The Calendar, The Nativity, and

the Kingdom of Christ

  Kurt Simmons

In this article, we investigate many interesting facts from scripture relative to dating time, and look at the religious and civil facets of the calendar, and its testimony to the kingdom and coming of Christ.   

Genesis tells us that God so arranged the heavenly bodies to create the seasons, and provide man a means of marking time: 

"And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.  And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.  And the evening and the morning were the fourth day" (Gen. 1:14-19). 

Earth's movement through space and the motion of the heavenly bodies provide a clock-work by which man measures time even today.  The earth's revolution upon its axis gives us day and night; its orbit around the sun provides us the seasons and the year.  The moon's orbit around the earth gives us the month, and the zodiac or twelve signs further serve to gauge the months and seasons.   

The Day 

There are two principal forms of the day; the natural and the civil. The natural day is the whole period between two sun sets; one day ending at the set of the sun and the next day then beginning.  "And the evening and the morning were the first day" (Gen. 1:4). The civil day is established by custom or usage. Among the Romans, the civil day began at midnight; a custom has obtained ever since. The day is divided into 24 hours. The first hour of the natural day is sunrise, though 6 A.M. has been settled upon as the nominal hour of sunrise.  Twelve hours are nominally assigned to the day and twelve to the night, though we know that these, in fact, vary with the season of the year.  When Jesus says, "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" (Jn. 11:9), he alludes to this division.  Likwise, when the gospels speak of the sixth or tenth hour of the day or the like (Jn. 4:6; 1:39), they mean the hour of the civil day measured from the nominal hour of sunrise at 6 A.M.  However, when Mark says it was the third hour when they crucified Jesus (Mk. 15:25), in apparent contradiction to John who says it was the sixth hour (Jn. 19:14), Mark is probably best understood to mean it was the hour from Jesus' trial before Pontius Pilate, not the hour of the morning (cf. Matt. 27:45; Lk. 23:44).  A further measurement is the division of the night into military watches, of which the Romans had four (6-9, 9-12, 12-3, 3-6).  These watches also represented hours of divine office in the temple and among monastic orders today, whose names are Vespers (6 p.m.), Compline (9 p.m.), Matins (12 a.m.) and Lauds (3 a.m.) (Ps. 92:2; 134:1; I Chron. 9:33). 

The Week 

Most probably take for granted that the week is an inherent and universal unit of time-keeping. It is not.  The week is not a natural division of the month (except for the anomalous month of February), nor is it a natural division of the year, the nearest multiples coming short in each case.  The week comes to man directly from the Bible, where it marked God's rest from the creation (Gen. 2:2, 3); it was then given to the Jews as a token of their rest from slavery (Ex. 20:8-11); thence to the Christians, who assembled each first day of the week to partake of the Lord's Supper (Act 20:11; I Cor. 11:20-34, 16:2).   

The Roman "week" originally contained eight days, and the month was divided between the "Kalends," "Nones," and "Ides" (see more below). There were eight days between the Nones and Ides, from which the Nones received their name (nine days to the Ides reckoning inclusively), and two eight week periods from the Ides to the end of the month.  It was not until the reign of Constantine (A.D. 306-337) who set aside the first day of the week for prayer and worship, that the seven day week attained formal place in the Roman calendar.

He enjoins the General Observance of the Lord's Day, and the Day of Preparation.

HE ordained, too, that one day should be regarded as a special occasion for prayer: I mean that which is truly the first and chief of all, the day of our Lord and Saviour. The entire care of his household was entrusted to deacons and other ministers consecrated to the service of God, and distinguished by gravity of life and every other virtue: while his trusty body guard, strong in affection and fidelity to his person, found in their emperor an instructor in the practice of piety, and like him held the Lord's salutary day in honor and performed on that day the devotions which he loved. The same observance was recommended by this blessed prince to all classes of his subjects: his earnest desire being gradually to lead all mankind to the worship of God. Accordingly he enjoined on all the subjects of the Roman empire to observe the Lord's day, as a day of rest, and also to honor the day which precedes the Sabbath; in memory, I suppose, of what the Saviour of mankind is recorded to have achieved on that day. (1) And since his desire was to teach his whole army zealously to honor the Saviour's day (which derives its name from light, and from the sun), (2) he freely granted to those among them who were partakers of the divine faith, leisure for attendance on the services of the Church of God, in order that they might be able, without impediment, to perform their religious worship.  Eusebius, Life of Constantine, Bk. IV, chapter xviii.

