The Roman calendar

Fredi Winkler

We are used to each New Year starting on January 1st, but it has not always been that way. Our calendar is the Roman calendar, and the names of the months September to December mean nothing more than the numbers 7 to 10 in Latin. This then means that January and February are the 11th and 12th month. Thus, the New Year in the Roman calendar originally started on the 1st of March.

The Romans changed the date for the start of a New Year with the turning of the year 154 to 153 BC. This was done for political reasons. At the beginning of each year, the new consul took office. At that particular time, the Spanish people were rising up against Rome, and it would not do to wait until March. Therefore, the beginning of the year was brought forward to the first of January, so that the new consul could go to war with the legions against the insurgents. Since then, January has remained as the beginning of the New Year.

According to the progression of the seasons, March as the beginning of the year is actually more logical, because with spring, nature comes to renewed life after winter. The Biblical calendar also reflects this. God said to Moses and Aaron (Exodus Chapter 12) that the month they went out of Egypt should be the first month for them. The Passover festival, and thus Easter, are known to be in the spring.

How then did it come about that in the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah—the New Year festival—is celebrated in the fall? This is a later development, from the time after the destruction of the temple. At that point, the Feast of Trumpets (in Hebrew “Yom Teruah”), mentioned in Leviticus Chapters 23—25, had practically lost all meaning and was then transformed into a New Year’s festival. However, it is the case that an important biblical cycle begins with this month in the fall; namely, the counting of the Sabbath and Jubilee years. For that reason, this innovation in Judaism did have a certain justification.

It is interesting that the inauguration of a new American president nowadays also takes place in January (since 1937). The United States has adopted much of the Roman system in its governmental structure. The world is presently looking at the United States with some apprehension, wondering what effects the change of power will prove to have. This, of course, is of particular importance to Israel, which has an extremely close relationship with the United States.

In this context, the question also arises about what is happening politically in Israel. It appears as though the current coalition may well break apart and that Israel is headed for new elections. But, what will be the result? Will it lead to an effective and stable government? How will the situation in the Middle East continue to develop? And what about the corona crisis—will the whole corona drama soon come to an end?

A lot of unanswered questions confront us at the start of this New Year. Considering all this, it is good we have not placed our hope in man but in the Lord God, who holds all things in His hands. God’s Word is always an anchor and a firm hold for us in all circumstances; it is our point of orientation. At the beginning of this New Year, we want to thank our readers for their solidarity and support for the work we are privileged to undertake for Him, who has said: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”

These words in Revelation 1:8—spoken by the glorified Lord Jesus Christ—were addressed to the church left on earth, to strengthen her in her faith. These words should also give us great encouragement today and accompany us through the New Year.

News from Israel - 01/2021

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