Year of Light
Anno Lewis, in the Year of Light, is the epoch used in Masonic documents of the Symbolic Degrees. This era is calculated from the creation of the world, and is obtained by adding four thousand to the current year, on the supposition that Christ was born four thousand years after the creation of the world. But the chronology of Archbishop Ussher, which has been adopted as the Bible chronology in the authorized version, places the birth of Christ in the year 4004 after the creation.
According to this calculation, the Masonic date for the "year of light" is four years short of the true date, and the year of the Lord 1874, which in Masonic documents is 5874, should correctly be 5878. The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Freemasons in the beginning of the nineteenth century used this Ussherian era, and the Supreme Council at Charleston dated its first circular, issued in 1802, as 5806. Dalcho (Ahiman Rezom, second edition, page 37) says: "If Masons are determined to fix the origin of their Order at the Xirrie of the erection, they should agree among themselves at what time before Christ to place that epoch." At that agreement they have now arrived. Whatever differences may have once existed, there is now a general consent to adopt the theory that the world was created 4000 B.C. The error is too unimportant, and the practice too universal, to expect that it will ever be corrected. H. P. Smith (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible), we may here point out in a paragraph to support Doctor Mackey, says that our appreciation of the Bible does not depend upon the accuracy of its dates. This authority considers that in general, the picture it provides of the sequence of events from the time of Judges down to the Fall of Jerusalem is correct. More recently there has been welcome light on the dates of certain biblical events from the inscriptions in Assyria and Babylonia.
These Empires had made great advances in astronomy and consequently in the regulation of the calendar. They had a reckoning of time which secured accuracy for their records of history. Lists have come down to us in fragments, but by them scholars have corrected some of the dates in Hebrew history. The reference already made to the work of Archbishop Ussher has been checked by these later studies and most of the figures, it is now accepted, are too high for the early period. Probably some of the early writers were influenced by a theory which they had formed or which had come to them through tradition and those tendencies show certain repetitions in the records which are, in these modern days, not so convincing as formerly.
Noowhouek (Constitutions 1784, page 5), speaking of the necessity of adding the four years to make a correct date, says: "But this being a Degree of accuracy that Masons in general do not attend to, we must, after this intimation, still follow the vulgar mode of computation to be intelligible." As to the meaning of the expression, it is by no means to be supposed that Freemasons, now, intend by such a date to assume that their Order is as old as the creation. It is simply used as expressive of reverence for that physical light which was created by the fiat of the Grand Architect, and which is adopted as the type of the intellectual light of Freemasonry. The phrase is altogether symbolic.
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