Mike Aquilina

A Little Vindication

Friday June 19th 2009, 9:15 pm

BMCR reviews Alden A. Mosshammer’s The Easter Computus and the Origins of the Christian Era (in the Oxford Early Christian Studies series). What’s it all about? It’s about …

… Dionysius Exiguus, the sixth-century putative inventor of Anno Domini dating. Skeptics … noted that Dionysius’ dating of the nativity was quite likely wrong … The Venerable Bede had observed back in the early eighth century that Dionysius’ dating of Christ’s birth contradicted biblical, annalistic, and patristic evidence, which favored the years BC 2/3. Most modern scholars thus have assumed that Dionysius willfully broke with tradition, and calculated his own (incorrect) nativity date.

Mosshammer effectively undermines this accusation in a lengthy, highly technical, and meticulously-argued study … That he largely succeeds is a testament to his clearly extensive knowledge of antique calendrical traditions.