HOW OLD IS THE EARTH?
By Bill Sizemore
Many Christians are under the impression that if you believe the Bible, then you must believe that the earth is 6,000 years old. But is this so?
Christians come to the 6,000 year conclusion, not based on something the Bible says about the age of the earth, but by tracking the biblical genealogies from Jesus back to Adam, which add up to about 4,000 years, and then adding in the 2,000 years from Christ until now.
From a biblical perspective, this approach tells us approximately how long man has been around, but as we shall see, it does not necessarily tell us how long the earth has been around.
Modern scientists, on the other hand, generally claim that the earth is more like five billion years old. They dismiss the 6,000 year claim as absurd, believing they have reams of conclusive evidence of a much older planet.
Scientists mock those “ignorant, Bible-thumping, fundamentalist Christians” and their 6,000 year doctrine, while Christians damn those “godless, atheistic, Bible-rejecting scientists,” who claim the earth is five billion years old.
some trepidation, I toss my two cents into the fire. Here are the questions
I will raise and attempt to answer:
(1) Is the real age of a material thing, if it was created supernaturally, what it appears to be? As we will see, the Bible answers this question.
(2) Is it possible to determine the age of any physical thing without first determining whether it was created in time or in eternity?
(3) Were the days of creation, which are described in the first chapter of Genesis, twenty-four hours long, or could they have been much longer?
(4) Is it possible to be truly scientific, if you reject the fact that the earth and its creatures were supernaturally created by God “ex nihilo” or out of nothing?
Let’s begin with this very real possibility: Christians are trying to defend a theory that the Bible may not teach. Biblical evidence for the claim that the earth is only six thousands years old is hardly conclusive.
The Bible opens with the well known passage, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…” and a little later it says, “and the evening and the morning were the first day.” In this brief passage of scripture we are told simply that God created the world. The passage doesn’t tell us how long God took to do that - only that He did it on the first day of creation, whatever “day” means in this passage.
This description doesn’t tell us whether time existed on day one, when God created the earth, or if time began later. It is at least possible that time did not yet exist. We know from many scriptures that God dwells in eternity, the ever present “now,” which at least makes it possible that “in the beginning” was before the creation of time or what we call the time/space continuum. We do know this about time: Time is a temporary thing and in the last book of the Bible God ends it.
Based on what we see happening later, it is unlikely that the first day of creation was a day as we use that term:
On the very first day of creation, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. We are not told what the source of that light was. It is important to note that it was not the sun.
Genesis says that on the first day, God separated the light from the darkness and called the light day and the darkness night. There was light on the first day, but there was not yet a sun. God did not make the sun and moon until the fourth day! (See Genesis 1:14-19.)
Let’s step back and look at this for a moment. It is generally believed that Moses wrote the Book of Genesis. Moses lived approximately 2,500 years after Adam was created. That’s a long time later. Obviously, the only thing the author of Genesis could have known about the first day of creation was what God told him.
The author of Genesis, knowing that the sun was not created until the fourth day, wrote that there was light on the first day. He obviously knew when he wrote this that the sun is what lights the day. That fact has been self-evident to all men at all times.
If the author of Genesis was merely making up the creation story and wanted to be credible, he would have said that the sun was created on the first day and provided light for the earth from then on. But he didn’t. He wrote what was he was told to write about the first day, even if he didn’t understand it.
The Bible doesn’t tell us the source of this pre-sun light. The most likely answer is God himself. The Bible teaches that God dwells in unapproachable light. The Bible also teaches that in the heavenly city, the Lamb (Jesus Christ) is the light of the city.
Another question that springs to mind is: If there was no sun on the first day, how do we know how long the first day lasted? For us, a day lasts 24 hours. That fact is based on the time it takes for the earth to rotate one time on its axis facing the sun. A year is based on the amount of time it takes for the earth to orbit the sun one time.
With no sun, there is no basis for knowing how long the first day lasted, or the second or the third. In fact, there is no basis for knowing how long it took God to do any of the things He did before the fourth day of creation. They could have happened instantaneously or gradually. There was no way to measure that.
The sun is the God-ordained instrument for measuring time on the earth. It must therefore be an open question whether time existed before the fourth day of creation. If it existed, there was no basis for measuring it.
