Some Christians believe that the Earth is about 6,000 years old. This outlook is largely due to James Ussher (1581-1656), the Anglican Archbishop of Ireland.
The vital clue is a London publisher, James Guy, who combined Usher’s dates (1656) with his version of the King James Bible, published about 1675. This became the official version of the Anglican Church in 1701. In this version, the year dates as BC were printed at the top of each page. These year dates were deleted in Bibles after 1900.
The King James Bible was authorized by King James of England and Scotland in 1611. This is the most popular of all Bibles in English. Essential to getting the King James Bible were two men, John Wycliffe (1331-1389) and William Tyndale (1494-1536).
Wycliffe completed his English bible in a handwritten form in 1382. (Guttenberg’s printing press was developed around 1450.) Both Wycliffe and Tyndale were considered heretics because the official Catholic Bible was written in Latin.
Tyndale’s English Bible was placed in every English church but chained to a pillar, known as the Chained Bible. During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the official English Bible was compiled by a group of Bishops, known as the Bishop’s Bible.
Then came King James who employed six teams of translators, starting with the “Bishops’ Bible.” The King James Bible has more than 70% of the Old Testament and over 80% of the New Testament from Tyndale.
How did Archbishop Ussher determine that the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago? In Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus is divided into three parts: I. From Abram to David. II. From Solomon to Babylonian exile III. From Babylonian exile to the birth of Christ. Key dates include: the flood (1656 AC = After Creation), Abram’s birth (2008 AC),
Exodus (2513 AC), King David (2949 AC), Completion of Solomon’s Temple (3000 AC), Destruction of Temple (3416 AC), Death of Nebuchadnezzar (3442 AC).
There are some problems with Usher’s dates: 1. The extraordinary long lives of key figures such as Adam (930 years), Jared (962 years), Methuselah (969 years), Noah (950 years), and Shem (600 years). Most of the other figures lived well past 300 years
2. Archbishop Ussher made use of a few nonbiblical sources to match up with his biblical dates. 3. Ussher made use of astronomical clues to pin down the time of creation to taking place at “the entrance of the night preceding the twenty third of October” in the year 4004 B.C. (Julian calendar).
My reference for this column is: “The Age of the Earth” by Archibald Hendry, World Scientific Press, 2020. I hope to present the case for an older Earth in a future column.
THIS COMING WEEK’S SKIES: Dawn begins about 4:40 a.m., sunrise is about 5:52 a.m., midday is 1:12 p.m., sunset at 8:32 p.m. and dusk ends at 9:43 p.m. You will have to see Venus is very low in the western twilight before 9:30 p.m.
The three bright outer planets are easily viewed in the southeastern dawn — from left to right, they are Mars (yellow), Saturn and Jupiter. They shine steadily in contrast to the twinkling stars.
Bob Doyle is a retired science teacher at Frostburg State University who is available to talk to adult and student groups about matters related to his columns. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.