According to Archbishop James Ussher the world was created on this day in 4004 BC. He was the first person to attempt a chronology of the Bible (publishing 1850-54). Many over the years have mocked the Archbishop. I don’t.


James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh (4 January ...

James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh (4 January 1581–21 March 1656), by Peter Lely (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


As an historian and someone trained in Biblical scholarship I can say with some confidence that the literal and historical (in our modern sense in a western culture) chronology he arrived at cannot be accepted. There are both gaps and overlaps in the chronology within the Bible, and that makes such a conclusion tentative at the very best.

Yet I honour the work he did. He took the Bible seriously, and nowadays that is hard to find. People either discount it or ignorantly make conclusions based on wishful thinking instead of, well, thinking.

I also respect the care with which he approached the project. Without a computer the task would have been daunting.

It is also important that Archbishop Ussher considered the Bible a useful tool to follow history. That belief has been confirmed repeatedly through archaeology, language, culture, military analysis and more.

In the end history cannot prove the message of the Bible. That one discovers by experience.


English: Early morning in wonderful Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


For example, for many years I had read about the historic cultures of South America. In 2008 I got a chance to travel to Peru (thanks to my daughters who gave me the trip for a special birthday). I remember visiting Machu Picchu and as the tour came close to the end it started to rain. The guide offered an apology. I stopped him and said, “I was hoping it would rain. I want to see how the drainage system works!” And I did experience that, and nothing I read gave the detail I experienced that day. The stairs doubled as troughs. Fascinating and not only worth getting drenched for, but a dream come true!

So with the Bible. Only when a person experiences it for what it is can one truly claim to be a legitimate critic.

So today I celebrate a researcher whose work, while it doesn’t stand up to modern scholarship, models the value that should be placed upon the Bible.

“God’s word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God’s word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions” (Hebrews 4:12 God’s Word).