Some Christian scholars insist that the days of creation were 24-hour days, because the Hebrew word translated “day” in Genesis 1:5 (before the creation of the sun) is the same Hebrew word used elsewhere in the Old Testament to mean a 24-hour day. This is not a very persuasive argument. Hebrew words are not always precise or specific. The meaning of a Hebrew word is often determined by its context. Also, there are several examples in scripture of the word translated “day” not meaning a 24-hour period.
Now, let’s look at the fourth day of creation. What God says about the reasons He created the sun is instructive.
Genesis 1:14: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years…” The passage goes on to explain that one great light (the sun) would rule over the day and give light upon the earth and a lesser light would rule over the night. Notice that the sun was created on the fourth day, not just to provide light, but also to determine seasons and days and years or one might say, to determine time.
One would logically infer from this passage that if God created the sun to determine days and seasons and years, there was no way to tell days and seasons and years before that. If the sun was created to measure days and years, those days of creation mentioned before the creation of the sun could have been of any length or perhaps of no length at all.
As strange as it sounds, it’s possible that there was no “time” at all before God created the sun. When one is speaking of the great “I AM,” the “Ancient of Days” who dwells in eternity, one could argue either way. After all, time is for us, not for Him.
Now, nothing we have said thus far tells us that the earth is five billion years old, as scientists claim. In fact, even if carbon dating and other methods scientists use for estimating age were sound and reliable, which they are not, those employing those methods still could be entirely wrong in the conclusions they reach. Why? Because the earth may appear to be very old and yet not be. Such is the nature of supernaturally created things.
For example, when God formed the first man, Adam was a full grown adult, not a baby. When Adam was only one hour old, he had a fully formed adult body. That’s the way God made him.
If a doctor had given Adam a thorough examination one hour after God had made him, Adam would have appeared to have been a perfect specimen of a human male of perhaps twenty to twenty-five years of age. Scientific evidence would have informed the doctor of Adam’s age, the doctor would have been fully convinced of that age, but the scientific evidence would have led him to a false conclusion. Adam was still only one hour old.
Jesus miraculously turned pots of water into wine, as is chronicled
in the second chapter of the Gospel of John, the master of the feast
concluded after tasting this brand new wine that the host of the feast
had broken with tradition and saved the best wine for last.
Now, in order for this newly created wine to have been the best wine, it would have had to have been aged for some time, at least to fermentation. A scientific test of this new wine would have proved conclusively that it was older than it was, perhaps by several years. The tests would have been scientifically correct, but the conclusion reached would have been wrong. The wine was minutes old and yet had the physical characteristics of wine of an older age.
Things that have been created or made supernaturally are not subject to scientific tests to determine their age. Scientists may be able to “prove” to their satisfaction that created things are much older than they really are. However, created things exist simply because God spoke them into existence. No matter how old they may appear to be, their true age cannot be determined.
For this reason, scientists who deny the reality of creation lock themselves into a set of rules that are entirely inapplicable to created things. Their unbelief prevents true scientific enquiry into the nature of created things and makes them susceptible to convoluted, contrived theories.
Furthermore, there are plenty of common sense reasons to call into question science’s five billion year theory. For example, at the current rate of measurable erosion the earth’s mountain ranges would be flat, if the earth were billions of years old. Slowly but steadily, wind, rain, ice, snow, and avalanches are eroding the mountains at a measureable rate that precludes an earth-age in the billions of years.
At the current rate at which the Mississippi River delta is forming, as silt flows down the muddy Mississippi to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi delta would reach all the way to Africa, if the earth was five billion years old.
Perhaps you recall when the first spacecraft landed safely on the moon? That first craft was equipped with large, round dishes for feet, so the craft would not sink into the thick lunar dust. Based on the five billion year theory, scientists concluded that the moon must be covered with lunar dust several feet deep.
When the craft landed, however, it was discovered that there was only a thin layer of dust, perhaps a few thousand years worth. This discovery flatly contradicted the five billion year theory upon which the craft had been designed.
Consider this: Modern scientists claim that dinosaurs walked the earth hundreds of millions of years ago, long before the first man. They state with “authority” that such and such a dinosaur lived at such and such a time in some far distant age. This may come as news to you, but credible archaeological evidence seriously undermines this widely accepted theory.
