Birthday/baptism and chronology

From: Timothy Bratton (
Date: Sat Jan 06 1996 - 19:16:28 EST

On Friday, 22 Dec. 1995, Roger Andersson ST/BE <etxroan@> wrote:

>A bit late, isn't it? (1.966 years, and some months)
>And can it really be said that Christ was born? He didn't
>become christ (anointed) until he had been baptized, and at
>the time he was a full-grown man. I know this about being
>born again, when dedicating oneself to serve God, but what we
>see at this time of year is that they try to celebrate the
>birth of Jesus (Why?) and show him as a small child, and he
>was certainly not Christ when he was born as a human.
>PS. Hence, our use of BC is misleading, considering what it
>really means (Before Christ). In Swedish we have the same
>thing (f. Kr. (before Christ), and e (after Christ),
>referring at the *birth* of Christ (=Jesus)). But that should
>most likely be counted from the fall of year 29 CE (!; does
>CE mean Common Era or Christian Era? I've heard both.)

     Roger, this is more properly a theological question that
probably does not belong on B-Greek. Obviously Anabaptists,
Baptists, and members of similar denominations regard adult
baptism as the pivotal event in one's religious experience, while
Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc., have no problems
whatsoever with infant baptism. Furthermore, Jesus's birth was a
_necessary_ condition for His later ministry; obviously, had He
not been born, the later stages of His life would have been
impossible. An Aristotelian might say that the Baptism merely
_actualized_ a _potential_ that was already there. The birth
narratives in Matthew and Luke _point_ to Jesus being the
Messiah, as does the Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22-38)
and the Confounding of the Elders (Luke 2:41-48). To make
another analogy, do you Swedes celebrate King Carl XVI Gustav's
birthday, the day he ascended the throne, or both?
     Astronomers and historians prefer using B.C.E. ("before the
common era"). Thus a non-Christian can use B.C. dating without
formally recognizing Christ's claims by pretending that the
practice is merely a cultural artifact. It smacks of "political
correctness" to me, although one can rationalize that it _really_
stands for "before the Christian era." Another possible reason
for the new terminology is that Dionysius Exiguus, writing about
A.D. 530, calculated that Jesus was born in _ab urbe condita_
("from the foundation of the city," i.e. Rome) 754, which became
A.D. 1. Actually, Jesus probably was born between 7 and 2 B.C.,
but Dionysius' mistake is now so fixed in historical chronology
that we're stuck with it. B.C.E. thus becomes little more than
an arbitrary, but useful, yardstick based on Dionysius' labors.

Dr. Timothy L. Bratton
Department of History/Pol. Science work: 1-701-252-3467, ext. 2022
6006 Jamestown College home: 1-701-252-8895
Jamestown, ND 58405 home phone/fax: 1-701-252-7507

        "All ignorance is dangerous, and most errors must be dearly
paid. And good luck must he have that carries unchastised an error in
his head unto his death." -- Arthur Schopenhauer.

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