Why the year 0 CE?

The irony is that it wasn’t until Dionysius Exiguus or Bede (in the late 400’s or in the late 600’s BCE respectively) that we started counting backwards to the time of Jesus.

The year zero is a convenience… and for the most part was simply 1 BCE to most historians.

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Well, the designation BC never really made sense, since there was no such time. Christ is eternal.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around where you’re going with presuppositions, so this response may still be missing your points.

I don’t think any religious system of thought (including Christianity) is just “plunked down” as a self-contained unit providing all its own essentials with absolutely no tie-in or buy-in to local culture. In fact, that would seem (to me) to make nonsense of the whole point of the incarnation, where Christ comes into this world as it is, after all - to transform it, to be sure, but He does it from the inside.

So while I may not be able to identify some chapter or verse that essentially commands …“thou shalt have this presupposition…” it still seems a logical necessity to me that we already have some prior investment in living in and with God’s creation here before we can effectively be taught how to live rightly with it and with each other. And that investment (all our social / cultural trappings) will inevitably involve a boatload of presuppositions. Lots of varied ones to be sure, and many of them maybe not logically necessary to function as a Christian; but some probably so. Such as: objective truth exists … even if it is the perpetual struggle of our subjective selves to apprehend it. There is a God … and there is right and wrong (good and evil) in the world and we need to be very concerned to discern between the two. I see these more as presumptions already in place prior to the Bible rather than philosophical propositions addressed in it. And there are probably many more as well, but those might be a few of the main ones.

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While yes the Christian faith is made based on eyewitness accounts; it is more then that, it is on a personal experience and spiritual encounter with God and the love of God through Jesus Christ. The Christian scriptures wouldn’t be written till several decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus, what prompted the early Christians to act wasn’t sole their eyewitness but the certain events that they saw in their life that made them live out those ideals. Now on the year 0 debate, I see it as a silly things as many people believe that Jesus was born somewhere in either July or August of either 5 BCE or 4 BCE. Thus the year 0 is a useless issue. I don’t know why people get all upset over this issue. Also I’m sure there was some presuppositions with the early church to make sense of the life, ministry, and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and their attempts to make sense of the OT prophecies and even trying to make sense of verses from the OT that aren’t prophetic/messanic and see that as that. it wasn’t like that on the day of Pentecost that the apostles got it all together when the Holy Spirit came down on them, no, it took decades for them to see it was more then a Jewish eschatological sect movement and how it became a trans-social-cultural movement that saw the Kingdom of God on earth through the work and ministry of the Church empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue the work of Jesus Christ.

Psychologists have demonstrated quite conclusively that there is no perception independent of belief. Therefore the idea that being based on eyewitness accounts makes Christianity without presupposition is absurd. The plain indisputable fact is that people read those same eyewitness accounts and come away with completely different conclusions. What? People are only atheist, or Hindu, or Muslim just because they haven’t read the Bible? LOL That is total silliness.

Premises accepted on faith are premises accepted on faith and that is all there is to it. Calling them by different word like “presuppositions” and “self-evident” doesn’t change this basic fact. It is also a fact that other people do not accept the ones that you have accepted.


The Judeo-Christian faith presupposes that the Bible is inspired by God, for starters. There are many, many more, such as eyewitness accounts in the gospels.

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This is inaccurate. MN makes no claims about the nonphysical or immaterial. Rather, MN takes what we can measure and moves forward from there. In my experience, it is those who believe in the nonphysical or immaterial who make the claim about not being able to objectively measure them. All MN requires is that the evidence be empirical if you want to claim that your conclusions are scientific.

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Granted, but implicit in it is that you can not empirically test for the nonphysical or immaterial. How can you, using material tools and measuring.

Sort of. If I said that bacteria are nonphysical and immaterial that wouldn’t change the fact that we can empirically measure them. The real question is how we determine if anything nonphysical or immaterial exists, or if what we claim is nonphysical is actually physical. It’s a rat’s nest of definitions, categorization, and verification.


Yeah, it’s easier to just presume God doesn’t exist.

I’m confused. What if I were a Muslim and recited the shahada (witness) that “there is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is his Prophet;” and explained that I dreamed and felt that Allah had told me that? There are more than a billion Muslims in the world; what is the way we can measure the difference in belief between them and us, or among the faiths?

