To: All Msg #96, Dec1391 01:23AM Subject: Biblical perspective on the age of the world The
From: callen roy
To: All Msg #96, Dec-13-91 01:23AM
Subject: Biblical perspective on the age of the world
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (callen roy)
The Biblical Perspective on the Age of the World
Chapter 24, Origin by Design, by H. Coffin.
Strict scientific creationism attempts to remain neutral toward any specific
religion or document that claims supernatural authroity. It deals largely
with the objective evidence for the expression of superhuman intelligence
in the origin and continued operation of natureal phenomena. Biblical
creationism combines scientific creationism with additional specifications
derived from the Hebrew-Christain Scriptures that we cannot directly induce
from present-day scientific investigation. Considerations regarding time
proviede the clearest distinction between Biblical creationism and scientific
creationism. We can readily illustrate this by pointing out that no present
scientific evidence or interpretation can be expected to demonstrate that
the earth's life-support system and its dependent life came into existence
within six consecutive rotations of the planet.
The marginal entries in most of the older English Bibles allow less than six
thousand years since the creation described in the first chapter of Genesis.
Outside the Hebrew-Christian tradition man has generally considered our
world to be of vast antiquity. The Babylonian scholar Berossus (third
century B.C.) placed Creation at 2,148,323 B.C., the first of the 'ten
ancient kings" at 468,323 B.C., and the Flood at 36,323 B.C.(1) The Greek
philosopher Plato considered that the Flood occurred about 200 million years
ago.(2) Apollonius of Egypt proposed a mere 155,625 years for the age of the
world.(3) The Hindo classics written in the middle of the first millennium
after Christ describe the history of the world in terms of endlessly
repeating grand cycles of 4.32-billion-year duration, each containing one
thousand subcycles 4.32 million years in length.(4) Chinese scholars as
early as the third century B.C. thought of world history in terms of cycles
and subcycles. I-Hsing placed the beginning of the latest 'Grand Period' or
cycle at 96,962,464 B.C. (5)
Within the past onehundred years the 'scientific' view that Planet Earth has
existed for about 4.56 billion years and has supported complex forms of life
over the past 600 million years has replaced the traditional Hebrew-Christian
perspective in European civilization.
A consideration of the Biblical viewpoint on the age of our world can begin
with the testimony of the apostle Peter. After a warning about scoffers who
in the last days will advocate a uniformitarian viewpoint in contrast with
miraculous intervention by God into world history, he speaks of a world
that 'was deluged with water and perished' (2 Peter 3:3,4,6). In the
following verse he contrasts the world destroyed by the Flood with 'heavens
and earth that now exist...stored up for fire, being kept until the day of
judgment and destruction of ungodly men.' Obviously it is the world in
which we now live. In verse 13 Peter calls attention to a third world,
the 'new heavens and a new earth in which the righteousness dwells' and for
which 'according to his (God's) promise we wait.'
How old is the world in which we now dwell? To obtain a Biblically based
answer, we must combine four lines of evidence. First Kings 6:1 records
that the construction of Solomon's Temple began 480 years after the Exodus.
Exodus 12:40,41 specify a 430-year period of residence in Egype before the
Exodus.(6) Historical data enables us to place the start of Solomon't
Temple at 970 B.C.(7)
Therefore, Jacob entered Egype in 1880 B.C. when he was 130 years old
(Gen. 47:9). From Genesis 47:9;25:26;21:5;and 12:4 it is evident that
Jacob entered Egype 215 years after abraham migrated to Palestive at the age
of 75. Accordingly we put Abraham's establishment in Palestive at 2095
The remaining data necessary for determining as age of our present world
appear in the eleventh chaper of Genesis. Genesis 11:32, taken together with
chapger 12:4 indicates that Terah was 130 years old at the birth of his
youngest son, Abraham, in 2170 B.C. Genesis 11:10-24 in our English Bibles
indicates an additional 222 years between the Flood and the birth of Terah,
setting the disembarkation of Noah and his family from the ark in 2522 B.C.
Our world, in the sense of 2 Peter 3:6,7, is a little more than 4,500
years old (2522+current A.D. date). But a precise number that we can
readily accept with full confidence does not come quite so easily.
The variations we find between the most ancient Biblical texts available
introduce a complication. The numerical data in our English Bibles that we
used in the preceding paragraphs come from copies of the Hebrew Masoretic
text prepared in the ninth and tenth centuries of the Christian era.
