BC/AD/BCE/CE

Today's sermon, based on lectionary readings, contained several references to dates of historical events eg destruction of the temple. Each time a date was mentioned our minister used the wording 'in the Common Era' or alternatively 'before the Common Era'. Now I know these terms are the present politically correct way to refer to what we used to call BC and AD, but nevertheless it grated on me. In the context of Christian worship surely it not inappropriate to use the versions that relate to Christ? Or am I out of touch?
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Comments

  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Personally I think it's common decency to use the more inclusive terms. And I really don't understand this phrase "politically correct" ... that too normally appears to mean "decent."
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    It’s standard scholarly practice now, so I’ve no problem with it.
  • {I've thought about these things, from time to time. However, they bounce around in a jumble drawer, and I haven't put them together.}


    I rarely use *any* of those terms. Part of that is because I was taught (evidently wrongly) that the common era started at a particular time. A brain search isn't retrieving that, right now. But I think it was supposed to be 70 AD, when the 2nd Temple was destroyed. Which, by the AD system, would make CE dates 70 years off.

    And I usually don't mention anything far enough back that there'd be any confusion about whether it was AD/CE or BC/BCE.

    So, while 70 AD = CE may not be accurate, it's still in my head. I've thought about more inclusive calendars, from time to time. Theoretically, yes, a universally inclusive calendar would probably be a good thing--though various cultures and religions have their own.

    I do realize very much that horrible things have been and are being done in the name of Jesus--over and over and over, world without end, amen. The AD calendar is based on the perceived time of Jesus' birth. Many/most people in the world aren't Christians, or religious at all. So the AD calendar probably isn't fair to them. And it's a relic of a time when "Christianity" ruled much of the world, had a lot of power, and made the rules.

    I also know that switching between Julian and Gregorian calendars (and I never remember which is which) spawned a whole lot of trouble.

    So, on this particular Sunday morning, that's about as far as I get.
  • I think using CE rather than AD, as well as being polite, acknowledges the lack of certainty about the date of Christ's birth. It also leads to a reduction in the need for me to perform percussive therapy on whoever it is goes around telling primary school children that AD stands for "after death". :rage:
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    As I now count as the older generation, I would still naturally use BC and AD and normally do so. In a sermon to a congregation of Christians, I agree with @Gracious Rebel that whatever the secular world might think, it's better to continue to do so.
  • For dates before the time reversal, I tend to use "BC(E)"
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited November 17
    I mentioned both AD51 and AD70 in today's sermon. It was quite possibly the same lectionary reading as in Gracious Rebel's church - 2 Thessalonians (however I know we're a week behind where we should be in the Lectionary!)
  • (BT we were in 2 Thess 3, 6-13)
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited November 17
    Ah, you're on the correct week! We'll be there next Sunday ...
  • mousethief wrote: »
    For dates before the time reversal, I tend to use "BC(E)"

    Great idea! :)
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    What is common about the Common Era? AFAICS, it simply gives a more acceptable name to the same.
  • I actually noticed the change happening in the religious studies world before the secular world, I would guess because if you're writing about religion for a multifaith religious audience, people are actually going to pay more attention to what the abbreviations mean.

    That said, CE and BCE are themselves a bit of a fudge - we haven't changed the dating system, only what we call it. And I'm not totally sure what is "common" about the common era that BCE time was lacking. To me, spelling everything out as "in the common era" or "before the common era" in a sermon intended for a Christian audience seems to highlight this artificiality.



  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    My thinking exactly. A change to try to cater for the majority (probably) of the present population of the globe, but only a change of name and not attitude.
  • What we agree to call things matters. The difference is not cosmetic.
  • Marsupial wrote: »
    I actually noticed the change happening in the religious studies world before the secular world, I would guess because if you're writing about religion for a multifaith religious audience, people are actually going to pay more attention to what the abbreviations mean.

    That said, CE and BCE are themselves a bit of a fudge - we haven't changed the dating system, only what we call it. And I'm not totally sure what is "common" about the common era that BCE time was lacking. To me, spelling everything out as "in the common era" or "before the common era" in a sermon intended for a Christian audience seems to highlight this artificiality.



    "Common" as in "shared", I assume, referring to the current dating system used internationally.
  • It's easier than giving everything a new number and expecting folk to remember that.
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    I think using CE rather than AD, as well as being polite, acknowledges the lack of certainty about the date of Christ's birth.