I have some sympathy with naturalism in that helps define what we can be reasonably expected to be responsible for.
Also, given that God must, I think, be just (or He is not God), then He would only hold us responsible for what we can know. Many of us believe, I think, because we want to; and others, because it fills our insecurities and quiets them (another form of wanting). My father said, for example, “Absolutely; my faith is a crutch. I don’t know what I’d do without it.” That’s a very honest description. And I think that Augustine’s supposition that we are made for God and we’re not completely at rest till we find Him is reasonable, but not verifiable. We are also necessarily abstract, and seem to reason from comparisons. Thus, if we seek for absolute truth beyond current knowledge, it must be God; etc. Nevertheless, it gives me reason (but not proof) that God exists (this is similar to Mere Christianity’s moral premise, to a certain extent).

Does that make sense?


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Well I am talking in particular about history–presuppositions about history. If we were to choose to start counting the years somewhere (i.e. a year 0 CE), we could throw the dice or we could try to come up with some kind of rubric for choosing a date. Now, no one did either of those and the date was determined early on and I imagine that Wikipedia article probably gave a good summary of how it happened though I didn’t actually read it. Regardless, historians can probably give some insightful comments about geopolitical movements, cultural imperialism, etc.

I am simply saying that, hmmm, is it just a coincidence that the worldview which set 0 CE (Christianity) also happens to be the one and only worldview that does not ask for any presuppositions about history? I don’t think so. I think that Christianity set the year 0 because it was the one and only worldview that did not ask for any blind-faith beliefs about God, about history, or about the world. All the other word views say that before you look at history you need to first arbitrarily choose to believe certain things to be true.

Apart from historical matters–such as the issues you mentioned about whether objective truth exists, whether God exists, whether morality exists–99.9% of the planet has treated those as self-evident truths throughout history. It is only with outrageous rhetorical gymnastics, extremely stubborn obfuscation, and political disconnection from reality (the kind of disconnection that leads to justifying things like the Holocaust or the Killing Fields or the mass re-education camps in China, etc.) before those become issues and before we “debate” moral issues like whether pornography is oppressive or whether suicide is healthy, etc.

I try to avoid all that as much as possible. Somewhere out there the fields are white for harvest for those who are hungry to know who God is and what he has done. So I’m just talking about presuppositions about history.

No, the Judeo-Christian faith does not do that at all. And that’s a profound difference from other faiths. The Judeo-Christian faith invites you to listen to what the eyewitnesses claimed to see and hear. You don’t have to presuppose anything; instead, you listen and ask and make a rational, wise decision. It is, in principle, no different from choosing to believe that George Washington was the first president of the United States. After all, you cannot actually see him being president, so you have to have faith in the testimonies of others and choose to believe that the historical evidence and circumstantial evidence is sufficient. Granted, its a rock-solid faith, but faith nonetheless. If that sounds like a stretch, then consider a much more recent example–the Holocaust of WWII. We have tens of thousands of witnesses, both victims and soldiers (from both sides), as well as the German documents themselves. Nevertheless, millions of people firmly believe that it was all a concocted myth to justify Zionism in particular and the divvying up of Europe in general. The first generation that said it was a myth probably knew that they were lying. But the 2nd and 3rd generations firmly believe it was all a lie.

There is a profound difference between:

  • How the church grew based on objective claims about history (i.e. based upon not just “good news” but also upon excellent journalistic news) and about what people claimed to see and hear.
  • How other religions grew based upon blind faith in mystical revelations.

The former treats people with greater respect and encourages rational thought and examination of objective truth and personal dialog with God. The latter leads to blind obedience or fanaticism. (And throughout history, the more that churches distanced people from God by, for example, putting him in Cathedrals governed by soft men dressed in fine clothing (Luke 7:25), and not giving them access to the Bible in a language they could understand–the more they did that, the more that bred corruption and fanaticism.)

I’m still not getting by what you mean by when you say, “no presuppositions”? The early church had presuppositions in order to make sense of Jesus being Messiah and Lord and also making sense of the messanic prophecies that didn’t fulfilled the way mainstream Jewish thought at the time thought it would happen. It took a lot of re-working and re-thinking of the OT and the scripture within it to try and make sense of the messanic hope and the ministry of Jesus.


