How old is the world?

The Paschale Chronicle gives 5833 years from the creation of the world until the 20th anniversary of Constantine. Until the year 325 to you and me. Jerome’s Chronicle has 5526 years. So we have nearly six thousand years, give or take a few hundred.┬áBoth numbers come from the Septuagint, the Christian touchstone, the Greek version of the Jewish scriptures.

But hold on, you say, today, nearly two thousand years later, you hear evangelicals talk of a six thousand year old earth. Well, that’s because they don’t trust the Septuagint. They go by the numbers in the original Hebrew text. Its span from the appearance of the first man until the first patriarch, Abraham, is much shorter than its Greek cousin’s.

And these chronicles and their notion of a young (to us) world continued to be made. A bishop called Ussher made one in the seventeenth century …

I shall be defending Ussher’s chronology as an honorable effort for its time and arguing that our usual ridicule only records a lamentable small-mindedness based on mistaken use of present criteria to judge a distant and different past

Then and now. See people in their own time’s terms.

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