REVIEW – The Seven Day Circle

This book is crammed with info about the seven day week.

Whenever I am curious about a subject I get a good book and learn everything about my new interest. A while back I thought I’d investigate the ancient origins of the seven day week. At the time there was only one book on Amazon that purported to present the history of the week. The title is The Seven Day CircleThe author is Eviatar Zerubavel and it was published in1985. I am reviewing this book so that others can decide if it interests them or not.

The introduction of this book begins with Zerubavel’s son asking him “Daddy, what is Thursday?” The author says that it was on that day that the seeds of the book were sewn. I have no idea how long it took for him to answer his child’s question or if he ever did, but in my opinion, this book has wondered off from his son’s question and gotten lost in the confusing outer world of human customs. Ultimately there is really nothing new for DAYOLOGY studies  in this book, but it is a good collection of old Day of the Week facts, stories and theories.

Zerubavel traces the origins of the seven day week back to Judaism and Astrology. He asserts that these two beginnings evolved independently, and it was just a matter of time until they merged. A correspondence between the (Hebrew) Sabbath and the (Astrological) day of Saturn had been established before the first century. As to any other facts we can glean for The Dayology Timeline, Zerubavel states that by 500 BC that the Babylonians had tracked the seven visible planets and created horoscopes by 409 BC. He conjectures that it was a fusion of astronomy, astronomy and mathematics in Alexandria, Egypt that prompted it’s spread all over the world.

The author explains that nature provides Earth with a 24-hour day and a 365-day year, but he states that the 7-day week is “an artificial rhythm that was created by human beings totally independently of any natural periodicity. In fact the week is the only major rhythm of human activity that is arbitrary to nature, resting on mathematical regularity alone. It’s invention was one of the first attempts to break away from being prisoners of nature and to create an artificial world of their own.”  I wish he had investigated more in what he calls the rhythm of the seven day week. He concludes that this pattern is “a product of human interference with the natural order of things” whereas it is my belief that in maintaining the seven-fold beat we are cooperating with universal rhythms and promoting well-being in all Earth’s life-forms.

Honestly, the way that Zerubavel tracked the development of various calendars and religious traditions bored me but the book is great for those crave that sort of information. Way too much focus was given to the way institutions like hospitals are run, but I found the diffusion of the seven day week throughout the various cultures very interesting. Admittedly the seven day week is a mysterious and difficult subject to wrap your head around. I do respect the academic scholarship of the author. His presentation is just too sociological for my taste.‚Äč

“The week is all around us. Yet to this day, it has never been the single focus of a comprehensive scholarly investigation.  Paradoxically, it has managed to escape our attention for so long precisely because it is ubiquitous. After all, it is very often the most familiar and obvious aspects of our environment that are the least studied ones. Nothing evades our attention so persistently as that which taken for granted.”

Eviatar Zerubavel