Learn more about Common Era
The Common Era (CE), sometimes known as the Current Era or as the Christian Era, is the period of measured time beginning with the year 1 on the Gregorian calendar. The notations CE and BCE (Before the Common Era or Before the Christian Era) are alternative notations for AD (anno Domini, Latin for "In the year of (Our) Lord<ref> Blackburn & Lolford-Strevens p. 782</ref>") and BC (Before Christ), respectively. The CE/BCE system of notation is chronologically equivalent to dates in the AD/BC system, i.e. no change in numbering is used, and neither includes a year zero. The abbreviations may also be written C.E. and B.C.E.
The term common era is preferred by some as an alternative to the more overtly religious AD and BC, since Common Era does not explicitly make use of religious titles for Jesus, Christ and Lord, that are used in the AD/BC notation. Some criticize Common Era notation as a euphemism that does not alter the pivotal year 1 still centering on the life of Jesus. Others criticize the notation as an unnecessary attempt at political correctness.
The phrase 'Common Era' has its equivalents in other languages: For example, since the People's Republic of China succeeded the Republic of China in 1949, most Chinese have used the literal translation of Common Era, gōngyuán 公元, for date notation. Some Chinese use zhŭhòu 主後 (lit. After the Lord). Additionally, the term "CE" is preferred by academics in some fields (e.g. by the American Anthropological Association).<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
 Chronology and notation
The calendar practice prompting the coining of the term common era is the system of numbering years from the supposed beginning of the life of Jesus. This system was devised by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in the year 525, who named it anno Domini. Two centuries later, the Anglo-Saxon historian Bede used a Latin term (ante incarnationis dominicae tempus) that is roughly equivalent to the English term before Christ to identify years before the first year of this era.
The term "common era" is an alternative way of referring to this era. Using this nomenclature, human beings first walked on the Moon in the year 1969 of the common era, and the French Revolution is considered to have begun in year 1789 of the common era.
When used as a replacement for BC/AD notation, the common era is abbreviated as CE and its years are numerically equivalent to AD years. Similarly, the time before the common era is written as BCE and is equivalent to BC. Both Common Era abbreviations are written following the year, thus Aristotle was born in 384 BCE (or 384 BC), and Genghis Khan died in 1227 CE (or AD 1227). As with anno Domini, the year zero is not used, except for astronomical uses. So 1 CE is immediately preceded by 1 BCE.
On (rare) occasions, one may find the abbreviation "e.v." or "EV" instead of "CE";<ref name=EV>Template:Cite web</ref> this stands for "Era Vulgaris", the Latin translation of "Common Era".
 Gregorian versus Julian calendar
The terms common era, anno Domini, before the common era, and before Christ can be applied to dates that rely either on the Julian calendar or the Gregorian calendar. Modern dates are understood to be in the Gregorian calendar, but writers should specify the calendar for older dates. Dates in the Gregorian calendar have always used the common era, but a wide variety of eras have been used with the Julian calendar over the millennia.
The term "common era" has early antecedents. A 1716 book by English Bishop John Prideaux says, "The vulgar era, by which we now compute the years from his incarnation." In 1835, in his book Living Oracles, Alexander Campbell, wrote "The vulgar Era, or Anno Domini; the fourth year of Jesus Christ, the first of which was but eight days." In its article on General Chronology, the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia uses the sentence: "Foremost among these (dating eras) is that which is now adopted by all civilized peoples and known as the Christian, Vulgar or Common Era, in the twentieth century of which we are now living."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
"Vulgar" comes from the Latin word vulgāris (from vulgus, the common people), meant "of or belonging to the common people, everyday". By the late 1800s, however, vulgar had come to mean "crudely indecent" and the Latin word was replaced by its English equivalent, "common".
Many Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and other sources prefer the notation's neutrality, while some Christians have used the term CE to mean Christian Era. Jehovah's Witnesses exclusively use CE and BCE in their publications, generally explaining in footnotes that the terms stand for "Common Era" and "Before the Common Era".<ref>For example: "In this publication, instead of the traditional “A.D.” and “B.C.,” the more accurate “C.E.” (Common Era) and “B.C.E.” (before the Common Era) are used." - The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s?, p. 16 footnote, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.</ref> Some non-religious academics in the fields of history, theology, archaeology, sociology and anthropology have also in recent decades begun using this system.
