ussher and the date of creation

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  • 8/14/2019 Ussher and the Date of Creation


    Ussher and the date of Creation

    Ussher is best known for his work in biblicalchronology and, more specifically, for hisdating of creation to the 23 rd October,4004BC. Later writers refined his thesis and

    argued that creation occurred at 6.00pm on the22 nd of October, 4004 BC, but Usshereschews giving specific times. His interest laynot in establishing a specific date butpresenting a framework for the history ofmankind. By using the Bible andcomplimentary historical sources he sought toprovide an over-arching view of God'sintervention in history. For Ussher what lay inthe past explained the present and pointed tothe future Second Coming of Christ.Ussher was not alone in his interest in biblical

    chronology. Contemporaries across Europefollowed in the footsteps of Bede in trying todate the various sections of the Bible, usuallysuggesting some slight adaptation of Bede'sdate of 3952 BC. This was by no means aneasy task and required a knowledge of severallanguages and disciplines for the adept scholarto make any progress. Ussher's seminal work,theAnnales veteris testamenti, a primamundi origine deducta (1650), later translatedasAnnals of the Old Testament, deduced from

    the first origins of the world(1658), quicklybecame a best-seller, providing as it did themost comprehensive framework thenavailable.It was not an easy task. The problem was thatthere were significant gaps in the biblicalaccount. The Old Testament stops in the periodof Ezra and Nehemiah - the 5 th century BC inUssher's chronology - so Ussher had to try andmatch up events in the Bible to otherchronologies before he reached the saferterritory of the New Testament. Even the

    famous succession lists present in the Biblewere sometimes more like riddles than firmguides to the different generations. He also hadto decide on which sources to use: the HebrewOld Testament or the Greek Septuagint. This

    wasn't a matter of stylistics but of hardchronology since the Septuagint added almost1000 years to the date-line. Likewise, he hadto factor in leap years, co-regencies, and a hostof other minor problems, all of which mighteffect his schema.

    On the plus side, there were some importantguidelines. The Book of Genesis stated thatGod had created the world in six days andrested on the seventh. Since the JewishSabbath was on a Saturday, it therefore held

    that Creation had commenced on a Sunday,and, in the eyes of contemporaries thereference to the infamous apple was a clearsign that God created the world in Autumn(Ussher narrowed it down to the first Sundayfollowing the autumnal equinox). The six daysof creation had a heightened significancebecause they also provided a template for theages of the world, and might also refer to thethree persons of the Trinity. Since 2 Peter 3:8had stated that 'With the Lord a day is like a

    thousand years and a thousand years is like aday' it was a small step to conclude that 6000years was the sum total of Creation. The use of1000 years as a building block in Ussher'schronology received further impetus from thefrequent references to millenia in the Book ofRevelations.Millenial markers gave Ussher's account anadded attraction. In his schema the completionof the Temple in 1004BC came exactly threethousand years after the creation of the world.This, in turn, was followed a thousand years

    later by the coming of Christ in 4BC (Herod'sdeath in that year meant that it was the latestpossible date for the birth of Christ). By datingthe birth of Jesus to 4BC Ussher could point toa neat symmetry, with 4000 years fromCreation to Christ which in turn would befollowed by 2000 years before the SecondComing. Ussher, while well aware of thepolemical value of such a chronology, was not
  • 8/14/2019 Ussher and the Date of Creation



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