Tag Archives: Africanus

The Adamic Calendar and the Life of Christ

A brief portrayal of the Adamic calendar especially as it relates to the birth and resurrection of Christ.

The Adamic calendar system was created from data found in the Old and New Testaments. These contain detailed genealogies that include lifespans. From these lifespans, religious institutions have calculated not only the origin of human history, but theoretically can pinpoint the creation of the earth.

Sometimes this system is known by its Latin name, Anno Mundi or AM in shortened form.

The most well known genealogical lists are found in the Books of Genesis, Matthew, and Luke. This is where the majority of calculations are made from.

A number of articles on this website have been dedicated to tracing the development of the western calendar system. The Adamic is one of the many ancient calendars used, but it wasn’t one of the best systems that existed. Neither can it be accurately relied upon, but since it was historically used, it must be investigated further.

This calendar method has enjoyed cyclical popularity. It never became a universal standard. It has been found in fourth, seventh, twelfth, and 16th century pieces of literature, especially among religious institutions or writers. The 16th century introduced a renaissance of the concept. This can be traced to James Ussher and his book, Annalium pars postierior.

The modern religious Jewish community still uses a form of the Adamic calendar albeit without the Christian symbols.

Roger Pearse has covered the Adamic calendar with his article: Does Eusebius Give a Date for the Creation in his Chronicle. Here he accurately reveals misinformation on the subject, including the coverage found at Wikipedia, and proceeds to correct the ancient Church record. Eusebius, and many early Church authorities, as Pearse substantiates, saw the genealogies as the beginnings of human history, not the history of the earth itself.

Pearse goes into great detail to win his case, but here are some additional thoughts. These ideas are from a slightly different angle. The Adamic calendar does not count so much to me in when the earth was created, but in aiding to identify when Christ was born or crucified.

The third century Christian chronographer, Julius Africanus, understood almost all the calendars in use during his time and explained how to convert them into Attican expressions. He believed the Attican Greek Olympiad calendar to be the most universal of all of them. But he, along with others also used the Adamic calendar too. He wrote:

“The period, then, to the advent of the Lord from Adam and the creation is 5531 years.”(1)Julius Africanus, Book III: The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus, XVIII:4; Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VI as found at http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-06/anf06-50.htm#P2349_661950

Now this date has no meaning unless it is relevant to some specific period of measurable time. Africanus gave the Battle of Actium as his reference point:

“The date of which event is the 11th year of the monarchy and empire of the Romans, and the 4th year of the 187th Olympiad. Altogether, from Adam 5472 years are reckoned.”(2) Julius Africanus, Book III: The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus, XVIII:4; Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VI as found at http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-06/anf06-50.htm#P2349_661950

Now to reconcile the Olympiad with the Adamic calendar takes some basic math. The Battle of Actium occurred on the 4th year of the 187th Olympiad according to Africanus. This falls on 29 BC. This is two years off the normal 31 BC date given for what was considered the actual date of battle but still we can use this for measurement. Now if basic math is applied, the outcome is 30 AD that Christ was crucified on.(3)5472-5531=59 years. 29 BC + 59 years = 30 AD but it could be 29 depending on when the year began. Either January 1st or the spring equinox. . The term used here advent is confusing, and I am assuming from his dating that it does not refer to His birth, but resurrection. This calculation becomes more important in understanding a Christian Arabic parchment below.

The Christian Arabic community in the 12th century carried on a similar tradition to that of Africanus. One manuscript reads:

“And from Alexander, son of Philip the Greek until the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ–let there be adoration of the recollection of Him–three hundred and fifty years. And from our Lord the Christ–Let there be adoration at the recollection of Him–to this year, which is the intended era, a thousand one hundred and fifty-five years. And what is past of the years of the world to the end of this year are six thousand six hundred and eighty-three years. And from Adam until our Lord the Christ five thousand five hundred years.”(4)Studia Sinaitica, Vol. 12. London: Cambridge University Press. 1894-1907?. Pg. 21

