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BC/AD or BCE/CE?

BC/AD or BCE/CE?


Back in 2017, I made a video called “What’s
the oldest country in the world?”. The video obviously contained a lot of different dates
– both as far back as 5,000 years ago, right up to and including the modern era. During
my research for that video, I noticed absolutely no consistency with regards to dating notation.
Some sources used BC and AD, while others used BCE and CE, despite referring to the
exact same dates. I wasn’t sure which one to use for my video, so I did some very quick
reading on the issue, and ultimately went with BCE and CE, because apparently it was
more academic and modern, although I didn’t really think much of it. When the video was released however, I began
to notice a LOT of negative comments about my use of this particular dating notation.
I was surprised to see people calling me out for being “overly PC” and that I should
“just use BC/AD like a normal human being” to quote one comment. So I decided to take
an even deeper look into the topic, and found that it’s actually a surprisingly controversial
issue. Most people are probably already aware what
BC stands for: “before Christ”. AD is definitely less well known, it does not stand
for “after death” as I used to think growing up…. it stands for the Latin “anno Domini”,
taken from the full original phrase, which translates to “in the year of our Lord Jesus
Christ”. On the other hand, BCE stands for “before
the common era” while CE stands for “the common era”. BCE and CE use the same numbers
as BC and AD, with simply a change to the nomenclature. This dating system was actually devised some
500 years after Jesus by a monk known as Dionysius Exiguus, using the supposed year of his birth
as the transition point between the two eras. It isn’t actually known how Dionysius established
this year though. More modern predictions put the year of his birth somewhere around
6 to 4 BC… as ironic as it sounds. Regardless, the year Dionysius thought to be the birth
of Jesus is the one that stuck. Anno Domini was popularised by an Anglo-Saxon
monk known as Venerable Bede in his work the Ecclesiastical History of the English People,
completed in the year 731. In this same work, he also used the phrase “before the time
of the Lord’s incarnation” to refer to the time before anno Domini. This would later
develop into the “before Christ” that we use today, but was not adopted until several
hundred years later. The anno Domini system was endorsed by the
Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, and would later be officially used by the Roman Catholic
Church. By the 15th century, the system was used all across Europe, and beyond. Now, the BCE/CE abbreviations are, of course,
much more recent. Though, perhaps still older than you might expect. The term “common
era” can be traced back all the way to 1615, and 1635 in English, as the “Vulgar Era”.
The meaning of the word ‘vulgar’ has changed considerably in the last 400 years. At the
time it just meant “normal”, “ordinary”, or, of course, “common”. “Common Era” can first be found in English
in 1708, but it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that its usage began to become more
widespread as it was popularised by Jewish religious scholars. This was in order to avoid
explicitly referencing Jesus as “our Lord” by using the anno Domini abbreviation “AD”.
In the later 20th century, the terms BCE and CE were further popularised in academic and
scientific publications, as well as by those who wanted to emphasize sensitivity to non-Christians. The usage of the BCE/CE notations has been
growing in recent history, especially within the last 2 or 3 decades. It has become the
standard for academic papers, although it is by no means universal. Many countries (or
regions within countries) have chosen to switch from teaching BC and AD to BCE and CE in their
primary school curriculum. Of course, these switches were never without their controversies. So… which one should you use? Well, first
and foremost, I should emphasise that neither system is wrong. Both methods are perfectly
acceptable. It’s impossible to please everyone, and there will always be people who have objections
to the use of one or the other. At the end of the day, it all comes down to opinion and
personal preference. The main argument for the use of the newer,
more ‘politically correct’ BCE/CE abbreviations is that in the modern, multicultural society
that we live in today, the exclusion of “Christ” from the terminology is a more neutral, inclusive
way of notating the years. The motivation here is that the word “Christ” isn’t
technically a proper name – it’s actually a title that directly relates to the traditional
Judeo-Christian concept of messiah. In that sense, there are plenty of people that would
be uncomfortable referring to Jesus as “Christ”, even if they can accept using him as a historical
reference point by convention. However, there are many counter arguments
that are frequently raised. Some view the gradual change away from the traditional BC/AD
system as completely unnecessary, nonsensical even, and at the extreme end, an attack on
Christianity. So while the new notations are an attempt to be inclusive, neutral, and sensitive
to non-Christians, there will obviously be those that are unhappy with the change. It’s
not just Christians that don’t like the change, of course. Many are of the opinion
– if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It is seen by many as ‘solving a problem that
doesn’t exist’. Today, in the 21st century, we live in a more
secular society, so it’s easy to forget just how much of everything around us is named
after religion. It’s ingrained into the fabric of our society. Just look at the days
of the week, or the planets of our solar system… mostly named after Roman or Greek deities. Of course, the influence of Christianity is
a lot more significant and immediate than that of the Ancient Romans and Greeks, so
it makes sense that people would have a bigger problem with explicitly Christian motifs in
a secular society. That being said, the actual name of the calendar, the Gregorian calendar,
is named after a Pope… Pope Gregory XIII. Therefore, it could be argued that it is a
Christian calendar, and trying to use it without any mention of Christianity is an effort in
futility. Afterall, curious school children being taught the BCE/CE method are inevitably
going to ask, “So when does the common era start? Why on that year?”, which leads right
