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When does BCE begin and why then? It seems arbitrary and possibly prejudicial or anti-prejudicial. Also confusing to the reader who may be culturally acquainted with BC and AD.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this question is not really about the English language. Perhaps it's better suited for the Philosophy SE? – JJ for Transparency and Monica Apr 17 '18 at 17:13
  • I'm sure this is about the English Language. Except that one knows that BCE is equivalent to BC as a time reference, seeing the expression may be confounding. There is almost no Philosophical or Religious flavor to the use of BC or AD as time markers, but, the use of CE and BCE attempts to create such a flavor. – J. Taylor Apr 17 '18 at 17:27
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    "There is almost no Philosophical or Religious flavor to the use of BC or AD as time markers, but, the use of CE and BCE attempts to create such a flavor." I think you have that reversed? AD translates to "In the year of the Lord", and BC is "Before Christ". – jimm101 Apr 17 '18 at 17:31
  • " I think you have that reversed? AD translates to "In the year of the Lord", and BC is "Before Christ""......Of course. But who in the last 300 years has used the terms except as the accepted markers for time?.. I think very few. General schooling has made these terms quite secular. – J. Taylor Apr 17 '18 at 17:42
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    It might be useful to note there are a multitude of calendars that have been used over the centuries (e.g., en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_calendars). The choice or manner in which time is organized is never arbitrary and does, indeed, reflect a dominant culture and/or social structure. In that sense, calendars are biased. If there is one thing in common or true for all it's that the organizing principles are either lunar (the phases of the moon) or solar (the earth's passage around the sun) and sometimes both. Exceptions to this rule include sidereal time, anti-sidereal time, etc. – DJohnson Apr 17 '18 at 19:35
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BCE is used specifically to allow the speaker/writer/reader to reference the same commonly-used time scale and reference base whilst avoiding any explicit appearance of acceptance or endorsement of Christian religious doctrine, especially where such would be considered sacrilegious in some other religious traditions.

This useage has been in routine employ in the non-denominational writings of religious scholars and in some of the academic world for a very long time.

In fact, the expression has been traced back to 1615, when it first appeared in a book by Johannes Kepler as the Latin usage vulgaris aerae, and to 1635 in English as "Vulgar Era". The term "Common Era" can be found in English as early as 1708, and became more widely used in the mid-19th century by Jewish academics.

In the later 20th century, the use of CE and BCE was popularized in academic and scientific publications, and more generally by authors and publishers wishing to emphasize secularism or sensitivity to non-Christians, by not explicitly referencing Jesus as "Christ" and Dominus ("Lord") through use of the abbreviation "AD".

  • If people think they know what BCE and CE mean, they'd probably come up with "before the Christian era" and "Christian era". – Xanne Apr 17 '18 at 19:51
  • That is a commonly-used paraphrasis, yes. – GerardFalla Apr 17 '18 at 19:58

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