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Dionysius Exiguus invented Anno Domini years to date Easter.

Anno Domini (abbreviated as AD or A.D., sometimes found in the irregular form Anno Domine) and Before Christ (abbreviated as BC or B.C.) are designations used to label years in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The calendar era to which they refer is based on the traditionally reckoned year of the conception or birth of Jesus, with AD denoting years after the start of this epoch, and BC denoting years before the start of this epoch. There is no year zero in this scheme, so the year AD 1 immediately follows the year 1 BC.

The Gregorian calendar, and the year numbering system associated with it, is the calendar system with the most widespread use in the world today. For decades, it has been the unofficial global standard, recognized by international institutions such as the United Nations and the Universal Postal Union. It is also a basis of scholarly dating, though some people adopt the Common/Christian Era labels, retaining the same numeric values but using the label "CE" (Common/Christian Era) instead of "AD", and "BCE" (Before the Common/Christian Era) instead of "BC".

The term Anno Domini is Medieval Latin, translated as In the year of (the/Our) Lord.[1][2]:782 It is sometimes specified more fully as Anno Domini Nostri Iesu (Jesu) Christi ("In the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ").

Traditionally, English has copied Latin usage by placing the abbreviation before the year number for AD; since BC is not derived from Latin it is placed after the year number (for example: 68 BC, but AD 2010). However, placing the AD after the year number (as in "2010 AD") is now also common. The abbreviation is also widely used after the number of a century or millennium, as in "fourth century AD" or "second millennium AD" (although conservative usage formerly rejected such expressions).[3]

Because BC is the English abbreviation for Before Christ, it is sometimes incorrectly concluded that AD means After Death,[4] i.e., after the death of Jesus. If that were true, the thirty-three or so years of his life would not be in any era.[5][6]

Anno Domini inscription at Carinthia cathedral, Austria

Contents

History

The Anno Domini dating system was devised in 525 by Dionysius Exiguus, who used it to compute the date of the Christian Easter festival, and to identify the several Easters in his Easter table, but did not use it to date any historical event. His system was to replace the Diocletian era that had been used in an old Easter table because he did not wish to continue the memory of a tyrant who persecuted Christians. The last year of the old table, Diocletian 247, was immediately followed by the first year of his table, AD 532. When he devised his table, Julian calendar years were identified by naming the consuls who held office that year — he himself stated that the "present year" was "the consulship of Probus Junior", which was 525 years "since the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ".[7] Thus Dionysius implied that Jesus' Incarnation occurred 525 years earlier, without stating the specific year during which his birth or conception occurred.

"However, nowhere in his exposition of his table does Dionysius relate his epoch to any other dating system, whether consulate, Olympiad, year of the world, or regnal year of Augustus; much less does he explain or justify the underlying date."[2]:778

Blackburn & Holford-Strevens briefly present arguments for 2 BC, 1 BC, or AD 1 as the year Dionysius intended for the Nativity or Incarnation. Among the sources of confusion are:[2]:778–9

  • In modern times Incarnation is synonymous with the conception, but some ancient writers, such as Bede, considered Incarnation to be synonymous with the Nativity
  • The civil, or consular year began on 1 January but the Diocletian year began on 29 August
  • There were inaccuracies in the list of consuls
  • There were confused summations of emperors' regnal years
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Date of birth

See also: Nativity of Jesus and Chronology of Jesus

According to Doggett, "Although scholars generally believe that Christ was born some years before AD 1, the historical evidence is too sketchy to allow a definitive dating"[8]. According to Matthew 2:1[9] and Matthew 2:16[10], King Herod the Great was alive when Jesus was born, and ordered the Massacre of the Innocents in response to his birth. Blackburn and Holford-Strevens fix King Herod's death shortly before Passover in 4 BC[2]:770, and say that those who accept the story of the Massacre of the Innocents sometimes associate the star that led the Biblical Magi with the planetary conjunction of 15 September 7 BC or Halley's comet of 12 BC (less likely since comets were usually considered bad omens); even historians who do not accept the Massacre accept the birth under Herod as a tradition older than the written gospels.[2]:776

The Gospel of Luke states that Jesus was born during the reign of the Emperor Augustus and while Cyrenius (or Quirinius) was the governor of Syria (2:1–2). Blackburn and Holford-Strevens[2]:770 indicate Cyrenius/Quirinius' governorship of Syria began in AD 6, which is incompatible with conception in 4 BC, and say that "St. Luke raises greater difficulty ...Most critics therefore discard Luke". Some scholars rely on John 8:57[11]: "thou are not yet fifty years old", to place Christ's birth in circa 18 BC.[2]:776

