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Archbishop Ussher 

By Sir Peter Lely, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Archbishop James Ussher and the Annals of the World

Archbishop James Ussher Video

Archishop Ussher is mainly remembered for his chronology of the world which used scripture as the basis for his calculations of historical dates and times. I have mentioned him in the section on "Chronology" but his work is relevant to wider bible prophecy. He put the bible in the context of world history and consequently treated scripture as part of a real historical process. His chronology  of the world finishes in 73 A.D. but it provides us with the first modern systematic attempt to chart God's plan of time.


James Ussher (1581-1656) was born in Dublin in 1581. He became  a Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of all Ireland, and vice-chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin. In 1650 he published a 1,600 page volume in Latin covering the history of the world from creation up until about 70 AD. In 1658 an English translation was published entitled "The Annals of the World". He established the first day of creation as Sunday 23rd October 4004 BC and, using scripture, produced his chronology from that date. 

He was extremely learned and diligent in his attention to scripture and treated it as the literal Word of God. It is quite informative to examine some of the dates he arrived at and how he arrived at them. 

He dated his chronology using three different dating methods: -

1. The Julian calendar which was in use in his day. 365 days a year plus a leap year every four years. His chronology uses B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, Year of our Lord). 

2. Anno Mundi (AM). This literally means "in the year of the world" and this system counts the years from the first year of biblical creation. 

3. The third method used is the "Julian Period" (JP). This was a method used to extrapolate the lunar cycle, solar cycle and something called the indiction cycle back to an imaginary start date of January 1st thus creating an artificial epoch that all things could be included in. 

  • The solar cycle of the Julian calendar occurs every 28 years because there is a leap year every four years and there are seven possible days to start a leap year thus making a 28 year sequence

  • The lunar cycle, though not exact, is a period of 19 years after which the phases of the moon recur on the same day of the year.

  • The indiction cycle was a 15 year period used to date medieval documents throughout Europe

The Julian period was developed by Joseph Scaliger, a French classical scholar, in 1583 to harmonise these three cycles. He multiplied 28 x 19 x 15 to create the artificial time period of 7,980 years that was exactly divisible by the three cycles. The Julian Period extended the cycle of Julian years both back in time and forward. The cycle starts at noon, January 1st 4713 B.C. and is a leap year. Here all three cycles start at year 1.

An example of the three methods itemised above would be the year of the flood. Bishop Ussher calculated that the flood happened 1,656 years after creation. This is the AM date (Anno Mundi). It was also the year 2349 B.C. on the Julian calendar. Finally it was the year 2365 JP (Julian period). In other words about 2,365 years on from the Julian period start date of 4713 B.C.

Bishop Ussher divided his history into seven ages:

  • The First Age. Creation to the Flood.

  • The Second Age. The Flood to Abram

  • The Third Age. Abram to Moses

  • The Fourth Age. Moses to Solomon

  • The Fifth Age. Solomon to the Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar

  • The Sixth Age. The captivity in Babylon to the Birth of Jesus

  • The Seventh Age. From the birth of Jesus to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

The following chart gives an idea of the dates that Archbishop Ussher produced.

 Archbishop Ussher's Annals of the World are an amazingly accurate picture of world history. Even so it is not a perfect chronology which makes it unfortunate that it was almost given the same status as scripture by being incorporated into some versions of the King James Version of the bible. One unusual thing about his chronology is that he puts the baptism of Jesus, when he was thirty years old, six years before the crucifixion. Most commentators regard the baptism of Jesus as the start of his three, or three and a half, years of ministry. Another unusual thing is that Ussher regards the ministry of Jesus as part of the final seventieth week of Daniel's Seventy Weeks (see section on "The Seventy weeks of Daniel"). Most commentators regard this final week as still unfulfilled.

Despite these things I regard Archbishop Ussher as the father of bible chronology and I am amazed at what he achieved in the seventeenth century, working with the manuscripts and documents that were available to him at the time but without all the study aids that we have today.

How Archbishop James Ussher helps us understand current events

How Archbishop James Ussher helps us understand current events. Video


James Ussher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Archbishop James Ussher put the events of the bible into the timeline of history. From the earliest times there have been Christians who have believed that the world is on a 7,000 year timetable following the pattern of six days of creation followed by one day of rest. 


You can see more about Bishop Ussher and his Annals of the World  at:

The point I am making here is that the nation of Israel is at the centre of God’s timetable and nothing can change this. If we look at the details of Bishop Ussher’s chronology we can see that he believed in seven ages of time which finished in 73 A.D. with the complete annihilation of the nation of Israel by the Romans. He called this The End of Jewish Affairs. Many people in the church at the time believed that because the Jews as a nation had rejected Jesus their position as God’s chosen people had been replaced by  Christians or The Church. Here is a reminder of the Bishop's plan of history.

The Annals of the World by Bishop James Ussher (3).jpg

Annals of the World chart in PDF form for your convenience

Page from kjv 1769.jpg

Page from King James Bible 1769 with date at top of page.

However we now know that Bishop Ussher was wrong about this  because 73 A.D. was not the The End of Jewish Affairs. The Jews continued as a people and God restored their nation to them in 1948.


God always promised that he would bring the Jews back to their land


[Jer 24:6 KJV] 6 For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull [them] down; and I will plant them, and not pluck [them] up.


Bishop Ussher was for me the father of bible chronology but he was also a man of his time. Many bibles incorporated his chronology into their pages and to some extent his chronology, great as it was, encouraged the wrong idea that the church had replaced the Jews in God’s plans.


We now know that God’s promises to Israel stand forever.

biblical-boundaries (2).jpg

So, what is Israel exactly. It is clear from the bible that when the people of Israel crossed the Jordan river their forty years of wandering came to an end and they entered the promised land. Everything on the west side of the Jordan was their land. However God had promised them a much larger area. 


[Deu 11:24 KJV] 24 Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.


In other words everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates river is actually promised to Israel. This would include modern day Syria, Iraq and Jordan. In the millennial period these lands will belong to Israel. In the period we are now in, pre Tribulation, I would expect Israel to conquer all its immediate enemies, as per Psalm 83, and take control of all the land west of the Jordan river


political Map of the World.CIA - The World Factbook, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Archbishop Ussher was correct in believing that the world runs on God’s timetable and that timetable is still running. What we see happening in Israel today is a part of the continuing story of the restoration of the Jewish people to the land that God promised them.


Every people on earth has a land allotted to them and a time appointed to them. Ultimately every people that accepts Jesus will be restored to their own land in God’s time.


[Act 17:26-27 KJV] 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:


This restoration process starts with Israel and the process will be bitterly opposed by Satan who hates God’s order.

For a believer in bible prophecy the key thing is to accept God’s judgements, His promises and His timetable. However much we may sympathise with the plight of ordinary Palestinian people at the moment we should still not oppose God’s purposes. The land will be restored to Israel. For non Jews living in the lands west of the Jordan river it will go better for them if they accept this inevitable process than fight against it.

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