I recently learned that the Hubble Space Telescope has detected the oldest burned-out stars in the galaxy, enabling scientists to fix the age of the universe at 13 to 14 billion years old. This figure lingered in my mind as I recently perused a newly published version of Archbishop James Ussher’s 1658 work, The Annals of the World, which famously fixed the date of the creation of the world at October 23, 4004 B.C. This is a big difference—a 6,000-year-old universe versus a 14,000,000,000-year-old one. As my grandmother used to say, “My, how times have changed!”
The difference between these two figures has to do with what one is studying—the world of nature or the world of the Bible. In medieval times and later, these two domains were described as two books—the Book of God (the Bible) and the Book of Nature. Both books were said to be written by God, but one was a real book and the other was the observable world. The Book of God was the textual counterpart of the Book of Nature, explaining its origins, its significance, and the demands and beneficence of its author.