Jump to content

Why do we still use BC and AD for numismatics?


kirispupis
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • Benefactor
9 minutes ago, Curtisimo said:

I get the point you are trying to make but feelings also have to be based in merit if you are going to convince OTHER people to act on them. There is already a convention by which people can use CE or AD interchangeably as they wish.  The question posed here is why AD is still used at all.  The answer is that it is still valid to do so. It is perfectly fine if someone uses CE but I use AD because I think it is more descriptive of the system and I don’t see it as harmful.

I think it is important to try not to let pro or anti religious bias harden our perspective on things like this. Relics of a Christian tradition aren’t automatically offensive just because people aren’t part of that religion as it exists today.

Think about it this way. For someone to say we all need to stop using AD implies that there is something inherently wrong with either the terminology or its basis. I see nothing wrong or offensive with basing a dating system on Jesus’s life or in a name that references that fact. 

From a completely different side, the reason I asked the question in the first place is I considered it an oddity. As you may know, I'm pretty new to numismatics. I started collecting about two years ago and before then, I just felt ancient coins were "neat". All of my reading before then was more in scientific literature, and since I was in college - those dates were overwhelmingly in BCE/CE. For example, pretty much all of my astrophysics and paleontology books use BCE/CE.

So, it came as a bit odd when I noticed everyone using BC/AD and my first thought was that ancient collectors are just old. 🙂 However, when I started reading academic papers, I noticed the same trend. Other than Hendin, papers are heavily in favor of BC/AD. This morning, when I went through my books on Greek history, most also use BC.

That's why I asked the question. I find it odd that most academic communities have long ago migrated to BCE/CE, but numismatics remains on BC/AD. I find it intriguing that the overwhelming response here has been "that's the system we're used to" when that was the same reason I asked the initial question.

I may have strayed a bit far from the original question in trying to explain how BC/AD (geez - had to correct this from AC/DC) is not palatable to many, since that could be viewed as convincing - and differs from the original question.

So, in terms of my question: I believe it's been well answered in terms of its use here. I'm still curious why academics still use BC/AD, though, since I would expect that practice to be more frowned upon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Myself, I like BC and AD, so that's why I use them. For me, there is no moral reason, to use "BCE" and "CE", or "BC" and "AD", or any other system of dates. I just use what I like, and other people can use what they like. One reason I prefer "BC" instead of "BCE", is because "BC" can mean "Before Common Era", and it's only 2 letters, and therefore it takes less time and space to write and speak than "BCE". Also, for me, Christianity is interesting, and the Old Testament is interesting, and therefore "BC" and "AD" are interesting to me. Interestingly, when I was a child, I thought "AD" meant "After Death", meaning after the death of Jesus.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use it because I cut and paste from the auction description.  Some of my coins have dates of the form "av. J.-C."  and others "Jhdt. v. Chr."

I am a big fan of dates that use negative numbers, like the range -37 - 8 for king Polomo I.

I am not a big fan of dates in 100-units, such as "early forth century".

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dionysus Exiguus apparently proposed the AD era in preference to the Diocletian era, feeling that Diocletian did not deserve such commemoration, having been the cause of so many Christian martyrdoms.   

Revolutionary France, actively hostile to Christianity, tried to remake the calendar, but that effort failed.   A coin inscribed L’an 1 does not convey any useful data to most people unless converted back to AD/CE notation.  

Calendars and the quantifying of time are very conservative phenomena.  Witness the names of the months commemorating Julius Caesar and Augustus are still in current use, two millennia after their deaths.  The names of the days of the week which honor pagan gods persist, and no one is advocating altering them.  November’s name still references the ninth month, which it is not and has not been for centuries.  The seven day week?  Who determined that?  A day of rest every seven days?  From what culture was that appropriated?

it seems we have a system which inherited the length of the week and the idea of a Sabbath from the Jews, the names of the days from (mostly)the pagan Anglo-Saxons, the months from the Romans, and the numbering of the years from an otherwise obscure Christian monk of the late Antique era.  Seems pretty inclusive to me.   

