B.C. and A.D.

What Do The Abbreviations A.D. and B.C. Mean?


According to Webster's Dictionary, the abbreviation B.C. means "before Christ" and refers to the age of time before the birth of Christ.  For example, the people and events that you read about in the Old Testament lived in the following approximate dates:

Years Before Christ (B.C)
Event in World History
2100 B.C. Abraham was called by God (approximately 2100 years before the birth of Christ)
1525 B.C. Moses was born
1445 B.C. Ten Commandments given to Moses
1090 B.C. Sampson is a judge for Israel
1005 B.C. David becomes king of Israel
870 B.C. Elijah the prophet begins ministry
740 B.C. Isaiah begins his ministry
586 B.C. Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by Babylonians
535 B.C Daniel's last vision
460 B.C. Ezra returns from exile
356 B.C. Alexander the Great was born
200 B.C. Rome defeats Hannibal
37 B.C. Herod is king of Judea
~4 B.C.** Jesus is born


According to Webster's Dictionary, the abbreviation A.D. is from the Latin word "anno Domini", meaning "in the year of our Lord."  This refers to our current calendar, counting down from the date of Jesus' birth, for example:

In the Year of our Lord (anno Domini - A.D.)
Event in World History
27** A.D. John the baptizer begins his ministry.
27** A.D. Jesus begins His ministry (at the approximate age of 30).
30** A.D. Jesus is crucified on cross & raised from dead (at the approximate age of 33).
30** A.D. Jesus' church begin in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and the Lord begins adding people to His church (see Acts 2:37 through the end of the chapter).
70 A.D. Jerusalem and the temple destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus.
410 A.D. Fall of Rome to the Visigoths.
1451 A.D. Christopher Columbus was born.
1776 A.D. U.S. declaration of Independence Adopted.
1914 A.D. World War I started.
2000 A.D. The world celebrates the start of a new millennium, approximately 2000 years after the birth of Jesus.

** The 4 lost years:

The intent of the world's current calendar is to number the years from the date of Jesus' birth (e.g. the year 2010 A.D. would represent 2010 years from the date of Jesus' birth).  However, over the past two thousand years there have been a number of differing calendars (e.g. Roman, Jewish, etc.) and differing ways to count the number of days and months in the year (for example, the Jewish calendar has only 360 days). 

In the last several hundred years as the world standardized on the definition of a year (e.g. 365 days, except leap year) and as these standards were applied historically, they found that there were approximately four years difference in this 2000-year timeframe.  Although your calendar at the time you discovered this may have said it was 1940 A.D. (just to pick a date out of the air)...it was in fact 1943 years after the birth of Christ if you count years as we do today.

As you can imagine, it would be impossible to get everyone in the world to add four years to their current calendar to make up for the inconsistencies in prior year's calendars.  So the current date remains the same and the references to the dates of events in history have for the most part been changed (e.g. Jesus' birth is now stated as being in ~4 B.C. instead of 0 A.D.)

If these calendar differences never existed, then Jesus would have been born in 0 A.D.; He would have began His ministry in 30 A.D.; He would have died on the cross in 33 to 34 A.D.; and you would need to add ~4 years to today's date.

Note about alternatives to the use of "A.D":

Some writers today use the abbreviation "c.a." or "c", instead of "A.D."  According to Webster's dictionary, the abbreviation "c.a." or "c" is from the Latin word "circum."  However some claim that it means "current age."   Other writers use the abbreviation "c.e." which originally meant "Christian era", but also has some to be called by those that don't believe in Christ as the "current era."

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