Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | June 9, 2008

3. Earth: Young or Old?

(2 Minute Read)
Here are five generations.

Here are five generations:
Who is oldest? Who is youngest?
People estimate ages based on experience.
But nobody has the experience needed
to estimatethe age of the earth.

Christians often call the earth young. What does this mean? Young relative to what? Nothing is older than the earth. It’s the oldest thing there is—older by three days than the sun, moon, and stars.

Since everything is younger than the earth, the earth should be called old. If the earth is young, then nothing is old. To say the earth is young removes all meaning from the word old.

To say the earth is young presumes the general validity of the evolutionary framework of long ages of time. It’s only the unrelenting propaganda of “billions of years” that causes people to think the enormous time span of six millennia is young and that old has to mean billions of years.

I don’t call myself a young-earth creationist. Instead I identify myself as a Biblical creationist who believes the earth is 6,000 years old based on Biblical testimony.

Calling the earth old is Biblical. But what time span does the Bible mean by old? Thousands or millions or billions of years? The Bible uses old to mean hundreds or thousands as can be demonstrated by the use of the term throughout Scripture.

Hebrew and Greek words are translated ancient or of old about 70 times. For example, genealogical records of the tribe of Judah are called ancient some 1500 years later (1 Chronicles 4:22). Joshua (24:2) referred to the time of Abraham 500 years earlier as ancient. Isaiah (63:11) called the time of Moses 750 years earlier of old. Amos (9:11) called David’s day 250 years earlier of old. Micah (7:20) called Abraham’s day 1400 years earlier of old. Nehemiah (12:46) called the days of David (500 years earlier) ancient.

In New Testament times, the days of Elijah and the prophets at most 900 years earlier were called of old (Mark 6:15; Luke 9:8,19). Peter identified Moses, Samuel, and successors as “holy prophets from ancient time” through whom God spoke at most 1500 years earlier (Acts 3:21-24). James referred to “ancient generations” reading Moses at most 1500 years earlier (Acts 15:21).

Thus for Biblical authors, ancient and of old meant hundreds or thousands of years, never millions or billions.

Christians often call the earth “young.”
But young relative to what?
Nothing is older than the earth.

Moses and Peter used these same Hebrew and Greek words to call Noah’s world of old and ancient (Genesis 6:4; 2 Peter 2:5). Moses also called the mountains ancient (Deuteronomy 33:15). Job (20:4) called the creation of man of old. The Psalmist (102:25) called the creation of earth of old. Hebrews (11:2-4) identified “men of old” going all the way back to Adam’s son Abel, near the beginning.

Thus it’s reasonable to think the Biblical authors had the same time scale of only thousands of years in mind for the terms ancient and of old when they applied them to Noah’s Flood and Creation. Compared to human lifetimes, thousands of years is ancient.

“Millions of years” is nowhere in the Bible. That notion has been imposed on the Bible within the last two centuries by those who want to force-fit the Bible into scientism’s evolutionary worldview.

Thus it’s Biblical to see the earth as old or ancient, provided old means thousands, not billions, of years. Earth is actually very, very, very ancient. In fact, it’s 6,000 years old.

How Old Does Earth Look?

But someone may object, “Earth looks much older than 6,000 years.” But how could anyone know what a 6,000-year-old earth or a 4-billion-year-old earth looked like?

Children find it difficult to estimate ages because they have little experience. Adults can validly say someone looks in his 50’s based on experience. No one has experience estimating earth ages. Everyone has only been on one earth for a brief time.

How old the earth looks depends on the worldview glasses you look through. One person may think it looks billions of years old. I think it looks like a flood-damaged globe that’s thousands of years old.

Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the third in a series of blog posts on the Age of the Earth.
Read the prequels:
1. How Old Is the Earth?
2. Why Is the Age of the Earth Important?

Read the sequel:
4. Age of the Earth—Jesus’ View

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Monday June 9, 2008 A.D.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD. Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
(Psalm 33:6-9)

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Responses

  1. I find your article interesting. If I had to choose what I believe about the days of creation, I would probably choose a younger aged earth. However, I do wish to comment on some of your statements.

    First, Genesis 1 and 2 were written in poetic language. The Hebrew word for day, “yom” was most often used to mean a literal 24 hour day. Yet it was not always used to mean a 24 hour day.

    A second observation I have is in regard to how we approach scripture. I believe we should approach the Bible more as a narrative rather than textbook. I understand there are times we must look at some of the details. However, If we look at the Bible academically, we tend to miss the overall story and point of the story. Is the point of creation and the fall for us to figure out all the details or is it for us to know that God created the world, we sinned and he is in the business of redeeming, restoring, reconciling and reclaiming us and all creation back to him? Or did God put the details of the poetic description of creation so we could figure out how long the days of creation took place?