  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I do still use BC/AD, just because I like it and enjoy the added connection to the past.  I am non-religious, so the religious meanings behind use of the title "Christ" don't matter to me, any more than having days of the week named after pagan gods affects me.  (Side note: official Quaker writings often use "First Day", "Fourth Day" etc. instead of the pagan-derived day names, to avoid seeming to praise pagan deities.)  I assure everyone that I intend no disrespect at all to persons of any faith.

Now, if you asked about what system to use for transliteration from Chinese, I made the switch to Pinyin a while ago, and have utterly refused to use Wade-Giles since.  Why have I embraced the change in that case, and not in how to express Christian Era dates?  Absolutely no logical reason whatsoever.  Maybe I'll decide to embrace CE dating after all... but then I'll have to go back and rewrite the labels on a bunch of my coins.  Aha, a logical reason for hanging on to BC/AD dating: laziness!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, kirispupis said:

This is kind of where I was getting at. The thing is, and keep in mind that this is a friendly discussion and I'm just discussing a perspective and am in no way asking anyone to switch, the birth of Christ isn't exactly considered a positive event to everyone.

Certainly, the number of Jews and other non-Christians who have died under the banner of Christianity is higher than the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

This line of argument seems to be based on a negative value judgement of Christianity as a whole that can then be applied to any aspect of Christian culture whether that aspect of culture is objectionable by itself or not. I think that line of reasoning is flawed and could lead to bad places quickly. I know this discussion is friendly and philosophical but for me it’s really not the type of discussion that I think lends itself to hashing out on a forum... especially on a coin forum. If we ever get a chance to hang out and grab a drink in person one day we know we will have plenty of interesting topics to discuss if we get bored with coins. First round is on me Kiris. 😉

5 hours ago, kirispupis said:

valid question then - why don't we use a completely different system altogether? Well, I'm also a pragmatist. I recall as a child New York State attempted to switch to the metric system. It caused all kinds of chaos even though the only real thing they did was place both mph and kph on the signs, and eventually the whole thing was scrapped at great expense. Therefore, I realized that a completely different system isn't doable, so I prefer to compromise by keeping the same system under a more neutral name.

The switch to metric is actually a good case and point for establishing a system that stands on its own instead of trying to change the old. Most of the world did make the switch. The US chose not to but who is to say that won’t change down the line. In the same way if society finds enough benefit in developing a new dating system it will do so eventually.

  • Like 1
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
6 minutes ago, Curtisimo said:

This line of argument seems to be based on a negative value judgement of Christianity as a whole that can then be applied to any aspect of Christian culture whether that aspect of culture is objectionable by itself or not. I think that line of reasoning is flawed and could lead to bad places quickly. I know this discussion is friendly and philosophical but for me it’s really not the type of discussion that I think lends itself to hashing out on a forum... especially on a coin forum. If we ever get a chance to hang out and grab a drink in person one day we know we will have plenty of interesting topics to discuss if we get bored with coins. First round is on me Kiris. 😉

Fair enough. My apologies if the statement offended, as that wasn't my intention.

6 minutes ago, Curtisimo said:

The switch to metric is actually a good case and point for establishing a system that stands on its own instead of trying to change the old. Most of the world did make the switch. The US chose not to but who is to say that won’t change down the line. In the same way if society finds enough benefit in developing a new dating system it will do so eventually.

I'm rather doubtful the US will ever make that switch, but it did create a college football playoff, and when I was little that was considered impossible - so there is hope!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

Fair enough. My apologies if the statement offended, as that wasn't my intention.

No need to worry Kiris.  I truly wasn’t offended at all. It’s an interesting topic. It’s just not a discussion that is easy to have honestly in a public coin forum... at least for me.

12 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

'm rather doubtful the US will ever make that switch, but it did create a college football playoff, and when I was little that was considered impossible - so there is hope!

Haha... AND it is even expanding to 12 teams in the next few years. Proof that anything is possible. 😳

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, kirispupis said:

...That's why I asked the question. I find it odd that most academic communities have long ago migrated to BCE/CE, but numismatics remains on BC/AD...

It's anecdotal but I can't say I've really seen a mass switch from BC/AD to the Common Era. I subscribe to two archaeology magazines - Archaeology and Biblical Archaeology Review - and I'd say that of the former, about 80% of date references are still in the old BC/AD format, while with the latter (which I suspect has a disproportionate number of Jewish contributors) nearly 100% of references are in the Common Era.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
6 hours ago, Hrefn said:

Dionysus Exiguus apparently proposed the AD era in preference to the Diocletian era, feeling that Diocletian did not deserve such commemoration, having been the cause of so many Christian martyrdoms.   

Revolutionary France, actively hostile to Christianity, tried to remake the calendar, but that effort failed.   A coin inscribed L’an 1 does not convey any useful data to most people unless converted back to AD/CE notation.  

Calendars and the quantifying of time are very conservative phenomena.  Witness the names of the months commemorating Julius Caesar and Augustus are still in current use, two millennia after their deaths.  The names of the days of the week which honor pagan gods persist, and no one is advocating altering them.  November’s name still references the ninth month, which it is not and has not been for centuries.  The seven day week?  Who determined that?  A day of rest every seven days?  From what culture was that appropriated?

it seems we have a system which inherited the length of the week and the idea of a Sabbath from the Jews, the names of the days from (mostly)the pagan Anglo-Saxons, the months from the Romans, and the numbering of the years from an otherwise obscure Christian monk of the late Antique era.  Seems pretty inclusive to me.   

I'm quite reluctant to get involved in this discussion, but I do think there's a qualitative difference, at least from my perspective. When I say Tuesday, or Mardi in France, it doesn't even arguably constitute an acknowledgement of Tiw or Mars as deities. It's simply a remnant of historical nomenclature without any substantive or religious meaning. Similarly, using "July" doesn't mean that I worship the Divine Julius. By contrast, I think most minimally educated people understand that if I say a year with "AD" I'm quite literally stating that it's that year of "Our Lord," whether I intend to convey that meaning or not. Whose Lord? He's not mine. Using BC for a year means I'm stating, equally literally, that it's a given number of years before Christ, i.e, before the Anointed One, a Greek translation of the Hebrew for Messiah. Christ isn't just a surname like Smith or Ben Yosef!  Again, whose Messiah? Not mine. It shouldn't be difficult to understand why many Jewish people feel an instinctive reluctance to utter those "magic words" or phrases -- equivalent to the "magic words" we've too often been forced to utter over the last two millennia -- and prefer the compromise, when using the "common" numbering system, of avoiding them while still making ourselves understood to others for civil and secular (or even numismatic) purposes. The Gregorian Calendar is officially used even in Israel for civil, administrative, and international purposes, partially as a remnant of the British Mandate -- but not accompanied by BC or AD!  

When it comes to coins, I do often fall into the habit of using AD and BC in describing coins in writing, mostly because it's just easier to avoid any issues. But I won't use them in actually speaking out loud. That would just be too much. 

Alternatively, we could all just use the system that geologists and paleontologists and archaeologists and (I imagine) astronomers generally use: B.P., for Before Present. Nobody says anymore that "this hominid lived in ONE MILLION YEARS B.C," like that 1960s movie with Raquel Welch (I think). They say one million BP. Nobody says a particular dinosaur lived in 70 million B.C., or that the Big Bang happened in approximately 14,999,998,000 B.C. On that scale, subtracting those two thousand years would seem rather silly.

 

Edited by DonnaML
  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
  • Clap 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, Roman Collector said:

26 hours and no Aemilian. How about his wife??

[IMG]
Cornelia Supera, wife of Aemelian, Augusta, 253 CE.
Roman provincial Æ 20.5mm, 3.78 g, 7 h.
Mysia, Parium, AD 253.
Obv: G CORN SUPERA, diademed and draped bust right.
Rev: C. G. I. H. P., Capricorn right, cornucopiae on back; globe between legs.
Refs: RPC IX, 382; Sear GI 4408; SNG Von Aulock 7448.
Notes: Sear describes as a star, but his exemplar in the British Museum depicts a globe with an equinoctial cross, giving it the appearance of a star.

Next: capricorn. 

I noticed I used both systems here habitually and without thinking of either. 

  • Like 1
  • Laugh 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow.  There's way too much, very evidently substantial stuff on this subject to read all at once, after a day of computer screens (I liked @Restitutor's contribution, though), but, for whatever it's worth, here's where I come down.

First, the mere appropriateness --ethically, for one-- of how one navigates this issue just has to take precedence over the esthetics of the ensuing rhetoric.  Especially where these fine points are concerned, we're really stuck having to think in terms of the innate, inexorable limitations of any given language, English emphatically included.

I'm sure that people can intelligently argue about whether 'Before the Common Era' or 'Before Christ' is actually more Christocentric.  But for me, BCE has got to subsume more of our communal, innately and inexorably pluralistic frame of reference. 

Along the same lines, CE /'the common era' has to be more appropriate.  I have to think that that phrase originated from someone's mere acknowledgement of the linguistic --and, thank you, historical-- facts on the ground, in the conspicuous absence of a judgement call about them.  As in, Yeah, historically, 'AD' means 'Anno Domini.'  For non-Christians, it's kind of like, Okay, so Now what do you do?

Given which, as a Christian (and, thank you very much, lifelong, left-leaning Democrat --so just Throw Shit, if that's what you need), what I try to do is to calibrate my dating of this stuff according to the specific numismatic context.  When anything is BCE, I'm fine with 'BCE.'  When something is CE, I pay attention to, for instance, who was issuing the coin.  When, for instance, AH dates are known, I like to cite them.  When it's about a medieval, more and/or less Christian issue, I mostly just use the AD /CE date, without either pair of letters.  Because, well, it saves me a minute, while implicitly acknowledging the historical dominance of that dating system.  ...I really don't see any of this as being of particular relevance to my faith.  On that front, I'm kind of more about Jesus than any particular violence that has since been done to His legacy.

Best you're likely to get from here....

Edited by JeandAcre
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, DonnaML said:

I'm quite reluctant to get involved in this discussion, but I do think there's a qualitative difference, at least from my perspective. When I say Tuesday, or Mardi in France, it doesn't even arguably constitute an acknowledgement of Tiw or Mars as deities. It's simply a remnant of historical nomenclature without any substantive or religious meaning. Similarly, using "July" doesn't mean that I worship the Divine Julius. By contrast, I think most minimally educated people understand that if I say a year with "AD" I'm quite literally stating that it's that year of "Our Lord," whether I intend to convey that meaning or not. Whose Lord? He's not mine. Using BC for a year means I'm stating, equally literally, that it's a given number of years before Christ, i.e, before the Anointed One, a Greek translation of the Hebrew for Messiah. Christ isn't just a surname like Smith or Ben Yosef!  Again, whose Messiah? Not mine. It shouldn't be difficult to understand why many Jewish people feel an instinctive reluctance to utter those "magic words" or phrases -- equivalent to the "magic words" we've too often been forced to utter over the last two millennia -- and prefer the compromise, when using the "common" numbering system, of avoiding them while still making ourselves understood to others for civil and secular (or even numismatic) purposes. The Gregorian Calendar is officially used even in Israel for civil, administrative, and international purposes, partially as a remnant of the British Mandate -- but not accompanied by BC or AD!  

When it comes to coins, I do often fall into the habit of using AD and BC in describing coins in writing, mostly because it's just easier to avoid any issues. But I won't use them in actually speaking out loud. That would just be too much. 

Alternatively, we could all just use the system that geologists and paleontologists and archaeologists and (I imagine) astronomers generally use: B.P., for Before Present. Nobody says anymore that "this hominid lived in ONE MILLION YEARS B.C," like that 1960s movie with Raquel Welch (I think). They say one million BP. Nobody says a particular dinosaur lived in 70 million B.C., or that the Big Bang happened in approximately 14,999,998,000 B.C. On that scale, subtracting those two thousand years would seem rather silly.