What presuppositions? Tell me one. They believed the eyewitness accounts of the OT. Like you said earlier, it took them years to come to a greater understanding.

It took 5-7 years before they understood that the gospel was not just for the Jews but also for the whole world. And even then, it was only after God gave Peter a mystical revelation. (Acts 10) It took an additional 7-10 years before they concluded that Christians did not need to get circumcised. And the doctrine of the trinity? That would take a few hundred years to iron out. When they realized that prophecies about the future had been fulfilled, they began examining the Old Testament in light of that and slowly grew in their understanding as the fisherman Peter put it (1 Peter 1:10-12).

The early church persisted because they had walked with Jesus–because, as the fisherman John put it of that “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.” (1 John 1:1)

Tell me a presupposition–something they had to believe apart from any eyewitnesses or other such evidence. They were specifically instructed not to believe something that contradicted eyewitness accounts.

Presupposition are unavoidable. They are built into the meaning of the very words of the language used to tell those eyewitness accounts. And therein lies a great deal of irony, that because you do not even use the same language they did, your presupposition in reading the story are not the same as theirs. For example, it is abundantly obvious that the people at that time had no understanding of DNA, atoms, chemistry, evolution, or the universe. And thus when people read these accounts and come to conclusions about such things, they are clearly coming to conclusions which the people who wrote those accounts did not have themselves. And yet people make such preposterous claims that their beliefs about such things come from the Bible.


History–the turning point (0 CE) in history. I’m talking about presuppositions about history. The Judeo-Christian faith is the only one that doesn’t ask for them. Just as we don’t presuppose that George Washington was the first president of the United States or that the Holocaust happened, we don’t presuppose that the Exodus happened or that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Aside from history…I haven’t really thought about it. I believe that God literally spoke the universe into existence, just as is written (though I have no presuppositions about how long it took, nor do I presuppose that he was speaking ancient Hebrew when he did it :grin:). I believe that his words literally hold the universe together, just as it is written.

It is possible that the universe was created this morning with all of our memories as they are. In that case none of the things in the Bible happened and this is just a made up story. So when you consider how many people consider the historical event of Jesus resurrection to be crucial to Christianity, without which there is no Christianity, how can you say there is no historical presupposition?
So which is it?

  1. Presuppose that the universe was not created this morning but that all of our memories and accounts of events are things which actually happened.
  2. The events described in the Bible are unimportant to Christianity.

Which is it?

And this is meant to point out just ONE example of the many many presuppositions about history required by Christianity. This religion does not have less historical presuppositions than other religions but MORE than other religions. Because whatever record other religions have of historical events these are not essential for the belief system of the religion. Take Buddhism for example. What is important is what the Buddha taught and not that the Buddha ever existed. This is very much not the case with Christianity where what Jesus taught is not considered anywhere near as important as the historical events of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Frankly, I think most people have been so flabbergasted by the absurdity of the claims which have been made in this thread that they don’t even know what to say – far more absurd than the claims of the Flat Earth society!

Many many religions are not historical in nature the way that Christianity is. They don’t even have a book telling a story about events they claim to have happened. They are about a way of living and handling a variety of everyday problems. So what are the historical presuppositions of the religion of the Navajo, for example??? The religions which have debates about whether some events told in a book actually happened are rather few and Christianity is at the very top of that list.

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In order to believe the eyewitness accounts that Jesus rose from the dead and that this resurrection was the firstfruits of some promised Resurrection to come and had the effect of forgiving sins and reconciling people to God, they had to have concepts of a Messiah/Redeemer, of sin, of forgiveness, of God, of a Resurrection to eternal life. Those concepts necessarily include presuppositions about what is possible and what is real and what is expected. I’m with Mitchell. Without presuppositions, you can’t make sense of the world. Everything is interpreted through your existing conceptual system, a system which is encultured and is definitely affected by the presuppositions of the worldview of your community.

The basic “eyewitness evidence,” Jesus was dead and now was alive, does not make the Christian faith or change the world. It’s the theological interpretation of what those events mean, an interpretation that takes place in an existing conceptual system, that is the basis of the faith.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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