The different calendars of the Holy Land region
לוחות השנה רבים בארץ הקודש
AD / BC / BCE / CE ? Why are there two main types of calendars – lunar and solar? Why is the Jewish New Year in September or October? Why does the Muslim month-long-fast of the Ramadan move to a different month every year? Why did Jesus and his Judeo-Christian followers celebrate the Passover dinner (today known as the Last Supper) on Thursday evening while most of the Jews celebrated the eve of Passover on Friday evening? Why do the Catholics and Orthodox celebrate Christmas, New Year and Easter on different dates? Who were Gregorius and Julian – the founders of our modern calendars? Was Jesus really born in the year we call zero or perhaps he was born in 4 BC or 6 BC?
All mixed up? I was too and hope to enlighten you here.
Come to Israel and tour with me as your private tour guide in Israel and we will be talking about this issue all day long.
The Prehistorical eras and their calendars were developed by the Agrarian societies and their main use was for determining when the spring starts and when you can best plant new crops. That of course is usually around the Spring Equinox day of the 20th of March.
One of these “calendars” can still be seen today at a sight in Israel – Rogum Hiri on the Golan Heights (and also in a very well done 3D audio-visual of the site in the Katserin Archaeological Museum). Rogum Hiri is an ancient Megalithic rock made “building” (42000 basalt rocks) where the first rays of the rising sun enter a crack/corridor in the massive circles surrounding the grave and light up the center stone of a grave – only one day a year – on the spring equinox.
Many other civilizations used similar means, sometimes solar and sometimes lunar or star-gazing to determine their lives.
During the written periods (after the Prehistorical times) the calendars that we know of and use today were born and developed.
The Hebrew or Jewish calendar (הַלּוּחַ הָעִבְרִי, ha’luach ha’ivri) is a luni-solar calendar used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances. It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits (dates to commemorate the death of a relative), and daily Psalm readings, among many ceremonial uses. In Israel, it is used for religious purposes, provides a time frame for agriculture and is an official calendar for civil purposes, although the latter usage has been steadily declining in favor of the Gregorian calendar.
The present Hebrew calendar is the product of evolution, including a Babylonian influence. Until the Tannaitic period (approximately 10–220 CE) the calendar employed a new crescent moon, with an additional month normally added every two or three years to correct for the difference between twelve lunar months and the solar year. When to add it was based on observation of natural agriculture-related events. Through the Amoraic period (200–500 CE) and into the Geonic period, this system was gradually displaced by the mathematical rules used today. The principles and rules were fully codified by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah in the 12th century. Maimonides’ work also replaced counting “years since the destruction of the Temple” with the modern creation-era Anno Mundi.
The Hebrew lunar year is about eleven days shorter than the solar cycle and uses the 19-year Metonic cycle to bring it into line with the solar cycle, with the addition of an inter-calary month every two or three years, for a total of seven times per 19 years. Even with this inter-calation, the average Hebrew calendar year is longer by about 6 minutes and 2525/57 seconds than the current mean solar year, so that every 224 years, the Hebrew calendar will fall a day behind the current mean solar year; and about every 231 years it will fall a day behind the Gregorian calendar year.
The era used since the middle ages is the Anno Mundi epoch (Latin for “in the year of the world”; Hebrew: לבריאת העולם, “from the creation of the world”). As with Anno Domini (A.D.), the words or abbreviation for Anno Mundi (A.M.) for the era should properly precede the date rather than follow it, although this is no longer always followed.
AM 5775 began at sunset on 24 September 2014 and ends at sunset on 13 September 2015. AM 5776 begins at sunset on 13 September 2015 and ends at sunset on 2 October 2016.
The Roman calendar changed its form several times between the founding of Rome and the fall of the Roman Empire. This article generally discusses the early Roman or pre-Julian calendars. The calendar used after 46 BC is discussed under Julian calendar. The common calendar widely used today known as the Gregorian calendar is a refinement of the Julian calendar where the length of the year has been adjusted from 365.25 days to 365.2425 days (a 0.002% change).
The original Roman calendar is believed to have been a lunar calendar, which may have been based on one of the Greek lunar calendars. As the time between new moons averages 29.5 days, its months were constructed to be either hollow (29 days) or full (30 days). Full months were considered powerful and therefore auspicious; hollow months were unlucky. Unlike currently used dates, which are numbered sequentially from the beginning of the month, the Romans counted backwards from three fixed points: the Nones, the Ides and the Kalends of the following month. This system originated in the practice of “calling” the new month when the lunar crescent was first observed in the west after sunset. From the shape and orientation of the new moon, the number of days remaining to the Nones would be proclaimed. At some point in history dates of months ceased to be connected with lunar phases, but it is unknown when it happened.
