Science in Christian Perspective



It's Time to KO Our Calendar Chaos*
Professor of Chemistry
Concordia Teachers College, Seward, Nebraska

From: JASA 11 (March 1959): 12-16.

How long is a year? This question appeared in Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not column some years ago. The answer listed nine types of years, as follows:

Common year-3651/4 days. Calendar Year-365 days. Leap Year-366 days. Lunar Year-354 days. Gregorian Year-365 days, 5 hrs., 49 min., 12 sec. Solar Year-365 days, 5 hrs., 48 min., 46 see. Sidereal Year-365 days, 6 firs., 9 min., 8 sec. Anomalistic Year-365 days, 6 hrs., 13 min., 53 see. Tropical Year-365 days, 5 hrs., 48 min., 46 sec.

This list indicates that planning a calendar is no easy matter. In addition to determining which type of year is to be followed, the motion of the earth on its axis, the relative motion of the earth and the moon, and the relative motion of the earth and the sun, three incommensurate motions, must be taken into consideration, and have made the reckoning of time a difficult problem through the ages. Actually, the relative motion of the moon and the earth no longer affect our calendar directly. Imagine, if you can, the conflict calendar makers must have faced when the lunar month was abandoned! H. G. Wells wrote in his Outlines of History: "The earliest recorded reckoning is by moons." Eventually the moon became engraved in the minds of people and took on religious significance. Twelve lunations, 354 days, constituted the lunar year. Attempts to reconcile the lunar calendar with the seasons led to various soli-lunar calendars of which the Jewish calendar is the most notable.

The fact that most nations had their own calendar makes it difficult for the archeologist to correlate the events in different parts of the world. Add to this the fact that few, if any, of the nations recorded a year date or started their years on the same date, and the problem becomes more difficult. Even in Egypt, with its more modern calendar, the years were listed as the year of the reign of a ruler: e.g., the fifth year of the reign of the president, Eisenhower.

Probably the first solar calendar was invented by the Egyptians as early as 4236 B.C. Julius Caesar, who had seen this well organized calendar in operation while in Egypt, determined to revise the Old Roman

*Paper presented at the 13th Annual Convention of the American Scientific Affiliation at Iowa State College, August. 1958.

lunar calendar if he ever had the opportunity. This calendar, as was common with all lunar calendars, was in the hands of the priests. Eventually, corrupt and fraudulent pontiffs began to "misuse (the calendar) for political and economic purposes. They were able to manipulate the months to their advantage in the collection of rents, taxes, and interest ... (and) by the time of Julius Caesar it was entirely at variance with the seasons . . . The public (was) so disgruntled with it, that it afforded . . . (him) a unique opportunity to make drastic changes and necessary reforms" when he came to power. (1:67) From history we gather that an old 10 month lunar calendar, taken from wild tribes of northern Europe, was adopted by King Romulus, with the years dating from the founding of Rome. (753 B.C.) It was soon extended to 12 lunar months by the addition of January and February, the year beginning in March. Later the months were reshuffled, giving us the present arrangement. This was the calendar Julius Caesar ordered an Egyptian astronomer to revise. The result of this revision was a solar calendar named the Julian Calendar. Even in those days the politicians knew on which side their bread was buttered. They renamed the seventh month, (Quintilis), July. Later, Sextilis was named August in order to butter up another emperor, since under him a number of minor revisions were made.

The Julian Calendar went into effect in 46 B.C. It was to begin at the time of the winter solstice, but since a new moon came 7 days later, it was begun at the time of the new moon, after a year of confusion consisting of 445 days. Picture what would happen today if the Democrats (or Republicans) would attempt something like this, and in an election year yet! History may some day unearth records to show that this is why Julius Caesar was assassinated the following year.

The Julian Calendar, a perpetual calendar, divided each month into three sections, Kalends, Ides, and Nones, each of different length. (You will recall the warning to "Beware the Ides of March" in Julius Caesar, which began on March 15.) In Leap Years, observed every fourth year, February 24 was repeated to add the extra day. Under this calendar the year had 365% days, which is 11 min., 14 sec. longer than the solar year. A little arithmetic will show that this amounts to one day in approximately 128 years.

In this form the calendar was used by the Romans until 321 years after the birth of Christ. At this time Constantine was the Roman Emperor, who had a soft spot in his heart for the Christians. History tells us that he was raised in Britain and was the chief priest of the pagan Roman hierarchy, but that at his death he became a Christian. In 321 A.D. Constantine introduced the seven-day week into the calendar. The names of the days of the week are the Nordic names of the then known seven heavenly bodies. The order was established by the Assyrians who used it as their basis of astrology. The astrological belief was that each hour of the day was governed by a different heavenly body in the order of their distance from the Earth: Saturn, Jupiter (Thor), Mars (Tiw), Sun, Venus (Frigg), Mercury (Woden), and Moon. The "planet" which governed the first hour of the day was called its "regent." Taking the hours in order, each of the seven becomes a regent in the order of the days of the week. Thus the perpetual characteristic, one of the chief merits of the Julian Calendar, was lost, and the wandering week became the chief difficulty of the calendar, a serious defect that has continued to this day.

