Editor's Note: The most messages I've received ask about, or make reference to the history of the calendar used by the majority of Western Civilation. After typing out a couple different answers I figured I'd put all the information into one place and this email raised enough questions to need a more detailed answer.
From: "Ken Vernon"
To: Camillian's Millennium Calendar
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1999 21:39:09 -0000
Please could you resolve something for me,
I am under the impression that everybody is celebrating the turn of the century and the new millennium one year to early. I would have thought that being a Christian celebration of 2000 years since the birth of Christ, Christians would put more importance on the day they celebrate it.
The way I look at it is that, the day Christ was supposedly born was the beginning of the FIRST year, not year ZERO, making next year the 2000th year, in other words the 1000th year of the SECOND millennium and NOT the FIRST year of the THIRD millennium, and the 100th year of the 20th Century NOT the FIRST year of the 21st century. This is a fact not a belief.
I know that, if Christ really existed, the date of his birth would be a point of infinite debate and that no one would really be able to say that he was born 2000 years ago to the day, but if we are going to celebrate the birth of "OUR SAVIOUR" should we not do right by him and celebrate his 2000 birthday in the right year, after all he did supposedly save our souls.
From: Camillian's Millennium Calendar
To: "Ken Vernon"
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1999 15:40
As I regularly get spammed at this email I don't check it very often any more which is why there was such a delay in getting back to you.
First to clear up some things. The current calendar is and is not a Christian calendar and is and is not accurate.
The current calendar is actually based on two calendars:
These calendars became standards and thereby eventually secular. The BC ("Before Christ") and The AD ("Anno Domini" or "In the Year of the Lord" or as I learned it as kid just to keep the order straight "After the Death of Christ) are more and more being replaced by BCE ("Before the Common Era") and CE ("Common Era") respectively.
How years are counted gets a little funny so first lets put everything into a nice timeline; I've included some related historical events to put things in perspective.
|510 BCE||Roman Republic Established|
|45 BCE||Julian Calendar introduced by Roman Emperor Julius Caesar to replace the existing Roman calendar, which wasn't standardized or accurate.|
|7 BCE||Jesus Christ is born.|
|4 BCE||King Herod the Great dies.|
|14-37 CE||Tiberius Caesar rules the Roman Empire|
|29 CE||Luke chapter 3. [by my math anyways]|
|284 CE||Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletanius the Latin name for Diocletian became the Roman the emperor. At this time he was tolerant of Christianity.|
|303 CE||Roman Emperor Diocletian issued an edict in Nicomediam prohibiting Christianity--which lead to the expected executions, confiscation of property, and destruction of churches.|
|305 CE||Roman Emperor Diocletian abdicated.|
|325 CE||The Council of Nicaea meet on the Vernal Equinox--which happened to be 21-March--and produced the "Alexandrine Rules" to calculate Easter. Noting the Vernal (Spring) Equinox is important.|
|325 CE||The first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, introduces:
|500 CE||circa. Hindu numbers developed position notation with a character for "zero."|
|523 CE||circa. A monk by the name of Dionysius Exiguus was instructed, by Papal Chancellor Bonifatius, to find a way implement the "Alexandrine Rules."
During Dionysius' time years were counted since the reign of Emperor Diocletian--not a good thing for Christians to count their years by (circa 303 CE)--so Dionysius decided to honor the birth of Christ rather than one of its persecutors.
Only Dionysius and those he talked to will know for sure how and why things were calculated they way they were so unless, or until, some manuscript appears we are left with speculation and debate.
I've located several theories about how Dionysius calculated Christ's birth. One refers to Luke 3:1 "Now in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberious Caesar…" The other is Luke 3:23 "And Jesus himself began to be about 30 years of age…" This theory relies on calculation of the founding of Rome, which Dionysius miscalculated by 6 years.
Additionally there's a problem about him leaving out the "zero" year. This error goes like this; the Romans didn't have zeros, or place holders, in their mathematical Roman Numeral system. (The zero or place holder was an Arabic concept that didn't come into play until much later--not even in Dionysius time was the "zero" used.)
So when Dionysius did all his figuring 1 BCE (BC) was followed immediately by 1 CE (AD). Because of this interesting tidbit, the first century actually started 1 CE, the next century or hundred years began in 101 CE then in 201 CE etc.
|673-735 CE||The Venerable Bede was born and died. He wrote a history of the early centuries of Anglo-Saxon England in which he used Dionysius system which lead to it's being the standard--this is also open to debate.|
|825 CE||al-Khowarizmi of Baghdad, an Arab mathematician, wrote about the Hindu-Indian number system and algebra.|
|1100 CE||circa. al-Khowarizmi's works are translated into Latin and the Arabic Ghobar numerals, replete with the place holding "zero", began to spread through Western Europe.|
|1545-1563||The Council of Trent - 19th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church. Among other business the Trent Council, advised by astronomer Father Christopher Clavius and Naples physician Aloysius Lilius, reestablishes the Vernal Equinox date of 21-March (when the Council of Nicaea met) and determined the Easter moon's 14th day and it's observation the following Sunday.
