The age of the earth and the universe is no longer disputed among most scientists. Science tells us the earth is ~4.5 x 109 years old. The universe is ~14 x 109 years old. There have been several Christian scientists who have attempted to propose theories and find "scientific" evidence that the earth is only 6,000 years old. All "evidence" for a recent creation of the earth is flawed in some way (for a discussion of this topic, see Dr. Hugh Ross' book, A Matter of Days).
Literal translations of the Hebrew word, yom, like our English word "day," can refer to a 24 hour day, sunrise to sunset (12 hours), or a long, unspecified period of time (as in "the day of the dinosaurs"). The Hebrew word ereb, translated evening also means "sunset," "night" or "ending of the day." The Hebrew word boqer, translated morning, also means "sunrise," "coming of light," "beginning of the day," or "dawning," with possible metaphoric usage (1). Our English expression: "The dawning of an age" serves to illustrate this point. This expression in Hebrew could use the word, boqer, for dawning, which, in Genesis 1, is often translated morning.
Do all the instances of "morning" and evening" refer to a literal period of time? Here is an example from Moses:
In the morning it [grass] flourishes, and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades, and withers away. (Psalm 90:6)
This verse refers to the life cycle of grass (compared to the short life span of humans). Obviously, the grass does not grow up in one morning and die by the same evening. The period of time refers to its birth (morning) and its death (evening) at least several weeks (if not months) later.
The first thing one notices when looking at Genesis 1 is the unusual construction surrounding the words morning and evening together with day. This combination is very rare, occurring only ten times in the Old Testament, six of which, of course, are in the Genesis creation account. The remaining four verses (NASB) are listed below:
- "This is the offering which Aaron and his sons are to present to the LORD on the day when he is anointed; the tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a regular grain offering, half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening." (Leviticus 6:20)
- Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and in the evening it was like the appearance of fire over the tabernacle, until morning. (Numbers 9:15)
- "For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning." (Deuteronomy 16:4)
- "And the vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true; but keep the vision secret, for it pertains to many days in the future." (Daniel 8:26)
The first three verses obviously refer to 24 hour days, since this is readily apparent from the context. The fourth one refers to many evenings and mornings, which "pertains to many days in the future." This verse actually refers to events that are yet to happen, which is 3000 years of days from when it was originally written. One could easily say that these mornings and evenings represent thousands of years.
However, none of these verses have the form which is seen in the Genesis account. Let's look at the form of these "evenings and mornings:"
- And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:5)
- And God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. (Genesis 1:8)
- And there was evening and there was morning, a third day. (Genesis 1:13)
- And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. (Genesis 1:19)
- And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. (Genesis 1:23)
- And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)
The actual number of words in Hebrew is much fewer than that of the English translations. The words "and there was" are not in the Hebrew, but added to make the English flow better. The actual translation is "evening and morning 'n' day." There is no way to discern from the context that the text is referring to 24 hour days.
How would God have changed the text if He intended it to indicate 24 hour days? If God were to have created in 24 hour days, I would have expected the Genesis text to have begun with a statement to the effect that "God did 'x' in the morning" and "God did 'y' in the evening," as opposed to the very unusual construction of telling all God did and then ending with both evening and morning side by side at the end of the "day." So, the order indicates the end (evening) of one day is followed by the dawning (morning) of the next day. In addition, one would expect that if God chose to create the world in a few days He would have indicated it was all created in a few days instead of one day (Genesis 2:4) (2). This verse indicates to me that the Genesis days are other than 12 or 24 hour periods of time.
Scripture Declares the Days to be Long
Specific biblical examples of evidence for long creation days include:
- The "Day of the Lord" refers to a seven year period of time.
- Genesis 2:4 refers to all 6 days of creation as one day, "This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven."
- The seventh day of Genesis is not closed. In all other days, "there is the evening and the morning, the n day."
- In the book of Hebrews, the author tells us to labor to enter into God's
seventh day of rest. By any calculation, God's seventh day of rest has been
at least 6,000 years long:
For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"... Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:4-11)
- The psalmist (Moses, the author of Genesis) says "For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night." (Psalm 90:4).
- The apostle Peter tells us with God "A thousand years is as one day" (2 Peter 3:8).
