the night.
    But the system to the Hebrews was set, and according to Mark in the Bible, Jesus went to the cross at the third hour, which in Jewish time corresponds to our 9am [Mark 15:25], and according to the Gospel accounts He gave up His life at the ninth hour, our 3 pm. Thus, in Biblical times, the First watch was Sundown to 9 pm, the Second Watch was from 9 pm to Midnight, the Third Watch was from Midnight to 3 am, and the Fourth Watch was from 3 am to sunrise.
    As a side note, a trumpet call, known as the cockcrow signaled the end of the 3rd watch and the beginning of the 4th watch (The end of each watch was signaled by a trumpet signal as Jesus noted in Mark 13:35: “So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming: evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn.”)
    Sunrise marked the beginning of the first hour (the zero hour), the middle of the day was at the end of the sixth hour and sunset at the end of the twelfth hour. This meant that the duration of hours varied with the season. In the Northern hemisphere, particularly in the more northerly latitudes, summer daytime hours were longer than winter daytime hours, each being one twelfth of the time between sunrise and sunset
The division of the four-watch Roman nightwatch was adopted after Roman occupation began in 63 B.C. However, before the Romans came, the Jews divided the night (sunset to sunrise) into three watches (Judges 7:19; Exodus 14:24; 1 Samuel 11:11; Lamentations 13:35).
    John 4:6, 8) says that "it was about the sixth hour" when Jesus stopped at the well of Samaria and sent His disciples to the city to buy food. Commenting on this experience, the Spirit of prophecy says : "On the way to Galilee Jesus passed through Samaria. It was noon (Hatzot, or midday) when He reached the beautiful vale of Shechem. At the opening of this valley was Jacob's well. Wearied with His journey, He sat down here to rest while His disciples went to buy food.” Thus, it was necessary to go buy food since it was the 6th hour or noon. This is also born out when (Acts 10:9) Peter went up on the housetop to pray about the sixth hour and was hungry. It was noon and he naturally would have been hungry.
    The nobleman's son was healed at "the seventh hour" (John 4:52,53), which was about one o'clock in the afternoon. And "it was about the tenth hour" (John 1:39), or about four o'clock in the afternoon, that John and Andrew stayed to talk with Jesus at His place of abode.
    Ma'ariv or evening prayer began at sundown. According to the Jewish Book of Why, volume I the Ma'ariv is a later addition, instituted after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. The Jewish Talmud records the late addition of the Ma'ariv service which is not connected with the sacrificial system [page 148].
    The pious, for example, had three special hours for prayer—morning, noon, and night (Psalms 55:17; Daniel 6:10). Now it was at these three special hours of prayer—the third hour, the sixth hour, and the ninth hour—that three notable happenings among others took place in connection with the crucifixion of Christ.
He was crucified at the 3rd hour (al-sāʿah al-thālathah), 9 am, when he was derided, scourged, and nailed to the cross; the Sixth Hour (al-sāʿah al-sādissah), noon: The hour of crucifixion. The Ninth Hour (al-sāʿah al-tāsiʿah), 3 pm when Jesus’s spirit was delivered into the hands of his Father; the Eleventh Hour (al-sāʿah al-ḥādiyyah ʿashr), 5 pm,  the sword thrust into Christ’s side—no bones broken, “For these things were done that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. . . . They shall look on him whom they pierced” (John 19:36–37)—the Twelfth Hour (al-sāʿah al-thāniyyah ʿashr), 6 pm, the burial—Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus retrieve Christ’s body and wound it “in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:40).
    Josephus says that the priests performed the sacred ceremonies of the altar "twice a day, in the morning and about the ninth hour” (Jewish Antiquities, book 14, chap. 4, sec. 3).
    Good Friday is known among the Copts (the largest Christian religion in Egypt, speaking Coptic, a direct descendant of the Demotic Egyptian language spoken during the Roman period), either as Sublime Friday (yūm al-gumʿah al-ʿaẓīmah) or Friday of Sorrow (yūm al-gumʿah al-ḥazīnah), and for them it is the most solemn holy day of the year. At this time, day-long services are held from very early morning until after sundown and dramatically commemorate the canonical hours of these events as they unfolded that fateful day. Sung almost in their entirety by the ranking officiant, his deacon, and the choir of deacons, these rituals present a vivid musical recollection of those extraordinary proceedings.
    Possibly no other service compares to the melancholy of reliving Christ’s death, which comes as the culmination of Holy Week, or Holy Paskha, which begins on Palm Sunday and continues throughout the week with special services every day. In fact, directly after the Palm Sunday liturgy, the church is draped in black, the altar is closed, and there is no more daily communion for the remainder of the week.
The introduction of equal length hours occurred in 127 B.C. The Alexandrian scholar Claudius Ptolemaeus (left) introduced the division of the hour into 60 minutes in the second century A.D. Ancient Sumer and India also  divided days into either 1/12 of the time between sunrise and sunset, or 1/24 of a full day. In either case the division reflected the widespread use of a duodecimal numbering system. In China, the whole day was divided into 12 parts. Obviously, the importance of 12 has been attributed to the number of lunar cycles in a year.
    A final note is that the Jewish calendar follows the moon cycle, a year constituting 12 full moon cycles, which takes 354 days. The number 5774 represents the number of such years that have passed since the beginning of creation. It also might be of interest to know that anciently, the Egyptians did not number years, instead, they named them after rulers, thus they were regnal years.
In addition, the Egyptians divided their year (rnpt) into three 120-day seasons of four months of 30 days (hrw) named 3ht or Akhet (inundation), prt or Peret, (emergence) and shmu or Shemu (summer). Akhet was the season of inundation. Peret was the season which saw the emergence of life after the inundation.
    Thus, we can safely say that the Nephite hour would have followed fairly close to the Jewish hour, since that is the time Lehi, Nephi, Sam and Zoram would have known and lived by when coming to the Land of Promise. If so, the “hour” spoken of in the scriptural record would have been a division of the sunlight hours and probably a little longer than the 60-minutes we use. At the same time, Mormon’s comment: “And the king answered him not for the space of an hour, according to their time” (Alma 18:14), 3) seems to verify that information, i.e., “according to their time.”

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