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A Question of Christmas

A question asked on the Whirligig Message Board recently elicited the following responses!

Jeremy (Question) - I'm not going to start any arguments here, but how do we know that Jesus was born on Christmas day, as in those days there weren't any calendars?


Jim (Answer) - I think you may very well start some good arguments with this subject, because it IS all very subjective and very much allied to one's beliefs.

There certainly were calendars in use long before the time of the supposed birth of Jesus. They just weren't the same as the one we use today. People just didn't suddenly start counting from the supposed date of birth. And they certainly weren't counting backwards to some supposed future event.

The Romans had a 10 month year, which explains why we have months called September (septem = 7, and was the seventh month), October which derives from octo meaning 8, and November from novem meaning 9. Also, July and August were added in celebration of Julius and Augustus.

August was originally called Sextilis, as the sixth month, and was renamed in 6 BC in honour of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, whose "lucky" month it was. July was originally called Quintilis, the fifth month, and was renamed July by Mark Anthony in honour of Julius Casear. As you can see, both of these changes were effected before any holy birth.

Any definitive answer to the possible birthday of Jesus, if there is a birth date, would be unlikely to be forthcoming. The current date of Dec 25 was only decided in 440 AD, by the Church, and was the then day of the winter solstice and had been a day of festival among heathen peoples. In England, this day was also the start of the new year for the Anglo-Saxons.

The Church decided it was better to take over an existing day of celebration for the non-believers and let their religion take over old religious practices.

I would also think that any attempt at working out the correct date would be compounded even further by the fact that much of what one reads in the bible is amassed from many disparate sources, most written long after any event that may have taken place.

I think many religious scholars have come to their own conclusions about events from the Christian calendar and possible dates. I recall one seventeenth-century Archbishop, James Ussher, who claimed that he had analyzed all of the writings and texts and had worked out that the final day of the creation of this world occurred on October 28th, 4004 BC. How accurate is that?

Ussher calculated the dates of other biblical events, concluding, for example, that Adam and Eve were driven from Paradise on Monday 10 November 4004 BC, and that the ark touched down on Mount Ararat on 5 May 1491 BC 'on a Wednesday'.

As I said, all very subjective and very much allied to one's personal beliefs. I'm sure we'll get many more postings on this subject.


Stephen (Question) - Message to Jim: l've learned something today. So how many years ago is 4004 BC?


Jim (Answer) - 6006 years ago, Stephen. Certainly b*ggers up the dinosaur theory, doesn't it?


Stephen (Question) - How did you work that out?


Jim (Answer) - Well, I considered using Planck's Quantum Theory but decided that it was too hypersensitive to space/time continuum deviations. I next thought of following the tenets of Descartes, who by his usage of the credo, cogito ergo sum, allowed for the influx of nebulous prognostications in complex and higher additions. However, his sum proved to be a total failure in this particular avenue of theoreticisation.

Most other formulaic routes proved inconclusive, but a reference to the embryonic works of Pliny the Elder led me to a more rational method of primary calculation. I worked on the premise that constant progression of positive time references within a sphere of circumlutory annual single-digit accumulation, when cross-referenced to a single-point timeframe encapsulation, should in theory be semi-complementary to an alternate, yet reversed annual time reflux.

I then thought, s*d that for a game of soldiers and I added 2002 to 4004 and did it the easy way.


Robin (Question) - Jim, Having read, and been deeply impressed by your posting - I would be really pleased if you could help in solving a couple of small, but somewhat technical problems? Unfortunately these has been bothering me for some considerable time.
With Reference the Ark landing on Mount Arafat on Wednesday, May 5th 1491 BC, it would be of immense help if you are able to let me know whether this event took place in the A.M. or P.M. Also, was British Summertime in force during May that year?
This information would help to enhance my reputation as a Noah all.


Jim (Answer) - Recent research into the arrival of Noah’s Ark at Mount Ararat has revealed some startling facts. Although arriving on the afternoon of the Wednesday, it had actually been scheduled to arrive some thirty-six hours earlier. It would appear that an ongoing industrial dispute at Spanish Ark Traffic Control had caused the vessel to remain on the apron at Mount Sinai International Arkport.

Loss of its sailing slot meant a delay of some six hours while EasyArk staff attempted to reschedule its launch. Leaving Mount Sinai some ten hours after its proper departure time meant that it was rerouted via Caesarea and Judaea, with resultant loss of in-flight olives and this led to an unfortunate incident where all of the duty-free wine was turned into water.

The ensuing riot caused by fans returning from the annual Sodom and Gomorrah Champions’ League match, meant further hold-ups while the ship was cleared of locusts and frogs. Further delay ensued when they encountered Moses and the Tribes of Egypt who were attempting passage across the Red Sea and had collected at the Sangatte Camp while awaiting deliverance from unbelievers and a package of benefits.

Finally arriving at Ararat late on Wednesday morning, it was discovered that they were to be put in a holding pattern as UK One was due to touch down, containing the President of the World and his twelve disciples, Prescott the Philistine, Blunkett the Bashful and Cook the Incomprehensible.

Once this vessel had cleared customs, Noah and Co were finally allowed to touch down. However, an unfortunate mix-up concerning pet passports meant that the whole cargo had to be shot and burned in case they were suffering from foot and mouth.

As a footnote to the whole sorry affair, Noah made enquiries at Lost Property as to the whereabouts of the raven that he had released earlier and was pointed in the direction of Prescott the Philistine who was belching loudly and spitting out black feathers.

In answer to the second part of Robin’s query regarding the use of summertime in our calculations, I would point out that the whole episode took place in 1491 BC – Before Clocks!

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