A story I've heard regarding this has a someone, presumably Lilius, noting that a sun did not land on mark on the floor of a chamber somewhere on the Spring Equinox when it was supposed. This prompted the Council of Trent addressing the calendar correction. Who this person was I don't recall it could've been Lilius or Clavius or someone else.
|1582||October 4 - Last day of the Julian calendar as decreed by Pope Gregory XIII according to the Council of Trent.
October 5-15 - do not exist (this skipping or dropping of days is not the only one.)
October 15 - Ostensibly the first day of the Gregorian calendar as decreed by Pope Gregory XIII according to the Council of Trent.
Keep in mind this was only in use by the Roman Catholic Church as they were the ones issuing this the Protestant rulers did not feel the need. I would really like someone to explain how all these calendars worked together…
|1752||The Julian calendar was replaced with the Gregorian calendar in Great Britain and its American colonies.|
|1776||US Declaration of Independence signed and shipped to England.|
|1995||The true third millennium actually started|
"...The day Christ was supposedly born was the beginning of the FIRST year, not year ZERO, making next year the 2000th year..."
Yes and No.
Yes, it was the beginning of the first year--and, no, it is still year zero. Nothing is considered one year old until after that first year is over with--or "old." A baby born 14-February-1978 is zero years old until 14-February-1979; which is why the age is given in months (after that number of months have been completed.)
So to answer your intended question technically we're actually celebrating the Millennium too late--the year 2001 should have occurred in 1995.
Because of the actions of Dionysius and the pre-existing Roman calendar systems; the Gregorian (or Western) Calendar (originally Roman, then Christian and now Secular) is approaching (or just entered) the year 2000 depending on when you receive this. However due to the absence of a "zero" year the Millennium still doesn't start until 2001.
While the calendar has been recalculated to coincide with the birth of Christ it can not be said to be truely a Christian calendar since the months (with four exceptions) are named for Roman Emperors and Roman Gods.
For this to happen the months would have to be renamed to match perhaps the Apostles, or the Gates of the City mentioned in Revelations. And the days of the week would have to be renamed as well. With increasing voices of non-Christian religions telling the Christians to quit putting their stamp on everything this is getting more and more unlikely--after all Roman Emporers Augustus and Julius Ceaser have been immortlized longer then Christianity has been around.
"...If Christ really existed, the date of his birth would be a point of infinite debate and that no one would really be able to say that he was born 2000 years ago to the day..."
The date is less in question then His actual existance.
Using the Bible as reference, as Dionysius did, the year is fairly accurate--at least considering the way calendars were maintained back then.
I would have to locate the verse (and will eventually) which talks about the Shepards being informed of the birth while with their flocks in the field. Shepards rarely put their flocks out to field in the winter, this is a summer occurrance.
Christmas began to be celebrated in the winter to bring the Pagans and their traditions, which could not be squelched, under control of the Church. (Talk about a fornicating bride!)
If things had been only slightly different we would be celebrating Christmas on March 25th (just after the Vernal (Spring) Equinox--another traditional time of rebirth) or June 25th (the Summer Solstice--or longest day of sun light--which is more then likely when the Shepherds were out in the fields with their sheep.)
"...Should we not do right by him and celebrate his 2000 birthday in the right year..."
Another common misconception is that Christians are to celebrate the birth of Christ, this is not the case. The Bible can go into detail about what and how certain days are to be celebrated; Christ's birth is not among them. In fact it's barely given any attention at all. Considering the concept of "being born into sin" associated with birth this is to be expected, as it's not something that should be celebrated. (NOTE: It does mention about honoring the Resurrection (Easter) but how many Christians do you know invite someone in, sit them down and begin to wash their feet?)
This also explains why the date is being hailed less as a Christian event, except by devoted Christians, and more as a serious excuse to party by just about every one using the Western Calendar.
Sources, included but not limited to:
Frequently Asked Questions about Calendars Version 2.0; Claus Tøndering; http://www.pjbsware.demon.co.uk/calendar/faq/
Roman Empire Provence-Beyond (Beyond the French Riviera); http://www.beyond.fr/history/empire.html
© Camillian 1999.
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camilian since 1-May-1998
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