Friday, March 17, 2017

Common Era vs. Annu Domini vs. Vulgar Era

If you think CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before Common Era) is just liberal revisionist history, I have some bad news for you. The first recorded instance of these numbering systems happened in 1708, and B/CE is just one of many epithets that humanity has used to wrap its collective head around the passage of time.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi Lying on the Sand Under White Cloud Blue Sky
I looked for a relevant picture for this post, I really did.
CE was used frequently in the 1800s, but not necessarily in the 'common era of Christ' sense. CE was used to internally date the years of a specific nation or epoch, such as the Roman Empire. And while CE has certainly been applied to Christianity, it isn't exclusive to that religion. CE is used today as an inclusive system of dating, because, now don't freak out, while Christianity has had an enormous impact on the world, it didn't quite get everywhere at the same time. If we were to measure time by the arrival of Christianity, the Roman world would be way ahead of everywhere, and barbaric outliers like Australia would still be in the 1100s.

Now, I was personally excited by the term 'Vulgar Era', thinking it was some sort of shade throwing, back handed, snarky system. Unfortunately, Common Era poorly translated into Latin means 'Era Vulgaris', which ends up as Vulgar Era (VE), because vulgar doesn't always mean bad. So the term 'Vulgar Era' wasn't intentionally meant as an insult. HOWEVER, in the 1800s Jews started using VE to denote years in the western calendar. And after all Christians have put the Jews through, I think that's pretty fair.

Now, as you might imagine, there's a bit of controversy surrounding this, because, as always, whenever historians try to draw attention away from the majority group (Christians), the majority freaks out, because what do you mean the world isn't all about them?

Free stock photo of animal, dog, pet, park
There's just no way of physically demonstrating this concept?
And all the 'How to Blog' sites say I should use pictures.
So have some corgis.
It's understandable though, why some people prefer to use B/CE. It makes history more accessible and inclusive to non-Christians. It's useful in scientific texts, which don't always acknowledge religion. The biggest non-religious reason for opposition to this system is that since BCE and CE are only one letter off, it could be confusing. Which is fair.

Personally, I grew up using BC/AD, and I didn't really come into contact with the concept of Common Era dating until high school, and I tend to use BC/AD out of habit (a habit I'm trying to break). However, I think the use of B/CE is a good step forward to making history more objective, and less Christian oriented. I think that by removing religion from our historical dating system we can more objectively look at the less savory parts of Christian history, which, for the sake of truth and knowledge, is something that is badly needed.

Common Era

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