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B.C., A.D., B.C.E. and C.E….

By May 15, 2022August 30th, 2022Lost in Translation
  • Lately, I have been involved in a conversation or two about the calendar meaning of B.C. and A.D. The common thinking is that B.C. stands for “Before Christ” – and that’s entirely correct! Then we get to the more complicated A.D. that most people believe means “after death” – that is the death of Christ. However, that is incorrect, as difficult as that may be to believe.

A.D. really stands for “anno domini.”  That is a Latin term that means “in the year of our Lord.” In other words, A.D. stands for something that happened after the birth of Jesus. This does not mean that it happened after His death, but just that it happened after His birth! And most of us, especially if we are older, have heard the term “in the year of our Lord…”

Any of the events depicted in the Bible that happened during the life of Jesus are technically in the A.D. period of time. Frankly, I am surprised that this question comes up as often as it does!

In fairness to the various time periods, there was a slight error in the creation of the calendar and it turns out that things are approximately 3 years off. So, Jesus was really born in approximately 3-4 B.C. and the ascension occurred in about 30 A.D. That is why there is some discussion about the actual dates of the birth of Jesus and his subsequent ascension. In a perfect world, when the calendar would have been accurate, it would have been recorded that Jesus would have been born in the year “1” and would have ascended to the Father in 33 A.D. according what theologians believe about the life of Jesus. Technically, there was no year “0” and 1 A.D. was the year immediately after 1 B.C.

When it became common knowledge that B.C. meant “before Christ” and A.D. meant “in the year of our Lord”, many people, primarily unbelievers, decided that they didn’t want the entire system of dates to revolve around the birth of Christ – arguably the most important date in all of history. So, they decided to change the language around identifying when things happened. This started to happen back in the 17th century although it is much more common today.

That’s how we adopted B.C.E. and C.E. as acronyms for time periods  throughout history. B.C.E. stands before “before common era” and C.E. stands for “common era.” So these folks still believe that history is broken into two periods of time but they didn’t want those periods to revolve around the birth of Jesus, or any other religious reference for that matter. The irony is that the attempt to change the language didn’t work – primarily because no matter how you slice it, the birth of Jesus is the dividing line in history regardless of what words you use to describe it.

So there you have it – a short comprehensive look at the various terminology used to differentiate the two major time periods in history. Our verse for tonight comes from the book of Revelation, written by the apostle John and documenting his account of the endtimes, which were yet to come. He recounts the words of Jesus in Revelation 1:8, who said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

In other words, whether you want to talk about B.C., A.D., B.C.E. 0r C.E. Jesus has been present all the way throughout eternity past. Furthermore, He will be present throughout all eternity future. No matter how you want to discuss periods of time, the calendar includes Jesus in every second of every day, period…

My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants to spend time with us every second of every day. My prayer is that we will all take a moment to remember the love of Christ every time we look at a calendar because Jesus is always present. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace….