BC (Before Christ) versus BCE (Before the Current Era)

(Tom Larkin) #1

As a Bible believing Christian, I feel the BC abbreviation is an oxymoron. “In the beginning was the Word…” There was no time before Christ, Christ was actually before time.

If it is Biblically incorrect, and is considered with a sense of offense by others (e.g. Jewish and Muslim faiths), why is it still being used?

(Laura) #2

Good question. I would assume it’s mostly a case of “old habits die hard,” and I personally don’t see anything wrong with continuing to use it informally. Certainly the incarnation of Christ does make a big difference in the way that we relate to God, so I don’t mind centering my view of history around it, but BCE makes more sense in secular contexts.

I wonder whether the removal of BC/AD has caused much hullabaloo in conservative circles – I’d think it would merit more attention than the “war on Christmas.” I know there was a time in my life when I viewed that change as an “attack” on Christianity, but I would no longer consider that a hill to die on.

(Christy Hemphill) #3

Because conventions for writing dates are dictated by things like style guides, not theology.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #4

For what it’s worth, I saw Muslim folks on Twitter today reminding their friends not to celebrate today because it’s not a special day and still the year 1440.

I really do hear what you’re saying… but if they are offended by AD, they could always just run with their own dates…

(Mark D.) #5

Oh boy, what a nuisance that would be to lose the scaling we’re used to which is richly contextualized across human history. For things happening across geologic time, I would think referencing the current time instead of 2,000 years ago scarcely matters.


That’s true. I’ve seen BP used (Before Present).

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #7

Voilà (mostly probably only of interest to @Randy), the example I looked for yesterday and couldn’t find…


“And Muslim brothers, we are in 1440, don’t forget.”


Or 5779 for our Jewish brothers.

(Phil) #9

Sort of interesting. Some lock BP to start at January 1, 1950. So we are living in -69 BP?

(Randy) #10

Wow, so many of us were actually born before physics existed?


The question seems pedantic. Most people get that BC refers to before Christ in the sense of the incarnation. The calendar charts space and time, not eternity. The impetus to change from BC to BCE is driven by secularization, not any higher understanding of theology. Probably not a hill to die on though.


Paleontologist Ross MacPhee used BP in his book “End of the Megafauna,” and in his SciCafe talk. That’s where I first heard it used. In the book’s glossary, he notes that BP means Before Present. He also explains that original radiocarbon dates are separately designated as “radiocarbon years BP,” calculated as years before 1950 CE.


As I have noted earlier, Neil deGrasse Tyson continues to use BC and AD in his writing, to honor the Jesuit priests who developed the Gregorian calendar which rescued us from the disastrous Julian Calendar. He gets a lot of flak for this from his fellow non-believers.


True. The real hill to die on seems to be the design on the Starbucks holiday cups. #FakeWarOnChristmas

(Matthew Pevarnik) #15

Speaking of which deGrasse Tyson also sometimes uses ‘miles’ to talk about distances, catering to his non-scientific American crowds.

(Mark D.) #16

That’s mighty Christian of him to accommodate us so well. :wink:


In his book End of the Megafauna Ross MacPhee used both pounds and kg to help us out. Good science communication!

(Thanh Chung) #18

My style is to use BC/AD for topics about Christianity and BCE/CE for topics not about Christianity. It depends on what I want to write about.

(Dominik Kowalski) #19

Sometimes I´m really confused what people in America feel obliged to discuss about.


The change in the terms from BC to BCE and AD to CE has more to do with increasing secularization. Christians happily used BC and AD to point to the new era of the Incarnation and the sense that history had been changed by the presence of the God-Man in history. The term Christian Era points to the arrival of an era in response to the Christian testimony about Jesus and the growth of the church worldwide. For non-believing societies it is a more acceptable term that does not commit to the faith that God did actually come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. On that grounds I still prefer BC and AD.