How Did The Calendar Begin And Why Did The Years Change After Jesus Was On Earth?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

How did the calendar begin and why did it change in the way years were counted after Jesus was on earth?

The Hebrew Calendar

The Hebrews had their own calendar but theirs was based upon the new moon or the moon phase that began the new month. There were 12 months of 30 days in a year, even though the lunar cycle was 29½ days.  Since this resulted in a 354½ day year, they had to add a new month in seven out of every nineteen years, but Israel didn’t keep a calendar to measure the past to the present like we do today. They typically measured time by who was in power or by some major event in their history. Even in the New Testament, they weren’t really counting up the years as much as they were counting the months of the yearly calendar.  Israel did learn to begin marking time from both the ancient Canaanites and the Babylonians, so they understood the concept of measuring the years, but they were not as interested in assigning numbers to them.  Again, it was because they marked time by the focal point of an event or person and not so much in a linear line of measuring time in years and centuries.

How Did The Calendar Begin And Why Did The Years Change After Jesus Was On Earth

The First Calendars

As I mentioned earlier, the ancient Canaanites and the Babylonians were among the first to begin assigning years with numbers but these were the exception as the ancient Egyptians used the same method that Israel did in their yearly calendar and that was 12 months of 30 days, but they added extra days at the end of the year to make it align with the lunar calendar.  The Roman’s had a historical calendar of their past and did number the years (in Roman numerals), but for some reason, the Romans were suspicious of even numbers, so the Roman or Julian yearly calendar had months that were either 29 days or 31 days.  As you can imagine, the months and years became so confusing and the calendars were thrown so far off, that Julius Caesar became desperate and sought the advice of an astronomer who suggested that Caesar order that 46 B.C. would be 445 days in length to make up for the gross errors in their calendars.

BCE and CE

Today, many secular textbooks, Internet articles, and print media are beginning to replace BC and AD with BCE and CE.  BCE is simply an abbreviation for “Before Common Era” while CE stands for “Common Era” which begins at the year zero.  BC and AD stand for essentially the same thing except for one vast difference; BC stands for “Before Christ” or before Jesus Christ was born while AD is an abbreviation for “anno domini,” which is Latin for “Year of the Lord.”  The actual date of Christ’s birth is not precisely known.  Most scholars and historians agree that they had the date wrong by assigning the year 0.  The best scholarship now says that Jesus was born between 4 and 6 BC.

The Focal Point of Time

I heard it said, “History is His-story” and that is so true, even in the secular sense.  He is the Man of History by Whom we still mark the passage of time and He brings the plan of salvation because He is the Man of Salvation (Acts 4:12).  Everything else in this world will pass away, but the amazing thing is that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection so impacted history that most of the world even used His birth as how they marked time.  Jesus Christ is the most well-known and written about Person in the history of humanity. He is the turning point in history; either before Jesus Christ was born (BC) or after His birth (AD) and there is a correlation with each one of us; before we were born again (John 3:3-7), we were without Christ and without hope.  After our new birth in Christ we are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), and now we count the years of our new birth.  Today, we still use years on our calendars based upon or counted from that mark of time in which the greatest event in human history came; that God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) and lived a sinless life so that we might receive eternal life through belief in Him. When you compare time with eternity, it’s no context.  What else really matters!?


The use of the “Year of the Lord” is appropriate for every year because every year is the year of the Lord because He is Lord of time, space, and history.  It is always the year of the Lord because for those who pass away before trusting in Christ, the Lord Himself will judge them (Heb 9:27).  For those who failed to repent and believe, their years will not end for where they go (Rev 20:12-15). Time won’t matter there because it will be as if it doesn’t exist; one million years is not even a second in eternity. That is why I beg anyone who has not yet turned away and forsaken their sins (repent) and then put their trust in Christ to believe today and receive the free gift of eternal life through Christ (John 3:16-17; Eph 2:8-9). Time marches ever forward toward the climatic judgment of Christ; when time shall be no more in the light of eternity and that eternity depends upon whether you believe in Christ or not (John 3:18, 36).

Something else that might interest you: 10 Time Management Tips

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Zac Wright April 25, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I like the article but saying that repenting of your sins has anything to do with salvation is false. Repentance is turning from unbelief to belief. Repenting of all your sin is a work and it’s something that we as saved Christians strive for every single day, but we cannot turn from all sin in this flesh. and even if we could, that has nothing to do with salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly states that salvation is by grace through faith, a free gift, not of works. Believe on Christ and be saved, whether you repent of all your sins or not.


Jack Wellman April 25, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Hello Mr. Wright. I see your point. We know that God grants repentance so we can’t even repent on our own. I am not saying that our own repentance saves us. but Jesus said whoever doesn’t repent will perish and Jesus’ introduces us to the gospel and He says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), so please know that I never said that repentance is something we do but is a work of God. Repentance is turning from sin and turning toward God, but God empowers us to repent as dead men can’t repent (Eph 2:1) any more than Lazarus could have raised himself from the dead. Repentance is part of salvation but an act of God. Repent and believe and you will be saved.


brother ben July 12, 2018 at 7:53 pm

i want to know when we started using the calendar we have today, i don’t believe 2018 years ago we were counting hours mins and days as we were now, so how long is the calendar been implemented for


Jack Wellman July 12, 2018 at 8:35 pm

Hello Ben. I guess I don’t understand your comment, or question, but thank you for commenting. When Jesus was crucified over 2,000 years ago, Matthew records the hours and so yes, we were counting the hours at least. Minutes? I don’t know. The Gregorian Calendar we use today is the most widely used calendar in the world today. It is the calendar used in the international standard for Representation of dates and times: It is a solar calendar based on a 365-day common year divided into 12 months of irregular lengths. 11 of the months have either 30 or 31 days, while the second month, February, has only 28 days during the common year. Does this help you Ben?


Leonsrd Massay December 28, 2018 at 8:30 pm

Believe it or not Jesus is the source of our current calender i.e. date and time. Let all atheists know that God is the source all creation we see today even themselves. Otherwise there is no other explanation why the years we being counted in diminishing order Before Christ (BC) until 0 year when Jesus came to earth then the counting of years started in ascending order to date. So this is the 2018th birthday of Jesus irrespective of the date which is celebrated every year. If this phenomenon alone cannot convince some people that Jesus is the son of God and the only source COMPLETE happiness then we need to pray for them unceasingly.


John Irving April 7, 2019 at 6:51 am

Israel did not ever exist until 60+ years ago.. Especially WHITE EUROPEAN trash Israel..


Jack Wellman April 7, 2019 at 10:47 am

Israel has existed since God called them out of Eygpt, so you are mistaken. Sad for you that you have such hatred. I pray you repent before Jesus returns to judge you.


Pedro October 29, 2019 at 12:27 am

Good article Jack,
I got fascinated with the timeline of man around 2011 and listened to folks’ opinion in 2011 forward. I think as we get closer to the 6000 year period, the Hebrew cal. of 5780 is off by a few years. These folks at this link seem to have it down –


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