Chronology, Christian

Chronology, Christian.

The first Christians, in their civil relations, used the civil chronology of the countries they lived in. The ecclesiastical chronology of the early Church was limited to the use of the Jewish week, which began with a work-day and closed with the Sabbath, and in which the several days were not named, but counted. Gradually the day of rest was changed from the last day of the week to the first, and the other days of the week came to have a special ecclesiastical name. Both these changes proceeded from the commemoration of the day of the suffering and the resurrection of Jesus Christ-Sunday being the day of the resurrection, Friday the day of the crucifixion, and Wednesday the day of the trial. The two latter, as days of mourning and fasting, are mentioned by Tertullian (de jejun. c. 2) and by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 7:12, § 75); but they are probably of an earlier origin, for the name static (στάσις), by which they were generally designated at the time of Tertullian, occurs in the Pastor Hermae (lib. 3, simil. 5). Sunday, as a day of rejoicing, is first mentioned in the Epistle of Barnabas (chap. 15), and its celebration seems to reach back to the apostolic age. These three prominent days were called in the Latin Church, feria quarta, feria sexta orparasceve, and dies dominicus or dominica, and by the Greeks τετράς, παρασκευή, ἡμέρα κυριακή (also abbreviated κυριακή or κυριά), or ἀναστάσεως ἡμέρα. The oldest witnesses for the names of the station-days are again Tertullian and Clement. The former is also the first to mention the name of dominica, while κυριακή is first found in the epistles of Ignatius (ad Magnes.). The other week-days were designated by the Latins with the same name as the station-days (feria), and counted from feria secunda to feria sexta or parasceve, while the Greeks counted from ἡμέρα δευτέρα το ἕκτη or παρασκευή. The last day retained its Jewish name sabbatum, and σάββατον or σάββατα. The planetary appellation of days which emanated from the pagan astronomers in Alexandria (see Ideler, Handbuch der mathem. und techn. Chronologie, Berlin, 1825) is first mentioned by Tertullian, who mentions the dies solis (Sunday) and dies Saturni (Saturday); by Justin Martyr, who mentions τοῦ ἡλίου ἡμέρα (Sunday) and κρονική (Saturday); and by Clement of Alexandria, who mentions ῾Ερμοῦ (Wednesday), and Αφροδίτης (Friday) ἡμέρα. Still another way of designating the week-days is found in the Easter Canon of Hippolytus, which marks the days of the week (beginning with Sunday) by the first letters of the alphabet, A to G.

Among the weeks of the year, the one including the anniversaries of the death and the resurrection of Christ came early to be celebrated with special solemnity. The time on which the former of these anniversaries should be commemorated even became the occasion of one of the greatest ecclesiastical controversies of the ancient Church, one party, which claimed to follow the example of the apostles John, Philip, and Paul, insisting that it should be celebrated on the anniversary day of the month (the full moon's day of the Jewish month of Nisan), and the other party, which appealed to the other apostles as their authorities, urging the celebration on the anniversary day of the week (Friday). The Church of Rome followed the latter, and the churches of Asia Minor the former practice. Both customs required either a compliance with the Jewish Calendar or a special calculation of the Christian Easter. Of the latter class, the most ancient known to us is one found on the marble statue of Hippolytus, and computed to the first year I of the emperor Alexander Severus (A.D. 222). It fixes the 18th of March as the time of the equinox, is arranged according to the sixteen years' cycle, and determines the Easter Sundays according to the Latin rule, that, whenever the Easter Sundays fall upon Saturdays, Easter is to be celebrated, not upon the next, but upon the second next Sunday. In the Eastern churches special calculations were made by Dionysius of Alexandria, Anatolius of Laodicea, and others. Gradually the Alexandrine Easter Canon, the authorship of which is ascribed by Jerome and Bede to Eusebius, dislodged all others, and obtained general usage in the Church. It appointed for the celebration of Easter the Sunday following the day of the full moon which falls on or comes next after the equinox. The bishops, by paschal letters, informed the churches of the proper time of Easter in every year. A third, which is mentioned by Tertullian, tried to fix the 14th day of the month of Nisan, in the death-year of Christ (the 25th of March), as the immovable anniversary of the death, and the 16th day of Nisan as the anniversary of the resurrection of Christ. SEE EASTER.

Constantine the Great, in 321, ordered a civil observance of Sunday by prohibiting all secular business, and transferred the pagan Nundinoe of the old Romans to Sunday. A Roman Calendar, compiled in the middle of the fourth century, divides the whole year, from the 1st of January, according to Nundinoe and weeks, by placing in parallel columns the eight Nundinal letters A-H, and the seven week letters A-G. The entire suppression of the Nundinae is thought to have been effected by the Sunday laws of Theodosius the Great.