By 325 A.D., the year of the Council of Nicea, the vernal equinox had migrated back from March 25 to March 21. The rule for determining the date of Easter was stated at this time to avoid further confusion: "Easter is always the first Sunday after the Full Moon which happens upon or next after the twenty-first day of March; and if the Full Moon happens upon a Sunday, Easter is the Sunday after." (Lutheran Hymnal, p. 158) From this all of the moveable festivals are determined. Thus the pagan Julian Calendar gradually became "Christianized." Many of the special feast days were set on the days of pagan festivals, probably to "wean" the Christians away from them.

In A.D. 532, Dionysius Exiguns, a monk and Abbot of Rome, established the present manner of counting our years. The method of dating from the founding of Rome was changed to dating from the birth of Christ. Modern scholars contend that be made a four year error and that Christ actually was born in 4 B.C. Would that this were the only error our Catholic brethren had made! Dionysius also set March 25 as the date of Christ's conception and fixed this date as the beginning of the Christian year.

This was the last major change in the calendar in over 10 centuries. By that time it was obvious that March 21 was no longer the first day of spring. This was recognized by scholars for several centuries before any action was taken. The Council of Trent in 1545 authorized the Pope to rectify the situation. After an additional 37 years of deliberations and discussions, Pope Gregory XIII issued a decree which made three changes in the Julian Calendar, as advised by astrono mers and mathematicians of that day: (1) The vernal equinox was returned to March 21, where it had been at the time of the Nicean Council. (2) The present leap year rule then put into effect to prevent a recurrence of the situation, provides that every year that is divisible by four except those century years which are not divisible by 400 is a leap year. So, for example, the year 1900 was a leap year under the Julian Calendar because it is divisible by 4, but not under the Gregorian Calendar, since it is not divisible by 400. This calendar is 26 seconds longer than the solar year, which would amount to a day in 3323 years. (3) New Year's Day was returned to January 1.

The new Gregorian Calendar was put into ef f ect in 1582, when Thursday, October 4, 1582, was followed by Friday, October 15, 1582. Our colonies, controlled by England, did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar at this time. In 1534, at King Henry VIII's behest, the English Parliament had passed the Act of Supremacy, thus severing all connection with Rome and the English church. So, naturally, England and her colonies did not follow the papal decree. It was not until 1752 that the change was made, when Wednesday, September 2, 1752 (Julian Calendar) was followed by Thursday, September 14, 1752. The change, we are told, caused riots and bloodshed in England by people who demanded back the 11 days of their lives they thought had been taken from them. Russia did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until 1918, and the Greek Orthodox Church has still not made the change.

Here, then, in brief, we have the history of our present calendar, a battle-scarred relic, originated by the Old Romans. In it are reflected the superstitions and myths of the ages. It bears effects given it by politicians ' astrologers, astronomers, and mathematicians. It is encrusted with the whimsies of kings and dictators; it has been paganized, Christianized, modernized, and renamed through the centuries. It now keeps time with sun in a respectable manner, but that is about all.

It has months that arenot months, with names of four that are misnomers (September through December) and eight that have no meaning for present or future mankind. Its week day names are a reversion to pagan superstitions whose origin has been lost in antiquity. Its halves are not halves and its quarters not quarters, and each may begin on any day of the week. It has 14 different kinds of years and 28 different types of months, most of which are caused by that "extra day", and each year begins at a time of the year that has no logical basis. The number of work days and Saturdays varies in each month from year to year, and yet our whole economy is based on business forecasts, which in turn are based on month to month or quarter to quarter comparisons. In short, "the Gregorian Calendar is unbalanced in structure, unstable in form and irregular in arrangement." (9:LV) It is an old model-T with new tires, converted to battery, and with new ising glass curtains, but a model-T still.

Then why don't we discard it as we do our old cars, out moded school books, and balloon dresses? A personal reference illustrates the attitude of so many people in this matter. Some years ago, after my mother had raised her eight boys and two girls to manhood and womanhood, we thought it was about time she got herself a refrigerator. She said she didn't need one. She was better off than most of  her neighbors, since she had her cave under the house, and that was luxury enough. And besides, the exercise was good for her. But when her oldest insisted he would buy her one if she didn't do it herself, she let him know that be could buy her one if he wanted to, but she assured him she would not use it. And use it she didn't . . . for a long time. It was a gradual process, but today her refrigerator is one of her prize possessions, as jam-packed as yours. Calendarwise we need an older brother who will buy us a new one, since, apparently, we prefer the cave we grew up with, not realizing its limitations.

