Phil Robertson told the crowd at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver this past weekend that he had proof Jesus was real:
“If your calendar is dated of all the human beings who have ever walked on the Earth, and your calendar is dedicated and predicated to just one of ’em, evidently something rather large went down.”
Presumably, Robertson is talking about the use of “Anno Domini” with the year, meaning “Year of the Lord XXX,” and commonly abbreviated “AD” or “A.D.” This method of counting the years since the birth of Jesus was invented by a monk from southern Russia c. 600 A.D., Dionysius Exiguus, who was born in Scythia Minor.
Dionysius was living in Rome in 525, when he made his computations. According to these, the Annunciation or Incarnation (as opposed to birth) of Jesus occurred on March 25, AD 1 (Julian Calendar) — or precisely nine months before the Feast of the Nativity. It was Bede who made the new dating system popular in England and on the Continent, Alcuin.
Robertson says “it is 2016 years since Jesus showed up,” but he’s wrong about that. It is inaccurate because Dionysius (ironically bearing the name of a Greek god) counted the wrong number of years back to Jesus’ birth and got it wrong, putting our dating system off by four to six years. In other words, it should be 2020 right now, or even 2022. But hey, Robertson gets Jesus all wrong too, so no biggie, right?
Here’s the thing: our calendar is Pagan. It is the Julian calendar we use, reformed by Pope Gregory XIII. The original was introduced by Julius Caesar, himself deified as a god, which gave us 12 months and 365 days and the familiar leap year. And then there is the little issue of the months. July (Iulius) is named after Julius Caesar, replacing the old month of Quintilis.
Then there are the other months. January is named after the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings. So he’s real too, just like Jesus, according to Robertson’s logic. The month following July, August, is named after the emperor Augustus, the original “son of God” and who was recognized as a divine savior before Jesus was born and using the language later adopted by the early Church (from 9 B.C.E. we find an inscription from the Provincial Assembly of Asia):
Whereas Providence, which has regulated our whole existence…has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us [the emperor] Augustus, whom it [Providence] filled with strength for the welfare of men, and who being sent to us and our descendents as Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order, and [whereas] having become [god] manifest (phaneis), Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times…in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him…, and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news (evangelion) concerning him [therefore let a new era begin from his birth]. (OGIS 2.#458)
So yeah, he is a god too. So is Mars, after whom March is named, and Juno, the Queen of the Gods, after whom June is named.
Then we get to the days and add even more real gods, including Sol, or Helios, named for the Latin dies Solis, or “day of the Sun.” Tuesday is really “Tiw’s Day,” an old Germanic god, and Wednesday is Wotan’s Day (Odin’s Day), while Thursday is named after Thor, Friday named after Freya, and Saturday after the god Saturn.
Our calendar is literally jam-packed with Pagan gods. All those gods are real, says Robertson. Great news for polytheists, but not so great for somebody trying to prove only Jesus is real.
Obviously then, our calendar is not “dedicated and predicated to just one of ’em” as Robertson claims, but to a whole bunch of deities. You can be sure Robertson wasn’t trying to be inclusive, but a lack of education will do that to you.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.