But while the week supplanted the Nundinoe, the Christian appellation of the week-days gave way gradually, at least in the Western countries, to the pagan planetary names. The change was, however, not effected without considerable resistance. Philastrius (about 387) counts the use of the planetary names for week-days among the heresies. Ambrose and Gregory of Tours (died 594) censure the use of the name Sunday (dies solis). A bishop of Iceland, in 1107, suppressed the planetary names and substituted for them numbers. The Spaniard Campanella made an attempt to introduce, in the place of pagan names of the week-days, the names of the seven sacraments, and in place of the usual names of months those of the twelve apostles. In the Eastern churches the planetary names never came into general use. The Slavi, Lithuanians, and Finns count the days of the week, calling Monday the first day (after the Sabbath).

The months of the Christians (except among the Copts and Abyssinians, who still use the old Alexandrine months) are still those of the Julian Calendar. The names of the Roman months have also in most Christian countries come into general use. In the Byzantine empire, the Syro- Macedonian names of the months maintained themselves by the side of the Roman until late in the Middle Ages, and among the Germanic and Slavic nations efforts were made to introduce native names, but the Roman names always prevailed. The Armenian, Syrian, Coptic, and Abyssinian Christians still use the national names of months exclusively. The "Society of Friends" (Quakers) reject both the planetary names of days and the Roman names of months, and simply count both (as "first day," instead of Sunday, and "first month," instead of January).

With the names of the Roman months also the Roman way of dating was extensively used. In the Latin Church it remained in use until the establishment of the modern languages (in Germany until the 14th century). Isolated instances of the present way of counting the days are found in a fragment of a Gothic Calendar in the 4th century; in an AngloSaxon Calendar of the 10th century; in the works of Pope Gregory the Great (594-604), and elsewhere. The. designation of the days of the months by the names of saints came into use early in the Middle Ages. In the Byzantine Church the Roman way of dating seems to have been supplanted in the 7th century by the present way of counting the days. In Asia, the Roman way of dating was used only by way of comparison with the national method.

The beginning of the year in the Christian countries has remained, as it was fixed in the Julian Calendar, on the 1st of January. Dionysius Exiguus, in order to give the beginning of the year a Christian character, called it the "day of circumcision" (dies circumcisionis). Several attempts were made to substitute for the lst of January another beginning of the year, relating to some prominent event in the history of Christianity. Thus several popes began to use for that purpose the first day of March, probably on the ground that March was the usual month of the Passover, and Venice used in its public documents this day until the downfall of the republic. Another Roman new-year's day was the 25th of March (the festival of the Annunciation), and this was used in Pisa and Florence until 1749. But the most common was Christmas (a Nativitate Domri), which was even called mos, or stilus curies Romance. It was not until Pope Innocent XII (1691) that this habit was altogether abandoned. In Germany, the calendarium of Charlemagne has the 1st of January; the 25th of March was in frequent use until the 11th century, when it gave way to Christmas, which maintained itself until the peace of Westphalia. France, under the Merovingians, used the 1st of March; under the Carlovingians, Christmas; under the Capetingians, until the 16th century, Easter; the latter was also for a long time in use in Holland and in Cologne. Spain and Portugal long used the 25th of March, and from the 14th to the 16th century, Christmas. The Anglo-Saxons, according to Bede, began the year on Christmas; but gradually three different years were distinguished — the historical, legal or civil, and ecclesiastical. The beginning of the first has long been on the 1st of January; that of the second was the 25th of December until the 13th century, after that the 25th of March until 1752, waen it was fixed at the 1st of January. In the Byzantine empire the 1st of January was in the 5th century supplanted by the 1st of September (the epoch of the Indictions), which the Russians abandoned for the 1st of January in 1700, and the kingdom of Greece in 1821. The Chaldaeans have adopted the 1st of September, while the Nestorians and Jacobites stick to the 1st of Tishri. The Copts and Abyssinians still adhere to the 1st of Thoth.

Of a special church year there are no traces until the time of Constantine the Great. Its beginning seems at first to have been made with the sun- month corresponding to the Jewish Nisan. Thus the Apostolic Constitutions designate December as the ninth, January as the tenth, and "Xanthicus" (which is usually identified with Nisan) as the first month. Epiphanius follows the same calculation; and Victorius, Dionysius, and Beda speak of the Easter month as the first. The epoch of the first Sunday of Advent originated with the Nestorians, and is first found in the Responsoriale of Gregory the Great, but seems to have been general in the Latin churches as early as the 7th century. The Greek Church has retained the 1st of September as the beginning of the church year. See Herzog,

Real-Encyclopadie s.v. Zeitrechnung (which we have chiefly followed in the above article). SEE AERA; SEE CHURCH-YEAR; SEE CYCLE.

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