Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Midnight to Midnight Day Origin

While it would be impossible for me to correct all the errors that fly around the Adventist Media and Conversation arena, I do occasionally come across some that make me smile. Such as the following where if someone were to make such a comment in their church no one would know if it was right or wrong. A person may have a gut reaction that it is wrong but what if the person making the comment had actually researched what they had said? In all likelyhood something like this from Beyrl at Club Adventist would go unchallanged.
God said that "evening and morning" (sunset to sunset) marked the beginning and end of each day. Rome pronounced that the day would begin and end at midnight.
Actually this idea comes from the French Revolution (no friends of Roman Catholics) with modifications by astronomers. From Decimal Time - History
The revolutionary French established the Republican Calendar on November 24, 1793, including decimal time of day. The day was divided into 10 decimal hours, each divided into 100 decimal minutes of 100 decimal seconds each, and 10 days made a decimal week, or "d├ęcade". Clocks were constructed with decimal faces, most of them displaying times in both systems. The hours were numbered 1 to 10, with 10 representing midnight local apparent time. Days of the week were also numbered 1 to 10. However, Revolutionary Time was officially abandoned on April 7, 1795, after only 18 months, although the Republican Calendar, with its the ten-day weeks, survived until the 1805, when it was repealed by Emperor Napoleon.

By the nineteenth century astronomers were using fractional days. In 1849, the British astronomer, John Herschel, published Outlines of Astronomy, describing fractional days and also introducing a system of decimal dates, by counting days of the Julian Period. Astronomers began adding fractional days to Julian Days, which together are called Julian Dates. Astronomers then started and ended the day at noon, so Julian Dates also started and ended at noon, as observed in Greenwich, England, where the Prime Meridian was agreed to cross by an international conference in Washington, DC, in 1884. Since 1925, astronomers have started and ended the day at midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, so astronomers introduced Modified Julian Dates and other variations which are synchronized with the Universal Day.
For some more detail regarding the Ancient methods of counting days here is a quote from Online Encylopedia
The subdivision of the day (q.v.) into twenty-four parts, or hours, has prevailed since the remotest ages, though different nations have not agreed either with respect to the epoch of its commencement or the manner of distributing the hours. Europeans in general, like the ancient Egyptians, place the commencement of the civil day at midnight, and reckon twelve morning hours from midnight to midday, and twelve evening hours from midday to midnight. Astronomers, after the example of Ptolemy, regard the day as commencing with the sun's
culmination, noon; and find it most convenient for the purposes of computation to reckon through the whole twenty-four hours.

Hipparchus reckoned the twenty-four hours from midnight to midnight. Some nations, as the ancient Chaldeans and the modern Greeks, have chosen sunrise for the commencement of the day; others, again, as the Italians and Bohemians, suppose it to commence at sunset. In all these cases the beginning of the day varies with the seasons at all places not under the equator. In the early ages of Rome, and even down to the middle of the 5th century after the foundation of the city, no other divisions of the day were known than sunrise, sunset, and midday, which was marked by the arrival of the sun between the Rostra and a place called Graecostasis, where ambassadors from Greece and other countries used to stand. The Greeks divided the natural day and night into twelve equal parts each, and the hours thus formed were denominated temporary hours, from their varying in length according to the seasons of the year.
It is sometimes argued about the 3 days Jesus spent in the tomb that some are computing time by the Roman method of midnight to midnight. However this is really not practical in a world without clocks, possible for the astronomers but not terrible useful to anyone else and sundials only worked during the daylight hours. The following is from Reckoning of Time in Ancient Rome:

Some Christians1 claim that the ancient Romans counted hours relative to midnight, but nothing could be further from the truth. There exists in the historical records of ancient Romans an abundance of evidence that they counted daylight hours relative to sunrise and nighttime hours relative to sunset, but there is no document from that time which shows that the Roman's hour was referenced to midnight.

Few things about ancient Roman history are clearer than that the Romans reckoned daylight hours relative to sunrise and nighttime hours relative to sunset.

What do you want to bet that no one over at Club Adventist will correct Beryl? Ok so the comment was made July 18 and it has already been a month, so it might be a sucker bet, but then again I just saw it!


Anonymous said...

...wonders why you didn't take the time to do it yourself...

Ron Corson said...

At that time and maybe it still is ClubAdventist was a pay to be a member site. Non Members could read some areas but not reply.