In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. [John 1:1 (AMP)]
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End [the Eternal One]. [Revelation 22:13 (AMP)]
Various events leave an indelible mark on our personal history and we have our “befores” and “afters” with which we mark time. It might be BP for “before Parkinson’s,” AM for “after marriage,” BS for “before sobriety,” or AC for “after cancer.” When we had little ones, our time was marked by BC (before children) and AD (after diapers)! Of course, for most of the world, the designations BC and AD have to do with the calendar and delineate whether the time was before or after Christ.
When just a child, I knew BC meant “before Christ” but mistakenly thought AD meant “after death.” As a result, I wondered where that left the thirty-three years He walked the earth. Was that DC—“during Christ?” AD actually is an abbreviation for anno Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, Latin for “in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ” (“in the year of our Lord,” for short), so those thirty-three years belong on the AD side of the timeline.
The BC/AD system was a byproduct of an attempt by the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325) to unify the church by setting the date of Easter as the first Sunday following the full moon following the spring equinox. Computations determining the date were recorded in documents known as Easter tables. But, with no universally accepted way of dating the years, some calendars were based on the founding of Rome and others on the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian. As a result, depending on the dating system, Easter’s date varied by as much as five weeks. Wanting to unite the church in their celebration of the most important event in Christianity, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus introduced the concept of AD in 525 when he anchored his Easter table on the year of the Lord’s birth. It was, however, several centuries before his system became commonplace.
In 731, the English monk Bede was the first author to use Dionysius’ AD system in his history of the English people. Bede also was the first person to use BC to designate how many years prior to Christ’s birth an event occurred. In the ninth century, the Roman Emperor Charlemagne adopted the BC/AD system throughout his empire and, by the fourteenth century, most of Christendom had adopted it.
Although Dionysius never explained how he determined Jesus’ birth year, he probably consulted the early church writings of Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea to estimate the date. As it turns out, he miscalculated the year and most historians now believe Jesus actually was born four to six years earlier than Dionysius thought. Nevertheless, error or not, whether we use BC and AD or the more “politically correct” BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era), our calendars are anchored in Christ’s incarnation!
Aside from our calendars, while there was a time before Jesus appeared in Bethlehem, there never really was a time before Christ. Moreover, what I didn’t understand as a girl is that, while time has passed since Jesus walked the earth, there never has been a time “after” Him. Jesus always existed and forever will exist. He was here at the beginning of time, He is here now, and He will be here at the end; He is the Alpha and Omega. In actuality, it always has been AD—anno Domini—the year of our Lord.
For Christians, perhaps the most important dividing line is a very personal BC—before Christ. Different for each of us, it is the moment we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. It is our real birth (rather re-birth) day and, from that moment on, we truly live in AD—the year of our Lord.