Common Era?

Jesus Christ was the central figure in history. Everyone knows that time before his birth is marked with the label “BC” for “Before Christ”, and counts down to the year of his appearing on earth. “AD” stands for “After Death” and counts up since his birth. So it has been for 1700 years since Constantine standardized the Caesarean calendar.

For the first time this week, I’ve heard these eras referred to differently. Our tour guide has been referring to the era before Jesus’ birth as “BCE” or “Before Common Era” and the period after his birth as “CE” or “Common Era”. I tolerated it for a while, but the longer it goes on, the more it’s really starting to annoy me.

Cutoff (except for quickly posting these entries) from my routine abnormally high dependence on Internet connectivity, I am not sure where this came from or where it’s going. I imagine it’s a Jewish thing, and likely not terribly proliferated in the outside world. But there are dozens, hundreds of examples of this kind of post-Christian shift in the modern world.

Even if not with this specific example, in general, the world has gotten pretty seriously invested in the concept of attempting to eliminate Jesus Christ from the public arena. It’s sad and frustrating, on the one hand, that men are so invested in the (foolish, ridiculous, ultimately doomed-to-failure) attempt to diminish God’s glory as represented by the marks believing men have made on western civilization. But on the other hand, I welcome it. It means, first, that the end is drawing nearer. Second, it means that the church will be strengthened as persecution (the next phase) comes.

About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Jesus, the long awaited King. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long, difficult, joyful adventure, learning to swim with the current of God's sovereign love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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5 Responses to Common Era?

  1. aphreal says:

    To provide a bit of context on this topic, enter an academic…

    Using CE and BCE rather than AD and BC is not by any means a “Jewish thing” limited to Israel. It’s actually incredibly common in academia (being the preferred notation of the Smithsonian, for example), and I’m used to seeing the terms interchangably. According to a bit of quick internet research, the term Common Era (or its Latin equivalent vulgaris aerae) was first used in 1615 to distinguish the way common people kept time from the dynastic system used by European royalty. Hence “common” as opposed to “regal”. The origin of the term has nothing to do with attempts to “eliminate Jesus Christ” from public view; that concept would have been unthinkable to the vast majority of Europeans in the 17th century. In fact, for the first few centuries of its use, CE was interchangably viewed to stand for either Common Era or Christian Era.

    In modern usage, some people do prefer to use the terms CE and BCE rather than AD and BC for religious reasons. Jews, for example, do not regard Jesus as their Lord, so why would they want to use a dating system including that claim? This may be why you’re noticing its usage so commonly in Israel. Some academic institutions use the terms CE and BCE out of respect for cultures that share this dating system but aren’t Christian. It’s the preferred term in China, for example.
    Other historians and scholars avoid the use of AD and BC because they’re now believed to be inaccurate. Most historical estimates put Jesus’s birth around 4BC, so calling the next four years “Before Christ” is a bit of a misnomer and implies that the “Years of Our Lord” didn’t begin until he turned about 5.

    This is by no means intended as an extensive review of the topic, mostly because I’m a geneticist, not a historian. Just wanted to provide a bit of perspective on a topic that’s clearly bothering you. Hope you continue enjoying your trip and finding it a spiritually-fullfilling experience.



  2. aphreal says:

    One correction I missed earlier. AD does not stand for “After Death” as that would suggest that the years of Christ’s mortal life were not counted and there would then need to be a 30-some year gap in the calendar. Also, it makes little sense to celebrate a risen Lord by marking time from his death. AD is actually an abbreviation for the Latin phrase Anno Dominus: Year of Our Lord, with continued counting being intended to symbolize Christ’s eternal life and continual presence.


  3. Anastasius of Persia says:

    Wow, you are truly ignorant – scholars (you know, people who actually care about uncovering the truth of history, not about making history fit their preconceived religious notions) have been using the term BCE for a very long time.

    You actually are deluded enough to think it’s a “Jewish thing”? Are you aware the the majority of the humans on planet Earth are *not* Christians? What kind of a kook gets offended if these multitudes don’t choose to see Jesus Christ as “the central figure in history”?

    Your narrow-minded, ignorant insistence on something like this is sickening. To think, a crazed rapture-zealot like you actually gets a vote in the US just like other rational, enlightened citizens!


    • aphreal says:

      Was this post really necessary? Everything relevant you had to say (BCE is widely used in academia and by non-Christians) was in my previous post in a much more polite form. What did this really add to the discussion other than a chance to insult someone for not agreeing with you?


  4. Jeff Block says:

    I most enjoy the posts of those who disagree with others in a respectful fact-based way, rather than resorting to name calling and insult. It’s refreshing.


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