Should there be a year 0 between 1 BC and 1 AD?
This is a tricky problem area whose cause is partly psychological.
We humans have a strange bias. We will write a zero in front of a day or a month but we refuse to write a double zero in front of a year to represent the century.
For example, we will write the first of January 2018 as 01-01-2018.
But the year when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple is always written AD 70 and never 0070, which is the correct date.
To show our strange bias, we are quite happy to describe midnight on our digital watches as 00.
Then one minute past midnight is 01. That is okay.
That is even fine for hours on a 24 hour digital clock. Midnight is 00. When we wake up in the morning at six o’clock we are happy to see 06 (the sixth hour of the clock. The apostrophe indicates belonging. ‘Tim’s hat’ means the ‘hat of Tim’).
But our bias clicks in when we measure in time spans of a century.
Take the first of January for the years 1945, 945, and 45 AD.
We write 01-01-1945 and 01-01-945 and 01-01-45.
We call these the 20th century and the 10th century and the 1st century.
Immediately there is a confusing mismatch. I have to keep reminding myself that the 17th century is actually events that occurred between 1600 and 1699.
But let us rewrite the dates as they should be. Each year should have four numbers.
01-01-1945 and 01-01-0945 and 01-01-0045.
Then the first two numbers of the year give us the proper century.
But can we say that from 0 to 99 were the "zeroth" century?
We humans have an aversion for describing something as zero.
But time is a tricky dimension.
When describing time we easily get out of our intellectual depth. We can see objects in space. We cannot see time. Time is invisible and we have no idea what the “substance “ of time is.
What is time? We do not know. Can we measure time? No.
We measure the movement of a pointer across a watch face, but we do not measure time itself. So when dealing with time, we easily make contradictions.
A time span or time interval is “something”, so we cannot call it zero.
But there are two different ways of telling time. There is the length of a time interval (say one year) which cannot be zero, and there is also a moment in time which can be any arbitrary number, depending on which moment we chose as the starting point, which we usually call zero, as that is the most convenient starting point.
Example, you get married and start measuring your new life from that moment and call your wedding date “year zero”.
Three years later your child is born. That obviously becomes “year zero” for your baby.
Each of the COMPLETED time spans in the baby's life is a year.
The numbers that are written down reflect the number of completed years, starting from time zero.
The “zero number” that we started from means that initially there was not a complete year when we started measuring.
Seven years after getting married your baby is four years old. But the baby thinks the world began four years ago, and for the baby that is time zero. That’s when life started.
When it comes to baby ages we measure in completed years. This is ingrained into our human way of thinking. A time span must be completed in order to qualify as a time span.
But the number of time spans allocated to an age depends on the number of completed time spans.
For example, when a baby is born, the baby is zero completed years old for its first year.
But no mother says that.
She says that, “My baby is three (completed) months or six (completed) months old”.
Note the evasion of having to say year zero. The first year is disqualified from being zero completed years by changing the units of “time spans” from uncompleted years to completed months.
Or even, “My baby is seven (completed) days old” which sounds much better than zero completed months old.
No “time span” can have zero length. Then it is nothing. A time span has a length, say a completed month or a completed year.
When we start measuring years (or centuries) then there are zero complete years at the beginning. So the number of completed time spans has to be zero when we start measuring.
We just do not like saying that a time span of one completed year is the “zeroth” time span before the year has actually been completed and can thus qualify as a time span. This is purely psychological. But it seems to be ingrained in our human thinking just because everyone else says so.
Rather like believing that the wise men went to the stable to see the baby Jesus. Why do we say that? Just because everyone else says so. The wise men met Jesus in a house when He was a young child, not a baby. Joseph is not even mentioned.
MATTHEW 2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him:
When a baby is one year and one month old, no mother will call it 2 years old. It is now one year old because it has completed one full year of life.
A child celebrates her fourth birthday only when four years have been completed, since birth.
Each century is 100 years long. But the hundred years must be complete to qualify as a century.
You cannot call 70 years a century.
So we cannot fool the actual dates. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 0070. This, as we can see from the proper date, was the zeroth century.
The zeroth century means that there was not yet 100 years of history that could be called a century, since the birth of Christ.
You cannot call 70 AD the first century because you cannot have a century at all until the first 100 years has past.
