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How Did We Get Our Modern Calendar?

Written by Dianna Wiebe on .

Have you ever wondered how did we get our modern calendar? Have you read the Bible and found the months different from the calendar hanging on your wall? Today, let’s explore how time was measured in the Bible compared to how time is measured today. Join me as we walk back in time to discover how our modern calendar came to be.

How did the Ancient Calendars Measure Time?

Ancient civilizations measured time with a variety of calendars. While each was different calendar they measured years differently. Ancient civilizations used one of three approaches to measuring months:  solar, lunar, or lunisolar.

The solar calendars are set based on the revolution of the earth around the sun. The Egyptians would be an example of an ancient civilization that used a solar calendar that consisted of 365 day years.

The lunar calendars measure time by the phases of the moon. The Sumerians used a lunar calendar. The lunar calendar consisted of twelve months per year, and the months were 29 to 30 days long depending on the month.

With the lunisolar approach, the calendar is set to acknowledge both the phases of the moon and the solar year. The biblical or Hebrew calendar would be an example of a lunisolar calendar. The years are based on the solar year, but the months are based on the phases of the moon.

Biblical Calendar Supplies

 How did we get our modern calendar?

Our modern calendar began with the Julian calendar that was introduced by the Roman Empire in 46 BC when Julius Caesar. Caesar ordered a new calendar to be developed that would unify the empire under one calendar and better follow the solar year. This calendar is named for him, the Julian calendar. This calendar is still in use by the Eastern Orthodox churches to set the holidays. A few centuries later this calendar was replaced by the Gregorian calendar.

The Gregorian calendar, sometimes referred to as the Christian Calendar, was introduced in 1582. Under Pope Gregory XIII, the Julian calendar was revised. Revisions included adding a leap year every fourth year and changing how the holiday of Easter is determined. Today, the Gregorian calendar is used throughout the world.

How are Days  and Weeks Measured on Different Calendars Today?

Depending on the calendar you are using, days will either begin at sunset or at midnight. Like days, weeks either begin on Sunday or Monday.

Gregorian days: The days of the week came from the Mesopotamian Empire and are related to celestial bodies. Our days are measured from midnight to midnight. Weeks are seven days in length, beginning with Sunday. The names of the days came from the planets of Hellenistic astrology.

  • Sunday – Sun
  • Monday  – Moon
  • Tuesday – Mars
  • Wednesday – Mercury
  • Thursday – Jupiter
  • Friday – Venus
  • Saturday – Saturn

Hebrew Calendar: The day is measured from sunset to sunset. The days of the week are named according to their relationship to the Sabbath day.

  •  Sunday – the first day after Sabbath
  • Monday  – the second day after Sabbath
  • Tuesday – the third day after Sabbath
  • Wednesday – the fourth day after Sabbath
  • Thursday – the fifth day after Sabbath
  • Friday – the sixth day after Sabbath
  • Saturday – Sabbath

How were the Months of the Year Named?

On the Gregorian calendar, months are named for Roman gods, officials, holidays, or related to Latin numbers. There are twelve months in the year on our modern calendar.

  1. January – the Roman god Janus
  2. February – the Roman holiday Ferua
  3. March – the Roman god Mars
  4. April – the Roman goddess Aphrodite
  5. May – the Roman goddess Maia
  6. June – the Roman god Juno
  7. July – the Roman Caesar Julius
  8. August – the Roman Caesar Augustus
  9. September – Latin for seventh month
  10. October – Latin for eighth month
  11. November – Latin for ninth month
  12. December – Latin for tenth month

Each month consists of 28 to 31 days.

How are Year Measured on the Modern Calendar?

The years on the Gregorian calendar are calculated in relation to the birth of Jesus. On the modern calendar, the year begins on January 1 and ends on December 31.

  • BC is for “Before Christ” or BCE for “Before Common Era”
  • AD is Latin for “in the year of our Lord”  or CE for “Common Era”

That is a brief overview of where our modern calendar came from and how the days and months came to have their names. If you are interested in learning more about the events on the biblical calendar I would invite you to look at our Biblical Events Calendar today.

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