The Fall of the Date of Ussher

DOI: To do so, the Primate of All Ireland time has given his title a certain irony carefully mined the Old and New Testaments for genealogical information that might lead him back to the date of Creation. In so doing, he concluded that the Earth was only about 5, years old. What doomed his result—and, indeed, many a conclusion in science—were faulty assumptions. The bishop, who took as an axiom that the biblical account of Creation was literal, painstakingly did the math attendant on the notorious biblical begats. He then dutifully added to his tally the five days that separated the creation of the Earth from the creation of human beings, and arrived at the exact date of Creation: October 23, B.

October 23, 4004 B.C.: Happy Birthday Earth!

Up until fairly recently, nearly all printings of the King James Bible included dates in the marginal notes which helped place Biblical events in their chronological context. Using this as a guide we can see that “God created the heaven and the earth” in b. Obviously, the numbers are helpful in understanding the sequence and timing of events, but where did they come from, and are they reliable?

The chronology was derived by Archbishop James Ussher, and first published in a.

American fundamentalists in found—and generally accepted as accurate—​Ussher’s careful calculation of dates, going all the way back to Creation, in the.

Church and ministry leadership resources to better equip, train and provide ideas for today’s church and ministry leaders, like you. Ussher famously dated the moment of creation to noon on October 23, BC. Snooty people who imagine they are smarter than their ancestors because they watch the Discovery Channel—but who could not, if their lives depended on it, give a coherent explanation other than an appeal to authority for how we know the earth goes around the sun—love to laugh at this alleged Dark Age fool.

Here is a rather generous essay by Stephen Jay Gould that gives credit where credit is due to Bishop James Ussher and his stab at dating the age of the universe. Of course Ussher could hardly have been more wrong about B. The excoriating textbook tradition depicts Ussher as a single misguided dose of darkness and dogma thrown into an otherwise more enlightened pot of knowledge—as if he alone, representing the church in an explicit rearguard action against science and scholarship, raised this issue to recapture lost ground.

No idea about the state of chronological thinking in the seventeenth century could be more false. Ussher represented the best of scholarship in his time. Today we rightly reject a cardinal premise of that methodology—belief in biblical inerrancy—and we recognize that this false assumption allowed such a great error in estimating the age of the earth. But what intellectual phenomenon can be older, or more oft repeated, than the story of a large research program that impaled itself upon a false central assumption accepted by all practitioners?

Do we regard all people who worked within such traditions as dishonorable fools?

A defense of Bishop James Ussher

The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. This article was published more than 8 years ago. Some information in it may no longer be current. Odd, isn’t it, that it’s always poor James Ussher , the Irish theologian who famously calculated the precise date of Creation – Oct. Ussher is always good for a chuckle. Ussher wasn’t the only 17th-century scholar to date Creation.

Despite his success as a churchman, Ussher is perhaps most famous for having dated the start of the creation to the evening before 23rd October, B.C.

He was a prolific scholar and church leader, who today is most famous for his identification of the genuine letters of the church father, Ignatius of Antioch , and for his chronology that sought to establish the time and date of the creation as “the entrance of the night preceding the 23rd day of October Ussher was born in Dublin to a well-to-do family. His maternal grandfather, James Stanihurst , had been speaker of the Irish parliament.

Ussher’s father, Arland Ussher, was a clerk in chancery who married James Stanihurst ‘s daughter, Margaret by his first wife Anne Fitzsimon , who was reportedly a Roman Catholic. Ussher’s younger, and only surviving, brother, Ambrose , became a distinguished scholar of Arabic and Hebrew. According to his chaplain and biographer, Nicholas Bernard , the elder brother was taught to read by two blind, spinster aunts. A gifted polyglot , he entered Dublin Free School and then the newly founded Trinity College Dublin on 9 January , at the age of thirteen not an unusual age at the time.

He had received his Bachelor of Arts degree by and was a fellow and MA by though Bernard claims he did not gain his MA till In , he married Phoebe, daughter of a previous Vice-Provost , Luke Challoner, and published his first work. In , he was closely involved with the drawing up of the first confession of faith of the Church of Ireland.


James Ussher, was one of the greatest scholars and theologians of his time. In his enduring search for knowledge he travelled widely in Britain and Europe, seeking the earliest available manuscripts, buying those he could, and copying others. After his death, his extensive and valuable library, formed the nucleus of the great library of Trinity College, Dublin.

James Ussher, archbishop of Armagh, was the pre-eminent figure in the contemporary Church of Ireland, and a leading patron of scholarship at Trinity College, Dublin. A staunch defender of episcopacy, he was nevertheless respected on all sides during the religious upheavals of the s and s, and regarded as the person most likely to achieve an accommodation between the Presbyterians and the Church of England.