Popularization

The Anglo-Saxon historian the Venerable Bede, who was familiar with the work of Dionysius, used Anno Domini dating in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, finished in 731. In this same history he also used another Latin term, "ante vero incarnationis dominicae tempus" ("the time before the Lord's true incarnation"), equivalent to the English "before Christ", to identify years before the first year of this era,[12] thus establishing the standard of not using a year zero,[13] even though he used zero in his computus. Both Dionysius and Bede regarded Anno Domini as beginning at the incarnation of Jesus, but "the distinction between Incarnation and Nativity was not drawn until the late 9th century, when in some places the Incarnation epoch was identified with Christ's conception, i.e., the Annunciation on March 25" (Annunciation style).[2]:881

On the continent of Europe, Anno Domini was introduced as the era of choice of the Carolingian Renaissance by Alcuin. Its endorsement by Emperor Charlemagne and his successors popularizing the usage of the epoch and spreading it throughout the Carolingian Empire ultimately lies at the core of the system's prevalence. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, popes continued to date documents according to regnal years for some time, but usage of AD gradually became more common in Roman Catholic countries from the 11th to the 14th centuries.[14] Eastern Orthodox countries only began to adopt AD instead of the Byzantine calendar in 1700 when Russia did so, with others adopting it in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Even though Anno Domini was in widespread use by the 9th century, Before Christ (or its equivalent) did not become widespread until the late 15th century.[15]

Other eras

During the first six centuries of what would come to be known as the Christian era, European countries used various systems to count years. Systems in use included consular dating, imperial regnal year dating, and Creation dating.

Although the last non-imperial consul, Basilius, was appointed in 541 by Emperor Justinian I, later emperors through Constans II (641–668) were appointed consuls on the first 1 January after their accession. All of these emperors, except Justinian, used imperial post-consular years for all of the years of their reign alongside their regnal years.[16] Long unused, this practice was not formally abolished until Novell XCIV of the law code of Leo VI did so in 888.

Another calculation had been developed by the Alexandrian monk Annianus around the year AD 400, placing the Annunciation on 25 March AD 9 (Julian)—eight to ten years after the date that Dionysius was to imply. Although this Incarnation was popular during the early centuries of the Byzantine Empire, years numbered from it, an Era of Incarnation, were only used, and are still only used, in Ethiopia, accounting for the eight- or seven-year discrepancy between the Gregorian and the Ethiopian calendars. Byzantine chroniclers like Maximus the Confessor, George Syncellus, and Theophanes dated their years from Annianus' creation of the World. This era, called Anno Mundi, "year of the world" (abbreviated AM), by modern scholars, began its first year on 25 March 5492 BC. Later Byzantine chroniclers used Anno Mundi years from 1 September 5509 BC, the Byzantine Era. No single Anno Mundi epoch was dominant throughout the Christian world.

Spain and Portugal continued to date by the Era of the Caesars or Spanish Era, which began counting from 38 BC, well into the Middle Ages. In 1422, Portugal became the last Catholic country to adopt the Anno Domini system.[14]lhlklhkgjkkjj

The Era of Martyrs, which numbered years from the accession of Diocletian in 284, who launched the last yet most severe persecution of Christians, was used by the Church of Alexandria, and is still used officially by the Coptic church. It also used to be used by the Ethiopian church. Another system was to date from the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which as early as Hippolytus and Tertullian was believed to have occurred in the consulate of the Gemini (AD 29), which appears in the occasional medieval manuscript.

Synonyms

Common Era

Anno Domini is sometimes referred to as the Common Era, Christian Era, or Current Era (abbreviated as C.E. or CE). CE is often preferred by those who desire a term not explicitly related to Christian conceptions of time. For example, Cunningham and Starr (1998) write that "B.C.E./C.E. …do not presuppose faith in Christ and hence are more appropriate for interfaith dialog than the conventional B.C./A.D." Upon its foundation, the Republic of China adopted the Western calendar in 1912 and the translated term was 西元 (lit. Western Era). Later, in 1949, the People's Republic of China reiterated the use of the Gregorian calendar and accepted the term gōngyuán (公元, lit. Common Era).

Numbering of years

In the Julian and Gregorian calendars, AD 1 is preceded by 1 BC. For computational reasons astronomers use a time scale in which AD 1 = year 1, 1 BC = year 0, 2 BC = year −1, etc.[17]

Notes and references

Notes:

