From the beginning of our time

(Published in GralsWelt 5/1997)


A calendar is something so natural that we no longer have to worry about how and when it was created. We also take the upcoming year 2000, a magical date for Christian cultures, almost as "given by nature" without thinking about the beginning of our "Gregorian calendar". GRALSWELT editor Siegfried HAGL examined how our era began and came across remarkable facts ...

Our modern era began - strictly speaking - with disagreements about the Easter date.

In ancient times, a useful division of the year was primarily indispensable for choosing the time for sowing and harvesting. Then it was a matter of celebrating religious festivals in the course of the year on the “right date”. Ancients felt closely connected to the seasonal cycle and spared no effort to set the dates for their religious celebrations in harmony with the changes in nature.

With limited astronomical knowledge and inadequate observation techniques, this was no easy undertaking. In addition, there was the complexity of solar and lunar calendars (13 lunar cycles of approx. 28 days do not exactly match a solar year of 365 1/4 days), as well as the astrological, historical, cultic regulations, which are all “under one roof” wanted to.


as Pope John I. When asked about the Easter date of the year 526, he found that the calculations of the scholars once again differed by several days.

For centuries, the bishops could not agree on the correct date for Easter, which dates back to the Jewish Passover festival. It happened that the Christians of one diocese celebrated the resurrection of the Lord with a feast, while in other places the fast had only just begun. In order to remedy this situation, the Pope remembered his librarian, the grizzled in honor Dionysius Exiguuswho for decades has worked meticulously for the papal archives.

Dionysius Exiguus (Dionysius the Humble), a Scythian by birth from today's Armenia, had acquired a reputation as a translator of Greek texts into Latin in Constantinople towards the end of the 5th century. Around 500 he received a call to Rome as administrator of the papal archives. These had been in a disastrous state since the vandal storm in 455 and looked more like a junk shop than a library. However, the popes had recognized the value of old documents; For example, the primacy that the Bishop of Rome claimed as Pope within the Christian Church could be derived from genuine and forged writings.

Dionysius was a meticulous scholar whose excellent knowledge of canon law predestined him to end the disputes over Easter once and for all.


As a profound expert on literature, it was not too difficult for Dionysius to set the dates of Easter for the next few decades. Finally there was preparatory work, for example by the patriarch Cyril of Alexandria (born 444) on which Dionysius could build.

It seemed more difficult to convince the whole of Christianity of the data calculated in Rome. But Dionysius also knew what to do here: his calculations, he boldly asserted, were based on a resolution of the Council of Nicaea (325), which found the right path through the "enlightenment of the Holy Spirit" on crucial questions of faith. Nobody could oppose such a council decision, and even today one reads in the encyclopedias that the date of Easter goes back to a decision made by the council of Nicaea. (Easter is known to be the Sunday after the full moon, which falls on or after the beginning of spring on March 20/21).


A uniform calculation of the date of Easter accepted by the whole of Christendom was a historical and political achievement; but with that it was Dionysius Exiguus not yet satisfied.

The patriarch and doctor of the church Kyrill of Alexandria, whose Easter calculation was the basis for the work of Dionysius, had in his (Cyril's) time calculation according to the ancient Egyptian model, the years after the accession of the Emperor Diocletian (Reigns 284-305) were counted. But this “godless” emperor did not arouse good associations: he had persecuted the Christians, was responsible for economic crises and had to carry out a currency reform. From 258 to 275 prices in the Roman Empire had increased tenfold, taxes had risen in astronomical proportions, and neither wage or price freezes nor other state regulations had helped. It was not until Diocletian's coin reform that began in 286 that there was temporary relaxation. So not the right, charismatic emperor for a Christian calendar, which is still based on the old Roman calendar of Julius Caesar (100 - 44 BC) competed.

So deepened Dionysius Exiguus into the Bible and joined the theologians' opinion that was widespread at the time that Jesus was resurrected on March 25th.

Now Dionysius needed a suitable year when Easter fell on March 25th: That was 784 according to the classical Roman calendar.

Since the Bible suggested that the crucified Christ was 30 years old, the further calculation was as follows: The year of Jesus' birth had to be 754 according to Roman counts (from urbe condita = since the founding of the city)!

The year 754 of the classic Julian calendar became year 1 of the Christian calendar (which does not know the year 0), and today we are anxiously looking forward to the year 2753 "after the founding of Rome", which we call 2000!


Unfortunately, the reasoning of the Dionysius Exiguus built on uncertain conditions. Neither was - nor is it - proven that Jesus was resurrected on March 25th, nor that he was crucified at the age of 30. A probable date of the crucifixion is today e.g. the 7th April 30th -

The first scientist who tried to decipher the year of Jesus' birth using modern historical and astronomical methods was Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). The following points can be summarized:

· According to Matthew is Herod the Great (approx. 72 - 4 BC) died after the birth of Jesus. (Matth. 2, 19-23).
· Josephus Flavius (37-100) mentions an eclipse of the moon before the death of Herod in his "Jewish War". According to Kepler, this eclipse was on the night of March 12-13, 4 BC. Chr.
· Taking into account the information provided by Matthew, Kepler took 5 v. Chr. As the year of birth of Jesus.
· Kepler was also probably the first to recognize that an astrological millennium event took place at the time of Jesus' birth: the "great conjunction" of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces (it is repeated in the same constellation only after 854 years). However, he has not yet been able to determine the exact date of this great conjunction; Astronomers didn't manage to do that until the 19th century. Following their calculations, the famous "King Conjunction" - which many equate with the "Star of Bethlehem" - took place in the year 7 BC. Instead of. This equation is held to this day, because reports of a "great comet" in Jesus' time were found just as little as other celestial phenomena with which the biblical "Star of Bethlehem" could be explained.
· Today exact computer simulations of the starry sky are possible. They lead to surprising results that can be clearly illustrated in planetariums: If a traveler coming from Jerusalem approached on the evening of November 12, 7 BC. BC Bethlehem, according to modern calculations, he saw the “great conjunction” and thus supposedly the “star” mentioned by Matthew hovering over the place. (Matth. 2, 9-12).
· The "estimate" reported by Luke took place in the year 6 or 7, as is assumed today. (Luk. 2, 1).

If you summarize this evidence, Jesus was born between 7 BC. Born 7 BC and 7 AD; the most likely date is often 7 BC. Called BC.

Accordingly we do not live “in the year of the Lord” 1997 but in 2004 “after the birth of Christ” (= post Christum natum)!

Unfortunately, all of these assumptions are speculative, and in the end we know little more than the Doctor of the Church Basil the Great (c. 330-379), who said: "Nobody should relate the equipment of astrologers to the rising of the star in the Gospel, because that star was not an ordinary ..."