Updated: Nov 28
James Ussher was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1581 and died in England in 1656. He lived through a time of tremendous political and religious upheaval in his native Ireland and in England. Though he was a Puritan (and a Calvinist) in theology, he was a royalist in his steadfastness to the king and the principle of the divine right of kings. Ussher was the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland (ecclesiastical head of the Anglican Church of Ireland) between 1625 and 1656. He was a prolific scholar and renowned church leader. Ussher wrote two treatises on the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch while doing his work on church hierarchy.
In 1650 and 1654 James Ussher published the two parts of his history of the world, extending from Creation until the time of the Roman emperor Vespasian. Both parts were in Latin. An English translation was made available in 1658, two years after Ussher’s death. Published in 1650, the full title of Ussher's work in Latin is Annales Veteris Testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti, una cum rerum Asiaticarum et Aegyptiacarum chronico, a temporis historici principio usque ad Maccabaicorum initia producto ("Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world, the chronicle of Asiatic and Egyptian matters together produced from the beginning of historical time up to the beginnings of Maccabees”).
John Lightfoot published a similar chronology in 1642-1644, however, it was never as popular as Ussher’s. Ussher deduced that the first day of creation was October 23, 4004 BC on the proleptic Julian calendar, near the autumnal equinox (the first Sunday following the autumnal equinox). Lightfoot similarly deduced that Creation began at nightfall near the autumnal equinox but in the year 3929 BC. Ussher's work was his contribution to the long-running theological debate on the age of the Earth and mankind. This was a major concern of many Christian scholars over the centuries.
The earliest post-exilic Jewish chronicle preserved in the Hebrew language, the Seder Olam Rabbah, compiled by Jose ben Halafta in160 AD, dates the creation of the world to 3761 BC while the later Seder Olam Zutta to 4339 BC. The Hebrew calendar has traditionally, since the 4th century AD by Hillel II, dated the creation to 3761 BC. I believe this date to be inaccurate (shy) by about 200 years.
“Many of the earliest Christian scholars used the Septuagint version of the Old Testament to calculate the date for creation, so they reckoned it occurred around 5500 BC. Christians up to the Middle Ages continued to use this rough estimate: Clement of Alexandria (5592 BC), Theophilus of Antioch (5529 BC), Sextus Julius Africanus (5501 BC), Hippolytus of Rome (5500 BC), Gregory of Tours (5500 BC), Maximus the Confessor (5493 BC, Panodorus of Alexandria (5493 BC), George Syncelius (5492 BC), Sulpicius Severus (5469 BC) and Isidore of Seville (5336 BC). The Byzantine calendar has traditionally dated the creation of the world to September 1, 5509 BC.
The Chronicon of Eusebius (early 4th century) dated creation to 5228 BC, while Jerome dated creation to 5199 BC. Bede (673-735 AD) was one of the first to break away from the standard Septuagint date for the creation and in his work De Temporibus (On Time), which he completed in 703 AD, dated the creation to March 18, 3952 BC, but was accused of heresy at the table of Bishop Wilfrid, because his chronology was contrary to accepted calculations of around 5500 BC.
After the Masoretic Text was published, however, dating creation around 4000 BC became common and was received with wide support. Proposed calculations of the date of creation using the Masoretic text from the 10th century to the 18th century include: Marianus Scotus (4192 BC), Henry Fynes Clinton (4138 BC), Henri Spondanus (4051 BC), Benedict Pereirs (4021 BC), Louis Cappei (4005 BC), Augustin Calmet (4002 BC), Isaac Newton (4000 BC), Petavius (3984 BC), Theodore Bibliander (3980 BC), Johannes Kepler (April 27, 3977 BC, Heinrish Bunting (3968 BC), Christen Sorensen Longomontanus (3966 BC), Melanchthon (3964 BC), Martin Luther (3961 BC), Joseph Justus Scaliger (3949 BC), Christoph Helvig (3947 BC), Gerardus Mercator (3928 BC), Matthieu Brouard (3927 BC), Benito Arias Montano (3849 BC), and Andreas Helwig (3836 BC).” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_creation.
Among the Masoretic creation estimates or calculations for the date of creation, Archbishop Ussher's specific chronology dating the creation to 4004 BC became the most accepted and popular, mainly because this specific date was attached to the King James Bible. Bishop William Lloyd put Ussher’s chronology, with some of his own modifications, in the margins of a 1701 edition of the Bible. For many years the King James Version was printed with these dates. It was included in the widely distributed Scofield Reference Bible as well. This led many to believe that Ussher’s dates were the correct Bible chronology, a position which is defended by some writers to this day, including Floyd Nolen Jones, Chronology of the Old Testament, Sacred Writ (floydnolenjonesministries.com).
There are two charts shown below. One is Ussher’s 17th-century chronology and the other is my own 21st-century chronology, Nettles’ Chronology. The Anno Mundi (year from creation) years of the specified biblical event/s are to the left and the BC/AD years are to the right. As you compare the two charts, you will notice the A.M. years are nearly identical until you get to the dividing of the Kingdom of Israel, when the northern 10 tribes of Israel broke away from King Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) and started their own kingdom called Israel. There were 19 Kings of Judah that were descended from Solomon. The last king, Zedekiah ruled over Judah during the destruction of the Temple and the ruin of Jerusalem. Ussher’s chronology, from the start of Jeroboam’s reign to the end of Zedekiah’s reign, is 390 years.
By adding all the reigns of each of the kings of Judah (after Solomon’s death) mentioned in Kings and Chronicles, my chronology has a total of 345 years. The Nettles’ chronology, at this point, is based upon Edwin R. Thiele’s calculations which are found in his excellent book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, regarding the chronology of the kings of Judah and Israel. It is deemed the definitive work and reckoning of the calendar years on this topic. I believe Mr. Thiele had a better understanding regarding the reckoning of the accession years of the kings of Judah and Israel and how they were calculated in different ways. The year in which a king came to the throne was known as his accession year. His first regnal year, i.e., the first full year of the king’s reign, began on the first day of the new year following his accession.
When non-accession reckoning was assumed for Israel, the numbers of Judah’s and Israel’s king’s reigns matched exactly, showing that Judah was using accession reckoning and Israel was using non-accession reckoning, at least for the initial period of the divided monarchies. Jeroboam, the first ruler over the northern ten tribes, changed from the Judean system by reckoning his reign according to the non-accession method used in Egypt, where he had fled for refuge after fleeing from Solomon (1 Kings:11:40), rather than the accession method used in Judah. Ussher failed to recognize these differences between the two kingdoms regarding the accession years of kings and co-regencies between fathers and sons.
The period between a king’s actual accession and the next new year’s Day was known as the beginning of the reign. Israel, in common with other near eastern nations, commenced the new year on the first of Nisan (our March – April), reckoned by its first king, Jeroboam, having come from Egypt (1 Kings 12:2-3) where the new year began in the spring. Judah, however, commenced the new year on the first of Tishri (our September-October). Where two dates overlap, a coregency is indicated. Regnal years are used.
“Valerius Coucke (1888–1951) was a Belgian scholar, priest, and professor at the Grootseminarie Brugge (Grand Séminaire de Bruges) in the 1920s. From the biblical data, Coucke derived the same basic principles that Thiele developed some years later without having read Coucke—co-regencies and rival reigns, accession and non-accession years, Nisan regnal years for Israel and Tishri years for Judah, and a switch of Judah to non-accession years in the ninth century BC. Coucke determined that the kingdom was divided in the year beginning in Nisan of 931 BC, in exact agreement with Thiele’s date, although Coucke’s method of determining the date was radically different from Thiele’s. Coucke’s years for Solomon, one year earlier than Thiele’s, have been verified by their agreement with the Jubilee and Sabbatical cycles. His date for the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the summer of 587 BC, is in agreement with all the biblical texts involved, in contrast to the dates of Thiele (586 BC) and Ussher (588 BC).” Ussher-Explained-and-Corrected_Rodger-Young_Summer-2018-BAS.pdf (biblearchaeology.org).
The difference between Ussher’s chronology and Nettles’ chronology basically consists of the 45 years difference between Ussher’s reckoning of the kings of Judah and Thiele/Coucke’s reckoning of the kings of Judah. The biblical event of the destruction of Jerusalem and the 1st Temple in 586-588 BC is when the two charts are transposed. At this point, the BC/AD dates are mostly in alignment but the AM dates are out of alignment by 45 years.
