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The Chronology of the Bible (1)

Mike Willis

In recent years, brethren have opened discussion about the creation account and this has subsequently triggered discussion about the age of the earth. Brother Shane Scott conducted a discussion in Sentry magazine (XXI:1) in which he argued that the days of creation cannot be six twenty-four hour days and accepts the timetable of the universe being 15 billion years old and the earth being 4+ billion years ("An Open Letter: The Creation Account and Florida College," Truth Magazine [August 3, 2000], 19). Brother Hill Roberts also presents the old earth theory in CD-ROM articles entitled "A Harmonization of God's Genesis Revelation With His Natural Revelation" and "Genesis and the Time Thing." That a few brethren have accepted the big bang/old earth position is not nearly so alarming as is the number of brethren who have indicated that holding that position is inconsequential. To my understanding, the old earth position undermines the teaching of Scripture and ultimately denies the inspiration of Scripture.

Those who are denying a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2 are influenced by what they see as unanswerable scientific evidences of an old earth (4.5 billion years old). The approach to Bible interpretation which allows the pronouncements of science to determine Bible exegesis results in science having superior authority to the revealed word of God. What science says about the age of the earth is to be believe rather than what the Bible teaches about the same subject. If this approach is followed on the age of the earth, it must also be followed on the following:

Every miracle related in the Bible will eventually be suspect on the very same grounds that the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2 is rejected.

Efforts to harmonize the pronouncements of science with the Bible always begin at the wrong end. The starting point that is adopted is this: The pronouncements of science are true and, therefore, one must restudy the Bible to see how it can be interpreted to fit what present day science affirms. Certainly this is true in the discussions about the age of the earth. Never does one begin by stating the following: The Bible is divinely inspired and, therefore, inerrant when it speaks about science. We must therefore restudy the scientific evidences to see wherein the interpretation given to them is mistaken.

In the beginning of this series of articles, I want to present my outline of study. I do not intend to look at scientific evidences of a young earth, although others have gathered scientific data to argue for a young earth. Their evidences should not be lightly dismissed by those who argue the age of the earth from a scientific point of view. There are limitations to arguing for a young earth on the grounds of scientific data, including that virtually every statement by one qualified scientist can be countered by a quotation from an equally qualified scientist who disagrees. Most of us, including me, are not qualified to sift through the technical scientific data. However, my belief in a young earth is not based on scientific data. I have an interest in the age of the earth discussion only as it relates to what the inspired word of God teaches. Consequently, this presentation is entitled "The Chronology of the Bible" because it is based on what God has revealed to us in his word. The Bible claims to be a revelation from God, an inspired document. I intend to show what the Bible teaches about the age of the earth and call upon men to believe, teach, and defend what the Bible teaches on the grounds that it is a revelation from God.

The Bible and the Age of the Earth

Does the Bible tell how old the earth is? Yes and no. The answer is, "No," if one wants a specific age of the earth. Nowhere does the Bible say that the earth is "x" years old in the same way that it says Jesus was in the tomb for three days (Matt. 12:40), the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years (Num. 14:33), and there were 480 years from the time of the Exodus to Solomon's fourth year (1 Kings 6:1).

However, the answer is, "Yes," if one means does the Bible given an approximate age of the earth. Certainly the Bible records the history of man from the creation and is very careful to put this in a chronological framework. There are very definite limits on what the framework of Bible history will tolerate and, in this sense, the Bible does define the age of the earth.

Common Agreement on Bible Chronology

The Bible and all historians have common agreement on 99% of the chronology of the Bible. Let's consider what the Bible says about chronology and see where there is agreement. As we write this in A.D. 2002, we can look back and see these areas of agreement:

We are agreed on the time when Christ lived. The Scriptures place the life of Christ in the framework of the first century. Luke 3:1-2 records the beginning of Jesus' ministry, placing it within the framework of history: "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." Historians are agreed with these dates for the life of Christ. Jesus is thought to have been born about 6 B.C. and lived to A.D. 27. Though there may be a variation of as much as 1-2 years, there is no serious disagreement with these dates. This means that there is no problem of chronology in the New Testament.

We are agreed on the time of King Solomon. Chronologists usually date the reign of King Solomon at approximately 970-930 B.C. Though there may be disagreements ranging to about five years, there is no serious disagreement about the period at which any of Israel's kings ruled. These dates are accepted by non-believing archaeologists, modernists, and Evangelicals. The agreement on these dates takes us back to the reign of King Solomon and, therefore, of King David and King Saul. There is no disagreement on chronology as far back as 1 Samuel; men are agreed about the chronology of 1 Samuel through Malachi.