The number of completed centuries is given by the first two numbers in the date.
The first century, to qualify as a century, can only happen after a hundred years has been completed. Only after 100 years has past can we claim to have a century.
A baby is only called one year old after it has completed a full year of life.
(We wrongly call 70 AD the first century. Simply because we refuse to write in the first two zeros as 0070. We also forget that 100 years must be completed before the time span can be called a century. Historians are lousy mathematicians).
AD means Anno Domini or year of our Lord.
We add in the AD because somehow 70 does not seem complete. There should be 4 numbers in a date. All dates before the birth of Christ are BC. So we do not actually need the AD. If there is no BC attached, then the 70 must be AD. If we wrote 0070 we would not need the AD.
You never see 2018 AD written because a date, measured in centuries has to have four numbers. So 2018 is quite acceptable.
30 -- Does this date look funny? It looks better when we add in the AD. So we usually write 30 AD. We feel a need to add something like AD to the year 30 but we refuse to write 0030.
Yet we have no excuse because 0030 is the time you would see on your alarm clock if you went to sleep at 30 minutes after midnight. So why do we refuse to write centuries this way?
There is no real reason. Just bias and prejudice.
Einstein said that prejudice is simply all the wrong ideas that we have picked up before we are 18 years old. We pick up the errors of the older generation and then pass them on to our children.
The Roman emperor Hadrian destroyed Jerusalem again after the Bar Kochba revolt in 0135 AD. From the date it is obviously in the first century. The first two numbers (01) of the date tell you what century it is. “First century” refers to events that occur once a hundred years has passed. Only once a century has been completed can we claim to be living in the first century.
A baby is not called one year old until it has survived the first complete year.
The Nicaean Council was held by the emperor Constantine in 0325 AD. Still looks funny, but it is the accurate date, as a year is described by four numbers. This was actually the third century (03). Three complete centuries had passed before this event happened. Historians insist that it was the fourth century, which is why we are doomed to be a historically muddled bunch. Henry Ford (a very accurate calculator) burst out in frustration that, “History is bunk” partly because of the way historians mess up the centuries. We humans tend to stay away from accuracy. Don’t ask me why. (Try getting an accurate answer out of a politician). William the Conqueror came in 1066 and at last our dates were written in an honest and accurate way with four numbers. But it took a thousand years to get there.
But not the centuries. No one had the courage to defy that powerful psychological demon, and we still call 1066 the eleventh century despite the 10 in front of the 66.
1066 remains the 11th century. This simply makes history more difficult to understand. It actually occurred after the 10th completed century. There are only ten centuries present in this date so it should be called the tenth century.
We have to overcome a powerful “zero phobia” that we humans inherit from birth.
“Time” is a tricky beast. It is invisible and we simply do not know what time is. We also cannot measure time. We measure the movement of a pointer across a watch face, we do not measure time itself.
There are two aspects to time. An instant or moment in time, say 2 o’clock. Then there is a time interval, the amount of time between two moments in time. For example, there is a time interval of three hours between the instants 2 o’clock and 5 o’clock.
Let us represent time on a line of dates, starting from the end of world war II.
1945 -- 1946 -- 1947 -- 1948 -- 1949 -- 1950
We decide that 1948 was an important year in Bible prophecy because Israel became a nation for the first time in almost 2000 years since it was destroyed by Rome.
If we measure the time instants by taking moments that are a year apart, say 1 minute past midnight on 1st January for each year. Then we see that going from instant 01-01-1947 to instant 01-01-1949 is obviously a gap or time interval of 2 years.
We could say that 1949 - 1947 = 2 years.
A measuring scale usually starts at zero, because this is the easiest number to start with.
So let us choose 1948 as the promised rebirth of Israel according to Ezekiel’s prophecy in Chapter 37 that the dead Jewish bones would live again.
The starting point is always chosen as zero, for convenience.
Now our yearly timeline would look like:
What is equally obvious is that the time interval from ‒1 to plus 1 is a 2 year gap.
We could say that 1 ‒ (‒1) = 2 years.
“Minus” just means turn around before moving. “Minus minus” means turn around twice. Then you are facing in the same direction as you were originally moving. So you add to your original movement.
This same rule would apply at the birth of Christ.