Ussher’s creation date of 4004 BC was at least partially influenced by the widely held belief that the Earth was approximately 5653 years old (2000 from Adam to Abraham, 2000 from Abraham to the birth of Christ, and 1650 years from Christ to Ussher), corresponding to the six days of Creation, on the grounds that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8) and “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past. And like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). This tradition was believed to indicate that Jesus would return in AD 1997, six thousand years after 4004 BC. This belief in 6000 years of history for mankind is known as Chiliasm, where mankind will work on the earth for 6000 years (akin to six days for the Lord) and will rest during the 1000 years of Jesus’ millennial kingdom. The last 1000 years (6000-7000) would be akin to the Sabbath day of rest for the Lord.
If you believe in this theory of Chiliasm, then Ussher’s chronology is now 26 years past the 6000-year mark. However, Nettles’ chronology is still 18 years from the 6000-year mark. The number one sign of the return of Christ, especially for dispensational premillennialists, is the return of Israel as a sovereign nation (in their ancient homeland) on May 14, 1948. This should be proof to the amillennialists and postmillennialists that the Church hasn’t (and never has) replaced the nation of Israel regarding God’s promises to them. Another indication we are in the last days is given in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (prevalent sin comparable to the days of Noah and Lot). Also, we now have the technology for the prophecies of Revelation 11:9 and 13:13-18 to be fulfilled. However, the major sign that we are living in the end times before the Tribulation and the Second Advent is the convergence of all the signs given in Matthew 24:3-14 and the other synoptic gospels.
As a dispensational premillennialist with a belief in the millennial week theory, I believe that Christ’s return is imminent, first at the Rapture, and then at His 2nd Coming. Unlike the 1st – 3rd century historic premillennialists whose chronology was based on the Septuagint text, I believe the correct chronology of the history of mankind is given in the Masoretic text. In this reckoning, major biblical events occurred every 2,000 years. Abraham was born on the “second day” (2000 AM). Abraham is not only the father of the Israelites but the father of all the faithful. “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).
Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and ascended back to heaven, and the Church was born on the “fourth day” after approximately 4,000 years (4000 AM) of recorded history. “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). With these two examples, separated by “two days,” it is easy to see Christ returning to the earth after “two more days.”
The Old Testament prophet Hosea had this to say about the subject (in my opinion): “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face: in their affliction, they will seek me early. Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days, He will revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Then we shall know if we follow on to know the LORD: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth” (Hosea 5:15, 6:1-3). Could the two days in Hosea’s prophecy be a typology for 2000 years (after Jesus’ crucifixion), and the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom starts on the third “day”? Could the latter rain (which occurs in the spring) be the 1st Advent of Jesus to the Earth and the former rain (which occurs in the autumn) be the 2nd Advent of Jesus?
According to my reckoning (https://www.rev310.net/post/epochs-in-bible-chronology-6000-years-of-mankind), we are now (2023 AD/ 5982 AM) 18 years away from 6,000 years of recorded history according to the Bible and secular historical sources. Seven of those years will be taken up by the future Tribulation, so that leaves 11 years shy of six millennia. If there is a gap period between the Rapture and the Tribulation, that could possibly account for a year or two, which would leave us 9 or 10 years shy of 6,000 years. For a 6000-year chronology reckoning, a .15% margin of error would be 9 years.
This discrepancy could be lessened even further if you deduced that the ages of the pre and post-flood patriarchs ages at the time of their son’s births were not recorded exactly but were rounded to the number shown in scripture. Of the twenty patriarchs from Adam to Abraham, if you added six months (on average) to their ages, you would get 120 months or 10 years. In other words, we are fast approaching the sixth day (6000 AM) milestone in human history.
Even if you don’t believe in the Millennial Week theory, you have to ask yourself why is there evidence (see my chart below) for nearly 6000 years of recorded history per the Bible and historical secular sources. If you’re not a believer in this theory, then that is an amazing coincidence. However, I don’t believe the word “coincidence” is in God’s vocabulary. After all, He knows the end from the beginning. Will something significant and prophetic happen on the sixth day (whenever that is exactly) as it did on the second and fourth days? According to biblical chronology, I believe the odds are pretty good.
“In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:7-12).
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!