London: Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly believed as the entire Christian calendar is based on a miscalculation, the Pope has declared.
The “mistake” was made by a sixth century monk known as Dionysius Exiguus or in English Dennis the Small, the 85-year-old pontiff claims in the book ‘Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives’, published on Wednesday, the Telegraph reported.
“The calculation of the beginning of our calendar – based on the birth of Jesus – was made by Dionysius Exiguus, who made a mistake in his calculations by several years,” the Pope writes in the book.
“The actual date of Jesus’ birth was several years before,” he wrote.
The assertion that the Christian calendar is based on a false premise is not new – many historians believe that Christ was born sometime between 7 BC and 2 BC.
But the fact that doubts over one of the keystones of Christian tradition have been raised by the leader of the world’s one billion Catholics is striking.
Dennis the Small, who was born in Eastern Europe, is credited with being the “inventor” of the modern calendar and the concept of the Anno Domini era.
He drew up the new system in part to distance it from the calendar in use at the time, which was based on the years since the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian.
The emperor had persecuted Christians, so there was good reason to expunge him from the new dating system in favour of one inspired by the birth of Christ.
The monk’s calendar became widely accepted in Europe after it was adopted by the Venerable Bede, the historian-monk, to date the events that he recounted in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which he completed in AD 731.
But exactly how Dennis calculated the year of Christ’s birth is not clear and the Pope’s claim that he made a mistake is a view shared by many scholars.
The Bible does not specify a date for the birth of Christ.
The monk instead appears to have based his calculations on vague references to Jesus’ age at the start of his ministry and the fact that he was baptised in the reign of the emperor Tiberius.