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Age of the earth

Postby Babe » Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:21 pm

Why is there a Christian based argument against the age of the earth?

As in it not being as old as science says it is, when there is an entire section of the B.C. Old Testament listing multiple people living to be the ages of 900+?

It's a big thing where I'm from where people debate the age of the earth being way less than what science claims and the Bible is often cited as reference.
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Re: Age of the earth

Postby jimwalton » Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:39 pm

I accept the scientific data that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. I also accept the Genesis account, but not the way fundamentalists traditionally do. A new theory about Genesis 1 & 2 is that they are about how God ordered creation (functions and roles) rather than about material creation (how they came to be). This perspective still believes God is the creator, but that Genesis 1 & 2 are not the narrative of material creation. Instead, Gn. 1-2 tell us why we are here, what our role and function are for being here. This theory is based on all that archaeology has shown us about the ancient world. It allows science to be all that it can discover, wherever truth is found, but only the Bible can tell us the purpose behind it all, something science can't answer.

As far as the 900+ years of those people, archaeologists have discovered a Sumerian king lists where the ages are, surprisingly and interestingly, the same kinds of lengths. It's interesting because it is a source completely outside of the Bible, it's from a time sometime before 2600 BC (the real date of it is not able to be exactly determined), and it's from a culture that is not the Israelite culture. But it confirms the same ages of a life.
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Re: Age of the earth

Postby Babe » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:21 pm

Which is interesting to me! When you compare what we know as the average lifespan to someone living hundreds of years at a time you have to wonder why that change came about (obviously there will be some environmental suggestions here) but I feel like there must have been something else behind why someone could live 800 years longer than anyone in this time.
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Re: Age of the earth

Postby jimwalton » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:22 pm

It is interesting. We can watch in the Bible while the lifespans drop to current levels. And there seems to be a uniform curve in their decline. We simply can't falsely reason, "They just made up those lifespans because those are their heroes." The people of Genesis 5 were not our heroes. Most of them we know nothing about. Noah, according to the Bible, lived to be 950. It was before the Flood that God said, "I'm not going to let people live so long." And then after the Flood the lifespans start to drop. Abraham: 175. Moses: 120. David: 70. It was Moses who penned a Psalm (90) that says in general a human lifespan would be about 80, give or take, and that's still what it is.

So what brought about the change? There's nothing in the Bible to hint at it except that God made the decision that people won't live as long, and right away we see the length of a life reducing. Science tells us there have been environmental changes through the years of human history: temperature changes, rises and falls of wetness and drought, glacial changes, atmospheric changes in oxygenation and CO2 levels. It's pretty impossible to track it down. Various sites tells us that dinosaur lifespans probably varied in length from tens to hundreds of years. Some trees on Earth are more than 1000 years old. It's tough to say.

As I mentioned, one thing that I find fascinating is that the Sumerian king list has the same lifespans. What do you make of that?
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Re: Age of the earth

Postby Babe » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:25 pm

I also think of the Bible the way I approach teaching literature to someone who hasn't read the work before. You approach the topic through an avenue they can relate to in order to teach the deeper meaning of the work. It makes sense that God and the ones he revealed himself to would write from a perspective people could understand, otherwise you would have a vague philosophical work that nobody gets. The point of the Bible isn't to "blow your mind" into some abstract thought but to record the history and purpose of that history, which I think leaves plenty of room for scientific exploration without that being against God.
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Re: Age of the earth

Postby jimwalton » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:26 pm

I agree. The Bible was certainly written in its cultural context, not ours. Genesis was written for us, but it wasn't written to us. God revealed himself according to the cultural and scientific mindset of the era and region, not our worldview. We have to read the Bible through the lens of the author if we want to understand it most accurately.
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Re: Age of the earth

Postby Clowning » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:03 pm

> As far as the 900+ years of those people, archaeologists have discovered a Sumerian king lists where the ages are, surprisingly and interestingly, the same kinds of lengths. It's interesting because it is a source completely outside of the Bible, it's from a time sometime before 2600 BC (the real date of it is not able to be exactly determined), and it's from a culture that is not the Israelite culture. But it confirms the same ages of a life.

