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What is B.C. short for?

B.C. stands for Before Christ, and it means the number of years before the birth of Jesus Christ. That was about 2000 years ago, so the date 552 B.C. means 2552 years ago.

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History of Christianity

Some people use B.C.E. instead. That stands for Before the Common Era, and is used in order to avoid Christian references. feels that since this is a Christian dating system, based on when Jesus was born, it’s misleading people to try to hide that. If we could agree that BCE meant “Before the Christian Era” you might be able to convince me, though.

Timeline showing BC and AD dates

Timeline showing BC and AD dates

Why don’t we just say 2552 years ago, if that’s what we mean? Why would that be inconvenient? (scroll down for the answer).

To find out about A.D., click here.

*The answer is, because we keep going forward in time. So if you wrote in a book that something happened 2552 years ago (or whatever), the next year the books would still say 2552, but now it would be 2553, and the year after that it would be 2554 years ago. It would be too confusing.

Before Present though

Some scientists do use BP, Before Present, but they start “Present” at 1950, so that it doesn’t change every year.

Bibliography and further reading about history timelines:

More about A.D. or C.E. home