In his day Ussher was an eminent scholar known to the foremost thinkers and statesmen in England.
His collected works total seventeen volumes; the most famous of these is his He arrived at this date, in part, by adding the ages of Adam and his descendants found in Genesis 5 and 11. Nevertheless, Ussher's chronology is the earliest and the most celebrated attempt at Biblical chronology in English.
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To be clear, however, I do not intend to defend the for the Universe and the Earth respectively.
But I think that it is greatly erroneous to blame work from a particular time and place for its accuracy regarding later and fundamentally different disciplines: we must evaluate the work in its proper context. The play (and later movie) , which is very loosely based on the 1925 trial of John Scopes, features a scene in which a fictionalised version of William Jennings Bryan named “Brady” presents the common impression of Ussher’s methodology: Brady: A fine Biblical scholar, Bishop Ussher, has determined for us the exact date and hour of the Creation. Drummond: Well, uh, that’s Bishop Ussher’s opinion. It is a literal fact, which the good Bishop arrived at through careful computation of the ages of the prophets as set down in the Old Testament.
In 1601 he was ordained as a priest and by 1607 had risen to professor at Trinity.
In 1625, aged 43, he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and head of the Anglo-Irish church – a difficult position to hold in a turbulent religious and political landscape.
That wouldn't exist for another century, when a Scottish farmer and geological enthusiast named James Hutton, looking at riverbank stone formations, saw a record of sedimentary deposition that couldn't be contained in 6,000 years. That was a radical idea, and it took another century to be widely accepted, even in the scientific community.
Bearing that in mind, Ussher didn't do such a terrible job.
If anything, his estimate, derived in part by counting the number of generations in the Bible, was relatively reasonable.
He also had the rigor to corroborate such events as the deaths of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar with nonbiblical sources.
James Ussher was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1581 and died in England in 1656.