The Year of Our Lord and All that Time Before It

I asked last year whether people preferred  B.C./A.D. or B.C.E./C.E. for dating systems and it seemed that most folks went with the standard B.C./A.D. descriptions for various reasons.  I noted how I can understand folks opting for something else if Jesus isn’t their Lord, but he’s mine so I’ll stick with the ‘norm’ (at least the norm for Christians).  Daniel McClellan noted Bob Cargill‘s short essay on the subject  and agreed with him.  As I said in the comments to Daniel’s post: “I’d ask what exactly is ‘common’ about the era that CE describes? BC/AD are equally as harmless and they actually make sense.”  Daniel presented an answer to my query, and while I found it unsatisfactory I thank him for doing so.  Then Doug Chaplin chimed in with a post that I could only describe as “Brilliant!” in the comments, and which also detail many of the reasons I find Daniel’s answer unsatisfactory.  And  now Brant Pitre adds his two cents which in my estimation makes too [much] sense to ignore (note the witty play on two cents & too […] sense ;-).  Brant appears to be thinking along the same lines as me when he says: “The primary reason is that “B.C.E.” and “C.E.” are vacuous: they don’t mean anything. What actually is the “common era”? Can anyone actually tell me what is “common” about the years 1-the present? And what was it that happened “before the common era” so as to make it, well, ‘un-common’?”  But this line from Brant’s post is the most poignant: “I actually believe that all human history does revolve around the Incarnation of Christ.”  Amen brother, so do I!

Update: Mark Goodacre quotes N. T. Wrong’s post on the subject from back in January.  I made reference to this post in my comment on Daniel’s blog but didn’t have access to it.



16 thoughts on “The Year of Our Lord and All that Time Before It

  1. You would think with the CE/BCE crowd, they’d try to slide it back just a little to the beginning of the Roman Empire (our 27 BC) and make that Year 1 CE. At least that would make some sense. Of course CE/BCE is a terrible name any way as you pointed out. I’d prefer Present Era/Before Present Era instead. But then we’d all be happy that we were in P.E. and want to play dodgeball.

  2. I’ll use BCE and CE because it was what I was introduced to during my first degree in world religions, and I liked it as it wasn’t exclusively Christian and I felt it was more compatible with other religious traditions. I was also aware of the arguments that Jesus wasn’t even born in the year 0 and the traditional terms represented Christian arrogance. Others will use BC and AD. We all know what each other means and that’s all that matters. I don’t think anyone should dictate what we should or shouldn’t do especially as most people have used the traditional system all their lives.

  3. Matt: Nothing, but now I want to play it!

    Steph: Same here. I came up with B.C./A.D. and can’t see a good reason to switch it. And like Doug said in his post, it’s not like other religions don’t have their own dating systems. I wouldn’t expect a Muslim or Jew to switch up when talking to me just because I’m a Christian.

  4. Why don’t you just tell yourself that by C.E. and B.C.E., you mean “Christian Era” and “Before the Christian Era”?

  5. I’m a BC/AD person and am never switching.

    In addition to the various things others have said, there’s the simple fact that all other era-reckoning schemes only differ in their nomenclature when there’s an actual difference in their reckoning. It’s unscientific to invent a new label for a scheme that already has one. Advocating such a change is ludicrous.

    Anyhow the C in BCE and CE obviously means “Christian”, because that is exactly the era being used, and no other. Details such as the era being off by a few years and other whiny detractions are irrelevant. (Honestly I think the world is populated by children, sometimes.) Changing the nomenclature without changing the reckoning is merely petty theft, an appropriation of the invention of another and a better, while pridefully slapping a new label on it to suit new religio-politico fashions. It changes nothing.

    But some dislike to be reminded of the fact that the central event in human history really was the Incarnation of Christ. They perhaps have some other central event in mind, one no doubt much more prosaic and nowhere nearly as influential.

    People can use it if they want, but they should know that they’re open targets for ridicule if they utilize such childish arguments to advocate it as we’ve been seeing. It’s better to be up front about it. Someone saying, “I’m Jewish, so I use BCE/CE” is perfectly reasonable, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Trying to justify such a religiously-motivated change (which is exactly the reasoning behind its invention) with non-religious argumentation is laughable. If it makes people squeamish because of their religious sensibilities or lack thereof, fine, then they ought to say so. But they oughtn’t put lipstick on the pig with all these other justifications.

  6. Kevin: Not much to disagree with, other than the C standing for ‘Christian.’ Sure, that’s what it really means since the era is the same, but they want it to mean something else, and they’re the ones who use it, so I’ll let them have it mean what they want it to mean.

  7. I think I’ll proudly slap my own inconsequential label on to suit my religious and political leanings and inescapable childhood: ABJ and AAJ (approximately before and after Jesus) :-)

  8. It can be painful when the dominant culture loses the power to enforce its myths. I was taught growing up that Columbus discovered the New World and that Europeans settled America.

  9. Right, Nick. They can say what they want, but I’m still going to roll my eyes over the adolescence of it all!

    I like that, Steph!

    Era-reckoning and calendars are hardly myths, Vinny.

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