Ussher’s date for the birth of Jesus is 4 BCE. While the preponderance of contemporary scholarly opinion tends toward dating the nativity two or three years earlier.

Seventh-day Adventists believe in inspiring those around us to experience a life of wholeness and hope for an eternal future with God. Ussher’s date for Creation, based in part on Old Testament figures and in part on astronomical cycles, eclipsed the figure suggested earlier by Lightfoot. His date of B. Ussher’s chronology has suffered an almost continuous series of challenges.

The writings of Plato described how the lost “continent” of Atlantis had become submerged some 9, years before his time. The Babylonian scholar Berosus, writing in the third century B. Interestingly, one of the first to come to his defense was Sir Isaac Newton. In The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended , Newton roundly criticized the Egyptian chronologists because they had set the origin of their kingdom prior to B.

Despite serious challenges from studies in the natural sciences as well as ancient history, Ussher’s dominating influence in the arena of Biblical chronology did not slacken until the rise of modern archeology. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in Egypt in and its decipherment by Champollion in the s provided the key to unlock the meaning of monument inscriptions and papyrus kings’ lists.

The history of Egypt had already been divided into thirty dynasties by Manetho, an Egyptian priest of the third century B. Astronomical observations on the rising of the Dog Star, called Sothis in Egyptian led to the development of a Sothic cycle that could be used to verify dates as early as B.

James Ussher

Scores of attempts have been made to compute the actual date of the earliest Biblical event–the creation. The most famous was undoubtedly that made by Bishop James Ussher in the seventeenth century. James Ussher was born in Dublin, Ireland in and died in England in He lived through a time of tremendous political and religious upheaval in his native Ireland and in England. Though he was a Puritan in theology, he was a royalist in his stedfastness to the king and the principle of divine right of kings.

Invited to participate in the Westminster Assembly, which eventually wrote the Westminster Confession and Catechism, Ussher refused because he thought the assembly itself was illegal.

Ussher’s Date for World’s Beginning from BC church history timeline. Learn about historical christian events within church history!

Ussher’s calculations, published in the Annals of the Old Testament, Deduced From the First Origins of the World , strike most modern sensibilities as absurd. Except for a few Young Earth Creationists, believers and nonbelievers alike agree that if a supernatural entity created the universe, it happened about But Ussher was far from the first person to wildly miscalculate the universe’s age. Indeed, dating the universe was quite the scholarly fad.

Among others to try their hand were Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton , both of whom arrived at estimates younger than Ussher’s. All labored without a number of modern tools — not only for measuring radioactive decay or rates of the universal expansion, but an intellectual framework for conceiving of time on scales beyond the biblical. That wouldn’t exist for another century, when a Scottish farmer and geological enthusiast named James Hutton , looking at riverbank stone formations, saw a record of sedimentary deposition that couldn’t be contained in 6, years.

Or many times that. That was a radical idea, and it took another century to be widely accepted, even in the scientific community. Bearing that in mind, Ussher didn’t do such a terrible job. If anything, his estimate, derived in part by counting the number of generations in the Bible, was relatively reasonable. He also had the rigor to corroborate such events as the deaths of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar with nonbiblical sources. Those dates have stood the test of time.

The man who dated Creation at Oct. 23, 4004 BC

A 17th-century Irish prelate reached the heights of scientific sophistication in estimating Earth’s age, writes Mary Mulvihill. In the archbishop of Armagh, James Ussher, began counting all the “begats” in the Old Testament. He also studied ancient Egyptian and Hebrew texts, analysed how the ancient calendars were calculated and came up with a date for the Creation. The world, he concluded, had begun one weekend in BC – specifically, on the evening before October 23rd.

These days most people laugh at the Irish clergyman’s work. Yet in it was the height of scientific sophistication, and many other erudite scholars were computing similar sums.

One of the most commonly quoted dates in historical geology texts is the time of creation as calculated by James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh.

At that point we shall leave the good archbishop and his traveling companions as they journey farther on to the time of our Lord and the end of the Jewish commonwealth at the hand of the Romans. After the Flood, the ages of the patriarchs at the birth of their son not necessarily the firstborn give AM , BC for the birth of Terah, father of Abram Abraham. A rough place in the road then appears.

Gen says that after 70 years, Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. After this there are good highway markers down to the entry of Jacob into Egypt. Exodus,41 says that the sojourning of the descendants of Israel who dwelt in Egypt was years. In Galatians,17, however, Paul says that the giving of the Law, which happened in the year of the Exodus, was years after the promise to Abraham, or possibly after the confirmation of the promise.

