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JAMES USSHER

James Ussher's (1581-1656) works of literature  - according to popular sentiment - are  regarded as outdated. Indeed, one does not have to go far to hear yet another joke centered around his date for the creation of the world at 4004 BC, although there are some who still hold that this date is correct.  They are in a minority that, like the date, is often the object of ridicule. Of course, taking into account scientific methods of determining the date of the earth, the date is far too late. Yet, in an age when geological time was not yet established, a date this far into the past, 4004 BC, was an accomplishment. While today it is cited as an example of religious ignorance, it was at the time an example of careful scholarship based on all available sources. In his day Ussher was a pre-eminent scholar, and his work on chronology was accepted as definitive by many generations of the Bible reading public. Indeed, the majority of his work on Biblical chronology, based on historic sources, is as valid now as it was then. It required considerable   knowledge of Classical sources, as well as what Near Eastern materials were available at the time. His Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti (Annals of the Old Testament, deducted from the first origins of the world) appeared in 1650. His later work, Annalium pars postierior (1654), finds that the world was created at nightfall before 23 October 4004 BC.  He did not specify the time of day as has so often been assumed. His dates for many historic events have not changed.  There have been new texts and better alignment of regional calendrical systems, but the changes here have not been as great. For example, the death of Alexander, at 323 BC, is still regarded by most scholars as correct. The same can be said for the assassination of Caesar in 44 BC.

Ussher was an accepted authority on Bible chronology since the at least 1701, when his work was incorporated into official versions of the Bible.  Most Bible reading Victorians would have relied upon his work as well.  There is now a newly translated version of his works that is available(2) which is used in the following presentation.


(2) Pierce, L. and Pierce, M. (2004).  The Annals of the World (2004) Revised and Updated. Master Books: Green Forest, Arizona.

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