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Meaning of AD and BC in Time

Meaning of AD and BC in Time

Looking for the meaning of AD and BC in time? This article is drafted to unpack the meaning of AD and BC in time. It seeks to shed more illuminate your understanding about the current time structure that exists. Find absolutely revealing responses to several niggly questions on your mind regarding the subject matter.

What is the Meaning of the labels “AD” and “BC”

Let’s start by understanding what the labels “AD” and “BC” mean. Each and every year in history has been assigned a number. For example, the year label given to this year is 2023. Question is; where did this number come from?

The decision was made during the middle ages (The period of European history extending from about 500 to 1400–1500 CE is traditionally known as the Middle Ages. The term was first used by 15th-century scholars to designate the period between their own time and the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The period is often considered to have its own internal divisions: either early and late or early, central or high, and late.) that in order to assign numbers to each of the years, they had to start counting from a single point in time. Each event in history could thus be numbered depending on how many years there were between that particular event and the chosen starting point or reference point in time. For example, you could use the year you were born as a starting or reference point and you could tell me that you got to the university 15 years after you were born or your mother was born 24 years before you were born.

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Which Event in History Was Used a the Starting Point for AD and BC system

The question that arises then is; which point or event in history should be used as the starting/reference point? The decision to number all years was made in Europe, the choice of a starting point also remained largely within their remit. The decision was thus made that the single point in time to be used as the starting point should be one that they deemed the most important in human history- The Birth of Christ!

BC System of Numbering and How Counting is Done

So they labelled events that occurred prior to the birth of Christ as BC (Before the birth of Christ). For example, if a historical even like a battle happened 10 years before the of Jesus Christ, they called it 10 BC – 10 years before the birth of Christ. Thus, intrinsic to this system, the years before the birth of Christ count backwards just like negative numbers. What this means is that years with larger number in BC are precedent to years with smaller numbers BC. For example, Julio Caesar was born in 100BC and died in 44BC.

The letters AD (an abbreviation for the Latin word, “anno domini”“Year of our Lord” were used for all events that happened post the birth of Jesus. The Lord in the phrase refers to Jesus. If for example a war was fought 15 years after the birth of Christ, the year is called AD15. Our current system of numbering the years flow from this! For example, the year this article was written is 2023- meaning two thousand and twenty three years after the birth of Jesus. The letters AD does not stand for after death as most people wrongly assume. If that were the case, what it would mean is that a large chunk of the entire life of Jesus- about 33 years have not been accounted for if BC stands for all the even prior to the birth of Jesus.

All events in history can be given one of two labels; BC or AD representing all events prior to the birth of Jesus and all events after the birth of Jesus respectively. The Great Pyramids of Egypt are believed to have built 2600 before the birth of Jesus thus 2600BC whilst the Colosseum of Rome was built 80 years after the birth of Jesus thus AD80.

How to Write BC and AD Numbering System

In writing the letters BC the letter ‘BC’ are placed after the number for example 24BC whilst the letters are placed before the numbers for AD. For example AD86. In instances where there are no letters attached to the numbers, the reference is generally AD. Also note that there is no year 0 for this numbering system. They years prior to the birth of Jesus is labelled 1BC and is followed by AD1.

What is the Meaning of CE and BCE

The letters CE and BCE are relatively new, people have over millennia (1500years) humans have relied on the AD and BC system to number years. The religious connotations that greet the use of these abbreviations in the 20th century caused some people to search to a somewhat ‘neutral’ coinage and as a result made the decision to replace AD and BC with terms that were silent on mentioning Jesus Christ so replaced the BC with BCE (Before Common Era) and AD with CE (Common Era). The letters are both placed after the year for both BCE and CE. Notwithstanding the change in nomenclature, the single point in history used as reference point still remained the birth of Jesus. For instance, if an event occurred 16 years after the birth of Christ, it could be labelled AD16 or 16CE. If an event happened 11 years before the birth of Jesus, it could be labelled 10BC or 10BCE. BCE and CE have gained popular use in recent years.

It must be noted that, we human beings are constantly evolving in our understanding of the world around us thus should as little surprise if we wake up one morning and told that the meaning of AD and BC in time no longer serves our purpose!

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