Re: Bishop Ussher

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Tue Sep 13 2005 - 02:24:32 EDT

Bishop UssherI reviewed this book recently for Science and Christian Belief. Many of the authors are members like me of the History of Geology Group of the Geol Soc of London. .
John Fuller is a retired oil geologist and has a long history in the history of geology. He is a good musician and active in his local church. His article is good and he has more to come on Ussher. The main point is that Ussher did not add up dates in the OT but took 4000 years as there are 4 years of 1000 yrs before Christ and as Christ was born in 4 BC - hence 4004BC. Also if you hadn't noticed the world ended in 1996 for the Millennium, but I don't go into raptures about that. Ussher derived all his dates using 710 BC as a fixed point as it was a reliable marker date.

The most important article in the book is by Martin Rudwick on de Luc, and I put in what Isaid in my review;

"There are twelve essays on historical aspects ranging from Ussher's magic date until today. All are of high quality but Martin Rudwick's essay Jean-Andre de Luc and nature's chronology is the most significant. Though the primary concern is the development of the understanding of geological time over the last 350 years, several authors also discuss the relationship of geological time and Christian teaching. The result is that there is a good survey of the development of geological time, from the virtual biblical chronology in the 17th century, through the many guestimates and Kelvin's arguments of the 19th century to the radiometric age-dating and cosmological arguments in the 20th.

            The tenacity of the warfare historiography and the assumption that orthodox Christians were literalists is still to be found in many papers, except Rudwick's, though it is becoming muted. Rudwick totally undermines this scenario in his extended study on Jean-Andre de Luc (1727-1817), and damns the suggestion of the conflict between Genesis and geology (p51-2). De Luc was a Swiss savant with geological expertise and from 1778 wrote much on geology and its relation to Genesis, but even though he lived in Britain he wrote in French. De Luc attracts a bad press, because he opposed Hutton, yet argued forcibly for an ancient earth (though younger than Hutton's) and its compatibility with Genesis. This was in the 1770s, 60 years before Lyell. Rudwick argues that the Christian de Luc was decisive in transferring chronology from Ussher's 4004BC and opening the way for geological time.

            There is not space to discuss each paper, but refer to Torrens' fascinating account how William Smith changed from young earth to old earth in about 1800. In an essay Genesis and Geochronology on John Phillips (1800-74), who calculated the age of the earth to be less than 100 m.y., Morrell argued that Phillips took his "liberal" ideas from the Unitarian Kenrick and Adam Sedgwick - an Evangelical who once criticised Francis Close for "stretching Genesis like an elastic band"! I must not cavil as this book gives one of the best historical surveys of geological time available.

            The last third of the book deals with contemporary work on the age of the earth. There is a fine chapter on The Oldest Rocks on Earth and an intriguing essay by Hofmann suggesting that the use of lead isotopes giving the age as 4.5. b.y. was a geochemical accident. Brent Dalrymple, who wrote The age of the Earth (1994) gives a good summary of The age of the Earth in the twentieth century. Most fascinating is a table giving pre-1950 estimates of the age of the earth."

Needless to say de Luc's faith undermines the type of drivel peddled today especially by the appalling book The Great Turning Point by T Mortenson of AIG, that old ages come out of the non-Christian assumptions of the Enlightenment. The number of Christians who wrote of an old earth before 1800 is significant and in fact few ever followed Ussher on a strict 6 day creation . What is odd is that most scholars in 1700 held that God created chaos and after some time (undefined) He re-ordered the earth in 6 days which may or may not have been 24 hours. Buffon took that idea to argue for a very long time.

Ussher's Annales have been translated by AIG, but I have my Latin copy and I am quite sure that AIG Latin can be no better than their science!

All this shows that strict YEC simply is not the trad Christian teaching before 1800


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Hofmann, Jim
  Sent: Monday, September 12, 2005 11:06 PM
  Subject: Bishop Ussher

  Interesting article:

  "A Date to remember: 4004BC", by J.G.C.M. Fuller, in Earth Sciences History, vol. 24, number 1, 2005, pp. 5-14


  Archbishop James Ussher was not the author of the alleged Creation date 4004BC, and it is a clumsy error to say that he was. The date 4004BC arose from an ancient belief that four thousand years intervened between Adam's creation and the advent of his Redeemer, the Second Adam. The incremental four years added to the basic 4000 is a correction applied to the first Christian calendar, and is unconnected in any way to James Ussher, or the story of Adam. Dating the year of Creation at 4004BC was first introduced to English printed Bibles in 1701 by William Lloyd, scholar, politician and, at that time, Bishop of Worchester.

  Jim Hofmann
Received on Tue Sep 13 02:29:14 2005

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