Y2K Religious Millennium Concerns

A lot of people were nervous about the religious implications of the recent Millennium. Some worried that the end of the world might happen, or that other horrible things might happen, like things mentioned in the Bible's Revelation.

Everyone should have been calmed about all that. The world is certainly a very bad place and it is certain that bad things will continue to happen to people, but it was not noticeably different on January 1, 2000. Or even January 1, 2001, when the new millennium actually began.

When Jesus actually lived, the calendar was based on the Roman calendar. He was probably born in the year called 750 AUC.

The Roman Empire was dominant for several hundred years after that, and so much of the world continued to use the AUC calendar, even though it had some problems of its own.

About AD 525, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus suggested that years be counted from the birth of Christ, which was designated AD (anno Domini, "the year of the Lord") 1. This proposal came to be adopted throughout Christendom during the next 500 years, in other words by the year 1000 AD.

The year before AD 1 is designated 1 BC (before Christ).

Modern science and chronology, however, have proven very conclusively, that Dionysius had made an error in his calculations about exactly when Christ actually was born over 500 years earlier. Actually, he did a remarkable job of even being close! But modern scholars generally agree that Christ was born in the early Spring of what we would now call the year 4 BC. An exact date is not known, but persuasive evidence suggests that it occurred early in that year, possibly in January or February.

As an aside, the date we presently celebrate as His birth date, Christmas, December 25 (or January 7, in Orthodox) has an interesting story of its own.

The Bible includes narratives of the birth stories (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2). Despite the beliefs about Christ that the birth stories expressed, the church did not observe a festival for the celebration of the event until over 300 years later! At that time, the date for celebrating Christmas was chosen to counter the pagan festivities connected with the winter solstice; since 274, under the emperor Aurelian, Rome had celebrated the feast of the "Invincible Sun" on December 25.

In the Eastern (Orthodox) Church, January 6, a day also associated with the winter solstice, was preferred. The two actually represent the same date, but are a difference of interpretation! The Julian calendar (after Julius Caesar) that was in common use around the world, was slightly wrong! The actual length of a year is about ten minutes different from what the calendar said it was! This doesn't sound like a big thing, but it all added up over the centuries. By a thousand years later, the calendar had come to be off by about 10 days from when the seasons were actually beginning!

In 1582, a new calendar was instituted, called the Gregorian calendar, which included this adjustment. In order to correct the previous centuries of errors, it was decided that Wednesday, Oct. 4, 1582 (Julian) would be followed by Thursday, Oct. 15, 1582 (Gregorian)! Many countries accepted this revision, but some didn't for quite a while. In North America, it was 1752 before the change was adopted, and by then, the difference had become 11 days, which was corrected then. In Russia, it was only adopted in 1918, and only regarding the 'civil' calendar. This meant that the Christian celebration of religious holidays would therefore be shifted back about 13 days from the 'modified' date celebrated in the West. So the difference of 13 days between the celebrations of Christmas, Easter, and the other Christian Holidays is actually due to errors in the old Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar reform!

In course of time, however, the West added the Eastern date as the feast of the Epiphany, and the East added the Western date of Christmas.


In any case, Jesus was actually born some time early in the year FOUR YEARS earlier than Dionysius thought. If Dionysius had had precise information (in 525 AD) regarding the actual date of His birth, our calendar would be numbered four higher than the number we normally use to describe the year. So, the year that we called 1999, should have been called 2003 to be religiously more precise.

The religious Millennium had already occurred!

I tried to get people's attention about this early in what we called 1997, when the 2000th anniversary of His birth actually occurred. The Earth did not split, and civilization did not end.

Since everyone in the modern world has come to agree to call that year 1999, it would now be REALLY disruptive to everyone to suddenly try to correct it for Dionysius' error. So, we are destined to always have a calendar that describes the year number to be off by four, if it was to truly represent a calendar based on the birth of Christ.

Due to all of the above, there was clearly no reason to have religious concerns regarding the Y2K at 2000 or 2001.

There is yet another consideration! Jesus did not begin His Ministry when He was born. He began it when He was around thirty years of age. If people are truly going to try to take Biblical references to millennia of Minstry as being strictly true, doesn't it seem that we should be thinking instead about the year 2031 or thereabouts? (Or actually the year 2027?)

First Published on the Web: Nov 12, 1998



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C Johnson, Pastor,
A Christ Walk Church