Biblical Earth Dating
The Age of the Earth according to the Bible
The chronological information in Genesis has been verified repeatedly
and so Bible genealogies and the statements of Jesus imply a ‘Young Earth’
There are strong biblical arguments to support the scientifically based theory of a Young Earth – an earth less than 10,000 years old! Theology itself, on a straight reading, does not support the evolutionist claims of an Old Earth – an earth some 4.6 billion years old.
Earth dating from Adam: was Adam a real man?
If we can establish Adam as a real man, then the biblical genealogies may give a good idea of the age of the earth.
A literal interpretation of Genesis suggests that all living land creatures, including man, were created as herbivores rather than carnivores (Gen 1:29-30). The concept of killing for food is absent from the early world of Genesis. And it is interesting to note that a ‘herbivore existence’ and the emphasis on ‘no harm’ re-appears during the Millennium, when the lion eats straw rather than kills for food (Isa 65:25).
So Tennyson’s phrase ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ does not appear to be God’s ideal and certainly did not exist in God’s ‘very good’ creation (Gen 1:31) – which included man. According to scripture, death (and by implication a carnivorous world) only entered through man’s sin and so could not have existed prior to this. Predicting man’s ‘Fall’, God says:
… for in the day that you eat from it you will surely dieGenesis 2:17
Here, the Hebrew word for ‘die’ is ‘muwth’ (pronounced ‘mooth’), meaning to kill or destroy with reference to a dead body. It refers to mortality and does not primarily imply spiritual death (separation from God), although theologically it must include it. The introduction of physical death is strongly suggested in Gen 3:19 – ‘to dust you shall return’. Paul also takes this viewpoint:
through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sinRomans 5:12
Here, the Greek word for ‘death’ is ‘Thanatos’, the ancient Greek personification of physical death.
So when, and through whom did this ‘Fall’ to mortality occur? If the biblical Adam is understood to be solely allegorical, the theistic evolutionist might try and associate the Fall of man and subsequent physical death with the early evolution of man millions of years ago. Certainly, the term ‘Adam’ often means the species ‘mankind’; when the noun occurs with the definite article (‘ha adam’) it has to be translated mankind. So we might envisage an early form of mankind sinning in God’s sight, falling from grace and suffering death as the consequence. Tennyson’s ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ then graphically illustrates the birth-death processes required in subsequent Darwinian evolution.
But this view is inconsistent with the strong biblical view that Adam was indeed a real man with very special abilities, a very special theological role, and a very clear genealogy. The first permissible use of the proper name (a person, Adam) occurs in Genesis 2:20. Here Adam must have used extreme intelligence to name all the creatures God had made – a good illustration of God’s ‘very good’ creation! Theologically, Adam had no biological Father – he was the son of God (Luke 3:38) – and so he was also a type of Christ who also had no biological Father. Adam’s theological role is explained clearly in Romans 5:14-15 and 1 Cor 15:45. And according to scripture Adam was created ‘as is’ on the 6th day without the need for long-term evolution.
Theistic Evolution is the idea that God started or directed evolutionary processes. To accommodate this view we could conjecture that a real man, Adam, existed as a special form of biologically evolved man. We might argue that, for the first time in evolutionary history, man became a living spiritual being (Gen 2:7) capable of knowing and worshipping God – but then Adam sinned and physical death entered the world.
The problem here is that Darwinian evolution prior to Adam demands a carnivorous world and the existence of death! So again there is inconsistency. In the light of such inconsistencies, it seems theistic evolutionists are forced to re-interpret Gen 2:17 and Rom 5:12 as implying spiritual death only – but as we have seen, this is not the root meaning of these verses.
In contrast, if we accept that 1) Adam was indeed the first man, 2) dispense with ‘millions’ of years, and 3) accept a global Flood and a single Ice Age, then we seem to obtain a more consistent worldview – all backed up by Creation Science and ‘Young Earth’ models. After all, Jesus referred to ‘the blood of Abel’ (Luke 11:51), implying very clearly that his father, Adam, was a real man. Also, Paul takes Adam to be a real human being in Romans 5:12.Conclusion
There is a good theological case for stating that Adam was a real person; he was not allegorical.