 

Donna, just curious about what underlies the distinction, in your mind, between the "July" / "Divine Julius" example, which you say doesn't bother you, and the BC/AD situation. 

To me these appear to be largely equivalent, and I personally don't attach any religious meaning to either one. To me, they are just terms with interesting historical roots (Which so happen to be religious in nature). 

Two possibilities that occur to me are:

1) The usage of "Our" implicit in the Latin Anno Domini, as opposed to "July" which just alludes to the name Julius 

2) The fact that Christianity is still very much an active religion today, which may make any association feel closer to home or more "real" (I don't think anyone has been a devout worshipper of the Divine Julius for some time now... so you're unlikely to be mistaken for one!)

Maybe a little bit of both? Just curious. As I said, to me, these factors don't amount to any material difference; I consider both terms historical in nature rather than religious and don't mind them. But I am also Catholic, so understand my perspective may be clouded, having never experienced the "excluded perspective" so to speak as it relates to BC/AD

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

BCE and CE still use the birth of Jesus as the dividing point, so changing letters really is a moot point.

I have no issue using BC/AD, just as I have none with the days of the week or months of the year.

And for full disclosure, I am a secular humanist with no religious axe to grind!

If BC/AD was good enough for Christopher Hitchens, it's good enough for me.

  • Like 6
  • Smile 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@DonnaML I am curious.  When in France, do you feel a similar unease about dimanche?  The origin of the word is exactly the same as AD, as I am sure you know.  All the Romance languages present the same difficulty, if difficulty it is.  English, rather oddly, preserves the homage to the sun god.  

Some secular humanists on the thread refute the assertion that AD necessarily implies anno domini nostri, or constitutes a confession of faith.  It clearly and practically does not, at least to them.  I estimate the majority of people around the world who use the AD nomenclature would deny any belief in Jesus as the Messiah, and deny that use of AD commits them to any philosophical or religious position.  For me, as a Catholic, AD actually does imply anno domini mei, but I certain most people do not share that understanding of the term, and it would be both silly and wrong to demand that they do.   No doubt there are neo-pagans for whom Thursday is in some sense truly Thor’s day, but their beliefs do not obligate us to believe the same. 
For a scrupulous (and I mean that with no hint of a pejorative sense) and believing Jew, I can understand a reluctance to employ BC/AD terminology. (and I can even applaud such reluctance which springs from piety.)   I would argue that the very words and nomenclature no  longer mean what they once meant, just as Sunday is not the dies Solis nor July honoring the divine Julius.  Saying “Sunday” and “July”  therefore is no violation of the First Commandment. 

So, that is my opinion.  But I believe each of us should follow his or her conscience on the matter, and use whatever terms are most comfortable. 

 



 


 

 


 

 

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, DonnaML said:

I'm quite reluctant to get involved in this discussion, but I do think there's a qualitative difference, at least from my perspective. When I say Tuesday, or Mardi in France, it doesn't even arguably constitute an acknowledgement of Tiw or Mars as deities. It's simply a remnant of historical nomenclature without any substantive or religious meaning. Similarly, using "July" doesn't mean that I worship the Divine Julius. By contrast, I think most minimally educated people understand that if I say a year with "AD" I'm quite literally stating that it's that year of "Our Lord," whether I intend to convey that meaning or not. Whose Lord? He's not mine. Using BC for a year means I'm stating, equally literally, that it's a given number of years before Christ, i.e, before the Anointed One, a Greek translation of the Hebrew for Messiah. Christ isn't just a surname like Smith or Ben Yosef!  Again, whose Messiah? Not mine.

 

I do have affinity with the argument that they are indeed different, as I alluded to in my post. After some careful thought I do think I've worked out the reason why. I think it is because that the days/months are natural demarcations in time that correspond to actual physical phenomena. We need a label for these terms in order to communicate, if these labels didn't exist historically it would be necessary to invent them. The difference with BC/AD to me is that it has no correspondence to any natural/geological/cosmological phenomena and is entirely contrived from a religious event. This makes it more than a mere "label" because the event being labelled only requires a label because of the subjective religious meaning attached to the event, rather than any objective/empirical criteria. If Jesus Christ wasn't born and/or people did not subjectively find this event meaningful, there would be no need to label this demarcation in Ages, because it simply wouldn't exist. Therefore I can see how the BC/AD distinction requires more of an assent to the underlying religious belief than the days/months. However, simply altering the acronyms only serves to hide this fact rather than deal with it, and one only needs a cursory scratch of the surface to reveal the true origin of the dating system. It strikes me as mostly performative to do this.

It would be difficult to produce a dating system that isn't similarly contrived, but perhaps there is a reference point that greater captures the spirit of our own age. Weighing this up against the sheer inconvenience of fighting against a 1500 year linguistic convention is probably a sticking point for many, including myself on balance. 

I am glad to see that everyone mostly doesn't care too much (it isn't a big deal after all) and the discussion has been friendly as a result.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When in Rome... AC, DC. Ante Christo, Detto Christo and older books on ancient coins did use the AUC system of dating. Of course I was joking about using the AUC system of dating (Ab Urbe Condita) on my checks, but think about it. AUC works nicely for dating Ancient coins as none were produced BEFORE the AUC system of dating  (Lydians probably started coinage around 110 AUC so all coinage could be dated using it). Lastly I can rationalize any religious issue in using the newer BCE or CE dating by choosing to interpret it as Before the Christan Era or the Christan Era. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor

"To BC or not to BC, that is the question."

Okay, that was probably a very earlier draft by Shakespeare.  For me, it is really not much of a question, as I tend to use BC/AD, but also CE/BCE on occasions.  I'm not a particularly religious person, kind of a borderline agnostic/atheist/whatever, and I tend to view dating as being primarily religious in its roots.  As with coins having religious themes - we're talking about the vast majority of ancient coins -dates based on the Christian, Islamic, Buddhist or other religion-based calendars are viewed by me in a historical context.  This is one aspect on the way humanity organizes the measurement of time, and it seems to be working, with a little tweaking of the Christian calendar by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.  So be it.

  • Like 3
  • Smile 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
9 hours ago, Hrefn said:

@DonnaML I am curious.  When in France, do you feel a similar unease about dimanche?  The origin of the word is exactly the same as AD, as I am sure you know.  All the Romance languages present the same difficulty, if difficulty it is.  English, rather oddly, preserves the homage to the sun god.  

I'll let Donna reply for herself, but from my perspective - the day that my French is good enough that I can have an in-depth discussion in that language concerning the origins of the word 'dimanche' and whether it's still valid to use it in society - I'll be so proud of my ability to hold the conversation and make my abysmal accent understood that I probably won't care about the conclusion. 🙂

As an aside, I've always wondered whether there are French who cringe a bit at the word 'juillet', since it was named after a person who slaughtered a fair percentage of their population, then boasted about it.

  • Like 1
  • Laugh 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If we worried about the source of abstract concepts, we'd have a lot of redefining to do - East and West, the 7 day week, words like 'hysterical', and, of course, the 'World Coins' forum. Someone could be offended by the colonial connotations of us writing in English, so perhaps we should all switch to Esperanto. BC and AD are losing their religious meaning, as is Christmas. That's not to say we shouldn't change offensive language, but there are degrees. There has to be some acceptance that history leaves a mark.

I use BC and AD because it's the commonly used convention, and no-one's come up with anything better yet. (Much like capitalism and democracy). I think people generally would understand BCE simply because it looks like BC, but not CE. As others have said, BCE and CE don't mean anything, and yet still have Christian connotations, so they don't catch on. But if we switched to something entirely different, not based on Christ's birth, we'd still need to talk about BC and AD, just as we talk about Constantinople and not Istanbul.

Edited by John Conduitt
  • Like 2
  • Yes 2
  • Cool Think 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/24/2022 at 8:49 AM, shanxi said:

As mentioned above plus and minus could be so easy.

 

Marcus Aurelius was born in the year 121

Julius  Caesar was born in the year -100

 

No further designations necessary

I think the minus is quite hard to pick out if you're in a flow state when reading. 