Dating creation

The chronology first appeared in The Annals of the Old Testament , a monumental work first published in London in the summer of Ussher lived through momentous times, having been born during the reign of Elizabeth and dying, in , under Cromwell. He was a talented fast-track scholar who entered Trinity College in Dublin at the early age of thirteen, became an ordained priest by the age of twenty, and a professor at Trinity by twenty-seven.

James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh () Date: circa 10×8 (​25x20cm) Print (#) Framed Prints, Posters, Canvas, Puzzles, Metal, Photo.

The Ussher chronology is a 17th-century chronology of the history of the world formulated from a literal reading of the Bible by James Ussher , the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh in what is now Northern Ireland. The chronology is sometimes associated with Young Earth Creationism , which holds that the universe was created only a few millennia ago. Ussher’s work, more properly known as the Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world , was his contribution to the long-running theological debate on the age of the Earth.

This was a major concern of many Christian scholars over the centuries. The chronology is sometimes called the Ussher-Lightfoot chronology because John Lightfoot published a similar chronology in — This, however, is a misnomer, as the chronology is based on Ussher’s work alone and not that of Lightfoot. Ussher deduced that the first day of creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday October 23, BC, in the proleptic Julian calendar , near the autumnal equinox.

Archbishop Ussher’s book dating the creation

He is most famous for calculating what was believed, at the time, to be the exact first day of creation based on a detailed examination of the Bible and of older chronologies and calendars. The date which he arrived at — the night preceding October 23, BCE — is still used by many young earth creationists today. The chronology Ussher devised gives the following biblically identified dates for important events.

birthday – this date is mentioned in many textbooks retelling the life of Irish Archbishop James Ussher (). In Ussher published.

Ussher is best known for his work in biblical chronology and, more specifically, for his dating of creation to the 23rd October, BC. Later writers refined his thesis and argued that creation occurred at 6. His interest lay not in establishing a specific date but presenting a framework for the history of mankind. For Ussher what lay in the past explained the present and pointed to the future Second Coming of Christ. Ussher was not alone in his interest in biblical chronology.

This was by no means an easy task and required a knowledge of several languages and disciplines for the adept scholar to make any progress. It was not an easy task. The problem was that there were significant gaps in the biblical account. Even the famous succession lists present in the Bible were sometimes more like riddles than firm guides to the different generations. Likewise, he had to factor in leap years, co-regencies, and a host of other minor problems, all of which might effect his schema.

On the plus side, there were some important guidelines. The Book of Genesis stated that God had created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Since the Jewish Sabbath was on a Saturday, it therefore held that Creation had commenced on a Sunday, and, in the eyes of contemporaries the reference to the infamous apple was a clear sign that God created the world in Autumn Ussher narrowed it down to the first Sunday following the autumnal equinox.

The six days of creation had a heightened significance because they also provided a template for the ages of the world, and might also refer to the three persons of the Trinity.

Primary sources

The science of Biblical chronology in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was an integral part of Christian belief and of Biblical exegesis. The difficulties involved in such a project concerned notably the Biblical text itself and the measurement of time used not only by the Jews, but by other civilisations whose own chronology was increasingly assimilated into Biblical chronology to form a universal history.

The secularisation that such a shift implied, allied to new evidence from non-textual sources concerning the possible dating of the creation, gradually began to throw doubt on the primacy of the Bible in chronological studies. This article offers a survey of Biblical chronology in Britain from James Usshers Annales Veteris Testamenti through to the second part of the eighteenth century.

Lightfoot similarly deduced that Creation began at nightfall near the autumnal equinox, but in the year BC. Ussher’s proposed date of BC differed.

The interpretation of ancient texts is a tricky enterprise, and the more ambiguous the text, the more difficult it is to come to a concrete, widely-accepted interpretation. As such, the Genesis Creation account is often difficult to deal with – is it reliable history as written, or ambiguous and difficult to believe? Debate is heated even within the Christian community. Biblical literalists ascribe to the viewpoint that the Bible is to be interpreted literally except for certain poetic passages.

Those who hold such a viewpoint interpret the Creation account in Genesis as taking place over six literal hour days. Additionally, the Bible contains genealogies describing the descendants of Adam to the Jewish patriarchs and beyond. It is not surprising, then, that attempts have been made by Biblical literalists to use genealogies given in the Bible to assign a date to the origin of humanity. Then, given an interpretation of Creation week and its length , it is possible to assign a date to Creation itself.

The two most famous such attempts incorporating a literal week as Creation week were made by John Lightfoot and James Ussher in the 17th century. Their work is known as the Ussher-Lightfoot Calendar. In order to use Biblical genealogies as a calendar, one must make the fundamental assumption that Adam and Eve were the first humans.

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