Ussher was Wrong

by Navy Christian

800px-James_Ussher_by_Sir_Peter_LelyOutside of truly fundamentalist circles, very few people believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. AIG and ICR still hold to the idea that the earth was created on or about October 23, 4004BC. The AIG article I linked to is much more extensive in its declaration that Ussher was right.

I grew up believing the data that Ussher calculated. I also grew up with the misconception that he calculated the data only based on the Bible. This gives the indication that, if the Bible is proved false in its interpretation of historical events, then Ussher’s calculation is automatically void. However, he based his calculations on much more data than just what is in the generational account of the scriptures. In fact, Ussher used sources from the Greek regarding the ages of the Babylonian rulers. The reason for this is because the Biblical account becomes somewhat muddy concerning generations and timeframes after that period. I suppose it’s hard to keep track when you’re a slave.

Ok, so what? Well, I want to present two facts about this.

  1.  Ussher did the best research he could considering what he had available. As a scholar, Bishop Ussher managed to cross connect a variety of sources. His efforts are to be commended. In fact, I would call it (without resorting too much to heresy) the third revelation of God in our lives. I will explain them in a future post.
  2. Ussher was wrong. Just because it was the best scholarship of the day does not mean that he was correct. He was just correct for his time. I don’t think I believe the six literal days of Genesis are correct, but they were correct for their time and for the purpose God intended.* It is not different for Ussher. He may have been on to something, such as delineating the generations since Hebrew civilization took hold, but he did not know the age of the earth.

Ussher did not have the benefit of radiocarbon dating, which in itself allows for things to be dated to around 50,000 years, almost ten times as old as Ussher would have ever allowed. Yes, the dating method has some issues, but it is far more accurate than it is not.

Further, we have other methods of dating objects and fossils. I will undoubtedly delve deeper into this at some point, but some of the accurate ones are radiometric dating and argon, etc. Almost all dating methods (outside of Ussher’s genealogy dating and tree-ring dating, etc) use half-life measurements of various isotopes (such as argon from potassium), which break down into other elements over time. These dating methods suggest the earth is very much older than Ussher thought (and Newton, Kepler, and others, by the way). A good, basic primer on dating can be found at this website.

Ussher was wrong, almost by any measurement of time. This doesn’t even account for the age of light coming from distant stars, which is a topic unto itself.

My research on the age of the earth will continue, as will the work on the evolution/creation of man. I have learned some things about Lucy that I’m particularly interested in getting your thoughts on. Until the next post…


*Some reading this, and perhaps someday if I ever get this data published, may say that I have flipflopped, or that I started with preconceived ideas about the age of the earth, man’s evolution, etc. That is the detrimental thing about a blog. As my impression of the evidence changes over time, I appear to flipflop like a politician. I am merely trying to make sense of the data, just like you might. In fact, I hope you will seriously look into this issue, wrestle with it, and see just how much you flipflop yourself.