The dates were set at the death of Alexander the Great and the passion of Christ, not at the beginning of the reign as the Romans did. The era of Alexander began at 323 BC. Add 350 to this and this results in 27 AD. This was the Arabic Christian’s supposed death and resurrection of Christ. But the Adamic calculation was perplexing “And from Adam until our Lord the Christ five thousand five hundred years”. It doesn’t use the terms ‘advent’ or ‘incarnation’ here, and it is 31 years shorter than Africanus’ account. The neglect of these terms and the significance of 31, which likely reflects the age of Christ, suggests a number of outcomes.

  • The author utilized the same Adamic calendar as Africanus, then the birth date of Christ would be 2 BC.

  • Or, the author intended to subtract 31 from the 27 AD calculation from the era of Alexander, then it would be 4 BC.

  • It also could be argued that the author had drawn from different traditions

The Adamic system had its detractors such as the Venerable Bede. He had a new computational system for the age of the earth and was accused of heresy.(5) Wikipedia on Bede; “For calendric purposes, Bede made a new calculation of the age of the world since the Creation. Due to his innovations in computing the age of the world, he was accused of heresy at the table of Bishop Wilfred, his chronology being contrary to accepted calculations. Once informed of the accusations of these “lewd rustics,” Bede refuted them in his Letter to Plegwin.” When he first wrote De Temporibus Liber, in AD 703 he was well aware of the sensitivities and sneaks in his position, “. . .Christ was born, having completed from Adam 3,952 years. Now there is another date of 5199”(6) De Temporibus Liber MPL vol. 90 Col. 290-292; my own translation ; the 3,952 being his position and 5199 the traditional one.

It also should be noted that the 8th century accepted date of Christ’s birth being 5199 years after the creation of the earth, is not consistent with Africanus’ 5531 reckoning. The 5199 was based on Eusebius’ calculations which became the entrenched position of the Church. Bede was well aware of this fact.

Bede’s AM 3,952 calculation was 1247 years different that Eusebius’. He followed the Hebrew Masoretic rather than the Greek Septuagint Bible on the ages of the Patriarchs for his hypothesis.(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_Creation, There are many who would argue that the Septuagint is based on a much earlier and more credible Hebrew version than the Masoretic text. This argument has many merits but is outside the realm of the research here. The difference between the Hebrew and the Greek adds up to 1376 years according to William Whitaker,(8) William Whitaker. A Disputation on the Holy Scriptures: Against the Papists. Trans. By William Fitzgerald. Cambridge: The University Press. 1853 (Original printing 1610). Pg. 121 which makes this a reasonable, but not exact certainty.

22 years later, Bede was more liberal in the use of his own dating. He still recognized the historic value in the Adamic system, but its importance is devalued going forward after the time of Christ.

In reference to time before Christ, the Adamic is still recognized. This can be found in De Temporum Ratione where he paralleled both systems in this writing. In it he wrote headers such as “A.M. Hebr. 3352. Sept. 4700”(9) MPL De Temporum Ratione. Vol. 90. pg. 533. , to describe a date in antiquity. The first date referring to the Hebrew tradition and the second one, abbreviated “Sept.” for the Greek Septuagint dates.

His calendar utilized the birth-year of Christ as being the dividing point. Any time recorded after the birth of Christ he still used the Hebrew system but abandoned the Septuagint dating one altogether. In the place of the Septuagint he used Chr. instead. For example, the year of Christ’s birth is marked as, “A.M. 3952. Chr. 1.””(10) Ibid MPL, pg. 545.

It is interesting that Bede begins the birth of Christ with the Chr. symbol. He does not use the AD one. It demonstrates that Dionysius Exiguus reckoning of Easter system, which eventually evolved into the AD calendar, had not not evolved or taken hold internationally yet. Chr. as Bede called it, may have been one of the precursors of the AD system becoming entrenched some 100 years later.

Also important to many calendar specialists, is the fact that he did not start with a zero date, but with the number one.