Earth Dating using Biblical Genealogies
The detailed genealogies of Genesis 5, Genesis 11, Matthew 1 and Luke 3 underscore this conclusion. After all, if Adam was not a real man, why such detail? And if he was allegorical, at what point in the genealogies do the names become real people? So let’s take Genesis ‘as read’ without trying to merge it with evolutionary theory. After all, this is the generally accepted understanding of the Hebrew in Genesis. In a letter dated 23 April 1984 to David C. C. Watson, Hebrew Professor James Barr at the University of Oxford wrote:
… probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the ark.
Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the “days” of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know. The only thing I would say to qualify this is that most such professors may avoid much involvement in that sort of argument and so may not say much explicitly about it one way or the other.Hebrew Professor James Barr, Oxford, 1984
Can we trust the Genesis chronology? Some claim that Genesis 5 and 11 have a discontinuous line of descent, implying that dating from these genealogies is unreliable. Others disagree. Like Professor James Barr, Professor G.F. Hasel [Geoscience Research Institute, Andrews University] supports a literal acceptance of the genealogies in Gen 5 and 11. He comments:
…in the past five decades the accuracy of the chronological information in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, was verified repeatedly … the chronological information in Genesis 5 and 11 is data that must not be completely disregarded … Genesis creation is intended to be the beginning or opening of history … the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11:10-26 contribute to the progression of time in ScriptureProfessor G.F. Hasel, Geoscience Research Institute, Andrews University
A detailed rebuttal of claims that the Genesis chronogenealogies have gaps is found at Answers in Genesis. Also, claims that there are gaps within the chronogenealogies are inconsistent with contextual, linguistic and historical analysis (see Biblical Chronogenealogies).
Given the support of modern scholarship, we can now quote the early work of Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656). From Genesis 5 and 11 he compiled genealogical chronologies that were widely accepted, even by Isaac Newton. Ussher placed the date of creation at 4004 BC, making the earth today just over 6,000 years old.
A more recent examination of biblical chronology places the date of creation at around 4500 BC, making the earth around 6,500 years old.Conclusion
Based on a real Adam, Biblical genealogies suggest an earth less than 10,000 years old.
Did Jesus imply a Young Earth?
Jesus made several statements relating to the beginning of the world. For example, when questioned about divorce, He said:
But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife … therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.Mark 10:6-9
We can see this statement from two viewpoints:
Evolutionary viewpoint: the first sentence (v6) is not directly linked to the following sentence. The first sentence could simply be stating that male and female genders existed billions of years ago amongst the created species, and the second sentence merely takes up this theme for marriage between two members of the evolved species. Thus, linking marriage to the beginning of creation is unjustified.
Creationist viewpoint: Jesus is inferring that marriage applied even at the start of creation since He directly quotes Genesis 2:24.
Which viewpoint is correct? The context of Mark 10:1-9 is purely one of marriage. Surely Jesus’ reference to ‘male and female’ in v6 is a direct reference to ‘man and wife’, rather than an oblique reference to male and female genders? And isn’t Jesus referring directly to Adam and Eve when he directly quotes Gen 2:24? Recall Jesus referred to ‘the blood of Abel’ (Luke 11:51), implying very clearly that his father, Adam, was a real man.
So in Mark 10:6-7 Jesus implies quite strongly that the institution of marriage occurred in Adam’s time and that this occurred ‘at the beginning of creation’. Also, when referring to the killing of the prophets Jesus said:
… the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world … from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah …Luke 11:50-51
Again, Jesus links Adam’s family with “the foundation of the world”.
Lastly: Are the Scientific Dating Methods Reliable?
This article has concentrated upon how the Bible dates the earth. We have not considered the reliability of scientific dating – a key question seldom discussed in the media. There are many anomalies between the official age of the earth (c4.6 billion years), and what is observed. An introduction to these dating anomalies can be found at How old is the Earth? Further discussion can be found at Young Earth dating theory and Old Earth dating theory.