Wednesday, August 16, 2017
 

Back To Sermons

By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon History of the Calendar ]

HISTORY OF THE CALENDAR
Lonnie Branam
The thought to be discussed in this message is suggested in the book of Exodus 12:2, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” The deliverance of Israel from the land of Egypt was such an important event in the nation's history that God decreed the month in which this great event took place was to be the first month of the year for them. In America January is the first month of the year. New Year's Day, the first day of the Calendar year, is celebrated as a holiday in almost every country in the world. The Chinese, Jewish, American and Mohammedan New Year all begin at different times. The different calendars have caused disturbance among some Christians, and others who profess to be Christians. Some think it is wrong to even use the word Sunday because the word means, “Day of the Sun,” and was the day the ancients worshiped the sun. Others insist that the Jewish Sabbath Day is still the day of worship in the Christian religion, and they think it was changed from Saturday to Sunday by apostate Christians who were attracted to sun worship.

Still others think we ought to observe the Lord's Supper on Saturday night because Israel reckoned time from sunset to sunset. This being so, the Lord's Day begins in Palestine Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. and ends at 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening. It is claimed that the early Christians used this Jewish system of time and we should use it today. In view of such misunderstanding and confusion, perhaps it would be good for us to review some of the known facts about the calendar and what implications, if any, there might be in it for Christians. The calendar is a system of reckoning time for the needs of civil life, specifically the division of time into days, weeks, months and years. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do this. A year is defined as the time it takes for the earth to make one revolution around the sun. The time for this is 365.4219 days. That fraction .24219 of day makes it very difficult to divide time into the twelve equal months. For the purposes of this study there are two calendars which have had some impact on Christians. The first is the Julian Calendar, named afte r Julius Caesar who instituted it. The reckoning of time was in such a state of confusion in his day that in 45 B.C. the Roman dictator Julius Caesar instituted a new calendar. With the advice of the Astronomer Sosigenes, Julius Caesar fixed the normal year at 365 days and leap year, every fourth at 366 days. In the ancient Roman calendar, six of the months of the calendar were named with the Latin words for fifth, sixth, seventh etc. Our word September is the Latin for seventh. October is Latin for eighth, and December is the Latin for tenth. Quintilis was the name of the fifth month, but Caesar renamed this month “Julius, ” after himself and made it a 31- day- month. Our word July comes from his name. Augustus Caesar took the next month Sextilus and named it for himself, giving us August. He didn't want Julius Caesar to outdo him, so he took a day from February for August to make it as long as the month of July. Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar immortalized their names by giving their name to these months. July and August have become household words. Julius did a rather good job with the calendar. However, in the course of a thousand years the Julian Calendar falls into error by nearly eight days. The Julian Calendar measures all time by whether it happened before or after the founding of Rome, which figures to be 753 B.C. by our calendar.
The Romans designated time by the abbreviation A.U.C. which means, “from the founding of the city.” 400 A.U.C. would be 400 years from the founding of Rome. A question of some interest to us would be, “ What calendar did the early Christians use?” They likely used the Julian Calendar which was adopted throughout the Roman Empire. For five centuries after the establishment of the church, Christians still reckoned the passing of years from the founding of Rome just like the pagans around them. It was not until about 541 A.D. that Dionysius Exuugus, a learned person at Rome, first ranged the history of mankind around a most important event, the birth of Christ. This man introduced the present custom of reckoning time counting the years from the birth of Jesus. The abbreviation B.C. signifies, “ before the birth of Christ,” and A.D. is an abbreviation for Anno Domini which means, “the year of our Lord.” A.D. does not mean, “after the death of Christ” but “ after the birth of Christ.” Christendom at once recognized the justice of this way of reckoning time, and no attempt to change it has since had a change of success. One Encyclopedia states that this method was in general use about 1400 A.D. in countries that accepted the Christian religion.
Unfortunately, Dionysius miscalculated the time of Christ's birth by four, five or maybe even six years. Matthew 2:1 says that Jesus was born in the days of Herod the Great who tried to murder the Christ child. More accurate Roman historical information is now available than was available to Dionysius. It is now believed that Herod the Great died four years before the year our calendar assigns to the birth of Christ. This means that Jesus was born some 4-6 years before our calendar said he was. However, no attempt has been made to correct this error, for if we changed it all the historical dates in Western Civilization would have to be changed. I must say something about one more calendar before I leave this part of the message. By the year 1582 there was an accumulated error of 13 days in the Julian calendar. This is probably the calendar the early Christians used. To correct the error in the calendar, Pope Gregory the Great dropped 10 days from the month of October to make the calendar year correspond more closely to the solar year. He also decreed that each fourth year would be a leap year when February would have an extra day. He also decreed that years marking the century would not be leap years unless they were divisible by 400. For example 1600 was a leap year, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. Gregory used the birth of Christ to reckon time and not the founding of Rome. This calendar is called the Gregorian Calendar after Pope Gregory who instituted it. The error in this calendar amounts to only about one day in 3,000 years. The Gregorian Calendar is used in almost all the world today. All modern business uses its dates. This is the calendar that Christians use in the 21st century. I know of no scriptural reason why Christians should not use this calendar.
My conclusion from this study is that Christians should not be disturbed in any way because of the calendar we use. Calendar reform is a complicated procedure; even the scientific world is not concerned about it. Christians should reckon time as their respective nations reckon time. Neither should Christians be disturbed over the names which have been given to the days of the week. The ancient Chaldeans named the days of the week for the seven heavenly bodies in the Zodiac: Saturn, the sun, the moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. Thus, the days of the week are named after the sun, the moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus. Modern names for the days are derived from corresponding words in Latin or Saxon. Saturday was named after Saturn, and Monday was named after the moon. Sunday means the day of the sun, and it was probably the day the ancients worshiped the sun. Just how and when the first day of the week came to be called Sunday is unknown,. There is no evidence whatever that Christians were sun worshipers, and they changed Saturday to Sunday. Sabbath-keepers claim Saturday is the true Christian day of worship. This is just another effort to bind the law of Moses on Christians, and the New Covenant does not allow it. The Jewish Sabbath day never was the Christian day of public worship. Christians always met on the first day of the week to worship God and remember the death of Christ by observing the Lord's Supper {Acts 20:7, I Corinthians 16:2). This is one of the chief arguments for Sabbath-keeping today, but it is without foundation either in scripture or history. Some sincerely believe this is how Sunday replaced Saturday as the day of worship among Christians. But the truth of the matter is that Sunday, the appointed day of Christian worship, was an exclusive and original creation of the apostles; and they were appointed by Christ to establish the Christian religion. The abandonment of Sabbath-keeping and the institution of Sunday worship was by the commandment of God. to honor the resurrection of Christ. There is no example of Christians in the days of the apostles ever worshiping God by Christian worship on Saturday. . Jesus worshiped on Saturday because He lived and died under the law of Moses, but that law ended with His death on the cross. Scripture states that Jesus nailed that religion to His cross. The Christian religion did not begin until fifty days after the death of Jesus. Jesus worshiped God according to Old Testament requirements and not New Testament requirements. Moreover, the fact that Paul often went into Jewish synagogues on Saturday does not mean he went there to offer up Christian worship to God. He went into the synagogues to turn Jews away from the Jewish religion to the religion of Christ. He entered Jewish synagogues as a Christian missionary to turn Jews to Christ.
The fact that the first day of the week, also called the Lord's Day, later came to be called Sunday is of no significance whatever. There is nothing improper in Christians speaking of the Lord's Day as Sunday. Sunday is now simply another name for the first day of the week. However, the apostles did not call the Lord's Day the Sabbath day, and we should not call Sunday the Sabbath. To refer to Sunday as the Sabbath is to add even more confusion to the already confused subject. As we have in the goodness of God entered into a New Year, I would suggest that every New Year is a new tour of exploration. Each year is a new adventure and a new experience for us. No one knows what will happen in the year before us or what we can expect. It is a rather sad commentary on our generation that we have learned how to split the atom, but we have not learned how to unite men and live in peace. We liv e in thrilling but threatening times. Ours is an era in which fear and tension is certainly no stranger to us. We live under the constant threat of a nuclear war and the possibility that a bomb can fall on us such as fell on Hiroshima. If men do not learn how to live together, we may all exit together. Certainly, the past year has been a year of anxieties, a year of struggles, a year of surprises, and a year of achievements. Moreover, it has been a year in hich good or evil the nations, as the phrase goes, have been making history. As we look forward to the year before us, no one can accurately predict the future, but everyone can adequately prepare for the future. It isn't a question of what the future has in store for us, but a question of what we have in store for the future. I don't know what the future holds nor does anyone else, but we all know what holds the future–you and I do. It isn't a matter of what life will bing to us, but a matter of what we will bring to life. We can all be well assured that our life will be empty unless we put something into it. There is a future we hold in our own hands. It is out of today that our tomorrow will come. Take care of today, and tomorrow will take care of itself. Instead of worrying about what happened yesterday or wondering what will happen tomorrow, why not work to make the best things possible happen today? Today will be yesterday when we are through with it. Paul gave some excellent advice for the new year when he said, “Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Some have studied the world of creation, but have never studied the word of the Creator.
I will mention one more fact about the past year which is most relevant to each one of us. As the year passed, it swept away many people with it into the company of the dead. Many who were very familiar to us in politics, sports, broadcasting and entertainment passed into the realm of Hades. Some were children, some were young, and some were old. There were wives who lost their husbands and husbands who lost their wives. The passing of so many loved ones from which people never want to be separated brings to mind those realities which we too easily forget. We can be certain in the new year that more will pass into eternity, and whether some of us today will be among that number we know not. In that world there will be no distinctions of race, wealth or accomplishment, but only the distinction between the lost and the saved. Let us as God's people take comfort in the words of Revelation 14:13, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” The Bible says people who die in the Lord are blessed or happy. To die in the Lord one must be living in the Lord at the time of death. If you are not a Christian there would be no better way to enter this new year than to accept Christ as the Savior of the world, and be willing to turn your life around from the wrong direction into the right direction that leads to heaven. If you are willing to do this, you may come and confess Him as Lord and be immersed in the baptismal waters, for the forgiveness of sins.

Back To Sermons

San Fernando Church of Christ © 2005