Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it
James Ussher is famous, or infamous, depending on your point of view, for his work on creation. It was Ussher who calculated that the Earth was created at 6 pm on the evening before October 23rd 4004 BC. Because of his exactness in choosing this date, he has been criticized and held up for ridicule in recent years. Some of his strongest critics have been Christians who maintain that it is not important to believe Genesis 1 to be literal. I have seen so-called Christian literature illustrate Ussher with derogatory comments, fitting him with a dunce’s cap. The implication is that Ussher was ignorant or stupid.
In fact, he was neither. Ussher was born in Dublin, in Ireland, which was then part of Britain and under English control. Young James was just seven years old when the Spanish Armada was destroyed. When he was eight, he attended the City of Dublin Free School, whose alumni include John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. By the age of 10, he had read Augustine’s Confessions, and had read most of the early church fathers by 12. Also aged 12, he entered the new Trinity College, Dublin – one of the earliest “new” universities to spring up in the Kingdom. By the age of 14, he had already begun his mammoth work, the Annals of the World. He was 17 years old when he published his first major theological work.
This history of his childhood should be enough to convince the listener that James Ussher was neither ignorant nor stupid. Instead, his great intellect and vast knowledge of the Bible is the context behind his date for creation.
Prayer: We know, Lord God, that You have never left Your people without witness. Thank You for great men and women of old who held fast to the truth of Scripture and left us a godly legacy. Amen.
Author: Paul F. Taylor
Ref: Carr, J. (new edition 2012), The Life and Times of James Ussher, (Forgotten Books). Image: Public Domain.