by Matt Neibaur, M.D.
Scientific Symposium I 1988
In 1572 a former professor of law from Bologna named Ugo Buoncompagni became Pope Gregory XIII; ten years later the Gregorian calendar was introduced. The Julian calendar, founded sixteen centuries earlier by Julius Caesar, was inaccurate and the need for reform was widely recognized. Its principal failure was the discrepancy between the mean length of its year, 365.25 days, and the tropical year, then averaging 365.24232 days. This is nearly eleven minutes and four seconds shorter than the Julian year, a small discrepancy which continued to accumulate until it was no longer a matter of minutes but days. By the time of the Gregorian reform, this error had grown to eleven days. Understandably, this was of concern to the Pope; if the calendar had continued unchanged, Easter would eventually be celebrated in the summer.
The attempts at reform set off a wide range of debates, both academic and religious. At one point excommunication was threatened by the Pope against anyone who refused to accept the new calendar. The details and controversies created by the reform are presented beautifully in an article in the May 1982 issue of The Scientific American by Gordon Moyer entitled, "The Gregorian Calendar."
Readers of The Urantia Book should find the calendar reform and methods of measuring time interesting. In part four of the book, The Life and Teachings of Jesus, there are numerous references to dates. Dates and weekdays are listed unequivocally. Is there any way to check on these dates? Was April 14, A.D. 2, really a Friday as stated? Would it make any difference if the dates and weekdays did not correlate? Would The Urantia Book be true if major discrepancies existed? Whether or not one accepts or rejects The Urantia Book is determined more by its spiritual impact rather than possible scientific correlations. Still, it would be nice to know if there existed independent verification of these dates and times.
Using information obtained from the book, Astronomical Formulae for Calculators by Jean Meeus, a program was written to calculate dates and weekdays. The program takes into account the Gregorian calendar reform. All dates are first converted to Julian Day numbers and the results are divided by seven to obtain weekdays from the remainder. A calendar is then generated using this information. Even by computer standards, it is a rather tedious process.
The results were reassuring. The odds of merely guessing the correct day would be one in seven for each day or the product of the separate probabilities for all of the dates listed. This calculates to one chance in 5,764,801 for correctly guessing the eight dates listed. (Now you know why bingo games are a great way of making money.) The following dates were sampled and showed correct dates with corresponding weekdays:
Date Weekday Correlation
April 14, AD 2 Friday Yes
June 24, AD 5 Wednesday Yes
January 9, AD 7 Sunday Yes
April 17, AD 9 Wednesday Yes
April 26, AD 22 Sunday Yes
March 3, AD 26 Sunday Yes
February 23, AD 26 Saturday Yes
June 18, AD 26 Tuesday Yes
There are more dates in The Urantia Book. Perhaps other readers would like to experiment with the program. Future projects could include construction of a calendar with corresponding events listed for specific dates during the life of Jesus. A chronological guide with specific maps could become an important adjunct in studying part four of the book. The calendars are already available that encompass the time periods from 8 B.C. to 30 A.D.
A service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship