Re: BC/AD vs BCE/CE

Subject: Re: BC/AD vs BCE/CE
From: Richard Yanowitz <ryanowit -at- NYCT -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 16:43:41 -0400

At 09:22 AM 10/23/97 -0600, you wrote:
>some publications use the designations B.C.E.
>(Before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) instead of B.C. (Before
>Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini)
>
>...On the other hand, I also know a few Christian journals use
>B.C.E./C.E. because it's slightly more accurate (most scholars believe
>Jesus was actually born in 1 or 2 B.C. ... or should I say B.C.E.)
>
>Any thoughts on this subject?

Both approaches load the psychological question. In either case, we know
we're looking at dates relative to Christianity, and this intrinsically
colors our view. For ex., how many of us can read histories of Republican
and Imperial Rome and, as we encounter dates, not see the history relative
to the birth of Christ and the inception (and growth) of Christianity. Yet
of course to most Romans after Christ (and all before) their consciousness
of cultural and historical evolution was a function of a long past that had
nothing to do with Christianity.

The situation would be no different in principle (only in the cultural
reference) if we used another people's or religion's calendar.

(I also wonder how many of us, when we see "BCE or CE" think of the "C" as
"Common" rather than "Christian." I always have to think twice to remember
the difference. What does "Common" refer to, anyway?)

I don't however see any likelihood, at least in western culture, of
creating a new dating system to ward off cultural bias, desirable as that
would be. (And I'm less concerned, in this case, with the bias towards
Christianity--unfair as that is--than the bias that causes skewing of
historical interpretation and perspective; the first bias is easier to
articulate and distance oneself from, but the 2nd inevitably colors our
understanding of where we've come from and the myriad of consequences that
has for thinking about how we are and where we want to go). In light of
that unlikelihood, I doubt it matters which system one uses. At one level,
I'm glad to see the minor cultural adjustment encouraged by BCE/CE; at
another I dislike because it gives the illusion of resolving a problem that
remains unresolved; and at another, less savory, level my scholarly
background makes me feel more secure with the traditional BC/AD.



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