More visible uses of common era notation have recently surfaced at major museums in the English-speaking world: The Smithsonian Institution prefers Common Era usage, though individual museums are not required to use it.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Furthermore, several style guides now prefer or mandate its usage.<ref>Template:Cite web;Template:Cite web;Template:Cite journal;Template:Cite journal;Template:Cite web</ref> Even some style guides for Christian churches mandate its use: For example, the Maryland Church News.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
In the United States, the usage of the BCE/CE notation in textbooks is growing.<ref>Michael Gormley. (25 April 2005). "P.C. scholars take Christ out of B.C." Washington Times. Accessed at http://washingtontimes.com/national/20050425-122707-1314r.htm</ref> It is used by the College Board in its history tests,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> as well as by some National Geographic Society publications,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The Norton Anthology of English Literature, and the United States Naval Observatory.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The U.S.-based History Channel uses BCE/CE notation in articles on non-Christian religious topics such as Jerusalem and Judaism<ref>Template:Cite web;Template:Cite web</ref> and the unusual combination of BC and CE in other cases.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
In June of 2006, the Kentucky State School Board reversed its decision that would have included the designations B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) in referring to dates. The decision resulted in an explosion of protest that has gained national attention. <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
 Support and opposition to the use of CE/BCE over AD/BC
A range of arguments exist both for and against the use of CE and BCE over AD and BC.
Supporters of common era notation promote it as a religiously-neutral notation suited for cross-cultural use.
Arguments given for standardizing common era notation include:
- The calendar used by the West has become a global standard—one built into every computer's hardware. It should be religiously and culturally neutral out of consideration for those cultures compelled to use it out of necessity.<ref name="bbc">Template:Cite web</ref>
- It has been largely used by academic and scientific communities<ref name="bbc" /> and is not a completely unfamiliar dating system.
- It is simple to change BC/AD to BCE/CE notation, since the years are numbered exactly the same in both (e.g., 33 BC becomes 33 BCE.) Documents with years that do not have AD designation do not need to be changed at all (e.g., 1066 remains 1066 in AD and in CE systems).<ref name="bbc" />
- The label Anno Domini is almost certainly inaccurate—the birth of Jesus of Nazareth probably occurred no later than 4 BC, the year of Herod the Great's death.<ref name="bbc" />
- Anno Domini (which means, literally, "in the year of the Lord") works well with specific dates, eg AD 655. But its use with centuries, (and other time-units such as decades and millennia) presents grammatical difficulties: AD 7th Century would mean, literally, "In the year of the Lord, 7th Century" – a syntactical error. The CE notation avoids this problem.
- "Forcing a Hindu, for example, to use AD and BC might be seen by some as coercing them to acknowledge the supremacy of the Christian God and of Jesus Christ." <ref name=RELTOL>Template:Cite web</ref> The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance further state: "We use the terms CE and BCE throughout this web site because they are less hurtful to non-Christians." <ref name=RELTOL/>
Efforts to replace AD/BC notation with CE/BCE notation have given rise to opposition. Arguments against the common era designation include:
- BC and AD have been used for such a length of time as to have become somewhat removed from their religious connotations.<ref name="bbc" />
- The newer BCE/CE system has not been used widely enough to have become commonly understood.<ref name="bbc" />
- Both BCE and CE contain the two letters "CE". This presents a confusing similarity between them and makes it more difficult to distinguish one from the other.