The precedent of Constantine has obtained among Christian nations ever since, who suspend the business of government and the courts on the first day of the week as a time of worship.[1] And because the Christian nations of the West close, business and governments throughout the world are compelled to follow suit, making the "week" universal among mankind, and a token of Christ's dominion in the earth. 

The Month 

We first encounter the month in Genesis where it occurs in connection with the flood. 

"In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened…and the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days…and the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat" (Gen. 7:11, 24; 8:4). 

Moses says the flood prevailed five months to the day. Since he says this was also equal to 150 days, this would make the months thirty days long, just better than the length of one lunar cycle.   

Months in the Roman calendar were either "pleni" (full), containing 31 days, or "cavi" (hollow), containing 30 days.[2]  The Romans divided the month into Kalends, Nones, and Ides.  In all cases, the Kalends were the first day of the month.  In full months of 31 days, the Nones were the seventh and the Ides the fifteenth. March has always contained 31 days, and the Ides of March have been permanently marked in history by the death of Julius Caesar. 

Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1, scene 2, 15-19

In hollow months of 30 or less days, the Nones were the fifth and Ides the thirteenth. Dates were expressed by enumerating backward from these days.  Days between the Kalends and Nones were enumerated backward from the Nones; those between the Nones and Ides, backward from the Ides.  Days subsequent to the Ides were enumerated backward from the Kalends of the following month. The Romans reckoned inclusively, so that the day from and the day to which the enumeration was made were both counted.  Thus, 8 days before the Kalends of January is December 25th, seven days remaining to December including the 25th, plus January 1st. 

The Year 

As we have seen, the Noahic calendar had 30 days to the month, and thus 360 days to the year (12 x 30 = 360).  A circle contains 360 degrees.  Earth advances in its annual course around the sun about one degree per day.  However, because earth's orbit is not a perfect circle, but slightly elliptical, it takes just less than 365 1/4 days to complete its annual course around the sun.  Hence, the Noahic calendar would have required the intercalation of five days annually to keep the lunar and solar year in synchronization.  Herodotus reports that this was done by the Egyptians: 

"The Egyptians were the first to discover the year, which they divided into twelve parts; and they say that they made this discovery from the stars; and so far, I think they act more wisely than the Grecians, in that the Grecians insert an intercalary month every third year, on account of the seasons; whereas the Egyptians, reckoning twelve months of thirty days each, add five days each year above that number, and so with them the circle of the season comes round to the same point." Herodotus, Euterpe, II, iv. 

Julius Caesar is usually credited with the solar calendar of 365 days, but here we see the Egyptians discovered it long before Caesar and doubtless the men of Noah's day long before even the Egyptians.  In calendars based upon the solar year, months lose all relation to the phases of the moon; they become blocks of time upon the calendar, which come and go independently of the lunar cycle.  Ancient peoples kept lunar calendars primarily because of religious festivals connected with the moon, which are lost or obscured in solar calendars.  That the Noahic calendar was solar shows that there were no sacrifices coordinated with the moon at that time in sacred history.  However, this changed under Moses. 

The Jewish month was marked by the appearance of the new moon, at which time specific sacrifices were made (Num. 28:11; 10:10).  The Psalmist thus declared "Blow the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day" (Ps. 81:3).  The nation's Exodus from Egypt occurred on the fifteenth of the month Abib at the full moon (Ex. 12:18-51; 13:3, 4). Abib thus became the first month in the Jewish calendar (Ex. 12:1).  The Exodus was commemorated each year in Abib by the feast of Passover. Passover occurred at the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox (Ex. 12:3-10).  Rabbinic writings confirm that the month was based upon actual observation of the new moon. 