    I use CE and BCE for the same reason. I understand the Common Era to refer to the period after the point in time that has been historically and culturally acknowledged as the date of the birth of Christ, whatever else we might know today about the inaccuracy of the methodology originally used to calculate that. It refers to a commonly understood period without making any statement about the point in time.

    This allows me to refer to events "Before the Common Era" without feeling that I sound ridiculous in a way that I simply cannot when discussing the birth of Christ possibly happening Before Christ.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Cyprian wrote: »
    I use CE and BCE for the same reason. I understand the Common Era to refer to the period after the point in time that has been historically and culturally acknowledged as the date of the birth of Christ, whatever else we might know today about the inaccuracy of the methodology originally used to calculate that. It refers to a commonly understood period without making any statement about the point in time.

    I understand all that, and the way in much the same point has been made by others. An essential part of my post was in asking why the birth of Christ be a determining event - after all, a majority of the world's population is not Christian.
  • I mean I held the belief for a while that 'C' in BCE/CE stood for 'Christian' which makes sense so I wondered what the fuss was about. What is 'Common' about the time that comes approximately after Christ's Birth?
  • Indeed one cannot say that a majority of the world's inhabitants are Christian,but the calendar which most people use for everyday secular events is the calendar established by Pope Gregory XIII who would have considered things from a Christian perspective, where the Birth of Christ would have been a sort of 'Stunde Null' (zero hour). This,even if the Birth of Christ did not take place in that year ). This calendar adopted eventually by most of Europe was then adapted throughout most of the world due in large part (e.g. Australia) to colonisation and domination by Europeans.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    An essential part of my post was in asking why the birth of Christ be a determining event - after all, a majority of the world's population is not Christian.

    On this point, isn't it simply about what is globally convenient? At the point where it became useful for the entire planet to use the same dating system, the dominant economies happened to come from a Christian culture, and so the calendar they used has been adopted. It doesn't say anything about whether these economies are or should be dominant today.

    And there's an exact parallel in how we state time. When Great Britain found it useful for the entire island to use the same timing system, time as recorded in the dominant city of the period was adopted (with a slight adjustment to use time as recorded at Greenwich's Royal Observatory, a little bit east of London). When the world found a need to have a common timing system, the UK (and its empire?) was a dominant economy so it was practical to further adopt the Greenwich system. In turn, this says nothing about whether the UK is or should be a dominant economy today.

    In both cases, it would be possible to adopt a different calendar or clock. But there's no particular benefit to doing so, and (surely) substantial drawbacks were there to be a change made, so we continue with what has now been established.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    We could use the Jewish Calendar (5780) or the Islamic calendar (1441 - although AIUI there may be other possibilities) or the Roman Calendar (2772). In the end it is all arbitrary.
  • I should point out that CE has also stood for Christian Era and that is quite an old usage. "Common" or "vulgar" era seems to have been to distinguish that dating from Regnal dating (e.g., the tenth year of Queen Elizabeth).
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    'Common' does not mean 'vulgar', even if the latter means 'of the common people' and not 'rude'. It means 'accepted by all', 'common to all cultures' . Nothing to stop other cultures continuing to use their own dating systems amongst themselves, but for dealings outside that culture it is helpful, indeed in this cyber age essential, to have one universally agreed system.
  • Well, I may be a throw back, but I tend to use whichever I think the most of the congregation will understand. In preaching to my little crew last Sunday I wanted to emphasize Isaiah's words were from approximately 700 years before Jesus. I think one individual would have understood BCE, but I stayed with BC simply beaue most would 'get it'.

    But, perhaps a picky point, whose "comon era" is it? We still imply we're talking about pre and post Jesus, no? Would not the Japanese date events based on who was Emperor? or other groups of people have dating schemes based on their cultural history? So, I stay with what the hearers of my words will know and not ignore my point while they mentally sort out the timing just right.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    angloid wrote: »
    It means 'accepted by all', 'common to all cultures' . Nothing to stop other cultures continuing to use their own dating systems amongst themselves, but for dealings outside that culture it is helpful, indeed in this cyber age essential, to have one universally agreed system.
    I don't see why other cultures don't get to call their dating systems Common Era, and Christians do get to.
    Common Era is our own dating system with a name change to pretend it's universal.

  • Gee D wrote: »
    Cyprian wrote: »
    I use CE and BCE for the same reason. I understand the Common Era to refer to the period after the point in time that has been historically and culturally acknowledged as the date of the birth of Christ, whatever else we might know today about the inaccuracy of the methodology originally used to calculate that. It refers to a commonly understood period without making any statement about the point in time.

