But I Thought the New Year Began in January or, What Is the Christian Calendar?

But I Thought the New Year Began in January or, What Is the Christian Calendar?

Recently one of our Sunday morning Bible Study groups asked the question, What is the Christian Calendar? They quickly followed up with, Why would we follow the Christian Calendar? Great questions! This is the first in a series on the subject.

When Did Human Beings Begin Using Calendars?

Someone had to be the first, right? According to the Wikipedia article, which is not always, absolutely correct about everything, like your Pastor, suggests “an arrangement of twelve pits and an arc found in Warren Field. Aberdeenshire, Scotland” is considered by some to the the oldest known calendar. The formation is dated to 10,000 years ago. I won’t retrace the entire article. You may click the link and consider the information there.

The use of calendars tends to turn on the seasons and/or the location of the Sun, Solar Calendar, or the Moon, Lunar Calendar. Every culture, over time, developed its own calendar most often based on the phases of the moon. Who doesn’t love a Full Moon!?

Human observation of seasonal changes, the location of the sun, the phases of the moon and the repeated cycles of time eventually led to the Gregorian Calendar. There are a host of calendars put forth by religious or social groups that mark important days related to the specific group. The Wiki article illustrates these other calendars – Hebrew, Islamic, Hindu and Zoroastrian, among others.

One way to illustrate how calendars develop according to their social use is to look at the United States. Taking the Gregorian Calendar we have added  dates specific to our Country like Thanksgiving and Independence Day. Add holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, President’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and you see how calendars not only mark the change of seasons and the phases of the moon but also the social events that tie a Nation to its history.

I Heard Jesus Wasn’t Born December 25?

Does that upset your calendar? For many it is like discovering there is no Santa Claus. But, before falling apart, understand that before the Gregorian Calendar was widely adopted, the Hebrew people had developed their own calendar. Why they even had different names than January, February, March, etc.. For example, March-April is Aviv in the Hebrew Bible. It is Nisan in the Assyrian-Babylonian calendar. And you thought Nissan was the make of a car, not the name of the month of happiness.

Some scholars take the Biblical evidence and suggest Jesus’ birth may have been in September. Others provide a wider possibility tying it to when shepherds would have been watching over their sheep, from Spring to our October. That rules out December 25. Maybe at some point we will explore how December 25 came to be the date Jesus’ birth is celebrated. For now we move on.

At this point we now find a difference between the calendar of the Bible and the calendar we follow in 2017. This is not the point at which we begin debating whose calendar is right and whose is wrong. Instead we focus on the purpose of the chosen calendar. Remember, originally the calendar was concerned with solar and lunar observations. As cultures developed, each added its own key dates that became part of their chosen calendar.

And, this is a good place to stop for this installment.

Next time we will look at what would prompt someone to develop a Christian, or Liturgical, Calendar.


Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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