“The Times regrets its math,” America’s newspaper of record reports today on its front page. This is in a reefer to an amusing article confessing that since 1898 the issue number on the upper left hand of the front page has been off by 500–a fact that was discovered recently by a 24 year-old news aide named Aaron Donovan. But the mea culpa could just as appropriately be applied to the first sentence in today’s lead story by the paper’s Pulitzer prize-winning rewrite man, Robert D. McFadden:
Two thousand years after Christ’s obscure birth in a dusty town in Judea, the world’s six billion people blah blah blah …
Because Slate readers are uncommonly sharp, they will notice immediately that, quite apart from whether you accept the year 2000 as the turning of a century and a millennium–which Chatterbox does*–and quite apart from whether you accept the Gregorian calendar’s date for Christ’s birth–which Chatterbox doesn’t,** but never mind–it is not possible to add the number two thousand to the number one and come up with two thousand.
This arithmetic error never would have happened had Aaron Donovan edited McFadden’s story.
*Chatterbox’s rationale: Since, retrospectively, we view the year 1000 as marking the start of the last millennium, and the year 1900 as marking the start of the last century, 2000 marks the start of the new millennium and century. The 999-year millennium wasn’t the stretch from 1000 to 2000, but from the year one to 1000; and no one who’d be affected by that is around anymore to complain.
**Herod’s death is documented as occurring in 4 B.C., which renders the story of Jesus Christ’s birth nonsensical; either there was no Jesus Christ or Jesus Christ was born at least five years earlier than the Christian calendar says.