    I understand all that, and the way in much the same point has been made by others. An essential part of my post was in asking why the birth of Christ be a determining event - after all, a majority of the world's population is not Christian.

    Because the calendar was made by Christians and the numbering system well in place before ideas like wondering what other people might want even surfaced.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    Cyprian wrote: »
    I use CE and BCE for the same reason. I understand the Common Era to refer to the period after the point in time that has been historically and culturally acknowledged as the date of the birth of Christ, whatever else we might know today about the inaccuracy of the methodology originally used to calculate that. It refers to a commonly understood period without making any statement about the point in time.

    I understand all that, and the way in much the same point has been made by others. An essential part of my post was in asking why the birth of Christ be a determining event - after all, a majority of the world's population is not Christian.

    Because the calendar was made by Christians and the numbering system well in place before ideas like wondering what other people might want even surfaced.

    Exactly, and then someone decided that using the old naming was offensive to non-Christians. So new names were given but based on the same event.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    Cyprian wrote: »
    I use CE and BCE for the same reason. I understand the Common Era to refer to the period after the point in time that has been historically and culturally acknowledged as the date of the birth of Christ, whatever else we might know today about the inaccuracy of the methodology originally used to calculate that. It refers to a commonly understood period without making any statement about the point in time.

    I understand all that, and the way in much the same point has been made by others. An essential part of my post was in asking why the birth of Christ be a determining event - after all, a majority of the world's population is not Christian.

    Because the calendar was made by Christians and the numbering system well in place before ideas like wondering what other people might want even surfaced.

    Exactly, and then someone decided that using the old naming was offensive to non-Christians. So new names were given but based on the same event.

    And there you have it, folks.
  • Which is why I'd rather just own it, and use AD and BC myself, unless I were in a specialized context where BCE/CE were the rule. Everybody dates from something--whether it's the founding of Rome or the putative date of creation. It seems to me overly precious to bend over backwards to scrub one's own dating practices of one's own cultural values. There are much greater problems out there to deal with. The apostrophe wars, for instance.
  • I suspect some of the complaint is because AD is short for Anno Domini or "in the year of the Lord" which is something many non-Christians aren't willing to say. I also note that English seems to be the only language I know of that that mixes which language it uses for the two eras (AD is Latin and BC is English). Spanish seems to use a. C and d. C. "antes"/"después"

    BTW Vulgar Era was really used at one time
  • Which is why I'd rather just own it, and use AD and BC myself, unless I were in a specialized context where BCE/CE were the rule. Everybody dates from something--whether it's the founding of Rome or the putative date of creation. It seems to me overly precious to bend over backwards to scrub one's own dating practices of one's own cultural values. There are much greater problems out there to deal with. The apostrophe wars, for instance.

    But then why not use CE/BCE? It's not scraping over backwards to put "CE" instead of "AD", and if there are some people who are helped by it (whyever that may be), why not?
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    For a fair few hundred years the world (as most people in Europe knew it) was actually Christian.
    That there were in fact many other continents and countries; as well as hundreds of other religions (as we Monty Python folk say ) "don't enter into it".
    I am fluent in 2 calendars (and have more than a passing acquaintance with 2 others while thinking "Oh, yes, of course" on a fair numbr of "high days and holy days" of many more religions when I see pictures in The Guardian!). I think the idea of a common calendar is only logical. Perhaps it's a pity it's devolved onto the Christian one. It's certainly cultural imperialism, but there you go. It's mostly necessary for business (transactions or appointments) anyway. If you want to talk about a wedding day or a baby's birthday - use whatever calendar you feel like with your like-minded or broad-minded friends
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Of course I could tell you the sad story of the 7 year old daughter of a good friend who was sent to the local shop to buy milk. Life's like that, you know - sometimes you discover the milk in the fridge is "off". This little girl lived in another (religious) calendar and she simply couldn't understand the "Best Before" date on the milk carton. Because it was in the CE dating. So she politely asked for help and people either genuinely had no idea or took the chance to get back at her for the "life choices" of her parents - itself a topic of much discussion for a decade or so by then.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Which is why I'd rather just own it, and use AD and BC myself, unless I were in a specialized context where BCE/CE were the rule. Everybody dates from something--whether it's the founding of Rome or the putative date of creation. It seems to me overly precious to bend over backwards to scrub one's own dating practices of one's own cultural values. There are much greater problems out there to deal with. The apostrophe wars, for instance.

    But then why not use CE/BCE? It's not scraping over backwards to put "CE" instead of "AD", and if there are some people who are helped by it (whyever that may be), why not?

