Easter and the Equinox
Dr. Jay Worth Allen
Our Western dating system - or calendar - was first given us by a Roman Abbot named Dionysius Exiguus (500-560 A.D.) “Little Dennis,” as he was called - a brilliant mathematician and astronomer as well as a scholar in both Latin and Greek. In 525 A.D., Pope John I asked if Little Dennis would calculate the Easter date for the next year’s celebration. So he calculated the true Easter date, being an astronomer, by noting the age, or phase of the moon during a given year on a set date in the solar calendar - which was now in use, as opposed to the lunar, or moon phases, calendar. He set an arbitrary date, March 22, the day after the official spring equinox as determined at the time of the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) as the next years Easter.
Let me explain the good brother’s dating technique. In 532 A.D., the moon’s age (Little Dennis calculated) was 0 days old on March 22 - a new moon. So the moon will be 11 days older the next year. Thus in 533 A.D., the moon was not 0 days old, but rather 11 days old. His calculations changed the year he began to date Easter from 525 A.D. to 532 A.D. With the wave of his pen, he changed forever our dating system.
This calculating of Little Dennis was based on a 19 year lunar cycle, within each 95 year period - a lunar cycle changed each 95 years. The problem with this cycle? The moon runs on a 30 day cycle, so the dates snowballed out of symmetry and season with each passing year. His dates were wrong only in hours, but by the time a thousand years had passed the whole thing was really a mess.
A few hours didn’t sound like a big problem to the Pope then, and most likely, doesn’t sound like a big problem to us now. But, if you multiply say, 3 hours a day times 1000 years you get 3000 hours. 3000 hours divided by 24 hours in a day equals 125 days. 125 days equals one big mess of a calendar. So in 1582 AD, the new “Gregorian” calendar was introduced - to try to restore the dates to their correct time and season periods.
The “Gregorian” calendar still held to Little Dennis’ original calculations for the first year - or the date of our Lord’s birth - which was off by nearly 4 years. Yet, a bigger problem with this system was the impossibility of matching up the 7 day week, in which Sunday fell, with a 95 year cycle of 19 years. Seven does not divide into 95. A fellow named Victorius had previously figured out a solution to this problem: the Easter dates repeated themselves every 532 years; 532 is divisible by 19 and 7, thus the problem could be solved. But this information unfortunately never reached our dear Little Dennis.
Little Dennis’ contribution to our calendar went far beyond his 95 year Easter dating cycle - he gave us our system of dating, anno Domini (A.D.), “the year of our Lord” - which is still in use today - with the exception of our modern day intellectuals.
Little Dennis calculated that Christ was born exactly 531 years earlier, which became his base year of A.D. 1. He did not designate a year 0 because the concept of zero had not yet been invented. Don’t ask me why. Where the good Abbot got his date for Christ’s birth is unknown. But A.D. is what we take for granted as the beginning of our calendar – Christ’s birth, “year of our Lord,” A.D.; and so it goes.
Little Dennis almost certainly got his beginning date wrong. Matthew tells us that Christ was born in the time of Herod the Great, who died in 4 B.C. - according to the historian Joesphus. Which means the Lord’s birth must have been before that date. Which would place His birth in the B.C. sphere in stead of the A.D. realm where Little Dennis placed it. The inverse of anno Domini, B.C., - the English for “before Christ” - wasn’t used until 1627 A.D., when the French astronomer Denis Petau became the first to add B.C. to dates while teaching at the College de Clermont in Paris, so how was our Little Dennis to know?
What does this mean to us today? It means that the year 2005, 2006, or so is probably our true year 2010 in the (A.D.), “ the year of our Lord” - if you do the arithmetic without a year 0, you’ll come to the same conclusion.
What we in the West call 2010 is in actuality . . .
2006 (give or take a year or two) reckoning from Christ’s birth in c.4 B.C.
2763 according to the old Roman calendar.
2759 according to the ancient Babylonian calendar.
6246 according to the first Egyptian calendar.
5770 according to the Hebrew calendar.
1430 according to the Moslem calendar.
2544 according to the Buddhist calendar.
1388 according to the Persian calendar.
1726 according to the Coptic calendar.
218 according to the Calendar of the French Revolution.
5129 in the current Maya Great Circle
The year of the Tiger according to the Chinese calendar.
I could say much more on this subject, but my hands do not have the endurance of my heart – at this point in time anyway – but this is why we celebrate Easter when we do.
Easter and the Equinox
Published: 7 March 2010 on Freed In Christ! blogsite.
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