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James Ussher

1581-1656. Irish archbishop and scholar. Born in Dublin and educated there (he was one of the first students of Trinity College), he was appointed in 1607 regius professor of divinity and chancellor of St. Patrick's Cathedral. An outstanding scholar, at the age of nineteen he engaged successfully in controversy with a learned Jesuit, Henry Fitzsimons. In 1615 Ussher showed his support of Calvinism when he shared in an attempt to introduce into the Irish Church a Calvinistic confession based on the Lambeth Articles* of 1595. In 1621 he became bishop of Meath and Clonmacnoise, and in 1625 archbishop of Armagh. During the years that followed, in which he made many visits to England, he did much to preserve the independence of the Irish Church and particularly its Calvinistic character. In 1640 he went to England for what he anticipated would be a short visit, but in 1641 rebellion broke out in Ireland and he was never able to return. He shared in ecclesiastical discussions thereafter. He was asked to be one of the commissioners at the Westminster Assembly* (1643), but declined. Despite his associations with Charles I, Ussher was indulgently treated by Cromwell, who accorded him a public burial in Westminster Abbey.

Among Ussher's many writings are a history of the Western Church from the sixth to the thirteenth centuries, Discourse of the Religion currently Professed by the Irish and British (1622), Britannicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates (1639), and Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti (1650-54), which included his famous scheme of biblical chronology. Basing his dates on biblical genealogies, he concluded that the world was created in 4004 b.c. His scheme is generally discarded, but ranks as the first serious attempt to formulate a biblical chronology.

See R.B. Knox, James Ussher (1967).