- The third day must have been longer than 24-hours, since the text indicates a process that would take a year or longer. On this day, God allowed the land to produce vegetation, tress and fruit. The text specifically states that the land produced trees that bore fruit with seed in it (3). Any horticulturist knows that fruit-bearing trees requires several years to grow to produce fruit. However, the text states that the land produced these trees (indicating a natural process) and that it all occurred on the third day. Obviously, such a "day" could not have been only 24 hours long.
- The events of the sixth day of creation require time beyond 24 hours. On this day, God created the mammals and mankind. He also planted a garden, watered it, let it grow, and put man in it, with instruction on its care and maintenance. Then God brought all the animals to Adam to be named. This job, in itself would take many days or weeks. Next, God put Adam to sleep and created Eve. When Adam woke up, he used the Hebrew word pa‛ămâh, which means "at long last." If Adam has only needed to wait a few hours, it is unlikely he would have used this Hebrew word. The context suggests that Adam had to wait months to years before Eve was created. So, it is very unlikely all of this could have taken place in a 24 hour period of time, since much of it was dependent upon Adam, who did not have the abilities of God.
- The Bible itself states that the covenant and laws of God have been proclaimed to a "thousand generations" (Deuteronomy 7:9, 1 Chronicles 16:15, Psalm 105:8). Even if a generation is considered to be 20 years, this adds up to at least 20,000 years. A biblical generation is often described as being 40 years, which would represent at least 40,000 years. However, since the first dozen or more generations were nearly 1,000 years, this would make humans nearly 50,000 years old, which agrees very well with dates from paleontology and molecular biology (see Descent of Mankind Theory: Disproved by Molecular Biology).
Early Church Fathers Believed the Creation Days were Long
The belief that creation days are long periods of time is not just a recent interpretation of the scriptures, but was prevalent since the first century. Dr. Ross has published a book entitled Creation and Time, which documents in detail what first century Jewish scholars and the early Christian church fathers said regarding their interpretation of creation chronology (5). Jewish scholars include Philo and Josephus, while Christian fathers include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus (through writings of Ambrose), Clement, Origen, Lactantius, Victorinus, Methodius, Augustine, Eusebius, Basil, and Ambrose. Among this group, nearly all acknowledged the likelihood that the creation days were longer than 24 hours. The evidence presented in Creation and Time is both overwhelming and well documented (all references are given). You can read and/or download translations of the actual text of all of the early church fathers at Wheaton College's server. The collection consists of nearly forty files, averaging ~2 mb each. Alternatively, these writings can be obtained on CD from Logos Research.
All of this biblical and historical evidence has led us to conclude that the days of Genesis 1 are not literal 24 hour days, but long periods of time during which God chose to create different species of life.
Appearance of Age
If God had created the universe in an instant, there would be no evidence from nature that He created it. The Bible states God has shown himself to all men through His creation so that men are without excuse in rejecting God (6). In addition, the universe declares God's glory, which is a sum of God's innate and unchangeable character (7). The Bible also states the universe declares God's righteousness (8). God's righteousness prevents Him from sinning. The scriptures say God cannot lie (9).
Therefore, from the Bible, we conclude that God does not lie or deceive, either from His word or from His record of nature. The heavens declare the universe to be at least 10 billion years old. In addition, we have the ability to see galaxies in the universe which are billions of light years away. If one claims the universe is 6,000 years old, he must state that God created the light from these distant galaxies in transit less than 6,000 light years from the earth. There are signs that the light has indeed been in transit for very long periods of time and was not somehow created in space relatively recently. Frequencies of known spectral lines show spreading or broadening which would occur after long travel times through space containing dust and debris. Since this light appears to be very old and to have originated from a point billions of light years away, if the universe is actually 6,000 years old, the heavens must be declaring a lie, an apparently old universe which is actually very young.
Let me give one example. For now let us assume the universe is 6 to 10 thousand years old and God created the light-beams already in place. Say we are watching a star in our telescope which is two million light years away, and we notice that it explodes (yes, supernova explosions have been observed). That means the light reaching us now is carrying the information recording this distant happening. Now trace this part of the light beam backwards in time along the path of the light beam. By the time you get back to the time of creation (6 to 10 thousand years ago) you have reached a point which is less than 1 percent of the distance to the star. This would mean that the "explosion" part of the light-beam began its journey from here - and not from the star! Thus, the information recording this explosion had to be "built-in" to the light beam, so what we see as having happened to that star may never have happened at all. The idea that observation of things further than around 10,000 light-years away is not necessarily linked to physical reality would be unsettling from both a scientific and theological viewpoint. I cannot accept a God who lies by creating deceptions.
Appearance of Age Rebuttals
Many have asked the following question: Since God probably created Adam full grown and mature why couldn't God have done the same thing with the universe? First, note that God had a choice of creating Adam adult sized, or as a baby. Obviously if Adam was created as a baby, God would have to provide a means of nurturing him. This would require some special agency or being, or God could have made Adam a very special baby who did not require special care. Although God could have done any of these things, we believe God operates according to the principle of simplicity. Thus, He simply created the first man full-sized. However, Adam's body did not necessarily have signs of age. Size by itself is not an indication of age except perhaps to tell that the person is not a child. If a doctor examines an adult to determine age he might look at skin condition, liver spot progression, hair, teeth, cholesterol level, metabolism, scars, etc. I believe that Adam's body had none of these signs of age. God created Adam sinless, with no spiritual deterioration, and I believe He also created Adam with a perfect body, with no physical deterioration. Thus I do not believe Adam had an "apparent age."
Other arguments often used to support the appearance of age argument is the wine that Jesus made from water. It was the best wine, implying that it was aged. However, the wine may or may not have had the chemical components of aged wine.
Ultimately, the downfall of the appearance of age argument is that the Bible never supports this idea with regard to the creation. The Bible explains the miracles of God and tells us when things were made as if they were old (like the wine that Jesus made from water). In contrast, there is not one verse in the Bible that suggests that God made the Earth look older than it actually is.
- Biblical Defense of Long Creation Days
- Is the Young-Earth Interpretation Biblical?
- Genesis One and the Age of the Earth: What does the Bible say?
- Trouble in Paradise: Why the Young Earth Paradigm Fails the Test of the Biblical Worldview
- The Literal Interpretation of the Genesis One Creation Account
- Genesis Clearly Teaches that the Days Were NOT 24 Hours
- The Genesis Genealogies: Are They Complete?
- Appearance of Age - A Young Earth Problem
- No Death Before the Fall - A Young Earth Problem
- Plants Don't Die According to Young Earth Creationists
- Day-Age Genesis One Interpretation
- Did God Create Carnivores on Day 6?
- A Biblical Case for Old-Earth Creationism
Dr. Ross looks the creation date controversy from a biblical, historical, and scientific perspective. Most of the book deals with what the Bible has to say about the days of creation. Ross concludes that biblical models of creation should be tested through the whole of scripture and the revelations of nature.
Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Eartha> by Mark S. Whorton, Ph.D.
This book, written for Christians, examines creation paradigms on the basis of what scripture says. Many Christians assume that the young earth "perfect paradise" paradigm is based upon what the Bible says. In reality, the "perfect paradise" paradigm fails in its lack of biblical support and also in its underlying assumptions that it forces upon a "Christian" worldview. Under the "perfect paradise" paradigm, God is relegated to the position of a poor designer, whose plans for the perfect creation are ruined by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. God is forced to come up with "plan B," in which He vindictively creates weeds, disease, carnivorous animals, and death to get back at humanity for their sin. Young earth creationists inadvertently buy into the atheistic worldview that suffering could not have been the original intent of God, stating that the earth was created "for our pleasure." However, the Bible says that God created carnivores, and that the death of animals and plants was part of God's original design for the earth.
- Harris, Archer, and Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Chicago, Moody Press, 1980.
- This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4)
- Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day. (Genesis 1:11-13)
- He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which
He commanded to a thousand generations, (Psalm 105:8)
Remember His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations, (1 Chronicles 16:15)
"Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; (Deuteronomy 7:9)
- Ross, H. 1994. Creation and Time, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, pp. 16-24.
- For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
- The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1)
- And the heavens declare His righteousness, For God
Himself is judge. Selah. (Psalm 50:6)
The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples have seen His glory. (Psalm 97:6)
- God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man,
that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken,
and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)
in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, (Titus 1:2)
in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:18)
Last updated September 21, 2007