This is a general introduction to the Adamic Calendar system. There is much more to this topic than documented here. The research so far gives some clues to the precise birth year of Christ, but nothing substantial.

References   [ + ]

The Olympiad Calendar and the Birth Year of Christ

An explanation of the ancient Greek Olympiad system especially as it relates to the birth year of Christ.

This is part of an unfinished series on the problems and evolution of the calendar system and how it effects dating the year of Christ’s birth.

The ancient Greeks used Olympiads as their yearly dating system. The first Olympiad was conducted in 776 BC. It was calculated in four-year intervals.

For example the first Olympiad happened in 776 and the second occurred in 772 BC.

776 BC = Olympiad 1, not 0. Zero as a mathematical number in the Greco-Roman world was a later invention. Using a calculator without this knowledge to validate later dates can throw off any Olympiad by four years.

The four year interval is not specific enough for most historic purposes. Most modern readers want to know the exact year, not that it happened somewhere unspecified in the four year interval. Later writers tended to use an alpha system to demonstrate which of the four years the Olympiad meant, such as the 184a Olympiad, which would be the first year of the 184th Olympiad.

The first century Roman-Jewish historian, Josephus, sometimes used the regnal dating system. This system was popular in ancient times throughout the Mediterranean basin which defined time according to the birth and death dates of a great leader. However, Josephus was conscious of the fact that this was not accurate and combined it with Olympiads and then went a step further and aligned it with historic battles.

The following is an important example of his use of the Olympiad dating system. He wrote that Herod was first given his title as king by Rome on the 184th Olympiad,(1)Antiquities of the Jews: XIV:XVI:4 which translates anywhere between 44/43 and 41/40 BC.

Josephus is the closest historian to the time of Christ and his dates are rarely challenged. There are few other texts outside the Bible and Christian history available with the level of detail that he provides with regards to the Middle East during this time. One must keep in mind though that there are potential manuscript errors. There are many copies of Josephus’ writings with variants in dates and times, though these transcription errors do not directly affect the Herodian calendars, it does raise some suspicions.(2) William Whiston trans, The Works of Josephus. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1982. “Dissertation V” p. 696

An alternative to Josephus is Julius Africanus. He was a second-century chronicler who gave a detailed account of histories related to the Olympiads. He may be the earliest Christian historian who tried to parallel Greek and Jewish histories according to some sort of timeframe. He critically attempted to establish the first Olympiad and use that as his basis. He believed that before the Olympiad system came into being, a timeline of any history from a Greek perspective could not accurately be deduced.(3) IBID, III.-The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus. XIII:1

In the Africanus account available today, one can find a problem with the Olympiad calculation which was likely related to a transcription error. He wrote, “the 16th year of Tiberius Caesar, which was the second year of the 102d Olympiad”(4) Extant works of Julius Africanus found at tthp://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0614.htm Fragment 18:2 This may be an error in the English translation or a typographic error. The Greek has not been checked. – this would make Tiberius’ reign, based on the 776 BC date, to be approximately 368 BC. Fortunately, the text mentions earlier in the same document regarding Tiberius 16th year as, “the 202d Olympiad”, which made it to be properly around 30 AD.(5) Extant works of Julius Africanus as found at tthp://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0614.htm Fragment 16:3 .

The eighth-century British-Christian writer and scholastic monk, the Venerable Bede, used Olympiads among many others to define historic time periods, though our present manuscripts attributed to him may contain errors. He recorded the first Olympiad to Julius Caesar to be the 183rd Olympiad–20 years off.(6) See Bede, De Temporum Rationem, MPL, Vol. 90, pg. 538, especially the footnote b which discusses how Bede missed those 20 years.

Olympiads were not the dating system of preference by most of the ancient Christian writers and it was not accepted as a universal calendar. Its was a legacy system after the fourth-century AD. However, because of Josephus’ usage, it is an important clue, though not the ultimate one, for the birth year of Christ.

