The resurrection of Jesus Christ will be celebrated on April 21, 2019, a holiday commonly called Easter.
On that same day, April 21, in the year 753 BC, a man named Romulus founded the city of Rome.
Scholars believe that on the day Romulus founded Rome, he also created a system of timekeeping called the Roman Calendar.
The Greeks in Romulus’ day already had a calendar based on the four years between the Olympic Games, a method instituted in 776 BC, the year of the First Olympiad.
The Babylonian people, contemporaries of Romulus, also had their own system of calendering using a 12-month lunar calendar that they’d devised based on their observations of the moon.
Methods for keeping track of time in ancient history varied among the nations.
But of all the calendars in the ancient world, the calendar of Israel beat every other nation’s calendar for accuracy, simplicity, reliability, and regularity.
Israel followed a lunar calendar of 12 thirty day lunar months, with an added 13th month (Second Adar) added periodically during a nineteen-year cycle. God told Moses how to establish this lunar calendar (Exodus 12:1-3).
The God of Israel established this calendar for the purpose of instituting Seven Annual Festivals on specific dates of the lunar year.
This Hebrew lunar calendar became Divine Law.
And Jesus came to FULFILL the Law (Matthew 5:17-20).
Jesus was born during the Festival of Tabernacles when God came to “tabernacle with men” (John 1:14).
Jesus died on the Festival of Passover, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus was in the tomb during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, “sweeping away our sins” (Isaiah 43:25) just as all Jewish women swept away the leaven during that week. Jesus rose from the grave on the “the day after the Sabbath,” the day called the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:15).
Jesus exited the tomb the very morning Jewish men were waving a fistful of firstfruits (grain) in the Temple courtyard; He (Jesus) had become “the firstfruits of resurrection,” guaranteeing the full harvest of resurrection to come (I Cor. 15:23). Jesus sent His Spirit, the Comforter, to all His followers who had gathered in the Upper Room for the Festival of Pentecost.
Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world proclaiming forgiveness of sins through the (Feast) of Atonement that is found in the sacrificial life and of Jesus Christ (no atonement is in the blood of any bull or goat), and to take the message of sinners being “at-one” with God through the “at-one-moment” of the cross where Jesus died for “every nation, every tribe, every kindred, and every family” (Revelation 7:9).
And Jesus returned in judgment to destroy the Temple of Jerusalem and all vestiges of the Old Covenant during the Festival of Trumpets in AD 70, officially inaugurating a New Covenant and an eternal Kingdom.
Indeed, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.
The seasons, the festivals, the harvests, and the years for the nation of Israel flowed with continuity and regularity throughout their history (from. 1500 BC to AD 70).
The priests of Israel would “announce the new moon” by eyeballing the sky, ordering the blowing of trumpets, signaling a “new moon feast” (Colossians 2:16), for a new month in Israel had begun. The word calendar comes from the Latin word calare (“to announce”) and lunar (“the moon”).
Again, the nation of Israel had by far the most accurate and advanced calendar.
But the way we Americans keep a calendar today is directly tied to Romulus, not Jerusalem. We’ve had to work for 2000 years to correct the Roman Calendar while mostly ignoring the beautiful, simple, and accurate Hebrew system timekeeping.
In the year Romulus founded Rome (753 BC), King Uzziah reigned in Jerusalem over the southern Kingdom of Judah (Second Chronicles 26), and King Jeroboam II (see Second Kings 13:13) reigned in the city of Samaria (modern-day Nablus, West Bank, Israel) over the northern Kingdom of Israel.
Romulus developed his calendar and founded Rome nearly 200 years after the Kingdom of Israel divided (931 BC) and over five hundred years after Israel left Egypt under the direction of Moses during the Exodus.
The oldest nation, Israel, had an accurate calendar.
Rome did not.
It’s not always best to teach a dog new tricks.
Romulus and His Superstitious Calendar
When Romulus founded Rome, he instituted a calendar based on observations of the moon and a person’s ability to keep track of months using fingers on both hands.
He called his calendar ab urbe condita (A.U.C.) – Latin for “from the founding of the city.”
But unlike the Hebrew calendar, King Romulus devised an annual calendar of only 10 lunar months of thirty days and an additional four days interspersed throughout the year (304 annual days). Some think Romulus wanted to pattern the year after the gestation of a human baby, but the Romulus’ Calendar was two months short of an actual solar year, leading the Roman poet Ovid to proclaim:
“Romulus was better versed in swords than stars.”
Romulus was infatuated with the number X (ten). He repeatedly used that number in the establishment of Rome. He divided the Roman Senate, military, and polis (cities) into units of ten. Many believe Romulus divided things into ten because Roman numerals 1 through 10 are easily replicated on both hands using fingers and palms.
The Roman numeral V is represented by one palm held up with fingers outstretched, and the Roman numeral X represents both palms held up with fingers outstretched.
Romulus then curiously named the remaining six months of the Roman year after the Latin words for the numbers the months represented:
Quintilus (Latin for “five”)
Sextilis (Latin for “six”)
September (Latin for “seven”)
October (Latin for “eight”)
November (Latin for “nine”)
December (Latin for “ten”)
But, unlike the Hebrews, the pagan Roman priests also announced three different important days of each month. First, the kalends day or the FIRST day of the month was announced when the priests observed a New Moon in the sky (Latin: kalend – “call attention to the moon”).
