The year of our Lord 2022 - whether you like it or not

baby Jesus manger nativity
Unsplash/Greyson Joralemon

It's amazing how easily the world mentions 2022 without stopping, even for a moment, to think about what that number means. Numbers are used to count things. Our annual dating system is used to count years. Years from what? Years from the traditional date of the birth of Christ. Whenever any of us acknowledged the passing of 2021 and the arrival of 2022, whether we were conscious of it or not, we were acknowledging the Kingdom of God and also acknowledging that this Kingdom was inaugurated by Jesus Christ. Few people genuinely realize that.

Even fewer understand why. In the ancient world, calendars routinely used something called "regnal dating," (the "reg" in "regnal" is based on the Latin word for king) which refers to a dating system based on the rule of a particular king, or sometimes a particular dynasty. The Bible refers to such systems, for example in the gospel of Luke:

"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar … the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness."

Luke 3:1-2 NASB

Perhaps one of the reasons Luke mentions the regnal dating of the rule of Tiberius to introduce the ministry of John the Forerunner is to emphasize the difference - a king who had ruled 15 years and who was already dead by the time this Gospel had been written, contrasting with the herald of someone who would rule forever.

Regnal dating was quite common. It only seems strange to use, because we live in a world in which our calendar was reordered around Jesus.

It's important to understand that our calendar does not exactly supplant regnal dating so much as it extends it. In other words, we still use regnal dating, but now we measure our years from the birth of a new King whose rule will never end. Tiberius was born, and he lived, and he died, and then his reign ended. Jesus was born a king, was "crowned" on the day of His death, conquered the rebel province of the underworld, resurrected and ascended to His permanent throne. His reign never ended, and it never will. If we follow the traditional dating for the birth of Christ, we're saying that His kingdom is entering the 2,022nd year of his rule.

Of course there is a debate about the actual date of His birth, with arguments for various years roughly around the same time. Deriders of the Bible tend to declare with certainty that Jesus was not born on December 25th in Year One, as if that does anything to rebut the Bible which does not specify either of those details. However, we mustn't simply write off prior generations either. John A. Cramer, Professor of Physics, has argued from the astronomical record for the plausibility of the traditional date.

But the exact count is not the main point anyway: the main point is that Jesus is Lord. He is king. His reign continues. And pitiable attempts to distract us from that that, such as the academic fashion which tried to replace A.D., Anno Domini (Year of Our Lord) with C.E. (common era) only go to show how afraid the ruling classes are of Jesus. No one fears Thor any longer. If we did, we'd try to replace Thursday (Thor's Day) with some insipid euphemism. Thor was defeated by Christ. His name lacks power so no one even bothered to erase it. But anyone who insists that C.E. must replace A.D. fails to diminish Jesus' rule - we all know who it was who appeared sometime around Year One and had such a great impact that afterwards the whole world is in some sense in a common era. The attempt to blot that out simply shows their fear. Cancel cultures of all forms are fear cultures.

If you understand the historic meaning of the word "Gospel", then you will understand that saying "2022" is implicitly a Gospel proclamation. The word which we translate as "gospel" is euangelion, literally good news or a good announcement. In historical context it was used to announce the "good news" of the birth, victory, or ascension to power of an emperor. The word had a royal context in pagan literature, but also had a history in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, in which it is used in ways that point to new kingship.

For instance, it is to refer to the good news delivered to David that Saul had been slain, making David the successor king. Isaiah 52:7 uses the verb form to refer to the sharing of good news which is "our God reigns." The word translated as Gospel in historical context has always referred to more than just personal forgiveness of sins. The Old Testament had already assured the people that God offered forgiveness. That would not be news. In order for the Gospel to be good news, it must first be news.

What was new in the New Testament is that Jesus had been born as the rightful king. Even the pagan Magi knew that, which is why they sought "he who had been born king of the Jews." Herod understood it too, which is why he tried to murder the true king. It seems as though often the pagans understood more clearly than many Christians do that Jesus was born as king.

Our culture will either recognize the truth of Anno Domini, the year of our Lord, or it will continue to sink into confusion and distraction. In the end, there are only two choices: A.D., or A.D.D.. Christ, or chaos.

Jerry Bowyer is financial economist, president of Bowyer Research, and author of “The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics.”

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