Friday, October 23, 2009

October 23--The Anniversary of Creation

"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth."

That occurred on October 23, 4004 BC. So today is the 6013th anniversary of the Creation of the world.

At least, that is what we learn from Archbishop James Ussher's Annals of the World, published first in Latin in 1654, with an English translation published in 1658. Ussher used the Bible and secular works of ancient history to calculate a chronology of world history going back to the very beginning with God's Creation.

When I first began reading the Bible as a child, I noticed that the top of the first page of Genesis had 4004 BC as the date. It was a long time before I discovered that this date was not actually in the original text of the Bible, but was added later to some of the texts of the King James translation after Ussher's work.

Ussher was an Anglican Archbishop of Ireland who was a prodigious scholar of the Bible and ancient history. When he died in 1656, he was honored by Cromwell with a burial in Westminster Abbey.

A few years ago, Larry and Marion Pierce--a Canadian couple--spent over four years in editing a new English revision of the Annals, which was published in a beautifully printed leather-bound edition that is available at The book is widely read by Christians who see it as the alternative to Darwin in laying out a chronology of the history of the world based on biblical revelation rather than the false science of evolution.

Whenever Ussher and his chronology are mentioned today, people are usually ridiculing his work, although it's clear that these people have never actually read Ussher's book. Anyone who reads the book will have to be impressed by the extraordinary range and depth of his thinking, even if one is not persuaded by his reasoning.

As I have indicated in some previous posts on Ussher, reading his book should expose the weakness in the assumption of the "scientific creationists" that the Bible was intended to be a work of divinely revealed scientific history. To derive his chronology, Ussher relies on assumptions and inferences that go well beyond anything in the text of the Bible. For example, the text of Genesis never identifies the exact day of Creation. Ussher assumes that since the Jews used to start their year in autumn, this must reflect some ancient memory of Creation. He then uses astronomical tables to determine that the first Sunday after the autumnal equinox would be October 23 in the Julian calendar. On the Gregorian calender, which we use today, the date would be September 21. So, I guess we're actually a month late in celebrating this anniversary!

To get the year 4004 BC, Ussher relies on dating and particularly genealogies in the Bible. But to fill in the gaps in the biblical dating, Ussher has to go to the texts of ancient historians like Herodotus and Xenophon. The Pierces report that Ussher's book "contains more than twelve thousand footnotes from secular sources and over two thousand quotes from the Bible or the Apocrypha." If the Bible were intended to be a scientific history, why is Ussher forced to rely on secular historical texts to fill in his chronology? Doesn't this suggest that the Bible is more concerned with salvational history rather than scientific history?

My earlier posts on Ussher can be found here.


Anonymous said...

A small point only. There was no year zero, so if Creation happened in October 4004 BC, then October 2009 is the 6012th anniversary, not the 6013th. Sorry - but I can't help being a pedant!

Elijah_Luthor said...

In all of my research using the Holy Scriptures, the 1611 transliteration, the Creation week is actually in 4000 B.C. When one does the math on the genealogy of the antediluvian patriarchs, the Great Deluge or Great Flood does indeed occur in the year 1656 after Creation. Calculating further, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah) was born in 3996. Also, Jesus WAS NOT born on December 25 NOR in winter. The Nativity accounts in the Four Gospels make clear that the Lord Jesus was born in Autumn. His date of birth is somewhere between mid-September to mid-October. Yes, there is no Zero Year between B.C. dating and A.D. dating. Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and ascended in 4030, or A.D. 30 at the age of thirty-three years. Had he remained on the Earth, he would have turned 34 that Fall. Give or take a few months, whether the first day of Creation was in what we consider Spring or Autumn, this is the year 6013. As far as American history is concerned; if we adopt the correct chronological calendar, this means that 1776 is actually 5776. Imagine saying "the Spirit of Fifty-Seven Seventy-Six." That is so funny! Go here for what I call the "Luthorian calendar system."