back to the very thing that was trying to be avoided in the first place. So, changing the letters doesn’t really
change much… the numbers are still exactly the same, they’re still based on the birth
of Jesus, albeit a slightly incorrect approximation of the birth. There are, of course, other
calendars that exist today, the Jewish community have the Hebrew calendar, the Chinese have
the Chinese calendar, and Muslims have the Islamic calendar, for example… but due to
how widespread the Gregorian calendar has become, these calendars are generally used
alongside the Gregorian calendar, which is generally used as the civil calendar, as a
matter of convenience. Another objection to the change is to do with
language and how it changes and evolves over time, and especially from Latin. Much of Latin
that has found its way into English (and plenty of other languages) has lost a lot of its
original meaning. Take the months of the year, for example: September, October, November,
and December. These should be, according to the original Latin meanings, the 7th, 8th,
9th, and 10th months. But they’re not. We just know that September is the 9th month,
because that’s what it is. The same argument could be made for the AD abbreviation. The
original Latin meaning is so far removed from its everyday usage. How many people even know
what it means? And how many of those people know what the English translation is? There is one example of another initialism,
one that has NOT been changed, despite changing times: the NAACP. The NAACP stands for the
“National Association for the Advancement of Colored People”. It’s an organisation
that was founded by African Americans, for African Americans, founded in the United States
in 1909. Now, today, the term “colored people” is far from an acceptable term to use, and
would generally be met with a very negative reaction if used in conversation. That being
said, the organisation has kept the same name, despite the now-out-of-date terminology. The
same argument could be applied to the BC/AD controversy. The letters are just still used
out of tradition, and lack of a real reason to change them. Even though what the letters
actually stand for may not be all that modern. From what I can tell, one of the biggest objections
to the newer dating notation is not so much that people are using it, but rather, those
who try to force it upon others, or want to make it an official universal standard. For
example, Wikipedia’s Manual of Style states that both BC/AD and BCE/CE are acceptable.
However, there have been proposals to make BCE and CE the Wikipedia standard for all
articles expect for those that are directly related to Christianity. There are some other objections that could
be made about the specific proposal of BCE and CE itself, some of which are on a more
practical level, rather than a religious or emotional one. Firsty, and perhaps most crucially, BCE and
CE are much easier to misinterpret than its traditional BC/AD counterpart. BC and AD have
no letters in common, also, BC comes after the year, while AD should technically be placed
before it. On the other hand, BCE and CE are much more similar, with obviously the former
containing both of the letters of the latter, with just the first letter ‘B’ as the
differentiating factor. BCE and CE also both come after the year. Let’s look at a practical
example to demonstrate how confusion might arise… Take the two following years: Two thousand three, CE…
Two thousand, BCE… Again, that’s 2003 CE and 2000 BCE Phonetically, the only difference between
these two dates is the one between the “thr” and “B” sounds. Literally one part of
one syllable could mean being off by more than 4000 years. Also, BCE/CE is a combined 5 letters, whereas
BC/AD is only 4. This may sound incredibly minor, but if you’re saying multiple dates
over and over again, those extra syllables can really add up. There is also another potential cause for
confusion… the abbreviation “CE” used to have an unfortunate alternative meaning…
the “Christian era”. In fact, the two terms, common era and Christian era were initially
used interchangeably. Now, one potential solution to the disagreement
that I thought was quite interesting, by a YouTuber named Lindybeige, was to simply change
what the letters mean for those who want to remove the reference to Jesus. He suggested
that BC could stand for “backwards chronology”, and that AD could stand for “ascending dates”.
Of course, I realise this probably wouldn’t be satisfactory to those who have objections
for religious reasons. It’s almost certainly too late for something
different anyway. BCE and CE are extensively used throughout acidaemia, and far beyond.
Unfortunately, it seems like one of those issues that people will just fundamentally
disagree on, and I really don’t see a general consensus being reached, at least not any
time soon. I’m going to end this video off with my
own personal take. To be honest, I was a little bit surprised by how strongly held some of
the opinions are with regards to this issue when I started researching it. I grew up learning
BC and AD, and even though I did switch over to BCE and CE for my video about the oldest
country in the world, in hindsight, I think I’m just going to stick with what I originally
learned. It should go without saying that I don’t
think anyone should be judged by which set of abbreviations they use. At the end of the
day, they are both correct, and there’s no reason to get worked up about other peoples’
preference in this regard. BCE and CE are used to be sensitive towards
non-Christians. As a non-Christian myself, I don’t really feel the need for the change,
even though I can appreciate that others might. In my opinion, the alternative dating nomenclature
set up to do one thing (remove reference to Christianity), but it doesn’t even do that
very well. The numbers are still the same, so they’re still based off of Jesus, and
the calendar itself is named after a Pope. Trying to make a change, given how minor the
issue seems to me, just feels unnecessary. Of course, I don’t speak for all non-Christians,
and I know that the use of this terminology might make some people uncomfortable. I would
have no problem using BCE and CE in certain circumstances in the future, if I’m talking
about the history of Judaism or Islam, for example. In pretty much any other circumstances
though, I think I’ll continue to use BC and AD, as that’s what comes most naturally
to me. Introducing a new sponsor for the channel,
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100 thoughts on “BC/AD or BCE/CE?

