Evidence For Jesus: The Anno Domini Dating System

It is true that today much of the world uses the Gregorian calendar with the Anno Domini dating system, and this fact is often brought up by Christians as evidence for Jesus, but this “evidence” would hardly even be worth refuting if it weren’t so commonly used.

Most people don’t know much about the history of our calendar, which is not surprising since it is not often important in our lives, but when it is brought up in this way it becomes necessary to explore it, and it’s actually more interesting than might be expected.

This is the basic premise:

  • We use a dating system based on the birth of Jesus.
  • Therefore Jesus existed.

To examine the truth value of this claim, we must break it down further:

  • AD, which stands for “Anno Domini” meaning “in the year of our Lord” did not spring into existence in 1 AD, or even 50 or 100 AD. The Anno Domini dating system was created in what we now call 525 AD by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus. This is more than 500 years after the monk believed Jesus to have been born.

    To make matters worse, we know that Dionysius made mistakes in his dating. This is a well established fact, and combined with the irreconcilable conflicts in Biblical accounts which attempt to date the birth of Jesus, it leaves us with little doubt that the Anno Domini dating system is not in fact accurately based on the year that Jesus was born.

  • About 200 years later, another monk and historian who is now called Saint Bede came up with “ante uero incarnationis dominicae tempus” (“the time before the Lord’s true incarnation”). This is what we refer to as “Before Christ” or BC.

    It should be clear why some monks would wish to create a dating system based on the year they believed their messiah to have been born, and it is not evidence for a historical Jesus, only for monks who believed in one.

  • Even in Bede’s day, over 700 years after the time Dionysius set for the birth of Jesus, this dating system was not popular. It wasn’t until later in the 8th century that it began to spread slowly across Europe after its endorsement by Emperor Charlemagne. Despite all of this it took nearly 700 more years to cover even Western Europe, finally reaching Portugal in 1422, and even today it is not used universally.

    If the whole world, or even just people in the vicinity of Judea, had immediately started to date things based on the same BC/AD system we have today, it would be a strong piece of circumstantial evidence for Jesus. Even if they had started within 50 years, it would have been impressive.

    Not only was the Anno Domini dating system not a rapidly spreading phenomenon exploding from Judea to the rest of the world in the first century in response to the birth of Jesus though, it was not invented until more than 500 years later and not popular for several hundred years more.

    This is weak evidence for Jesus indeed.

So what did people use before?

There have been many different dating systems, but most of them have been based on such things as the year an empire was founded, or the year of the reign of a specific ruler.

For example in Rome there were several different ways of giving a year based on such things as the year of the reign of an emperor, who the consuls for the year were, or the number of years from the founding of Rome.

In fact, when Julius Caesar instituted the Julian calendar (which our modern Gregorian calendar is a modified form of) in 45 BC, the year to him was still 709 ab urbe condita meaning “from the founding of the City [of Rome]“.

Even today in Japan there are three different dating systems. Anno Domini is used now, but there is also an era name based on the current emperor (Heisei 21 is 2009), and there is even an imperial year (currently Kōki 2669) based on the date Japan was supposedly founded by Emperor Jimmu whose historicity, like Jesus’s is questionable. The fact that there is a dating system based on the date he is said to have founded Japan does nothing to prove his existence as an actual person.

So despite its continued frequent use by some Christians as “evidence for Jesus”, the Anno Domini dating system is no more evidence of an historical Jesus than the Erisian calendar is evidence of an historical Eris.

- Kazz
January 1st, 3175 YOLD