A Question of Time for Historians Planning Programs

Ah. The perennial question (here.) Or at least the decennial one.

This is a dilemma for many folks in doing planning for church historical events. When it comes right down to it, from the point of view of the age of, say, a congregation, it probably doesn’t matter if you celebrate the advent or completion of it’s 100th year.

But it is an interesting conundrum for others when determining decades, centuries and millennia as to whether to use one’s instincts (if they run that way; mine do not but then I’m peculiar) and say that the year 2010 was the start of a new decade and what went before was the first decade of a new century, or to follow the logic of the Heretic archivist and see that 2010 is the last year of the decade and therefore next Dec. 31/Jan. 1 is when we should look back.

I guess that the fact that so many people have trouble grasping this one is partly a “right-brain, left-brain” thing, but is not helped by the fact that there have been several acknowledged errors in the creation of the various calendars over the year and the inclusion of the erroneous (isn’t that term ironic?) statement that “a year zero was accidentally left out” among them seems to be readily accepted. The argument on the Heretic archivist site is, however, basically correct if you have a wish to check it out.

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  1. If we begin history on the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, then the end of that day is day 1, the end of the second day is day 2, the end of the first week is week 1, and the end of the 52nd week is year 1. The year number denotes the end of the year, not the beginning of it.

    So the first year ended at the end of week 52. The tenth year thus ends at the end of the 52nd week of year 9. So the new decade begins on the first day of year 10. Follow that through two thousand years and you find that the new millennium started on the first day of year 2000 and thus the second decade of the second millennium began on January 1st, 2010.

    The year number is the years completed, not the new year beginning. So 2010 is actually the 2011 year, not finished yet.

  2. Thanks for your response, Russell. If you disagree with my response, please send it back at me. I enjoy a spirited debate, as long as it is not taken personally. I hope others will chime in and we can have some fun.

    Your statement makes sense up to a point. You say the first year ended at the end of week 52, i.e. the end of the 1st 52 week period is the end of the first year and the beginning of the second year. So far so good. But then you shift and say that the 10th year ends at the end of the 9th 52 week period. That doesn’t add up. In the first statement you have the 1st year coinciding with the 1st period of 52 weeks, but in the second you have two different numbers for year and # of 52 weeks. It essentially says that the 9th year was the 10th year.

    Try actually counting it out (I know it seems simplistic, but we have gotten this into our heads so the error seems to make more sense than the reality; I state my belief for why that is so below.) The 1st year ends at the end of the first 52 weeks, the 2nd year at the end of the 2nd 52 weeks, etc. If you count those years, I suspect you will not find that you reach the 10th year ending at the end of the 9th 52 weeks.

    Indeed you are correct in the direction of your reasoning, the 1st day is day 1, the 1st week (7 days) is week 1, the 1st year (52 weeks) is year 1, the first decade is the first 10 years, i.e. 1-10, the first century the first 100 years, i.e. 1-100, etc. As you see, because we use a “base ten” system, the last year of the period of time ends in “0″ and always increases the number of digits in the last year designation. You cannot complete counting ten objects, be they chairs or periods of time, until you complete that 10. The first numeral always has a 1 in the “ones” slot. Thus the first year of a new decade will start with a 1 in that slot and the last a 0. This is true of centuries and millennia as well.

    It is confusing, I think, because we tend to confuse the short version of how we communicate completed years and those we are in. I am in my 51st year of life, having completed 50, yet I don’t say I am in my 51st year but that I am 50 years old. What I usually say is that I am 50. It would be incorrect to say I am in my 50th year, however. I am not; that one is gone.

    When we speak of years as a measure of time, the number is the number of the year we are in, by definition. The phrase “in the year of our Lord, 1869″ was literally defined as the 1869th year of the life of Christ, not a statement that he would be 1869 years old.

    Another thing that I think makes it confusing is that for 99 years of a century, the first number or 2 are the same, and then they (it) changes on the last, making us feel the century number should change. If 99 years of the 20th century began with 19, shouldn’t the last? This goes back to what I said about the addition of a digit in the last year of any period based on an increment of 10 years. This is essentially the same question as “when I count to ten, the first 9 numbers have a single digit, shouldn’t the last?”

    So, 2010 is the 2,010th year of our lord, the tenth year of the 21st century, and the tenth year of the first decade of the 21st century. when it is completed, we will have completed the decade.

    Does this make sense?
    Jim


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