How We Got The Calendar
by Wayne Blank
The Gregorian Calendar
With the assistance of the Italian astronomer Luigi Lilio Ghiraldi and the German Jesuit mathematician Christopher Clavius, Gregory introduced his namesake calendar in 1582. Gregory's calendar was primarily intended to correct the accumulated inaccuracies of the Julian Calendar (named after Julius Caesar), which, because it was slightly too long (365.25 days per year rather than the actual 365.242199 days), had caused an apparent 10-day error in the equinoxes by the Middle Ages i.e. the spring (vernal) equinox was by then arriving about March 31 on the Julian calendar, rather than about March 21.
The Roman calendar months are ironic proof that the new year actually begins in the spring, as the Romans themselves observed in earlier times e.g. they named September as the seventh month (sept is a Latin prefix for seven), although it's observed as the ninth month now. The same is seen with October (oct is a prefix for eight), which is now observed as the tenth month, and December (dec is the prefix for ten), which is now observed as the twelfth month. That, along with starting the "day" at midnight, made their "change of times and seasons" complete.
Bible Months and Years
The Bible calendar has a number of significant differences with the Roman or "Gregorian" calendar that most western nations use today.
Unlike the Roman calendar that begins its year in winter (in the northern hemisphere), the Bible calendar begins in spring (in the Middle East). This was commanded by God to Moses at the time of the Passover, which always comes in spring: "This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you." (Exodus 12:2 RSV)
In accordance with its ancient beginnings (right from The Seven Days Of Creation when light was created after the darkness), Bible calendar days were, and are, determined to begin and end at sunset e.g "from evening to evening shall you keep your sabbath" (Leviticus 23:32 RSV)
Months of the Biblical calendar are linked directly to the phases of the moon (the word month actually means moon). The Bible month begins with the first sighting of the slender crescent of the new moon which does not become visible until a day or two after the precise time of the astronomical new moon, when the moon is directly between the earth and the sun. The moon at that time is usually slightly above or below the ecliptic. At other less common times, when the moon is directly in our line of sight to the sun, we get a solar eclipse (i.e. eclipses of the sun can occur only at the time of the new moon when the moon is between the earth and the sun. Conversely, eclipses of the moon can only occur at the time of the full moon when the earth is between the moon and the sun).
The Bible calendar is a very simple and natural means of keeping time. Although today commonly known as the "Jewish calendar," it actually long predates the Jewish people. God Himself gave it to all humanity. It uses His earth and His heavens as a great clock that can always be counted on - the earth keeps on rolling, and the moon always goes around.
Fact Finder: Was it prophesied long ago that a great military/religious power would "think to changes the times"?
This Week's Bible Quiz
1. What was the name of the town where Jesus Christ was born?
3. In what city in Galilee did Jesus live most of His human lifetime?
4. In what river was Jesus Christ baptized by John The Baptist?
6. In what city did Jesus Christ do His first public miracle, the changing of water into wine?
7. From what building did Jesus Christ drive out the money changers?
8. What is the name of the place where Jesus was arrested the night before His crucifixion?
9. What is the name of the place where Jesus Christ was crucified?
10. From what mount did Jesus Christ ascend into heaven after His resurrection, and on what mount will He stand on the day of His return?
For the answers to this January 1 2002 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page