"The testimony of at least two witnesses was required to establish that the new moon had been seen. So important were the observations of these witness that, for the fixing of the new moons of Nisan and Tishri, the pivotal points of the year in the spring and fall, they might even exceed the travel limit of two thousand cubits on the Sabbath day to bring their report to Jerusalem"[3] 

The connection between the Jews' religious festivals and the moon meant that the solar year of the Noahic calendar was replaced with a lunar calendar tied to the actual phases of the moon.  The moon's cycle is just better than 29 1/2 days. Half days were counted for by alternating months between 29 and 30 days, so that a year consisted of six months of 29 days, and six months of 30 days. Twelve lunar months contain 354 days.  Since the solar year consists of just less than 365 1/4 days, the lunar year is eleven days shorter than the solar year.  To bring the two back into synchronization, the Jews and other ancient peoples intercalated an extra, thirteenth month seven times in nineteen years, or about every third year.  Among the Jews this month was added at the end of the year so as to bring the first month, when Passover was celebrated, back into synchronization with the vernal equinox, which is a fixed point in the solar year.[4] 

The ancient Romans also used the lunar calendar. The day that the Romans called the Ides was associated with the full moon, and Macrobrius states that many agree the word Ides is derived from the Greek "οἷον ἀπὸ τοῦ εἴδους,"  because on that day the moon presents its full appearance (quod eo die plenam speciem luna demonstret).[5] Scholars believe that the Roman method of counting days backward from the Kalends, Nones, and Ides is the equivalent of saying "It wants so many days to the new moon, to the first quarter, and to the full moon."[6]  The religious character of lunar calendars is also seen among the Romans, for it was the duty of the pontifices to watch for the new moon, who then sang a hymn, offered a sacrifice, and announced the number of days remaining until the Nones, whether five or seven.[7]  The priests had the further responsibility to insert intercalary months to regulate the lunar and solar years. Macrobrius and other writers report that 22 or 23 days were added every other year, for a total of 90 days in eight years, but that in the third octoennial period of a 24 year cycle, only 66 were added.[8] The priestly college is reported to have added or subtracted from the year by corrupt and capricious intercalations so as to lengthen or shorten the period a magistrate remained in office, and to injure or benefit the farmer of the public revenue.[9] Suetonius states that the negligence of the pontiffs had so long disordered the calendar through their privilege of adding months or days at pleasure, that the "harvest festivals did not come in summer or those of the vintage in the autumn."[10] 

The Julian Calendar 

The Roman calendar was in such a state when Caesar attained the supreme power over his countrymen.  In 45 B.C., Caesar thus set his hand to reform the calendar by abolishing the lunar calendar, and substituting a solar calendar of 365 1/4 days in its place.  It will be recalled that Herodotus attributed the Egyptians with discovery of a year of 12 months of 30 days, adding five days to fulfill 365, so bringing the year to its starting point again.  Caesar accomplished this same result by dividing the months between 30 (April, June, September, November), and 31 (January, March, May, July, August, October, December) save February, which has only 28.  The additional six hours Caesar believed the year contained was dealt with by adding an extra day to February every 4th year. 

Caesar's reform of the calendar, making it a civil/solar calendar, rather than a lunar/religious one, was providential in timing.  The dawn of Christianity marked an end to monthly observances tied to the moon typical of the Jewish and pagan nations. Paul's comment to the Galatians, whom Judaizers had seduced to keep the mosaic law, is telling: 

"Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have know God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years" (Gal. 4:8-10). 

Paul's rebuke makes clear that he deemed the calendrical observances of Jews as having no essential difference from pagan observances. Both were the elemental stuff of the world and could not save from sin.  There being no reason to keep a lunar calendar but religious, the Julian calendar anticipated the conversion of the nations to Christ, supplying in advance a calendar suited to the new faith. 

Paschal Controversy 

The change from a lunar and solar calendar soon made itself felt in the infant faith.  Annual commemoration of Christ's Passion caused no little controversy in the early church. On the night of his betrayal, Luke reports that Jesus said: 

"With desire I have desire to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come" (Lk. 22:15-18). 

Unless this points to celebration of the Pasche in heaven (for the kingdom of God carries this signification also), we must conclude the Lord here had in view the commemoration of his Passion by the church.  And if this does not look solely to the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper, then it must also contemplate its annual remembrance each the Paschal season, for Christ is the Christian's "Passover" (I Cor. 5:8).  But as the Passover is governed by the lunar calendar, and therefore does not occur the same time year to year, now occurring in March, now in April, now on this day of the week, now on that, the question early arose whether the Passion and Resurrection should be a moveable feast following the moon as Passover was with the Jews, or a fixed holyday.  Eusebius thus records: 

"At that time no small controversy arose because all the dioceses of Asia thought it right, as though by more ancient tradition, to observe for the feast of the Saviour's Passover the fourteenth day of the moon, on which the Jews had been commanded to kill the lamb. Thus it was necessary to finish the fast on that day, whatever day of the week it might be. Yet it was not the custom to celebrate in this manner in the churches throughout the rest of the world, for from apostolic tradition they kept the custom which still exists that it is not right to finish this fast on any day save that of the resurrection of our Saviour" (Ecclesiastical History, V, xiii; Loeb ed.).

 Those that favored following the moon were called "Quartodecimans," signifying the 14th day of the lunar month when the moon is first full. These celebrated the Resurrection the third day from the full moon following the vernal equinox, no matter what day it was, be it Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.  The better view, however, and that which prevailed, opted for a set day of the week, fixing the feast the first Sunday following the full moon of the vernal equinox, thus preserving the weekly sequence of events as given in the gospels. For our Lord suffered Good Friday and rose again the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1; Lk. 24:1; Jn. 20:1).  And as it was set in the church by the apostles that we should assemble every first day of the week and partake of Communion (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 11:17-34; 16:2), it is fitting that annual commemoration of Christ's Passion and Resurrection should not interrupt, but complement, this ordinance. The Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) therefore established that the Pasche should be kept as we have described the first Sunday following the full moon on or after the vernal equinox, and if Sunday falls on the full  moon (as this year April 17, 2011, it did), then it is observed the Sunday following. (See also, Ceolfrid's Epistle to Naitan, Bede, Historical Works, II, xxi). 

The Error of the Julian Calendar and its Testimony of the Birth of Christ 

Another happy circumstance of Caesar's calendar is the unwitting witness it lends to the date of Christ's birth. The Julian calendar set the year at 365 1/4 days. However, this is 11 minutes 14 seconds longer the actual year.  In the period between 45 B.C. and the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325), this excess caused the civil year to gain almost three days (2.862 days).  The four natural divisions of the year are the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, and the summer and winter solstices.  The equinoxes had anciently been fixed at the March 25 and September 25, and the solstices at June 25 and December 25.  To establish the uniform celebration of the Pasche (Easter), the Council of Nicea corrected the vernal equinox to March 21, and decreed that the Pasche should be celebrated the first Sunday following the full moon on or after the vernal equinox. But as this is four days correction, and the calendar had grown out of synchronization less then three days in the period from its start, it is clear that the equinox already anticipated March 25 by a little better than a day when Caesar inaugurated his reforms. Now, the earliest testimony of the church is that Christ was born Dec. 25th[11] when it was still associated in men's minds with the winter solstice.[12]  But the church very early on, almost from the very beginning, knew of the error in the Julian calendar and that the dates traditionally fixed for the equinoxes and solstices did not correspond with the astronomical events. And as the discrepancy grew more obvious and acute with the passing centuries, like a beacon growing ever wider the further it shines from its source, it is clear that the tradition placing Christ's birth on Dec. 25th, when men still associated that day with the winter solstice, necessarily hales from a time very near, if not actually that of, the apostles themselves. For if the feast of the Nativity was first celebrated Dec. 25th hundreds of years after Christ's birth, as is often alleged, its association with the winter solstice would have never come about, the men of later times well knowing the correspondence between the solstice and Dec. 25th did not exist when Jesus was born.[13] 

Measuring Time:  Where Do We Stand in History? 

Thus far we have been looking at the calendar in terms of measuring the year and its subdivisions. What about the year as it stands in relation to the past or future? How did the Jews and other ancient peoples date time?   

