Too Early or Too Late?
MUCH is currently being said about the start of the 21st century and the third millennium after the birth of Jesus Christ. Newsweek magazine said that “the 20th century, which began as the Century of Total War and grew into the Atomic Era, seems to be ending as the Age of Entertainment.” In its issue of January 22, 1997, it reported: “Hotels around the globe are already fully booked” for celebrations on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1999.
However, some people say that the celebrations are taking place too soon. They point out that contrary to the belief of many, the 21st century and the new millennium do not begin on January 1, 2000, but on January 1, 2001. Since there was no year 0, the first century ran from year 1 through 100, the second century from 101 through 200, and so forth. Thus it is argued that the 20th century, which began on January 1, 1901, and the second millennium, which began on January 1, 1001, will not end until December 31, 2000.
There is an additional point to consider. Our calendar divides time on the basis of being either before or after the birth of Christ. Scholars now recognize that Jesus was born earlier than previously thought, thus making the calendar’s pivotal point inaccurate. Opinions differ as to when Jesus was born, but Bible chronology points to the year 2 B.C.E. By that reckoning, the third millennium after Christ’s birth actually began in the fall of this year! Further information can be found in the Awake! issues of May 22, 1997, on page 28, and of December 22, 1975, on page 27.a
In any event, it is wise to avoid stating dogmatically that the 21st century and the new millennium will start in just a few weeks. Nevertheless, in view of popular viewpoints, Awake! feels it appropriate at this time to discuss the subject “The 20th Century—Critical Years of Change.”
a See also the November 1, 1999, issue of The Watchtower.