    If it DOES help somebody, sure. But I wonder whether it matters to people as much as some assume. I don't find it offensive when someone uses the Islamic or Jewish calendar, or follows textual practices that reference their own faith (for example, writing G-D instead of "God")--so why get het up about this minor thing? It's not even written out. I'm sorry, but I just think we've got better things to do than police every scrap of language for possible offenses. The behaviors promoted by the person currently in the White House come to mind.
  • I think "police every scrap of language for possible offenses" is a straw man. Nobody here is asking for that.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Have non-christians been clammering for this change?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I think (and Wikipedia tends to support the thought) that the more widespread use of BCE/CE has come out of theology and biblical studies where Christians and Jewish scholars are often covering the same ground. In that context BC and AD could be problematic terminology.
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    Have non-christians been clammering for this change?

    No they've just been using it.
  • Galilit wrote: »
    ...people either genuinely had no idea or took the chance to get back at her for the "life choices" of her parents - itself a topic of much discussion for a decade or so by then.

    I sincerely hope they had no idea, because if that was deliberate, that was a shitty thing to do to a young kid.

  • angloid wrote: »
    'Common' does not mean 'vulgar', even if the latter means 'of the common people' and not 'rude'. It means 'accepted by all', 'common to all cultures' . Nothing to stop other cultures continuing to use their own dating systems amongst themselves, but for dealings outside that culture it is helpful, indeed in this cyber age essential, to have one universally agreed system.

    Completely agree, but I was taken with a tshirt I saw a while ago:

    "Being straight isn't normal. It's common."

    Wish I'd had the courage to buy it.
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    In the same way you could argue that the British Empire dictated the time zones; the meridian line runs through Greenwich (aka the centre of British naval power). I don't think the most anti-British, anti-Western, anti-imperialist state has ever seriously objected to this. It's just the way it is.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    The main reason why the idea of standard time was accepted in the nineteenth century was railway operation. Early railway operation depended on timetables and time interval running, so having the clocks on the same standard was part of keeping folks somewhat safe. The Timetable and Train Order variant of this system was still used in the USA in the 1980s, and still incorporated an element of time interval working.

    I tend to stick to the BC/AD system because BCE/CE dates tend to fuzz into each other after a while thus hindering comprehension.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    My first two degrees are in history. BCE and CE are just the norm.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    I was a history major too, but it was a while back so they had not started with the BCE/CE thing with any seriousness yet.
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    Galilit wrote: »
    Of course I could tell you the sad story of the 7 year old daughter of a good friend who was sent to the local shop to buy milk. Life's like that, you know - sometimes you discover the milk in the fridge is "off". This little girl lived in another (religious) calendar and she simply couldn't understand the "Best Before" date on the milk carton. Because it was in the CE dating. So she politely asked for help and people either genuinely had no idea or took the chance to get back at her for the "life choices" of her parents - itself a topic of much discussion for a decade or so by then.

    I don’t understand this anecdote. What’s CE dating?
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited November 20
    ECraigR wrote: »
    Galilit wrote: »
    Of course I could tell you the sad story of the 7 year old daughter of a good friend who was sent to the local shop to buy milk. Life's like that, you know - sometimes you discover the milk in the fridge is "off". This little girl lived in another (religious) calendar and she simply couldn't understand the "Best Before" date on the milk carton. Because it was in the CE dating. So she politely asked for help and people either genuinely had no idea or took the chance to get back at her for the "life choices" of her parents - itself a topic of much discussion for a decade or so by then.

    I don’t understand this anecdote. What’s CE dating?
    I’m guessing Gregorian calendar rather than, say, Jewish or Islamic calendar.

  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Yes, the "usual" calendar.
    My personal opinion of that horrid incident was that the parents should have taught the children the calendar "everyone" uses but they wanted to be pure/extremist.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    A child raised with dates only in the form nth day of {Jewish-name-month} of {Jewish-number-year} would find the usual Gregorian calendar incomprehensible.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Yes, especially so since Hebrew uses letters not numbers ( aleph = the 1st, bet = the 2nd, etc), then the Hebrew-year's months, names, and then the year is in letters for the numbers (eg 5780) again.
    It was horrible incident and I have never forgotten it. Both sides were at fault - the parents for not making sure the children could "function" in an essentially secular environment and the people who used the situation to pick on the wee girl and to gossip about it for days afterwards.

    And of course I am a "more inclusive than thou" type of Guardian reading, GIN drinking, over-sensitive, etc, etc type myself ...
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