Modern man began discovering and identifying fossil remains of the major dinosaurs only two or three hundred years ago. Early paleontologists immediately began naming and cataloging these “terrible lizards.” They also created drawings of the various dinosaurs, guessing what they looked like based on their bone structure.
However, there are serious problems with the estimated age of dinosaur fossils.
There exist many examples across the world of 1,000 to 3,000 year old cave drawings, tapestries, and ornate stone engravings depicting scenes of dinosaurs and humans together. These artifacts predate modern man’s discovery of dinosaur fossils by thousands of years and yet show unmistakable depictions of many of the dinosaurs we know today, including stegosaurus, brontosaurus, triceratops, and tyrannosaurus rex.
The older drawings depict living creatures almost identical to those in the modern artwork, which is based on fossil remains. Some of these ancient artifacts show men fighting dinosaurs and even men being eaten by dinosaurs.
Also, the Book of Job, believed to be the oldest book in the Bible, contains a detailed, rather fascinating description of a living creature that appears to be a very large dinosaur. The description is not presented in Job as mythical or fictitious, but as that of a real, living creature.
As for the enormous size of some dinosaur fossils, consider this: In the days prior to the Flood of Noah, we are told that several men lived to be more than 900 years old. If we apply that same kind of lifespan to reptiles, imagine how large and heavy some of those predeluvian creatures would have been. Unlike mammals, reptiles continue to grow during their entire lifespan.
You probably didn’t see this on a major television network, but in 2005 a fossilized bone of a T-rex was discovered to have soft tissue still inside it. This shocking discovery challenges everything scientists thought they knew about the age of dinosaur fossils. The finding of real soft tissue from a real dinosaur clearly suggests the T-rex bone was not nearly as old as formerly believed.
There is even a fossilized footprint of a human with a dinosaur footprint on top of the man’s print, clearly demonstrating that at some time in history a dinosaur stepped on a man’s footprint.
More often than not, modern scientists knowingly place themselves at odds with what the Bible says about the origins of the earth and the beginnings of life. Rather than exploring God’s creation to unlock the mysteries He has hidden there, as scientific pioneers such as Sir Isaac Newton did a few hundred years ago, scientists today often interpret the data they gather so as to disprove obvious realities about God, realities that the Bible says are “clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” Creation displays the awesome power of God as well as His infinite intelligence and creativity. Creation is the starting point of all true science.
In Summary, there is probably no way to know the age of the earth. As we have seen, there are plenty of reasons to doubt the five billion year theory. If dinosaurs and man walked the earth at the same time, as credible evidence suggests, then everything science tells us about geological ages collapses.
Along this same line, certain sciences routinely employ a type of circular logic to prove questionable points, such as basing the age of geological layers on the fossils found in those layers and basing the age of fossils on the geological layers in which they are found, which taken as a whole proves absolutely nothing.
On the other hand, the so-called Christian theory that the earth is only 6,000 years old seems unnecessarily restrictive. I would accept the 6,000 year doctrine in a heartbeat, if the Bible taught it, but I don’t think it does. If the sun, which God created to measure years and days, was not created until the fourth day of creation, then the actual length of the earlier days of creation is simply not known, which tells us the earth could be older than 6,000 years, perhaps by a lot.
And if God created the earth in eternity and not in time, and if time itself did not begin until the sun was created on the fourth day, then all discussion of age prior to that time is meaningless.
Also, as if to throw a curve ball into the entire discussion, the Apostle Peter wrote almost two thousand years ago that a day with God is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as one day. If the apostle meant that literally, those days of creation could have lasted a thousand years each, making the earth more like twelve thousand years old. If on the other hand, the Apostle used “a thousand years” simply to mean “a great quantity,” which is often the case in scripture, then the question remains wide open.
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Frankly, I don’t lose sleep over the age of the earth. It’s an interesting topic for discussion, but what God demands of us regarding the earth is that we acknowledge that this planet and all its living creatures were brought into existence by Him, by his spoken Word. Those who reject that fundamental truth, no matter what title or degree they hold, are not really scientists at all.
© 2009 Bill Sizemore - All Rights Reserved