All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And behold I am with you … even unto the end of the world.

Werner Rolevinck, Fasciculus temporum omnes antiquorum Cronicas complectens


During the short period that Jesus walked the earth, his presence was most deeply felt in the Jewish world that he inhabited. In the centuries that followed, however, as early Christians carried their message to the Gentile world, the discrete historical and cultural moment that had constituted Jesus' worldly existence increasingly was seen as the historical and cultural moment. As philosophers, theologians, and artists grappled with the meaning of God's Incarnation in the temporal world, they evolved a new "grammar of history." Within this unique syntax, Jesus became the essential being whose enduring presence imparted order and meaning to the flow of time.
All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And behold I am with you … even unto the end of the world.

Werner Rolevinck, Fasciculus temporum omnes antiquorum Cronicas complectens


During the short period that Jesus walked the earth, his presence was most deeply felt in the Jewish world that he inhabited. In the centuries that followed, however, as early Christians carried their message to the Gentile world, the discrete historical and cultural moment that had constituted Jesus' worldly existence increasingly was seen as the historical and cultural moment. As philosophers, theologians, and artists grappled with the meaning of God's Incarnation in the temporal world, they evolved a new "grammar of history." Within this unique syntax, Jesus became the essential being whose enduring presence imparted order and meaning to the flow of time.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Jesus with Spheres of the Four Gospels

Rolevinck's history of the world is the first to give dates counting backward from the birth of Christ, expressing Jesus' presence throughout all time - from the pre-Christian era to the present.

Werner Rolevinck
c. 1477
Engraving
PMA:J99.1957
© Provincial Museum of Alberta


Dionysius based his Easter table
on the date of the Incarnation: ab incarnatione domini nostri Jesu Christi. The perennial feast days commemorated the Incarnation of
our Lord, the occasion of our redemption, and the source of our hope.

Arno Borst , The Ordering of Time

For most of the modern world, history begins with the birth of Jesus and every historical event is dated Anno Domini, the "Year of Our Lord." This was not always the case. The first Christians used the Jewish calendar, and early Christian historians employed the Roman system of dating events by the reigns of emperors. Later, some Christians abandoned the Roman system and began to date their calendars from the "Age of Martyrs," a particularly savage period of Christian persecution under Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.). In the sixth century, however, Dionysius Exiguus ("Little Denis"), a Scythian monk, decided to commence the Christian calendar from a more auspicious date - the b Read More
Dionysius based his Easter table
on the date of the Incarnation: ab incarnatione domini nostri Jesu Christi. The perennial feast days commemorated the Incarnation of
our Lord, the occasion of our redemption, and the source of our hope.

Arno Borst , The Ordering of Time

For most of the modern world, history begins with the birth of Jesus and every historical event is dated Anno Domini, the "Year of Our Lord." This was not always the case. The first Christians used the Jewish calendar, and early Christian historians employed the Roman system of dating events by the reigns of emperors. Later, some Christians abandoned the Roman system and began to date their calendars from the "Age of Martyrs," a particularly savage period of Christian persecution under Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.). In the sixth century, however, Dionysius Exiguus ("Little Denis"), a Scythian monk, decided to commence the Christian calendar from a more auspicious date - the birth of Jesus. When Little Denis initiated the practice of dating calendars from the "Year of Our Lord," he was formally acknowledging the apparent absurdity which the Christian world had long understood - that, symbolically, if not literally, history begins with the birth of a Galilean peasant.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

"Golden Numbers, Martyrs in the Age of Persecutions, and Easter Cycle Calendar."

Dionysius used astronomy and mathematics as well as the Incarnation to shape the Christian conception of time.

The Provincial Museum of Alberta Collection

Photograph
PMA:J99.1980
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta.


...Father, said I, Do you see (for example) this pitcher lying, a pitcher or whatsoever it may be? And he said, I see it. And I said to him, Can it be called by any other name than that which it is? And he answered, No. So can I call myself nought other than that which I am, a Christian.