    A third observation I have is regarding your referencing yourself as a “Biblical-Creationist” rather than a “young earth creationist”. I am wondering what people, who are followers of Jesus believing in an older created earth, are thinking when they read your article and think about that statement. I have no problem with anyone believing in a young created earth. I do find it offensive when people separate themselves from other people by claiming their way is the “Biblical way” and anyone who does not agree are wrong. I understand there are some key doctrines we must agree on (the trinity, salvation by faith in Jesus, etc…). However, I do not believe the six days of creation are in that category.

    A couple questions for us to consider:
    1) If we found scientific proof that the earth was indeed billions of years old, would that shake our faith and cause us to give up on believing in God?
    2) Do we believe God would rather share his redemptive story from Genesis or debate how long each day of creation was?
    3) Could this debate be Satan’s goal to distract us from a more important redemptive story?

    Again, I am not saying I disagree with your view and I do appreciate your desire to seek truth. I am just wondering if sometimes we are missing the point. Thanks!

    Like

    • Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comments. I’ll briefly respond to some of them and also give some links to fuller explanations in case you’re interested.

      Genesis 1 & 2 were not written in poetic language. These chapters are straight history written in matter-of-fact prose language. Advanced linguistic studies using sophisticated software have shown based on the tense and voice of the verbs in the Creation and Flood chapters that these chapters are definitely narrative and not poetry; they match verb morphology of Old Testament historical sections but not of Old Testament poetry.

      Hebrew poetry is easily recognizable. No Hebrew scholar would claim Genesis 1 and 2 are poetry.

      Moreover, Jesus Himself accepted these chapters as literal history. He quoted from both of them when the Pharisees asked Him about divorce. Jesus answered, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

      Jesus based His teaching about the inviolability of marriage and the illegitimacy of divorce on a literal understanding of these verses from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. Jesus understood the Creator’s instruction to Adam as the concrete reason why a married couple is one flesh which no man should separate. Obviously this is a very literal understanding of Genesis. (For more examples of Jesus’ literal understanding of OT passages, see Earth’s Age 2—Jesus’ View.)

      Even though yom does not always mean a normal day, it certainly does mean that in Genesis 1 (as it almost always does throughout the OT). See Are the Six Days of Creation Regular Days or Long Ages? for my arguments why the Creation Days are normal days.

      The purpose of Scripture is to communicate God’s truth. God speaks in common ordinary language through the Biblical authors to men of all times and nations, to men of all cultures and educational levels.

      Creationists don’t try “to figure out all the details”—that’s impossible. But we do believe the details God included in Scripture are important and should be faithfully taught and firmly believed, including the Six Days of Creation which is far more than just a “detail.” In fact the Six Days of Creation are more clearly taught in Scripture than is the doctrine of the Trinity which you identify as a “key doctrine we must agree on.” In fact the Trinity is first intimated in verses 2 and 26 of Genesis 1 when the text mentions “the Spirit of God,” “Us,” and “Our.” Literal understanding of these verses is what first indicates the plural nature of the Godhead.

      Regarding your “questions for us to consider”:
      1) It is impossible to find scientific proof that the earth is billions of years old. Science deals with observable, repeatable phenomena. The origin of the earth is an unobservable historic event of the unrepeatable past. The only “proof” one could have for the age of the earth would be historic eye-witness testimony—which I believe has been preserved for us by God in the Genesis record.

      Scientific arguments about the age of the earth are all based on extrapolating current processes backwards into history and on assuming certain initial conditions. The assumed initial conditions and assumptions about the extrapolated process determine the results of the calculation. These are thus speculations which are only as good as the assumptions and in no way proofs. Future blog posts will deal with this in more detail, including identifying errors in the assumptions.

      2) It is a false dichotomy to ask whether God would rather people “share His redemptive story from Genesis or debate how long each day of creation was.” God placed both in Scripture for a reason and both are to be taught. The theme of redemption is the central theme running throughout the Bible, but Creation is the essential foundation of that theme (see Creation: Foundation for the Gospel). God Himself used the Six Days of Creation as justification for one of the Ten Commandments and engraved His reasoning on stone tablets–and the logic of the reasoning depends on the days being regular days (Exodus 20:8-11).

      3) This is not a distraction from the Gospel. As a matter of fact, most Creation ministries have a strong evangelism focus. Creation is the starting point for introducing God to a sin-blinded world (see God’s Business Card).

      I do not call myself a “young-earth creationist” because that term implicitly grants the evolutionary framework of long ages, as I explained in my post above. I describe myself as a Biblical creationist qualified by the relative clause “who believes the earth is 6,000 years old based on Biblical testimony.” This clause was a qualification, not a definition, of “Biblical creationist.”

      The primary impetus for rejecting the Six Days of Creation is Evolutionism. Creation of the universe in six regular days means Evolution is impossible. The supposed 15-billion-year evolutionary age of the universe cannot be shoe-horned into Six Days. A Biblical worldview starts with a clear understanding of God as the Creator of heaven and earth, including the crucial truth that He did it in only six regular days. Six Days is one of the linchpins of the Biblical worldview in opposition to the evolutionary worldview. God Himself clearly and repeatedly emphasizes this. Six Days is the key distinguishing characteristic of the Biblical explanation of origins.

      Like


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