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BC vs. BCE: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Published on February 8, 2024
BC (Before Christ) and BCE (Before Common Era) both denote years before the traditional date of Jesus Christ's birth, with BCE being a secular alternative to BC.
BC vs. BCE

Key Differences

BC, standing for "Before Christ," is traditionally used in the Gregorian calendar to represent years before the birth of Jesus Christ. BCE, meaning "Before Common Era," serves the same chronological function but offers a non-religious terminology.
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Shumaila Saeed
Feb 08, 2024
BC is widely recognized in historical and religious contexts, particularly in Christian-dominated societies. BCE, on the other hand, is used to maintain religious neutrality, especially in academic and multi-cultural settings.
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Shumaila Saeed
Feb 08, 2024
In the BC system, years count backward from the traditionally assumed year of Jesus Christ's birth. Similarly, in the BCE system, the years are counted backward from what is considered the start of the Common Era, aligning exactly with the BC system.
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Feb 08, 2024
BC has been a standard part of the Christian calendar system for centuries. BCE was introduced more recently to parallel BC while respecting the diversity of beliefs among scholars and the general public.
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Shumaila Saeed
Feb 08, 2024
While BC is deeply rooted in Christian tradition, BCE is adopted as a more inclusive, secular approach, though both systems are used interchangeably in terms of the dates they represent.
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Comparison Chart

Full Form

Before Christ
Before Common Era
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Cultural Association

Associated with Christianity
Culturally and religiously neutral
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Usage Context

Historical, religious
Academic, multi-cultural
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Chronological Role

Marks years before Christ's birth
Marks years before the Common Era
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Introduction

Ancient, traditional
More modern, secular alternative
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BC and BCE Definitions

BC

BC stands for Before Christ, indicating years before the birth of Jesus.
The Roman Empire was founded in 753 BC.
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BCE

BCE is a modern, inclusive approach to dating historical events.
The Minoan civilization on Crete developed around 2000 BCE.
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BC

BC is used in the Gregorian calendar to denote years prior to year 1.
The Battle of Marathon occurred in 490 BC.
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BCE

BCE is used to represent time periods without religious connotation.
The Indus Valley Civilization flourished around 2500 BCE.
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BC

BC is a traditional Christian timekeeping system.
The construction of the Great Pyramid was completed in 2560 BC.
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BCE

BCE stands for Before Common Era, a secular term for years before year 1.
The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BCE.
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BC

BC is a backward counting system preceding year 1.
Stonehenge was constructed between 3000 BC and 2000 BC.
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BCE

BCE is equivalent to BC but avoids Christian references.
Hammurabi, the Babylonian king, lived around 1810 BCE to 1750 BCE.
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BC

BC marks historical time periods before the Christian era.
Plato lived around 428-348 BC.
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BCE

BCE counts years backward from the start of the Common Era.
The ancient city of Jericho dates back to 8000 BCE.
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BC

Alternative case form of BC}} {{gloss
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BC

: because.
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BC

(music) basso continuo
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BC

(law enforcement) bodycam
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BC

Initialism of blind carbon copy, a shortening of blind carbon copy
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BC

Before Christ; used in reckoning dates before the supposed year Christ was born, i.e. 1 a. d..
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BC

Before the Christian era; used following dates before the supposed year Christ was born;
In 200 BC
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Do historians prefer BC or BCE?

Many historians use BCE to maintain neutrality and inclusivity.
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Feb 08, 2024

Is there a year 0 in BC or BCE?

No, the calendar goes from 1 BC/BCE directly to 1 AD/CE.
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Why is BC associated with Christianity?

BC stands for "Before Christ," directly linking it to Christian tradition.
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Is BC still widely used?

Yes, BC is still widely used, especially in religious and historical contexts.
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Can BC and BCE be used interchangeably?

Yes, they can be used interchangeably as they represent the same years.
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Why was BCE introduced?

BCE was introduced to provide a secular alternative to BC.
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Is BCE a modern invention?

Yes, BCE is relatively modern, reflecting contemporary efforts for inclusive language.
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Is BCE universally accepted?

BCE is widely accepted, though some still prefer the traditional BC.
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Are BC and BCE the same time period?

Yes, they represent the same time period, just labeled differently.
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Feb 08, 2024

How do BC and BCE affect the dating of events?

They don't affect the dating; they only change the terminology used.
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Feb 08, 2024

Are there different interpretations of BC and BCE?

The interpretations are the same; they both denote years before the Common Era.
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Feb 08, 2024

Can religious texts use BCE?

Yes, but they more commonly use BC.
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Is the use of BCE growing?

Yes, the use of BCE is growing, especially in academic and multi-cultural contexts.
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Feb 08, 2024

Did the introduction of BCE change historical timelines?

No, it did not change timelines, only the naming convention.
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Do all historians agree on the use of BCE?

Most agree, but some traditionalists still prefer BC.
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Do AD and CE accompany BC and BCE?

Yes, AD accompanies BC, and CE accompanies BCE.
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Feb 08, 2024

Are BC and BCE used globally?

Yes, they are used globally, but some cultures have their own calendars.
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Is BC used in academic writing?

BC is used, but BCE is often preferred for its neutrality.
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How do BC and BCE relate to other calendar systems?

They are specific to the Gregorian calendar system.
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Does BCE stand for anything other than Before Common Era?

No, BCE specifically stands for Before Common Era.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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