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Common Era, abbreviated as CE, is a designation for the calendar system most commonly used world-wide for numbering the year part of the date.The numbering of years using Common Era notation is identical to the numbering used with Anno Domini (BC/AD) notation, being the current year in both notations and neither using a year zero.Common Era is also known as Christian EraDictionaries: Common Era and Christian Era used interchangeably

and Current Era,Sources supporting interchangeabilty with Current Era

with all three expressions abbreviated as CE.Dictionaries: CE

  • "ce"WP editorial note: the source does not mention any suffix like "[syn: CE]" for entry "ce" as shown for entry "c.e.".
(Christian Era is, however, also abbreviated AD, for Anno Domini.)Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for "Before the Common Era", "Before the Christian Era", or "Before the Current Era".Dictionaries: BCE

  • "bce"WP editorial note: the source does not mention any suffix like "[syn: BCE]" for entry "bce" as shown for entry "b.c.e.".
Both the BCE/CE and BC/AD notations are based on a sixth-century estimate for the year in which Jesus was conceived or born, with the common era designation originating among Christians in Europe at least as early as 1615 (at first in Latin).

The Gregorian calendar, and the year-numbering system associated with it, is the calendar system with most widespread usage in the world today. For decades, it has been the de facto global standard, recognized by international institutions such as the United Nations and the Universal Postal Unionmarker.Common Era notation has been adopted in several non-Christian cultures, by many scholars in religious studies and other academic fields,and by others wishing to be sensitive to non-Christians,because Common Era does not explicitly make use of religious titles for Jesus, such as Christ and Lord, which are used in the BC/AD notation.

The abbreviation BCE, just as with BC, always follows the year number. Unlike AD, which traditionally precedes the year number, CE always follows the year number (if context requires that it be written at all).Thus, the current year is written as in both notations (or, if further clarity is needed, as CE, or as AD ), and the year that Socrates died is represented as 399 BCE (the same year that is represented by 399 BC in the BC/AD notation). The abbreviations are sometimes written with small capital letters, or with periods (e.g., "BCE" or "C.E.").


The year numbering system used with Common Era notation was devised by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in the year 525 to replace the Diocletian years, because he did not wish to continue the memory of a tyrant who persecuted Christians. He attempted to number years from an event he referred to as the Incarnation of Jesus,although scholars today generally agree that he miscalculated by a small number of years.Dionysius labeled the column of the Easter table in which he introduced the new era "Anni Domini Nostri Jesu Christi"Numbering years in this manner became more widespread with its usage by Bede in England in 731. Bede also introduced the practice of dating years before the supposed year of birthof Jesus, and the practice of not using a year zero.In 1422, Portugalmarker became the last Western European country to switch to the system begun by Dionysius.

The term "Common Era" is traced back in English to its appearance as "VulgarEra" (from the Latin word vulgus, the common people, i.e. those who are not royalty), to distinguish it from the regnal dating systems typically used in national law. The first use of the Latin equivalent (vulgaris aerae)discovered so far was in a 1615 book by Johannes Kepler.Kepler uses it again in a 1617 table of ephemerides.A 1635 English edition of that book has the title page in English - so far, the earliest-found usage of Vulgar Era in English.

A 1701 book edited by John LeClerc includes "Before Christ according to the Vulgar Æra, 6".A 1716 book in English by Dean Humphrey Prideaux says, "before the beginning of the vulgar æra, by which we now compute the years from his incarnation."A 1796 book uses the term "vulgar era of the nativity".

The first so-far-discovered usage of "Christian Era" is as the Latin phrase aerae christianae on the title page of a 1584 theology book.In 1649, the Latin phrase æræ Christianæ appeared in the title of an English almanac.A 1652 ephemeris is the first instance so-far-found for English usage of "Christian Era".

The English phrase "common Era" appears at least as early as 1715 in a book on astronomy, used synonymously with "Christian Era" and "Vulgar Era".A 1759 history book uses common æra in a generic sense, to refer to the common era of the Jews.Common era and vulgar era are used as synonyms in 1770, in a translation of a book originally written in German.The 1797 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica uses the terms vulgar era and common era synonymously.

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",and also refers to the common era as a synonym for vulgar era with "the fact that our Lord was born on the 4th year before the vulgar era, called Anno Domini, thus making (for example) the 42d year from his birth to correspond with the 38th of the common era..."The Catholic Encyclopedia uses the sentence: "Foremost among these [various 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."During the 19th century, "Vulgar Era" came to be contrasted with "Christian Era", and "vulgar" came to mean "crudely indecent", thus no longer a synonym for "common".

The phrase "common era", in lower case, also appeared in the 19th century in a generic sense, not necessarily to refer to the Christian Era, but to any system of dates in common use throughout a civilization. Thus, "the common era of the Jews","the common era of the Mahometans","common era of the world","the common era of the foundation of Rome".When it did refer to the Christian Era, it was sometimes qualified, e.g., "common era of the Incarnation","common era of the Nativity",or "common era of the birth of Christ".

