James Ussher (1581-1656)
Your name is Ussher – James Ussher – and you are the Archbishop of all of Ireland.
You are living in the 1600s and are obsessive-compulsive when it comes to speculative ideas. You are convinced that you alone have the intellect to figure exact dates of all the major events in the Bible actually.
Your critics whisper to each other that your ego is bigger than your credentials for declaring you alone – know the exact day and time of Adam’s creation!
( Nightfall preceding Sunday, 22 October 4004 B.C.)
Is that specific enough for all of you non-geniuses?
You – James Ussher – become Professor of Theological Controversies at Trinity College and a Bachelor of Divinity in 1607.
A whole string of degrees follows your name.
You speak so many languages it is difficult for even you to keep count.
You live in very turbulent times – both politically and religiously – and yet your crowning achievement and eventual fame will be the result of your years spent studyingCHRONOLOGY as it relates to the Old Testament and the writings of Early Church Fathers.
As a “Young Earth Creationist” living 200 years before Charles Darwin, you encounter little in the way of intellectual opposition to your premises. After all, no less a scientist and genius than Sir Isaac Newton (1648-1727) would himself attempt a similar effort.
Your computations for fixed dates in secular history during the eras of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar would serve as your references toward other events to be dated in scripture.
(As we shall see, 300 years later Frederick Franz – a far less distinguished “scholar” than Bishop Ussher – would use the same methodology for his own eccentric chronology).
What was the biggest problem you faced, Bishop Ussher?
Perhaps it was the fact that available ancient texts were in complete disagreement about the length of time between events in the Bible!
So, eeny, meany, miny, moe!
You, Professor Ussher, chose to depend exclusively on the Masoretic texts and ignored everything else.
How did you balance all that you knew about ancient history, including the rise of the Persians, Greeks, and Romans, as well as your expertise in the Bible, biblical languages, astronomy, ancient calendars, and chronology?
( How indeed?)
You simply claimed success--you declared yourself to be right!
And that was that.
With your reputation for such brilliance–who could criticize you or nay-say your pronouncements?
The most important thing to a genius (with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) who thinks he has the intellect to pin down the impossible, is to not leave anything out.
At age 75, as you lay on your deathbed suffering from internal bleeding, what would become your last words?
“O Lord forgive me, especially my sins of omission.”
Most men want forgiveness for the errors they have made. Most, but no – not you!
Who was to become intellectual heir to Ussher and his delusions of grandeur?
I present to you:
Frederick William Franz (1893-1992)
Born in Covington, Ky., he developed an interest in the Bible at an early age and entered the University of Cincinnati intending to become a Presbyterian preacher. There he studied biblical and classical Greek and Latin.
Introduced by a brother to the teachings of the International Bible Students, as the Witnesses were then called, Mr. Franz was ordained as a minister of the faith in Chicago in 1913. Franz possessed a photographic memory and a passion for Bible Chronology, adapting himself to various methods and styles of those who had unsuccessfully blazed a trail before him. William Miller and subsequent Adventist, Age to Come Millennialists as well as Pastor C.T. Russell laid the groundwork for the stunt Fred Franz will pull later in life. Let it be known, Fred Franz was conscious of the failure of Pastor Russell’s 1914 predictions of Armageddon and later himself participated in successor J.F. Rutherford’s asinine prediction for 1925. But, Franz was not a man to be discouraged by absolute disproof. He felt he was closing in on the combination to God’s safety deposit box where the sacred secret of The End was kept! Perhaps 1925 was one Jubilee short of the magic date. . .
During a speech in Australia in 1975 the Watchtower Society’s vice-president, Frederick Franz, went so far as to name a precise date—September 5, 1975—as the date of the “end of the present wicked system.” [George D. Chryssides, Historical Dictionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scarecrow Press, 2008, pg lx.] (Mind you, Fred Franz had the hubris to declare Archbishop Ussher’s chronology to be in error and publicly corrected him!)
Fred Franz simply declared that Adam was created sometime in the fall of 4026 B.C.E.
Nothing of any major significance happened in the early fall of 1975.
The following year (1976),The Watchtower advised those Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been “disappointed” by the failure of the predictions for 1975 to adjust their viewpoint – because their understanding had been “based on wrong premises.”
