BC versus BCE
Frank Pierce
About a decade ago, historians began using the date designation "BCE" to describe time frames in the past. Can anyone tell me if this is identical to "BC" and is used only to be politically sensitive to those who may question value of the Christian era, or does it make a difference in the values displayed? E.g. the accepted end of the last ice age is often calculated at 11,000 BC. Is it proper to speak of it as 11,000 BCE or would it become 13,000 BCE?

Hate to ask an obvious question but the source of a good answer is hard to find.

It's wholly a P.C. synonym (a euphamism, if you will). The "common era," C.E. begins with A.D. 1. Years "Before the Common Era," B.C.E., have identical valuations to B.C. designations.
Please drop the other shoe!...

So what has happened to dear old "AD"? Is that now "ACE"? I confess I've never seen it.

(And don't tell me that before 1950 it's "BP" ("before the present") like some archaeologists would have us believe!)

A.D. (Anno Domini, "in the year of our lord") is C.E. ("of the common era"). B.C., "before Christ," is B.C.E., "before the common era." Since we're visiting this, some discursive notes...
The grammar puts the "A.D." before the number; e.g. A.D. 1984 (not "1984 A.D."). B.C., C.E., and B.C.E. all go after the number.
The year before A.D. 1 is 1 B.C.; there is no year zero.
It's commonly accepted by historians that Jesus of Nazereth was born in 4 B.C.
Frank Pierce
Thanks greatly. My wife had suspected that the term BCE was pure political correctness, and with no more foundation in common sense or logic than many other words coined so as not to provide offense to anyone.

My son felt that perhaps it was an attempt by theologians or historians to correct your cited four-year difference in the actual versus the traditional birth of Jesus. No such luck. He was guilty of using logic and reason.

I myself had heard the "1950" reference from somewhere, and thus came to beleive that perhaps it was a way of compensating for the increasing nuissance in computing actual ages of antiquity as the centuries roll. Again, a helpless gasp in the face of illogic. Perhaps the "C" stood for "current" (Before the current era) which makes sense, and provides a useful concept. I often have difficulty in remembering whether a geological event has been dated at 7000 BC or 7000 years ago.

Common era? More misuse of the language. We have no common era standard throughout the world. The Japanese, I believe, still date time from a theological event, the birth of a diety or somesuch. This accounts of course for the Japanese fighter plane, the infamous "Zero", first flown in the year 1940 or 4000 by their reckoning. The Jews still date time from a point in their theological calendar whose exact meaning and reference is unknown, I understand, even to the most scholarly Rabbi. I am sure there are more major time-reckoning systems in major use throughout the world. Thus common to whom? Christians, I assume.

Which leads them into a perfect circle of illogic.

I have nothing to directly add to that discussion but will toss in a further bit of illogic. A Christian denomination offered a tour of the holyland to its members, referring to details in years "B.C.E." Who in that context were they afraid of offending by using "B.C."?
Frank Pierce
My cynical explanation and guess is that it was an attempt to sound very scholarly and learned. Window dressing!

I mean, the common people have long said simply "B.C".

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