  1. ^ "Anno Domini". Merriam Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. 2003. http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/Anno%20Domini. Retrieved 3 February 2008. "Etymology: Medieval Latin, in the year of the Lord". 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Blackburn, Bonnie; Leofranc Holford-Strevens (2003). The Oxford companion to the Year: An exploration of calendar customs and time-reckoning. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-214231-3.  (reprinted & corrected, originally published 1999)
  3. ^ Chicago Manual of Style, 1993, p. 304.
  4. ^ What is the meaning of BC and AD (B.C. and A.D.)?Got Questions Ministries. Retrieved February 2, 2010.
  5. ^ Donald P. Ryan, (2000), 15.
  6. ^ Paul Brians. (n.d.). "A.D." in Common Errors in English Usage. (Washington State University faculty website.) Retrieved 2 February 2010
  7. ^ Nineteen year cycle of Dionysius Introduction and First Argumentum.
  8. ^ Doggett 1992, 579.
  9. ^ Matthew 2:1
  10. ^ Matthew 2:16
  11. ^ John 8:57
  12. ^ Bede 731, Book 1, Chapter 2, first sentence.
  13. ^ Compare Bede 731, Book 1, Chapter 2, first sentence, with Chapter 3.
  14. ^ a b Gerard, 1908
  15. ^ Werner Rolevinck in Fasciculus temporum (1474) used Anno ante xpi nativitatem (in the year before the birth of Christ) for all years between creation and Jesus. "xpi" is the Greek χρι in Latin letters, which is a cryptic abbreviation for christi. This phrase appears upside down in the center of recto folios (right hand pages). From Jesus to Pope Sixtus IV he usually used Anno christi or its cryptic form Anno xpi (on verso folios—left hand pages). He used Anno mundi alongside all of these terms for all years.
  16. ^ Roger S. Bagnall and Klaas A. Worp, Chronological Systems of Byzantine Egypt, Leiden, Brill, 2004.
  17. ^ To convert from a year BC to astronomical year numbering, reduce the absolute value of the year by 1, and prefix it with a negative sign (unless the result is zero). For years AD, omit the AD and prefix the number with a plus sign (plus sign is optional if it is clear from the context that the year is after the year 0). [Doggett, 1992, p. 579]

References:

  • Abate, Frank R(ed.) (1997). Oxford Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus (American ed. ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513097-9. 
  • Bede. (731). Historiam ecclesiasticam gentis Anglorum. Accessed 7 December 2007.
  • Chicago Manual of Style (2nd ed.). University of Chicago. 1993. ISBN 022610389-7. 
  • Cunningham, Philip A; Starr, Arthur F (1998). Sharing Shalom: A Process for Local Interfaith Dialogue Between Christians and Jews. Paulist Press. ISBN 0-8091-3835-2. 
  • Declercq, Georges (2000). Anno Domini: The origins of the Christian era. Turnhout: Brepols. ISBN 2-503-51050-7.  (despite beginning with 2, it is English)
  • Declercq, G. "Dionysius Exiguus and the Introduction of the Christian Era". Sacris Erudiri 41 (2002): 165–246. An annotated version of part of Anno Domini.
  • Doggett. (1992). "Calendars" (Ch. 12), in P. Kenneth Seidelmann (Ed.) Explanatory supplement to the astronomical almanac. Sausalito, CA: University Science Books. ISBN 0-935702-68-7.
  • Gerard, J. (1908). "General Chronology". In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved July 16, 2008 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03738a.htm
  • Richards, E. G. (2000). Mapping Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-286205-7. 
  • Riggs, John (January 2003). "Whatever happened to B.C. and A.D., and why?". United Church News. http://www.ucc.org/ucnews/janfeb03/whatever-happened-to-bc-and.html. Retrieved December 19, 2005. 
  • Ryan, Donald P. (2000). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Biblical Mysteries. Alpha Books. p. 15. ISBN 002863831X. 

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Alternative spellings

Various authorities support the different styles:

Etymology

From the Latin annō Domini (in the year of the Lord) from the word annō (in the year) the ablative of annus (year) + Domini (of the Lord) the genitive of Dominus (the Lord).

Adverb

Anno Domini

  1. In the year of our Lord (often abbreviated A.D. or AD).
    • 1620Mayflower Compact
      In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620.
    • 1859Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
      The scene was Mr. Cruncher’s private lodging in Hanging-sword-alley, Whitefriars: the time, half-past seven of the clock on a windy March morning, Anno Domini seventeen hundred and eighty.

Usage notes

Synonyms

Antonyms

Translations

See also

  • Wikipedia discussion of style

Simple English

Anno Domini (Latin : "In the year of (our) Lord"[1]), shortened as AD or A.D., is used to refer to the years after the birth of Jesus. AD is also a shortening for Christian Era.[2] Similarly, Before Christ, shortened as BC or B.C., is used in the English language to refer to all years before the start of the time period Anno Domini.

The system for working out the years was invented by Dionysius Exiguus in about 525 AD. He fixed the point Anno Domini, which is used to number the years of both the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar. He used it to identify the several Easters in his Easter table. He did not use it to date any historical event. When he devised his table, Julian calendar years were identified by naming the consuls who held office that year — he himself stated that the "present year" was "the consulship of Probus Junior [Flavius Probus]", which he also stated was 525 years "since the incarnation [conception] of our Lord Jesus Christ". How he arrived at that number is unknown. He invented a new system of numbering years to replace the Diocletian years that had been used in an old Easter table because he did not wish to continue the memory of a tyrant who persecuted Christians. The Anno Domini era became dominant in Western Europe only after it was used by the Venerable Bede to date the events in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in 731.

References

  1. Blackburn & Holford-Strevens p. 782
  2. Abate, Oxford Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus, s.v. "A.D."



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