The start of the 3rd millennium

It is a popular and persistent misconception that the year 2000 AD was the first year of the third millennium. This is not true: 2000 AD was the last year of the second millennium, and 2001 is the first year of the third millennium.

This can be seen easily as follows:

there has never been a year 0 (zero)
      ==> the first year of the 1st century AD was the year 1 AD
a century has 100 years
      ==> the 1st century ended with the year 100 AD
      ==> the year 101 AD was the first year of the 2nd century
... ... etc.
      ==> 1901 AD was the first year of the 20th century
      ==> the year 2000 AD is the last year of the 20th century
And hence:

The 21st century, and thus the 3rd millennium,
started with the year 2001 AD !!

Background info:

In what we now call the 6th century, the then Pope gave Dionysius Exiguus (= "the Little") the task to compute when Christ was born, using available archive material. Dionysius did not take Christ's birth date itself, but the day of his circumcision -- which took place at the 8th day after birth -- as the first day of the year 1 AD, not 0 (zero).
This is contrary to our current usage of starting at zero years when a child is born: a child is 1 year old when it has lived for one year. For Jesus this is not the case.
The reason for this difference is that Dionysius did not know the number zero; the zero was introduced in Europe only several centuries later.
Hence, when Christ was one year old the year 2 AD started, etc. Consequently, at the beginning of the year 2000 Christ, if still alive, would be 1999 years old. And therefore two millennia have past since Christs birth at the end of 2000; after all a millennium is per definition exactly 1000 years long.


For background info on calendars, see e.g.: "Calendars" by L.E. Doggett or the Calender Zone web site. An excellent account of Dionysius Exiguus and the absence of the number zero, can found in the book Zero, the biography of a dangerous idea by Charles Seife (Penguin Books, 2000).
Voor een uitgebreid overzicht over de wettelijke tijdregelening in Nederland, zie deze pagina van Robert van Gent (Dutch only).

Counting the days ...

Until the beginning of 2001 this page contained a counter that showed the time left before the start of the 3rd millennium. Now that the 3rd millennium has started, this page gives the time passed since that millennium started.

If your browser:
 -- knows JavaScript, you see below and at the top of this page how many days, hours, minutes and seconds have passed since the start of the 3rd millennium;
 -- does not know JavaScript, then all you get below are two empty form fields; sorry about that.

    Time passed:  
      which is:    seconds



This is the first, and so far only, Web page I made with a JavaScript ...
And it satisfies the
Valid HTML 4.01! Transitional standard

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created: 5 January 1999
last modified: 30 September 2010