Roman writers attributed the original Roman calendar to Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome around 753 BC. The Romulus calendar had ten months with the spring equinox in the first month:
Martius (31 days)
Aprilis (30 days)
Maius (31 days)
Iunius (30 days)
Quintilis (31 days)
Sextilis (30 days)
September (30 days)
October (31 days)
November (30 days)
December (30 days)
The regular calendar year consisted of 304 days, with the winter days after the end of December and before the beginning of the following March not being assigned to any month.
The names of the first four months were named in honour of Roman gods: Martius in honour of Mars; Aprilis in honor of Virilis (or ″Avril″ as we see in French—only much later in the mid-4th century AD did it change to honor Venus); Maius in honour of Maia; and Iunius in honour of Juno. The names of the months from the fifth month on were based on their position in the calendar: Quintilis comes from Latin quinque meaning five; Sextilis from sex meaning six; September from septem meaning seven; October from octo meaning eight; November from novem meaning nine; and December from decem meaning ten.
The Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC (708 AUC), was a reform of the Roman calendar. It took effect in 45 BC (709 AUC), shortly after the Roman conquest of Egypt. It was the predominant calendar in the Roman world, most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, until it was refined and superseded by the Gregorian calendar. The difference in the average length of the year between Julian (365.25 days) and Gregorian (365.2425 days) is 0.002%.
The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months, as listed in Table of months. A leap day is added to February every four years. The Julian year is, therefore, on average 365.25 days long. It was intended to approximate the tropical (solar) year. Although Greek astronomers had known, at least since Hipparchus, a century before the Julian reform, that the tropical year was a few minutes shorter than 365.25 days, the calendar did not compensate for this difference. As a result, the calendar year gained about three days every four centuries compared to observed equinox times and the seasons. This discrepancy was corrected by the Gregorian reform of 1582. The Gregorian calendar has the same months and month lengths as the Julian calendar, but inserts leap days according to a different rule. Consequently, the Julian calendar is currently 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar; for instance, 1 January in the Julian calendar is 14 January in the Gregorian – hence the two New Year festivals are not on the same date. Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are sometimes used with dates to indicate either whether the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January (N.S.) even though documents written at the time use a different start of year (O.S.), or whether a date conforms to the Julian calendar (O.S.) rather than the Gregorian (N.S.). Dual dating uses two consecutive years because of differences in the starting date of the year, or includes both the Julian and Gregorian dates.
The Julian calendar has been replaced as the civil calendar by the Gregorian calendar in all countries which formerly used it, although it continued to be the civil calendar of some countries into the 20th century. Among the last countries to convert to the Gregorian calendar were Russia (in 1918) and Greece (in 1923). As of 1930, all countries that were using the Julian calendar had discontinued it.
Most Christian denominations in the West and areas evangelized by Western churches have also replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian as the basis for their liturgical calendars. However, most branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church still use the Julian calendar for calculating the dates of move-able feasts, including Easter (Pascha). Some Orthodox churches have adopted the Revised Julian calendar for the observance of fixed feasts, while other Orthodox churches retain the Julian calendar for all purposes. The Julian calendar is still used by the Berber people of North Africa, and on Mount Athos. In the form of the Alexandrian calendar, it is the basis for the Ethiopian calendar, which is the civil calendar of Ethiopia.
The Gregorian calendar, also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar, is internationally the most widely used civil calendar. It is named for Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in 1582.
The calendar was a refinement in 1582 to the Julian calendar amounting to a 0.002% correction in the length of the year. The motivation for the reform was to bring the date for the celebration of Easter to the time of the year in which the First Council of Nicaea had agreed upon in 325. Because the celebration of Easter was tied to the spring equinox, the Roman Catholic Church considered this steady drift in the date of Easter undesirable. The reform was adopted initially by the Catholic countries of Europe. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox countries continued to use the traditional Julian calendar and adopted the Gregorian reform after a time, for the sake of convenience in international trade. The last European country to adopt the reform was Greece, in 1923.
The Gregorian reform contained two parts: a reform of the Julian calendar as used prior to Pope Gregory XIII’s time and a reform of the lunar cycle used by the Church, with the Julian calendar, to calculate the date of Easter. The reform was a modification of a proposal made by Aloysius Lilius. His proposal included reducing the number of leap years in four centuries from 100 to 97, by making 3 out of 4 centurial years common instead of leap years. Lilius also produced an original and practical scheme for adjusting the epacts of the moon when calculating the annual date of Easter, solving a long-standing obstacle to calendar reform.
The Islamic calendar, Muslim calendar or Hijri calendar
(AH) is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 days.
It is used to date events in many Muslim countries (concurrently with the Gregorian calendar), and used by Muslims everywhere to determine the proper days on which to observe the annual fasting, to attend Hajj, and to celebrate other Islamic holidays and festivals.
The first year was the Islamic year beginning in AD 622 during which the emigration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, known as the Hijra, occurred. Each numbered year is designated either “H” for Hijra or “AH” for the Latin anno Hegirae (“in the year of the Hijra”); hence, Muslims typically call their calendar the Hijri calendar.
