Calendar reckoning is not just a technical pursuit: it is fundamental to social interaction and communal life. The calendar provides an essential point of reference for interpersonal relations and time-bound communal activity. It determines how time is lived and utilized in the community, and sometimes shapes the community's distinctive identity. The calendar is also a way of conceptualizing the dimension of time, and hence, of 'making sense' of an important facet of human lived experience.
This study goes far beyond the technical question of 'how did the Jewish calendar work?' It is an attempt to identify the social and historical processes that led to the adoption or rejection of various calendar systems, and to show how calendars could affect relations between various Jewish and non-Jewish communities. The Jewish calendar—or more accurately, Jewish calendars—will thus be studied in the context of other, non-Jewish calendars, as well as in the wider context of Jewish (and non-Jewish) culture and communal life.
My contention, indeed, is that calendars are significant to social history. They are not just a technical tool for historians and epigraphists; nor are they merely an intellectual curiosity. Although, I would hope, this work will assist historians and epigraphists in their interpretation of early Jewish datings, this work should also be treated in its own right as a historical study of early Judaism and Jewish communities.
A few words about scope. By 'calendar' I do not mean, in this work, the list of annual festivals or of other annual occasions. 1 I shall restrict myself entirely to the calendar as time measurement: in particular, how months and years are reckoned. It is in this sense that the term 'calendar' will be used throughout this work. 2
My period starts around the second century bce, when the earliest sources on Jewish calendar reckoning first begin to appear. It ends in the