Happy New Year

September 1, 2007

Today marks the beginning of the Byzantine ecclesiastical year, and the beginning of the year 7516 according to the Byzantine civil calendar (New Style, i.e., reckoning dates according the calendar reform of Pope Gregory XIII). The Byzantine calendar, like the Jewish one, reckons the year from the creation of the world, calculated from the internal chronology of the Bible; however, it calculates this date a little differently: whereas the Jewish calendar bases itself upon the Massoretic text of the Bible, and supposes a creation in the year 3761 B.C., the Byzantine calendar is based upon the Septuagint, and supposes a creation in 5509 B.C. This difference is partly due to a different account, in the two versions, of the generations from Shem to Abraham in chapter 11 of Genesis; in the Septuagint version, people lived longer.

According to Hans Lietzmann (Zeitrechnung der römischen Kaiserzeit, des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit für die Jahre 1-2000 nach Christus [Berlin 1946], p. 6), this numbering of years from the creation of the world came into use in the Byzantine Empire in the seventh century; in Russia, it remained in use until 1700.

The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity (Oxford 1999), p. 110, says:

“The opening of the ecclesiastical year on 1 September, feast of Symeon Stylites, date of the indiction, and now in the Ecumenical Patriarchate the Day of the Environment, is often seen as emphasizing the role of the Theotokos in the salvation of the world: the Nativity of the Mother of God on 8 September, and her Dormition on 15 August, come at opposite ends of the year.”

Note: Today also marks the beginning of a fifteen-year indiction-cycle. On the indictions, Lietzmann, op. cit., p. 7, says:

“Die Indiktion gibt an, welche Stelle das Jahr in dem 15jährigen Zyklus der byzantinischen Steuerveranlagung einnahm: doch wird nur die Zähl des Jahres, nicht aber die Nummer des Zykles mitgeteilt. Die Indiktionen sind 297 von Diokletian eingeführt und von da ab dauernd in Gebrauch auf griechischen Urkunden und in der Literatur: auch das Abendland hat diese Art der Datierung für Urkunden früh übernommen und daurernd beibehalten, derart daß die Indiktion (= „Römerzinszahl“) auch heute noch in den Kalendern für jedes Jahr angemerkt wird. Die allgemein üblich (Kontantinopeler) Rechnung beginnt das Indiktionsjahr mit dem byzantinischen Neujahr am 1. September….”

The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, p. 256, notes that the year 2008 begins a new Indiction. However, it should be borne in mind that the ecclesiastical year 2008 begins today, September 1, 2007.

Happy New Year.

* * *

A hymn from the Menaion:

Ο πασης δημιουργος της κτισεως, ο καιρους και χρονους εν τη ιδια εξουσια θεμενος, ευλογησον τον στεφανον του ενιαυτου της χρηστοτητος σου, Κυριε, φυλαττων εν ειρηνη τους βασιλεις και την πολιν σου, πρεσβειαις της Θεοτοκου, και σωσον ημας.

O Maker of the whole creation, who hast appointed times and seasons by Thine own authority, of Thine own goodness bless the crown of the year, Lord, preserving in peace the emperors and Thy city, through the intercessions of the Theotokos, and save us.

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3 Responses to “Happy New Year”

  1. Jezz Says:

    A small correction – when reckoning up times from the generations in the patriarchs, one doesn’t reckon from the age of the patriarchs at their death, but their age at the birth of the next son in the line. It is the differences in the ages between MT and LXX renderings that increases the amount of time. For example, both the MT and the LXX have Adam dying aged 930, but the MT has Adam begetting Seth when he was 130, while in the LXX he was 230 when Seth was born. This increases the length of the Adam->Seth generation by 100 years.

  2. bekkos Says:

    I compared the Septuagint just now with a translation of the Massoretic text, and I stand corrected: the difference in chronology between the two versions is mainly due, not to an absolute difference in how long people lived, but to a difference in the reported ages of the patriarchs at the time they begot their oldest sons. There are other minor factors: e.g., at Gen 11:12 f., the LXX lists an extra generation between Arphaxad and Salah, citing Arphaxad’s son as Cainan, and Cainan as father of Salah. And there are, occasionally, people who do reportedly live longer. But, you are right, absolute differences in life-span do not affect the underlying time line, which is constructed as a string of time-intervals, calculated from the birth of one patriarch to the birth of the next.

    Thanks for clarifying this.

    It has long seemed to me that the biblical accounts of the patriarchal life-spans and begettings have some theological meaning. The general movement, from generation to generation, is toward shorter life-spans and earlier begettings, corresponding to an increase in violence and sin in the world; at Gen 6:3, God limits the human life-span to 120 years, though in point of fact many of the patriarchs subsequently live longer than this. I wonder if you see the difference between the LXX and MT chronologies as theologically significant in some way.


  3. [...] 1, 2009 Today is the first day of the Byzantine year 7518 (see the post Happy New Year). It is the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, a day that the current Patriarch of [...]


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