Initial Thoughts on the Age of the Earth

I have been doing some study on the age of the earth. I am just beginning to scratch the surface of the research out there. I have my assumptions about its age. These assumptions come from a straight forward reading of Genesis 1-3 and related texts. However, I know many evangelicals disagree on this point.  Here are some of my initial thoughts on this subject. These are a bit random but they put fences around my further exploration of the topic.

The three books I have used so far have been Jim Jordan’s Creation in Six Days, Douglas Kelly’s Creation and Change, and Henry Morris’ The Genesis Record. I have also read some articles that deal with this including Kline and Waltke. I read some of Philip Johnson a long time ago. I have also read various secular men who are working to refute or at least modify the prevailing views of evolution.

First, the Biblical chronology from Adam to us is a few thousand years. Even if we put gaps in the genealogies (and it must be proven they exist), we cannot get thousands (much less millions) more years. If you look at Genesis 5, 11, and other genealogies, such as Luke 3, it is clear that they are intended to be pretty straight forward accounts of who was born to whom. For example, compare Genesis 5:1-24 with I Chronicles 1:1-3, Luke 3:36-38, and Jude 1:14. All of these show that Enoch was the seventh generation after Adam. There may be gaps (and there may not be) but these gaps are not thousands of years. Thus from Adam to us will be around 6,000 years maybe a bit  more. If thousands or millions of more years are to found they must be found earlier than Adam. One cannot posit an old earth (unless by old-earth one means 10,000 years or less!) from the Biblical chronology post-Adam. In other words, from the day six creation of Adam to us is not very long.

Second, the Bible treats the creation account as history. It assumes a literal Adam and Eve with a literal fall in the garden that happened exactly as the Genesis account says it does. Christ assumes the creation account is accurate in Matthew 19:3-9. Paul assumes the creation account in I Corinthians 11:8-9 and I Timothy 2:13-14. Henry Morris has an extensive list of New Testament allusions and quotations to Genesis. Not all of these are from the first few chapters of Genesis. But the list proves that New Testament treated Genesis as real history.

Third, Adam was created from the dust of the earth. He did not evolve. Eve was created from his side. She did not evolve either. There is nothing in the Genesis text to point to the animals evolving either. Theistic evolution is compromise of highest order.

Fourth, death came with Adam’s sin. There was no death prior to Adam’s sin. This is clear in the New Testament passages which refer to Adam (Romans 5:12-21 and I Corinthians 15:21-22). The phrase, “It was good” throughout Genesis 1 could point to this as well. To say there was death prior to Adam is to undo the fabric of Scripture.

Fifth, the concept of evolution necessarily involves death. I understand this is simplistic. But evolution means organisms that do not adapt die. For evolution to be a part of the creation week there must be death. But death does not come until Genesis 3. What about plants? Did they die prior to Adam’s sin? There is no reason to assume that to be the case. It would appear there is a difference between plants and animals in this regard. Plants could be eaten prior to the fall and may be eaten in the New Heavens and Earth (Isaiah 11:6-9, 65:25). (These passages in Isaiah probably involve some type of symbolism. But even if that is the case the symbol is one of peace. Thus eating straw implies peace, not death.) Another thought is eating a plant does not require it dying. Eating an animal usually does.

Sixth, God created all things from nothing (See Jeremiah 32:1, Acts 4:24, Colossians 1:16-17, and Hebrews 11:3). Matter is not eternal (See II Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:1). Only God is. There was a time when there was only God.

Seventh, there is no reason to pit literary form against literal chronology. The Bible often punctuates historical narratives with literary structures. For example, the entire book of Genesis is structured by the idea of generations (See Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, etc.). Does this literary device make the story non-chronological or unhistorical? Does a chiasm in I Kings make it unhistorical and non-chronological? My point here is that to argue for a literary/poetic reading of Genesis 1 does not have to lead one away from a 24-hour, six day creation. It must be proven that the literary structure denies a 24-hour, six day creation.

7 thoughts on “Initial Thoughts on the Age of the Earth

  1. Thanks for this, Peter. I'm teaching straight through Genesis next year and have been reading everything I can get my hands on about Gen. 1 & 2.

    A.) I would love to hear further thoughts surrounding points four and five.

    Disclaimer: I currently hold to literal 24 hour, six-day creationism.

    I certainly agree there was no death before Adam's sin (Romans 5:12), but I'm not settled to what extent.

    1.) As you note, certainly plants experienced “death,” for there were seasons (Gen. 1:14) and Jesus refers to the germination of wheat as “death” (John 12:24)

    2.) Having recently taught through Isaiah, it seems that in the new heavens and new earth there will be meat (thanks be to God) and well-aged wine, (Isaiah 25:6). Either this has implications for a world without sin that also includes animals dying, or it's metaphor.

    Any thoughts?

    B.) Have you read John Sailhamer's Genesis Unbound? (Overview here: ) He lays out a case for what he calls historical creationism.

    From my opinion his case requires some unconvincing biblical origami in Gen 1-2, and despite his outright denial of any bias towards old-earth it reads much like a defense of current evolutionary theory.

    Nonetheless, he makes a handful of good points exegetically that 1.) the “land” in Gen. 1:2-2 is a referent to the promised land, 2.) the “heavens and earth” (Gen 1:1) are a merism inclusive of all things, and 3.) Greek cosmology historically affected English interpretation of “tohu wabohu” as “empty and void” in Gen. 1:2 (he argues for “uninhabited wilderness” in view of Jeremiah 4:23).

    If you've heard this view, what say you?


  2. Chris, Thanks for commenting. Those are some good thoughts. I will have to look at Isaiah 25. I am aware of Sailhamer's arguments. Jim Jordan has a lengthy review of Sailhamer in the book I cite in the post. One quick thought is that Sailhamer's argument, if I am reading him correctly, demands a change in meaning of “erets” from verse 1 (all land everywhere) to verse 2 (promised land). If this is true it seems strained.

    A couple things about plants. Death comes with Adam. This is a presupposition from Scripture. So whatever happened to the plants prior to Adam's fall is not death. To me this is a guiding principle that undercuts any type of evolutionary idea in Genesis 1. Also the use of “nephesh” with animals and not plants could point to a difference between plants and breathing organisms.

    Thanks again for commenting. Let me know what else you have been reading to help with these early chapters of Genesis.


  3. Really appreciated your summation of biblical creationism. Look forward to hearing more about points four and five — hadn't really thought about “death” in that light before.


  4. Mrs. Bolyard, thanks for commenting. Tell your family hello for me.

    Chris, one more thought. I think your point about Sailhamer's denial of bias toward old earth, but still reading like a defense of evolution is important. I find a lot of men doing this type of thing. Where all their evidence and arguments point towards evolution, but they deny that it leads there. I find this a dangerous position especially for those who learn from them downstream.It is difficult to separate old earth from evolution no matter how hard those men try. Grace, Peter


  5. Peter,

    Thanks for the reply!

    Sailhamer's argument is that erets in 1:1 is part of a whole “heavens and the earth” while erets in 1:2 is the whole. e.g. “I'm hurting head to toe” vs. “my toe is hurting” In his view 1:1 is not a title that is reviisted in 1:2 but the process of creation of all things (or in his view, all things but humanity and the creation of the promised land)

    I agree that the absence of death undercuts evolutionary theory. When it comes to how creation functioned with trees that did not have light and carnivores that were omnivores I have to wash my hands and say the secret things belong to God.

    I've got a stack of books I'm slowly working through:

    1.) Evolution: The Lie by Ken Ham
    2.) Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record Duane Gish
    3.) Genesis Unbound by Sailhamer
    4.) The Meaning of the Penteteuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation by Sailhamer (excellent work!)
    5.) Genesis in Space and Time by Francis Schaeffer
    6.) Keller's White Paper – (Tim Keller's unsettling call for a theological, biblical, and philosophical acceptance of evolution)

    1.) Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton
    2.) Scientific Creationism by Henry Morris
    3.) Darwin on Trial by Philip Johnson

    Hoping to Read:
    1.) Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the 2.) Problem of Animal Suffering by Ronald Osborn (Attacks literal view in favor of evolution)
    3.) Last things First: Unlocking Genesis with the Christ of Eschatology by J Fesco
    4.) The Young Earth by John Morris
    5.) Science and Evolution Charles Colson
    6.) Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of The Human Fossils by Marvin Lebenow


  6. Chris, my heart thanks you for the list. My pocketbook, not so much.:-) I think Jordan's critiques of other positions are better than his own solution, which is too typological/symbolical for my tastes. He does address a broad spectrum including Waltke, Kline, Collins, and Sailhamer.


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