  1. Yes you should stick with BC/AD. They are trying to take Christ out of everything… what they seem to forget …… Christ is everything !!!!!!

  2. This was very neat. I personally think Bce/Ce is overly secular and forced tripe but of those people in the comments were being assholes to you I apologize on their behalf. Yes I thing BCE is stupid but that’s no excuse for u fairly dissing your work. If the comments were no big deal then never mind. You did a great job and I’ll totally check out more content.

  3. I’m not religous but the thought of feeling “uncomfortable” just because something had a Christian origin is just plain silly. I know it’s a cliche argument but I’ll say it again, you never hear anyone complain about the pagan days of the week. I’m sure a good number of them just want to be secular but sometimes it just feels like they have an aversion to Christianity because they were brought up in a religous household. But I wouldn’t get angry and Bce or ce, just bewildered by the insistence on it in academia.

  4. BCE and CE doesn't stand for Common Era, that makes no sense…It means Clown Era and Before Clown Era.

  5. Theoretically, if CE meant Christian era, then BCE should continue until 34 AD, since that's when Jesus died

  6. For me, even though I am Catholic, I use BCE and CE because I can remember easily what each one stands for. With BC and AD I normally confuse which comes before the other

  7. If they protest against using the christian name, maybe we should also change the planet names etc. They are just name. People have used then since ages. Why change something so normal because there were some SJWs

  8. Basically BCE/CE people are vegans who can't shut up about it. While BC/AD and BCE/CE actual users are just there to use it.

  9. The video is really interesting and I like the modern terminology.
    To me the all thing of "before" and "after" it's silly tho; I'd like a more radical jange as Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
    suggested in his video "The Human Era"

  10. Both BCE/CE and BC/AD are dead WRONG.
    Both lack the 0 (zero) as origination and are thus mathematicly flawed.
    We should introduce a 0 in the year count origination and refer to dates before that in the negative (with a minus).
    How difficult do we need to keep these year references ?

  11. I feel like as a non-Christian and atheist myself, I really don't have a strong opinion either. As a big history buff I also don't believe in getting rid of Christian influence for the sake of non-Christian's but that's because I come from a country that is heavily influenced by Christianity as is most of the Western World. I mean I wouldn't go to India and China and try to change their Hindu or Confucian traditions so I don't feel out of place. The only reason to stop traditions in my opinion is if those traditions are used to subjugate and/or oppress those that don't follow the belief system of whatever country or society you live in. I don't see the use of BCE/BC and CE/AD as oppressing any other culture anymore as long as those culture's where it's not used aren't having it forced on them while their style is destroyed. Obviously they still use it but that's due to the influence in the past by the British Empire and the rise of America as a superpower after WWII. If say America falls in influence over the world to China or Russia, we might see a rise in the use of the Chinese calendar or the Russian. But since BCE/CE are wholly still based on Christianity I don't see the issue against it. I can understand if it was another culture's/religion's influence since that would cause some very understandable defensive feelings regarding the West's influence in the world, but since that's not the case, in my opinion it's a non-issue.

