December 22, 1999
Have you heard all the talk about the new Millennium? Do you know what a millennium is? It's more than just a big New Year's Eve party. A millennium is a period of 1,000 years - just like a decade is 10 years and a century is 100 years.
Traditionally, time has been measured in terms of the number of years from the beginning of a some major event, such as a ruler's reign. For instance, if we did this today, Americans might say that this year is Clinton 7 - the seventh year of Bill Clinton's presidency. Or maybe we would call our year Moon 30 - because it has been 30 years since man first landed on the moon. That's why we call our current year "1999" because we believe it's been 1,999 years since Christ's birth. But that isn't necessarily accurate...
And now here's another confusing twist! The man who created the calendar we use today, Denis the Little, called the year of Jesus' birth 1AD. But, more recent research has determined that Jesus was actually born a few years earlier than Dennis thought - that is, somewhere between 6 BC and 4 BC. Yes, Christ was born "before Christ"! That means that if you are interested in celebrating 2000 years since Jesus's birth you missed the party - it happened somewhere between 1995 and 1997!
There are lots of other calendar systems in the world. According to one source we read, more than half the people in the world use a different calendar than we do. Further, many don't even use the same months as we do.
In the Muslim world we are in the year 1420 AH (Anno Hegirae). It has been 1,420 years since the Prophet Mohammed moved from Mecca to Medina, where the Muslim religion he preached began to take hold. Today in Muslim countries many people use the Islamic dating system in private life, but use the Gregorian (western) calendar for civic and business affairs. In the Muslim tradition, months are lunar - that is, they are tied to cycles of the moon. Lunar months do not correspond to the sun-based year. For example, the Muslim lunar month of Ramadan is in December this year, but by 2002 CE it will be in November, and by 2010 it will be in August.
Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions also have their own dating systems. For instance, the Buddhist Era (B.E.) measures years since Buddha's death in 543 BCE. 1999 CE is 2542 B.E. Buddhist months are lunar, with a leap month similar to the Jewish calendar.
With so many calendars in the world, why is there so much hype about 2000? Over the past few centuries, for better or for worse, Christians have had tremendous influence on the Western World. Christians and non-Christians alike have adopted the Gregorian calendar. It is easier to communicate and do business if everyone uses the same year. Perhaps as a result, our calendar seems to have become detached from its association with religion.
So, with religion out of the picture, perhaps we can better understand the interest in 2000 rather than 2001 as the mark of the "millennium." In our culture people are attracted to numbers like 10, 25, 50, 100, and 1000. We like to mark our time in these numbers, and we like to look back and reflect on where we have been in the past 10, 100 or 1000 years.
- The Team
Abeja - Nazareth: Trouble Brewing in Jesus' Hometown
Kevin - Theodore Herzl: A Jewish Visionary
Christine - A Little Town Called Bethlehem
Nancy - St. Helena Hits the Spot
Kavitha - The Facts of Fasts
Kavitha - Tidings of Comfort and Joy…and Exploitation: The Buck Stops With You
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