To BC or not BCE that is the Question
By: Donald Frazer (Egyptology Man)
While studying books about Ancient Egypt or any history books for that matter, you may be annoyed to find that some of the modern books, particularly those of American source talk about BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era). American sources of historical information taken from the internet, particularly Wikipedia are particularly guilty of this. All of the books I have sourced from the British Museum, I am pleased to discover use the classical terms of BC and AD. Even throughout the museum is no reference to BCE or CE. The terms BCE and CE in place of BC and AD, are not only starting to make my teeth itch, I have started to find offensive.
I have visited many ancient parts of the world but I have never heard the terms BCE or CE mentioned, except on a few TV programmes and once on a visit to the O2 Millennium Dome displaying the Tutankhamen Artefacts.
Whilst at the exhibition, someone reading a caption at the foot of a statue asked me “What does BCE mean?” I said, “It is a term used by the politically correct police who think it is offensive to non-Christians to see BC”. They looked at me shocked. What other answer was there, will we have to rewrite all the history books, and burn the rest? Are there going to be “Date Police”, who will force us to take a chisel to all the old monuments and buildings to scrub out AD and replace it by CE.
I have worked with texts which use the BCE notation and see no advantage in it at all. Some texts even alternate between BCE and BC notation on the same page. It is as if the authors were in too much of a rush to edit out BC properly before the Date Police broke the front door down.
Allegedly, the justification for using BCE and CE is the politically correct but indefensible idea that reference to Jesus is offensive to non-Christians, so we must walk softly around their tender, mostly secular humanist, feelings. I am not a religious fanatic, but I still go to church when there is a wedding or a funeral, I went a christening once, but don’t remember much as I was a baby at the time!
Who has instigated this, abbreviation? Is it non-Christian ethnic groups? Is it faceless Government bureaucrats in some quango trying to justify their existence, or is it those who would like to pretend we live in a post-Christian era?
Whatever the reasons for removing the religious significance from our calendar, it would be very upsetting to many if they only realised what is happening.
Most people can work out that AD dates belong to the last 2000 years or so, even though the actual birth date of Jesus may not be that accurate. Allowing for this and the fact that the calendar was changed in the 16th century, we all know what is meant by BC and AD. All dates of events before the 16th century are only markers; they are all wrong if you try to count the absolute days in a year before this time period.
In this BCE dating system there is nothing significant to distinguish the difference between the 1st century BCE and CE, except, for the birth of Jesus.
Within the time span there are no major changes in empires, technical advancements, innovations, migrations, invasions, plagues or famines, the only note worthy event is the birth of Jesus.
As a result of the Roman re-design of the calendar, today we use the Gregorian calendar; we do not ask the Chinese to change their calendar in case someone is offended by the year of the pig or whatever; we do not ask the Jews or Muslims to alter their calendars.
I don’t believe that using BC and AD offends people who adhere to faiths other than Christianity. There is a tendency to alter terminology to avoid any imagined slight that might possibly offend someone; in my experience they are rarely bothered.
Some religions are highly protective of their traditions and beliefs. They flaunt it for all to see and it can be very risky for anyone to show the slightest lack of respect for their beliefs. They do not concede anything by their forceful views and as a consequence are gaining ground all over the world.
As a consequence many passive religions are remaining static, or, like Christianity, are facing a slow and lingering death. Whatever our faith, we should all be proud of our beliefs and encourage people to be tolerant. We should not attempt to rewrite history or erase our heritage in an attempt to be politically correct.