There has been a lot of nonsense spouted in the last couple of days about the BBC’s decision to use the CE/BCE dating system instead of the AD/BC one, as usual the various commentators have trampled with both feet on the historical facts preferring brainless rhetoric to historical reality. So we have M. J. Robins on his Guardian blog claiming that the system has been in use for two thousand years in his tirade against the Daily Fail and Boris Johnson claiming 1500 years in his equally ridiculous tirade in the Daily Telegraph.
Let us look at the historical facts. The principle of counting years from the supposed birth of Christ was first introduced in 525 CE by Dionysius Exiguus in his efforts to determine the correct date for Easter. At the time it wasn’t used by anybody else. In the 8th century CE the English monk Bede used it in his work to determine the date of Easter. His pupil Alcuin of York introduced into the Court of Karl der Große (that’s Charlemagne for the English) From here its use spread slowly throughout Europe. Even the Vatican didn’t use it preferring to date years in terms of the reigns of popes. You will notice we are only talking about AD. The use of BC was first introduced in the 17th century as history within Europe started to become a real academic discipline. The use of the AD/BC dating system was first adopted by the Orthodox churches in the 18th century. The usage of this dating system was restricted to Europe and its colonies and was ignored by the majority of the world, until at the very earliest the late 19th century and in most cases the 20th century.
Through international trade and industry in the 20th century there was a need for a unified dating system and because of the economic dominance of the USA and Europe for such purposes the Gregorian calendar was adopted as the world’s norm. Why the rest of the world should also adopt a Christian system of referring to dates when less than 30% of the world’s population is Christian, even by the wildly inflated methods used by the churches to claim adherence, in this at best 100 year old universal dating system is something that those doing the screaming need to explain. As an explanation, to claim that the system has been in use for 2000 or 1500 years is a straight forward historical lie and wont wash.