Sunday, January 4, 2009

Archbishop James Ussher (1581 - 1656)

James Ussher, Anglican bishop of Armagh, Ireland, was born January 4, 1581 in Dublin. He was a godly scholar whose best-remembered work is probably his Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world. Ussher traces the date of creation to 4004 BC. Fred Sanders at The Scriptorium tells about Ussher's scholarly work, especially in producing his famous chronology:

Ussher excelled all previous attempts mainly by his precision and his encyclopedic learning: he correlated Biblical accounts with classical and Middle Eastern history, and with Jewish calendar systems. He made independent judgments about the superiority of the Hebrew text to the Greek translation of the Old Testament, about reconciling the Julian calendar to the Gregorian, and about anything else that got in his way. All in Latin, all festooned with quotations from classical authors. The sheer erudition of Ussher’s work convinced many people, and his dates made it into the margins and headers of a series of influential Bibles, from eighteenth-century editions of the King James Bible down to Scofield’s Reference Bible.

Ussher’s chronology is famous now because of controversies of our own time: His Annals are back in print because of young-earth creationist demand, and his dating of creation has been ridiculed in public discourse since Inherit the Wind.

Read the whole article. It's very interesting.

It's also interesting to note Ussher's reputation for godliness and scholarship in his own time. During England's Civil War Ussher was loyal to King Charles I and turned down an invitation to be part of the Westminster Assembly of Divines in 1643. He lived out his last years in London under the protection of a Countess. Yet when he died in 1656 Oliver Cromwell insisted that the archbishop have a state funeral and be buried in Westminster Abbey. Wikipedia has more on the life of Archbishop Ussher.

Master Books reprinted Ussher's chronology in 2003 in updated English under the title, Annals of the World. Copies are also available from Amazon in both hardback and paperback.