  12. And in spain we use Ac and Dc
    Lol edit, I just realized that it sayd AcDc, but it actually it means (antes de cristo) and ( después de cristo)

  13. Chris A
    Chris Hazell
    Gamescommentary
    Steven Pilling
    Kylo Revan
    Connor Smith
    The Chrome Knight
    Richie Plauche
    Phil Box
    Ewan MacColl
    Andrew Phillips
    E. Lewis Basher

    If any of you are reading this then don’t bully WonderWhy he’s a great person and he makes the best videos

  14. Personally I see it like this: The dating system was devised by a Christian in the 6th century and organized specifically around the date of birth for Jesus Christ, to use the same dating system but throw away it's original meaning to me just seems like an attempt to cut away the roots of it's creation and sterilize it. Just because our dating system became the most common one in use shouldn't mean that we have to scrub it of anything potentially offensive.

  15. If you ask me this year is 27 AF (after formation) and "1991" is 1 BF (before formation) referring to Blink-182!

  16. I'm Jewish, and we often say that the "C: "BCE" and "CE" stands for "Christian", so we don't offend Christians, but without recognizing Jesus as Christ/Lord. We don't have an issue with the fact that it's a Christian calendar, as long as we only use it for communicating with the outside world, the problem is that BC/AD recognize Jesus as Christ/Lord.

  17. I have also seen Muslims use BC/AC (After Christ), as they believe that Jesus is the Messiah, just not part of the G-dhead, the "Son of G-d", "dying for our sins" or "L-rd", however many others feel that "Christ" implies that and "Messiah" is the neutral term. This actually agrees with the Jewish attitude- we feels that "Christ" includes being part of the G-dhead, the "Son of G-d", "Born of a Virgin" "dying for our sins" and "L-rd", so when some people have said to me "You believe that *Christ* has not come yet and will have one coming", I get offended and say, "No, I believe that *The Messiah* has not come yet and will have one coming". I have often felt that even "Messiah" has adopted those meanings in popular consciousness, and think we should use the Hebrew "Mashiach" or, more pragmatically, modify "Messiah" as "Messiah-King"

  18. I wonder why people would be disappointed by the use of CE/BCE… an academic standard being found disappointed in favor of a non-Christian-unfriendly one?hmmmm..

  19. I liken this to saying "Bless you" after a sneeze. As an atheist, I don't feel comfortable doing so, so I use a loan word from one of the many other languages where the translation is "Health". I'm not going to get heated if you say "Bless you" to me, but I will get hot if you try and chide me for avoiding it.

  20. 7:58 I still don't get how "colored people" is extremely racist but "people of color" is somehow pure political correctness.

  21. My opinion is that as long as the birth of Christ is used as a reference point, the original BC/AD naming convention should be used and there's no good reason to switch from it. If they want to be more inclusive, then start a new year and start from zero. You can't just go ahead and change the meaning of something that's been going on for thousands of years. I don't have anything against non-christians, and I'm not picking the christian side either. It's just that changing the name of this would be pretty much as weird and wrong as changing the name of a country, or a continent all of a sudden. (e.g. NA = Northwestern Continent, AS = Eastern continent, etc, to be more "inclusive" as the name is not tied to ethnic or cultural meaning)

  22. Exactly, I agree with you. There’s no point in changing it, it will add to confusion plus you will be up against history itself where even non-christian books and titles where dated in bc/ad itself. It’s just a name just like saying Ronaldo or Zhao. It doesn’t change the reality of the thing.

  23. It's exerting influence through the lexicon. When the pinky biege color crayon was called "flesh", for example.

  24. To solve the problem of BC/AD or BCE/CE, you can just use -year to say before Year 0 and +year to say after Year 0. For example, you can use September 28, -7 and September 28, +7.

