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    The (Vulgar) Christian Era

    Although this is the era in most common use, it is the most modern of the four Cardinal Eras. It was invented a. d. 532, by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian by birth, and a Roman abbot, who flourished in the reign of Justinian. “The motive which led him to introduce it, and the time of its introduction, are thus explained by himself, in a letter to Petronius, a bishop: ‘Because St. Cyril began the first year of his cycle [of 95 years] from the 153rd of Diocletian, and ended the last in the 247th, we, beginning from the next year, the 248th, of that same tyrant, rather than prince, were unwilling to connect with our cycles the memory of an impious [prince] and persecutor; but chose rather to antedate the times of the years, from the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ: to the end that the commencement of our hope might be better known to us; and that the cause of man’s restoration, namely, our Redecmer’s passion, might appear with clearer evidence.’ASC 27.2

    “The era of Diocletian, which was chiefly used at that time, began with his reign, a. d. 284; and, therefore, the new era of the incarnation, a. d. 284+248=a. d. 532.ASC 28.1

    “How justly Dionysius abhorred Diocletian’s memory, may appear from Eusebius, who relates, that in the first year of his reign, when Diodorus, the bishop, was celebrating the Holy Communion, with many other Christians in a cave, they were all immured in the earth, and buried alive! Hence, his era was otherwise called the Era of the Martyrs.”-Hales’ An. Chro., vol. i., pp. 188-9.ASC 28.2

    From the best evidence Dionysius could obtain, he placed our Lord’s nativity in the year 753 of the Roman Era. The Christian era not going then into use, Bede, who lived a century later, by a mistake of the meaning of Dionysius, in reviving it, made it commence Jan. 1, u. c. 754. The era, however, did not begin to be used much till a. d. 730; and did not come into general use till a. d. 1431, when Pope Eugenius ordered it to be used in the public registers.ASC 28.3

    “Dionysius was led to date the year of the Nativity, u. c. 753, from the Evangelist Luke’s account that John the Baptist began his ministry ‘in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar;’ and that Jesus, at his baptism, ‘was beginning to be about thirty years of age.’ Luke 3:1-23. For Tiberius succeeded Augustus at his death, Aug. 19, u. c. 767; and, therefore, his fifteenth year was u. c. 782; from which, subtracting the assumed year of the nativity, u. c. 753, the remainder was twenty-nine years complete, or thirty years current.ASC 29.1

    “But this date of the nativity is at variance with Matthew’s account that Christ was born ‘two years and under’ before Herod’s death; which followed shortly after his massacre of the infants, at Bethelehem, of that description. Matthew 2:1-27. And Herod’s death was also shortly after the lunar eclipse of March 13, u. c. 750, between that and the passover, which fell that year on the 12th of April; as may be collected from Josephus, Ant. 17, cap. 6-8; Bell. Judges 1, cap. 13, 4-8.ASC 29.2

    “And that Herod’s death is rightly assigned to the year u. c. 750, is confirmed from the duration of his reign: for Josephus states, that, ‘by the interest of Anthony, Herod was appointed king by the Roman Senate, in the 184th Olympiad, when Caius Domitius Calvinus, the second time, and Caius Asinius Pollio, were consuls,’ u. c. 714.-Antiq., 14, 14, 5. And that he was established in the kingdom by the death of his rival, Antigonus, who had been set up by the Parthians; ‘when Marcus Agrippa and Caninius Gallus were consuls,’ u. c. 717.-Antiq., 14, 16, 4. And he adds, that Herod reigned thirty-seven years from his first appointment by the Senate, and thirty-four years from the death of Antigonus.-Antiq., 17, 8, 1; and Bell. Judges 1, 33, 8. Now, if we take these as current years, according to the usage of Josephus, 4“Thus Josephus, in one passage, states that Herod died on the fifth day after the execution of his son Antipater (Ant. 17, 8, 1); in another, ‘five days after.’-Bell. Judges 1, 33, 8.” the death of Herod was u. c. 714+36=u. c 717+33=u. c. 750, as before. Such a critical conformity of astronomical and historical evidence, both furnished by an author the most competent to procure genuine information, establishes both, and decides the question that Herod could not have died later than the year u. c. 750; though Lardner professed himself ‘unable to determine’ between that year, or u. c. 751.-See his ‘Credibility,’ vol. i., Append., p. 428, edit. 1788.ASC 29.3

    “Christ’s birth, therefore, could not have been earlier than u. c. 748, nor later than u. c. 749. And if we assume the latter year, as most conformable to the whole tenor of sacred history, with Chrysostom, Petavius, Prideaux, Playfair, etc., this would give Christ’s age, at his baptism, about thirty-four years; contrary to Luke’s account.ASC 30.1

