Has the Length of the Year Changed?


Question: “I would like to know, if there was a major change in 701bc, as many say, causing the length of the year to change from 360 days per year to our current 365 ¼ days per year, then what was the length of a ‘day’ prior to that time, because it would seem to make sense that the length of each day would also have changed from 24 – X to just 24 hrs a day. Do you agree? Or can you explain it?”

Barry: This subject has had an interesting history. It was first suggested by Velikovsky, and later picked up by Don Patten in his book “Mars-Earth Wars” and also Chuck Missler in his Koinonia House articles. Others, like Wayne McKellips, have then picked up the idea and run with it.

The basic argument runs something like this. There is evidence collected by the three prominent names mentioned above, suggest that the Hebrew calendar and those of some other civilizations had a year of 360 days. Then due to the gravitational interaction between Mars and Earth, the length of the year was changed around 701 BC. Patten suggests that the interaction was aided by the break-up of the original planet (which he named Astra), which inhabited what is now the asteroid belt. Velikovsky suggests that Venus was wandering through the Solar System and was therefore implicated as well. Patten suggests that the breakup of Astra gave rise to the craters on the Moon and various other Solar System bodies, as well as being involved with the change in the length of the Earth’s year.

The date of the change has been attributed to a change in calendar by the legendary second King of Rome, Numa Pompilius, and by his Jewish contemporary, King Hezekiah. Later other civilizations adopted the new 365 day year as well. These events are often linked with the shadow on the sundial going back 10 degrees in the days of Hezekiah around 700-750 BC, and the Long Day of Joshua around 1450-1550 BC, which are supposed to give evidence of the Earth-Mars interaction. This interaction was meant to change the length of the Earth’s year, and give Mars its present orbit (and Venus as well according to Velikovsky). Missler mentions that Mars must have come closer for there are ancient legends about it having two moons, and these were picked up by Jonathan Swift in his writings. These tiny moons exist, but they cannot be seen with the naked eye today. Missler concludes that, since they were known much earlier on, so Mars must have come much closer to earth back then for them to be visible.

I think that is as fair a summary of the proposition as can be done briefly. However, let me state at the outset, I do not agree with this proposition. Before I outline my reasons, let me mention that they are not thinking of the length of day changing as you suggest might have been the case. In fact, if the number of days in a year changed, that is a possible option. Nevertheless calculation indicates that it would mean changing the length of day by about 21 minutes or 0.35 hours. This is a hefty change given the earth’s rotational stability, but the behavior of the core rotation could be invoked to compensate. Today, the core has been measured as rotating 2/3 second faster than the earth itself.

In view of the unlikely possibility of changing the rotation rate of this system, let us pursue the other options that Velikovsky, Patton and Missler have been considering. We begin with the Scriptural record of what happened in the days of Joshua and Hezekiah.

The Bible records a “long day of Joshua” when “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day”(Joshua 10:13).  About 750 years later, Isaiah records that the sun reversed itself ten degrees (steps) in the days of Hezekiah before it continued on its normal path.  This is also recorded 2 Kings 20.  A little less than 750 years later, on the day of the Crucifixion, the sun set at noon (Luke 23:44).  These are not fictitious events or simply old legends but events that actually occurred.  We have other records of similar long days or nights where something was badly disturbed in the behavior of the earth’s normal rotation about the years 800 A.D. and again about 1500 A.D.  The fact that these perturbations are spaced apart at such regular intervals indicates a natural explanation.  This has been discussed on our website in both “Morgan Answered” and in the Biblical Discussion section.

In his astronomical research, the late government astronomer for South Australia, George Dodwell, discovered some interesting anomalies which corresponded with severe disruptions in societies dating about 2345 BC.  There were a series of asteroid impacts which were severe enough to change the earth’s axis tilt and, in those catastrophic circumstances, ended a number of civilizations (for instance, this corresponds to the end of the Old Kingdom, the close of the early Bronze III in Canaan, the close of the early dynastic III in Mesopotamia, and others.)  This change in the earth’s axis actually righted it a bit, ending the Ice Age.

Dodwell’s hypothesis regarding an axis tilt at this time was confirmed by the research of  Moe Mandelkehr and Dr. Benny Peiser. These 2345 BC impacts induced a motion in the spinning earth’s solid inner core which had a periodicity of about 750 years or so. At those crucial times, the motion of the solid core, and the compensating motion of the rest of the earth, was such that the Sun and Moon appeared to trace an S-shaped path in the sky.

We know that Mars and Venus were not involved in this, at least from just before the days of Hezekiah. We have accurate and cross-checked Babylonian records of planetary movements dating back to about 745 BC which show that Mars and Venus were well-behaved at least from that time. So we can rule out their errant behavior in the days of Hezekiah as the cause of the situation with the sundial. Further, we can successfully account for the sundial behavior by the motion of the Earth’s core and link it directly to similar events in the days of Joshua, and in 33 AD, c. 800 AD and again c. 1500 AD. Therefore, all these events can have nothing to do with the errant motions of Mars or Venus. This conclusion is reinforced by the accurate Babylonian records.

But this conclusion can be taken back further in time. The proposition that Mars and Venus were wandering through the Solar System strikes four major difficulties. First, if they were wandering and interacting as Velikovsky proposed, the orbital motion of Venus, at least, might be similar to many comets and be retrograde. Second, if Venus had been ‘wandering,’ its current orbit would be highly irregular, perhaps something like Pluto’s.  Instead, the orbit of Venus is not only in the right direction, it is also the most completely circular orbit of all the planets. This would not be the case if it had been interacting with other planets. The same could be said for Mars. The fact that both planets travel in almost circular orbits in the correct direction, strongly denies the proposition that they used to be wanderers. Third, with any such proposed interaction, the orbits of these two planets would become inclined at a significant angle to the orbit planes of the rest of the planets, again like Pluto.  However, they orbit on the same plane as the other planets.   Because of this, the evidence suggests that such wandering and interaction did not occur. Fourth, there is an order in the Solar System given by what is known as the Titius-Bode Law. The distance of each of the planets from the Sun forms an exact mathematical sequence out to Neptune. This sequence would definitely not be the case if Mars and/or Venus were simply interlopers who happened to settle in some convenient position. On these bases alone, the proposition can be rejected.

The idea of Patton that there was a planet (he named Astra) originally between Mars and Jupiter and that it blew up to form the asteroid belt as we have it now, is probably true, although his timing for this is quite wrong. There is strong evidence from the composition of the three major groups of asteroids that a planet and its moon underwent disruption. This was explored in some detail by astronomer Tom Van Flandern before his death. Some additional details have been elucidated and presented in chapter 9 of Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy, where the history of the Solar System is discussed. There is a physical reason why the planet and its moon exploded, and it has nothing to do with the gravitational effects of Jupiter or Mars, nor anything to do with Venus. So it is incorrect to link these other planets with this event.

Patton is also incorrect in the timing of this event; it occurred millenia before 701 BC -- much earlier than he suggests. Cosmic-ray exposure ages tell us exactly when the mantle of that planet exploded (about 700 – 800 million atomic years ago), when a secondary event disrupted the remaining core (about 255 million atomic years ago) and the planet’s moon (about 65 - 70 million atomic years ago)*. Surprisingly, these cosmic-ray exposure ages broadly correspond to the atomic dates of the catastrophes that closed the Precambrian Era, the Paleozoic Era, and Mesozoic Era respectively in geology. So there is a consistency there. However, research outlined in Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy indicates that the atomic dates of these Era-ending Catastrophes in Geology can be converted to orbital time on the basis of astronomical data. When this is done, it turns out that they correspond with the Biblical events of Noah’s Flood, the Tower of Babel catastrophe, and the Peleg continental division respectively. They had nothing to do with anything as recent as 701 BC. So Patton is wide of the mark in this part of his suggestion.

Dr. Missler’s contention that Mars must have been close to Earth for early civilizations to see its moons is sidelined by recent astronomical discoveries. Every planet is surrounded by a huge plasma sphere or magnetosphere. These plasma spheres are many times larger than the planet they protect. They are shaped like a wind-sock with their tails streaming away from the sun and the solar wind. As an example of size, Jupiter’s plasma sphere is over 7 million miles across -- larger than the Sun. In the early days of our universe, it can be shown that electrical and magnetic interactions were stronger. This means that their plasma spheres originally had a much higher current flowing which caused them to glow. (Today the relatively low current in them means they can no longer be seen). In the early days, Jupiter’s glowing plasma sphere would have been the most prominent object in the sky – not as bright as the sun, but much larger -- which is why Jupiter was called the king of the gods. Because the plasma spheres all had a high enough current to put them into glow mode, Mars would also have appeared to be much more prominent in the sky than the little red dot we see now. As a result, the two moons orbiting within the Martian plasma sphere would also have been much more visible than they are today. Consequently, Mars did not have to be closer to Earth for it to appear much larger and its moons to have been seen. So Dr. Missler’s suggestion, while understandable, is based on lack of up-to-date information.

Regarding an original 360 day year:  that is probably true.  However, again, the date of the change is millennia before the 701 BC. date.  So where did the 701 date come from? One idea comes from Rome, where it is claimed that the second King of Rome, Numa Pompilius, added an extra 5 days to the calendar in 701 BC. In actual fact, there are no exact records about this. Everything is based on the writings of Livy (Ab Urbe Condita 1:19). Livy pointed out that Pompilius added the months of January and February to the calendar, but more specific information does not appear to be available. In fact, even if Livy (who was writing about 25 BC) had something more specific to say about decisions in Rome made almost 700 years earlier, it would be questionable. The reason is that virtually all early records were destroyed in 387 BC when the Gauls attacked and sacked Rome. Livy was thus writing on the basis of legend and tradition rather than established facts for a good deal of the Roman history he gives prior to about 350 BC.

The second reason for choosing 701 BC as a changeover date comes from the time of Hezekiah and was initially introduced by Velikovsky. He pointed out that there is a Talmudic reference to Hezekiah adding an extra month to the year at the time when he celebrated the Passover in 2 Chronicles 30 (with emphasis on verse 13). The Scriptural reference seems to indicate it was a once only event and not a general practice. It was only after the Babylonian captivity (about 500 BC) that an extra month was added on 7 occasions in a 19 year cycle to keep the calendar in line with the seasons. Despite the Talmudic reference, the addition of the extra month in the Jewish calendar only appears to date from after the captivity, not 200 years earlier.

It should also be realized that the reason why 701 BC was chosen appears to have been determined by the position of Mars in its orbit in relation to the Earth and the asteroid belt. Mars was at a point in its orbit where it was interacting with the Asteroid Belt.  However Mars was not close to the Earth until six months, half a year, after that. This astronomical discussion only implicates Pompilius and Hezekiah in a secondary fashion and puts the emphasis back again on the planets Mars and Venus.

One degree of a circle, in the sky or in geometry, is 1/360th of that circle.  This is not an accident and is, actually, strong evidence of an early orbit of the earth of 360 days.  So when did it change?  And why is the orbit 365 days (and a little bit) long now?

It is usual to say that the Egyptians had a 360 day year. In fact the Egyptians possessed a civil calendar of 365 days. It comprised 3 seasons each of 4 months. Each month was 30 days long and there were 12 months in a year. Many see this much and assume a 360 day year. However, they had 5 additional days at the beginning of each year which made up the difference.

What is very important to note is that the Egyptian year was based on an astronomical event; the rising of the star Sirius in the first rays of the dawn – it is called a heliacal rising. This event was observed annually and was the first day in their year since it announced the season of the Nile inundation. It was named the Sothis star and the heliacal rising occurred on 20th July on our calendar.  The Sothic cycle started during the early years of the Second Dynasty (c. 2775–c. 2650 bc ). This means that a 365 day calendar had been known as early as that time, or about 2000 years before the 701 date.

However, there is one additional proof that this was so. A year of 365 days is a quarter of a day short of our actual year. Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar with a year of 365.25 days in 45 BC. As a result of this short-fall in the calendar year in Egypt, actual astronomical events were discrepant by one day every 4 years. So the event of the Sothis star slid through the civil calendar until after a period of  (4 x 365 = 1460) Egyptian calendar years the heliacal rising of Sirius again occurred on the first day of the first Egyptian month (Thoth 1st). Historians have recorded the existence of such a continuous cycle from around 1351 BC. Other records can be quoted to show that the cycle can be traced back to about 2767 BC or the beginning of the 2nd Dynasty. So even as early as 2500 BC, a 365 day year was recognized.

