Biblical Chronography

We’re currently (in February 2023) in the year 7531 on the Orthodox Christian calendar, according to the 15th-century calculations of the Byzantine historian Michael Doukas, based also on earlier Church traditions. By contrast, this is the year 5783 on the Hebrew-Jewish Calendar calculated by the rabbinic sage Jose ben Halafta in the second century, and in the year 6026 in historical Anglican/Protestant calculations by Archbishop Ussher of the Anglican Irish Church in the 17th century. The calculation of these years all began in the fall, which is the time of the ecclesiastical new year for Orthodox Christians (Sept. 1). The Jewish new year also is celebrated in the fall, The autumn as the start of the new year parallels the evening as the beginning of the new day in the account of Creation in Genesis.

Such calculations reflect the art of biblical “chronography,” which followed genealogies from the beginning of the world based on different interpretations and translations of Scripture (the Byzantine dating followed the Greek Septuagint, while Jewish and Protestant calculations followed generally the later Hebrew Masoretic text). Generally, secular perspectives today dismiss biblical chronology. But these calendars remain important “traditional time” in religious communities for reasons of symbolic as well as literal readings of Scripture, and involve mystical lived experience of different dimensions of “sacred time.”

Father Seraphim Rose in his collection of patristic commentary, Genesis, Creation and Early Man, notes that the watershed between Creation and the Fall and human history since involved a mystery of complete change in what today might be called dimensions of space and time.

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