Question: “What is the meaning of BC and AD (B.C. and A.D.)?”
Answer: It is commonly thought that B.C. stands for “before Christ” and A.D. stands for “after death.” This is only half correct. How could the year 1 B.C. have been “before Christ” and A.D. 1 been “after death”? B.C. does stand for “before Christ.” A.D. actually stands for the Latin phrase anno domini, which means “in the year of our Lord.” The B.C./A.D. dating system is not taught in the Bible. It actually was not fully implemented and accepted until several centuries after Jesus’ death.
It is interesting to note that the purpose of the B.C./A.D. dating system was to make the birth of Jesus Christ the dividing point of world history. However, when the B.C./A.D. system was being calculated, they actually made a mistake in pinpointing the year of Jesus’ birth. Scholars later discovered that Jesus was actually born around 6—4 B.C., not A.D. 1. That is not the crucial issue. The birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ are the “turning points” in world history. It is fitting, therefore, that Jesus Christ is the separation of “old” and “new.” B.C. was “before Christ,” and since His birth, we have been living “in the year of our Lord.” Viewing our era as “the year of our Lord” is appropriate. Philippians 2:10–11 says, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In recent times, there has been a push to replace the B.C. and A.D. labels with B.C.E and C.E., meaning “before common era” and “common era,” respectively. The change is simply one of semantics—that is, AD 100 is the same as 100 CE; all that changes is the label. The advocates of the switch from BC/AD to BCE/CE say that the newer designations are better in that they are devoid of religious connotation and thus prevent offending other cultures and religions who may not see Jesus as “Lord.” The irony, of course, is that what distinguishes B.C.E from C.E. is still the life and times of Jesus Christ.
Recommended Resources: The Quest Study Bible and Logos Bible Software.