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World Body Proposed a “Wandering” Sabbath—and Lost!

World Body Proposed a “Wandering” Sabbath—and Lost!

One hundred years ago, the world was wearied of war. After the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, countries gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, to form the  League of Nations, billed as “the first worldwide intergovernmental organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace.” The league was enthusiastically supported by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, and 42 nations were among the founding members.

In 1931, two years before Germany’s Weimar Republic ended and Adolf Hitler’s National Socialists began their reign of terror, one League committee was focusing on something quite different: the calendar.

To correct what they saw as “flaws” in the Gregorian calendar, which had been in use for centuries, a group of business and government leaders agitated for this “standardization,” which would make accounting, forecasting, and historical comparisons easier as well as resolve the issue of differing calendars used in various nations. In India alone, regions depended on as many as 15 different calendars.

The committee weighed 185 submitted proposals, gravitating toward two, one proposed by Elisabeth Achelis, a New York heiress who devoted her life to changing the calendar, and another by Moses Cotsworth, an accountant and business analyst in Britain who was heavily backed by George Eastman, whose Eastman Kodak company churned out inexpensive cameras and film for millions of Americans.

Ultimately, the committee chose Cotsworth’s “International Fixed Calendar,” in which the 12 months of the Gregorian calendar would be replaced by 13 months of 28 days each. Every date would fall on the same weekday each year, he posited. The thirteenth month would be called “Sol,” for the sun. And because 13 months of 28 days each added up to 364 days, a “blank day” would be added to even things out; every five years, an extra “blank day” would cover “leap” years.


Changing “Times and Law”

But this “blank day” would actually shift the Sabbath day from what it had been, the seventh day of the week, fixed, to a “wandering” day, nudged along every year by one or two (in the case of leap years) “blanks.”

To the nearly 17 million Jews around the world—along with 336,000 Seventh-day Adventists and other Sabbath-keepers—this was unacceptable, as the actual seventh day of the week was to be kept as a command from God: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8–11).

For Adventists, the commandment found amplification in the first of three angels’ messages proclaimed at the close of history: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:7). Note the similarity in language to the Sabbath command. The very worship of God is inextricably linked to the Sabbath day, with emphasis on the seven days in which God created the Earth (Genesis 2:2, 3).

In the League of Nations, all signs seemed to point toward the passing of this calendar reform. But opposition arose that stayed the course of history.

The world’s Jews, represented by Dr. Joseph Herman Hertz, Britain’s chief rabbi, made their appeal before the committee, drawing contempt from some and even an “anti-Semitic undertone” from others, like Cotsworth.

Arguments quickly zeroed in on the real problem at hand, religious liberty, especially when Charles Marvin, chief of the U.S. Weather Bureau, declared, “Free exercise of religion means no more than freedom of religious tenet and creed.”

But it was Seventh-day Adventist French physician Jean Nussbaum’s remarks that sealed the deal. As Rabbi Hertz later recalled, Nussbaum “earnestly requested the representatives to remember that it was an important issue of conscience, and that any interference with human conscience was incompatible with the ideals of the League of Nations.”

With the world in the throes of the Great Depression, the League concluded it unwise to push such a global change, and the calendar reform was abandoned. The League’s successor, the United Nations, was petitioned to consider it in 1950, but without success.


Ancient Prophecy Still Stands

Students of Bible prophecy will likely recall a set of verses in the book of Daniel which talk about “a fourth kingdom on earth” (Daniel 7:23) that would “speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law” (v. 25).

The USA in Bible Prophecy

Although the calendar reformers lost out in Geneva, a “change [in] times and law” will indeed, as the Bible says, take place someday—and the target of this reform will again be the Bible Sabbath.

Surprisingly, the United States is going to take a leading role in dashing religious liberty to the ground and, in its place, imposing a new, counterfeit Sabbath day. You can read about it in “ The USA in Bible Prophecy,” our free, online study guide.

Of related interest, take a look at “Coronavirus and the Last Days” by prophecy expert Gary Gibbs for insight into just how such changes may take place!

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