- Some argue against the BCE/CE system because it retains year 1 as its epoch and so preserves a Christocentric worldview. These people hold that a more massive change in the calendar is needed, one that would change every date.<ref name="bbc" />
- BCE/CE fails to fix one of the primary problems with the Christian calendar, the lack of a year zero. Critics find that this makes calculations unnecessarily difficult.<ref name="bbc" />
- As there is no equally forceful trend to remove other terms with origins in non-Christian religions (such as those days of the week which in English are named after Norse gods), many argue that movement to replace BC and AD is specifically anti-Christian.<ref name="bbc" />
 Other calendar eras
Several systems of calculating the year have existed:
- The Hindu calendar constitutes four eras and the epoch of the present (fourth) era, the Kali Yuga, is January 23 3102 BCE on the proleptic (i.e., back-dated) Gregorian calendar, making the current year (2006) 5108.
- The Hebrew calendar dates from the traditional Jewish date of Creation (according to which the year beginning in the northern autumn of 2000 was 5761 AM);
- Most Chinese do not assign numbers to the years of the Chinese calendar, but the few that do (expatriate Chinese and Westerners) date from the Yellow Emperor (three different systems are in use, which caused the Chinese years 4637, 4697, or 4698 to begin in early 2000).
- The Buddhist calendar dates from the passing away of the Buddha (making 2000, 2543 under this calendar, currently used in Thailand);
- The Indian national calendar (also the Saka calendar) is the official civil calendar in use in India. Years are counted in the Saka Era, which starts its year 0 in 78. 2006 is therefore 1928 in India.
- The Islamic calendar dates from the Hijra in 622 using a lunar year of about 354 days (so the Western year 2000 contains parts of 1420 AH and 1421 AH);
- The Bahá'í calendar dates from the year of the declaration of the Báb. Years are counted in the Bahá'í Era (BE), which starts its year 1 from March 21, 1844.
- The Japanese calendar dates from the succession of the current Emperor of Japan. The current emperor took the throne in 1989, which became Heisei 1, but which was until then Shōwa 64.
- The Jalaali calendar, a form of the Zoroastrian calendar, is used in Iran. This uses the Zoroastrian months, with the starting year taken from the Hijra in 622—thus the year 1385 begins in March 2006. The spring equinox marks the beginning of the year for this calendar.
- The French Revolutionary Calendar was used in Revolutionary France from October 24, 1793 (on the Gregorian calendar) to January 1, 1806. Years were counted using the Republican era from September 22 1792 starting with year I.
- The Neo-Pagan Calendars include that used by many pagan religions today, often called the Wheel of the Year.
- The Roman Calendar, which is virtually extinct, dated years from the mythological founding of Rome, 21 April, 753 BC. The first year was thus 1 AUC (ab urbe condita or anno urbis conditae; "from the city being founded", or "in the year of the foundation of the city"). Reckoning days by this calendar is complex and no longer in use, but the calendar continues on today as 2759 AUC in 2006.
- The Discordian calendar follows the CE numbering plus 1166, presumably because of the Curse of Greyface that occurred in 1166 BCE. As a reference, 2016 is 3182 YOLD (Year of Our Lady of Discord) in the Discordian calendar.
- The Julian day number can be considered a very simple calendar, where its calendar date is just an integer. This is useful for reference, computations, and conversions. The Julian day system was introduced by astronomers to provide a single system of dates that could be used when working with different calendars and to unify different historical chronologies. Apart from the choice of the zero point and name, this Julian day and Julian date are not related to the Julian calendar. The Julian day or Julian day number (JDN) is the (integer) number of days that have elapsed since noon Greenwich Mean Time (UT or TT) Monday, January 1, 4713 BC in the proleptic Julian calendar. This equals November 24, 4714 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar. That noon-to-noon day is counted as Julian day zero. Thus the multiples of 7 are Mondays. Negative values can also be used. It does not count years, so strictly speaking it has no era, but it does have an epoch. Today (noon-to-noon UTC) the value is 2457709.
 See also
 External links
- The use of "CE" and "BCE" to identify dates (Religious Tolerance.org)
- Whatever happened to B.C. and A.D., and why? (United Church of Christ)
- Victor Mair: The need for a new era
- NASA: Year dating conventions
- Associated Press: P.C. scholars take Christ out of B.C.
- The Columbia Guide to Standard American English (1993): A.D., B.C., (A.)C.E., B.C.E.ar:قبل الميلاد