Vita, Saint Perpetua

It is not solely on a world-historical level that Jesus is seen as the turning point of history; indeed, his transformative influence is perhaps most apparent - and most deeply felt - in the personal histories of devout Christians. The life of St. Perpetua attests to the deep impress Jesus has left upon those who have followed his life and teachings. Born to pagan parents in the second century, Perpetua converted to Christianity at a young age and became an ardent believer in Christ. Unwilling to compromise her faith, she refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods of her native Carthage and was arrested. While imprisoned awaiting trial, Perpetua’s resolve was strengthened by a series of dreams in which she witnessed her own salvation. In spite of her father’s pleas to submit and her anguish at having to lea Read More
...Father, said I, Do you see (for example) this pitcher lying, a pitcher or whatsoever it may be? And he said, I see it. And I said to him, Can it be called by any other name than that which it is? And he answered, No. So can I call myself nought other than that which I am, a Christian.

Vita, Saint Perpetua

It is not solely on a world-historical level that Jesus is seen as the turning point of history; indeed, his transformative influence is perhaps most apparent - and most deeply felt - in the personal histories of devout Christians. The life of St. Perpetua attests to the deep impress Jesus has left upon those who have followed his life and teachings. Born to pagan parents in the second century, Perpetua converted to Christianity at a young age and became an ardent believer in Christ. Unwilling to compromise her faith, she refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods of her native Carthage and was arrested. While imprisoned awaiting trial, Perpetua’s resolve was strengthened by a series of dreams in which she witnessed her own salvation. In spite of her father’s pleas to submit and her anguish at having to leave her infant son motherless, Perpetua remained steadfast. In 203 A.D., she was savagely executed along with several other Christians. Her last worldly act was to kiss a fellow Christian martyr.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Relics of B. J. de Brébeuf, B. G. Lalemant, B. C. Garnier

These relics memorialize the Canadian Martyrs who gave their lives in the effort to carry the Christian message to the First Peoples of Canada. Their sense of purpose is perhaps best expressed by Brébeuf's instruction to his fellow missionaries: "You must love these Hurons, ransomed by the blood of the Son of God, as brothers."

The Provincial Museum of Alberta Collection

Brass and Glass
PMA:J99.2008
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta.


And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with [the great whore of Babylon], will weep and wail over
her when they see smoke of her burning…

And the merchants of the earth
weep and mourn for her, since no
one buys their cargo any more…

Revelations 18:9

Surprisingly, the delay (or non-occurrence) of the anticipated apocalypse did not cause a major trauma in the early Church. Rather, it led to a remarkable evolution in Christian consciousness - the coexistence of a sincere expectation of the imminent Parousia with a willingness to accept and even embrace a continuance of human history. The fiery second-century Christian apologist Tertullian (d.225) gave eloquent expression to this ostensibly contradictory mindset. The same Tertullian who had predicted the Read More
And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with [the great whore of Babylon], will weep and wail over
her when they see smoke of her burning…

And the merchants of the earth
weep and mourn for her, since no
one buys their cargo any more…

Revelations 18:9

Surprisingly, the delay (or non-occurrence) of the anticipated apocalypse did not cause a major trauma in the early Church. Rather, it led to a remarkable evolution in Christian consciousness - the coexistence of a sincere expectation of the imminent Parousia with a willingness to accept and even embrace a continuance of human history. The fiery second-century Christian apologist Tertullian (d.225) gave eloquent expression to this ostensibly contradictory mindset. The same Tertullian who had predicted the Last Judgment with a terrifying, visceral immediacy - "magistrates … liquefying in fiercer flames than they kindled in their rage against the Christians" and "great kings … groaning in the depths of darkness" - could also pray in earnest for "Emperors, for their ministers and those in authority, for the security of the world, for peace on earth, for postponement of the end." In the centuries that followed Tertullian, the fervent anticipation of the Second Coming increasingly accommodated a belief that, through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus had already fundamentally transformed the meaning of human history and existence.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Last Judgment

Blake's image of the Last Judgment is a complex mythical vision which begins when "Imagination, Art & Science & all Intellectual Gifts are look'd upon as of no use."

William Blake (1757-1827)
c. 1809
Pen and ink with wash over graphite
PMA:J98.114.
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Explain what is meant by the phrase “Jesus is the turning point of history”, including reference to the calendar;
  • Describe, using examples, the ideology of some prominent Christians throughout the ages.

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