    “In order, therefore, to reconcile the two Evangelists together, in this most important point, which forms the basis of the whole scheme of Gospel chronology, either the 15th of Tiberius must be antedated, or the age of Christ, at his baptism, enlarged; or perhaps both: for the 15th of Tiberius, reckoned from the death of Augustus, Aug. 19, u. c. 767, is indisputably fixed, by means of the great lunar eclipse, soon after Sept. 27, u. c. 767, which contributed to quell the dangerous mutiny of the Pannonian Legions, on the death of Augustus, and to induce them to swear fidelity to Tiberius, recorded by Tacitus, (Annal. 1, 28; and Dio. Lib. 57, p. 604.)ASC 31.1

    “But there were different computations of the reigns, both of Augustus and Tiberius, in circulation. Some writers computed the reign of Augustus from the year of Julius Cæsar’s death, u. c. 710; as Josephus, who reckons it fifty-seven years, six months, and two days.-Ant. 17, 2, 2; and Bell. Judges 2, 9, 1. Some from the year after, u. c. 711, the date of his first consulate, when he wanted but one day to complete his twentieth year; and therefore reckoning his reign fifty-six years.-Vell. Paterc. 2, 65. Others, forty-six years, four months, and one day.-Clem. Alex. Strom. 1, p. 339. Others, from the year of the battle of Actium, u. c. 723, reckoning it forty-four years. Others, from the Actian Era, u. c. 724, commencing from the death of Anthony and Cleopatra; as Ptolemy, in his Canon, who dates it forty-three years, and is followed by Clem. Alex. Strom., p. 339.ASC 31.2

    “Some also reckoned the reign of Tiberius twenty-six years, six months, nineteen days.-Clem. Alex. Strom., 1, p. 339. Others, twenty-two years, five months, three days.-Jos., Ant. 18, 7, 10. And Ptolemy, in his Canon, twenty-two years; which is adopted by Clemens Alexandrinus. And the cause of this difference we learn from the testimony of the Roman and Grecian historians, Velleius Paterculus, (the contemporary of Tiberius,) Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dia Cassius; who all agree that Tiberius was admitted by Augustus ‘colleague of the empire,’ or partner in the government, and in the ‘administration of [the imperial] provinces,’ [among which was Judea,] and in ‘the command of the armies,’ two or three years before his death; either in u. c. 764, or more probably u. c. 765; and this partnership was confirmed by a decree of the Senate. But the 15th of Tiberius, reckoned from u. c. 765, would be u. c. 780; from which subtracting the year of Christ’s nativity, u. c. 749, the remainder, thirty-one years, more or less, sufficiently agrees with the latitude of the expression, ‘about thirty years of age.’ASC 32.1

    “This solution agrees with the other historical characters of Luke 3:1, 2.”-Hales, vol. i., pp. 189-192.ASC 32.2

    Although it is now settled by all astronomers, and as clearly demonstrated as any mathematical certainty, that the nativity of our Saviour occurred about four years before the date from which the Christian Era is reckoned, the Vulgar Era must continue to date from the incorrectly assumed Epoch of the Nativity; for a departure from this, so as to reckon from the actual birth of Christ, would disarrange all our chronological tables. Chronologers have, therefore, adopted the easier method of continuing the era as it was commenced, and assigning the birth of Christ to its true date, between four and five years antecedent to the point from which the Vulgar Era is reckoned.ASC 33.1

    The commencement of the four Cardinal Eras being fixed, and adjusted to each other, they need to be harmonized to the Julian Period.ASC 33.2

    As the Julian Period does not commence at any known epoch, it must be adjusted to the Vulgar Era by the corresponding years of the cycles of which it is formed. Being constituted for the purpose of harmonizing the cycles of the Sun, Moon, and Indiction, it follows that its first year must commence at a point when each of those cycles would be in their first year. As they correspond thus only once in a period of 7980 years, we must determine from the years of those cycles in any given year, the year of the Julian Period which synchronizes with them.ASC 33.3

    Simpson, in his Algebra, (edit. 4, p. 191,) gives the following ingenious solution of the problem, which he thus states:-ASC 34.1

    Supposing e, f, and g, to denote given integers, [standing for the years of those cycles in any given year;] to find such a value of x as that the quantities (x-e) ÷ 28, (x-f) ÷ 19, and (x-g) ÷ 15, may be all integers.ASC 34.2

    By making (x-e) ÷ 28=y, we have x=28 y+e. Substituting this value for x in the second expression, it becomes (28 y+e-f) ÷19, which, as well as y, is to be a whole number; but (28 y+e-f)÷19, by making b=e-f, will be=y+(9 y+b)÷19; and therefore 19 y, and 18 y+2 b, being both divisible by 19, their difference, y-2 b, must also be divisible by 19. Hence it follows that one value of y, is 2 b; and that2 b+19 z (supposing z a whole number) will be a general value of y; and consequently, x (=28 y,+e)=532 z+56 b +e is a general value of x, answering the two first conditions.ASC 34.3

