Friday, April 07, 2006

The Common Era

This post addresses a question that I sometimes hear: what do BCE and CE mean?

CE (or C.E.) is an abbreviation for common era. The common era began roughly 2006 years ago with the year 1 (not 0). Thus, one could say that they were born in 1976 CE. This could be read aloud as "I was born in the year 1976 of the common era".

BCE (or B.C.E.) is an abbreviation for before the common era. This is for dates that occurred before the year 1 CE. Remember that the year 1 CE was preceded by the year 1 BCE. There was no year 0. For example, one could say that the age of the great philosophers in Greece was around 400 BCE.

Basically, these abbreviations replace the religiously loaded AD and BC and are rapidly becoming the accepted usage. This change is quite welcome because:

1. Most people incorrectly placed AD after the year, where it is supposed to come before the year.
2. The historical person of Jesus (upon whom the old system was based) was actually born around 4 BCE. Thus, the entire system was miscalibrated anyway.

I hope that clears things up a bit.
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