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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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a series of years used for chronological purposes, dating from some well- known event. (See EPOCH).

I. The ancient Jews made use of several aeras in their computations:

1. From Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:13, it appears that they reckoned from the lives of the patriarchs, or other illustrious persons.

2. From their departure out of Egypt, and the first institution of their polity

(Exodus 19:1; Numbers 1:1; Numbers 33:38; 1 Kings 6:1).

3. Afterward, from the building of the temple (1 Kings 9:10; 2 Chronicles 8:1), and from the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel.

4. From the commencement of the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 33:21; Ezekiel 40:1), and, perhaps, also from their return, and the dedication of the second temple. In process of time they adopted, 5, the A Era of the Seleucidae, which, in the books of Maccabees is called the A Era of the Greeks, and the Alexandrian A Era; it began from the year when Seleucus Nicanor attained the sovereign power; that is, about 312 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. This aera continued in general use among the Orientals, with the exception of the Mohammedans, who employed it, together with their own aera, from the flight of Mohammed. The Jews had no other epoch until A.D. 1040, when, being expelled from Asia by the caliphs, they began to date from the Creation, though still without entirely dropping the A Era of the Seleucidae.

6. They were accustomed, also, to reckon their years from the years when their princes began to reign. Thus, in 1 Kings 15:1; Isaiah 36:1; and Jeremiah 1:2-3, we have traces of their anciently computing according to the years of their kings; and, in later times (1 Maccabees 13:42; 1 Maccabees 14:27), according to the years of the Asmonean princes. Of this mode of computation we have vestiges in Matthew 2:1; Luke 1:5; and Luke 3:1.

7. Ever since the compilation of the Talmud, the Jews have reckoned their years from the creation of the world, which they fix at B.C. 3761. (See Reland, Antiq. Hebr.; Schulzii Compend. Arch. Hebr.; Jahn, Arch. Bibl.) (See CHRONOLOGY).

II. The ancient Heathens used the following aeras:

1. The A Era of the First Olympiad is placed in the year of the world 3228, and before the Vulgar A Era 776.

2. The taking of Troy by the Greeks, in the year of the world 2820, and B.C. 1184.

3. The voyage undertaken for the purpose of bringing away the golden fleece, in the year of the world 2760.

4. The foundation of Rome, in B.C. 753.

5. The A Era of Nabonassar, in B.C. 747.

6. The A Era of Alexander the Great, or his last victory over Darius, B.C. 330.

7. The Julian A Era, from B.C. 45. 8. In a great part of India, the A Era of Sulwanah, from A.D. 78.

9. In the later Roman empire, the A Era of Diocletian, from A.D. 284.

10. Among the Mohammedans, the Hegira, from A.D. 622.

11. Among the modern Persians, the A Era of Yezdegird, from A.D. 632. (See AGE).

III. The Christians for a long time had no aera of their own, but followed those in common use in the several countries.

1. In the western part of the Roman empire the Consular A Era remained in use until the sixth century after Christ. Frequently, also, the years were counted from the accession of an emperor to the throne.

2. The AEra Diocletiana, beginning with the accession of Diocletian to the throne (284), came into use first, and became very common in Egypt. The Christians who used it gave to it the name -AEra Martyrum, on account of the great number of those who suffered martyrdom under the reign of that emperor. It is still used by the Abyssinians and Copts.

3. In the days of Constantine the custom arose to count the years according to Indictions. A cycle of indiction is a period of fifteen years, and the first year of the first cycle is generally considered to correspond with the year 313 of the Christian AEra. This aera was very common in the Middle Ages.

4. The AEra Hispanica was in use in Spain from the 5th until the 14th century, when it gave way to the Dionysian A Era. It begins with the year 38 B.C., i.e. the year following the conquest of Spain by Augustus.

5. The A Era of the Seleucidae, or Macedonian A Era, begins, according to the computation generally followed, with September 1, B.C. 312, the epoch of the first conquests of Seleucus Nicator in Syria. It is still used in the church year of the Syrian Christians.

6. The A Era of Antioch, which was adopted to commemorate the victory of Caesar on the plains of Pharsalia, begins with Sept. 1, B.C. 49, according to the computation of the Greeks, but 11 months later according to that of the Syrians. It is followed by Evagrius in his Ecclesiastical History. 7. The A Era of the Armenians begins with the year A.D. 552, in which the Armenians, at the council of Tiben, separated from the main body of the Eastern Church by rejecting the council of Chalcedon.

8. The A Era of Constantinople, or Byzantine A Era, begins with the creation of the world, which it fixes 5508 years before the Christian or Vulgar A Era. It is still in use among the Albanians, Servians, and modern Greeks.

9. The most common aera among Christians is the Dionysian A Era (A Era Dionysiana), so called after Dionysius Exiguus (q.v.), who proposed it in the sixth century. It counts the years from the birth, or rather the conception of Christ, designating the January of the year in the December of which Christ was born, as the January of the first year post Christum. Christ, according to this calculation, was born at the close of the first year "POST incarnationem" (i.e. the conception). As the first year post Christum, Dionysius assumes the year 754 from the foundation of Rome, an opinion which has long ago been shown to be incorrect. (See NATIVITY). The Dionysian A Era was adopted in Rome as early as the middle of the 6th century. The first public transaction which was dated according to it is the Concilium German. a. 742; and the first sovereign who used it is Charlemagne. In the 11th century it was adopted by the popes, since which time its use in the Western Church has been universal.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Aera'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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