LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR
January 2, 2016 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
Welcome to the Year of Our Lord 2016. It is generally recognized that our calendars are dated from the year of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (AD or Anno Domine). However, something seems awry since Jesus was born in 3 BC (Before Christ). In the words of one of my Church School class members, “How could Jesus be born before he was born?” Of course, something is out of sync and that leads to a journey back in history.
In the Roman year 1278 AUC (“ab urbe condita”, or the year from the founding of the city), Pope John I sought to clarify the calendar and firmly establish certain Christian holy days. The calendar at the time was established by Julius Caesar. He gave us the month of July, named for himself. John I reined as Pope from 523 to 526 AD in our calendar nomenclature. He recruited a monk and chronologist by the name of Dionysius Exiguus to create a more consistent Church calendar.
Dionysius persuaded Pope John that the new calendar should begin with the year of Jesus birth rather than the establishment of the city of Rome. His calculations determined that Jesus was born in the Roman year 753. The Pope then decreed that the year 754 AUC was the year 1 Anno Domini (The year of our Lord).
There were two problems with this new calendar. The first was that it had Jesus being born in the same year as Herod died. This did not leave room for the events recorded in Matthew 2. The second problem was that Dionysius neglected to include the year zero in his calculations, which would throw the date off by a year. A child has to live for 12 months before he is a year old.
The new calendar began to be used in the Church in the year 525 AD. Although the Julian calendar was revised by Pope Gregory XIII In 1582 this original error was never corrected.
Actually Dionysius did not do badly. With the resources he had available I would have to give him an A-. His idea that civilization had entered a new era with the birth of Jesus, and that we should mark our calendars from the day of God’s gift of “Peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased,” was not just wishful thinking. By his time in the sixth century the Christian faith had reached into most of the civilized world.
Today 33% of the world’s population claims to be Christian. Excluding China (where statistics are difficult to come by) there are 1,166,751,000 active Christians in the world. If China could be added the number would be considerably higher.
Our constitution is dated September seventeenth, In the Year of our Lord 1787. It is written out, not abbreviated AD. In the United States 46 percent of our population attend religious services every week. The percentage of our nation’s population who say that religion is important in their lives is 66 percent. These are recent figures from the Gallup Organization’s World Poll of 163 nations and 97 percent of the world population and their religious postures. The poll began in 2005 and was recently concluded.
The affirmation implicit every time we date a check, or a letter, or a document is evidenced over the face of the earth. This is truly the year of our Lord 2016. My wish for each of my readers is that you may know the reality behind the date.
(Bill Scarle may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs