Roman calendar

The Surprising Origins of Our Modern Calendar

Part 1 of 4 in the Calendar Series

As we come to the end of this Roman calendar year and face the beginning of a new year, it’s good to take a brief but serious look into this modern calendar system that we have so faithfully followed and highly regarded.

Unknown to most, our calendar had a very crude, unreliable, and a pagan-influenced beginning. Since it has gone through a number of transformations by certain authorities in the past, could it be similarly (and badly) affected in the future?

A Glaring Anomaly

Let us first look at a very obviously disturbing fact, but simply ignored by almost all today. Did you know that the months September, October, November, and December were originally — based on their Latin names — the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months of the year respectively? Did you also know that there were only 10 calendar months in the Roman year to begin with?

By adding January and February much later in its history, it became 12 months. But alas, the four earlier-stated months suddenly became the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth months — contradicting their original ordinal place names in the Roman calendar! In other words, for centuries, they have been moved two months away from their original places! But did anyone, or any authority, even care to correct it to this day? Surprisingly, this world has remained blind to this fact!

Questions That Need Answers

How did that ever happen? How did the Romans reckon or account for those originally missing months? What are the possible implications of those changes? Were there other changes? And what were the main reasons for those massive changes? If the authorities then orchestrated those monumental changes and the masses remained blinded, would some authority in the future also initiate changes and the whole world will simply agree and say nothing to correct it? What does Bible prophecy predict on this subject? Please read on to the end.

False and Blinded Assumptions

Surprisingly, most people today have confidently trusted and blindly assumed that the Roman Calendar has always had a solid, reliable, intelligently-designed, and inspired beginning, free from political influences or pressures. Most have somehow believed that it had always been precise, consistent, and dependable as clockwork. But what does history tell us?

The Roman Calendar’s Questionable Beginnings

Below are several excerpts from a WebExhibits article on the topic of the Roman Calendar, which I am going to summarize for your convenience and for brevity.

The Original 10-Month Roman Calendar

The Romans borrowed parts of their earliest known calendar from the Greeks (who also got it earlier from the Babylonians). The calendar consisted of only 10 months in a year with only 304 days (contrasted to 365 days). Surprisingly, the Romans just ignored the remaining 61 days which fell during the winter months. The 10 months were originally named: Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, [then our present] September, October, November, and December. The last six names were taken from the words representing fifth, sixth, seventh , eighth, ninth, and tenth. Romulus, the legendary first ruler of Rome, is supposed to have introduced this calendar in the 700s B.C.E.

Who Added Two Months to It?

According to tradition, the Roman ruler Numa Pompilius added January and February to the calendar in 713 B.C.E. This made the Roman year 355 days long, but still short of at least 10 days to coincide with the solar year. Therefore, Numa also ordered the addition every other year of a month called Mercedinus. This was inserted after February 23 or 24. In those years when it was inserted, it added 22 or 23 more days to the year.

Who Changed It to Produce a 365-Day Calendar?

In 45 B.C.E., the Romans again modified their method of marking time to keep it in step with the seasons. They accomplished this with the Julian Calendar. Each month’s length was extended to bring the calendar’s total days to 365. This change was further accompanied by adding an extra day every fourth year because of the almost six extra hours beyond 365 days in a typical year.

How Were the Days Organized?

In the calendar of the ancient Romans, the months contained three primary markers: The Kalends, the Nones, and the Ides. The Kalends were always the first day of the month. The Nones were usually the fifth but sometimes the seventh, and the Ides were the 15th but sometimes the 13th. All the days after the Ides were numbered by counting down towards the next month’s Kalends. (It was very confusing, right? It really was!)

What Were the Roman Weekdays?

The Romans did not have weekdays in the same sense as our Monday, Tuesday, etc. At the time of their early kings, Roman months were identical to the lunar cycle, divided according to the first three phases of the moon: new, first quarter, or full. All days were referred to in terms of one of these: Kalends, Nones, or Ides.

At that time a pontifex (priest) was assigned to observe the sky. When he first sighted a thin lunar crescent, he called out that there was a new moon and declared the next month had started. For centuries afterward, Romans referred to the first day of each month as Kalendae or Kalends from the Latin word calare (to announce or to call out). The word calendar was derived from this custom. The day of Kalends itself began a new month. It was dedicated to Juno, a principal goddess of the Roman Pantheon.

When Did They Stop Using the Moon for Months?

The Romans separated their months from the lunar cycle in the fifth century B.C.E. Month lengths then became fixed. At that time, Ides was assigned as the 15th day in all months given 31 days in length: March, May, July, and October. But it was designated as the 13th day in all other months.

When Did the Early Roman Calendar Begin?

The early Roman calendar originated as a local one in the city of Rome, supposedly drawn up by Romulus some seven or eight centuries before the Christian Era. The year began in March and consisted of only 10 months; six of which had 30 days and only four had 31 days, making a total of 304 days which ended in December. Surprisingly, the winter months were unaccounted for in that calendar!

When Did the Roman Republican Calendar Begin?

The so-called Roman republican calendar was supposedly introduced by the Etruscan Tarquinius Priscus (616-579 B.C.E.), according to tradition the fifth king of Rome. This dating system, however, was probably a product of evolution from the Greek lunar calendar, which in turn was derived from the Babylonians. In 452 B.C.E., February was moved between January and March.

The Confused Roman Calendar

With all the numerous changes, by the first century B.C.E., the Roman calendar had become hopelessly confused. This was compounded by certain political maneuverings. The Pontifex Maximus and the College of Pontiffs had the authority to alter the calendar, and they sometimes did so to reduce or extend the term of a particular magistrate or other public officials.

Intercalation was the duty of the Pontifices, a board that assisted the chief magistrate in his functions. The reasons for their decisions were kept secret, but because of some negligence and a measure of ignorance and corruption, the intercalations were irregular, seasonal, and resulted in chaos. In spite of this and the fact that it was over a day too long compared with the typical year, much of the modified Roman republican calendar was carried over into the Gregorian Calendar now in general use.

The Power of Politics and the Calendar

Finally, in 46 B.C.E., Julius Caesar initiated a thorough reform that resulted in the establishment of a new dating system, the Julian Calendar. Since time immemorial, the calendar usually always started in March (during the Spring Equinox, the start of the Spring Season). But this time, he wanted to make a BIG change by starting the year in January (still near the middle of winter), since it contained the festival of the god of gates (the god of all beginnings, much later called Janus). Likewise, he put his name on the ancient fifth month of the year. So instead of it being called Quintilis, it became Julius (now known as July).

But Augustus Caesar wouldn’t be outdone by his predecessor, Julius Caesar. When he also came to power much later, he took the sixth month of the year (Sextilis) and named it Augustus (now known as August). That’s not all. Since August traditionally had only 30 days, he stole one day from February and added it to August so it can also have 31 days like July. Thus, if you notice, the successive months of July and August both have 31 days each. However, if you carefully observe, the calendar months have usually an otherwise alternating number of days: 30 and 31.

Ancient Historians’ Testimony on the Roman Calendar

Much of the knowledge we now have about the early Roman calendar came from Ovid, a Roman born in 43 B.C.E., and from Plutarch, a Greek biographer who wrote between C.E. 105 and 115. Both of them had access to historical documents that are no longer extant.

Plutarch said that months at the time of Rome’s founding were of varying lengths, some as short as 20 days and others with 35 or more in what early Romans believed was a year of 360 days. Romulus, the legendary first king, was said to have made extensive changes to those month lengths, assigning 29 days to some and 31 to others.

March Was the Original First Month of the Year

Both Ovid and Plutarch said that Martius was originally the first month, and was named after Mars, the Roman god of war. Six of the original ten months were chronologically numbered and named as Quintilis through Decembris (fifth through tenth). While Januarius, Februarius, Martius, Aprilis, Maius, and Junius were among the earlier ones.

From the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar

In spite of the best calculated modifications, the Julian Calendar eventually was found to have drifted by as much as 10 days away from this earth’s Equinoxes and Solstices when first established. Studies were made and during the time of Pope Gregory XIII, a decree was made in 1582 to adjust the calendar with: “Julian Thursday, 4 October 1582, being followed by Gregorian Friday, 15 October 1582.” But it took almost 400 years for other countries to adjust accordingly. Among the last countries to adopt was Turkey in 1926, and by then, the drift was already about 12 days away. For more information about this topic, please see our article, Has the Sabbath Reckoning Been Lost Through History?

What Does Bible Prophecy Predict?

This summarized account of the Roman calendar ‘s history is not the end of its long changing story. Recorded in the Bible are significant prophecies for major future event.

First, the prophet Daniel, while serving in the kingdom of Babylon (starting about 604 B.C. onwards), was inspired by God to write significant prophecies. Among them is what we read in Daniel 7:25:

He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. ~Daniel 7:25

NOTE: Mentioned in this prophecy is a ruling power who will defy the Most High God and will attempt to CHANGE TIMES (calendar reckoning) and certain of God’s holy laws especially during the three-and-a-half-years period of the Great Tribulation, which will bring great distress and possibly death to some of the obedient children of God.

How May This Be Accomplished?

  1. The prophesied Beast power will rise to global prominence and influence and declare that no one may buy or sell except one has the “mark of the beast” (Revelation 13:17).
  2. The Europe-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has already changed the weekly cycle, making Monday the first day and Sunday the seventh day. [Please notice this article’s photo illustration above.] Since the first work day of the week is Monday, some will reason that the rest and worship day should be the “seventh” day, Sunday [but contrary to established biblical and dictionary definitions]. It’s just now a matter of some authority making it official all over the world. Thus, everyone has to follow the “new” ISO standard to avoid penalties or punishment. In fact, many if not most European-based calendars (and others as well) have already adopted this format, based on ISO 8601.
  3. Even more drastic is that the ISO may eventually make a more revolutionary calendar format at the end time, patterned after the universally accepted Decimal System for all the world? When put into effect, rather than the traditional seven-day weekly format, the “new” time cycle might be every 10 days, when rest and worship will be allowed. Again, due punishment awaits violators of this new rule.

