Does The Bible Teach How Old The Earth Is?

by Jack Wellman on February 18, 2013 · Print Print · Email Email

Does the Bible actually address just how old the earth is?  Should it make any difference?  Can we count the genealogies to reckon the age of the earth.

The Creation Account

The Book of Genesis says that God created the heavens and the earth and He took six days to create it.  These were literal days and not just a metaphor for thousands of years.  People that say this do not understand that the actual words used for “day” were literal 24-hour periods of time.  The word that is used for day is the Hebrew word “yom.”  Every time it is used, and it is used 357 times outside of Genesis, it is referring to a 24-hour period of time and not a “thousand years.”  There is no room for Bible hermeneutics to allow this to take place.  Some have said that to the Lord, a day is as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8) but the word that is used in this phrase is a figurative one and is not referring to a 24-hour period of time.  This is the same word that is used in “the Day of the Lord” and so it is not time specific but a reference to an event that will take place some day.  Time is nothing to God Who is eternal.

In Ezra 3:6 it says, On the first day (yom) of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, though the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid.” Now if we use the “day” to mean “as a thousand years” this would be ridiculous because it would read, “On the first thousand years of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, though the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid.”  The same word for “day” used in Ezra 3:6 is the same word used in the creation account in Genesis (yom).  If a day is always a thousand years, then the burnt offerings would not only cease to exist after a thousand years, so would those who are making the offerings!

The Gap Theory

It should be understood that the Bible is not a book about the heavens…but a book about how to get there.  It is not intended to give a strict, scientific account of how the earth and the heavens were created. It is just stating the fact that God created and that’s enough for us to know. If God had wanted us to know exactly how old the earth is, then He would have given us more precise information.  No one was alive to report to us the exact date and time of the creation.  Does it really matter just how old the earth is?  Should this be a divisive issue?  I do not believe that it should.

I heard the late Bible teacher, pastor, and author, J. Vernon McGee (Through the Bible Ministries) say that the earth could actually be millions or even a few billion years old.  There were no eye witnesses and no dates given in Genesis.  A careful reading of Genesis 1:1-2 reveals that there is no mention of time between verses one and verses two: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”  Reading verse one it says that “God created the heavens and the earth.”  This is a statement of fact. It is not debatable.  The thing is that there is no mention of time before it says “Now (giving an indication of some time between then and “now”) the earth was formless and empty.”  Here we see that the earth was formless and was empty and there was no light at all.  Can your brain imagine what something “formless” is or something that is both “formless and empty?”  It sounds like it was a mass of matter that was without form and was empty or devoid.  Does this mean that it was devoid of matter too or that the emptiness was formless?

We can not impute a time into or between verses one and two.  It is impossible to say just how long of a period of time occurred because there is the statement “in the beginning” and “now.”  This “beginning” is the earth’s beginning, not God’s beginning because God has always existed and Jesus the Son was with God before this beginning (John 1:1-2).  Dr. McGee also rightly states that the genealogies mentioned in Genesis and even in the gospels may not be a complete listing of all the generations that had lived and died.  The Bible could not possibly contain all of the names of all the generations in Genesis or in the gospel accounts of Luke and Matthew and so these are not exhaustive genealogies.  These genealogies are given to refer to the Royal lineage of Jesus Christ and the descendents of those whom God would specifically be working with.

Evolution and an Old Earth or New

Let us not debate about a young earth or an old earth but give glory to God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.

Let us not debate about a young earth or an old earth but give glory to God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.

Does this really matter in the issue of a Christian’s salvation?  What does matter is that evolution can not co-exist with the creation account of all living things, including humans.  Why?  Jesus believed in an actual Adam and Eve being created when He addressed the issue of divorce with the religious leaders.  Jesus said, Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female (Matthew 19:4).  He created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).  The evolutionist who tries to work evolution into the process of God creating life makes God a deist God who just winds it up and lets it go.  This is contrary to how God creates.  He didn’t create them the “amoeba, single-celled kind after the amoeba single-celled kind.” He created them as male and female and already mature because they were able to bear children after they were joined together.  God would not marry amoebas or babies or children.  Even the Garden of Eden had mature plants that were already bearing fruit.  God created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them man (or mankind)” (Genesis 5:2).

God created a mature earth too because there were already mountains, the stars must have been visible because Abraham was able to view the millions upon millions of stars and Abraham appeared early in the Book of Genesis.  Otherwise the star light would have taken millions of years to arrive on earth had God created them in an evolving process.  Why would God put amoebas into the garden and then wait and wait for them to evolve into humans?  It seems ridiculous doesn’t it?  I do believe that the earth and the heavens were created “ex nihilo” or out of nothing.  I believe it was created at the moment that God spoke because it says in the Scriptures thatby God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water (2 Peter 3:5) and By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command (Hebrews 11:3). It was not being formed or was in the process of being formed but God simply says, “it was formed at God’s command.”  The verb form was a “present indicative” or that it was instantaneous, not a process of an ongoing creation.

