B.C? A.D? What do they mean? When did they come into use? Inquiring minds want to know!
14 Blessed is the one who always trembles [a constant state of awe] before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
The question came up in Sunday’s Cool (Sunday School) about these designations. We were all a little vague on their definitions and history, so here’s the scoop from LIVESCIENCE.
The terms “A.D.” and “B.C.” have their roots in Christianity.
“A.D.” stands for anno domini (Latin for “in the year of the lord”),
and it refers specifically to the birth of Jesus Christ.
“B.C.” stands for “before Christ.”
In the early Middle Ages, the most important calculation…was the problem of when to celebrate Easter. The First Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, had decided that Easter would fall on the Sunday following the full moon that follows the spring equinox. Computus (Latin for computation) was the procedure for calculating this most important date, and the computations were set forth in documents known as Easter tables. It was on one such table that, in A.D. 525, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus (sometimes called Dennis the Small) of Scythia Minor introduced the A.D. system, counting the years since the birth of Christ…Dionysius never said how he determined the date of Jesus’ birth, but he may have used surviving writings from early Christians…Dionysius attempted to set A.D. 1 as the year of Jesus Christ’s birth, but was off in his estimation by a few years, with modern estimates placing Christ’s birth at around 4 B.C.
The Star of Bethlehem uses astronomical computer programs to pinpoint the prophetic fulfillment of the stars in conjunction with the birth of Christ to June, 3 B.C.
Here’s an interesting tidbit:
The addition of the B.C. component happened two centuries after Dionysius, when the Venerable Bede of Northumbria published his “Ecclesiastical History of the English People” in 731…The work brought the A.D. system to the attention of more people and expanded it to include years before A.D. 1. Prior years were numbered to count backward to indicate the number of years an event had occurred “before Christ” or “B.C…There was no “year zero” in Bede’s updated system, as the concept of the number zero had not appeared in Western Europe.
The rest of the story:
The B.C./A.D. system became more popular in the ninth century after Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne adopted the system for dating acts of government throughout Europe.
By the 15th century, all of Western Europe had adopted the B.C./A.D. system. The system’s inclusion was implicit in the 16th-century introduction of the Gregorian calendar and it later would become an international standard in 1988 when the International Organization for Standardization released ISO 8601, which describes an internationally accepted way to represent dates and times.
Want to know what 500 B.C. was called in, well, 500 B.C? Go to Quora.
It is interesting to me that most of the world uses a calendar based upon the birth of Christ. Just sayin.
Abba, Your kingdom is spreading around the world! May we be an active part of that growth as we make new disciples and build each other up in the faith. Mobilize us and move us out, O Lord! People need to know the hope they have in Jesus. Amen.