WHY Did All These Blindness and Confusion Happen?

In summary, the Bible reveals that Satan, the great Deceiver (Revelation 12:9) has deceived the whole world. He is also called “the Father of Lies” (John 8:44). Not only that, but he is also the active present “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and that this whole world presently and helplessly lies under the power of that wicked one [Satan] as stated in 1 John 5:19.

Summary and Conclusion

This world has gone through various epochs of difficulty, because of certain time reckoning issues in the calendar left in the hands and powers of men. This especially affects those who have pledged simple obedience to the God of heaven and earth. But the battle is not yet over. Greater trials await God’s people as Satan becomes even more fierce and furious towards the end time (Revelation 12:12). Only God is the source of refuge for God’s faithful people then. And may you be among those who will be delivered from such terrible trials in the end of days.

8 thoughts on “The Surprising Origins of Our Modern Calendar”

  1. very deep information . But what is the real calendar and what is the name of the months of the true calendar.? Thank you.

    1. Hello Steve Budoyan,
      Thanks for your comments.
      The true calendar is THAT ONE inspired by the God of heaven and earth to man (not one made by pagans).
      After all, He was the One Who said, “let the lights in the firmament of the heavens [be] to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.”
      I hope to write an article on this subject, God willing.

  2. France already tried this during the French Revolutiuon (you can search this in google under “French Revolution 10 day week”) and they failed miserably. Will the people who control the ISO standard try again?? People will be people but all they will do is generate suffering and strife.

    1. Hello Yelluhchicken,
      Thanks for bringing up a little about history when during the French Revolution, they already attempted the 10 day week. Inspired by Satan, anything is possible under the sun. So, let us not be too naive to think that the sufferings upon humanity has already ended. Bible prophecy shows that the worst is yet to come; so, if we are wise enough, we better be prepared for it thru God’s guidance.

    1. Hello Leopoldo,
      Thank you very much for your positive comment. Please feel free to share the article with others who might be interested.
      — EDM

  3. Manuel Cuizon

    Kuya Ed, as you mentioned that the original Roman Calendar was only have 10 mos. in it, would that be the possible reason why the counting of years on the Gregorian Calendar we are using now is far ahead to the Hebrew Calendar? As the years from the time of Adam & Eve up to the birth of Jesus Christ were 4000 yrs minus 4 = 3996 yrs. Bcoz JC was born 4 B.C.E.
    And from JC birthday up to the present is 2018. And that would summed up to 6014 yrs already. But the Hebrew Calendar counting of years is far behind?

    So, base on the predicted 2nd coming of JC to be fulfilled first the allotted 6 millennium for Satan’s ruling his world to dominate man under his principles on this earth, — the 2nd coming of JC will still be far away, if we base our calculation using the Hebrew Calendar? As we learned from the old WCG that the 7th millennium belongs to Jesus to rule the earth, significance of the 7th Day Sabbath.

    1. Edmond Macaraeg

      Hello Manny,
      Thanks for your comments and questions, but sorry for my delay in replying.
      First was your comment on the Roman Calendar with only 10 months.
      Yes, historically, the ancient Julian Calendar reckoned only 10 months, and ignored the deep winter months.
      Of course, eventually, they realized that problem when it comes to total time reckoning for each yearly cycle. Thus, that was later corrected to have all months accounted for. That correction was also incorporated into the newer Gregorian Calendar. Of course, they have to ignore the lunar cycles and simply focused on the solar cycle.
      However, to say that because of the missing months, the Gregorian Calendar is ahead compared to the Hebrew calendar is in reckoning the number of years from creation; such is a wrong conclusion.
      The real problem lies on a few factors. Basically, concerning the Roman Calendar, the person who dated the birth of Christ to 4 B.C. did not have adequate information or limited research facilities then. Though Bishop James Usher’s Chronology seems a bit of an improvement. (I hope to write an article on this issue later as well.)
      The second problem concerns the dating of the Hebrew Calendar. It is believed by some that the ones who dated the Hebrew Calendar shortened the period of the Persian Captivity from about 200+ years to only 34 years? That is why, when compared to the Roman Calendar, there is a discrepancy of about 200 years.
      The Calendar issue is a very complicated and voluminous work which needs massive research and astuteness with regards to historical background to filter out errors and pin point where the problems are due to: ignorance, tampering, lack of data, and other factors.
      Thus, concerning the second coming of Christ, it is somewhat difficult to exactly pinpoint the time for now. Another big factor is that the Father ultimately decides WHEN (Mat. 24:36, 42; Acts 1:7). Thus, the Father can either delay Christ’s coming or cut-short the time (Mat. 24:48; cf. Rom. 9:28).
      For us believers, I think one of the surest sign is simply to wait and watch when the Two Witnesses begin to appear. From there, count 3-1/2 years to the coming of Christ. But then, that same period will be the time of the Great Tribulation. The best thing to do therefore is to be always and already spiritually prepared.

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