The Bible read in the Greek-speaking world of Jesus and the apostles was
the Septuagint (LXX), a translation from Hebrew into Greek originally
made at Alexandria, Egype, in the third century B.C. The oldes available
copies of the Septuagint we currently have rest on editions accessible in
the fourth century of the Christian era. The numerical data in the
Septuagint place the birth of Terah 1,102 years after the Flood, 880 years
more than the Masoretic text.(8) Accordingly, we would place the end
of the Flood as 3402 B.C., and obtain almost 5400 years for the age of our
Which set of data is correct? Are both in error with respect to the
original manuscrips? Shall we place greater confidence in the more
recent copies of the Hebrew manuscripts or in the older copies of a
translation prepared by wcholares who worked 1,100 years closer to
the original documents? The Masoretes took extraordinary precautions
in an attempt to provide a faithful copy of the Hebrew manuscripts
available to them. On the other hand, the Septuagint was the Bible
of the early Christian church. Luke, who directed his writing primarily
to the Greek-speaking world of the first Christian century, employed the
Septuagint for quotations from the Old Testament. A conspicuous example
is his use of the Septuagint version of Genesis 11 in listing the
ancestry of Abraham (Luke 3:34-36, giving an extra generation (Cainan)
between Arphaxad and Salah.
Throughout the Septuagint we find evidence that its translators and
subsequent editors had problems with numerical data. A few examples will
illustrate. The earliest version had Methusaleh living 14 years after
the Flood. The time interval in 1 Kings 6:1 is 440, rather than 480, years.
The age of Nahor at the birth of Terah and the life spans of Arphazad,
Eber, and Nahor vary among the available manuscripts. The number of
Hebrew males who entered Egypt will Jacob appears as 75 persons in
Genesis 46:27 (as quoted in Acts 7:14), versus 70 in the Masoretic. At
least one manuscript gives 2,400 days in Dan. 8:14. 'One of the
problems, as yet defying solution, is that of the genealogies in Genesis
V and XI, which differ in the Hebrew, LXX, and the Samaritan Pentateuch.'
Manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch produced in the eleventh century
A.D. and based on manuscrips from the fourth century A.D. insert 590 more
years between the Flood and the birth of Abraham than does the Masoretic,
but less than the 880 additional of the Septuagint.
We now turn to the age of 'the world that then existed' when it 'was deluged
with water and perished' (2 Peter 3:6) The Biblical data that relate
to this age appears in Genesis 5 and 7:6,11. The masoretic text, and hence
our English Bible, places beginning of the Flood 1,656 years after Creation
week. The corresponding data from the Septuagint totals 2242 years, or
2262 years in later manuscripts that corrected the incongruity of having
Methuselah live 14 years after the Flood. The Samaritan Pentateuch
allows but 1307 years for the same period.(10)
Time Period Masoretic Samaritan Septuagint
Age of Present World in 1980 A.D. 4512 5102 5392
Age of the Pre-Flood World 1656 1307 2262
occupancy of the Ark 1 1 1
Total time from Creation Week
to 1990 A.D. 6169 6410 7655
We have tabulated the numbers for the time periods considered in this
chapter for convenient comparison. In view of the uncertainties
regarding the accuracy with which scribes have copied and translated
the primary data over a 2500-year peroid, the possibility for small errors
to accumulate in takeing the sum of stated individual ages to represent
an extended period of time (Claendar year increase and time laps since
birth can differ by one year for any individual), and also the probability
the scribes may have rounded off some of the individual ages to the nearest
multiple of 5 or ten, we should consider the numbers given in the table only
approximate representations of the designated time periods. It appears
that on the basis of data available from the Bible, one can say with a fair
degree of confidence that Creation week occurred at some time between
approximately 6100 and 7600 years ago.
In the present intellectual climate it may be desireable to offer some
justification for constructing a chronology on the basis of the data given
in the fifth and eleventh chapters of Genesis. The inclusion of
numerical data in these chapters, I believe, indicates that the authors
(Moses, and the Holy Spirit as the primary Author) intended them to be
more than ordinary genealogies. I feel they convey both line-of-descent
and time relationships. While it is possible that the line-of -descent
data in these chapters has been abbreviated (as is usual in Biblical
genealogies, since the Hebrew terms translated 'fatehr' and 'son' may
mean any ancestor and andy descendant), such abbreviation does not invalidate
a statement that a particular patriarch was a given number of years old
at the birth of the next-names individual.
Thus Moses accomplished two purposes with a minimum of words:
1. a clear indication of intent to establish a time frame, in addition to
the usual table of descent, which may list only the most illustrious
individuals or may be abbreviated for mnemonic purposes, and
2. a precise protrayal of the degeneracy that the human race experienced
after the Flood.
A more simple, direct statment concerning the time spans would have seemed
less credible to modern readers and been more susceptible to corruption
by copyists and translators. Even though the variations between the
Masoretic, Septuaging, and Samaritan texts clearly establish that some
distortion has occurred, Essential truth has been preserved with a
precision adequate for ordinary needs.
