A.D., not “after death.”

Posted: April 2, 2011 in Did you know?, History Related
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The dating method we use for history; B.C. and A.D.[1] may not mean what you thought it meant. In school I was always taught the B.C. meant “Before Christ,” and A.D. meant “After Death.” Well, the A.D. part is actually incorrect. It doesn’t mean “After Death.” A.D.  actually stand for Anno Domini or “year of our Lord.” And although we’ve used it for quite some time it is actually not accurate to the date of when Christ was born.

Christian scholar Dionysius Exigus from the 6th century tried to calculate (or infer) the date of Christ’s birth. Don’t forget that in this time there was no exact dating method. Many ancient manuscripts would date a time period by the rein of certain Kings. For example, a manuscript might say, “…during the eighth year of the reign of King Cyrus.” Another manuscript might say, “Cyrus was the fourth king to reign over the kingdom.” So as you can see, instead of having an exact dating method, historians have to infer dates based off the information given. For my examples the historian would have to know when the kings prior to Cyrus reigned, and how long their reign was, and then from there they could determine when the eighth year of Cyrus’ reign was.

Unfortunately Dionysius Exigus was close… but off. His calculation of the birth of Christ is what we base the B.C. and A.D. system off of, but Christ was actually born prior to A.D. 1. We know this because the Bible says the Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod, and we know from the historical account of Josephus that King Herod died in 1 B.C.,[2] therefore Jesus would have to have been born prior to or during 1B.C.

For centuries people used the term “year of our Lord” when giving a date. However, this later turned to “after death,” and now it’s referred to as “common era.” So it’s pretty clear that historians are trying to remove Christianity from the dating system. It’s even been said that the entire dating system would be changed if it wasn’t for the fact that it is so embedded into most societies. But if there was one event in the history of the world that had most impact and is most recognized world-wide it is life of Jesus Christ regardless of one’s religious affiliation, if any. It’s only natural that His life would be used as reference point to date things. But I guess people get offended when having to use a religious reference when they don’t believe in that particular religion, so it has to be done away with, as is a common theme in our history. Not sure what happened to “tolerance,” but apparently it’s been redefined… but that’s a whole other can of worms to open on another day. J

[1] In an attempt to remove religion from historical dating, many scholars and textbooks now use B.C.E. (Before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era).

[2] The year of Herod’s death is often quoted as 4 B.C. This is because the historical work of Josephus was mis-copied in the 15th century. All accounts of Josephus after the 15th century infer a date of Herod’s death to 4 B.C., while the accounts prior to the 15th century infer a date of 1 B.C.


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