Genealogies and the Age of the Earth

Genealogies and the Age of the Earth September 16, 2019

Bruce Gerencser shared something that a proponent of young-earth creationism recently said. Bodie Hodge of Answers in Genesis claims:

Where Did a Young-earth Worldview Come From?

Simply put, it came from the Bible. Of course, the Bible doesn’t say explicitly anywhere, “The earth is 6,000 years old.” Good thing it doesn’t; otherwise it would be out of date the following year. But we wouldn’t expect an all-knowing God to make that kind of a mistake.

God gave us something better. In essence, He gave us a “birth certificate.” For example, using a personal birth certificate, a person can calculate how old he is at any point. It is similar with the earth. Genesis 1 says that the earth was created on the first day of creation (Genesis 1:1–5). From there, we can begin to calculate the age of the earth.

Let’s do a rough calculation to show how this works. The age of the earth can be estimated by taking the first five days of creation (from earth’s creation to Adam), then following the genealogies from Adam to Abraham in Genesis 5 and 11, then adding in the time from Abraham to today.

I think the most effective way to combat this sort of thinking is to show how it is problematic from the perspective of what is in the Bible itself. Just count the generations in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (seriously, take the time to do this) and see if there are in fact three groups of 14. There aren’t. Then take a look to see whether Matthew had to leave anything out of his source material in Chronicles to get those that do add up to 14 to fit his framework. The point isn’t that Matthew couldn’t count. His action is deliberate. He wants three groups of 14 because that is the numerical value of David’s name. And he wants David’s name to be 14th in the genealogy. The point is that numbers do not mean for Matthew what they mean for modern people concerned with mathematical precision rather than symbolism. Among those who are the worst offenders in imposing an alien modern framework on the Bible are…young-earth creationists.

See also:

What’s the Deal with Matthew’s Genealogy?

The plain sense of the Bible

Sooner or Later, You Have to Choose between the Bible and Inerrancy

Why I’m Glad Matthew’s Infancy Narrative Isn’t Literally True

Terry Mortenson at Butler University


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  • John MacDonald

    Was there a primitive genealogy in Q that Matthew and Luke built their’s from? It seems odd both of them would just independently decide to introduce genealogies into the Jesus tradition.

    • That’s a great question. That two authors independently decide to add infancy stories and genealogies seems unlikely, but that either Luke or Matthew takes what the other did and changes it into what they include also seems unlikely. I’ve thought that Q might have had some reference to Jesus being born in Bethlehem of the line of David, including enough to inspire both, but leaving enough unexplored for each to have fleshed out the details in such radically different ways. Then again, avoiding having someone who was cursed to not have an heir sit on the throne could certainly justify the change in one direction, just as seeking conformity to the line of Davidic kings could justify the other.

      What do you think?

      • John MacDonald

        James said:

        I’ve thought that Q might have had some reference to Jesus being born in Bethlehem of the line of David, including enough to inspire both, but leaving enough unexplored for each to have fleshed out the details in such radically different ways.

        That sounds plausible. We know from Paul that Jesus was understood of being from the line of David quite early on, so that idea most certainly could have been floating around for Q to pick up on.

        • John MacDonald

          I never thought about it before, but Paul stressing Jesus was of David’s line is a check against mythicism, not only because of the needed cosmic sperm bank supposition, but also because part of the “restoring the Davidic kingdom” theme was that the child would be born in Bethlehem, not created by God in outer space.

  • We don’t have to speculate. Physicists and astronomers have proven that 13.7 billion years is the age of the universe. While that is an unfathomably long time as man views time it may not be the same for God who created the universe. God also created the angels. Some lived on this earth before man. Initially they could go back and forth between heaven and earth but we are told a third sinned and they were cast down to earth and lost the ability to commute as it were. This also destroyed the face of the earth and left it covered with water. After some time God decided to create man and remade the earth to suit him. How long ago was that? Was it billions or millions of years ago or just 6000 years. Since we have no recorded history older than 6000 years it is more probable than not that man has only been around 6000 years. This explanation allows for science and the young earth movement to coexist.

    • James Elliott

      There are a multitude of possibilities which don’t diminish the basic message of the Scriptures: God created and it was good…God created and we are supposed to take care of creation. That is often overlooked by those who insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. My understanding of evolution theory is that we did not descend from apes, chimps, etc. We have a common ancestor with them. At some point something happened which set humans in a different direction with different abilities. Even if written records have been around for 6000 years, there is evidence humans have been hopping around and doing things for a lot longer. Not to mention Neanderthals, which aren’t technically human. It’s amazing!

      • Of course we did not descend from animal life we were created as were the angels.
        The evidence that man was on the earth a lot longer than say 6000 years is not conclusive to me,
        Some bones and stone tools do not a man make.