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42723.  Mon Jan 02, 2006 11:21 pm Reply with quote

It was Julius Caesar who decreed in 45 BC that the first day of the year would be January 1 instead of the vernal equinox. I've always thought that January was named after Janus, the two-faced god, because he looked back at the old year and forward to the new one. Does anybody know what the Romans called January before it became the first month of the year?

There must be other decrees worth investigating too...

42727.  Mon Jan 02, 2006 11:47 pm Reply with quote

The pre-Julian calendar had a period over the winter which did not fall into either year, much like the Celtic calendars and, according to Wiki, the ancient Greek lunar calendar. In this early calendar January and February just didn't exist, they were added in about 713 BC by Numa Pompilius according to legend.

On a gut level I can fully understand the mentality of the dark of winter not really being part of the year. Semaine (equates to halloween) would be the start of the non-year in the Celtic system - the time when this world and the otherworld meet and spirits may walk the earth. Changing to a 'year round' calendar was an indication of a more rational, less mystic, approach I guess and will have been quite a departure.

It may be co-incidence but the Chinese and Islamic New Years are both at the end of January.

42822.  Tue Jan 03, 2006 10:20 am Reply with quote

King James Bible:

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)"

Klaxons sound, lights flash if you think this is why Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem.

There was a tax in 8 BC - it's recorded on the walls of the Monumentum Ancryanum at the Temple Augusteum in Ankara - but this tax cannot be the registration described by Luke. It was levied specifically on Roman citizens who lived within the empire and who then normally paid at their place of residence or birth. Joseph and Mary were not citizens and were exempt, and in any case would not have had to travel to the place where their family originated. Nor in a general taxation would Mary have had to accompany her husband. Moreover, Herod's kingdom was outside the empire proper until 6 AD, and any tax levied before then would have been ordered and collected by Herod under his own rules.

So why might Mary and Joseph have had to travel to Bethlehem? The year 2 BC was a year of celebrations commemorating the 750th anniversary of the founding of Rome and Augustus' 25th year of rule.

The 5th century historian Orosius told how that year Augustus "ordered that a census be taken of each province everywhere and that all men be enrolled ..." Josephus relates that "therefore the whole Jewish nation took an oath to be faithful to Caesar and the interests of the king (Herod) ... " An inscription from Paphlagonia in Asia Minor from 3 B.C. records an oath "taken by the inhabitants of Paphlagonia and the Roman businessmen dwelling among them ... The same oath was sworn also by all the people in the land at the altars of Augustus ..."

So this oath of allegiance required everybody, both citizen and noncitizen, in the empire and its provinces, to swear fealty. This oath was either ordered by Augustus at the time of his jubilee and completed that year (2 B.C.), or was conducted during the year prior to the jubliee (3 B.C.) and the results presented to him as part of the ceremonies.

If Luke's registration was Augustus' loyalty oath this explains why both Joseph and Mary went specifically to Bethlehem. Joseph, being of the house and lineage of David, went to the city of David (Bethlehem), while everyone else went into his own city. As a descendent of David he had to return to Bethlehem along with other claimants to the throne of Israel; under Jewish law the right to kingship could pass to Mary's descendants and so she had to accompany her husband.

The New England Bible actually corrects the King James version to some extent:

"In those days a decree was issued by Emperor Augustus for a general registration throughout the Roman world. This was the first registration of its kind; and it took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria."

However, the distinction between the two escapes most people because the King James version is so much better known.



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