Detail map of Armagh, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom,Green Forest, Arkansas, United States

A: Armagh, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, B: Green Forest, Arkansas, United States

The Ussher Chronology: The World Was Created in 4004 BCE

1650 to 2012
<p>The first edition of Ussher's chronology. The date of creation, 4004 BC, is clearly visible in the right margin.</p>

The first edition of Ussher's chronology. The date of creation, 4004 BC, is clearly visible in the right margin.

In his Annales Veteris Testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti, una cum rerum Asiaticarum et Aegyptiacarum chronico, a temporis historici principio usque ad Maccabaicorum initia producto. ("Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world, the chronicle of Asiatic and Egyptian matters together produced from the beginning of historical time up to the beginnings of Maccabes") James Ussher, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, deduced that the first day of creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday, October 23, 4004 BCE, in the proleptic Julian calendar, near the autumnal equinox. Ussher published a continuation of this work, Annalium pars postierior, in 1654. The work was first translated into English in London in 1658 as The Annals of the World

"Ussher's proposed date of 4004 BC differed little from other Biblically based estimates, such as those of Jose ben Halafta (3761 BC), Bede (3952 BC), Ussher's near-contemporary Scaliger (3949 BC), Johannes Kepler (3992 BC) or Sir Isaac Newton (c. 4000 BC). Ussher's specific choice of starting year may have been influenced by the then-widely-held belief that the Earth's potential duration was 6,000 years (4,000 before the birth of Christ and 2,000 after), corresponding to the six days of Creation, on the grounds that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8)" (Wikipedia article on Ussher chronology, accessed 12-28-2012).

Ussher also provided exact dates for biblical and ancient history. He published dates in the margins of his work according to the year of the world, the Julian period, and the year before Christ. Because from the 1680s Ussher's chronology was published in the great many editions of the King James Bible, his chronology became enormously influential. Even though it was written in the seventeenth century, and aspects of its scholarship are obsolete, it remains influential today, particularly among Young Earth creationists in America who interpret the Bible literally.

"A 2011 Gallup survey reports, 'Three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God. That is similar to what Gallup has measured over the last two decades, but down from the 1970s and 1980s. A 49% plurality of Americans say the Bible is the inspired word of God but that it should not be taken literally, consistently the most common view in Gallup's nearly 40-year history of this question. Another 17% consider the Bible an ancient book of stories recorded by man.'

"A 2012 Gallup survey reports, 'Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.' Adherence to young Earth creationism in the U.S. has been found to be the highest in the Western world" (Wikipedia article on Young Earth creationism, accessed 12-28-2012).

In December 2012 I purchased the outstanding new edition of Ussher's The Annals of the World, revised and updated by Larry and Marion Pierce and published by Master Books in Green Forest, Arkansas in 2003.  My copy, acquired from Amazon, is the ninth printing of August 2010.  This small folio volume, printed on Bible paper and bound somewhat like a Bible in attractive leather-grained plastic covered cloth, with gilt edges and a ribbon marker, is described by the publishers as "James Ussher's Classic Survey of World History." It is enclosed in an attractive slipcase that suggests that it contains currently useful historical information. It is evident from details in the appendices that the audience for this edition—clearly a rather large one in view of the number of printings—may include creationists. The enclosed CD-ROM includes some additional information attempting to reconcile aspects of modern science with the creationist view.

Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time (2010) 65-67.

(This entry was last revised on 04-16-2014.)

Timeline Themes