AD and BC

For as long as there have been calendars, there have been arguments about calendars.  Early on in Human history, we developed a need to measure the passing years, so that we’d be able to track when to plan the crops, who’s got seniority, and when we qualify for Social Security.  Once we had established the length of a year roughly 365 days, it was necessary to establish some sort of arbitrary numbering system.  And in different parts of the world, different systems have been developed.

In the Western world, and for the sake of convenience and commerce, most of the rest of the world, the current year, 2003 AD is measured from the birth of Christ.  The AD stands for Anno Domini, or “year of the Lord.”  Years before Christ are numbered in reverse, and marked with the letters BC, which mean, well, Before Christ. 

But it wasn’t always that way.  The ancient Romans measured years AUC or Ab Urbe Condita, from the founding of the City of Rome, which corresponds to 753 BC.  But the changeover to AD and BC didn’t really happen until a sixth century monk named Dionysius established the year of Christ’s birth.  A century and a half later, the Venerable Bede worked to encourage the adoption of the AD/BC numbering.

One significant problem:  Dionysius made some errors in his calculations.  Scholars tell us that Jesus Christ was most likely born between 7 and 4 BC.  So, although all our modern dates are at least indirectly in reference to the Savior’s birth, that date is off by several years.  A reminder, perhaps, that all we do is in relation to this central event in human history. Even if our reckoning is a bit off.