As for myself, 

I will celebrate

the secular 

calendar and 

the year 2001

as the third 

millennium.

 

 

 

 

The Millennium is Coming - When?
It's a matter of deciding when to celebrate
 By Ralph S. Blois 
There is no question about it - the year 2000 will be celebrated worldwide (except in non-Christian countries) as the new millennium. Should skeptics also celebrate it? After all, the millennium is primarily a Christian celebration and governed by the Christian calendar. We skeptics do not have a calendar of our own. Since we are forced to use the existing Gregorian calendar, we do have a stake in the millennium. But do we need to calculate it from Christ's birth? I was surprised to discover that the Skeptical Inquirer seems to think so - at least from the article it carried in the Jan/Feb 1997 issue on the millennium. But was that article appropriate? And, is the year 2000 really the third millennium? I don't think so.

     To celebrate the year 2000 as the third millennium, the Millennium Society, based in Washington, DC, will conduct a countdown in each of the world's time zones. In Times Square and New York City, 24 video screens will be used to display these 24 time zones. Other celebrations will be held across the USA, including one in the Seattle space needle. Other countries are also involved. In England funds from the national lottery are being used to sponsor millennium projects. A 28-day cruise is being booked in Japan that will cross the international dateline on December 31, 1999. A new millennium concert is planned in Norway at the most northerly point in Europe. France and other countries also will celebrate. And so it goes around the world.

     What is this fuss all about? The claim is that they are celebrating "the millennium" - 2000 years after the birth of Jesus Christ. But are they? The evidence shows they are not.

     We could get into long involved arguments about when Christ was born - or indeed if he was ever born at all. There are those who have examined the historical "proofs" and concluded that Jesus is a myth in entirety and likely an imaginary demigod based on the lives of previous saviors from other religions. Others claim he was an historical figure. Some think he was simply a poor itinerant preacher, while others claim he was a god. Some calculate his birth date as being between 4 and 6 BC, this based on his reported age at the Crucifixion and historical evidence surrounding the Roman officials at the time of his supposed birth - a complicated calculation of dates based on the Julian calendar. A monk in the 6th century calculated Christ's birth as 1 BC. It is commonly assumed that Christ was born 1 AD. So, was it 1 AD, 1 BC, or either 4, 5, or 6 BC? It makes no difference. The millennium will still be celebrated in the year 2000. But is that the new millennium?

     Religious issues to one side, a millennium is 1,000 years - that is what the word means. Now, one could go on and on ad nauseam to show that 1000 is 1000 and not 999. A millennium is still 1000 years. But 1000 years from when? Those who are going to celebrate the year 2000 are using the calculations of Dionysius Exiguus, the monk who decided Christ was born in 1 BC. But does this make sense? Should the world celebrate an anniversary of a year designated as Before Christ? Or should they celebrate a year designated as Anno Domini the Year of the Lord?

     You see, Christ was not born at the start of the calendar year, and that creates the problem. When was he born? September? December? January? Now while admitting there is disagreement as to the actual date of Christ's birth, it has to be admitted it makes more sense to calculate a millennium from that birth. The millennium is, after all, a Christian celebration, not a calendar one. For the sake of argument, we'll accept the date of Christ's birth as December 25. Two thousand years from December 25, 1 BC (as close as we can get to the year 1) comes to December 25, 2000, not 1999. That places the third millennium as starting on January 1, 2001.

     Do the math. If Christ was born December 25, 1 BC, he would be one-year old on December 25, 1 AD; 10-years old in 10 AD; 100-years old in 100 AD; 1000-years in 1000 AD and 2000-years on December 25, 2000 AD. Six days later you have the start of the third millennium (although in actuality it would begin December 26, 2000), not on January 1, 2000 as the millennialists will celebrate. This all assumes you use the calculation based on 1 AD as Christ's birth. Any other date would throw the millennium into a different year.

     So since we begin our secular calendar with January 1 each year and if we are to celebrate 1000 as in any way meaningful, then January 1, 2001 is, in fact, the start of the third millennium - the calendar millennium, not the religious celebration. If hard-core millennialists do their own calculations (as I have done above), they will be forced to admit this. But being more interested in a good celebration than in reality, they'll likely celebrate the year 2000 anyway.

     So what if January 1 through December 24 are not really 2000 years after the birth of Christ? Let's celebrate! And why not? I am not opposed to a good time. Let's just realize that 2000 is not the third millennium.

     As for myself, I will celebrate the secular calendar and the year 2001 as the third millennium.
 
 

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 2001 Oregonians for Rationality