BC vs. BCE

What's the Difference?

BC and BCE are both used to denote time periods before the birth of Jesus Christ. BC stands for "Before Christ," while BCE stands for "Before the Common Era." The main difference between the two is the religious connotation. BC is rooted in the Christian belief system, as it refers to the time before the birth of Jesus Christ, whereas BCE is a more neutral term that is commonly used in academic and historical contexts. The use of BCE allows for a more inclusive and secular approach to dating historical events, accommodating different religious and cultural perspectives. Ultimately, both BC and BCE serve the same purpose of marking time before the common era, but BCE offers a more inclusive and non-religious alternative.


MeaningBefore ChristBefore Common Era
OriginBased on the birth of Jesus ChristSecular alternative to BC
UsageCommonly used in Christian contextsCommonly used in secular and academic contexts
Religious AssociationAssociated with ChristianityNot associated with any specific religion
Global AdoptionWidely used globallyIncreasingly adopted globally
Alternative NamesAD (Anno Domini)CE (Common Era)
Historical SignificanceUsed to mark significant events in historyUsed to mark significant events in history

Further Detail


When studying historical events and timelines, it is common to come across two distinct dating systems: BC and BCE. BC, short for "Before Christ," and BCE, meaning "Before the Common Era," are both used to mark time before the birth of Jesus Christ. While these two systems serve the same purpose, they differ in their origins, cultural implications, and usage. In this article, we will explore the attributes of BC and BCE, shedding light on their similarities and differences.

Origins and Cultural Implications

The BC dating system has its roots in the Christian tradition and is based on the birth of Jesus Christ. It was first introduced by Dionysius Exiguus, a sixth-century monk, who sought to establish a new calendar that centered around the life of Jesus. BC, therefore, carries religious connotations and is primarily used in Christian contexts.

On the other hand, BCE emerged as a secular alternative to BC. It was introduced in the mid-19th century by Jewish scholars who wanted a dating system that was inclusive and did not reference Jesus Christ. BCE, meaning "Before the Common Era," is used to denote the same time period as BC but is more neutral in its cultural implications. It is commonly employed in academic and historical contexts to ensure inclusivity and respect for diverse religious beliefs.

Usage and Conversion

BC and BCE are used interchangeably to represent the same time period, but their usage varies depending on the cultural and religious background of the individuals or institutions employing them. BC is more prevalent in Christian-majority countries and is often used in religious texts, liturgical calendars, and historical accounts with a Christian focus.

BCE, on the other hand, is widely used in academic and scholarly circles, particularly in fields such as archaeology, history, and anthropology. It is favored for its secular nature and its ability to accommodate various religious perspectives. BCE is also commonly used in textbooks, research papers, and museum exhibits to ensure a more inclusive representation of history.

When converting dates between BC and BCE, it is important to note that the numerical values remain the same. For example, 500 BC is equivalent to 500 BCE. The only difference lies in the terminology used to denote the era.

Global Acceptance and Standardization

While BC and BCE are both widely recognized and used, their acceptance and standardization vary across different regions and cultures. BC is more commonly employed in Western countries with Christian traditions, such as the United States and many European nations. It is deeply ingrained in the Christian calendar and is often the default dating system in these regions.

BCE, on the other hand, has gained significant traction in recent years, particularly in academic and international contexts. It is favored by scholars and institutions seeking a more inclusive and culturally sensitive approach to dating historical events. BCE is increasingly being adopted in textbooks, academic publications, and global organizations to ensure a standardized and neutral dating system.

Controversies and Criticisms

As with any dating system, BC and BCE have faced their fair share of controversies and criticisms. BC has been criticized for its religious bias and its exclusionary nature, as it centers around the birth of Jesus Christ. Some argue that this dating system perpetuates a Christian-centric view of history and disregards the contributions and beliefs of other cultures and religions.

On the other hand, BCE has faced criticism from individuals who perceive it as an unnecessary attempt to remove religious references from historical dating. Critics argue that BCE is merely a politically correct alternative that erases the Christian heritage of the calendar. They believe that BC should continue to be used as it has been for centuries, without any need for change.

It is important to note that the choice between BC and BCE ultimately depends on the context and the intended audience. While some prefer the religious associations of BC, others opt for the secular and inclusive nature of BCE. Both systems have their merits and drawbacks, and the decision to use one over the other should be made with sensitivity and respect for diverse perspectives.


In conclusion, BC and BCE are two dating systems used to mark time before the birth of Jesus Christ. BC, rooted in the Christian tradition, carries religious connotations and is primarily used in Christian contexts. BCE, on the other hand, emerged as a secular alternative to BC and is favored for its inclusivity and neutrality. While BC is more prevalent in Christian-majority countries, BCE has gained popularity in academic and international circles. The choice between BC and BCE depends on cultural, religious, and academic considerations, and both systems have their place in the study and representation of history.

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