Second, there was ides day. This was the middle portion of the month (March 15th – for example, the Ides of March). Ides represented the day that the month was half over (Latin: ide – “divide in half”).
Finally, there was nones day. This was typically the seventh day of the month, the day when most ancient pagans consulted the great Oracles (see the Oracle of Delphi).
All days of the Roman month were labeled in terms of their association with kalends (the 1st), nones (the 7th day), or ides (the 15th day) of the month.
But because the actual solar year is 365 days and not 300 days (Romulus), by the time Romulus died, all the seasons were out of whack!
So the next King of Rome (King Numa) added two additional months (Januarius and Februarius).
But even 12 months of 30 days fell short of a true solar year, so a future Roman King asked the priests of Zeus stationed Rome to insert an extra month periodically and inform the people of their decision.
The priests figured out the calendar could be a very powerful political tool that governed the people.
The priests kept the calendar a secret from the people, giving the priests a tremendous advantage of the “plebes” common people of Rome. For example, if the people they favored in politics served as consul, they added a month to extend the time (even though an additional month was not required). If they didn’t like someone in an office, they would shorten the months through their proclamations to make sure their opponent served less time.
That year, 46 BC, is called “The Longest Year.” It lasted 445 days, not 365. For some, that long year was a boon; for others, it was a bust. For all, it was a year of confusion (
Julian was so angry with the manipulation of Rome’s calendar by the priests of the gods in Rome, that he endured the withering criticism of changing the calendar by such drastic measures.
Julius Caesar moved the first of the year to January 1, 46 BC from March 1.
That meant the 12 months of the Julian calendar (December) carried the Latin name for 10 (because it was formerly the 10th month). Likewise, November (Latin for 9), October (Latin for the number 8) and September (Latin for the number 7) are all in positions on the calendar that do not reflect their name. November is actually the 11th month of the year, October is the 10th month, and September is the 9th month). It was just two difficult to change the names of the months!
Except, after Julius Caesar’s death, who famously died at the hands of conspirators on the Ides of Month (March 15, the middle of the month, 44 BC) the Roman Senate voted to change the name of the month Quintilus to JULY in honor of Julius.
After Julius adopted son Gaius Octavia Caesar became Rome’s first emperor on January 16, 27 BC, who decreed that everyone in the Roman Empire should be taxed, an event that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to register for the Roman tax when Jesus was born (Luke 2:1).
After Caesar “Augustus” died in AD 14, the Roman Senate sought to honor him by renaming the month Sexitilus, the month which came now after the renamed month JULY, in honor of Caesar Augusts – thus the month “August.”
However, the Julian Calendar had alternating months of 30 and 31 days. That meant Augustus’ month was “shorter” than Julian’s month, something supporters of Augustus could not bear. So the Roman Senate voted to take a day from February and add it to August. Both Julian’s month and Augustus’ month now have 31 days.
Why all the manipulation of time?
I find it ironic that the name of the High Priest to Zeus who kept the people in the dark about time in ancient Rome was called Pontifex Maximus. The college of priests who ministered in the Temple of Zeus assisted the Supreme Pontiff by “eyeballing the moon” and manipulating time to their political or religious advantage.
When Constantine declared the Roman Empire “Christian” in 314 AD, the Pontifex Maximus and the College of Priests to Zeus didn’t just go away.
The Pontifex Maximus became the Pope, and the College of Priests became the College of Cardinals, and many of the pagan customs of ancient Rome were Christianized.
Constantine gathered the Pontifex Maximus, the College of Priests, and local “bishops” in a city called Nicea in the year AD 325 to debate certain Christian “doctrines.”
One of the things debated by the new Roman Catholic Church at Nicea was whether or not to “fix” the “date” for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus rose from the grave on the “morrow after the Sabbath (Saturday) during the weeklong lunar festival called Passover (or also known as the week of Unleavened Bread).
That means every year, if Christians wished to be biblically precise, the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be celebrated the SAME WEEK that Jews celebrate Passover. On the Sunday of Passover, Christians would explain how Jesus fulfilled the Hebrew Law, rising from the dead on the day of the Feast of Firstfruits (always the first day of the week after the regular Sabbath during Passover). Jesus fulfilled the Law, guaranteeing the resurrection of His people (the “full harvest”) to life eternal (see I Corinthians 15)
But guess what?
The Romans in AD 325 still held a grudge against the Jews.
So the Romans refused to let the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ “float” throughout the lunar year in accord with the Hebrew calendar and determined to “set a fixed date” on the resurrection in association with the solar equinox.
Thus, we have Easter.
By the way, Easter is a blend of the celebration of the Roman god Ishtar and the Christian God Jesus.
The Romans loved to mix their calendar, their politics, and their religion with their ancient pagan customs and rituals.
What I find ironic is that it just so happens this solar year (2019) that the lunar observance of the Hebrew Passover falls on Friday (April 19). That means the official “Roman” declaration of Easter just so happens to match the biblical account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Every now and then a blind squirrel can find a nut.
On April 21, 2019, just remember to keep it simple.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:3-8).
He is risen indeed!