They're similar in that they both seem to be very long. However the Sumerian kings lists sometimes have ages in the 10,000-40,000 year range, which is about 40 times the oldest age in Genesis.

There are various points worth considering:

1. The ages may have numerological/symbolic meaning that we don't currently recognize (there are various ways of breaking the numbers both of the Sumerian King list, and Genesis into factors that they likely regarded as meaningful/communicative)
2. We may be mis-translating the numbers. Numeric conventions were not nearly as uniform in the ancient world, and often relied on context to determine how to interpret a number (kind of like how if I say 96 you might interpret it 1996, or if I said 09 you might interpret it 2009).
3. Some of the numbers my be describing family lines rather than individuals.
4. There may be other points being communicated by having large numbers as well.
5. The ages of the antediluvian genealogies in Genesis have a strange pattern in the final digit, nearly always ending in 0,2,5, or 7. In the Septuagint there's only one exception (Methuselah's age ends in a 9), while in the Masoretic there are a few more. This is suggestive of either constructed ages (as in the numerological answer), or a particularity in time keeping/writing (as in the mis-translation answer).
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Re: Age of the earth

Postby jimwalton » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:07 pm

In contrast to your 5 possibilities, the Sumerians used a sexagesimal number system (a combination of base 6 and base 10). When the numbers of the Sumerian kids are converted to decimal, they correspond to the age spans listed in Genesis:

Genesis 5:
Seth 912
Enosh 905
Kenan 910
Mehalalel 895
Jared 962
Enoch 365 – and taken away
Methuselah 969
Lamech 777

Sumerian King List:
Alulum 28,800
Alalgar 36,000
Enmenluanna 43,200
Enmengalanna 28,800
Dumuzi 36,000
Ensipazianna 28,800
Enmenduranna 21,000
Uburtutu 18,600

If we add up the years of the 8 men given in scripture, they total 6695, or 6700 for simplicity. If we add up the years of the 8 men in the Sumerian list, they add up to 241,200.

To compare, use a neutral notation system:

* = 1000
0 = 100

In Scripture: 6700 = ******0000000

In Sumer:

* = 36,000
0 = 3600
6* + 7(0) = 216,000 +25,200 = 241,200

The differences between the lists are neutralized; the totals are the same.

Genesis 5:
Seth 912
Enosh 905
Kenan 910
Mehalalel 895
Jared 962
Enoch 365
Methuselah 969
Lamech 777

In Sumer:
Alulim 800
Alalgar 1000
Enmenluanna 1200
Enmengalanna 800
Dumuzi 1000
Ensipazianna 800
Enmenduranna 600
Uburtutu 500

The lengths of lifespan are in the 500-1000 range in both cases.
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Re: Age of the earth

Postby Clowning » Wed Sep 05, 2018 2:51 pm

The numbers you have are already in decimal form.

Sumerian Sexagesimal counting is expressed with reed impressions that look something like arrows pointing in differing directions and grouped. So you don't need to convert 28,800 or 36,000 to decimal, because they already are in decimal. If you think that was calculated incorrectly you should go directly from the original values which will not be in Arabic numerals.
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Re: Age of the earth

Postby jimwalton » Wed Sep 05, 2018 2:52 pm

You can't seriously have expected me to post here in Sumerian. My interest is more in communication. So I converted the translated Sumerian glyphs to their parallel in decimal. Do we really have a problem that I communicated in English and in the decimal equivalents of Sumerian? The point is easily the same. By transforming the Sumerian glyphs to the Arabic decimal equivalents, and by using a neutral notation system, we can determine that the lifespans of the ancient Sumerian kings are of the same length as the lifespans claimed by the biblical account.
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