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Bishop Ussher

(taken from the disk- A supplement to Annals of the World –Reference Cd-Rom 2003)

We place information here on Ussher as so many people believe he was correct in his work in dating the original day of creation. We do not accept his work as creation took place outside of human time thus we feel that any human calculations will automatically be in error.

We also feel that the important lessons of creation are lost when one focuses on the ‘when’ instead of the ‘who’ and the ‘how’. There is no biblical command or instruction for us to figure out when the universe and earth were created and this silence does not open the door to Old Earth Creation (OEC) or evolutionary thought. Even though we can investigate approx. when the earth was originally created, it is not necessary except to refute OEC ideology and evolutionary models.

The owners of this website believe the universe, etc., were created recently but not according to the conclusions of Bishop and others who seek a 6000 year time frame for human life. What makes us hesitate as well is that there is no way to verify Ussher’s, or those people who place similar dates on creation, work.  We do not have a divinely inspired objective source to go to in order to compare notes and see if he, or they, was correct or not.

It is best to say that God created everything in 6 24 hour days by speaking and leave it at that. We have more important work to do than worry about when everything came into existence.
As a side note, just because someone is a scholar of honor and repute does not mean he is necessarily correct.


When it comes to suggesting a date for the creation of the Earth, perhaps few people have been the butt of more ridicule on the subject from sceptics than Archbishop James Ussher. It was Ussher who in the 1650s put forward the idea that this occurred on October 23, 4004 BC, and this year appeared as a marginal note in many Bibles up until about the mid-20th century. So was Ussher a wise man, a charlatan, or just naive? And what should we think about his date?

The Scholar of Honour and Repute

James Ussher was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1581. As a young man he resolved to devote himself wholly to the work of the Church, and the Lord honoured him in his resolve. At 18 he entered Dublin University, which was then one of the major universities. At 20 he was ordained a deacon and priest in the Anglican Church at Dublin. At 26 he was appointed chairman of the Department of Divinity at Dublin, an honour accorded to very few who were that young. He was a professor from 1607 to 1621, and was twice appointed vice-chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin.

From his early school days he excelled in history, and from the time he was 20 for the next two decades he read every history book he could get his hands on. He excelled in church history and prepared several large authoritative works dealing with the Irish and English churches from the times of the Apostles.

In 1625, he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh, which was the highest position in the Irish Anglican Church. An expert in Semitic languages, he argued for the reliability of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and wrote widely on Christianity in Asia, and other Bible- related topics.

In 1628, King James appointed him to his Privy Council in Ireland. He was critical of the rebellion against Charles the first. However, Cromwell, who headed the rebellion, held him in great esteem. When Ussher died, Cromwell held a magnificent funeral for him and had him buried in Westminster Abbey.

The Only Reliable Source Document

One of Ussher's many projects was the writing, in Latin, of a complete history of the world covering every major event from the time of creation to 70 AD. He published this 1600-page tome in Latin in 1650. An English translation was published in 1658, two years after his death. This work is fascinating to read; however, few of us have access to it. The work is being republished and, as it is completed, will be posted for downloading on the Answers in Genesis web site. The contents of the first volume of his work are already posted for download. It covers the period from creation to 176 BC.

In preparing this work, Ussher first made the assumption that the Bible was the only reliable source document of chronological information for the time periods covered in the Bible. In fact, before the Persian Empire, very little is known about Greek, Roman, and Egyptian history, or the history of other nations. Much rests on speculation and myths. Dates in secular history become more certain with the founding of the Media-Persian Empire.

For events before this time, Ussher relied solely on the data from the Bible to erect his historical framework. He chose the death of Nebuchadnezzar as a reliable date to anchor all the earlier biblical dates to. Hence, working backward from that date, he ended up with his date for creation of October 23, 4004 BC.

How Did He Arrive At This Date?

Nowhere in your Bible does it say that the day was October 23. Because the Jews and many other ancient peoples started their year in the autumn, Ussher assumed there must be a good reason for it. He therefore concluded that God created the world in the autumn. After consulting astronomical tables he picked the first Sunday after the autumnal equinox.

