Thursday, March 13, 2008

Good Friday Equinox

I am quite fascinated with astronomical links to the Bible. Eclipses and stars and so on. I thought that this year we had Good Friday on the equinox (21st March). This must be a pretty rare occurrence. (The equinox is when the day and night are the same length. There are two equinoxes in a year).

My understanding was that Good Friday is the first Friday after the first full moon after the equinox. I suppose this sounds pretty pagan, but I think it is much more interesting than always being the 21st day of the third month which is just as 'unreligious'. For Good Friday to be on the equinox we'd need the equinox to happen on the same day as the full moon and that day should be a Friday.

What I have discovered however is:

That it is actually the date of Easter Sunday that is set. It is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox. Here.

Also the equinox this year actually falls on the 20th of March (at about 5am GMT). Last year it was the 21st, but it is apparently quite often the 20th! See here.

The full moon will be on 21st March at 6.40pm GMT.

The last time Easter Sunday was on the 23 March was in 1913 and will be again in 2160. The earliest Easter Sunday can be is 22 March (1818 and 2285).

Interesting! And cool to have equinox, full moon and Easter Sunday almost a day after each other.

The picture is John van der Laar's.


Anonymous said...

Why is it that the western religions celebrate "easter," which should be Passover, if the Bible is followed, at a different time than what is commanded by God in Ex 12 where He commands that the 14th day of Nisan must be when Passover is celebrated. That means that it should be on 19 April 2008 and this is the day before the full moon in April? I am not sure about the equinox dates. Just a thought!

Steve Hayes said...

To answer the comment, "Easter" is just the word the English used for Pascha, because when Christianity first came to the English, they celebrated it in "Eostremonath", which was their name for April (roughly).

I was born on Easter Sunday (Western), and my 11th birthday was on Easter Sunday (also Western), but the next time my birthday will fall on Easter Sunday will be when I am 90, and that will also be a year when Eastern and Western Easter coincide (this year our Easter is on 27 April).

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks Steve! I hoped that you would be able to help.
I think the biggest reason for the difference in dates is the use of the Julian calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar. I'm no expert, but I think that the Gregorian calendar is designed to keep in step with astronomical reality (leap years as an example). That's the calendar we use in day to day life and how Western Christians date Easter. I know that there are also adjustments with the Jewish dating - so that passover is always in summer, but I don't really understand it too well. And of course, as Steve points out, they do sometimes co-incide.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Here's a question to tax your mind some more. One of our members asked: What is the date on today's calendar that Christ was crucified?

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Thomas
Interesting question! But I like Easter being a 'moveable feast'. Somehow it breaks the ritualism of it all a bit for me. Somehow the relative mystery of the date of Easter tells me more about God than a fixed date. Order, but not rigid.
If you find a date, let us know!

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