We recognize that the general scientific community of geologists, geochemists,
biologists, dendrochronologists, and anthropologists, archaeologists,
and Egyptologists--including a number of individuals who otherwise are
conservative Biblical creationists--do not accept the limitations on
the age of the world that we have developed in the preceding paragraphs.
(The same applies to the general community of theologians and Biblical
scholars.) However, many competent scientist accept the Biblical testimony
concerning an age less than 10,000 year for the world since Creation.
They feel satisfied that they can understnad the total range of data
obtained from the scientific investigation of prehistoric time better from
this viewpoint than from the currently popular concept that postulates
millions of years for the existence of man and billions of year for the
development of life on earth. Both scientist and nonscientist alike must
make their decisiont primarily on the basis of the evidence for the
integrity of inspired testimony, including the principle that 'a correct
understanding of Both (true science and the Word of God) will always
prove them to be in harmony.'(11)
We have limited our usage of the term world in the preceding discussion
to an organization of atmosphere, land (lithosphere), bodies of water
(hydrosphere), and all organisms that inhabit them--the 'heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that in them is' of the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:11).
It is sound hermeneutics to proceed as far as possible on the basis
of definitions that the bible clearly provides for its own terms. As
we saw in the previous chapter, Genesis 1:10 defines the term earth as the
dry land that appeared on the third day of Creation week. This definition
hold consistently throughout the Bible in those passages speaking
about Creation.(12) Accordingly, it would seem appropriate to suggest
that God laid the 'foundations of the earth'--the supporting structure
of the planetary crust on which visible dry land rests--at the beginning
of the third day of Creation week (Job 38:4). The Hebrew and Greek
terms translated 'earth' have a wide range of usage, as does the English
counterpart, and in some Bible passages may suggest the entire planet.
But in the sense that Gen. 1:10 defines earth, the age of the 'earth' is
the same as that of the world.
One question still remains unanswered. What about the atomic components
that make up the firmament (heavens) that God created on the second day,
the earth on the third day, and seas on the third day, and the organism on
the third, fifth, and sixth days of Creation week? How old arre they?
The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus created them.(13) But to
attempt to determine strictly on the basis of Biblical testimony when
God brought into being each mineral grain and each atom in our planet
involves speculation that risks attempting to pump more out of the
well of Biblical data than it actually contains. It is significant that
while the Genesis Creation account describes activity that involved water
(Gen. 1:2,6,7,9), it contains no statement concerning the creation of
The future re-creation of the world portrayed in Scriputre (14) will take
place on a planet that contains matter already in existence. Jesus'
miracles such as His feeding of the multitudes (Matt. 16:9,10) took
place in the presence of previously existing matter. It therefore seems
reasonable to allow for the possibility that our planet contains atoms
and minerals that were already here during the planet's 'without form,
and void' state. Such a consideration allows us to interpret radiometric
age data as indicators of both the time of primordial creation (as opposed
to the Creation week) and the nature of subsequent events in the
history of a mineral body.
1. Jaki, 1974, pp 97,98
2. Haber, 1959, p 17.
4. Jaki, 1974, pp 1-3, 34.
5. ibid. pp 33 34
6. Exodus 12:40,41 indicate that the ratification of Galatians 3:17 is the
final ratification made to jacob as referenced in Genesis 46:1-4,
not a previous ratification made to Abraham.
7. The 970 B.C. placement is based on a four-year coregency of David and
Solomon and the chronological development of E.R. Thiele (A Chronology
of the Hebrew KIngs, Zondervan Pub. House, 1977) See W.H. Shea, "Exodus,
date of," International standard Bible Encyclopedia, v.2 1980, Erdmans.
Both liveral and conservative scholars generally agree within an
uncertainty of less than ten years for the year in which constuction
of solomon't Temple began.
8. The SDA Bible Commentary, on Genesis 11:26
9. Jellicoe. 1968, p 245
10. The SDA Bible commentary, on Genesis 5
11. White, 1948, p 258
12. Gen 6:13; 9:11; Ex. 20:11; Neh 9:6; Ps 146:6; Acts 4:24; 14:15; Rev 10:6;
14:6,7;21:1, for example.
13. Heb. 11:3; John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col 1:16,17
14. Rev 21:1,5; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Isa. 65:17-25; 66:22.
Haber, F.C. 1959. The age of the world: Moses to Darwin. John Hopkins Press.
Jaki, S.L. 1974. Science and creation. Scince History Publication, NY
the Seventh-day Adventist Bible commentary. 1978 v.1. Review and Herald
Pub. Assn., Wash. D.C.
White, E.G. 1948, Testimonies to the church. V.8 Pacific Press Pub.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank