The Age of the Earth

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day (Exodus 20:11).

There is much needless conflict between scientific ideas on the age of the earth and those, seeking to uphold the biblical record, who insist that the earth can only be about 6000 years old. This dogma is a result of taking what Moses wrote (quoted above) out of the context of what he wrote in Genesis chapter one.

If we compare Ex. 20: 11 with Gen. 1, we find that God made Heaven on the second day (vs. 6 - 7), the Earth and the Seas on the third day (vs. 9 - 10), and so on. Yet before all this happened – i.e. before any of the work of the six days was accomplished, it is written: -

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Gen.1:1-2).

Obviously Moses is referring to a different ‘Heaven’ and ‘Earth’ in Gen.1: 1 and Gen.1: 6- 10. Clearly the physical globe was in existence when the work of the six creation days was started and therefore there can be no Scriptural objection1 to the so-called 'Gap Theory' whereby the earth could have been created billions of years before the work of the six days creation, the account of which starts in v.3.

A similar argument can be used to explain the apparent making of the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day, after the creation of light (and day and night) on the first day. Concerning the fourth day we read: -

And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also (Gen. 1:16).

The word ‘made’ here can be translated ‘appointed’ and, from the point of view of an observer on the earth, the fourth day is when they appeared in the heaven. The work of the first day can be explained as the lifting of the impenetrable darkness which enveloped the earth at that time in order that the difference in day and night could be discerned, but not to the extent that the source of the light could be seen.

The Six Thousand Years and Creation Days

The figure of approximately six thousand years from the time of the creation of man is calculable, using biblical chronology, from the creation of Adam, his age when Seth was born and so on up to verifiable historical and contemporary dates. It is not an unbroken sequence but these are covered by chronological bridges and, one or two ambiguities and missing dates notwithstanding, the calculation can only be in error by decades rather than centuries.

The ‘Creation Days’ of Genesis 1 are delineated by evening and morning periods, which define literal days. Those who seek to extend this period (by allowing each day to be a thousand or millions of years long for example) have a serious objection to answer. If Adam was created on the sixth day: when, and how long, was the seventh day when God rested? (Considering that Adam was alive during this period and he must have fallen from grace some years before the age of 130, when Seth was born.) There seems to be no alternative to the interpretation of the creation week as seven literal consecutive days.

One objection that has been raised by 'young earth' advocates is that there could have been no death before Adam sinned (citing Rom.5:12) and therefore all fossils must belong to a period after the fall. However, this assertion violates the context of Paul's argument and erroneously applies human moral reasoning to God's ways. By that reasoning it could be argued that, after Adam's fall, God was unjust in bringing death also upon the animals, none of which, including the serpent, had sinned: ...for sin is the transgression of the law (1Jn.3:4) and no animal has ever been under any moral law. The clear context of Paul's teaching is that, through transgression of God's command, our first parents brought death upon themselves and their posterity. Through His Spirit, God is the author and sustainer of all life and, if He withraws His Spirit from a creature, it dies (Ecc. 12:7, 3:19). It is not for man to judge how and when God should excercise this power. The Bible is silent on the process by which the heavens and the earth were created and fashioned prior to the first day of Genesis 1, at the commencement of which, ...the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep (Gen.1:2). It is not wise therefore to speculate from Scripture on the length of time and the fashioning processes prior to that day. The earth may be only about 6000 years old, but the Scriptures do not require it to be so.

In summary: The Bible teaches that approximately 6000 years ago ...the earth was without form, and void..." It is silent on what happened on earth before that time. The fossil record suggests that the earth has gone through many periods of teeming life interspersed by periods of sterility and desolation. Radio-active decay suggests that rocks could be very old. None of these observations or assumptions needs to be challenged by those who seek to uphold the Biblical record.

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