Where Did We Get Our Division of Time?
Our present division of time into 60 seconds, 60 minutes and 6 days +0 (which would be 7 for us) is based on the ancient Afro-Asiatic system, of which the Sumerian civilization (about 7000 - 2000 B.C.) is a good example. This sexagesimal system was based on a calendar with 360 (60x6) days in a year (with a few days added when the priests realized that the calendar needed adjusting according to the discrepancy between the lunar phases and the solar cycle). The duplication of 6 is 12, so the number 12 is a feature of this system, with 12 hours assigned to "day" and 12 hours assigned to "night", and roughly 12 months.
The oldest time counting device ever found dates to about 80,000 years ago and was found in a cave in the Lebombo Mountains of southern Africa. This lunar phase binary calendar is also based on the number 6.
What is Time?
Time can be defined in different ways, depending on the discipline from which one is approaching the subject. In Physics time is often spoken of as a fourth dimension, yet the existence of time depends on electromagnetic radiation, an aspect of the three-dimensional world in which we live. So no matter how time is defined, time is something that humans cannot escape. It is an aspect of the universe that God created.
St Augustine wrote, “God moves the spiritual through time." As we are spiritual as well as fleshly creatures, God moves us through time toward His eternal Being. At some point, as St. Paul reminds us, we must put off this perishable body for the imperishable body.
Solar time is the measurement of time according to the earth’s rotation around the sun. Sidereal time is the measurement of time relative to a distant star. It is used in astronomy to predict when a star will be overhead. Due to the somewhat wobbly rotation of the earth around the sun, a sidereal day is slightly less than a solar day. This means that time is relative to where we are in the universe.
What is Eternity?
Many people think that eternity is endless time, but that is not correct. Eternity is perfect timelessness. This means that eternity cannot be an aspect of the creation in which we live. However, it is an aspect of God’s nature. In fact, theologians say that God is eternity.
While eternity pertains to God and not to the creation, we can’t say that eternity is beyond humans. If that were true, we wouldn’t be able to recognize the difference between time and eternity. The Bible teaches that we were made to enjoy God in eternity. That is why Jesus came, so that everyone who believes in Him and lives according to His Spirit will have eternal life.
Eternity pertains to the blessed Trinity. In his creed, Saint Athanasius says: "The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Ghost is eternal." Paul tells us that, “as many of you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” In our baptism we come to God naked and we are given the undergarments of eternity, but we have yet to put on the fine outer garments that God will give us on the Last Day, when Christ returns.
Thomas von Kempen - Thomas Hammerken (or Hammerlein -- both mean "little hammer") was born at Kempen (hence the "A Kempis") in the duchy of Cleves in Germany around 1380. He w...
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