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BIBLICAL GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY
Issue No. 14

6 - 12 Apr 2009

Why does Easter move around our calendar so much?      
- By Quek Tze-Ming

Easter is the time when we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection. Unlike Christmas (the other important day in the Christian calendar), which is fixed on December 25, Easter seems to float around the Sundays of April randomly, occasionally making an appearance in March (it fell on March 23 in 2008) or as late as April 25 (this will happen in 2038).

Why is this? The answer is found in the difficulty of calculating a date based on both the solar and lunar calendars.

According to the gospel accounts, Jesus was killed on or around the time of the Jewish Passover. He was raised three days later, on the first day of the Jewish week (Sunday).  So Christians wanted to have their feast day around the same time as Passover, which was fixed to begin on twilight on the 14th day of the month of Nisan (Heb: Aviv; see Lev. 23.5).

Got this so far? Now come the disputes.
First, in the mid-second century, Christians in the province of Asia celebrated Easter beginning on Nisan 14 itself, rather than the Sunday following, which was the practice of most Christians outside of Asia. This became known as the Quartodeciman controversy (in the Latin Vulgate of Lev. 23.5, quarta decima = 14). The early father Melito of Sardis was a notable Quartodeciman. This difference in practice led predictably to bouts of name-calling, with threats of excommunication and harassment. Quartodecimanism died out, but it was the first of a whole series of Easter controversies.

Second, by the third century, some Christians were becoming unhappy with relying on the Jewish community to determine the date of Easter. The First Council of Nicaea (325 CE) decided that the calculation for the date of Easter would be “independent” of Jewish calculations of the Passover. Because the Council came up with little that was actually useful in computation, it took centuries for a common method to find acceptance throughout Christendom. Thus, while the Alexandrian tables eventually became normative, a Roman 84-year cycle introduced at the end of the 3rd century continued to be in use in the British Isles as late is 931.

So what is the rule now? What eventually came to be accepted was this: Easter falls on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal (or spring) equinox, which is the spring day when the length of the day and the length of the night are exactly the same.

This is why Easter moves around our Gregorian (solar) calendar so much, because the calculation depends on both the solar and lunar year. A solar year (the length of time it takes the earth to move round the sun) is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds. But a lunar year is 354.37 days. Even for those who are mathematically inclined, calculating one (solar: equinox) against another (lunar: full moon day) is seriously complicated.

You would think this is complicated enough, but that didn’t stop even more fiddling around!
You see, the problem was that BOTH the astronomical full moon and the astronomical equinox were not days but moments in time, and they vary. The astronomical equinox can occur on either March 20 (as it did at Nicaea) or Mar 21 (so 2007). The astronomical full moon can be observed happening on different days depending on where you were standing on earth. All this reliance on observation made planning ahead well nigh impossible.

So the church fathers decided that the full moon used to determine Easter would not be the astronomical full moon, but an Ecclesiastical Full Moon (EFM), calculated as the 14th day of the lunar month (determined by formula). Easter was defined as the Sunday after the first EFM that falls on or after March 21 (whether or not that date is the astronomical equinox).

Got it? So Easter is the Sunday after a notional full moon following a notional equinox!
Using the formula and tables, Easter can fall on 35 possible dates between March 22 and April 25 inclusive, with the cycle of dates repeating itself after exactly 5,700,000 years. The most common date for Easter is April 19, occurring 3.9% of the time.

In practice, we get our Easter dates from the Catholic church, which has compiled tables based on the ecclesiastical rules. All the Easter observant churches in Western Christendom use this table, or the calculation behind it (the Eastern Churches have liturgical calendars based on the Julian calendar). The calculation of Easter is one practice that the Protestant church still gets its cues from the Roman Catholic church. It is a practice based on conciliar decision and church tradition that the Reformation did not touch. Perhaps it was too difficult to understand, reform, or offer an alternative!

In this period leading up to our Resurrection-celebration, it is appropriate for us to end by meditating on these lines from the old Quartodeciman, Melito of Sardis:

I, he says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I, he says, am the Christ.

Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand.          

- Peri Pascha 102-103

Chapel Notes
The speaker for last week’s Chapel was Rev. Timothy Phua, Pastor of Mt Horeb B-P Church. He shared on "The Aroma of Christ," based on 2 Corinthians 2:14-17.

In this text, the Apostle Paul describes himself as one who is led in triumphal procession of Christ, spreading everywhere fragrance of the knowledge of him. Following Paul’s self-description, Pastor Timothy reminded us of who we are as ministers of the Lord.

First, we are rescued slaves of God. We have been rescued from Satan’s dominion of darkness to be co-heirs with Christ in his kingdom (Col. 1:10, 13-14), a fact which should lead us to appreciate the depth of joy we have in Christ.

Secondly, we are reliable spokesmen of God, and as such we are an aroma of death to those who are perishing and a fragrance to those being saved (2 Cor. 2:16). In reply to his opponents who accused him of peddling the gospel for profit, Paul reminded the Corinthians of the efficacy and genuineness of his ministry, attested firstly by the Corinthians’ very lives which are his letters of commendation (2 Cor. 3:1), and secondly by Paul’s own life of humility and integrity, lived out in public for them all to see (Acts 20:17). We too are reminded not to live double lives.

Thirdly, we are royal servants of God. Just like Paul and his companions, we are sent from God (2 Cor. 2:17). In times of difficulty we can stand tall, because of the Lord who called us and sent us.

