CE and BCE

I use CE and BCE rather than AD and BC. Surprisingly, that causes some people pain. They seem to have the idea it’s somehow an assault on Christianity. I don’t have time to argue. I roll my eyes and move on. I first encountered CE and BCE as an undergraduate in the 1970s. I didn’t need anyone to unpack it for me. It made intuitive sense.

We know the AD/BC calendar is wrong about the birth of Jesus, but even if it were right we’ve moved out of our parochial past where it seemed like the whole world is Christian. Then, looking at the calendar and calendar reforms many years later, it turned out the AD/BC calendar isn’t all that old anyway.

I knew if I waited long enough, there would be something easy to cite for the whole history and shape of the modern CE/BCE dating system. Not just “it’s too late to re-date all of history, so let’s just suck it up”. And here it is.

In recent years, a persistent criticism has been leveled against the use of the BCE/CE system (Before the Common or Current Era/Common or Current Era) , rather than BC/AD (Before Christ/Anno Domini or ‘Year of Our Lord’), in dating historical events. This designation, it is claimed, is nothing more than an attempt to ‘remove Christ from the calendar’ in keeping with the ‘subversive’ effects of political correctness. The use of BCE/CE, opponents claim, is offensive to Christians who recognize time as dated up to, and away from, the birth of Jesus. Further, it is claimed that BCE/CE makes no sense because it refers to exactly the same event as BC/AD. Those who oppose the use of the ‘common era’ designation also seem to feel that the use of BC/AD is actually stipulated by the Bible or in some way carries biblical authority.

There is no biblical authority for BC/AD; it was created over 500 years after the events described in the Christian New Testament and was not accepted usage until after another 500 years had passed. The use of BCE/CE certainly has become more common in recent years but it is not a new invention of the ‘politically correct’ nor is it even all that new; the use of ‘common era’ in place of A.D. first appears in German in the 17th century CE and in English in the 18th. The use of this designation in dating has nothing to do with ‘removing Christ from the calendar’ and everything to do with accuracy when dealing with historical events.

Read more:

%d bloggers like this: