Board index Science and the Bible

How old do you think Earth is?

Postby Potato Man » Sun Jun 10, 2018 2:46 pm

Do you think Earth is 6,000 y/o like the bible says, 4.5 billion years old like science says or something else? Do you think carbon dating is accurate?
Potato Man

Re: How old do you think Earth is?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jun 10, 2018 2:51 pm

First of all, the Bible doesn't say the earth is 6,000 years old. That was the errant math of a guy who tried to figure it out by adding up the genealogies, but we know now that the genealogies are telescoped: they never intended to include every generation. (Actually, this was easily figure-out-able before, so it was just shoddy scholarship.)

The scientists say the earth is 4.54 billion years old. I have no reason to doubt that number until some new evidence or information presents itself.

As far as I know, carbon dating is accurate. Again, I have no reason to doubt it until there is some other presenting evidence. But I'm one to trust carbon dating.
Site Admin
Posts: 5814
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: How old do you think Earth is?

Postby wanderer » Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:32 am

1. The 1/2 life of carbon is less than 10,000 yrs - nothing 4.5 billion yrs old would contain any carbon.

2. Where is the evidence that the genealogies of Genesis are 'telescoped' or skip generations?

3. (for above) If using secular dating modern humans have been around for 100,000 yrs or more - that would mean that countless generations were skipped, or that Adam wasn't the first human being - it brings the entire record of Genesis into question (or course you'll say that it's not about the how but the who).

I've read so much on this issue that I can hardly contain it = Hugh Ross, Ken Ham, Bio-logos material etc...even though I've been programmed by years of public education to accept some form of evolutionary theory - I cannot deny that the young earth position is most in tune with the text of Genesis and the perspicuity of scripture. Reading it some non-literal, non-historical way means having to bring something from outside of the text into the text and then trying to make it fit. But alas...we educated modern's know more that God.

Re: How old do you think Earth is?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:56 pm

Hi. Thanks for writing.

As far as the age of the Earth, the age wasn't determined by carbon dating. I was under the impression that the age of the Earth is determined by radiometric dating. It was my understanding that carbon dating is only valuable in dating organic matter, and therefore not useful for calculating the age of the Earth.

Evidence that the genealogies of Genesis are telescoped? Scholars studying the ancient records have discerned that genealogies were not primarily a way of record keeping in the ancient world (including Genesis). They most often had a political role (power, prestige, royal line), to establish the legitimacy of the king and his dynasty. Research bears out that genealogical lists in the ancient world could at times be liquid: change the arrangement of the orders of the names, leaving names out, or even change the ages or lengths of reigns to accomplish their political agenda. We cannot verify any such swapping of the order or changing the ages or lengths, but telescoping was a common practice. Knowledge of practice in the ancient Near East gives a high probability that Genesis also used genealogies to accomplish a purpose, not to keep records or record every generation. It's apparent that no one in those days (at least the records that still exist) included every generation. I don't assume that the Bible changed orders, ages, or lengths, but that they left out generations is clear. Matthew's genealogy is 3 sets of 14—obviously a nod to an agenda rather than to historic inclusion.

Walton, Matthews, & Chavalas, in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, p. 35, say, "Linear genealogies start at point A (creation of Adam and Eve for example) and end at point B (Noah and the Flood). Their intention is to bridge a gap between major events. Alternatively they can be vertical, tracing the descendants of a single family (Esau in Gen 36:1-5, 9-43). In the case of linear genealogies, the actual amount of time represented by these successive generations does not seem to be as important as the sense of completion or adherence to a purpose (such as the charge to be fertile and fill the earth). Vertical genealogies focus on establishing legitimacy for membership in the family or tribe (as in the case of the Levitical genealogies in Ezra 2). Mesopotamian sources do not offer many genealogies, but most of those that are known are linear in nature. Most of these are either of royal or scribal families, and most are only three generations with none more than twelve. Egyptian genealogies are mostly of priestly families and are likewise linear. They extend to as long as 17 generations but are not common until the first millennium BC. Genealogies are often formatted to suit a literary purpose. So, for instance, the genealogies between Adam and Noah, and Noah and Abraham, are each set up to contain 10 members with the last having three sons. Comparing biblical genealogies to one another shows that there are often several generations skipped in any particular presentation. This type of telescoping also occurs in Assyrian genealogical records. Thus we need not think that the genealogy’s purpose is to represent every generation as our modern family trees attempt to do."

John Davis, in Paradise to Prison (a commentary on Genesis), says, "he purpose of this chapter is its testimony to the development of the human race from Adam to Noah. It does not list every antediluvian patriarch, but it does mention the key ones. Cf. Mt. 1 with 2 Chron. 22-25; 2 Chron. 6.3-14 with Ezra 7.1-15."

Victor Hamilton, in his commentary on Genesis, concurs. He says, "The genealogies in Genesis take two different forms. One we may call linear or vertical. It traces an unbroken line (though not necessarily sequential) of descendants from A to Z. Gn. 5.1-32 and 11.10ff are two illustrations of this kind of genealogy. The other type of genealogy is segmented or horizontal. This form traces descent from one individual through several of his children. Examples are 10.1ff (Noah’s sons); 25.12ff (Ishmael’s sons); 36.1ff (Esau’s sons). The linear ones carry more weight in Genesis, for they concentrate on the chosen line."

> If using secular dating modern humans have been around for 100,000 yrs or more - that would mean that countless generations were skipped, or that Adam wasn't the first human being - it brings the entire record of Genesis into question

The Bible doesn't insist that Adam was the first human being, but only the first human being God dealt with. It's altogether possible there were other homo sapiens around. Genesis 2.15 says "The Lord God took the man..." Took him from where? Oddly enough, there is parallel wording in the Gilgamesh Epic, where a human is taken from among others and put into an Edenic setting. This understanding of "taken" would also make sense for Enoch in Genesis 5.24. Possibly, just possibly, Adam is being removed from the everyday realm of human existence and life among other homo sapiens and placed in a specially prepared place and given a special role to play as a priest (the terms in 2.15 "work it" and "take care of it" are priestly terms, not just agricultural ones). If other people are around, he is being elected from among them (as priests were selected out later, during the days of Moses) to be a mediator for God and to care for sacred space. What is happening here is much more than landscaping or even priestly duties. He was participating with God in the ongoing task of sustaining the equilibrium God had established in the cosmos. He is ruling and subduing. From Genesis 4.14 and 17 we could reasonably deduce there were other humans around—in fact, that may be the easiest and most natural reading of the text.

That doesn't being the entire record of Genesis into question, but is a different way of reading it "literally" than the way most of us evangelicals were raised.

Perhaps (or not) you are familiar with the works of Dr. John Walton: The Lost World of Genesis One ( and The Lost World of Adam and Eve ( Dr. Walton takes the position that Genesis 1 & 2 are about how God ordered the cosmos to function rather than how they came to be. (Certainly God created the cosmos and all that is, but that's not what Genesis 1 is about.) The first day shows us how light and dark function in sequence (day and night) to give us the function of time (and it's a literal way to read the text). On the 3rd day the earth functions (literally) to bring forth vegetation to serve the function of agriculture, environment, and survival. On the 4th day the heavenly bodies function (literally) to mark the seasons. On the 6th day humans function (literally) to rule the earth and subdue it. In Genesis 2 the man and woman, though mortal (2.7), function as priest and priestess (2.15) as equally as they are in the image of God equally in 1.26ff. It's an intriguing read on the text that doesn't distort it or twist it into a mold to fit a theory.

And, as it turns out, function and order were the concerns of the ancient world, so it would make sense that Moses was writing from that worldview, giving a competing apologetic for how the world was ordered and how it was to function, contrasting the ancient (and false) mythologies.

So I think Walton's interpretation is actually more in tune with the text of Genesis than the traditional approach. In addition, since the cosmos was ordered to function as God's temple, it fits beautifully with the rest of Scripture: the covenant, the tabernacle, the Temple, Jesus Himself, and the Church. I think it's a perspective very well in turn with the entirety of Scripture.

I take the text, using Walton's approach, as both historical and literal. It happened in time. Adam and Eve actually existed in history (we'll meet them some day). God literally created the heavens and the earth (Jn. 1.3; Heb. 1.3), and he ordered it to function as his Temple (Gn. 1) with Adam and Eve as priest and priestess (later Israel was called to be a whole nation of priests [Ex. 19.6], and then later the Church also [1 Pet. 2.5, 9]). It's the flow of the whole Bible. For me, it's more than an intriguing theory. To me it makes more sense than the traditional interpretation, and well worth investigation.

Last bumped by Anonymous on Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:56 pm.
Site Admin
Posts: 5814
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Return to Science and the Bible

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest