April 26, 2005

Taking Christ out of "B.C."

There is a movement afoot, primarily among academics and historians, to remove the term "Before Christ" or "B.C." from years predating the birth of Jesus Christ. Likewise, that same movement wants to change "Anno Domini," or A.D. -- literally translated from Latin as "In the year of our Lord" -- to "C.E." or "Common Era." "B.C." would become "B.C.E." or "Before Common Era."

The terms "B.C." and "A.D." increasingly are shunned by certain scholars.

Educators and historians say schools from North America to Australia have been changing the terms "Before Christ," or B.C., to "Before Common Era," or B.C.E., and "anno Domini" (Latin for "in the year of the Lord") to "Common Era." In short, they're referred to as B.C.E. and C.E.

The terms B.C. and A.D. have clear Catholic roots. Dionysius Exiguus, an abbot in Rome, devised them as a way to determine the date for Easter for Pope St. John I. The terms were continued under the Gregorian Calendar, created in 1582 under Pope Gregory XIII.

Although most calendars are based on an epoch or person, B.C. and A.D. have always presented a particular problem for historians: There is no year zero; there's a 33-year gap, reflecting the life of Christ, dividing the epochs. Critics say that's additional reason to replace the Christian-based terms.

A number of Jewish and Muslim scholars have a problem with associating the calendar with Jesus Christ -- though many seem to forget that there is a separate Hebrew calendar; under that calendar, this is the year 5765. On the Islamic calendar, it is the year A.H. 1426. Heck, everyone knows there is a separate Chinese calendar, where this is the year 4703. So what makes the BC/AD divide so contentious?

Political correctness. Of course. Would you expect anything different?

Posted by: mhking at 03:07 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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1 This is an interesting post. A few years back I was actively studying the origin of Christianity and came across the fact that the calendar was changed to accommodate a prediction of some sort. I don't won't to get into any details on you blog, but I thought this whole idea was a little fascinating. At that time, this was the first time I ran across the phrase BCE and CE to describe time.

Posted by: cynthia at April 26, 2005 04:27 AM (IqwRh)

2 I don't see why we need to gauge time and history with any religious prophet, especially one who's birth year has never been accurately determined. I feel that civilization has progressed past determining dates based on an individual. Sure, it's fine when describing events in and around Jerusalem and Constantinople but using the format when discussing something like the failed Mongol invasion of Japan is just silly. Christianity has nothing to do with Japan, the Mongols, the Seljuk Turks, or many other powerful civilizations of the time. So why use it to describe the year of the event? As a student of history, I am relieved that finally the field is using a more accurate determination of places in time.

Posted by: Thad Enouf at April 26, 2005 05:22 AM (MGSrR)

3 I don't remember if we talked about BCE in 10th grade (1989-90) in World History but I do remember for a fact that we used that terminology in Western Civ in SFS at Georgetown my freshman year (fall of '92.)

Posted by: Jeff at April 26, 2005 08:44 AM (ifPXk)

4 As a History Major at ASU in the early '90s the B.C.E. and C.E were the standard form used for dates. It seems that the academical world has already made the change why impose this on everyone?

Posted by: Drunken Samurai at April 26, 2005 08:52 AM (EllcU)

5 I think this information on the 33-year gap is wrong, there's no such gap. Everything is based on the assumed *birth* date of Jesus. Therefore he was born in 1 A.D. and crucified in 33 A.D. according to the church. Historians now believe that he most probably was born in 6 B.C.E. and died in 27 C.E.

Posted by: Carlos at April 26, 2005 06:07 PM (Qw2SZ)

6 Egads Michael, when did you start letting these secular freaks in here? ;-)

Posted by: Chris at April 26, 2005 06:41 PM (9VCzx)

7 Even though I do believe in Jesus, I believe it wrong to use BC/AD. Just because a pope decided to arbitrarily force a calendar on Europe does not mean that it's correct or Christian. I feel that the dates are unknowable. PC history writers rewrite the record of the past based on their personal ideologies today. It was no different in ancient time. One said that history is a lie agreed upon. I believe that much of it has been falsified, the reckoning of the dates included. It makes little sense to live in the past. I agree somewhat with Thad Enouf. Why should people who don't follow any religion be forced to use a sectarian calendar? If they want to make up one of their own and use it, I have no issue about it. It is no damage to my faith in Jesus at all for one to use BCE or nothing at all. To use phrases like the 14th year of Tiberius, or for Japanese history the 7th year of Emperor whoever, or the 10 year of Mohammed, is no insult or injury to the Christian faith, or to any one else. In fact, it might even be a little more respectful of world cultures. No one should make a sacred cow/golden calf out of calendar designations any way. Summer will follow spring, Winter will follow autumn. We'll still have four seasons even if we don't want them, and night will still follow day until time shall be no more.

Posted by: Bubba at August 08, 2005 03:18 PM (DtyMJ)

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