    Substituting this for the value of x, in the remaining expression, (x-g)÷15, it becomes (532 z+56 b+e-g)÷15=35 z+3 b+ (7 z + β)÷15; (supposing β =11b+e-g=12 e-11 f-g). Here 15 z, and 14 z + 2 β being both divisible by 15, their difference, z - 2 β must also be divisible by 15; and therefore one value of z will be 2 β; and the general value of z=2 β +15 w: from whence the general value of x (=532 z+56 b+ e) is given=7980 w+1064 β +56 b+ e; which, by restoring the values of b and â, becomes 7980 w+12825 e-11760 f-1064 g.ASC 34.4

    To have all the terms affirmative, and their co-efficients the least possible, let w be taken =-e+2 f+ g; whence these results, 4845 e+4200 f+6916 g, for a new value of x. Substitute for the letters e,f, and g, their true values, (which are the years of the cycles of the Sun, Moon, and Indiction, for any given year,) multiply them by their respective coefficients, and divide the sum of their products by 7980; and the remainder will be the least value of x, and the year of the Julian Period which corresponds to the given years of those cycles.ASC 35.1

    The foregoing gives the following Arithmetical Rule:-ASC 35.2

    “To find the year of the Julian Period corresponding to certain given years of the Cycles of the Sun, Moon, and Indiction.ASC 35.3

    Multiply the given year of the cycle of the Sun by 4845; of the Moon, by 4200; and of Indiction, by 6916; and divide the sum of the products by 7980; the remainder will be the year of the Julian Period required.ASC 35.4

    In the year 1 of the Vulgar Era, the current cycle of the Sun was 10; of the Moon, 2; and of Indiction, 4. Then,ASC 35.5

    10 × 4845 = 48450
    2 × 4200 - - 8400
    and 4 × 6916 = 27664
    which amounts to 84514

    Divide this by 7980, and it is contained 10 times, with a remainder of 4714, for the year of the Julian Period, corresponding with a. d. 1.ASC 36.5

    To prove this, divide 4714 by 28, 19, and 15, successively, and the quotients are 168, 248, and 314-the number of revolutions of each cycle from the beginning of the Julian Period to that time, with remainders 10, 2, and 4, the current years of those cycles. The years of those cycles for any given year may also be found by dividing the year of the Julian Period by 28, 19, 15-the respective remainders being the corresponding years of those cycles.ASC 36.1

    With the foregoing demonstration, the Julian Period, and Vulgar Era thus harmonize:ASC 36.2

    a. j. p. 4712. a. j. p. 4713. a. j. p. 4714. a. j. p. 4715.
    b. c. 2. b. c. 1 a. d. 1. a. d. 2.
    2 years 1 year 0 1 year 2 years
    b. c. b. c. a. d. from a. d. from a. d.

    Thus the ordinal spans an arch of an entire year, while the numeral marks only the termination of each year from a. d., or the commencement of each year, b. c.ASC 36.3

    As 4713 years of the Julian Period preceded a. d. 1, the current year of the Julian Period may be found by adding that number to the current year of the Vulgar Era.ASC 36.4

    This adjusts the Julian Period to the Vulgar Era, and enables us to assign any event, dated in any year of either of the eras, to its corresponding year in this period.ASC 36.5

    These periods and eras adjusted, to locate events with well established dates in their relative position to each other,ASC 37.1

    We must first choose the best sources of information.ASC 37.2

    The earliest records are unquestionably the Mosaic. Dr. Hales calls them “the only sure and certain pole-star, to guide our wandering steps through the mazes, the deserts, and the quicksands of ancient and primeval Chronology, in which so many adventurers have been lost or swallowed up, by following the ignis fatuus of their own imaginations, or the treacherous glare of hypotheses.” Says Ellis:-“If we take the Bible along with us, it is a teacher that will direct us through the obscurity and maze of things, solve every difficulty, and lead up truth to the fountain-head.” And Biefield remarks: “The purest and most fruitful source of ancient history is doubtless to be found in the Holy Bible.” Other sources of information are found in the works of ancient classic writers and historians; and in ancient chronological tables. Among these last are Ptolemy’s Canon and the Parian Chronicle. The former has been already noticed as being of “the highest authority among historians.”-Hales. The latter was found on one of the Arundel marbles-some celebrated relies of antiquity, purchased in Greece for the Earl of Arundel, in 1624-consisting of Greek inscriptions engraved on marble. The Parian Chronicle is pronounced by Dr. Hales to be “high authority.” He says: “We are now warranted, upon the high authority of the Parian Chronicle, to consider the thirty reigns of the Athenian kings and archons, from Cecrops to Creon, the first annual archon, as one of the most authentic and correct documents to be found in the whole range of profane Chronology; while the Chronicle also verifies the broken list of annual archons, as far as it reaches downwards, by confirming, in near twenty instances, the dates assigned by other historians, both earlier and later.”-Hales’ An. Chro., vol. i., p. 241.ASC 37.3

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