This past Christmas I received a peculiar gift: James Ussher’s classic “The Annals of the World”. In my biblical research I had come across this tome more than once, with many theologians and bible teachers citing it, commenting on its incredible historical detail. There is, of course, an endless sea of books to be found on the subject, but the Annals hold a special distinction, and an admittedly controversial one, in that they chronicle the history of the world from the very first day of creation, dated as “nightfall preceding October 23, 4004 B.C.”
James Ussher was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1581. Coming up in a family that valued higher learning, the young man entered college at 13 years old, mastering biblical languages as well as deep study in astronomy and ancient chronologies. He was elected archbishop of Armagh of the Church of Ireland in 1625 and served for 30 years before starting his work on the Annals. When I opened the book it became immediately evident how much effort had gone into its creation. Ussher had used the Bible with its seemingly endless genealogies and lists of years as his main resource in calculating such details as: the date of creation, the Tower of Babel’s end and which of Noah’s grandsons founded Egypt. This is all prehistory, but Ussher also utilizes other ancient accounts. Such credible scribes as the Greek historian Herodotus helped corroborate events on up to Alexander the Great, whose conquests bridge the time between Old and New Testaments, while the Jewish historian Josephus is cited for his details concerning the circumstances of Christ’s crucifixion. It’s pretty amazing and a surprisingly pleasant read using the modern English edition found on Amazon.com.
For 300 years, Ussher’s work had fallen out of favor in the light of evolution’s rise to prominence. However, it has recently seen a resurrection of sorts as many Christians serving in various scientific fields are making new finds that fall more in line with God’s word. James Ussher took a stand on the scriptures, but he is not alone. Others, including Sir Isaac Newton, gave thanks to the Lord above for the joy of science and the pursuit of knowledge instead of using them as weapons against His existence. Whether or not you believe that the Annals are 100% accurate, they deserve a look see. If not to appreciate the remarkable skill and research it took to put the evidence together, then at least to behold what faith, passion and fortitude can do together when pointed in the right direction.