Originally Published 7 May 2010 on the old Athanasius Contra Mundum
I’ve been searching through a lot of historical documentaries lately, and I’ve been noticing some still use the dating “B.C.” and “A.D.” (Before Christ and Anno Domini), while others have switched over completely to the politically correct “B.C.E.” and “C.E.” (Before the Common Era and Common Era respectively).
One of the reasons I detest this change is not because some people are not Christian and don’t want reminders of the Church even in their dates, nor is it because some people think it shortchanges other religions. It is for the simple reason that it is dishonest.
“Common era” has been chosen to replace the name of Christ in the dating because modern man in his post Christian culture wants to hear nothing of God, but thinks it too difficult to replace the calendar wholesale, so has decided to replace the central event of history with a dating that reflects a common understanding of peoples.
Firstly, it was not common. Christianity as a small Asiatic religion, was common to none. Heavily persecuted by the Jews prior to the fall of Jerusalem, embraced by a few Greeks and a few Romans, and eventually making small headway into Asia and India, the Church was not the common religion of any one place in the Roman Empire, nor in the Eastern nations in which it took root such as Armenia and India. The common culture was paganism, with a wide array of mystery cults which ultimately constituted the same thing. By the 4th century, Christian culture could be said to be an up and coming culture alongside pagan culture, by the 5th it was the dominant culture. Thus, the common culture of the 1st century was no longer common in the West, and this takes no account of India and China, or other areas of the known world. Therefore there is simply nothing “common” about the year 1 in their CE system.
Then the common date of the known world in the 8th century was 78, because most of the known world was controlled by Muslims who date the 1st year of their calendar from the هِجْرَة (Hijrah), which took place in approximately the year 622 of our calendar. Again, the common culture for those parts of the world in the 1st, 4th and 6th centuries, was no longer common.
As already mentioned, Chinese and Indian calendars are thousands of years older than anything used in the west, so none of the Western or Middle Eastern culture and religion was common to them in any manner, even at the present.
Thus, the term and concept of “Common Era” is nothing more than nonsense. There was nothing common to anyone in that time except one thing: Jesus Christ our God and Saviour, the only thing not mentioned in BCE and CE. For, though we showed above that the Christian religion was not the common religion in the year 1, nor common amongst anyone until the 4th century, and then scarcely common in the whole world, nevertheless in real terms, as the true light that enlightens every man, whether he knows it or not or cares or not (John I: 5), he is the redeemer of mankind and on that basis common. Unless, of course, you don’t believe, then you wouldn’t consider Christ common to anyone. But then, if you don’t believe, why do you want a calendar that is based around nothing other than Christ’s birth? In this the French Revolution was far more consistent, which produced its own calendar making (albeit backdating since they came up with this after the revolution started) The year of the storming of the Bastille year I, then year II, and so on. They even renamed the days of the week, celebrating feasts of the state and in honor of reason.
If modern intellectuals were going to offer something honest, they could at least offer alternatives to the Christian system such as dating back to the founding of Rome, or if that is too Western and exclusionary it could be nationalized so that we date the years from the Founding of the US, or Columbus, and in some other country from the founding of their country, etc. The Romans counted the years in which various Consuls ruled, and later in so many years of certain emperors. The Greeks counted the years based on the Olympics. Muslim countries, as we have seen, count from the Hijrah, which is the foundation of their religion. Of course, that is what was done before the only truly common system of dating, counting the years prior to and after the birth of our Lord, was established.
Now I do not advocate that they change this, I am only making the general point, what is the founding of Rome to China? What is the Hijrah to the Vikings? What is Constantine to the Hindus? Jesus Christ however is common to all, for He is the saviour of all men, and irrespective of my being an American and someone else being Chinese or still another from Sub-Saharan Africa, we have Christ in common. Thus if the secularists truly want a common era, they need to create one as their predecessors did during the French Revolution.
Thus, for the rest of us, we ought to stick with BC and AD, it is the only truly common era. Is it an article of faith? No. The first 6 centuries knew nothing of it. It just makes sense.
Click here for Philip Campbell’s rant on the BC/CE issue.