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So, Was It Rapturous For You, Too?

It's May 22. I'm still here. So are my neighbours. So is New Zealand.

But then, I had a problem with Mr Camping's figures from the start - they were based around the whole business of "years from Christ's birth", and the assumption this occurred at some fictitious Year Zero. Now, there's a few small problems with this: firstly, and most importantly, there wasn't a Year Zero at all - in fact, at the time Christ was supposed to have been born, there were two calendars his birth might have been reported on, and one of those was the Hebrew calendar which (at that time[1]) counted years since Seleucus I Nicator returned to Babylon after his Egyptian exile (because Galilee, Judah and surrounding territories fell firmly into the Seleucid empire). The other was the Roman imperial calendar, which counted years since the city of Rome had been founded by Remus in memory of his brother.

The second big problem is that the timing of the birth of Christ wasn't noted in any contemporaneous historical documents (there are three gospel references, all of which post-date the death of Christ by at least 100 years[2]) and therefore it can't be fixed. The best most biblical and historical scholars can do is guess - to a greater or lesser degree of accuracy, depending on the premises they use.

The Anno Domini (or "Year of Our Lord") dating system wasn't actually devised as a way of counting years until approximately 525CE. It was originally created as a way of dating Easter each year, as a replacement for the Diocletian epoch (Diocletian being the the last Roman emperor to go in for serious persecution of Christians, and mass production of Christian martyrs). The only thing which has come down to the present day is the actual conversion table from Diocletian years to AD, and there's no notes available to provide any cross references to other dating systems, or any indication of the calculations used.

Historical research has since been conducted to try and figure out when the actual birth of Christ occurred[3], and the results of this are rather interesting. In effect, the dates for various biblical cross-references can put the date of Christ's birth anywhere in the period between 18BC and 7AD (depending on which of the gospels you believe to be accurate). The most widely accepted figures tend to be between 9 and 6 BCE.

Now, given this, even if we accept every other part of Mr Camping's mathematics to be exact, divinely inspired and absolutely correct, the best guess is that the end of the world would have begun sometime between 2002 and 2005. If this were the case, then clearly we were just all too busy to notice - or there were a lot of people who were expecting to be Raptured who were clearly not as good at this whole Christianity thing as they thought they were.

But hey, dating Christ's birth is an imprecise science. If we take the latest figure possible for Christ's birth (putting his birth at the time of the census of Syria and Iudaea in 6 - 7CE[4]) then we should be looking out for the end of the world in 2017 or 2018. If it hasn't already ended in 2012, as per the Mayan calendar.

[1] The current Hebrew calendar counts the years since the founding of the world as per biblical record, but it's only been doing so since about the 3rd century CE.
[2] Thus they post-date his birth by at least 133 years.
[3] I haven't yet heard of any research into whether it occurred at all - but then, I'm not a theological or archaeological scholar.
[4] Although this is slightly inconsistent with the same gospel writer's record of Christ's conception occurring during the reign of Herod the Great, which ended in 4BCE. Of course, if this is at all accurate, I can understand why the (previously) Virgin Mary is regarded as a saint - an eleven year pregnancy would be trying for anyone, let alone a first-time mother!

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