[“A Solid Basis for Confidence,”Watchtower, July 15, 1976, page 441.] In other words, Franz had published spurious data, but it was the faithful members who had erred. How? By believing the lying bastard!
What exactly were those “WRONG PREMISES”?
Precisely like Archbishop James Ussher, Fred Franz slavishly followed his own unique line of reasoning and methodology. The operative word to describe Franz is HUBRIS!
“Hubris= pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.”
It is difficult, if not impossible, to get present-day active Jehovah’s Witnesses to consider disproof pointed at their leaders.
This is because they have “mental tripwires” programmed in their brains.
For Witnesses, the Watchtower’s Governing Body is sacrosanct like a sacred cow to a Hindu!
To even suggest the Governing Body’s pronouncements are awry will trigger a psychological chain-reaction in Jehovah’s Witnesses that starts with them identifying YOU as their enemy.
Frederick Franz got away with so much nonsense because nobody in the organization was allowed to think a critical thought about him. “Free thought” is possible only if you are aware and assured that you will not be condemned.
One day I met a member of what was once called the “International Bible Students Association.” He and his son lived in a trailer park. He used his own funds to pay for cable access so that he could tell about the “Divine Plan of the Ages” on TV.
I sat at his kitchen table as he stood before a giant “Dispensation Chart” – the very same one once used by Charles Taze Russell. He used it to explain “Jehovah’s plan” for me and all mankind. I remember thinking it seemed odd that all the dates on that chart had been figured out with such precision and confidence without anybody ever going to college, passing a seminary examination, or earning a degree!
Now I realize they had been using the very same chronology conceived by Bishop James Ussher. I’m sure that the Anglican scholar would have considered their use of his handiwork as being quite devilish and diabolical!
Ussher and Franz: The Fallacies Behind Their Calculations
We now know that Frederick Franz recreated that same chart and simply changed whatever details that didn’t match his own ideas.
All to little effect, that is, other than to turn the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ world upside down in the 1970s with his false predictions and embarrassing nonsense!
We know that stories found in the Bible were handed down from one generation to another verbally, making the aspect of accuracy for any ancient date an impossibility to calculate with any hope of reliability. My understanding is that there are significant disagreements between manuscript families.
They all have inconsistencies involving the reigns of kings, critical intervals, and the order of events.
ATTENTION CHRONOLOGERS: The Bible actually contains no dates at all.
So-called biblical chronology (regarding events taken for granted by the good Bishop) actually vary from text to text among the many variants available to scholars.
Since not a single original autograph text exists--it is impossible to look to an exemplar to correct errors which have crept in.
Overriding all of those issues are the practical considerations of THE VARIOUS CALENDAR SYSTEMS used in each geographic and cultural region. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different systems of counting dates, are found through over long spans of time covered by the “Old Testament.”
Fred Franz tried to gimmick up his guesswork by announcing that he had determined absolute dates for the “Old” and “New Testaments.” We now know that it was all just “stuff and nonsense.”
Bishop Ussher & Brother Franz (twin crackpots from different mothers)
Read the opening chapters of Matthew and look at its time intervals for its generation count.
If you look closely, you will find it doesn’t match the history of those generations given in the Old Testament.
If a chronology is not scientific, historical – or even feasible to use for determining the exact time when something happened – then how can anyone use the Old Testament to calculate when something else (like “Armageddon”) is going to happen thousands of years later?
(Hint: you can't)
Yes, James Ussher and Fred Franz were very smart crackpots who somehow managed to fool generations of sincere Christians who looked to them for answers about the Bible.
Ussher did less harm than his intellectual heir, Fred Franz.
Franz convinced millions of people around the world they should fear destruction from Almighty God for the simple reason--only by becoming a member of Franz’s religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses, would his avenging deity spare them.
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses today aware of any of this?
Few, but their mouth is tightly sealed lest they are charged withthought crimes leading to shunning and banishment!
What is the lesson to be learned from Bible Chronologists such as Isaac Newton, Archbishop Ussher, William Miller, Fred Franz, Judge Rutherford, Pastor Russell?
Allowing delusional authoritarians to persuade you is a sure way to waste your time, your resources, and your life.
Speaking as one who succumbed to such a fate--I must own the consequences, but I will also ring the alarm bell and mark this organization for what it is and always has been: A FALSE PROPHET.