We all know that the equinox occurs around September 21, not October 23. Well, it does now, thanks to some juggling of the calendar. In his studies, Ussher found that the ancient Jews and the Egyptians did not use a year based on the moon. Instead they had a year made up of twelve months, each thirty days long. At the end of the year they tacked on five days. Every four years they added six days. However, a year of 365 days is too short, and one of exactly 365.25 days is too long. You have to drop days from it to keep the seasons from drifting.

When Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, he adopted the system we now use, with twelve months of various lengths. On September 2, 1752, eleven days were dropped from the English calendar to make the seasons start when they were supposed to. Another day was dropped in 1800 and again in 1900. These years would normally have been leap years, but were made normal years to keep the calendar in line. Today we user the Gregorian calendar which is a refinement of the Julian calendar.

Before Julius Caesar's reform, no correcting days were made to the calendar. For the four thousand years from Caesar's time to the time of creation almost thirty-two days have to be dropped to make the seasons start when they should. Hence, by making these adjustments, Ussher arrived at the date of October 23, not September 21.

Now you ask, how did he get the year 4004 BC?

Answer: He took the chronologies in Genesis 5 and 11, together with some other Bible passages which we will look at. To simplify the calculations, we will tie the chronology to the fall of Jerusalem in 588 BC. The detailed calculations cover over 100 pages in the original document!

In the Bible there are some large time periods given. These enable us to do the same calculations as Ussher, without going into all the intermediate details as he did.

Golden Arches of Time

Ussher started from the Bible and not from secular history. That is why he used a date of 588 BC for the fall of Jerusalem and not 586 BC. He noted that the fourth year of King Jehoiakim's reign corresponded to the first year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. (Jeremiah 25:1) In working through the king lists of Judah, he determined that this was in 607 BC, two years before the death of Nebuchadnezzar's father. His father died in 605 BC and many historians concluded that this was the start of Nebuchadnezzar's reign when in fact he was already ruling as viceroy for two years. It was the normal procedure to count as the first year of the reign of a king from the year he became a viceroy. Starting from the Bible, Ussher was able to correct this error in secular history.

So was Ussher Right?

Ussher was neither charlatan nor naive; in fact, he was one of the most learned men of his day. Understanding the assumptions with which he began his calculations (particularly the one we should all begin with, namely that God's Word is true and reliable), we can readily understand how he arrived at his date for creation. In fact, if one assumes that there are no deliberate 'jumps' or gaps in the later genealogies (for which the evidence in my view is inadequate), then his date is a perfectly reasonable deduction based on his detailed knowledge of and reverence for the Word of God.

Astronomy and Ussher

Astrogeophysicist Dr John Eddy, who was at the time Solar Astronomer at the High Altitude Observatory at Boulder, Colorado, made some revealing comments at a symposium in 1978, as reported in Geotimes, Vol. 23, September 1978, p. 18.

"There is no evidence based solely on solar observations, Eddy stated, that the Sun is 4.5-5 x 109 years old. "I suspect," he said, "that the Sun is 4.5-billion years old. However, given some new and unexpected results to the contrary, and some time for frantic recalculation and theoretical readjustment, I suspect that we could live with Bishop Ussher's value for the age of the Earth and Sun. I don't think we have much in the way of observational evidence in astronomy to conflict with that.""

Larry Pierce, The Online Bible

Ussher's Time Line for the Divided Kingdom

Larry Pierce, The Online Bible, February 2002

The time line for the divided kingdom has caused many problems recently for those who do not take the Bible as their final authority. This article documents this time line and points out the difficulties with it. Archaeology seems to have caused the most grief as well meaning individuals try to harmonise man's conjectures with the infallible word of God.

