Millennium Date Could Be Wrong

A 2500 year-old math mistake by calendar writers is behind millennium controversy

On December 31 billions of partygoers will pop champagne corks and celebrate the dawn of a new millennium, but will all the countdown clocks be correct? If you really look back, 2500 years back, you will see that the timing of the millennium may be off on several levels. We know it’s the new millennium because the calendar says it is the beginning of the year 2000. But what if the calendar we’re depending on is wrong?

The newest edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac shows there may be some problems in the original draft. The almanac’s longtime editor Judson Hale Sr. says it may be a couple of simple math mistakes made when our calendar was established more than 2500 years ago.

The first mistake: the calendar we follow today was originally designed as a religious timetable. After following one calendar for 500 years, Pope John Paul I decided we needed a new timeline. The old calendar was based on the founding of Rome and was working just fine, but the Pope wanted something new. The pope asked a monk named Dionysius Exiguus to make a new calendar and began it with the birth of Christ.

While Exiguus didn’t see a real purpose in the change, he did what he was asked and the new calendar year began at A.D. 1, meaning Anno Domini or the "year of the Lord". On close examination, researchers now say it looks like the monk made a mistake and miscalculated the birth of Christ by four years. Which means we’re either four years early for the celebration, or four years late! (If Exiguus would have had the Internet back then he could have done a quick search and the problem would never have happened, but without the Internet that was the best he could do at the time!)

The second problem: When this new calendar was accepted in Anglo-Saxon England several centuries later, they discovered someone forgot to put a zero between A.D. 1 and 1 B.C. (Before-Christ) lending weight to the thought of some that the first day of the millennium is actually on January 1, 2001.

So 2000 is sort-of a bonus year. If we follow this way of calendar creation you can say 2000 is the year you’re still 39. Babies born in 1999 will turn 1 in 2001.

Even without all this fuss over the calendar confusion an Internet survey showed that most people really believe the millennium starts in 2001 not 2000. Despite that, they plan to party hard on Midnight of December 31, 1999! Maybe they’ll just celebrate the Millennium twice once this year, and once next year!

Now because of all this confusion the Almanac’s editor says he gets a lot of folks writing about the fact that the millennium is being celebrated at the wrong time. Hale says that doesn’t really matter, what counts is the number. If you look at the number 2000, the way it looks, the way it sounds, the feel of it, the year 2000 is so different that that alone is worthy of a big party!

Of course, you must keep in mind that the calendar is a Christian invention. Our calendar is used around the world, but there are other ways of marking time. Depending on whom you ask, next year is really 5761 (Jewish time) or 7509 (Byzantine time). Celebrate the New Year, whatever year it actually is!

Source: The Floridian

DATE: 10/12/99

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