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Ed Driscoll

B.C. and A.D.? Academia Says RIP

December 7th, 2005 - 9:40 am

A few times recently, I’ve come across essays on the Web concerning ancient history, listing the birth and death years of famous men of the late Roman era followed not with B.C. and A.D., but the letters B.C.E. and C.E.

As usual, I’m late to the party, but an Associated Press article explains the latest round of newspeak from academia’s P.C. cleanup police:

In certain precincts of a world encouraged to embrace differences, Christ is out.The terms “B.C.” and “A.D.” increasingly are shunned by certain scholars.

Educators and historians say schools from North America to Australia have been changing the terms “Before Christ,” or B.C., to “Before Common Era,” or B.C.E., and “anno Domini” (Latin for “in the year of the Lord”) to “Common Era.” In short, they’re referred to as B.C.E. and C.E.

The life of Christ still divides the epochs, but the change has stoked the ire of Christians and religious leaders who see it as an attack on a social and political order that has been in place for centuries.

For more than a century, Hebrew lessons have used B.C.E. and C.E., with C.E. sometimes referring to Christian Era.

This raises the question: Can old and new coexist in harmony, or must one give way to the other to reflect changing times and attitudes?

The terms B.C. and A.D. have clear Catholic roots. Dionysius Exiguus, an abbot in Rome, devised them as a way to determine the date for Easter for Pope St. John I. The terms were continued under the Gregorian Calendar, created in 1582 under Pope Gregory XIII.

Although most calendars are based on an epoch or person, B.C. and A.D. have always presented a particular problem for historians: There is no year zero; there’s a 33-year gap, reflecting the life of Christ, dividing the epochs. Critics say that’s additional reason to replace the Christian-based terms.

“When Jews or Muslims have to put Christ in the middle of our calendar … that’s difficult for us,” said Steven M. Brown, dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.

The new terms were introduced by academics in the 1990s in public elementary and high school classrooms.

In New York, the terms are entering public classrooms through textbooks and worksheets, but B.C.E. and C.E. are not part of the state’s official curriculum, and there is no plan to debate the issue, said state Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman.

“The standard textbooks primarily used in New York use the terms A.D. and B.C.,” Mr. Burman said. Schools, however, may choose to use the new terms, although B.C. and A.D. will continue to be used in the state Regents exams, many of which are required for high school graduation.

Candace de Russy, a national writer on education and Catholic issues and a trustee for the State University of New York, doesn’t accept the notion of fence-straddling.

“The use of B.C.E. and C.E. is not mere verbal tweaking; rather it is integral to the leftist language police — a concerted attack on the religious foundation of our social and political order,” she said.

I realize by blogging about this stuff, I risk someone thinking that I’m off handling snakes or speaking in tongues. In actuality, I’m not that religious a guy. But I do see all of the attempts by the left to destroy Western Civilization, which for thousands of years has been built on religion, and can add-up both the attacks, and the damage they inflict. We can already see how badly the post-religious EU is faltering. Is this America’s future as well?G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.”

Or as one blogger wrote a few months ago:

Leave it to the scholars to try and change the wording in our dating system. Yes, the dating system that was designed around Christianity and has been going strong for around 2005 years is under attack.B.C., or Before Christ has been used since Roman times around the same time Constantine converted to Christianity. Dionysius Exiguus, a monk from Russia who died about 544, was asked by Pope John I to set out the dates for Easter from the years 527 to 626. This is where our current B.C., A.D. system originated. 1,463 years later, in 1990, the P.C. police want to change it to B.C.E. or Before Common Era. They want to push the Son out as well as the Father.

A.D., contrary to popular belief, does not stand for After Death. It means Anno Domini, which is Latin for “in the year of the Lord”. It is used to signify the Birth, not the death of Christ. This is the crux of the professorial request to change time. You see, this leaves a lapse of 33 years (due to His lifespan) in history set in limbo. It’s missing time to scientists and they just can’t leave anything out of place. It’s not scientific. The replacement for this, and the time change, is C.E. or Common Era.

I’m rather surprised that they would use this as most professors and scientists will quickly equate CE with the “clear entry” button on the common calculator. Okay, everybody, all together:

Open your MS calculator and see for yourself.

Now that everyone has indulged themselves in taking a peek for yourself, just imagine the fun you could have erasing time…with a simple calculator. Okay, I admit it. That was a lame joke. But isn’t trying to change the structure of our dating system a lame joke as well?

It’s amazing how weaselly the whole process is. Academics are still using Christ’s birth to divide the epochs. Why? Why not go all the way and require a whole new calendar for students to learn. Why not require the EU to adopt one? Pick a more appropriate date than the birth of Christ: Marx’s, birth perhaps. Muhammad’s. The dropping of the first A-Bomb. Or whatever the obsession du jour is. (Or just switch to Federation Stardates and get it over with.)Last year, around this time, a month after the election, and in the middle of that year’s War on Christmas, Peggy Noonan wrote, earnestly, if seemingly naively:

Always in politics it comes down not to words but to actions. It’s not poetry but policy that claims support and wins. Allow me to prove this, for I think I can. I know something the Democratic Party can do right now that will improve its standing and increase its popularity. It can be done this week. Its impact will be quick and measurable.
It is this: Stop the war on religious expression in America. Have Terry McAuliffe come forward and announce that the Democratic Party knows that a small group of radicals continue to try to “scrub” such holidays as Christmas from the public square. They do this while citing the Constitution, but the Constitution does not say it is wrong or impolite to say “Merry Christmas” or illegal to have a crèche in the public square. The Constitution says we have freedom of religion, not from religion. Have Terry McAuliffe announce that from here on in the Democratic Party is on the side of those who want religion in the public square, and the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall for that matter. Then he should put up a big sign that says “Merry Christmas” on the sidewalk in front of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters on South Capitol Street. The Democratic Party should put itself on the side of Christmas, and Hanukkah, and the fact of transcendent faith.This would be taking a stand on an issue that roils a lot of people, and believe me those people don’t think conservatives are scrubbing America of Christmas, they think it’s liberals; and they don’t think it’s Republicans, they think it’s Democrats. Confound them, Terry! Come forward with a stand. It is the stand that is the salvation, not mysterious words or codes or magic messages.

Do this, Democrats. Announce you will apply pressure to antireligious zealots throughout the country. You have nothing to lose but a silly and culturally unhelpful reputation as the party that is hostile to religious expression. What you could gain is respect and gratitude. Pick up that Christmas tree, Terry, take it outside and put a star on top, stand next to it, yell Merry Christmas and ring a bell. That’s a manipulation of symbols that would actually make sense.

How could Terry (before he was replaced by Howard Dean) have stopped them? Manipulating religious symbols and terminology–largely by airbrushing them into the dustbin of history–seems to be at the very heart of the post-’72 left, with no votes taken to see if a majority approve. (And needless to say, the first half of the Judeo-Christian tradition is equally under fire.) Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, that there’s some secret Stonecutters Society meeting in private to coordinate these attacks. It’s a mindset.”It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” as Syme said to Winston. Especially when you’re doing it on the dime of some gullable students’ parents.