Creationists Need More Than the Bible to Sustain Their Myths

Creationists Need More Than the Bible to Sustain Their Myths

It’s an Old World After All

Young-Earth creationism is the claim that the entire universe is only about 6,000 years old. It’s a staple of fundamentalist Christianity, which requires a belief that every word of the Bible is literally true—even the part about god creating the world in six days.

The Old Testament only provides implications as to how long ago this took place, and 6,000 years is a fair approximation if you were to accept the tales of ancient Hebrews. 

But if a definitive answer can’t be had by citing chapter and verse, as creationists are wont to do, then where do they get their certainty about 6,000 years? 

Well, it turns out that even creationists can’t live by the Bible alone. Sometimes they have to turn to other obsolete scholarship, like James Ussher’s Annals of the World, first published in 1648, and currently in print thanks to Master Books, a creationist publishing house that bills itself as the curriculum source for god-fearing homeschoolers. 

A Protestant bishop of the seventeenth century, James Ussher wasn’t the first scholar to attempt to assign specific calendar dates to biblical events, but his compendium has been the most widely accepted by today’s creationists, who hold the ancient writings of pious men in higher regard than actual history and science. 

Ussher started with Adam and Eve, of course, and moved forward through mythical family tree branches, painstakingly following Bible genealogies and ignoring the contradictions along the way. In his extensive Bible studies, Ussher somehow missed the sacrosanct teachings of Titus 3:9, to avoid genealogies because they are “unprofitable and vain.”

According to Ussher, god created the universe “the evening before October 23, 4004 B.C.” (In reality, Paleolithic humans had been weaving textiles for some twenty thousand years by this point.) 

The following is a synopsis of important mythical events that Ussher tagged with dates:

3074 B.C. - Adam dies at age 130.

2948 B.C. - Noah is born.

2349 B.C. - God orders Noah to enter the ark he had just finished.

2348 B.C. - The surface of the Earth is dry on Friday, October 23.

1491 B.C. - God appears to Moses as a burning bush. That same year the Egyptians are vexed with ten plagues when Pharoah refuses to release the Hebrews from slavery.

1451 B.C. - Moses dies, age 120. God himself moves the body to Moab. The archangel Michael disputes with the devil over Moses’ body. Ussher claims “the Devil wanted to expose the body that it might become an object of idolatry to the people of Israel... though there is no evidence the Jews ever gave themselves to the worshipping of relics.”

1155 B.C. - Samson is born. He has magical hair. 

1117 B.C. - Delilah gives Samson a trim. Samson is imprisoned, grows his hair back, exacts violent revenge, and accidentally kills himself in the process. 

588 B.C. - “Wednesday, July 27” to be exact, “the famine became quite severe in Jerusalem” and Nebuchadnezzar attacked the city. This is Ussher attempting to fit the story of 2 Kings 24 into actual history. 

4 B.C. - The “angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth in Galilee, to the most blessed virgin Mary... [h]e greeted her and declared she should bring forth the son of God and should call his name Jesus.” (Ussher inexplicably contradicts the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, which says the messiah will be called Immanuel.) 

Jesus is thus conceived early in that year, and born in the fall. Herod hears of Jesus’ birth and has all male children two years old or younger killed, an event not recorded in any primary historical records of the time. 

33 A.D. - Jesus is crucified and zombies climb out of their graves to visit people in Jerusalem. Spectators of the crucifixion, Ussher says, “beat their chests” then headed back home. 

73 A.D. - The “end of the Jewish affairs” according to Ussher “…as predicted by Jesus in the Gospels.” (Contemporary Jews may disagree.) 

This is an odd place for him to stop. Why not end with Jesus’ death, c. 33 A.D., or continue to his own contemporary epoch 1,600 years later? No matter. 

A bigger question might be why he ignored the fact that, according to Luke 2:1-17, Jesus was born when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 

According to historical records that would have been available to Ussher, Quirinius was appointed governor in the year 6 A.D. 

But Ussher has Jesus born in 4 B.C. As a scholar, Ussher had an intellect of an especially high order, but it seems that no matter the era into which you are born, to believe the Bible stories as fact while living in the real world requires an enduring cognitive dissonance. 

One might call it separation of church and sense. So Ussher’s 4004 B.C. date is the prime reason you hear fundamentalists claim that the world is about 6,000 years old. But, if you follow the genealogy in... 

Luke discovers a much different age for the universe. Within the context of ancient Hebrew law, marriage was arranged for girls around age thirteen. 

A couple marries, has a child, then their children marry and procreate again beginning around age thirteen. In Chapter 3, the Book of Luke separates Adam from Jesus by seventy-five generations, and 75 x 13 = 975. 

Thus, if the New Testament is correct, and Jesus is in the direct lineage of Adam through seventy-five generations, the universe began around 975 B.C. and the Big Bang happened about 3,000 years ago. Or should I perhaps say “11:44 a.m. Sunday, April 1, 975 B.C.” if you would indulge me a Ussher-like moment? 

But as I mentioned, Ussher wasn’t the only scholar to use the Bible to figure out the age of the universe, there were...

Other Chronologies

...and those who have attempted to use the Bible to compute the year of the creation came up with anything from 5,800 years ago according to German linguist Andreas Helwig (1572-1643) to 7,500 years ago according to Julius Africanus, an orator under Emperor Nero in the first century A.D. 

Still way, way off. Face it—


Using the Bible to calculate the date of “creation” is like using Dr. Seuss's books to compute the age of the Cat in the Hat.


British geologist Arthur Holmes performed a more sober attempt to calculate the age of our planet—using the scientific method. In 1913, he published The Age of the Earth, where he estimated “some of the oldest Archean rocks must date back 1,600 million years.” 

We now speculate, thanks to radiometric dating and red-shift observations of stars, that the earth was formed some 4.5 billion years ago, and the universe was created via the Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago. But, according to creationists…

Real Science Sucks

According to The New Answers Book 2, published by Answers in Genesis, “...there is growing scientific evidence that radiometric dating methods are completely unreliable.”1 Well, there isn’t. There is growing creationist evidence that these methods are completely reliable. 

But the idea of creationist evidence is as oxymoronic as they come. These creation “scientists” also whine that “secular geologists will seemingly never entertain the idea of the global, catastrophic flood of Noah’s day.”2 

The people at Answers in Genesis seem fond of using certain scientific claims to prove that all science is wrong. By the way, Answers in Genesis also claims that a “cosmological redshift mechanism” called “tired light” proves the universe is about 6,000 years old. 

Cosmological redshift is a real thing; “tired light” is as real as the “tired blood” from the Geritol commercials in the 1970s. Or the jealous god of Hebrew mythology. 

You may decide for yourself which prevails: science facts, or the claims by pious apologists who re-write history and science in an attempt to match their holy book. 

My guess is that you would prefer to rely on the scientific method, known history, and the mountains of evidence against the nutty claims in the Bible.


  2. Hartnett, D. J. G. (2015, February 11). Speculation on redshift in a created universe. Answers in Genesis. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from


By Michael Paulkovich

Michael B. Paulkovich is a columnist for American Atheist, an aerospace engineer and freelance writer who also contributes to Free Inquiry and Humanist Perspective. He is a contributing editor for The American Rationalist and the author of No Meek Messiah. His next book, Beyond the Crusades, was published in 2015 by American Atheist Press.

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