I would prefer  a double minus like -- or perhaps (-) so my brain doesn't skip over it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

image.png.7ceb36734d7e8d28ca91106a14c10d83.png

Outstanding discussion! For my part, I don't have too much to add as I think others--especially kirispupis, Severus Alexander, and DonnaML--have described exactly why BCE/CE is far more inclusive than BC/AD. And as pretty much everyone who prefers BCE/CE have said, I don't get too bent out of shape when I see BC/AD being used--but I do have a definite preference for BCE/CE in all of my own writing.

The thing is, none of this calendar stuff came out of birth fully formed, like Athena from Zeus's head, or Aphrodite from the ocean surf.  It's been cobbled together literally over millennia.  For this reason, I disagree with the always reasonable Curtisimo when he writes about recognizing the Christian aims of the people who designed our calendar as a reason to keep the BC/AD system.  The calendar we all (or almost all!) use is often called the Gregorian calendar, but it's also regularly called the Julian calendar.  And as for Julius Caesar, he himself was already modifying a calendar that went back to a much older time in the history of Rome. 

In short, the calendar we use, with its 365 point something days, is like a palimpsest; its a product of more than one person and more than one time.  Our calendar is based partly on the observation of the stars and the seasons, partly on ancient Roman history and religion, partly on Norse mythology, and partly on Christianity.  And now many of us add one more element: a humanistic concern for inclusivity.  I don't think this last development is any less worthy than the preceding ones.  And again, I recognize that not everyone feels the same way, and that's ok.  You can continue to use your BC/AD, and for my part I will continue to use my BCE/CE.  The important thing is that we all understand each other.

A few other notes:

  • ewomack wrote an absolutely outstanding comment, but the comment repeatedly references a year Zero.  Despite many shoddily-produced history books and websites, there is most certainly not any year zero in the counting system that we are all discussing. It's an honest mistake, but a very common one.
  • the Gospels present contradictory information regarding the year of Jesus's birth.  4 BC or BCE is generally considered as about the best estimate.
  • I have never heard of the BP system that Donna refers to in her own very excellent comment.  I guess it's prevalent in much scientific literature, just as in the academic literature on ancient history, BCE/CE is essentially standard. But the point remains that in popular culture, BC/AD still remains dominant.  That said, I do think that is shifting, if slowly.  But even if it does, we are simply never going to be able to get away from numbering our years as we do.  And there's no need to do that, actually.
  • regarding Severus Alexander's excellent comment, I agreed with it in its entirety--but I would like to note that the scholars who argue that Jesus was nothing more than a mythical figure are normally considered to be on the fringes.  Just as I think Socrates was a real historical figure, I think the same of Jesus.  The obvious catch is how to get at these original historical figures when they have been presented to us by the pens of their disciples with agendas of their own.  There is also the question as to whether this is even necessary, as Socrates and Jesus can be usefully analyzed as figures of literature presenting ideas that would resonate throughout the the history of philosophy, among other areas.  As an aside, the figure of Chuang-Tzu over on the Chinese Taoist side of things is very similar in these respects.  If you haven't read it already, I strongly recommend the book named after him. It's well worth the read, though some parts will be more memorable and enjoyable than others, of course.

Finally, I guess I should answer the OP's question, because I don't think anyone has really done so.  In scholarly writing involving ancient Near Eastern history, BCE and CE are normally used.  Because of the significant number of very important Jewish scholars of the Hebrew Bible and of the historical, linguistic, and geographical contexts for it, ancient Near Eastern history scholars are normally sensitive enough to use the BCE/CE system.  The farther you move away from that field, the more likely you are to use the BC/AD system, it seems to me.  And this is especially so outside of academic settings.  I think this is one of those areas in which change originating in academia seems to be coming, but coming very slowly, to pop culture.  Since most of us are not professional academics, and since our culture has been historically very steeped in Christian history, the most common language in our field, I suspect, will still be the BC/AD system.  In other words, I recognize that probably most will use the BC/AD system, but for the reasons expressed so well already by others, I personally prefer the BCE/CE system.  

Edited by NathanB
  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...