Jesus and BC Calendars
by Clark Nelson
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Roman calendar order in the late Before Christ era represents a fluid period of history. Julius Caesar improved a lunar calendar with random intercalations by adopting the Egyptian solar calendar. Events leading toward the mystical lifetime of Jesus bore the marks of successor August strengthening the solar calendar with additional leap day adjustments.
Jesus and BC Calendars
Christians know full well that Jesus Christ empowers our New Testament part of the Word. Faith building requires reading and hearing about miraculous testimonies. We assert Him daily by sharing parables, healing stories, prophecies and other divine events. With one accord then, we have mutual agreement to seek the passion of Christ written in the Holy Bible.
Gifted scholars and learned theologians concur to place Christ’s birth between 4 and 6 Before Common Era or BCE. Christian writers sometimes use Before Christian Era as BCE or just BC. The four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John convey harmony to nearly pinpoint this timeframe. Relevant historical documents likewise indicate the factual scenario. His birth signifies a very unique snapshot in time. The moving picture is the solar calendar we use to describe the Savior’s life and times. The determining number line methodology seems so simple today.
The original Babylonian lunar/solar calendar had some traits eventually embraced by the Greeks. Necessary intercalary months were fundamentally applied. However, their deployment seems abstract given the lack of known references. About 738 BCE, Romulus is said to have instituted the Roman republican calendar. The early Roman calendar went through a myriad of successive changes, from lunar to lunar/solar culminating with 10-months. The Latin month names Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Juniius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December first resulted in a year of 304-days. Quintilis corresponds to the number 5. Sextilis is the 6th month, followed by the prefixes for numbered months 7 – 10. Another Roman ruler, Numa Pompilius added January to start the year and February at the end, making a 12-month year. February was moved to the place it holds today by 452 BCE. February leap insertions between January and March had caused an unstable calendar system for centuries.
The Roman calendar from the fourth to first centuries BCE was lunar. Attempts were made to transform moon phase names: Kalends, Nones or Ides to the standardized pattern we know as new, first quarter and full. In practical terms, lunar phases have no coincidence with numbering. Intercalations were combined with a Latin verb februare, meaning to "expiate" or "purify" and the festival Lupercalia. An irregular intercalary month called Mercedonius, usually consisted of 27 or 28 days. Mercedonius month was inserted every other year between February 23 and 24. Geo-politcal maneuvers further compound any intercalations. Months had varying lengths and 7-day weeks were inconsequential in a numbered calendar system.
Julius Caesar desired to further expand Roman control in the Holy Lands and elsewhere. He invades Egypt and proclaims Cleopatra queen in 47 BCE. The lack of a universally recognized Roman calendar was problematic to his efforts. He learns of the Egyptian solar calendar having 365-days and plans its adoption by Rome. His goal is to extract taxes according to a schedule. Jewish people were using basically the same version of 19-year lunar/solar calendar. Some differences were apparent as they sought to synchronize calendars by sighting new moons. Other regional cultures likewise had issues with consistency. Julius Caesar employs the Egyptian astronomer Sosigenes to help devise a new 12-month calendar starting 45 BCE. His namesake Julian calendar reform extends July to 31-days and shortens February from 30-days to 29-days.
The year 46 BCE became an extra-long year by Julian decree. Ending a series of irregular years, the "last year of confusion" was extended to 445-days. The calendar year was reset to start January 1, 45 BCE. The Roman Republican calendar previously had 10 numbered months and one extra intercalary month added during February. Februarius had been a purification month since the former lunar/solar calendar had only 355-days during regular years. Julian adjustments further spread some 10-days more amongst the monthly endings. A leap month every 2 or 3 years changed into leap day to end the year on February 29. The ultimate time reckoning shift had occurred. A new Julian system had replaced the earlier lunar/solar (proleptic) system.
