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The Common Era (CE), also known as the Christian Era and sometimes as the Current Era, is the period beginning with the year 1 onwards. The term is used for a system of reckoning years that is chronologically equivalent to the anno Domini (AD) (Latin for "in the year of [our] Lord") system, but with less overt religious implications. Although common era was a term first used by some Christians in an age when Christianity was the common religion of the West, it is now a term preferred by some as a religiously neutral alternative. It has its equivalents in other languages. For example, Chinese uses its literal translation, gōngyuán (公元), for date notation.
On (rare) occasions, one may find the abbreviation "e.v." or "EV" instead of "CE"; this stands for "Era Vulgaris," the Latin translation of "Common Era."
CE and BCE came into use in the last few decades, perhaps originally in Ancient Near Eastern studies, where (a) there are many Jewish scholars and (b) dating according to a Christian era is irrelevant. It is indeed a question of sensitivity.
However, the term "common era" has earlier antecedents. A 1716 book by English Bishop John Prideaux says, "The vulgar era, by which we now compute the years from his incarnation." In 1835, in his book Living Oracles, Alexander Campbell, wrote "The vulgar Era, or Anno Domini; the fourth year of Jesus Christ, the first of which was but eight days." In its article on Chronology, the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia uses the sentence: "Foremost among these (dating eras) is that which is now adopted by all civilized peoples and known as the Christian, Vulgar or Common Era, in the twentieth century of which we are now living."
The first known Jewish use of this practice is from an inscription on a gravestone in a Jewish cemetery in Plymouth, England:
Here is buried his honour Judah ben his honour Joseph, a prince and honoured amongst philanthropists, who executed good deeds, died in his house in the City of Bath, Tuesday, and was buried here on Sunday, 19 Sivan in the year 5585. In memory of Lyon Joseph Esq (merchant of Falmouth, Cornwall). who died at Bath June AM 5585/VE 1825. Beloved and respected.
This inscription, like most, uses the Jewish calendar (5585), but ends by providing the common year (1825); presumably the "VE" means "Vulgar Era", and presumably VE was used instead of AD in order to avoid the Christian implications.
Jewish and Christian scholars have developed the BCE/CE terms for the benefit of cross-cultural dialogue. Some Islamic scholars and others outside the Judeo-Christian religious traditions have used the system. Some Christians have used the term CE to mean "Christian era." Most non-religious academics in the fields of history, theology, archaeology and anthropology have also in recent decades begun using the system.
More visible uses of common era notation have recently surfaced at major museums in the English-speaking world: Canada's Royal Ontario Museum adopted BCE/CE in 2002 , and the Smithsonian Institution also prefers common era usage, though individual museums are not required to use it. As well, many style guides now prefer or mandate its usage.  Some style guides for Christian churches even mandate its use; for example, that of Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.(pdf)
- Chicago Manual of Style on usage of CE/AD in the United States (see eleventh question)
- Whatever happened to B.C. and A.D., and why? (United Church of Christ)
- The use of "CE" and "BCE" to identify dates (Religious Tolerance.org)
- Political correctness advocates rail against the Western calendar (Global Language Monitor, second article)
- The 'Common Era' - a Secular Term for Year Definition (h2g2 - BBC)
|This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Common Era. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Ancient Near East, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.|