What does AD stand for?


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What Does AD Stand For?

AD stands for the Latin Anno Domini which means “in the year of Our Lord.” The creators of the Gregorian calendar felt that the most important marker in earth’s history was the coming of Jesus Christ. The year that this new calendar marked 1 AD was the year that they thought Jesus Christ was born. The Latin phrase Anno Domini is used to number the years of both the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar.

Before the making of this system, the years were marked by who was ruling. In the 6th century, people in power wanted to figure a new method to keep track of the years. The Anno Domini or the AD dating system was formed in 525 by Dionysius Exiguus. He was a 6th-century Eastern Roman monk born in Scythia Minor. And he used this dating system to identify the several Easters in his Easter table. But he did not apply it to date any historical event.

The emperor, who the years were named after in the time of Dionysius, Diocletian, persecuted early Christians. So, Dionysius’s annō Dominī set the standard for “the year of our lord” rather than the year of the emperor. Dionysius never stated how he selected the date of Jesus Christ’s birth. Some historians think he used astrological signs, while others believe he established his idea on the Bible.

The gospels don’t give us the exact date of Jesus’ birth. However, in the Gospel of Matthew, there is a reference that Jesus was born when Herod the Great ruled. Herod died in 4 BC. And the Gospel of Luke records that His birth was when Quirinius was governor of Syria around 6 BC. So, this information would place the birth of Christ around 6-4 BC.

Dionysius succeeded in establishing his timeline, and it became the set system used today. Some have mistakenly thought that AD stands for “after death” as they imply that it relates to time after the death of Jesus. But this is a common misconception. As mentioned, AD stands for Anno Domini – the year of Our Lord.

What Does BC Stand For?

BC stands for before Christ. The years before what Dionysius set as the birth of Jesus Christ were not universally named for another couple hundred years. An English monk named Bede created the idea of BC, or “Before Christ,” in 731. Thus, there was a systematic way to label the years that happened after the year that Dionysius declared Jesus was born, but it counted backward rather than forward. There is no year zero in this plan; thus the year AD 1 immediately follows the year 1 BC.

In 1988, this system was adopted by the International Organization for Standardization when establishing the years to be used for international business and government.

What Does BCE And CE Stand For?

While most of the world adheres to using the BC and AD method of dating, some have introduced a different label to identify years in history. The acronyms BCE and CE have more recently been utilized among historians. The term CE is defined as the “Common Era.” In like manner, BCE is defined as “Before the Common Era.” BCE is synonymous with BC. Likewise, CE is synonymous with AD. There is no difference regarding a calendar year.

This method of labeling years was introduced as a more secular means of dating world history. It should be added that there was a secular term before these that was used as well: Vulgar Era, which was common in the early 1600s—a time when vulgar meant ordinary or common.

The Gregorian Calendar

The Gregorian calendar is the calendar that is adopted in most of the world. The Gregorian calendar is often called the “Christian calendar” as it is centered on the Christian era and the birth of Jesus. Astronomers in the 1500s were hoping to keep a more accurate measure of the length of the year.

Therefore, in 1580, the Gregorian calendar was introduced with the idea that every four years, that calendar year would need to have an extra day. This is what we call a “leap year.” Although the main astronomer who created the framework was an Italian scientist named Luigi Lilio, the calendar was named after the pope of that time, pope Gregory XIII.

The Gregorian Calendar was proclaimed in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a replacement for, the Julian calendar. The main change was to space leap years differently so as to make the average calendar year 365.2425 days long, more closely approximating the 365.2422-day ‘tropical’ or ‘solar’ year.

The years in the Gregorian calendar go forward in the term AD and backward in the term BC.  To visualize this in numerical terms, we can think of a number line where all the numbers going positive to the right would be AD and those that are negative to the left would be BC. The only difference is that in the number line of historical dates there is no year zero.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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