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

How to turn your sermon into clips

Share the truth

Previous post:

Next post: