Happy Birthday, Dear Earth: Six Thousand Years since Creation, Some Still Believe

Article excerpt

THE EARTH WILL be 6,000 years old on Oct. 22.

The anniversary may get scant notice from most Anglicans, but there really are people who believe this - despite all the scientific evidence of a four billion-year-old universe. In conservative evangelical circles they are known as "young earth" people.

They claim the earth was created in the year 4004 BC. There was no year "0" between 1 BC and AD 1, which makes 1997 the 6,000th anniversary of creation.

Moreover, they want this view taught in schools as having equal status with Darwin's theory of evolution and scientific dating of geological and palaeotological samples that show the earth to be billions of years old.

On page one of my first Bible, published in 1934, opposite Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," is a note "4004 BC."

The dating is the work of James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, who lived from 1581 to 1656. He worked it out by counting the generations listed in the Old Testament, beginning with Adam. Martin Luther, a century before Ussher, apparently used a similar method to get 4000 as the date of creation.

Ussher was no backwoods fundamentalist but a scholar and theologian of vast learning and high repute throughout the British Isles. In an intolerant age he worked hard to reconcile the differences within Anglicanism and between Anglicans and dissenting groups and was respected by both for his tolerance and sincerity.

His writings in theology, history and the early church fathers total 17 volumes. His chronology was published between 1650-54 and in 1701 it began to be included in the marginal notes of all editions of the authorized or King James version of the Bible.

The "young earth" fundamentalists cling to the Ussher dating because they fear that to dilute a literal interpretation of Genesis rejects any idea of God. For them, the whole Bible stands or falls on Adam and Eve, Noah, and the Genesis account of creation.

"The world as we know it is 10,000 years old; dinosaurs lived at the same time as man, and they were wiped out by the flood." So says Robert Simonds of the National Association of Christian Educators and Citizens for Excellence in Education. …