James Ussher’s Legacy 

2 Timothy 2:15
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 

The years between 1639 and 1651 were times of great turbulence in the British Isles as a series of deadly conflicts were played out. James Ussher was right in the middle of these events, being born, as he was, in Dublin in 1581. In a previous Creation Moment, we related Ussher’s precocious childhood, that led to his famous calculation of the date of creation as 4004 BC. 

Ussher became a minister in the Anglican Church of Ireland, eventually becoming Archbishop of Armagh in 1625 – a post he held for 15 years. The Book of Kells – an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels – had been discovered in Kells, Ireland, in 1621, leading to a renaissance in interest in the Scriptures. Ussher traveled to England to study in 1640, and, while he was there, the Confederate War broke out in Ireland. Ussher’s house was plundered, so he never returned to the Emerald Isle. As war loomed in England also, Ussher made clear his loyalty to King Charles I. Therefore, his life could have been in danger, as he found himself studying in London in 1649 at the time of the execution of the King, which brought the English Civil War to an end. However, the Lord Protector of the English Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell, favored Ussher. When Ussher died in 1656, Cromwell gave him a state funeral. 

Ussher’s mammoth work, the Annals of the World, had been published in 1654. It is a huge book, replete with detailed scholarship, and was a lifetime’s work for the scholar, having taken him 59 years to complete. This is the background to the famous creation date calculation. 

Prayer: Thank You for the learned people from times past. Help us to learn from those who have walked in truth before us. Most especially, keep our eyes fixed on Your word, Lord. Amen. 

Author: Paul F. Taylor Ref: 

Ref: Carr, J. (new edition 2012), The Life and Times of James Ussher, (Forgotten Books). 

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