  25. Who gives an absolute shit what BC and AD like why are there so many people in the world who care abt the dumbest shit

  26. The fact is that the years are starting from the birth of Christ and whatever type you choose to use, the fact does not change, so i find kinda ostrichish the use of BCE…

  27. You are right. The Muslims have their own calendar. The Hizri calender or migration calender. It starts after Mohammad's migration to Medina which is made by the people of Medina.

  28. For me it's a matter or register. If I was writing something for publication, or speaking in an academic environment, I'd use BCE/CE. If I was talking in ordinary conversation I'd use BC/AD so as not to get people asking me what CE is.

  29. People are going to know what you're talking about either way but so many people feed on nitpicking and controversy

  30. I know what AD means I just don’t know the translation. I asked one of my history teachers what AD stood for and she said after death so I used that for a while until I saw it differently

  31. Wow you are quite good with potentially touchy subjects. 👍
    Great job presenting the info fairly and thoroughly.

  32. If they want to remove any religious traces from calendar they should remove all religions too not just christian, why still use pagan god's name for days? why not use day1 day2?

  33. We shouldn’t have either. We should have modern eras start 10,000 years ago. We shame our ancestors by dividing our time in half like that

  34. 0:18 – And that's just for recent/human history. When dealing with prehistoric things, they use MYA or BYA.
    6:40 – Persians use the Persian calendar which is different from the Islamic calendar.
    7:18 – They were . We need a new calendar. ¬_¬
    8:20 – I don't like BCE because it has an extra letter which complicates programming and UI design.

  35. bow down before me mortals as I use bhe/he calendar Instead of bickering about bc/ad or bce/ce Year one is defined as 12019 years ago when the first temple was built marking the start of the human era. i don't even have to worry about dates matching up all i have to do is add 10 000 to the year

  36. If you're going to use Christ's birth as a starting point, you might as well use BC/AD and refer to Christ.

  37. I don't really care which is used but I think they should learn about bc/ad because that is the terminologies that will be used in historical texts.

  38. BCE and CE sound dumb to me. And this is coming from a Muslim.

    Like how do you say let’s not use BC and AD but still use the birth of Jesus as refrence.

  39. Many public schools in the US are not allowed to celebrate Christmas. At best, they only allow it to be about Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer, and presents.

  40. And I feel bad for him because he can't go to heaven he will go to H (hell)😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 but I'm a Christian oh and is he British?

  41. The fact that WonderWhy felt that he had to make this video at all based on the offended screeching of a bunch of childish tribalistic morons is really a sad reflection of our society.

  42. In spanish we use AC (Antes de Cristo = Before Christ) and DC (Después de Cristo = After Christ) , but i really like the BCE and CE (AEC and EC in spanish, but nobody use it), i hope we start using it in the hispanic world.

  43. I prefer BC and AD because there are fewer syllables and sharpness to get around.

    If the years hit the quintuple digits (Or WWIII destroys everything), we should have a new dating system that abbreviates to EY or something.

  44. As a non-Christian, it doesn’t matter, it’s people trying to make an issue out of an issue so unbelievably minor that it comes off as pathetic and that people have way too much time in their hands these days.

  45. Listen guys, we need to change our dating system to be less religiously biased. From now on we use CE and BCE.

    Okay cool, so what happened to cause the transition from BCE to CE?

    …. the death of Jesus Christ.

    So why not just go with BC and AD and also not be Christian?

  46. Why do you not AC DC… in italian it means before christ and after christ. Switch it to BC AC, or use the Italian term (you do it for music).

    Aniway the gregorian calendar, is the single most accurate calendar in human histriy, and was done by catholic priests and was ordered by pope Gregorian. I think we should respect what they did.

    Also, don’t have to use how yearly recording. You can call your year after the consuls of the year… we don’t use roman republican governments, but I guess you could say Obama year 1-8 and than Trump year 1-4… as for the months you can use those.

  47. Tecnically is more correct BCE/CE, for the motive AD meas form borth of Jesus. If we use AD correcty we are in the year 2025 AD (intead to be in 2019 CE), because in the past where was an error to calculate jesus birth, then instead to decide that to add 6 "years" and cause an "hole", it's dediced to change denomication from AD/BC to CE/BCE..
    Because the true year of jesus birth is 6 BCE, and using AD/BC instead BC/BCE (and continue to use the actual year number) make it no sense, how you can born before your birth? It's How i pretend to be 29 yo when I born in 1996

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