Friday, November 11, 2011

Australian school books go CE

The world famous  Mayan calendar
End of world in 2012? (ref)

On September 5, 2011 an article in Intentious told:

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the independent authority responsible for the development of national curriculum, said BCE and CE were to be introduced because this was an increasingly common standard for the representation of dates. The focus of ACARA is, after all, on creating programs that support 21st century learning for Australian students.

A spokesman for ACARA explained that the little known term BP (Before Present) will be used when dealing with “very ancient history and archaeology, and allows for the teaching of more sophisticated understandings of representations of time.” A spokesman for Adrian Piccoli (Education Minister) said the minister was not concerned about the changes as the terms BCE and CE were now commonly used.
(See also the 3rd September 2011 article in Daily Mail on line)

Adrian Piccoli MP tells something about himself in his homepage. Wikipedia informs that
Adrian Piccoli (born 24 March 1970) is an Australian politician representing the electoral district of Murrumbidgee in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He is the Minister for Education in the O'Farrell Government and the Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Nationals

Calendar and culture
Many cultures have selected the starting point of their calendar on the basis of some crucial historical event and often on the basis of religion. The close marriage of religion and calendar in most cultures comes from the religious feasts and festivals that take place at given times.

I write this blog on 12 November 2011 and used a nice online converter to get other calendar dates:

For Christians, the decisive point in time is the birth of Jesus and this is used as year zero. Because it is not in the beginning of things events took place either before Christ (B.C.) or in the years of our Lord (Anno Domino) more often left unmarked.

The date is 12 November 2011 A.D. (Gregorian) 29 October 2011 A.D. (Julian)

Jews count their calendar using the creation of the world as point zero.
The date is 15 Cheshvan 5772

Islamic calendar starts with the decisive event of Hijra التقويم الهجري‎ (al taqwim hijri) when Islamic prophet Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina on Christian year 570.
The date is 14 Dhu al-Hijah 1432

In Iran the date of this writing is 20 Aban 1390 Anno Persico which is counted from solar Hijra rather than lunar and starts from 621.

Ethiopian calender shows 1 Khedar 2004

Coptic or Alexandrian calendar has 1 Hatur 1728 and it is based on ancient Egyptian calendar as the Copts identify themselves - probably correctly - with the Pharaonic population.

French Revolutionaries wanted to mark the new beginning also in the calendar and so we have 21 Brumaire an 220 de la Révolution

The revolutionaries taking control of Burma also started a new calendar with year 0 for Myanmar. This replaces the traditional Buddhist calendar also used in Burma that begins in 638.

The list of calendars based on religion or history goes on. Ancient Egyptians watched the helical rising of Sirius very patiently... the cycle takes 1460 years! Roman calendar reminded populus romanus of their common ancestry in Romulus and Remus 753 BC until Julius Caesar changed it. The incredible Mayan calendar has found much interest lately among the people of Earth.

The point is that calendar is not just a convenient way of showing dates in some standard cold style like the C-14 radiocarbon dates B.P. (Before Present).

No! The world of calendars is a cultural thing that is deeply embedded in the psyche of the nations and in the religions of humans.

Is C.E. neutral?
The change suggested for Australian school text books has a very simple sounding explanation "because this was an increasingly common standard for the representation of dates". This is probably not the entire story, however.

But Adrian Piccoli and his friends in the government of Australia are hitting something with this change into something much more important and symbolic than just the suggested adopting to an increasingly common modern practice of using BCE and CE.

Common Era C.E. and Before Common Era B.C.E. notation after Christian years counted from year zero (Latin vulgaris aerae) was frequently used by 19th century Jewish scholars. It is a gentle but powerful rejection of the Messianic claim of Jesus. How could a Jew say "Before Christ" when his religion does not accept that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah of the Jewish people?

This is understandable for a sensitive religious Jewish person and as I told before, they have their own ancient religious calendar that meticulously determines the dates of the religious feasts following lunar calendar with dates reflecting the agricultural calendar of the Holy Land. Passover, for example, takes place during a full moon.

In a Christian culture, on the other hand, the use of C.E. may be seen as a gentle rejection of the faith that Jesus is Christ.

I think that the reactions of Australian Christians reflect this feeling that the secularization of historic dates suddenly in 2011 reflects a change in the value system of the modern Australian culture. A kind of change of calendars like in French, Soviet or Burmese revolutions!

Fourth beast in the vision of Daniel
I find it quite relevant to this discussion that in the book of Daniel that scary ruler makes many changes to the laws - and also changes the calendar!

23"Thus he said: 'As for the fourth beast,

   there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
   which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
   and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24As for the ten horns,out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
   and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
   and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
   and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
   and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
   for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
   and his dominion shall be taken away,
   to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
   and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
   shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
   and all dominions shall serve and obey them.'

Daniel 7 

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