Miss Elisabeth Achelis, in "Of Time And The Calendar", chapter IX, gives an excellent resume of the history of proposed revisions. It finally became an important item on the League of Nations agenda, and when it appeared to be ready for adoption, World War II broke out and the League of Nations folded. Many years of study by various experts in the field sifted 187 proposed plans. The last two calendars to stay in the running were the 13-month plan and The World Calendar, both containing the perpetual feature. The World Calendar was finally settled upon because of the few differences it has with the present calendar. One disadvantage of the 13-month calendar in this enlightened age is the fact that every month would have a Friday the 13th.

days each-a rhythmic pattern of 31, 30, 30 days.
4. Quarters always begin on a Sunday and end on a Saturday.
5. The quarters are equal in length.
6. Each quarter contains three months,
13 weeks or 91 days.
7. Month-dates always fall on the same weekdays.
8. Days and dates always agree from year to year.
9. Holidays are fixed.
10. Each year begins on Sunday, January 1, and the working year on Monday, January 2.
11. Each year is comparable.
12. The World Calendar is balanced in structure, perpetual in forin and harmonious in arrangement. (9:V)

It is also interesting to note that each month has 26 weekdays. The calendars of 2000 years ago were national in scope and religious in character. Since this is actually the only type of calendar people are familiar with, it is difficult to imagine any other kind. However, in today's shrinking world a common calendar molded to fit today's needs is imperative. It should be clear that such a calendar must be a civil and secular calendar, free from religious bias of any kind. It must be universal and scientific in character, making it possible to be used by all nations, peoples and races It must not deal with religious belief, dogma, theology tradition, myth, or orthodoxy. The World Calendar is such a calendar.

Once it is adopted, the various religions can take up the questions of revising their respective religious observances within the scope of this orderly, balanced, and harmonious civil system. It will also be necessary for each nation to set its own national holidays and civic observances.

It is hoped that after the change is made that the Christian churches will establish a fixed Easter. While it should be done for its own sake, it will be a great aid to business and to any schedule-making groups, such as schools and colleges.

Many articles and pamphlets have been written to show the benefits, monetary and otherwise, which would accrue once a perpetual calendar is adopted. Some of these are listed in the bibliography. It would take too long to discuss them adequately here. A reliable authority estimates that a saving of four to five billion dollars annually would be effected by the adoption of the World Calendar. Much of this waste is due to absenteeism caused by roving holidays. However it is not possible to measure many of the inconveniences in dollars and cents. We may consider these as the human values of a stabilized calendar, even including such "little" things as being able to know on what day of the week various days of the month will fall. For many of us in schools and colleges the additional work we need to do because of our present calendar simply means extra hours in our busy schedtiles. The ever-changing school calendar is the big offender. Last year's plans and schedule cannot be followed because no week, month, or year is the same under the irregular calendar. Pity the poor organist and pastor when Christmas falls on a midweek day. For them and their families there is no Christmas "vacation."

It should make an interesting study to determine the man-hours wasted per year in any particular business or profession because of our inefficient calendar At Concordia, where I teach, it starts with the picking of an opening and closing day in such a way that the right number of teaching days is included. Vacations sports events, and choir tours must be scheduled carefully each year; the many other extracurricular activities of our campus high school and college, and the dozens of administrative, academic, and social groups must have proper (and nonconflicting!) dates and facilities. Additional headaches come when the many emergency meetings pop up. Small wonder that church and civic groups accuse us of being self-centered and uncooperative!

Dates do make a difference. With a regular calendar like the World Calendar much of the work and most of the conflicts could be eliminated. Since last year's plans and schedules could now be used every year, we could concentrate on eliminating the trouble spots. And now that there are more nonconflicting events, attendance will increase, and all of us will have more time to attend them. But wouldn't the World Calendar be monotonous? Of course it will. Monotonous like having lunch at 12 every day and eight hours of sleep every night. That we could stand, too.

It is hoped that when the United States puts the calendar into operation it will set all or most of our national holidays on Fridays or Mondays, making three-day weekends possible as something that can be planned for each year. Actually, it would not be necessary to wait for the World Calendar to do this. We could observe a Presidents' Day on the third Monday in February, Memorial Day on the last Monday in May, Independence Day on the first Friday in July, Labor Day on the first Monday in September, and Veterans' Day on the second Friday in November, giving us five national holidays, well spread out through the year. After the Roosevelt fiasco there seems to be a reluctance to meddle with Thanksgiving, but it surely could be celebrated on Friday as well as on Thursday. This is the holiday that causes the most headaches for school administrators.

