The Creation Explanation
|The Age of the Earth|
Time and the Bible
How old are the earth, the universe and the human race according to the Bible? The way one answers this question depends upon the principles and rules one chooses to follow in the interpretation of the language of the Scriptures. Christian scholars who embrace the historic biblical faith of Jesus Christ have always chosen what is called the grammatical-historical mode of interpretation. This hermeneutic or mode of interpretation seeks to understand the meaning intended by the author when he wrote. This intended meaning is determined from careful examination of the language used by the author, understood in the light of all available information about the historical-cultural-social setting experienced by the author when he wrote, as well as a consideration of the audience to whom the author addressed his writing. A primary rule of this hermeneutic is that the direct, literal meaning of the language is to be taken unless there are clues in the context which clearly indicate that the author intended a symbolic or metaphorical meaning.
The opening chapter of Genesis tells us that God created all things in six "days," and that the first man Adam was created on the sixth day of the creative week. Therefore, the meaning of the Hebrew word translated "day," yom, has been of crucial importance in understanding what Moses meant when he wrote down his report of the creation week. No word in any language has a simple "point" of meaning, but rather it has an area of meaning. The meaning of a word in a particular biblical text is determined through a study of the immediate context, of the usage of the word throughout the Bible, and of the usage of the word in other literature at the time when that portion of the Bible was written.
The word yom occurs in the Hebrew Old Testament some 2240 times. What does it mean in the first chapter of Genesis? Are the six "days" of creation normal solar days of roughly 24 hours? Or are they, as some scholars claim, extremely long periods of time which add up to make the age of the universe some 10 to 20 billion years? Or are they, as other scholars have suggested, mere figurative or literary "days" which have no relation to the time required for God to create the world? Is there in the usage of the word yom in the rest of the Old Testament any support for taking the word in Genesis to mean anything other than a normal solar day? The results of our study of this question are given in Appendix D. We conclude that there is to be found in the Old Testament no support whatsoever for taking the word yom in the Genesis creation account to mean anything other than a normal solar day in length. And as one reads the chapter in Genesis, the language certainly on its face seems to speak of the creation of all things by God in the space of six days. James Stambaugh of the Institute for Creation Research has recently published a much more thorough technical study of the usage of the word yom in the Old Testament, fully corroborating our conclusions.3 We presently believe, therefore, that the Bible teaches that the earth and the universe are young, only ten thousand or so years rather than billions of years old as asserted in the secular great-age chronology.
A sizable body of evangelical Christian theologians hold that the language of Genesis can accommodate the multiplied billions of years of the secular great-age chronology. We consider, however, that the scriptural support which they adduce for this view is extremely weak--almost non-existent. On the other hand, it is clear that the language of Genesis does not plainly declare the age of the earth or time of the creation. Rather, the genealogies in Genesis must be analyzed and interpreted in order to infer a date for the creation. Furthermore, it must be admitted that the age of the universe and of the earth is not an essential doctrine in the theology of biblical Christianity. Therefore, this subject must be sprinkled with much Christian grace accompanied by faithfulness to the Lord's command that we Christians love one another.
Christians who believe that the Word of God teaches a young earth find themselves in direct confrontation with the imperious establishment of secular science. We embrace an epistemology which recognizes divine revelation as the prime source of fundamental knowledge about the universe. Therefore, we cannot allow our thinking to be limited or controlled by the secular epistemology which accepts science alone as the source of valid knowledge of the natural world. Without question the secular establishment has erected a massive body of evidence to support their great-age chronology. Our response, then, to this secular great-age chronology is to examine its presuppositions, data and interpretations to see if there are any weakness or problems which justify skepticism concerning its conclusions. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to such a critical analysis of the secular time scale which is such a vital part of the evolutionary world view.
We approach this task with no claim to having solved all the problems facing the "young earthers." We are not dogmatic even with respect to our interpretation of the Scriptures except to say that our present conviction is that the Scriptures do teach a young earth. We are open to being shown that, without undermining the veracity of the Scriptures as the inerrant Word of God, some place can be found in the Genesis account for billions of years. We do not impugn the Christian faith of believers who think that is such a place. We have yet to see any evidence or argument which weakens our own conviction on this point. Neither do we denigrate the integrity and professional competence of secular scientists who reject the divine authority of the biblical account of earth history. However, we find some reasons for questioning their dogmatism concerning the age of the earth and the universe. Now let us think together about the problem of time.
3. Stambaugh, James, Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, Vol. 5 (Part 1), 1991, pp. 70-78.