Easter 2019

Our traditional Easter Post

Several years ago my RMIT colleague Tim Fry and I had an Easter-themed op-ed in the Australian Financial 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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25 Responses to Easter 2019

  1. stackja

    He died, was buried. On the third he rose from the dead.

  2. feelthebern

    Glenn Greenwald does the reading & analysis of the Mueller report so other journos don’t.


    Don’t expect this kind of analysis on the ABC anytime soon.

  3. The legal costs to the taxpaying public would have been enormous, while the ATO gained $4,589.

    We are ruled over by sweet corn & tide pod loving potatoes and chimps.

  4. mh

    phew! I thought for a moment this article would get Sinclair blackballed.

    A little less Jesus next time.

  5. NuThink

    The first physical (hardware) memory address in computer memory is 0. It is a valid address.
    So an 8 byte memory is addressed from 0 to 7 in decimal, or 0X00 to 0X07 in hexadecimal notation.
    Not 1 to 8 or 0X01 to 0X08 which would require 4 address bits – adds to cost and complexity.
    PS. If you bank account has 0 or NO or Zero or Zilch or Nada dollars in it it is still your valid bank account.
    The computer does not say NO to Zero. (With thanks to Little Britain). Only a banker says no.
    To address the 8 bits 3 binary address bits are needed, so if none of the 3 are active the hardware addresses address 0, if all 3 are active then address 7 is addressed.
    QSR (Quite Simple Really – if you are used to it.)
    When I submitted a maths test for which I got Zero marks and had forgotten to write my name on it, I got it back with a note saying

    “Please see me – it is better to have ZERO than NOTHING at all”.

  6. Tel

    “Please see me – it is better to have ZERO than NOTHING at all”.

    Not if they take the average of all your tests at the end of the year!

  7. OldOzzie

    Good Friday

    have just watched with my wife , recorded from ABC, and on ABC iView on link below – (we were in Jerusalem for Passover in 2011 and walked the way of the Cross)

    Jesus: Countdown To Calvary

    Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey – studied Theology at Cambridge University) reveals how a perfect storm of political intrigue, power struggles and clashing religious passions combined, in a single week, to cause the event that changed the world: the killing of Jesus.

    Excellent – was impressed by the Holyland Model of Jerusalem

    which we missed, unfortunately when in Jerusalem

    The Holyland Model of Jerusalem is a 1:50 scale-model of the city of Jerusalem in the late Second Temple Period. The model was moved from its original location at the Holyland Hotel in Bayit VeGan, Jerusalem, to a new site at the Israel Museum in June 2006

    Am going to watch my favorite version of Jesus Christ Superstar Film (2000): with Rik Mayall

    then listen to words of the Original Recording which reinforce the Hugh Bonneville Documentary Jesus: Countdown To Calvary above.

    Jesus Christ Superstar (1970 Original London Concept Recording) [Full Album]

    I purchased the Original Album in 1970, and as a Catholic could not understand the Church’s objection in those days. as I found the words of the songs excellent

  8. Gavin R Putland

    In that case:
    “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover…”

  9. Roger

    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 ancient J e w s counted a part of a day as a whole day. This is written into various aspects of the Halacha. It was not so much a problem with zero but the Semitic tradition which goes back to the creative days of Genesis.

  10. Chris M

    Terrific Sinc, always good to read this again.

    The death burial and resurrection of Jesus is actually one of the most widely witnessed events in human history. From whichever angle you examine it – the Romans, the Jews, his disciples, non-biblical historical accounts, the hundreds that saw him alive afterwards etc – the evidence is irrefutable. It undoubtedly happened. He appeared to multiple groups of people at different times and in different locations, talking and eating with them. Many of those that met with him were later tortured in gruesome ways and put to death but would not recant their belief in his bodily resurrection from the dead.

  11. The BigBlueCat

    Friday was the first day, Saturday the second, and Sunday the third… arithmetic error?

  12. stackja

    TBBC – Sinc explanation, no zero, in the past.

  13. Up The Workers!

    “He died, was buried. On the third he rose from the dead.”

    -As opposed to all the rest of the cadaverous constituents in the boneyard, who only ever rise every election day to vote (both early and often) for Bull Shitten and his dodgy pals in the Australian Liars Party.


  14. There is still many including astronomers who do not understand zero. Those believing in the “big bang” creating the universe out of nothing and and then back into a Blackhole from which (by original definition) nothing escapes and things falling in disappear. Except the latest supposed finding of a black hole and two black holes colliding have radio waves being emitted and maybe supposed gravity waves.
    Sinc have a look at the YouTube videos of Stephen Crothers who points out bad maths by so-called scientists wasted huge amounts of money.
    I might add people do not understand the other end ie infinity (when you divide a number by zero or even large numbers. A billion used to be a million million but the US decided that was too difficult and made it a thousand million. A trillion (which was a million* million*million), is now the old billion (a million million). How can an infinite universe be expanding unless you change the definition.

  15. Because spacetime is not bound by relativistic speed limits.

    creating the universe out of nothing

    Not quite what the theory says.

    Talking about wasted research money: DARK MATTER DOES NOT EXIST!


  16. Gavin R Putland

    It’s Full Moon. Chag Pesach samech to our Jϵwish readers.

  17. Gavin R Putland

    Oops, there’s another ‘a’ in “sameach”. 😛

  18. Steve trickler


    This clip should have been first and the above clip, second. ( :

  19. Frank Walker (fNT) do not know what you are reading but with regard to black holes I quote the following
    “according to the astronomers and cosmologists the finite mass of their black hole is concentrated in a ‘physical singularity’ of zero volume, infinite density, and infinite gravity. But no finite mass has zero volume, infinite density, and infinite gravity, anywhere!” and “Similarly, the astronomers and cosmologists assign to their black hole two different escape speeds (v_esc = 0 metres per second and v_esc = c = 300,000,000 metres per second, and in the same equation) and no capacity for an escape speed (since nothing can even leave), simultaneously, at the same place (at the ‘event horizon’). But nothing can have two different escape speeds and no capacity for an escape speed, simultaneously, at the same place! (See [1]). Furthermore, the astronomers and cosmologists assert that the escape speed at the event horizon is the speed of light, yet light cannot either leave or escape; indeed, nothing, they say, can even leave the event horizon. But since light travels at the speed of light, which is the escape speed at the event horizon, light must both leave it and escape! And, moreover, anything else can leave.”
    So as I said it is all a matter of definition but one can not have two differing definitions at the same time or change a definition to suit your purpose without setting out what you have done.
    A “big bang” can not have occurred at a singularity (ie a single point of no volume or no mass and no energy) However, it is possible that some mass exploded. which may have resulted in the formation or at least shape of our solar system. There is evidence that a planet exploded somewhere between Saturn and Earth giving rise to Mars, the moon and a fragment hitting Venus to make it rotate the opposite way.
    The huge amount of research on justifying the “big bang”, looking for black holes, exoplanets, and looking to get to Mars is a waste of money. If one wants to live in a cold place, there is Antarctica -at least the atmosphere can support life which is not possible on Mars.

  20. Leo G

    All four gospels are in remarkable agreement. Jesus was executed on a Friday, the day before the Sabbath.

    Not really. The gospels indicate that Jesus was executed the day before a High Sabbath (corresponding to a “high day” in the King James version of the Christian Bible) which does not necessarily coincide with a weekly Sabbath.

  21. Tator

    Gotta love Easter, now that I technically have two of them, one being the traditional Christian one, the other my own personal Easter when I died on Friday the 8th of June last year and arose on Sunday the 10th of June whilst in the QEH ICU in Adelaide after a heart attack. Not sure how I will celebrate my 2nd “Easter” every year as choccy eggs don’t last long in my house with a 16 year old chocoholic boy who can sniff choccies out from 100 metres. Maybe just a BBQ with the highly skilled first responders and surgeons who saved me from any major ongoing consequences apart from a dodgier short term memory ( which according to my psychiatrist, isn’t unusual)
    Had most of them attend at a belated 50th I had last year but missed a few who couldn’t attend, so maybe this year I will get to thank them in person.

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