After Caesar’s death in 44 BCE, Octavius appoints himself Augustus, meaning first emperor. Augustus Caesar (pontifex maximus) continued some Julian policies, including chastity law and calendar enactment. Augustus felt slighted and decided to extend our current month August from 30 to 31-days. February gets further shortened to 28-days. Roman officials were imposing solar calendar reform upon Jewish lunar/solar traditions. Customary Jewish Passover pilgrimage at this time meant everyone would return to their home city and be counted for impending Roman taxation.
Leap days were the next solar calendar disturbance. The Decree of Canopus was issued by the pharaoh Ptolemy III, c. 238 BCE. Egypt was instructed to add an extra day every fourth year. Egypt was using a 12-month, 365-day solar year in the third century BCE. Ptolemy III efforts to implement the traditional leap year pattern were largely unsuccessful. Disagreement amongst Roman leaders lead to improper leap day additions during at least the first 36-years following inception. Augustus further spread the Julian calendar with modification. Emperor Augustus successfully instituted a reformed Alexandrian calendar by adopting an Egyptian leap year in 25 BCE. Augustus skipped three leap days in order to realign the year and correct future leap day routines by 8 AD. The normal Julian leap year sequence began in AD 4, the 12th year of the Augustan reform; and the Roman calendar was finally aligned to the Julian calendar in 1 BCE. The first full year of alignment occurred AD 1.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.”
Christ grew into our Savior during a highly unstable calendar. Some 40-years had passed since the Julian calendar first began. The Holy Trinity involving God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was manifest during the calendar transition. Gaps, seams and separations in the time stream provide conditions for supernatural increase. The will of God authorizes prophecies be fulfilled. Miraculous deeds were accomplished and scriptures written to record evidence. “Signs and wonders” in the divine realm verify co-eternal presence. Ordinary physical boundaries of time and space were overcome. New Testament events and early Christianity exhibit reason for worship. Crucifixion and the Resurrection proved the Son of God.
Geography and communications hampered broad acknowledgment of the Julian calendar. The Roman Empire applied the Julian calendar within somewhat ambiguous borders. Following Paul’s ministry in Acts, until 70 AD, the early church developed locally. The Roman Empire included many of the other calendars aligned with the Augustan reforms. By the fourth and fifth centuries AD, Alexandrian Christians, Coptic and Ethiopian churches all observed Easter. Movement toward associating Bible events with annual ceremony arose.
The Annunciation of the Lord, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, still determines the New Year for many. Angel Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus, meaning "Saviour" according to Luke 1:26 ff. Announcement also specified "in the sixth month" of Elisabeth's pregnancy with a child later called John the Baptist. The Immaculate Conception is approximated to have taken place near the vernal equinox in March.
Verses in Matthew 3:1-7 are germane to engaging the co-eternal nature of Christ with preceding calendars. First, prophecy from Isaiah 40:3 prepares a way for the Lord. Advice to prepare a highway for God was written for wandering Jewish people in the wilderness and deserts of life. John the Baptist is said to have fulfilled the prophecy during a time of Jewish and Roman calendar contention. A second series of events contain angelic proclamations to both Elisabeth and Mary coincidently about impending baby Jesus. The Holy Spirit acted most prominently during this time we call late BC and early AD. Jesus began public ministry about the age of 30, following Baptism and the Spirit of God descending like a dove. Shared governmental roles and two widely divergent, unstructured and informal calendars sanction divine intervention.
Are you a pastor, educator or a student of the Holy Bible? Timeemits.com seeks anointed people to review and contribute to the Ages_of_Adam ministry. Ancient lunar/solar calendars like the Jewish and Mayan calendars provide the background to understanding early time. Ancient calendars of the Holy Bible use differences between the moon and sun, numerical matching and a 364-day calendar year to describe X-number of days that match with X-number of years. Ages_of_Adam is a free read at timeemits.
Clark Nelson is webmaster for http://www.timeemits.com/Get_More_Time.htm, author of Ages_of_Adam and sequel, Holy_of_Holies. Copyright 2011 Clark Nelson and timeemits.com All Rights Reserved. URL http://www.timeemits.com/tat/Jesus_and_BC_Calendars.htm
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