In conclusion, whenever we are faced with difficulties in our ministries, we can take encouragement from the example and teaching of Paul, an ambassador in chains (Eph. 6:19), who continued to proclaim fearlessly. We remember who we are as ministers of the Lord, and this is what we hold on to in our calling.

Weekly Highlights

Chapel speaker for 8th April is Mr Mickey Chiang. He will speak on "Losing our Wows". Chapel begins at 12pm every Wednesday.

Next Week’s Chapel speaker (15th Apr) will be Dr Quek Swee Hwa. You are welcome to join us.

Courses Commencing Next Week

register now

Educational Planning & Management (ECF510, 3 cr);  Apr 7, 14, 21, 28, May 5, 12, 19, 26; (Tue 7.15-10.15pm) Lecturer: Dr Ng Peh Cheng

Isaac, Jacob, Joseph: God’s Grace in a Dysfunctional Family (OT372, 1.5cr) Apr 14, 21, 28, May 5, 12, 19, 26; (New dates) (Tue 7.30-9.30pm) Lecturer: Dr Philip Satterthwaite

*Preaching in the Church: Homiletics I, (AT243, 1.5cr);  Apr 16, 23, 30, May 7; (Thu 7.15-10.15pm) Lecturer: Rev Song Cheng Hock; [Required for MDiv]

*Courses marked with an asterisk are not offered on audit basis.

Registration is open for all courses. Visit www.bgst.edu.sg for course description and registration (under Course & Events/Course Schedules).

News Bits
  1. QUOTE OF THE WEEK
    “When we fraternize and frolic with the world, we lose our sense of direction and even allegiance”

    - Rev Song Cheng Hock, author of An Intentional Journey: Choices and Change(2008).
    This book is on sale at the BGST Bookshop.

    Rev Song is our Adjunct Faculty. He will be teaching “Preaching in the Church: Homiletics I(AT243, 1.5cr) commencing 16 April, 2009.

    Please log in http://bgst.edu.sg/courses/pdf/at243-09.pdf for more information & registration.

  2. OUR HEARTFELT CONDOLENCES to Mr David Leong, our Tutor & MTh student, on the demise of his beloved wife, Juliana, who went home to be with the Lord on 6 April 2009.

INAUGURAL CONFERENCE 2009 - INTRODUCING OUR WORKSHOPS

Rev Jimmy TanRev Jimmy Tan
W5 Spiritual Exercises To Align Our Mind, Heart And Body To Our Triune
God & His Purposes
This workshop will present an understanding of the soul and to illustrate how the practice of the classical spiritual disciplines can contribute to its care.  It draws from a number of contemporary authors and the classics, including the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and will lead to a suggested format for a time in prayer – and of contemplation that carries into the day of work and ministry. The workshop will include a time for an experiential exercise.

Rev Lim Boon Seng and Patricia LimRev Lim Boon Seng & Patricia Lim
W6 For Better For Worse Or For Good?
If the daily grind of a fast-paced and stressful society like ours is taking its toll on many marriages and families as evidenced by the sky-rocketing divorce rate, the demands of ministry must surely pose an even greater threat to those of many pastors and church leaders. Someone said, “Too many couples marry for better or for worse, but not for good.” Marriage needs both attention and maintenance. Neglect or failure here can put your marriage at risk.  This workshop seeks to minister to and support the spouses of pastoral care-givers. So, the focus is for the pastoral care-givers to be aware of their spouse's needs and to discover how best to meet those needs. Both pastoral care-givers and their spouses are encouraged to attend together.

Rev Song Cheng HockRev Song Cheng Hock
W7 The Mental & Emotional Being of A Pastoral Care Leader
Pastoral Care Leaders are intentional people, who truly want to care well for those under their charge. But the disparity between their aspirations and members’ expectations can be emotionally unsettling. It is not uncommon for spiritual leaders to feel a discomfiting sense of emotional disconnection within, with others and even with God when they struggle with the unwelcome vagaries of ministry.

It takes awareness to discern our present or past mental and emotional disequilibrium, the silent programmed forces that colour and cloud our perceptions – the core imprints, notions and values that we have acquired, internalized and surrendered to all these years. They form part of our unconscious, a storehouse of our “unfinished business.” Thus, the unhealed wounds of the Pastoral Care Leaders may be more destructive than their present ministerial difficulties.

This workshop aims to explore and examine areas that contribute to the mental and emotional being of the Pastoral Care Leader. It will discuss issues relating to temperament and personality development, self-esteem, personal perceptions and worldview in order to help strengthen one’s inner resources.

Rev Dr Tan Soo InnRev Dr Tan Soo Inn
W8 Cultivating Spiritual Friendship
Friendship is often underrated. We hear statements like “he’s just a friend” implying that the person could have been something more but is not. Yet Jesus called His disciples “friends” (John 15:15). We need to take a fresh look at friendship especially in a lonely age where many of us are friendless.

This workshop will seek to understand what is spiritual friendship. In short, we will see that spiritual friendship is friendship that is rooted in Christ and for the sake of helping us follow Christ. We will study some key components of such friendships. We will see how such friendships are critical for our lives in general and especially for our lives as followers of Jesus.

We will look at practical ways to begin to cultivate such friendships in our lives and to strengthen existing friendships if we already have them.

The Christian life is never meant to be lived in isolation. We need the Lord. And we need others. Spiritual friendship is a simple, accessible yet powerful spiritual discipline that can help us in our journeys as friends of Jesus.

31 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088454.
Tel: 62276815 Fax: 62276816  Email :
bgst@pacific.net.sg
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