In the interest of being considerate of users who come from a variety of religious (or non-religious) backgrounds, is it right to use BC and AD to express dates or should we use BCE and CE instead? Or does it matter?

Interesting - I did not even know what BCE and CE meant. I had no idea they were politically correct terms. I still can't remember what AD stands for. This is just jargon for recalling a time in history. The fact that the western calendar of years is anchored around Jesus is going to be politically incorrect no matter what letters are used to represent them. This is more like calling Christmas - Xmas - its verging on the silly in my books but I am not offended by the terms themselves as I actually often use xmas just because its quicker to write. –  Mike Jan 23 '13 at 9:52
AD = anno domini = Latin for "in the year of our Lord." –  Dan Jan 23 '13 at 14:43

3 Answers 3

It is meritorious to use the neutral terms, which are not obscure or imposing a hard education burden on the reader. Since we have settled neither the doctrine-definition question nor the editing-policy question, there's no mandate to change this if people use BC/AD.

I agree that there is no mandate to change this in the same way that we haven't set a mandate to edit other terminology. I also agree that this is basically the same issue. I disagree with your assertion that one set of terminology is inherently "neutral" or that there is some intrinsic value in one set that would make it more meritorious than the other. The only option I see that hold more merit than the alternative is respecting each individuals preference for terms either from experience, habit or terms belonging to their tradition. –  Caleb Jan 17 '13 at 12:26

Some people posting here are posting from a relatively neutral, text-centric, point of view. Others are posting on subjects, or with interpretations, that are definitely from some tradition. It's clear that there's plenty of on-topic room for such posts.

I have no interest in asking people posting questions with a distinctively Christian flavor to hew to a neutral line on dates and books. In the extremely unlikely event that I ever answered a question about NT, I'd probably refer to it as NT if a reference was required.

On the other hand, if the posting at hand is a relatively neutral exploration of text or history, then I would encourage people to adopt the neutral terminology as part of creating comfortable space for non-Christians. "Encourage" -- not "require", and certainly not "edit".

A somewhat tangential point here occurs to me: if someone asks a relatively 'peshat' (plain textual meaning question) about Hebrew Bible, I have mixed feelings when an answer shows up that is chock-full of doctrinal interpretation. I wonder if there's any sympathy for a view that simple textual questions look for questions that stick to the linguistic problems of the text.

+1 this is helpful and reasonable. Without directly addressing the question in your last paragraph, my view is that is a question specifically asks for a particular flavour of answer, then answers that don't do so are de facto "not an answer" and candidates for deletion or possibly editing. –  Jack Douglas Jan 21 '13 at 12:11
bmaraguilies, Jack and I disagree about what the default should be for Tanakh questions (see here). I'm with you on the last paragraph; Christian doctrine on Tanakh questions should be opt-in, not opt-out. But he has also said (here and in chat) that if the question does specify this, he agrees that those answers should be deleted. So not a great solution because it places the burden the wrong way, but at least it's possible to ask such a question. –  Gone Quiet Jan 21 '13 at 13:53

I think it would be more inconsiderate to impose a rule mandating either than it would be to simply allow for both. As a new user I would find it far more irritating to write a question and have it immediately edited to remove references to BC/AD or BCE/CE in exchange for the other. By creating a rule, you're imposing a particular culture's nomenclature (whether Christian or otherwise) onto everyone, which is more imperialistic than a particular member of a culture using their own nomenclature.

I certainly don't want to impose a rule upon our Jewish users that they should use Christian conventions; nor would I want to impose a rule upon our Christian users that they must adopt conventions different from what they might be used to.

Some people get cross if they see the usage BC and AD in reference to dates before and after the birth of Jesus, since they take it as a sign of Christian imperialism. Others are irritated if they see Christians using the increasingly popular ‘neutral’ alternatives BCE (‘Before the Common Era’) and CE (‘Common Era’), because it seems either patronizing or spineless. Similar debates rage as to whether the Hebrew Bible should be called ‘Tanach’ or ‘Old Testament’, or perhaps even ‘The Older Testament’ (in my view, this last is the most patronizing of all); or whether ‘First Testament’ and ‘Second Testament’ are more appropriate. It is strange that it seems to be scholars within the broad Christian tradition who are afflicted with these problems. Jewish writers do not affect ‘Christian’ ways of referring to dates and books, nor would I wish them to. In all these cases there is, I fear, a malaise among us, which consists of the desire to present a ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’ view as though we were all merely disinterested historians looking down from an uninvolved Olympian height. As I shall be arguing in Part II of the present volume, such an epistemology is inappropriate and indeed impossible. Therefore, mindful of the further impossibility of pleasing all the people all the time, I shall continue to follow the usages to which I am accustomed (AD and BC, ‘Old Testament’ and/or ‘Hebrew Bible’), with neither imperialistic nor patronizing intent—noting, indeed, that the same usage obtains in the revision of Schürer’s classic work by a team of historians from widely differing backgrounds under the leadership of Professor Geza Vermes.

Wright, N.T. (1991-12-15). The New Testament and the People of God: Volume 1 (Christian Origins and the Question of God) . Augsburg Fortress. Kindle Edition.

I think you've nailed it here, the issue is not which date format should be used but whether such a rule should be imposed at all: and I feel strongly that it should not and that people should be free to write with whatever date format they are personally most comfortable with. I love your source what ties this into our recent discussion of the term 'Hebrew Bible' vs. 'Old Testament'. –  Caleb Jan 17 '13 at 12:20
some people 'get cross'? You've 'nailed it'? I've never seen so many Christian puns in such a small space. –  user947 Jan 21 '13 at 0:32
@bmargulies I'm guessing neither of them were intended ;) –  Jack Douglas Jan 21 '13 at 12:08
The question asked what we "should" do, which doesn't read to me like a request for a rule. –  Gone Quiet Apr 12 '13 at 23:12
"I certainly don't want to impose a rule upon our Jewish users that they should use Christian conventions; nor would I want to impose a rule upon our Christian users that they must adopt conventions different from what they might be used to." I hope you realise that these are not equivalent statements. I hope you're not trying to imply that mildly inconveniencing Christians is just as bad as blotting out the identity of Jews. –  TRiG Oct 27 '13 at 22:14
@TRiG All I'm asking for is fair play. I'm not forcing you to adopt my nomenclature. Please don't make me adopt yours. –  Soldarnal Oct 28 '13 at 3:55
Ah, so you are trying to imply that mildly inconveniencing Christians is just as bad as blotting out the identity of Jews. Okay then. Got it. I'll bear that in mind in my future interactions with you. –  TRiG Oct 28 '13 at 13:04
@TRiG And I'll keep in mind that you're a slanderer who has no interest in representing his opponents fairly. –  Soldarnal Oct 28 '13 at 14:21

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