Some Jewish academics were already using the CE and BCE abbreviations by the mid-19th century, such as in 1856, when Rabbi and historian, Morris Jacob Raphall used the abbreviation in his book, Post-Biblical History of The Jews.

Other associations

An adapted translation of Common Era into Latin as Era Vulgaris was adopted in the 20th century by some followers of Aleister Crowley, and thus the abbreviation "e.v." or "EV" may sometimes be seen as a replacement for AD.


The terms "Common Era", "Anno Domini", "Before the Common Era" and "Before Christ" can be applied to dates that rely on either the Julian calendar or the Gregorian calendar. Modern dates are understood in the Western world to be in the Gregorian calendar, but for older dates writers should specify the calendar used. Dates in the Gregorian calendar in the Western world have always used the era designated in English as Anno Domini or Common Era, but over the millennia a wide variety of eras have been used with the Julian calendar.

Although Jews have their own Hebrew calendar, they often find it necessary to use the Gregorian Calendar as well. The reasons for some using Common Era notation are described below:Indeed, Common Era notation has also been in use for Hebrew lessons for "more than a century".

Some American academics in the fields of education and history have adopted CE and BCE notation, although there is some disagreement.The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, which is the leading publishing body of the Jehovah's Witnesses, uses CE and BCE exclusively in its publications.More visible uses of Common Era notation have recently surfaced at major museums in the English-speaking world: The Smithsonian Institutionmarker prefers Common Era usage, though individual museums are not required to use it.Furthermore, several style guides now prefer or mandate its usage.
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Even some style guides for Christian churches prefer its use: for example, the Episcopal Diocese Maryland Church News.

In the United States, the usage of the BCE/CE notation in textbooks is growing. Some publications have moved over to using it exclusively. For example, the 2007 World Almanac was the first edition to switch over to the BCE/CE usage, ending a 138-year usage of the traditional BC/AD dating notation. It is used by the College Board in its history tests,by the Norton Anthology of English Literature, and by the United States Naval Observatorymarker.Others have taken a different approach. The US-based History Channel uses BCE/CE notation in articles on non-Christian religious topics such as Jerusalem and Judaism.In June 2006, the Kentucky State School Board reversed its decision that would have included the designations BCE and CE as part of state law, leaving education of students about these concepts a matter of discretion at the local level.

Communist Eastern Germany used v. u. Z. (vor unserer Zeitrechnung, before our chronology) and u. Z. (unserer Zeitrechnung, of our chronology) instead of v. Chr. (vor Christus, before Christ) and n. Chr. (nach Christus/Christi Geburt, after Christ/the Nativity of Christ). The use of the terms still differs regionally and ideologically.

In Hungarymarker, similarly to the Bulgarian case, i. e. (időszámításunk előtt, before our era) and i. sz. (időszámításunk szerint, according to our era) are still widely used instead of traditional Kr. e. (Krisztus előtt, Before Christ) and Kr. u. (Krisztus után, After Christ), which were unofficially reinstituted after the Communist period.

In Asia, the Chinese use the term "Common Era (公元)". The Japanese use seireki (西暦), which translates to "Western Calendar". The Koreans use the word Seogi (서기, 西紀), which means "Western Era" for AD/CE and Kiwonjeon (기원전, 紀元前) which is an abbreviation of Seoryok Kiwonjeon (서력기원전, 西曆紀元前) which means "Before the Origin of the Western Calendar".


A range of arguments has been presented for the adoption of the Common Era notation. The label Anno Domini is almost certainly inaccurate; "scholars generally believe that Christ was born some years before A.D. 1, the historical evidence is too sketchy to allow a definitive dating."

It is argued that the use of BCE/CE shows sensitivity to those who use the same year numbering system as the one that originated with and is currently used by Christian, but who are not themselves Christian.Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan argued, "[T]he Christian calendar no longer belongs exclusively to Christians. People of all faiths have taken to using it simply as a matter of convenience. There is so much interaction between people of different faiths and cultures - different civilizations, if you like - that some shared way of reckoning time is a necessity. And so the Christian Era has become the Common Era."


Critics including astrobiologist Duncan Steel argue that if one is going to replace BC/AD with BCE/CE then one should reject all aspects of the dating system (including time of day, days of the week and months of the year) as they all have origins related to pagan, astrological, Jewish and Christian beliefs. Steel makes note of the consistency of the Quaker system (now rarely used), which removed all such references, and rejects religious arguments against BC/AD as selective.