Josephus’ account does not directly address Christ’s birth in his copy, but one can correlate from Josephus’ dated chronology of the Herod family and the Biblical description roughly what year the birth was. For more details on exactly how Josephus and other historians dated these leaders, see:
A Chronology of the Herods

To read more, see the introductory article, What Year was Christ Born? or go to the series Christian Calendar System homepage for a listing of all the articles on the subject.

References   [ + ]

The Written and Oral Traditions of Church Literature

The researcher, translator and/or reader of any piece of Church literature must be cognizant of the fact that most ancient Church writings available today have a twofold interpretation process; the written and oral traditions.

The written is easier to identify than the oral. Since the oral tradition has been lost for centuries, it is the role of the researcher/translator to reconstruct this.

The importance of this is not so apparent, but as one translates and begins to find older texts within other works without citations, one will find the medieval community depended on the oral tradition for these points.

The Christian chronological tables are one of the best examples. Africanus was the first Church father to try and reconcile dates and history into a uniform time frame. Only fragments of his work called the Chronography, exist today. Eusebius published his own version based on this. We only have fragments of this work today. Jerome admittedly took from Eusebius’ timetables and created a more expanded version which we have available today called the Chronological Tables. The Chronological Tables set the basis for the 7th century Chronicon Paschal, which expanded the explanations even more. The Chronicon Paschale does not succintly mention Africanus, Eusebius, or Jerome in its citations.

It is a known fact that many medieval monks, copyists, and authors frequently inputted text from the ancient sages within their works and did not feel the necessity nor the importance of noting the original authors they quoted from.

There are always exceptions. The 8th century writer/scholar/teacher in almost any field, the Venerable Bede, was one of the few that did try to cite all his sources during this period.

Another problem example is Origen’s Catena on I Corinthians. It is by no means an old document, likely this version dates around the 10th century or later. It is intermingled with Eastern Attica and later Byzantine Greek. The Biblical citations use the Old Slavonic typeface. The grammar and vocabulary is very similar to Chrysostom. Some word usage can only be found in Chrysostom. One is not entirely sure if the text is totally true to Origen, or has some insertions from Chrysostom or an editor put in some later thoughts.

Some manuscripts depart from the original and demonstrate new thoughts. Some manuscripts such as Against Heresies by Epiphanius contained in Migne Patrologia Graeca is not really that old. Many parts are later additions. The copy that MPG used may even be a Greek translation of the Latin. However, there is an old remnant of Against Heresies found in St. Anastasii Sinaitae Questiones which one can compare and get a good idea of what the original was.

Still the newer copy demonstrates what the writers thought and interpreted their religious world to be in their epoch. It has important value for tracing a religious doctrine or movement throughout the centuries.

One must understand this is not a bad thing, nor a conspiracy by the Church to hide, correct or improve problematic texts. The medieval period was a transition time between oral and written communication. Most of the population was not literate and there was still a heavy dependancy on transmitting Church doctrine, law, practice and interpretation orally. The oral tradition worked almost evenly alongside the written text. The making of handwritten texts were a long, expensive and tedious process and was not a process that would allow for the general population to have copies in their own home.

The oral tradition was very important because illiteracy was also very high. Harry Gamble outlines literacy and the role of oral and written tradition in, “Books and readers in the early church: a history of early Christian texts.” This is written more about the early Church than the medieval age, but it appears from a literacy perspective to still hold for this period as well.

This oral tradition over the years became disrupted, and much of the wealth that was contained in such knowledge was lost. The medieval monastic orders orally knew which parts of the chronologies to ascribe to Africanus, Eusebius and Jerome but this was never written down. Today, since this tradition was lost, we do not know exactly in many texts who said what.

What does this all mean then? When one cites Origen, Ambrosiaster, Jerome, Epiphanius, or any other ancient writer, be cautious, just because they are listed at the header of the document as the author, they may not necessarily be so. It may be a later tradition based on that author or an uncited text from another author.