How Old is the Earth?
One of the biggest areas of disagreement between Creationists and Evolutionists has to do with computing the age of the earth (including the universe). There is really only one of two choices that can be true. We either accept the Evolutionist or the Creationist viewpoint, and ne’er the twain shall meet. We will take a brief look at both of these before seeing what the Bible actually teaches.
Evolutionists believe that the earth and the universe are billions of years old. The reason they must adopt this viewpoint is so they can make room for the theory of evolution. They do not accept that God could create the universe out of nothing, but that it is a result of a cosmic accident called ‘The Big Bang.’ As a result of chemical reactions on this planet all life evolved over the course of billions of years. Theistic-evolutionists try to take the middle ground by stating that God created the process of evolution.
Creationists believe that the universe demands an intelligent being to create it, and that He created it with six literal days rather than over billions of years. This means that the earth is young. Creationists state that God can do what He pleases, how He pleases and when He pleases.
What does “Day” mean?
In Genesis 1 the word ‘day’ is repeated several times, but what exactly is a day? Should we take it literally or symbolically? There are basically two interpretations for this word:
1. Some suggest that ‘day’ in Genesis 1 does not mean a literal 24-hour day, but symbolic of an unknown period of time. Therefore, the word can refer to millions or even billions of years.
2. The word ‘day’ means exactly what it says in Genesis 1. Each day being literally 24 hours in length and consisting of morning and evening.
Surely God, as an intelligent being, would communicate what He actually means by the word. By going to Scripture we should be able to determine what God is actually saying.
The Hebrew word for ‘day’ is ‘yom’; this can be used in several different ways:
1. The period of time when the sun shines (daytime).
2. A 24-hour period.
3. A general point in time, (I’ll get around to it one day).
How do we know which one to apply to Genesis 1? If we get it wrong here, we will get it wrong everywhere.
A Text out of Context is a Pretext
Simply, this means that we make a lie out of God’s word by not keeping what is said in context with what is stated before and after the text in question. You may truthfully say, “I say our pastor taking drugs,” but fail to add, “away from a young child.” Context is very important for it adds important detail to the statement. Try this one for yourself … “So David waxed greater and greater: for the LORD of hosts was with him” (1 Chronicles 11:9). Was David applying too much wax to the floor of his palace or was God blessing him?
By investigating the first time ‘day’ is used in Genesis 1 we can ascertain exactly what it means in the verses that follow. Genesis 1:4 … “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night.’ By observing the context what do we learn about the use of the word?
1. A time of day when the sun was shining?
2. A regular 24-hour day?
3. A general period of time?
Actually, if you were being observant you have noticed it was used in two ways. First, the daytime God called ‘day’, and also the combination of evening and morning were called ‘day.’ There was not much room for the third alternative. But doesn’t the Genesis make use of the general sense of ‘day’? Yes, it does in Genesis 2:4 … “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” The word is not modified with ‘evening and morning’ or ‘first, second, third, etc.,’ in this case it must be applied as a general statement, otherwise it makes Genesis 1 a lie.
How does the rest of Scripture speak of Creation Week?
Rather than asking liberal theologians, theistic-evolutionists and evolutionists, we should ask the patriarchs of the faith how they viewed the days of Genesis 1. We really can do no better than Moses, the writer of Genesis. In Exodus 20:11 he writes, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Did he mean literal days or billions of years? What is the context of this verse? The context is the Ten Commandments and especially the fourth dealing with observing the Sabbath Day. If Moses meant that each day was millions of years in length, then pity the poor Jews! Imagine keeping the Sabbath for an unknown period of time. He obviously knew meant that each day was 24-hours in length.
So how old is the earth?
Again, searching the Bible reveals our answer. How many of us have skipped passed the genealogies in Numbers and Chronicles? They are there so that we can do a bit of arithmetic to discern the age of the earth (and we know it was created five days before Adam). These genealogies are timelines rather than exact date stamps, but they do point us to the truth.
It should not surprise us to learn that it begins with Christ. Luke 2:23-38 records the lineage of Jesus Christ all the way back to Adam, this should be compared with Matthew 1:1-17. Note: If Adam didn’t exist then neither did Jesus! By counting the generations back we find the general timing of Adam’s appearance, but we can count forward from Adam also. Remember all that times Scripture mentions the years of people’s lives? E.g., “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died” (Genesis 5:5). All these short biographical statement are there for a reason.
According to the estimation of Biblical scholars and researchers, the earth is young and points to being around 6,000 years old rather than billions. This basically agrees with the timeline drawn up by Bishop Ussher.
But what about 2 Peter 3:8?
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Doesn’t this verse reveal the possibility of a day being a thousand years? Not really. Those who quote this verse as proof for their theories forget to mention the second part. When in the history of the world has a day been a 1,000 years in length? The context is vital. The verse is revealing the eternal nature and timelessness of God. He exists outside of time, yet in Genesis 1 He purposely worked within the confines of time, even created it for that reason. There is a little more to the context of 2 Peter 3:8 though. Read what comes before and after, and you will see that it is dealing with salvation not creation.
Creationists believe in a young earth rather than the proposed timescale of evolutionists. What is important is that we allow God to speak for Himself in Scripture rather than reading anything into it, or reading between the lines. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit where there and have recorded the events in chronological order in the Holy Bible. God’s word is His business; Charles Darwin’s theory is a lot of old monkey business.
Download the MS Word version of this study
Addition information from Creation Ministries International and Cardiff Creation Group