Posted by: T. Boyd | May 28, 2009

The Puzzle of the Years



“Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (Gen. 1:14 ESV)

Here is a list of words with Latin prefixes that are numerical. Can you spot what else they have in common?

Astrolabe (From WIkipedia)
– used by early astronomers
to locate heavenly bodies,
tell time, etc.

decimal (based on the number 10), Septuagint (seventy books in the Greek version of the Old Testament), novena (a nine day prayer cycle), and octagon (eight sided figure).

This discussion is again about time, its connection with astronomy, and, in this case, the history of the calendar.

Back to the puzzle. Would you recognize the common element if the prefixes are listed this way: Sep., Oct., Nov., Dec.? Yes! They are last four months of the year.

But why the contrast between the names and the positions of our last four months? At one time March was the first month of the year instead of January; then September was the 7th month of the year, October the 8th, and so forth. The change to making January the first month of the year instead of March varied from country to country.

England, for example, adopted the change in 1752 A.D. But the Romans chose in 153 B.C to make the new year start in January, because that was when the newly elected Roman consuls began their one-year tenures.


Another indicator of this change is the placement of the odd month of February. If March were the first month of the year, then February would be the 12th month, which is a logical place to put the odd month with its extra leap day every fourth year.

The common calendar of the Western world is called the Gregorian calendar based on the tropical (solar) year. It attempts to keep the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) close to December 21, keeping the seasons the same from year to year. Actually, the previous common calendar was the Julian calendar, which had a leap year every forth year without exception. But it gradually drifted with respect to the sun and the seasons.

So the Gregorian one, proposed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, has the rule of not having a leap year during the turn of the century, with the exception of century years that are divisible by 400. Thus the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but the year 2000 was a leap year. This modification will keep the seasons fixed for a long time . Not until about year 4000 A.D. will the error be noticeable.

I think that our creative Lord has a fine sense of humor to set the orbits of the earth and the moon in such a way that it takes so much work to keep track of time. Another one of His wonderful mysteries.

Give me some feedback at BrightMysteries@verizon.net.
or you can comment on this blog.


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