This year, as you will remember, we experienced 10/10/10. The matter becomes even more impressive when you consider that we all actually lived through “ten seconds past ten minutes past ten o’clock on the tenth day of the tenth month of the tenth year of the third millennium”, or “10:10:10:10:10:10”! Pretty neat, huh? In fact, it was only surpassed by what happened one thousand years earlier, when the mark was actually “10:10:10:10:10:1010”!
Of course, all of this is occurring because of the start of a new millennium - a millennium being a thousand-year cycle, such as a century is a hundred-year cycle, and as a decade is a ten-year cycle, etc… Thus, the year 2000 represents the end of the second millennium, or the end of the twentieth century. But that simply begs the question: the end of the second millennium or the end of twenty centuries since what? In western culture, that defining moment in time has traditionally been seen as the birth of Jesus Christ. Therefore, as most of us were taught in grade school, "B.C." stands for “Before Christ”, and "A.D." stands not for “After Death” (as many presume), but for “Anno Domini”, Latin for “in the year of our Lord”.
I am often asked why dates are sometime presented differently these days in books or on documentaries. In scholarly circles, one will often see the designations “B.C.E." and "C.E.” as opposed to “B.C." and "A.D.” Why is this? Because a lot of archaeology has been carried out in Israel, under the auspices of the Israeli Antiquities Authority and by Israeli, or at least by Jewish, Archaeologists. The designation “B.C.E.” thus stands for “Before the Common Era” and “C.E.” stands for “In the Common Era”. Such dating methods are said to be less offensive to people of Jewish faith. (Not much is said about whether people of Christian faith are offended, however, by the cessation of the designation “A.D.”)
Another dating method which is fast becoming even more common among secular scholars is that of “B.P.” This stands for “Before the Present” (or "Radiocarbon Years Before 1950", to be exact). In this method, no reference to one’s faith is taken into consideration at all. Therefore, conservative Christian scholars would say that King David of the Bible lived sometime around 1000 "B.C."; liberal scholars would say that, if he lived at all, David lived around 1000 "B.C.E."; and secular scholars would say a man named King David was supposed to have lived around 3000 "B.P." though he probably never actually existed at all. (At least for now, that is. One supposes that 50 years from now, David would have lived around 3050 B.P., 100 years from now, he would have lived around 3100 B.P., etc…) Textbooks would, of course, need to be updated yearly. Needless to say, all of this could get a little confusing after a few centuries!
For now, though, I hope all of this makes things a bit less confusing, and perhaps helpful, especially for those of you who desire to deepen your faith by studying the events of the Bible in their historical context. As you do read and study such things, remember that how a scholar chooses to frame his dating methods may tell you a lot about what his theological presuppositions and/or his religious convictions are.
Besides, with every passing year since 2000, not only King David, but each of us as well, continues to get a little older.
If, in that process, any of us ever do get to be “as old as Methuselah”, we might find ourselves dealing with all of this again one day - say, around Y3K or so!