Easter 2017

Long term Cats will have seen this before – but it has become something of a tradition to post this up at Easter.

Several years ago my RMIT colleague Tim Fry and I had an Easter-themed op-ed in the Fin Review. I have posted it before, but it is well worth revisiting.


Easter commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – Good Friday is the day of the crucifixion while Sunday commemorates the resurrection. All four gospels are in remarkable agreement. Jesus was executed on a Friday, the day before the Sabbath. The body was removed from the cross and buried before the Sabbath. Due to a prophesy that Jesus would rise after three days Matthew tells us an armed guard was placed around the tomb. On the first day of the next week, Sunday, Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb – Jesus had risen from the dead. This story forms the foundation of Christianity; Jesus was crucified, died and was buried and rose again on the third day. To the modern ear, however, there is an immediate problem: Friday through Sunday is, at most, two days, not three.

A two thousand year old religion, however, is not going to be caught out on an arithmetic error. There is a simple solution: The ancients had difficulty with the number ‘zero’. The Hebrews had no such number and began counting from one – Friday was the first day, Saturday the second and Sunday the third. The idea of zero was a long time coming. In the sixth century scholars in India developed a place value system and the concept of zero. Independently, similar ideas had developed in China, Babylon and amongst the Maya. Islamic scholars adopted the Indian number system and the ideas of zero and place value spread rapidly through the Arab empire. Both the Moorish universities, and international trade, played a role in the spread of these ideas into Western society. It was not until 1202, and the book Liber Aberci by Fibonacci, that the ideas took off. Even then it was not without opposition – although mathematicians took to the ideas the Italian trading class were not so easily convinced.

It is easy to poke fun at the ancients who had little understanding of a complex notion such as zero – are we any better? Most people have an understanding of zero as being ‘nothing’, an ‘empty set’ or as a ‘place holder’. Knowing the value of zero can be trivial, or quite important. For example, knowing the value of zero would have led everyone to understand the twenty-first century began in 2001, not 2000. The value of zero has even lead to tax disputes, and a High Court case in 2000. The Australian Tax Office had argued zero was not an amount and consequently there was no time limit in amending tax returns with a taxable income of zero. Although the taxpayer eventually lost her case, the Federal Court, the full bench on appeal, and the High Court all ruled that zero is a number. The legal costs to the taxpaying public would have been enormous, while the ATO gained $4,589. Here the value of zero was quite high.

While zero may represent an empty set, it is not nothing.

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24 Responses to Easter 2017

  1. stackja

    Easter, it too is not nothing.

  2. MsDolittle

    Thanks for posting that for us relative newbies.

  3. Mother Lode

    It would have seemed quite strange – his ‘zero’ thingy.

    If you have a box with 10 apples and take them away, one by one, you finally get to zero apples. But where does ‘apple-ness’ reside in ‘zero apples’. And how is it distinct from zero tigers?

    There is a mental step (context, procedure etc) involved to have zero apples which must exist to make nothingness.

    It is like reading Sartre.

  4. john malpas

    anyone who eats would stare at the empty plate and comprehend zero.
    They might call it ‘nothing’ but the meaning was self evident.
    Why explain the obvious.

  5. brennan

    I just went to a Subway to get something to eat. The lady who served looked like she was from India or Sri Lanka (still had a noticeable accent). After I paid and said thank you, she said “you’re welcome luv”. I replied “that’s so nice to hear” and wished her and her family a safe and joyous Easter. She smiled a huge smiled and returned the sentiment. So much for all those people who say other cultures are offended by our traditions.

    Now, I’m not a Christian. I have great respect for the teachings, traditions and the secular Western world it created, but I don’t believe, it’s a bridge too far. I was brought up in a Christian family, Protestants one side, Methodists the other. I understand the symbolism of this weekend and celebrate it for that reason.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this as I’m rambling, but to all Cats, may you and all those you care about have a wonderful and safe weekend.

  6. sabena

    The important thing to remember is that Jesus’s death arose from the expression of his opinion.The same elements in society who tried to silence Jesus are still active and are always seeking ways of silencing us.

  7. Jannie

    Mother L, zero is a value not nothing. That’s easy. But negative numbers are weird. How do you get negative tigers?

  8. Roger

    Easter, it too is not nothing.

    Nicely put stacks.

  9. Mother Lode

    My point, Jannie. A non-nothing to represent nothing.

  10. Tintarella di Luna

    #2354150, posted on April 14, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you – I have a Muslim friend who always sends me a text at Easter and Christmas wishing me and my family a wonderful celebration — at Ramadan I do the same — the family came to Australian in the 1980s as political refugees from Afghanistan – an uncle who was a politician disappeared and the family fled to safety. Totally integrated.

  11. Dr Fred Lenin

    Easter and Christmas are proof that we are a Christian country ,no matter how hard the u.n. Communistfascists try to destroy our Christian Civilisation ,as Mark Lathan says we have to push back ,and thwart their destruction of Christian Values .Bhuddists and Hindus are no threat ,u.n. Communusts and their islamofascist allie are ,start by defunding them of Taxpayers money .
    Happy Easter to all Cats .

  12. stackja

    Leibniz was into negatives.

  13. Some History

    Not that it makes any difference to belief in Jesus as the risen Christ, Saviour, but I’m familiar with another [rather compelling] interpretation of the crucifixion/resurrection that doesn’t involve “0”. I think the Adventists, in particular, promote this interpretation. There might even be other interpretations.

    Briefly. In addition to the usual Sabbath (Saturday), there are also a number of feast days observed in the Jewish faith, also referred to as “High Sabbaths”. [Sabbaths are observed sundown to sundown] The view is that Friday was a High Sabbath (possibly the First Day of Unleavened Bread). Body preparation/burial are to be avoided on Sabbaths? Jesus’ crucifixion was on Thursday. His body was removed from the cross approaching sunset…..approaching a Friday High Sabbath). There was no time for preparing the body for burial but only placing the body in the tomb. The Romans sealed the tomb and posted a guard. Since Friday and Saturday were Sabbaths, the earliest opportunity to prepare the body for burial was Sunday. From the time Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb there was no further human contact/interference with His body (i.e., preparation for burial).

    Jesus said he would rise not in three days but on the third day. This would be anytime from sunset Saturday to sunset Sunday. By the time Mary Magdalene came to the tomb Sunday morning, the tomb was empty; Jesus was already raised. So, from the crucifixion/placement of the body in the tomb on Thursday, Jesus’ raising was on the third day [by usual counting].

  14. Tintarella di Luna

    Buona Pasqua gatti

  15. stackja

    Australia welcomes all who accept Australia as it was before silly people started seeking change.

  16. Ubique

    How do you get negative tigers?

    1. Take an old fashioned camera to the zoo. Photograph tigers. Develop the film and you have negative tigers.
    2. Visit tigers at the zoo again. Inform the tigers that Gillian Triggs is taking over as the Zoo Director. And again you have negative tigers.

  17. Libby Zee

    Friday, Saturday, Sunday. On the third day He rose again. That is what matters.

  18. Lindsay Barrass

    You missed the historical reason. At Passover there is an extra Sabbath on the Thursday. This link explains the timeline…

  19. Luzu

    Jesus didn’t rise on Sunday. The fact that he was risen was discovered by Mary Magdalene on that day but nowhere does the New Testament say it was earlier that day.

    Jesus was instead crucified on the preceding Wednesday. Where early Christian commentators got caught out was that the New Testament clearly states that Jesus’ followers asked for his body to be lowered from the cross as the Sabbath was approaching.

    Now, everybody knows the J*wish Sabbath is Saturday, right? Therefore, the crucifixion must have taken place on a Friday.

    But wait. Jesus himself said he would be in the tomb three days and three nights. How many nights are there between Friday and Sunday? I count two. Or did Jesus get it wrong?

    The problem is, the J*wish calendar didn’t just call Saturday the Sabbath but other holy days, too. The Thursday preceding what is now known as Good Friday was one such Sabbath. Indeed, Jesus’ body had to come down from the cross before sundown because at that point, the Sabbath would have started and nobody would have been able to wash and prepare his body.

    And if we count the days and nights, we have Jesus in the tomb Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday right and rising some time on Saturday, thus fulfilling what he himself prophesied.

    It is ignorance derived from a rejection of the early J*wish church and its holy days and festivals which has led to this error. The J*wish calendar is a lunar one but one which takes into account leap years and thus does not have holy days wandering up and down our solar calendar as Ramadan does.

    And, as evidenced from this post, the need to squish three days into two to make sense of the biblical narrative does lead to some rather unusual ideas. J*ws having no concept of zero? Please. These are the same people who proclaimed in the book of Jeremiah that the earth was a sphere, hanging as a jewel in the heavens.

  20. The Pesach image in the banner at the top since last Monday has been replaced by an Easter image.

  21. Phill

    If these ancients had no concept of zero, how did they terminate their C programs?

  22. Antonin D

    Thank you for the banner for Easter. So little mention of the holy days of Easter in our media.

    He is risen

  23. Antonin D

    Our offspring stayed away from Easter Mass. I’m writing my disappointment here, for what that may be worth, to me, or them, or any person

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