Re: BC/AD or BCE/CE--What's the difference?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Jan 31 2000 - 20:12:20 EST

At 6:20 PM -0600 1/31/00, Grant wrote:
> What is the difference between BC/AD and BCE/CE? For example, I have read
>that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. Yet, other texts say 70 CE.
>Is it a word preference or an important distinction? If so, is it important
>to use the distinction?

This is not a B-Greek subject at all (of course!), but it's a simple enough
question to answer; BCE/CE mean exactly the same distinction as BC/AD; CE
represents the phrase "common era" so that BCE is "before the Common Era."
This designation is preferred by many who are not Christian believers and
by some who are Christian believers who do not accept that the continuity
of human time eras ought to be governed by a judgment of faith; they
recognize that the chronology "enshrined" in the BC/AD is is so widely
(even if NOT universally) accepted that it can't readily be changed (any
more than Americans seem able to shift over to the more rational metric
system), but that those who use it ought not, they feel, to feel compelled
to acknowledge, when they use it, an item of faith that they don't hold.

I find myself using both schemes quite inconsistently to an embarrassing
degree, but at least I know I'm being inconsistent.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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