Some civilizations like the Assyrians, early Babylonians, and the Hebrews retained a 360 day year with supplementary days or months added as needed to keep in step with the seasons and harvest. This does suggest that a strong tradition was being followed from a much earlier age; an age prior to 2700 BC.  It may well have been observed that, astronomically, the same stars rose at the same time on a cycle of 360 days. The year then became 360 days. Following on this astronomical discovery for the period of the Earth orbiting the sun, a circle was divided up into 360 degrees, each degree for a day. This may have also been the origin of the ancient system of counting using a base of 60 instead of a base 10 as we have today. 

In Scriptural terms, the most likely possible era for these discoveries and events would be the pre-Flood age. During that age Adam and Eve walked with the Lord and the Bible affirms that many inventions and discoveries were made. Scripturally, that age lasted 2250 years or so. Further, because of the proximity to the original perfection, the human mind at least had the potential to make important discoveries, and to develop amazing technologies.  The development of astronomy and an accurate calendar would have been a relatively simple exercise.

With the Flood, the earth’s axis tilt changed, seasons were introduced and ongoing geological disasters were occurring even after the continental division in the days of Peleg. As explained below, the change from a 360 day year to a 365 day year probably occurred over this time, with a final dramatic drop at the time of Peleg.  By the time everything had fully settled down again, say 2800 to 2700 BC, it seems that the earth’s orbital period was close to 365 days as evidenced by the inauguration of the Sothic Cycle.

With a different axis tilt, astronomical phenomena were different from the pre-Flood traditions which had been passed down. So astronomically-oriented structures, such as the early ziggurats and Egyptian Star Temples, were built to keep a check on what was happening. As a result, we conclude that in the millennium from the Flood to the time of Job, around 2800 BC, something had happened to the earth’s orbital period.

Recent developments in astronomy give us a possible explanation. Work with plasma filaments in the lab show us extremely rapid “galaxy” formation as these filaments interact.  As we look out into the depths of space and study the rotation rates of galaxies, we find that they behave in exactly the same way. Since the miniature galaxies in the lab rotate under the influence of electricity and magnetism, and since the great preponderance of material in the universe appears to be plasma, it suggests that the distant galaxies are likewise rotating under the forces of electricity and magnetism rather than only gravity (the currently accepted model which has required the invention of dark matter, dark energy, etc.). When we look out at distant galaxies we are looking back in time. This in turn suggests that, at an earlier time, gravity was less important than now and electromagnetism had stronger effects.  As the universe expanded, the electric and magnetic properties of space were changing, and their interactions lost some of their initial strength.  Electromagnetism is still 1039 times stronger than gravity, but on a small scale, such as our solar system, gravitational forces gradually assumed prominence. 

The key point to note is that, in this situation, there is a standard equation which combines the action of gravity and electromagnetism to describe orbital phenomena. When this equation is employed for the solar system in earlier days, it is found that the planets, including Earth, orbited the sun a little more quickly and so had shorter years.  As a result, the year of 360 days in the pre-Flood age is a distinct possibility.

Data and tradition give strong evidence for an original year of 360 days.  However, the change from 360 to 365.25 days did not happen in 701 BC, nor was it first recorded in 701 BC.  The Sothic Cycle in Egypt gives us a date of about 2000 years before that.  The fact that both Mars and Venus had been tracked and were quite stable long before 701 BC means they had nothing to do with changing the earth’s year.  It is evidence from plasma physics and the interaction of electromagnetism with gravity that gives us the clue regarding the lengthening of the year in the past.

Barry Setterfield, 4th  December, 2014.

Note:  the rapidity with which plasma filaments can interact also give strong evidence, along with other data, regarding the accuracy of Genesis 1 which states the universe was formed in less than a week.

* It is important to remember that atomic years, or years as measured by atomic processes (which have changed through time) are NOT the same as orbital years, which are based on the earth circling the sun and are the result of unchanging gravitational processes. This is discussed for laymen here with other references at the end of the article.