Can the Bible tell us just how old the earth is? Are there genealogies or Scriptures that can give us a clue as to whether the earth is a few thousand years old or a few billion years old?
A Book about Going to Heaven
The Bible is not a book about the heavens precisely; it is precisely a book on how to get to heaven. The Bible was never intended to tell us specifically how God created the earth and the heavens nor does He lay down a specific time sequence in years for the age of the earth and the universe. If God had wanted us to know, He would have revealed the age of the earth and the universe in the Bible but He chose not to. If we try and read the Bible like a science textbook we will miss the context of God’s plan of redemption for a fallen mankind and that is the specific purpose of the book, not how everything was done in a linear, time-line fashion. If we try to read it like that, we miss the point. The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee once said that “the Bible is a Him book…it is all about Him (Jesus Christ).”
Genealogies as Measuring Time
Many people who profess that the earth is only about six to seven thousand years old use the biblical genealogies to measure the earth’s age but the problem with this is that not every single genealogy is listed in the Bible and you cannot use the birth and death dates of the patriarchs in the Bible to come up with a date of the creation. Some have said that it was on a Sunday morning with the ending coming the following Saturday where God rested. The issue I have with this is that there is no way to determine what date or hour that the earth was created. To use the lines of men who died at certain ages and back date to the beginning of the creation is not scientific and no one can be dogmatic knowing the exact age of the earth based upon this. There is no time given between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. No human was there. There are no human eyewitnesses to the creation because they themselves were not created and mankind was not created by God until after the created universe as we know it was complete.
In the Beginning
In Genesis 1:1-2 the creation was described as a matter of fact:
Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
In the first place, the creation account is simply “God created the heavens and the earth.” This is a completely dogmatic statement. God is the Creator and He created everything there is that exists. Jesus, as God, is identified as the Creator of all things and there is nothing created that the Word of God, Jesus, did not create. John 1:2-3 it says that “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Notice that all things were made through or by Him and that He was there, in the beginning. The “in the beginning” is found in both Genesis 1:1 and in John 1:2 so that “beginning” in Genesis 1:1 is that of Jesus being present so this debunks many false religions like the Mormon’s or the Jehovah Witnesses who believe that Jesus was a created being. If He was created and the Bible says that He is the Creator of all things, then He would have had to exist prior to His being created, therefore He would have logically had to have already existed. This makes it impossible for Him to be the Creator while at the same time be a created being.
Colossians 1:15-17 says the same thing, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” So Jesus, as God, was said to be the “firstborn of all creation” but this does not say that He was the first one born of the creation or created. The Greek word for firstborn is more like the Preeminent One or prototype of the One, Invisible God. He is the forerunner who has already been raised in a glorified body after His death in His resurrected body. He is the firstborn in the sense of the first one raised from a dead human body to a glorified body which believers someday will receive at His return. Since He created all things…everything there is…then He could not have been created as I had previously stated because Colossians 1:17 says that “He is before all things” meaning that He was before anything existed.
The Formless, Dark Earth
Genesis 1:2 “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
The words for “without form and void” are from the Hebrew words “tohuw” which means “formless, confusion, and emptiness, wilderness, wasteland” while the word “void” is Hebrew for “bohuw” which means “emptiness, void, waste” so we can read the first line of Genesis 1:2 in the Hebrew as “The earth was formless, empty, and like a great wilderness or wasteland.” Some Bible scholars believe that the earth may have been first inhabited by Satan and his demons after being cast out of heaven for his rebellion in an attempt to take over the throne of God and be in place of God (Isaiah 14:12; Ezk 28:12-18) and that after the “beginning” (Gen 1:1) Satan brought the earth into ruin and waste and perhaps may explain the extinction of the vast majority of the dinosaurs. Here was the Spirit of God moving over this “darkness” (Gen 1:1) which is Hebrew for “obscurity or secret place” meaning that the surface of the earth was obscured by darkness because it was a wasteland and that it was formless as in comparison to what it is like now. Was this a renewing of the creation that God had originally created (Gen 1:1) and this is what is involved in Genesis 1:3-9? We can only speculate on this because, again, there are no witnesses alive to ask about this. Someday we can ask Jesus Himself but for now, we have to be silent on the age of the earth and the universe because we simply cannot be dogmatic or certain because the Bible doesn’t give us a full account of the years or the age of the earth and the universe.
We must conclude that we cannot make a comprehensive, conclusive statement as to just how old the earth is. Could it be only six to seven thousand years old? Could it be millions or billions of years old? I just don’t know. I believe the earth is probably a lot older than we think but the age of the earth or the universe is something that Christians can disagree on and not be heretical in. No one loses their salvation if they think the earth is only six thousand years old or it is 2.9 billion years old. Time is nothing to God. He was before time even existed. Is it possible to measure time without matter? Can God’s days be numbered since He has always existed? For the believer who wonders about these things, I hope we won’t get into heated debates or arguments over it because the essentials of the faith are really all that matter and that is Christ and His dying for sinners. If you are born again or not, you will live on for eternity but the destinations are drastically different (Rev 21; 22; Rev 20:11-15). To know that you can be with God for all eternity, it is as simply as believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 10:9-13) or it can be as harsh of a reality as knowing that if you die without Christ, you will live in a Christ-less eternity (John 3:18). The choice is yours and you are free to choose but no choice is still a choice…one that will forever be regretted with no second opportunity. I pray you consider otherwise.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon