Originally posted by brooklyn87
I understand that A.D/B.C wasn't implemented until centuries later, but why did this "guy" think he had the power to put a certain date on it, and
what makes us think that B.C went backwards? for all we know I guess it could ha♠ve gone forwards
OK, lets start with the fundamental thing that you seem to be missing: the dating system we use is completely, 100% arbitrary. There is nothing about
it that is tied to anything real in the universe other than an agreement among people to 'do it that way'.
The Hebrews started counting from when they understood their history to begin, and since they believe that is the beginning of creation, the idea that
there is anything before that to count is meaningless. What meaning could "1BC" ("Before Creation") possibly have when time didn't exist before
Other peoples counted years from the current Kings reign, so you might have the 3rd year of Tutankamen's reign (I don't really know if this was the
case in Egypt, just showing an example). There was little need for people to know the exact year something happened in the past and relate that to
some other peoples reckoning of the exact year. And if they did need to do so it would have been hellishly difficult.
So at some point the Christians did see the need for a consistent and universal year numbering system of their own. Previously they would have been
using the Hebrew Calendar, but this was a time when the Christian Authorities were denying their Hebrew past and repudiating all things Jewish. For
example, they moved Easter to ensure it wasn't locked to the Passover schedule because even though the Bible clearly says that the Passion occured at
Passover, Christians should not be celebrating the most important day on their calendar at the same time as those non-Christian 'other guys'. So
they had to change things completely.
Remember, the starting point is for a year reckoning system is completely arbitrary, but you do have to pick a starting point. Since the advent of
Christ is the defining moment in Western History (according to the Christian viewpoint at least), they chose the birth of Christ to be the new year 1.
So now they had their new starting point, they had to relate that to their previous calendar. They decided that Christ was born in 3761AM (annus mundi
- the year of the world) on the Hebrew Calendar, so that became Year 1 AD.
Now unlike the Jewish Calendar, the Christians knew that there was history before year 1. So it makes sense to count backwards to indicate the number
of years before the dominion of Christ. The Hebrew year 3760AM thus became the year 1BC in the new reckoning, and 3759Am became 2BC. (Negative numbers
were unknown in mathematics at that time, but the BC and AD nomenclature are obvious analogues to the negative and positive nomenclature in
Now about events that happened a million years ago. If you are talking about a specific date, then yes, it would be 997,991BC. But we seldom talk in
those specific, precise terms. We say a "million years ago", as an approximation, depending on the context it could be varying up or down by a few
hundred thousand years. When we speak of 200 million years ago, we are only being approximate to within a few 10's of millions of years or whatever.
Using a specific year like 201,232,117BC doesn't have any real use, there is never any reason to be anywhere near that precise.
OK, so everything is fine for a thousand years or more, most of the world adopts the European (Christian) calendar for daily reckoning because the
Europeans pretty much make it mandatory at the point of the colonial gun. The Jews keep counting in AM, but recognize the European calendar. The
Chinese keep counting in their system, but recognize the European calendar. Then in the 1700's it is noticed that December isn't midwinter anymore,
the calendar has been getting out of sync with the seasons because the day isn't exactly 24 hours long. So over the next 200 years countries adopt
the corrected calendar with all its leap seconds, minutes, and days.
Biblical Scholarship advanced over this time too. Advanced research found that Christ was more likely to have been born sometime between 3765AM and
3769AM which would put his birth sometime between 4AD and 8 AD on our current calendar.
But that doesn't mean our dates need to change. Remember that the starting year is completely arbitrary. 1AD was set to equal 3761AM when the
calendar was developed. That this was the best guess for the birth of Christ, while meaningful for those who developed the calendar, is still
completely arbitrary and as valid a starting point as any other. It is simply too bothersome to change it now, especially since we will never know the
exact year of birth. So 3761AM is 1AD, period.
As for the CE (Common Era) or BCE (Before Common Era) indicators, this was originally started in the early 20th century to make it comfortable for the
non-Christians in the world to embrace it. In the same way that the Christians didn't want to use the Hebrew calendar, non-Christians found it
difficult to justify using a Christian calendar. The fact that Christians can read CE as "Christian Era" just makes it a more universal,
'politically correct' way to do things.
Hope that moves towards clearing up your confusion.
Edit: corrected confused sentence in second paragraph (1AM annus mundi to 1BC Before Creation)
[edit on 25/10/2009 by rnaa]