Conclusion

Whether you are a young earth advocate or believe in an old earth, the most important thing is that God is the Creator of the earth. God didn’t fill in all the details because we must simply believe God and take Him at His Word.  Look at it this way:

In the beginning, (that’s time), God created (that’s cause), the heavens and the earth (that’s matter).  Even scientists and astrophysicists acknowledge that the universe had a beginning.  They call it the “Big Bang.”  Before matter existed, could time have even existed?  Don’t we need matter before time can be measured?  Time is nothing to an eternal God.  What caused the “big” to “bang?”  Carl Sagan once said that so many billions of years ago the universe exploded into being?  What!?  What was it before it exploded?  Non-being?  If it exploded into being, didn’t it have to be “being” or to have existed before?  It must have had a cause for we know that “a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force” (Sir Isaac Newton).  What this outside force was must have been outside of time and matter restrictions, unlike us.

The cause of the universe was God.  His Word has effectual power to bring things into existence out of nothing.  There is no other explanation for the universe and life.  The Bible was never intended to explain the “how” but to tell us the “why” and we and the universe were created for God’s glory.  The heavens declare His glory (Psalm 97:6).  Whether you are young or old, you can live eternally, but only if you put your trust in God.  Let us not debate about a young earth or an old earth but give glory to God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.  That’s the most important thing there is.

Are you looking for a way to explain evolution? Take a look at this article:

How do Christians explain evolution?

Resource – New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide, YouTube “All of Creation” by MercyMe



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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Derek Hill February 18, 2013 at 10:22 am

This was a great explanation Jack. I didn’t realize that God created everything in 6 literal days. That is amazing! This is the first time I have actually read this fact. I am with you. It doesn’t matter how old the earth is. What matters is that we trust God at His Word. Well done brother! God bless!

Reply

Jack Wellman February 18, 2013 at 11:50 am

Thanks brother. I pray this article does not become a stumbling block for Christians as my intent was to say that the Bible is not a book about the heavens but about how to get there and that the age of the earth is a non-essential issue but eternal life in Christ is. Thank you friend.

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Robert February 18, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Great article, Jack,
My only question about God creating everything in six days is, “Why did He take so long?” (Just kidding). The God of the Bible, the God who sent His Son to pay the penalty for my sins, and the God who loves me enough to draw me to Him, is certainly capable of creating everything in exactly the amount of time He wanted to. Wonderful article, brother.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Gary February 28, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Jack,

The first word in Genesis 1: 2 is “and” not “now”.

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Robert O. Adair March 28, 2013 at 11:49 am

There are several points to think about vis avis the earth being millions of years old. Most scientists are not philosophers but evolution is what it was called back in Darwin’s day: Natural Philosophy. The main reason for millions, billions of years is to allow time for everything to happen by chance. Hey! Need more time? Tack on another billion. A statistical study of of the DNA molecule proved it was so complex that 14 billion years wasn’t long enough for it to happen by chance. Remember that is only one thing necessary for evolution. How about millions of others also necessary for life?

A great Christian book, Science Speaks, contained the results of a project to calculate the odds of Bible prophecies coming true by chance. If there is one chance in a thousand of of a prophecy coming true by chance, one chance in ten thousand for another and one chance in one hundred thousand of still another, what are the odds on all three coming about by chance? you have to multiply these fractions by each other. For just what I’ve mentioned you start getting astronomical odds. On the day Christ died, 33 Biblical prophecies came true. This gave us odds of 10 to the 11th power. Imagine a giant cube made up of dimes, ten miles on edge with one marked dime. But this was only 33 prophecies. The human body has 200 body parts by no means simple, for all this to come about by chance, the odds would be trillions times trillions. What makes it worse is the concept of ecology which includes symbiosis. Plants and animals don’t just live by themselves but in a complex environment, all this has to come about by chance. Six days makes a lot of sense when you consider coherence. Herbivores might have trouble waiting millions of years for their dietary plant life to evolve.

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Trevor M May 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm

There is a place in the Bible where we are told to disregard time tables, for they have no bearing on what is to come, or what has passed. These things will happen and have happened as God wills it. However, I can see where there is debate on the age of the earth, and how there could be room in Genesis to theoretically claim time may have passed between God’s moving upon the face of the water, and the creating of light and dark. Ultimately, I’d like to believe that our God is all powerful as declared by believers, therefore could He not have created a “prefabricated” earth so to speak, that was primed and ready for the end of time? To argue and say that this is too old, or this couldn’t have happened in this time frame, is to say He is not capable. Surely if you believe God created everything that is, then you can also believe he is capable of aging the earth, so it is fit for the future generations of man and the paths we have taken as a people. We are able to age wine, meat, and other tangible goods artificially, in other words without the wait, therefore is our Holiest Father not capable of the same feat on a much greater magnitude? Faith in and acceptance of Christ is the ONLY thing that matters.

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Jack Wellman May 13, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Well said Trevor. You’re spot on by saying the conclusion of all things is having “Faith in and acceptance of Christ is the ONLY thing that matters.” I totally concur. As my own conclusion said, “Let us not debate about a young earth or an old earth but give glory to God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. That’s the most important thing there is.”

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