Some people wonder: what does BC and AD stand for? Let’s find the historical origins of these abbreviations:
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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, is Diocletian. This emperor persecuted 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 year 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 Jesus’ birth was when Quirinius was governor of Syria around 6 BC. So, this information would place the birth of Jesus 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. 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 added up backward instead of forward. There is no year 0 (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 uses 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. It is often called the “Christian calendar” as it is centered on the Christian era and the birth of Jesus. It was established 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. There were two main reasons to set up the Gregorian calendar:
(1) The Julian calendar wrongly assumed that the average solar year is exactly 365.25 days long, an overvalue of a little under one day per century, and thus has a leap year every four years. The Gregorian change reduced the average (calendar) year by 0.0075 days to stop the shift of the calendar in relation to the equinoxes.
(2) In the years since the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325, the excess leap days set up by the Julian algorithm had caused the calendar to shift such that the (Northern) spring equinox was taking place before its nominal 21 March date. This date was significant to the Christian churches because it is basic for the calculation of the date of Easter. To restore the association, the change of the calendar moved ahead the date by 10 days: Thursday 4 October 1582 was followed by Friday 15 October 1582.
The reform was utilized originally by the countries of Europe and their overseas associates. And during the 20th century, most non-Western countries also used this calendar.
In His service,