Among the Gentiles, the distant past beyond the memory of man was wrapped in myth.  Without the scriptures to provide a reliable account of historical fact, the imagination of the poets had to fill the gap.  We thus read of a time when all things were different than they are now; a time of Olympian gods, centaurs, satyrs, and the age of heroes. Censorinus reports of Varro's division of the past thus: 

"And if the origin of the world had come into human's range of knowledge, then that is where we would start from; but as it is I shall treat that interval of time that Varro calls "historical." For he gives three divisions of time epochs first from the beginning of mankind to the first flood, which because of our ignorance of it is called "unclear", second from the first flood to the first Olympiad, which, because many fabulous things are reported in it, is names "mythical", third from the first Olympiad to us, which is called "historical", because the events that happened in it are contained in true histories. For the first epoch of time, whether it had a beginning or whether it always existed, it is certainly not possible to comprehend its number of years."(DN 20:12-21.2)[14] 

Between the mythical time and the first Olympiad stands the fall of Troy, which serves as a sort of borderland between the two, representing a mixture of myth and historical fact.  Reference to the great flood is universal among the nations, and attests to the common origin of man and the truth of the Biblical narrative.  Another point of contact is the existence of giants, bound at death with chains in Hades, doubtless answering the "angels" or "sons of God" that sinned and perished in the deluge and thus bound in Tartarus (II Pet. 2:4; cf. I Pet. 3:19, 20; Gen. 6:1-4).[15] 

Ancient cities had their own local time and manner of calibration. As nations grew up and entered the world stage, time involved synchronization of local with foreign persons or events. Plutarch gives a date for the battle of Plataea, saying,  

"They fought this battle on the fourth of Boedromion, according the Athenians, but according to the Boeutians, on the twenty-seventh of the month Panenus" (Arist. 19:7). 

Establishing the year had equal challenges. Diodorus Siculus described the year 384 B.C. thus:

"At the conclusion of the year, in Athens Diotrephes was Archon and in Rome the consuls elected were Lucius Valerius and Aulus Mallius, and the Eleians celebrated the ninety-ninth Olympiad, that in which Dicon of Syracus won the footrace" (15.14.1). 

As this passage suggests, the Greeks dated by those holding office of Archon and from Olympiads, but the Romans by consuls, the year of an emperor's reign, or from the founding of Rome (ab urbs condita, A.U.C.). 

Among the Jews, no one reference or comprehensive scheme occurs in scripture.  Any number of dating methods are found.  Genesis dates are consecutive, not cumulative. Rather than saying an event occurred so many years from creation or from Adam, they are dated to the time a particular person lived or the year of his life. Continuity of dates is attained only by totaling the years between successive births. Thus, from Adam to Noah were 1056 years, and from Noah to Abraham 950 years, and from Abraham to the death of Joseph 361 years.[16] The whole period covered by Genesis is therefore 2367 years. 

Years to Birth of Firstborn Sons 

Adam 130 yrs


Noah 502 yrs


Abraham 100

Seth 105


Shem 100


Isaac 60

Enos 90


Arphaxad 35


Jacob 91

Cainan 70


Salah 30


Joseph 110 (dies)

Mahalaleel 65


Eber 34



Jered 162


Peleg 30



Enoch 65


Reu 32



Methuselah 187


Serug 30



Lamech 182


Nahor 29





Terah 130








Total 1056 yrs


Total 952 yrs


Total 361 yrs

After Genesis, this method of dating disappears, and dates are provided from important events. Thus, there were 430 years from Abraham entering Canaan to the Exodus from Egypt (Ex. 12:40, 51; Gal. 3:16, 17).  These 430 years were evenly divided between 215 years from when Abraham entered Canaan at age 75 until Jacob entered Egypt at age 130 (Gen. 12:4; 47:9), and 215 years from entering Egypt until the Exodus.  So Josephus: 

"They left Egypt in the month Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt" (Ant. II, xv, 2) 

From the Exodus to the beginning of David's reign was 437 years (it was 480 years from the Exodus until the 4th year of Solomon (I Kng. 6:1, 38). David reigned 40 years. Hence, 480 - 43 = 437). From David until the carrying away into Babylonian captivity  by Nebuchadnezzar, based upon the regnal years of the kings of Judah, was 452 years. (But see Jos. Ant. X, viii, 5 where the length is given as 470 years from the building of Solomon's temple until its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar.) From the captivity until the decree to rebuild the city by Artexerxes Longimanus given to Nehemiah was 132 years (586 B.C. to 454 B.C.). And from the decree to rebuild the city to the baptism of Christ in the fifteenth year of Tiberius (Nov. 8, A.D. 29) was 483 years (Dan. 9:25). Thus, it was 2083 years from Adam until Abraham entered Canaan at age 75. 430 years from Abraham's entering Canaan to the Exodus.  1021 years from the Exodus until the decree of Artexerxes, and 483 years thence until the baptism of our Savior when he was 29 years old, but 453 years until his birth in December of 2 B.C.  The whole period from Adam until the birth of Christ (by our reckoning) was 3987 years, though Ussher gives it as 4002 years. 

