What Do AD and BC Mean?

Understanding our systems of recording time is an essential part of our modern lives. Among the most common parlance are the terms AD and BC, used to denote periods within our current timeline. But what do these abbreviations mean, exactly? This article aims to clear up the mystery behind these ubiquitous terms.

First off, “AD” stands for the Latin phrase “Anno Domini,” translating to “In the year of our Lord.” It, thus, denotes the years following the supposed birth year of Jesus Christ. When we say it is 2022 AD, we mean it’s been 2022 years since Christ’s birth.

It’s worth mentioning that our current Gregorian calendar system, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, is based on this concept. But attempts to pinpoint Christ’s birth to a specific date have resulted in a few years of possible error, which has implications on the dating system as a whole. This means that Jesus Christ might have been born a few years before what we consider 1 AD.

On the other hand, “BC” stands for “Before Christ” in English (from the Latin “Ante Christum”). These letters are utilized to mark the years before the birth of Jesus. For example, if we say it’s 500 BC, we mean the event happened 500 years before the birth of Christ.

In essence, the AD and BC system divides history into two large segments related to the birth of Jesus Christ: the era before his birth (BC) and the era after his birth (AD). It’s also worth noting that there’s no zero year in this system, meaning the year preceding 1 AD is 1 BC.

In more recent times, mainly in academic and scientific contexts, there has been a shift towards using the terms “Common Era” (CE) and “Before Common Era” (BCE) instead of AD and BC, respectively. This change is predominantly due to the desire for a more culturally and religiously neutral system of dating. Regardless, the numeric value remains the same; for example, 500 BC is the same as 500 BCE, and 2022 AD is the same as 2022 CE.

In conclusion, both AD and BC are time markers utilized to define our current existing timeline related to Jesus Christ’s supposed birth year. This dating method, while not without its challenges and potential inaccuracies, has been widely used for centuries and remains substantially integrated into our understanding of history. Whether expressed as AD and BC, or CE and BCE, they continue to play an instrumental role in charting the course of human civilization. Thus, an understanding of these seemingly simple terms reinforces a deeper comprehension of our shared global chronology.