Does Eusebius give a date for the creation in his Chronicle?

Another example of material dribbling out of Wikipedia into the minds of the unwary has come to my attention.

In this article we get the curious claim:

Many of the earliest Christians who followed the Septuagint calculated creation around 5500 BC, and Christians up to the Middle-Ages continued to use this rough estimate: Clement of Alexandria (5592 BC), Julius Africanus (5501 BC), Eusebius (5228 BC), Jerome (5199 BC) Hippolytus of Rome (5500 BC), Theophilus of Antioch (5529 BC), Sulpicius Severus (5469 BC), Isidore of Seville (5336 BC), Panodorus of Alexandria (5493 BC), Maximus the Confessor (5493 BC), George Syncellus (5492 BC) and Gregory of Tours (5500 BC).

The references given do not, unfortunately, give any ancient reference for these claims.

Likewise there is material in this article which would lead most people to suppose the text is being quoted.

Now I recall that Eusebius of Caesarea started his Chronicon with Abraham.  He tells us the following in book 1 of the Chronicon, as preserved in Armenian and translated by Robert Bedrosian[1]:

Our chronicle will not provide accounts about that existence [in Paradise] nor about how the Almighty established heaven and earth. This is how some [chroniclers] have thought [to begin]. Rather, we shall begin from the time that our human race experienced mortality and from [the time of] our first ancestor who set out on that path. [That ancestor] was the man named Adam, whose dying, mortal span of years was calculated in Hebrew literature, for it was from this point that Hebrew chronology began. Indeed, the Book of Moses [Genesis 3.23] describes it as follows:

“The Lord God sent him (that is, the first man) forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. And he drove Adam out and made him live outside the comforts of Paradise.” Further on it says [Genesis 4.1]:  “Now Adam knew Eve [g112] his wife and she conceived and bore Cain.”

Our present chronology will begin at this point. The history of earlier, unknowable times will be set aside here, because it should be kept distinct from subsequent [verifiable] history.

That’s rather sound thinking.

Likewise Eusebius’ preface to book 2, as preserved and translated by Jerome[2] contains the following statement:

Indeed, if you do not falter in carefulness and when you have diligently pored over the Divine Scripture, from the birth of Abraham back to the Flood of the whole earth, you will find 942 years, and from the flood back to Adam, 2242, in which no completely Greek, or barbarian or, to speak in general terms, gentile history is found.

This figure is derived from the calculations done in book 1, as a look at book 1 shows.

Here is Jerome’s Chronicon complete in English:

If we search through this for “Adam”, we quickly find the same number appears at various points, wherever a running total of years is calculated.

On p.20 (Anno Abrahae 44-45) I find this:

a The beginning of the 41st Jubilee, according to the Hebrews. Now, among them, the fiftieth year is called a ‘jubilee’. Accordingly, after their calculation, there have been 2000 years from the time of Adam until the present.

On p.116 (985 AA) I find this:

a According to the third book of Kings, from Moses and the departure of Israel from Egypt down to Solomon and the building of the Temple, there are counted 480 years.

From the flood until Moses, 1,447 years.

From Adam until the flood, 2,242 years.

Altogether 4,169 years.

On p.257 (2044 A.A., 28 A.D.)

f There are computed to the present year, that is the 15th of Tiberius Caesar, from the year following the restoration of the temple, which was completed under the second year of Darius, king of the Persians, 548 years

from Solomon however, and the building of the first temple, 1060 years

from Moses, and the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt, 1539 years

from Abraham and the reign of Ninus and Semiramis, 2044 years

from the flood until Abraham, 942 years

from Adam until the flood, 2242 years

Right at the end of the Chronicle, in the portion added by Jerome to bring events down to the reign of Valens, we find this:

There are altogether from Adam until the 14th year of  Valens, that is, until his 6th consulate and the second of Valentinian

5,579 years

(The colour coding is found in the Bodleian manuscript, dated to 450 AD, and is probably authorial)

The 14th year of Valens is 378 AD, so that gives a date for Adam of 5201 B.C.  But it does not, as Eusebius has patiently explained, give a date for creation.

UPDATE: WordPress does annoy me sometimes.  I made the post above in great haste, from my working notes (which I thought that I had deleted), and it just left the latter all there.  My apologies for that.

  1. [1]Eusebius, Chronicle, Book 1 (2008).* Translated by Robert Bedrosian
  2. [2]St. Jerome, Chronicle (2004-5).* Preface of Jerome; Preface of Eusebius

5 thoughts on “Does Eusebius give a date for the creation in his Chronicle?

  1. Really interesting Roger. Don’t forget too that the Septuagint dates of the lives of the Biblical characters are different from the Hebrew Masoretic texts. The Venerable Bede covers this subject is in close detail, and is partly the reason why the old patriarchal creation dating system was abandoned as a universal time system.

  2. An extremely interesting subject. In the Roman Martyrology for 25 December, commonly chanted at midnight mass for that day, the year of Christ’s birth is announced as occuring on such and such a year since the creation of the world. (I forget the exact year, and I think Vatican II tweaked it by one year in one of its sillier liturgical reforms.) Whatever that year is, it is different from those implied by the Greek Anno Mundi calculations used by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

    The conventional wisdom is that the difference is due to the difference in numbers recorded in the Latin Vulgate and the Septuagint.

    The sources of the Roman Martyrology are at once ancient and obscure. My guess is that in this they are qualitatively similar to the originators of the Greek Anno Mundi, however much they may differ quantitatively.

  3. @Charles: a very valid point. In fact Eusebius is very well aware of it, and I suspect Bede derives his knowledge from it. It’s all over the Chronicle book 1 text, the different calculations.

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