Miss Achelis, (13:5) states that the "obstacles to calendar reform are two fold-first traditionally religious sectarianism I and second, apathy and indifference." In considering the second point we should recall the words of Samuel Johnson: "Nothing will be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome." It does appear, however, that an informed group is invariably in favor of the adoption of the World Calendar. A score of nations has gone on re cord as being in favor of its adoption. The December, 1954 issue of the journal of Calendar Reform lists over 250 groups of various kinds that have endorsed the World Calendar. A dozen religious organizations are listed, including the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church (U.S.A.), the College of Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church South (U. S. A.), the Reformed Church of America, The American Lutheran Church, the Council of Bishops of the Methodist Church (U.S.A.), and my own church, The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

Probably the most controversial feature of the World Calendar is the use of the Worldsday at the end of each year and at the end of June in Leap Years. For the bulk of Christendom there is no problem. Col. 2:16, 17, for example, where we read: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ", makes it clear to them that the Old Testament rules listed here have been set aside. Many of Jesus' condemnations of the Scribes and Pharisees centered around the misinterpretations of the Old Testament, including their interpretations and man made rules in regard to the Sabbath. On one such occasion (Mark 2, 27) He concludes that "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath." To quote Miss Achelis again, "Worldsday is not new. Actually it is a revival of the 50th day in the ancient calendar used by the early Israelites, described in Leviticus 23: 15, 16 of the Old Testament. In that calendar, known as the Pentecontad, a series of 49 days of seven weeks and seven sabbaths was enriched and fortified by adding a 50th day, dedicated to the Lord and observed as a 'high holiday.' Other series of 49 days plus the 50th day followed. It is most interesting to note that the ancient Jews were the first people to honor not only an extra day in their calendar but to give it religious connotation.

It is not known with any accuracy when the Jewish leaders adopted the newer concept of an uninterrupted succession of weeks. With the adoption of this new feature the holy 50th day bad to be abandoned because the 49th day on one Pentecontad and the 7th day of the next, both being sabbaths, the 50th day would bring an 'eighth day' into the week. It was actually a day outside the week, coming between two separate weeks, which erroneously was interpreted as bringing about an 8-day week. Worldsday in the World Calendar also comes between two separate weeks and often has been wrongly interpreted as making an '8-day week.'

. . . There are people today who relate the 150-day duration of the flood in Genesis to three Pentecontad periods and the origin of the fifty-year anniversary to the same source."

The best time to put the World Calendar into op eration is when both the old and new calendars coincide at the start of the year. The next time this happens is in 1961, and then again in 1967. At present., 1967 is the target year NVorld Calendar enthusiasts are aiming at. As individuals we have two responsibilities in this matter: ( I ) to become informed, and (2) to express our views to our representatives in Washington.

We are gradually breaking down the harriers of nationalism, and are entering an era in which all people, regardless of race or religion are cooperating in the search for peace. In such a world, civilization ur,1 - ly needs a good uniform calendar for all nations. We must have vision in this endeavor, for "where there is no vision the people perish." It is high time for all of us to lend a hand so that we may soon K. 0. our calendar chaos.

Bibliography And Selected References

1. Panth, Bhola D. Consider the Calendar. Bureau of Publications, Teachers College - Columbia University, New York, 1944,
2, Achelis, Elisabeth. Of Time and The Calendar. He tage House, New York, 1955.
3. Zimmerman, B. A treatise on the Sabbatical Cycle the Jubilee. Strangeways and Walden, London, 1866.
4. The Journal of Calendar Reform. The World Cal Association, International Building, 630 Fifth Ave. New York 20, New York.
(This publication was discontinued with the January 1956 issue. This office was then closed. Miss  Elizabeth  Achelis is still active and can be reached at P. 0. Box 224 Lenox Hill Station, New York, 21, but the main work being done by the International World Calendar Asciation, P. 0. Box 20, Besserer Street, Ottawa, Canada. Pamphlets published by the World Calendar Association:
5. l,irestone, John M. The Present Calendar and its Effect on American Business. Monograph No. 4, 1950.
6. Joyce, James Avery. Some Economic and Social Advantages of the World Calendar. Monograph No. 1, 1954.
7. Sweeny, R. L., and Schlesinger, F. W. The Evolution of the Calendar.
8. Improve the Calendar: What's Wrong With It; How to Fix It.
9. The World Calendar.
10. The World Calendar and Religion.
Rogoff, Sulamith. Israel's Calendar Confusions.
Achelis, Elisabeth. Workable World Unity.
13. Achelis, Elisabeth. Calendar Change - A Challenge. Pamphlets published by Miss Achelis at her new address:
14. 0n the Square With Time.
15. An Ancient 30th Day Revived.