Make Your Editor Cry: AD and BC vs. Secular Time Confusion
“A.D.” does not mean “after death,” as many people suppose. “B.C.” stands for the English phrase “before Christ,” but “A.D.” perhaps confusingly stands for the Latin phrase: anno Domini (“in the year of the Lord”—the year Yeshua [aka Jesus] was born). If the calendar actually changed with Jesus’ death, then what would we do with the years during which he lived? Since Jesus was probably actually born around 6 B.C. or so, the connection of the calendar with him can be misleading.
Traditionally “A.D.” was placed before the year number and “B.C.” after, but many people now prefer to put both abbreviations after the numbers.
Recently, the words anno Domini and the abbreviation A.D. have been gradually replaced by C.E. Likewise, the abbreviation B.C., has been changed to B.C.E. Some scholars see the terms C.E. and B.C.E. as meaning the “the Christian Era,” and “before the Christian Era,” respectively, but most euphemistically refer to the terms to mean “common” as in “the common era” and “before the common era.” All the previous dates remain the same, but the change in date notation is thought to be “more neutral.”
All of these abbreviations can also be spelled without their periods as initialisms.
Now, full disclosure, that is really the end of the writing tip. The rest of this article is more of, well, a rant based on my research into this topic. You’ve been warned.
Now, while people with agendas like to think of me as a fool, I am really not a fool. It is abundantly clear that the true agenda here is to create a secular system of dates for the “post-Christian” era that does not recognize Christ as sovereign. George Orwell would correctly identify this effort as “new speak.”
I should not have been, but I was, surprised to find that many, many Christians now advocate the use of CE and BCE instead of the traditional BC or AD. The defense of this position is usually the typical ad hominem standbys that–as a person who will never use CE or BCE to refer to a date–I must therefore be “ignorant” of this-or-that fact or perhaps I am just “intolerant” of “other cultures” and other “people groups.” One Christian scholar even conflated continued use of BC and AD to racism! Really? Now who’s ignorant?
So I got educated. Here’s some history.
The abbreviation A.D. is used for dates after the birth of Yeshua (aka Jesus). This system was devised by a monk, Dionysius Exiguus, back in the AD 525 (see what I did there?). He used the presumed year of Jesus’ birth as a starting point. Of course, scholars have established that Christ our Lord was actually born around 4-6 BC (did it again, there. My bad), so his calculations were off by a few years. Nonetheless, Brother Dionysius believed that the birth and life of our Savior were the “turning points” in world history, and that the world should forever commemorate that moment.
The abbreviation B.C. has been used to date events before the birth of Yeshua (aka Jesus) since about the fifteenth century. A mere two centuries after Dionysius, a monk known as Venerable Bede introduced a Latin term that is roughly translatable as “before Christ” to identify the years preceding Jesus’ birth. By the ninth century, A.D. was a common notation, but B.C. didn’t really catch on until the fifteenth century. This dating has been used for centuries, millennia even, by Western scholars. Simply put, B.C. was everything “before Christ,” and since His birth, we have been living A.D. “in the year of our Lord.”
Well would you look at that. Apparently, I am not “ignorant” of those facts. By implication, I am also informed that the apostles and Christ our Lord Himself did not use such annotations. Rather, if anything, they used the traditional Jewish calendar which measures the time “from the beginning.” For example, 2021 AD would be 5781$ according to the Jewish calendar. I get that.
But apparently, it isn’t enough to understand these facts. I am still a bad Christian apparently.
Okay. Here’s another fact about the way we measure time. God made the world in seven days. Now, we humans have five fingers on our hand. If God’s act of creation were meaningless, we could easily measure time by a five day week. The 365 days it takes to orbit our sun is even conveniently evenly divisible by 5. But you know something? Every known civilization that has ever existed on this planet which has advanced to measure time has also had a seven day week. Isn’t that interesting? See, I know all kinds of facts about how to measure time.
But according to the Christian-scholars who advocate the secular BCE and CE annotations, I am still somehow intellectually deficit in my book learnin’. A philistine, if you will.
In “educating” me out of my ignorance, the primary and more esoteric arguments I have read on this topic penned by so-called Christian scholars seem to boil down to just how “important” it is that Christians ought to be much more “inclusive” of other–euphemisms aside–religions. As in, religions that are not Christianity.
