Your RDA of Irony

Happy New Year…but it is not the year you think!

A.D. 2019? Not quite. According to the most charitable calculation, our A.D. chronology is off by at least four years.
Fortunately, I may have found the birth certificate. Yes, the English is surprisingly good. (Just consider it one more miracle of the Nativity.)
So what is the date on the certificate? It is annoyingly blank. The certificate could have said December XXV—there is a 1-in-365 chance of that. It more likely would have been the corresponding Hebrew month of Tevet. But the year? I don’t think it would have been One. Mary might have asked for it, but the Town Clerk of Bethlehem was used to Jewish mothers.
The scholars among you would suggest the Jewish chronology. That would be the year 3761. That is an excellent answer; it really deserves to be right. However, it is not. The Jewish chronology would not be established until eleven centuries later.
No, the common practice would have been to identify the date by the reign of the local king. The chronology is called regnal. Two of the Gospels date Jesus’ birth as during the reign of an endearing fellow named Herod. He died–of undeservedly natural causes–in the year that corresponds to 4 B.C. So, if Jesus was born in 5 B.C., by A.D. 1 he was half-way to his bar mitzvah.
If you are wondering, the Church first caught the discrepancy in the 8th century and tried ignoring it for eight centuries. Attention Dan Brown!!!) By the 17th century, the Church finally conceded the mistake but added “Quid ergo?” So what?
That remains our attitude: blithe resignation. We will say that it is 2019. For some, it is an article of faith; for everyone else, it is a matter of convenience.

Leave a Reply