The current Islamic year is 1436 AH. In the Gregorian calendar, 1436 AH runs from approximately 24 October 2014 (evening) to 13 October 2015 (evening).
A calendar is a system in which different cultures and people around the world use for organizing for social, religious, and other purposes. Although the calendar is used for the same purpose, there is more than one calendar out there.
Below you will find various calendars and how they differ from each other:
|Name||Type||Months in Year||Days in Year||Days in Months||Days in Week||Leap Days||Leap Months|
|Gregorian||Solar||12||365 or 366||28, 29, 30 or 31||7||Yes||No|
|Julian||Solar||12||365 or 366||28, 29, 30 or 31||7||Yes||No|
|Hebrew||Solar and Lunar||12 or 13||353, 355, 383 or 385||29 or 30||7||Yes||Yes|
|Coptic and Ethiopic||Solar||13||365 or 366||5, 6 or 30||?||Yes||No|
|Islamic||Lunar||12||354 or 355||29 or 30||7||Yes||No|
|Baha’i||Solar||20||365 or 366||4, 5 or 19||7||Yes||No|
The calendars and dates at the time of Jesus
Today we all assume that the birth of Jesus occurred in the year that we know of today as the year ZERO. We also all believe that he died on the Friday that was the eve of the Jewish Passover – probably in the year we now call 33 AD/CE.
Why was the celebration of the Passover (the Last Supper) by Jesus and his Judeo-Christian followers on the evening before the rest of the Jewish people held the Passover Dinner?
And of course you have just read here how the Gregorian calendar was adjusted to assure that Easter occurs on the spring equinox.
Is this all true? It depends on who you ask – his beliefs, his religion or his denomination.
There are dozens of different versions and mine is mine.
The birth of Jesus
Jesus was born in the year that we count today as -4 or -6 and not in the year 0.
Read your Bible – In the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke account of the birth of Jesus occurs during the reign of King Herod the Great. The account in the Gospel of Matthew likewise places the birth during the reign of King Herod.
Josephus Flavius, a Jewish/Roman historian of the same times tells us in his book – The Jewish Revolt – that Herod’s rule marked a new beginning in the history of Judea. Judea had been under the rule of the Hashmonean dynasty from 140 BCE until 63 BCE; Herod overthrew the Hashmonean King Antigonus and established the Herodian Dynasty, ruling as a Roman puppet-king, until his death in 4 BCE.
The Census/Referendum of Quirinius was the enrollment of population of the Roman provinces of Syria and Judaea, for tax purposes, in 6/7 CE. The Census was taken during the reign of Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE), when Quirinius was appointed governor of Syria and the imposition of direct Roman rule. To be counted every person/family had to return to his home-town. We know that Jesus was a descendant of King David (who is called “David – son of Jesse from Bethlehem”) so Joseph and Mary had to return to Bethlehem, their home town, where Mary gave birth to Jesus. Was it December 25 or some other date – it’s hard to tell as the Gospels give us no information on that. The end of December is “the end of darkness and the beginning of light” – an appropriate time for new beginnings.
Going down to Egypt – In the New Testament (Matthew 2) we are also told of the sojourn of Joseph, Mary and the under-two-year-old-baby Jesus in Egypt – after a visit by the Magi – because they learn that King Herod intends to kill the infants of that area ( all those under the age of two) to get rid of the “New-born King of Israel”.
So the mathematics is relatively simple – Jesus was some-where between a new-born and a two year old boy when they went down to Egypt between the years 6-4 BC as we call them today.
The Last Supper and the day of the Crucifixion
This occurs in one of the two years 30 AD or 33 AD – and that is still under discussion by the scholars and priests.
To understand the difference of dates you should know that there were many Jewish sects at the time – the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes and the Judeo-Christians and more.
The Essenes (maybe the “monks” of Kumeran and the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls) lived a life very similar to what Jesus teaches and they may be the fore-runners of the Christians. It is even believed that John the Baptist was for some years a member of this ultra-Orthodox sect.
It is suggested (by Flusser) that the Essene calendar differed significantly from that of the priests in order for the Essenes to distance themselves from the Jerusalem establishment. The use of their own calendar was the most particular way in which members of the sect differentiated themselves from the rest of Israel. They celebrated their festivals on different dates, with the deliberate intention of differentiating themselves from the other Jews. This is a phenomenon typical of many sects throughout the world.
We also know that the Essenes complained that the Pharisees attacked them on the Sabbath and it is a well-known Roman historian’s quote that the Sabbath was strictly observed by everybody – a marvel of the times. So maybe there were differences in the two colanders.
So maybe the Judeo-Christians followed the Essene calendar.
So once again using logic (maths) and putting two and two together we can easily give us an explanation of these different dates for the holiday.
And if I may end this post with some humor –
I have my own personal version of BC.
As far as I am concerned –
there is no life before coffee.
(The written information is mainly from Wikkipedia and Calandopedia.)