Happy Hanukkah! It seems like a good time to post about Maimonides and Anno Mundi, or ‘in the year of the world’ in Latin.
Maimonides was a doctor, theologian, philosopher and legal scholar who studied the Hebrew Bible—what Christians call the Old Testament. He lived near Cairo, Egypt in the ad 1100s.
If you do any Bible study you’ll have realized that the Bible isn’t one book but a library of books. What makes Bible study challenging is trying to keep all the stories, laws, wisdom and poetry organized in your head.
Maimonides thought it would be a great idea to create a guide for studying the Bible. He focused on the 5 Books of Law, the Torah. These are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. As he wrote his guide, the Mishneh Torah, he found that he needed a chronology—a timeline of the events that happened in those books. Maimonides used the list of generations of people found in Genesis and Numbers to work backward to calculate when the world was created. That exact date of October 7, 3761 bc is now generally accepted in Judaism.
The Anno Mundi timeline is a theological one. You can’t count backwards from Year One because Time itself didn’t begin until that year. Today we’re in the year am 5780. Anno Mundi and the Hebrew calendar are used in synagogues and Jewish communities around the world.
Maimonides was one of those great thinkers whose influence extended far beyond his own time and place. You can’t believe the amount of stuff he wrote. I’ve given you a mere glimpse of him, but you can read more about Maimonides here.
UPDATE: The current year has been changed to am 5780. Thanks, Jeffrey!