James Ussher (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin was highly regarded in his day as a churchman and as a scholar. Of his many works, his treatise on chronology has proved the most durable. Based on an intricate correlation of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean histories and Holy writ, it was incorporated into an authorized version of the Bible printed in 1701, and thus came to be regarded with almost as much unquestioning reverence as the Bible itself. Having established the first day of creation as Sunday 23 October 4004 BC, by the arguments set forth in the passage below, Ussher calculated the dates of other biblical events, concluding, for example, that Adam and Eve were driven from Paradise on Monday 10 November 4004 BC, and that the ark touched down on Mt Ararat on 5 May 2348 BC `on a Wednesday’.
— Craig, G. Y. and E. J. Jones. A Geological Miscellany. Princeton University Press, 1982.
Ussher’s spellings have been faithfully kept in the following excerpt.
For as much as our Christian epoch falls many ages after the beginning of the world, and the number of years before that backward is not only more troublesome, but (unless greater care be taken) more lyable to errour; also it hath pleased our modern chronologers, to adde to that generally received hypothesis (which asserted the Julian years, with their three cycles by a certain mathematical prolepsis, to have run down to the very beginning of the world) an artificial epoch, framed out of three cycles multiplied in themselves; for the Solar Cicle being multiplied by the Lunar, or the number of 28 by 19, produces the great Paschal Cycle of 532 years, and that again multiplied by fifteen, the number of the indiction, there arises the period of 7980 years, which was first (if I mistake not) observed by Robert Lotharing, Bishop of Hereford, in our island of Britain, and 500 years after by Joseph Scaliger fitted for chronological uses, and called by the name of the Julian Period, because it conteined a cycle of so many Julian years. Now if the series of the three minor cicles be from this present year extended backward unto precedent times, the 4713 years before the beginning of our Christian account will be found to be that year into which the first year of the indiction, the first of the Lunar Cicle, and the first of the Solar will fall. Having placed there fore the heads of this period in the kalends of January in that proleptick year, the first of our Christian vulgar account must be reckoned the 4714 of the Julian Period, which, being divided by 15. 19. 28. will present us with the 4 Roman indiction, the 2 Lunar Cycle, and the 10 Solar, which are the principal characters of that year.
The above excerpt makes no mention of the time of day at which creation occurred. In popular references one often finds it given as 9 A.M., and this is wrongly attributed to Ussher. The following excerpt from Andrew D. White’s book A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (D. Appleton and Co., 1897, p. 9) identifies the culprit as Sir John Lightfoot:
…the general conclusion arrived at by an overwhelming majority of the most competent students of the biblical accounts was that the date of creation was, in round numbers, four thousand years before our era; and in the seventeenth century, in his great work, Dr. John Lightfoot, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and one of the most eminent Hebrew scholars of his time, declared, as the result of his most profound and exhaustive study of the Scriptures, that “heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created all together, in the same instant, and clouds full of water,” and that “this work took place and man was created by the Trinity on October 23, 4004 B.C., at nine o’clock in the morning.”
John Lightfoot (1602-1675), Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University was a contemporary of Ussher. Lightfoot published his calculations in 1644, before Ussher’s were completed.