Anthropologist Carol Delaney argues that the substitution of BC/AD to BCE/CE is merely a euphemism that conceals the political implications without modifying the actual source of contention.English language expert Kenneth G. Wilson speculated in his style guide that "if we do end by casting aside the A.D./B.C. convention, almost certainly some will argue that we ought to cast aside as well the conventional numbering system [that is, the method of numbering years] itself, given its Christian basis."

Raimon Panikkar claims that using the designation BCE/CE is a "return... to the most bigoted Christian colonialism" and offensive to non-Christians who have not been sharing the era.

Some critics assert that the use of identifiers which have common spellings is more ambiguous than the use of identifiers with divergent spellings. Both C.E. and B.C.E. have in common the letters "C.E.", which is more likely to cause confusion, they claim, than identifiers with clearly different spelling.

Christian opposition

Because the BC/AD notation is based on the supposed year of the conception or birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the removal of reference to him in era notation is perceived by some Christians as offensive.Some groups oppose the Common Era notation for explicitly religious reasons; for example, the Southern Baptist Convention supports retaining the BC/AD abbreviations as "a reminder of the preeminence of Christ and His gospel in world history". The Southern Baptist Convention has criticized the use of BCE and CE as being the result of "secularization, anti-supernaturalism, religious pluralism, and political correctness" and encourages its members to "retain the traditional method of dating and avoid this revisionism".


According to a Los Angeles Times report, it was a student's use of BCE/CE notation, inspired by its use within Wikipedia, which prompted the history teacher Andrew Schlafly to found Conservapedia, a cultural conservative wiki.One of its "Conservapedia Commandments" is that users must always apply BC/AD notation, since its sponsors perceive BCE/CE notation to "deny the historical basis" of the dating system.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Astronomical Almanac -- Online. (2009). United States Naval Observatory. s.v. calendar, Gregorian in Glossary.
  2. Two separate systems that also do not use religious titles, the astronomical system and the ISO 8601 standard do use a year zero. The year 1 BCE (identical to the year 1 BC) is represented as 0 in the astronomical system, and as 0000 in ISO 8601. Presently, ISO 8601 dating requires usage of the Gregorian calendar for all dates, however; whereas astronomical dating and Common Era dating allow usage of the Julian calendar for dates before 1582 CE.
  3. Oxford Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus. (American edition) (1997). New York: Oxford University Press. s.v. A.D.
  4. .
  5. Anno Domini (which means in the year of the/our Lord) Translated as "in the year of (Our) Lord" in Blackburn, B & Holford-Strevens, L, (2003), The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, 782.
  6. Pedersen, O., (1983), "The Ecclesiastical Calendar and the Life of the Church" in Coyne, G.V. et al. (Eds.) The Gregorian Reform of the Calendar, Vatican Observatory, p. 50.
  7. Doggett, L.E., (1992), "Calendars" in Seidelmann, P.K., The Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac, Sausalito CA: University Science Books, p. 579.
  8. Pedersen, O., (1983), "The Ecclesiastical Calendar and the Life of the Church" in Coyne, G.V. et al. (Eds.) The Gregorian Reform of the Calendar, Vatican Observatory, p. 52.
  9. Bede wrote of the Incarnation of Jesus, but treated it as synonymous with birth. Blackburn, B & Holford-Strevens, L, (2003), The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, 778.
  10. As noted in Zero#History of zero, the use of zero in Western civilization was uncommon before the 12th century.
  11. It is relatively recently the word vulgar has come to mean "crudely indecent"
  12. In Latin, Common Era is written as Vulgaris Aerae. It also occasionally appears as æræ vulgaris, aerae vulgaris, aeram vulgarem, anni vulgaris, vulgaris aerae Christianae, and anni vulgatae nostrae aerae Christianas.
  13. *Translation of title (per 1635 English edition): New Ephemerids for the Celestiall Motions, for the Yeeres of the Vulgar Era 1617–1636
  14. Merriam Webster accepts the date of 1716, but does not give the source.
  15. Before Christ and Christian Era appear on the same page 252, while Vulgar Era appears on page 250
  16. In this case, their refers to the Jews.
  17. The term common era does not appear in this book; the term Christian era [lowercase] does appear a number of times. Nowhere in the book is the abbreviation explained or expanded directly.
  18. (Registration required.)
  19. See, for example, the Society for Historical Archaeology states in its more recent style guide "Do not use C.E. (current era) ... or B.C.E.; convert these expressions to A.D. and B.C." . Whereas the American Anthropological Association style guide takes a different approach.
  20. [1] [2] Also see, for example, comment "In this publication, instead of the traditional 'AD' and 'BC', the more accurate 'CE' (Common Era) and 'BCE' (before the Common Era) are used." in The Bible — God's Word or Man's?, p. 16 footnote, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
  21. ;
  22. Panikkar, Raimon. Christophany: The Fullness of Man (Maryville, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), 173.
  23. Conservapedia Commandments at Conservapedia

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