James Ussher

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This man's legacy is quite annoying.
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As in all cases, the findings of science are far more awe-inspiring than the rantings of the godly. The history of the cosmos begins, if we use the word "time" to mean anything at all, about [13.8] billion years ago. If we use the word "time" wrongly, we shall end up with the infantile computation of the celebrated Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh, who calculated that the Earth — "the Earth" alone, mind you, not the cosmos — had its birthday on Saturday, October 22, in 4004 BC, at six in the afternoon. This dating was endorsed by William Jennings Bryan, a former American secretary of state and two-time Democratic presidential nominee, in courtroom testimony in the third decade of the twentieth century.
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything[1]

James Ussher (1581–1656) was the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland from 1625 to 1656.

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, 4004 BCE — is still used by many young earth creationists today[2].

Ussher's chronology[edit]

The chronology Ussher devised gives the following biblically identified dates for important events.[3]

Biblical disagreements[edit]

The main distinction between Ussher and other significantly different (i.e. in the hundreds of years) biblical chronologies depends on which Old Testament version is used.

As with most Protestant bibles today, Ussher relied on the Masoretic textWikipedia. However, the Eastern Orthodox and older Catholic bibles as well as ancient Christians prior to JeromeWikipedia tend(ed) to use the Septuagint which moves the date of Creation back to around 5000-5500 BCE, but places the Flood much later (around 1850 BCE).

A third option, using the Samaritan PentateuchWikipedia, while locating Creation (in 4064 BCE) almost simultaneously to the Masoretic text, moves the Flood back to around 2800 BCE (or about 450 years prior to Masoretic calculations).

A few, more modern (and fringe) biblical chronologies have moved Creation back significantly, such as Harold Camping's 11,013 BCE, or two 19th century calculationsWikipedia of, respectively, 12,500 BCE and 20,000 BCE. Go biblical inerrancy!

Needed Leaps[edit]

One of the more striking things about this chronology is how it makes assumptions that are simply not backed up in The Bible. For example, the amount of time Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden is not found anywhere in Genesis. Assuming it was a couple of weeks (or any amount of time) is inherently nothing but guessing, and it needs to be a rather short amount of time in order for the Earth to be--well, young. Many Christians have attempted to use other verses in The Bible to at least make the case The Bible implies the amount of time spent in the Garden was on the shorter side,[4][5] but none of them have shown anything definitive, and commonly rely on either the use of what could easily be seen as metaphor or on the words of people who would not have such information in the first place.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Barr, James, 'Why the World Was Created in 4004 B.C.: Archbishop Ussher and Biblical Chronology', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 67, pp. 575-608
  • Gould, Stephen Jay, 'Fall in the House of Ussher', Natural History, vol. 100 (November 1991), pp. 12-21


  1. Page 57-58.
  2. To be somewhat fair, geology was still at best at its infancy in those days and Ussher used the available and considered best material back in the day. Modern YECs have no such excuses.
  3. Ussher dates
  4. How long were Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?
  5. How Long Were Adam and Eve in the Garden Before Sinning?