If Jesus was born in the year zero, which makes sense because measuring should start from zero, then our calendar should read
|1 BC||0||1 AD|
But churches prefer to write
|1 BC||1 AD|
So why is the zero left out?
Remember that historians are not good at maths. They do not investigate the difference between a “zero century” which does not exist and the “zeroth century” which is the time elapsed before the first century actually comes into existence after 100 years has elapsed.
The "zeroth" century represents a century that has not yet come into existence.
It takes a hundred years for a century to come into existence.
Before that, you simply do not have a century.
You can only speak of a century after a hundred years has happened.
But, unfortunately, with their limited maths historians insist on writing history. So we end up confused by them insisting that 1066 is the 11th century. (But only 10 centuries have been completed. There are not 11 complete centuries in this date).
They also get facts wrong. They glibly speak of the Holy Roman Empire. It was not holy. Charlemagne beheaded 4500 Saxons at one time for not converting to his Trinity God. I am sure that arguably our greatest evangelist, Billy Graham, would not approve of those methods. Mercifully the dynamic and charismatic Billy used far more effective but gentler techniques.
The Holy Roman empire was not Roman. They were basically German. It was also not an empire. It was a squabbling bunch of states whose inhabitants got hammered, and killed (is that holy ?) in order to subject them to Charlemagne’s rule.
Oh yes, back to historical numbers. Historians tell us about the 100 years war between England and France from 1337 to 1453. To the rest of us this rather looks like 116 years. So rounding off to within 16 % is acceptable to historians. Thus only missing one year at the birth of Christ is very accurate for them.
Human ignorance. The idea of zero had not yet been invented. Such is our bias against zero that we Westeners never ever thought about it. Imagine being a Roman and multiplying 4 by 17. Thanks to the invention of zero, you and I can do this easily.
If you were a Roman schoolchild your homework problem would be to multiply IV by XVII. Good luck to you.
The Roman empire collapsed around 0476 AD.
The Roman Catholic church rose up from the ruins of the Roman empire.
The Hindus were mathematically far more advanced. They invented the zero a few hundred years later, but that invention only reached England just before the year 1000 AD.
The birth of Christ was written into history as the starting date of our calendar by a Roman Catholic monk, around 0500 AD, called Dionysius Exiguus. Sounds impressive. But it just means Dennis the Short.
But he made a few mistakes.
Zero had not yet been invented so he obviously left that out.
That is why historians and Christians still work with his timeline of ‒1 to +1 and leave out the year zero in between. Then obviously they claim that there is just a one year interval between those two time instants. Dennis had an excuse to be zero illiterate, and we forgive him. Modern historians have no such excuse, but I guess we must also forgive them as they know not what they do. (Here I am quoting One who is far greater than us all).
Dennis the Short chose 25 December which was a pagan holiday introduced in 274 AD by the Roman emperor Aurelian to celebrate the birthday of the sun god, Sol Invictus (the unconquerable sun). Being mid winter, there were no shepherds out in the fields by night. They and their sheep would freeze to death.
A cruel irony is that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rome adopted this date as the birthday of the Son of God around 350 AD, despite the fact that Aurelian had been a particularly vicious persecutor of the Christian church. To copy a pagan festival was bad enough, but to copy a pagan festival invented by a particularly brutal Christian killer was really pushing the envelope.
Roman Catholic’s invented the mass. So the celebration became the mass of Christ’s birth. This soon became Christ’s mass which was shortened to Christmas.
Dennis the Short also chose 4 BC as the birth of Jesus Christ. This is an automatic oxymoron, enjoyed by non-Christians. Christians, who believe what Dennis guessed, now claim that Jesus was born four years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Try digging yourself out of that hole.
So it seems that none of these mistakes have ever been corrected.
The time span between birthday 1 and birthday 2 is when a baby is one year old.
What was the time span from birthday 0 to birthday 1? The baby is not yet 1 year old.
How many completed years has it lived? Zero.
That is the time when it is zero years old. You have to live one year before you can claim to be a year old.
But our brains are hard wired in their bias against zero. We never have a zero birthday celebration when a baby is born. We will always call it something else.
Then we compensate by making a big fuss over the baby's first birthday which comes at the end of its first complete year. Only then is the baby one year old.
So we are now stuck with a "missing" year zero.