Personally, I find this argument extremely weak because it is frankly not consistent with biblical instruction. God’s word is pretty specific about Christians being “set apart” and “in the world but not of the world” and other similar sentiments. If we start following the sinful practices of the world, is that not essentially worshiping a golden calf? And while we are commanded to love our neighbor, Timothy is pretty clear that we are to have nothing whatsoever to do with evil people and we must, in fact, turn away from them. (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
In short, as Christians we are commanded to embrace sinners, but reject and even oppose all sinful ways. In embracing murders, adulterers, liars, and people who talk in theaters, we should not ourselves murder, or commit adultery, or lie, or especially talk in theaters. Have I got a pretty good grasp of this concept? I think I do.
So here is my first question to the Christian scholars:
Q: Why should I change MY use of language because other religions want me to accommodate ideologies with which I strongly disagree, and in some cases directly oppose?
Is there some delusion amongst the learned Christian intellectual crowd that those same people who–let’s get real–hate us will somehow now suddenly approve of us because we drop AD and BC? Will they understand just what good people we are because we fell in lock step with their agenda to eliminate any reference to Christ? Not sure that would really work.
Just to be clear, the fact is that I am not personally offended by non-Christians, or even those very educated and oh-so-much-smarter than me Christian scholars, using some annotation other than BC or AD. They want to say Before Christian Era and after Christian Era, okay. I will always mentally translate it to AD and BC. But it seems to be an option, and I seem to have a choice, so why not exercise my God given personal freedom in this case? What is so “bad” about identifying myself as a Christian instead of some kind of hybrid multi-cultural conformist who embraces all kinds of sinful ways practiced by other religions? I don’t think that’s so terrible.
Well, the obvious answer is that by using BC and AD as annotations, I might possibly offend some member of some other religion. Fair enough. So here is my follow-up question to the Christian scholars:
Q: Why should I CARE if my use of BC or AD–which has been used for centuries–offends any person who disagrees with or even directly opposes my deeply held religious beliefs?
It seems to me that those “others” I am expected to tiptoe all over eggshells not to offend are rather “intolerant” of my Christianity. Sometimes they are violently intolerant, are they not? That seems kind of odd considering that, in these United States at least, I am supposed to have a constitutional guarantee to a RIGHT to freely practice my religion. But that aside, do I not have an obligation to speak the truth regardless? Something about a great commission?
Besides which (and I am speaking personally here and this really has nothing to do with my religious beliefs), I’m a devoted son of Western Civilization, and Western Civilization is an inextricably Christian civilization. That is a fact that seems to be conveniently ignored in these recent these days, especially by those who have labeled themselves as “Christian scholars” apparently.
Here are some facts about Western Civilization. The crew of Apollo 8 read the first chapter of Genesis to the world as they orbited the earth explaining how God created the universe in just seven days. There is a plaque on the face of the moon set there a few years later commemorating when the first man set foot there. The plaque is dated July 1969 AD. Yeah. AD. Our national motto is “In God we trust.” I could go on and on. But the truth is I’d probably defend all the Christian window-dressing in our culture even if I were an Atheist. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of the noise made by neo-marxists and their ilk demanding that every “people group” has a right to freely express themselves and advocate their beliefs and their culture and their identity de jour except, of course, for MY people group.
For me? I think it is utter secular foolishness to change BC and AD to anything that rejects Christ the Lord. I will absolutely continue to use AD and BC–as will anyone I publish–and if that offends anyone I suppose they will just have to find some way to cope with their anger and offense or else, you know, someday die angry and offended.
So, what’s your take? Should we, as Christians, embrace this new movement to eliminate BC and AD or should we stick to our guns?
Gregg Bridgeman is the Editor-in-Chief at Olivia Kimbrell Press. He is husband to best-selling Christian author Hallee Bridgeman and parent to three. He continues to proudly serve in the US Armed Forces and has done so in either an active or reserve capacity for more than twenty years as an airborne and air assault qualified paratrooper, earning a Bronze Star for his service. Most importantly, he was ordained in October of 2001 after surrendering his life to Christ decades earlier.