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What is the meaning of AD, BC, BCE and CE?

The meaning of AD is Anno Domini or Year of our Lord referring to the year of Christ’s birth. The meaning of BC is Before Christ. CE is a recent term.  It refers to Common Era and is used in place of A.D. the dates are the same i.e., 2009 AD is 2009 CE. BCE means Before Common Era.  For example 400 BC is 400 BCE.

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When did we start using AD and BC?  Why?

Many different calendars have been used since man began tracking time.  Most start with some epoch event or person. The use of BC and AD for numbering calendar years was invented by Dionysius Exiguus in 525 AD.  His purpose was to determine the correct date for Easter under the direction of Pope St. John I. Prior to this time, one method for determining Easter was based on a 532 year calendar cycle stemming from the Alexandrian era.  Other methods were also used which led to the confusion.  Dionysius was asked to determine a method for calculating Easter that would then be used by the entire church. Dionysius did not want to perpetuate the name of Alexander, the Great Persecutor.  He decided to start his 532-year cycle from 753 years after the Founding of Rome.  Today, based on historical evidence relating to Herod and astronomical evidence relating to eclipses and star novas, most historians believe Christ was born a few years earlier. Dionysius named the years relating to his cycle, BC meaning Before Christ, which starts with year 1 and AD meaning Anno Domini, the year of Our Lord referring to the year of Christ’s birth.  This is also a year 1.  There is no year 0.  (That’s the reason purists insists the 21st century began January 1, 2001.   For example, the first year began in 1 AD and ended the beginning of  2 AD. So the first year of the 21st century begins in 2001 AD and ends with the beginning of 2002 AD). It took about 400 years for the dating system devised by Dionysius to reach common usage. In combination with the Julian Calendar system that determines the beginning of months and years, this continued until 1582 AD.  The number of each year is based on the Dionysius numbering system.

‘Today, based on historical evidence relating to Herod and astronomical evidence relating to eclipses and star novas, most historians believe Christ was born a few years earlier.’

(for more information on how it spread read our article What Did We Use Before BC and AD) The need for the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar came about because a year is not exactly 365 days long.  It is 365 and a quarter days long.  Every four years, March 1st moved behind a day until after centuries instead of being early spring March 1st was now the beginning of winter.  Something had to be done. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced in the Catholic parts of Europe in 1582 A.D.  by Pope Gregory XIII (then the religious leader of the Roman Catholic faith). It was an improvement upon the Julian Calendar to keep the average length of the calendar year better in line with the seasons. Now here’s a rule that will drive you crazy.  The rules, months, and days of the Gregorian calendar are the same as those of the Julian Calendar, except for the leap year rules. In the Gregorian calendar, a year is a leap year if the year number is evenly divisible by 4.  However century years follow a different rule. The number must be divisible by both 100 and 400 to be a leap year; otherwise it is not a leap year. For example, 1600 and 2000 are leap years, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not.

“The legal code of the United States does not specify an official national calendar. Use of the Gregorian calendar in the United States is a result of an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1751, which specified use of the Gregorian calendar in England and its colonies. However, its adoption in the United Kingdom and other countries was fraught with confusion, controversy, and even violence. It also had a deeper cultural impact through the disruption of traditional festivals and calendrical practices.” (Seidelmann, P. Kenneth, Explanatory Supplement, United States Naval Observatory. Nautical Almanac, pg. 578)

The widespread use of the Gregorian calendar and the use of BC and AD throughout the world came about thanks to the colonization practices of Europe. And economic pressures of a worldwide economy led by Europe and the United States. This is gradually changing as more and more academic writers prefer the use of CE  rather than AD.

Related Articles:

What Did We Use Before BC and AD


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29 thoughts on “What is the meaning of AD, BC, BCE and CE?

  1. Thank you so much for making this website it really helped me

    1. This change from B.C. To BCE, and A.D. To A.C.E. has much more to do with elimination of Christian Doctrine and Beliefs than it does any “scientific” reason.
      We have seen a steady decline in Academia for decades; the literal rewriting of and changing of Our Timeline itself. It is a shame.

      1. I happened upon this web site because of AD. I’ve kept thinking it was “after the death” of Christ but knew it wasn’t and wanted to make sure I got it right and I find this change from BC to. BCE and CE. What’s up with that! You know what the BIBLE says about adding to or taking from Gods Word. I don’t like these changes and I certainly don’t understand why these changes.

        1. The number of non-Christian people around the worl is increasing heavily, so there is no reason to keep AD and BC – even though they have always worked perfectly – been used throughout the world. Let’s remember that Chineses and Jews also have their time mark.

          1. Thank you so much Marco. You’re the only person on this thread that posted something for others to learn from.

          2. In other words, BECAUSE it has to do with Christ, do away with it. That is the only reason. Why does it bother anyone? It’s been used by Christians and nonChristians alike. Obviously, because the world is increasingly sensitive against anything of Christ. As a Christian, I do not worry about, for instance, the days of the week and months being named after pagan deities. I know that those gods are nothing and I don’t worship them. I am not super sensitive about them. Those names are just names to me. None Christians needn’t worry…Christ knows those who don’t respect for Him or want any remembrance of Him. The world has become quite silly about things. So what if we use AD and BC.

          3. There is no Chineses
            The right usage would be Chinese.

          4. So you don’t use them and leave the Christians alone. I say don’t mess with something that works. It is a way that time is measured.

        2. As I am sure you have already found out AD means Anno Domini, in other words the year of our Lord. It is specifically Christian and therefore unsuitable for use when talking about other faiths or timelines that have starting points that are significant to other faiths.

        3. Well, actually this time dating system is not biblical. It is a man made system to keep up with time. However I do understand what you are saying about adding or taking away from God’s word.

          1. Then the other religions should have found an event to measure time first.

        4. I always thought the same, but then after decent/diciple (of christ) e.g. A.D. But indeed its after birth not dead, after dead would mean his life it self wasnt recorded or whatever age jesus was in bc terms. Anyway this website made it clear for me thanks!

        5. Its not gods word.
          Its the word of men.
          Always has been.

      2. I totally agree with you.

      3. Yes, I agree. This is pretty much a brand new “idea” which was born in the fall of 2016 (best I can tell), although I know many have been thinking about a way to take God out of our dating system for decades. One interesting thing is that the “CE” (common era) systems still NEEDS a “B” to describe the fact of “before something”, i.e. BEFORE CHRIST, so there is no getting away from His birth which the entire world agrees has redefined both time and lives since. Also, we would not really want to be the society that accomplished the elevation of “self” at the denial of God, as history tells many stories of how that has not gone well for anyone that tried to do that – Tower of Babble, the flood, Sodam and Gomera, Hamen (from Esther’s time), and many others. God Bless America.

      4. Absolutely, 100% correct. Is a blatent attempt of Jewish power brokers in the media to diminish Christ as the defining figure of Western civilization, and shoud be subtly resisted at all levels. The good news is that a tremendous backlash is occurring, and you very rarely hear “BCE” in academia and scientific television in the last few years. A small but relevant victory for the Christian majority.

  2. Thank You So Much For Teaching On AD, BC, BCE AND CE?”

  3. I am so grateful for all the research and time that you did to give such an excellent answer!


  5. Thanku so much for giving such important knowledge about AD, BC, BCE &CE.

  6. The event or occurrence and the dividing line between BCE and CE has been, and will ever be, the birth of Christ! This alteration of thousands of years of history is another attempt by “progressive” liberals to alter history ending in a strictly secular society. Bad form. Bad form indeed.

    1. CE has been in use for centuries to refer to time periods when comparing texts of different religious groups, and is equivalent to a term in both hebrew and latin religious orders. It stands for Common Era, which was used interchangeably with Christian Era and Vulgar Era for hundreds of years, and can be found as is in catholic texts from the 18th century. It is far more accurate, universal description when working with multiple groups not of european origin. The fact that you take it as a religious affront has zero basis in actual fact.

  7. I was knowing meaning of BC only. Now it is very clear. Thanks.

  8. Wish we could go back and correct any grammatical errors in our posts

    1. Shiloh will check with the web master to see if there is some sort of setting.

  9. Well explained. Thank you very much for this great information. Everyone must know this important fact. I salute you guys. GOD BLESS US ALL!!!

  10. Ability to edit what you write would be good. At least when it comes to spelling.
    I don’t think much can be done about grammatical errors, if people do not know they are making them.

  11. No controversy JESUS CHRIST IS THE LORD.

    1. Not true

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