Another method of dating that occurs in scripture is the regnal years of kings.  During the monarchial period of the Jewish nation, the scriptures often dated events according to a king's reign. Thus, we read that in the eighth year of Josiah's reign "while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images" (II Chron. 34:3).  But of Zedekiah we read  

"And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it, and built forts against it round about. So the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah" (Jer. 52:4). 

The Babylonia captivity ended the Jew's monarchy until the birth of Christ. During the period of the four world empires (Babylon, Mede-Persia, Greece, Rome), dates reference the regnal years of the Gentile world-rulers.  Dozens of references to the regnal years of Gentile rulers are found in Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah (Dan. 2:1; 7:1; 8:1; 9:1; 10:1; Est. 1:3; 3:7; Ezra 1:1-3; Neh. 2:1; Hag. 1:1; 2:10; Zech. 1:1).  In these, we have the beginning of a universal dating referent as the various nations assimilated into the world monarchies adopt the regnal year of the ruler to gauge time.  These four world empires were preparatory to the dominion of Christ, in which the gospel was carried into all the world and Christ took up the government of the nations.  As men dated events by the regnal year of the Gentile monarchs of the four world empires, it is appropriate that time is now dated from the birth of Christ, who is earth's only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords. 

Anno Domini 

Use of the term "Anno Domini" is usually attributed to Dionysius Exiguus, a sixth century Sycthian monk.  The term is Latin for "in the year of our Lord" and signifies the regnal years of Christ.  Dionysius used the birth of Christ to date the era in his Paschal (Easter) Tables.  Dionysius substituted the "era of the martyrs" or the "Diocletian era" that had obtained until that time, with the incarnation of Christ.  Dionysius adopted his method because he did not want to perpetuate the memory of Diocletian who had bitterly persecuted Christians. The custom of nominating the era by Anno Domini did not become dominant in Western Europe until it was used by the Venerable Bede to date the events in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which he completed in 731.  Other terms used to describe the era of Christ's kingdom include Anno Salutis ("in the year of salvation"), Anno Nostrae Salutis ("in the year of our salvation"), Anno Salutis Humanae ("in the year of the salvation of men"), and Anno Reparatae Salutis ("in the year of accomplished salvation").  Since the eighteenth century, Anno Domini has been used exclusive of these other phrases.  However, in the last fifty years or so, Anno Domini, which used to occur in all sorts of legal instruments and official documents, including deeds, conveyances, and legislative acts, has declined and is now replaced with CE and BCE (Common Era and Before our Common Era) as more politically correct.  However, even these referents date the era from the birth Christ, and therefore tacitly admit what they implicitly deny. 

Another era, related to that we have been discussing, is the "latter days."  This phrase describes the closing days of the world-course or age (Eph. 2:2) marked by the reign of sin and death, and the dominion of earth by heathen powers.  Christ destroyed the dominion of sin and death by his substitutionary death and atoning sacrifice.  He put his enemies beneath his feet in the cataclysmic judgments visited upon the Jews and Romans in the years A.D. 68-70, which witnessed the "year of four emperors" among the Romans and the destruction of the Jewish temple and nation. This was the Stone smiting the image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan. 2:34-44); the time when the ancient of Days came in judgment upon the "little horn" of Daniel seven (Nero Caesar) who had persecuted the saints for 3 1/2 years, but was destroyed by the brightness of Christ's coming and the spirit of his mouth (Dan. 7: 21, 22; II Thess. 2:3-8). Unless these things are true and these prophecies fulfilled, we may not properly nominate the present era Anno Domini, for if Christ has not put his enemies beneath his feet, nor rules the nations with a rod of iron, then he does not possess the dominion, and the era is not his own. Eusebius is quite correct when he states that the latter days were marked by the coronation of Christ and destruction of the Jewish state: 

"For we must understand by 'the end of the days' [viz., the "last days", LXX Gen. 49:1) the end of the national existence of the Jews. What, then, did he say they must look for? The cessation of the rule of Judah, the destruction of their whole race, the failing and ceasing of their governors, and the abolition of dominant kingly position of the tribe of Judah, and the rule and kingdom of Christ, not over Israel but over all nations, according to the word, 'This is the expectation of the nations.'" Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica, VIII, ccclxxv; Ferrar ed. 

The Gregorian Calendar

The defect of the Julian calendar, which caused it to grow 4 days out of synchronization with the solar year by the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, caused it to grow almost 10 days out of synch by 1582.  To correct this, and to re-synchronize Easter with the vernal equinox, Pope Gregory promulgated a Papal bull establishing what is today called the Gregorian calendar.  The reforms called for

The correction of the Pope Gregory introduced was not the length of the year, but the intercalation of leap years, to keep the solar year and calendar from growing out of synch as they had with the Julian calendar.  The reforms were adopted immediately by several Catholic states, including Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Poland, followed later by France and Luxumbourge, Germany, Belguim, Switzerland and the Netherlands.  Hungary followed in 1587, but it was not until 1752 that Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar.  Use of the Gregorian calendar is now world wide, with the exception of certain Eastern Orthodox Churches, which still use the Julian.  Dionysius' system of numbering the present era from the birth of Christ has also prevailed until the present time.  Let us labor that it may ever be thus!

[1] "If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a law, in like Manner as if he had signed it . . . " U.S. Constitution, Art. I, sec. 7.

[2] Calendarium, an article by Thomas Hewitt Key, M.A., Professor of Comparative Grammar in University College, London, on pp 222‑233 of William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:  A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murry, London, 1875.
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.
 However, Numa's calendar divided these between 31 and 29 days.   

[3] Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Henrickson, 1998), §§73-76, pp. 36-37.

[4] Finegan, §80, p. 38, 39.

[5] Macrobrius, Saturnalia, I, xv, 16.

[6] Thomas Hewitt Key, Calendarium

[7] Ibid

[8] Macrobius, Saturnalia, I, xiii, 1-13.

[9] Thoms Hewitte Key, Calendarium

[10] Suetonius, Caesar, XL

[11] The earliest testimony is Theophilus, Bishop of Caesarea (A.D. 115-181): "We ought to celebrate the birth-day of our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen."  Magdeburgenses, Cent. 2. c. 6. Hospinian, de orign Festorum Chirstianorum. Next is Hippolytus of Rome (A.D. 170-240) in his commentary on Daniel: “For the first advent of our Lord, that in the flesh, in which he was born in Bethlehem, took place eight days before the kalends of January, the 4th day of the week, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, but from Adam five thousand and five hundred years." The eighth before the calends of January is the twenty-fifth day of December. Dating from the death of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., the forty-second year of Augustus would be 2 B.C.  

[12] Augustine, Epistle 118: "It chiefly behooves us that upon the day of our Lord's nativity, we should receive the sacrament in remembrance of him that was born upon it, and upon the return of the year to celebrate the very day with a feasting devotion."  "Return of the year" signifies the winter solstice when the days begin to grow longer; cf. Sermon In Natali Domini xi: "Jesus was born in the season when the length of the day increases.”  

[13] For the full argument, see John Selden, Theanthropos, or God Made Man, A Tract Proving the Nativity of our Savior to be on the 25th of December (London, 1661).

[14] As quoted in Dennis Feeney, Caesar's Calendar (A.D. 1007, Univ. Berkeley Press), p. 81.

[15] "What if I should reveal the pools of Styx, riverbanks crackling with fire? What if, by my agency, you saw Eumenides, saw Cerberus shaking his ruff, shaggy with snakes, and the Giants in chains? What fear would you feel then, you cowards - men afraid to look at shades!" Lucan, Pharisalia, IV, 660-665.

[16] Abraham was 75 at the death of his father, Terah (Gen. 11:32; 12:4; Acts 7:4). Joseph was 30 when he stood before Pharoah; Jacob entered Egypt when he was 130 years old while five years remained of famine, or nine years after Joseph left prison.  Thus, Joseph was born when Jacob was 91. See Gen. 41:46; 45;6; 47:9.



Adoration of the Shepherds


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