This work is based on the Old Testament Scriptures of the Bible. Any translation that accurately translates the current Hebrew texts into English can be used. The LXX is inaccurate in many places and is unsuitable for this. Likewise, any translation that is not based on the Hebrew text but uses the Greek LXX or the Latin Vulgate suffers from the same problems. Many foreign language versions are derived from the LXX, i.e. the Russian Synodal Bible. We used the 1769 English Authorized Version in preparing this work.

We have reconstructed the king lists for the divided kingdom based on the work of James Ussher's, "The Annals of the World." We have shown all chronological data for the period of the kings as we have gleaned it from Kings, Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. We have not knowingly omitted any passages in those books that contain chronological information. We have also documented all the supposed contradictions people have found in the chronological data and have explained them in location. Most of these disappear with an accurate reconstruction of the king lists. Only twice does there appear to be a scribal error in transmission and even these do not affect the king list chronology. The list of contradictions was taken from John Halley. (p. 396-404)

See http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/magazines/tj/docs/divided.asp for complete article.

11.0 Conclusion

Ussher's results, based on the Bible alone, violate just about every "absolute date" in archaeology. Amen. All this shows is that we may not know as much about history as God does. This provides an excellent incentive for Christians to reevaluate the findings of archaeology to find their mistakes. This has been done before by Christians. Let us do the same for the rest of archaeology's so called "absolute dates." We will never forget what Gordon Franz, who was guiding a tour to Israel in 1998, said on the mound of Jericho. "Absolute "truth" in archaeology lasts about twenty years." Maybe we should substitute "conjecture" for "truth!"

Archaeology is to history what evolution is to science. Evolutionists find a fossil and make up a story to go with it. Likewise, many archaeologists find a broken pot or a fragment of a scroll and spin a tale to explain it. If you are well respected in the field, your story becomes the gospel until something better comes along. This is not at all an exaggeration. The classic case was the time when Dr. Woods examined the dates for Jericho as determined by Kathleen Kenyon and found them too recent. She excavated an eight meter square and dated the fall of Jericho based on the type of pottery she DID NOT find! (We are sure this had nothing at all to do with her anti-biblical bias!) This farce rode on the coat tails of her reputation for decades until Dr. Woods exploded it. At the very best, archaeology can only confirm what the Bible says, never refute it. It may give us background information to help us understand the Bible better.

We have been able to recreate the background documentation to justify Ussher's reconstruction of the king lists for the divided kingdom. We have been careful to state all the assumptions we used and state all the known problems that people have found that relate to this chronological period. We have solely relied on the Bible for our information. We do not claim that this reconstruction is unique. There may be other ways to do it. However, we have shown that there exists at least one way it can be done without doing violence to the scriptures. That is sufficient to overthrow a host of inaccurate reconstructions for this same time period which result in a much shorter time for this biblical period.

We are open to suggestions and amendments. However, we will only entertain corrections that are rooted in the Bible. Archaeological arguments that violate the scriptures carry no weight with us.

Program Author's Comments

So often we hear: "there must be more generations between the patriarchs listed in Genesis; science says we need more begats. The word begat could mean generations". Begotwash!

How many more begats do we need to satisfy an unbelieving system of unproven evolutionary theories?  I would venture to guess that thousands more would not satisfy an ever-increasing appetite for unbelief.

The following verse is from Gen 5:3(NKJV): "And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth."

Do we name our future descendents?

The following verse is from Gen 5:7 (NKJV):  After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters."

Does this sound like begetting a future descendent?

Or, Gen 5:28-29(NKJV):  Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and had a son. And he called his name Noah, saying, "This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD has cursed."

The thirst for more begats only begets more unbelief, and does not even agree with the Biblical account.

Like many objections to Bible truth, a sober analysis of the evidence shows these objections to be nothing more than red herrings. And like evolution, the more we expose the truth, the further those doubters must venture into the fish market to find fresh objections.

To be fair however, I suppose we all struggle with how all came into being. Even creation scientists struggle with the reality of God's power. When did God's miraculous creation work end and when did natural processes begin. Up to day 6 when man was created from the dust of the ground, we see the miraculous.