We are agreed back to Abraham. There are small problems of biblical chronology between Solomon and the Exodus. Regarding the date of the Exodus, the two different positions are the early date of 1440 B.C. (based on 1 Kings 6:1, 480 years to 966 B.C. = 1446 B.C.) and the late date of 1250-75 B.C. The early date is supported by the following texts of Scripture: (a) 1 Kings 6:1, "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord." The dating of Solomon is generally agreed upon (970-930 B.C.). His fourth year (966 B.C.) Is said to be 480 years after the Exodus. The face value of Scripture leaves the impression that the Exodus occurred in 1446 B.C. (b) Acts 13:19-20, "And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet." (c) Judges 11:26. During the time of Jephthah, the Ammonites made war against Israel. In desperation, the Israelites turned to Jephthah to deliver them from the Ammonites. Jephthah tried to reason with the Ammonites about attacking Israel, asking why they were attacking Israel. The Ammonites charged that Israel had taken their land during the conquest of Canaan (taking the area on the east side of Jordan between the Arnon and the Jabbock). Jephthah replied that Israel had occupied that land for 300 hundred years saying, "While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?" This figure poses a serious problem for those who take the late date for the Exodus (966 [date of Solomon] + 40 reign of David + 40 years reign of Saul + 300 years [remember that Jephthah was not the last judge] = 1346 B.C.). Those who take an late date for the Exodus face serious problems of Bible interpretation.

While there is heated argument about the late and early date, a difference of a mere 200 years in nothing is terms of the discussion of the earth being 4.5 billion year old. Whichever date is taken, there is only a disagreement of about 200 years with reference to the Exodus.

However, this disagreement in Bible chronology is minimized by the rather general agreement about when Abraham lived. Scholars of every background are generally agreed on when Abraham lived. Evangelical scholars who take the 1446 B.C. date for the Exodus add the ages of the Patriarchs to arrive at 2166 for the birth of Abraham.

Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5)

100

Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born (Gen. 25:26)

60

Jacob was 130 years old when he went down into Egypt

130

Total:

290

 

Adding these together one arrives at the following figures:

Date at Solomon's fourth year

966 B.C.

Years from Exodus

480

Years in Egypt

430

Years to time of Abraham

290

Date at the birth of Abraham

2166 B.C.

 

Other scholars date the Exodus about 1250 B.C. and the time the Israelites were in Egypt to 215 years, resulting in a date for Abraham at about 1750-1800 B.C. Their dating system relies more heavily on the conclusions of archaeology, harmonizing the kings list in Egypt and in other surrounding countries, and the Bible itself. The differences that Bible chronologists have for the date of Abraham is a mere 300 years maximum, which again is a mere pittance of time when one is speaking of an earth that is dated 4.5 billion years old. Basically one can say that Bible scholars are agreed on the chronology of the Bible from Genesis 12 through Revelation 22.

That leaves a mere eleven chapters of the Bible in which one is trying to find 4.5 billion years! About the rest of the chronology of the Bible there is relatively little difference in dating because all are generally agreed about those dates within a range of 200-300 years.

The Chronology of the Bible (2)

Mike Willis

The Bible Material in Genesis 1-11

The evidence for the chronology for Genesis 1-11 must center on three chapters: (a) The creation narrative in Genesis 1; (b) The ten generations between Adam and Noah (Gen. 5); (c) The ten generations between Noah and Abraham (Gen. 11). We will begin by looking at the two chronology/generation charts.

The Bible is very careful in providing the chronology from creation to Abraham. The text of Genesis 5 follows this pattern: "A lived x number of years, and begat B. And the days of A after he had begotten B were y number of years." There are ten generations between Adam and Noah and the following chart gives the information recorded in Genesis 5:

 Textual Versions

 

 Massoretic Text

 LXX Version

 Samaritan Pentateuch*

 Man

 Age at Son's Birth

 Remaining Years

 Age atDeath

 Age at Son's Birth

 Remaining Years

 Age atDeath

 Age at Son's Birth

 Remaining Years

 Age atDeath

 Adam

 130

 800

 930

 230

 700

 930

 130

 800

 930

 Seth

 105

 807

 912

 205

 707

 912

 105

 807

 912

 Enosh

 90

 815

 905

 190

 715

 905

 90

 815

 905

 Cainan

 70

 840

 910

 170

 740

 910

 70

 840

 910

 Mahalalel

 65

 830

 895

 165

 730

 895

 65

 830

 895

 Jared

 162

 800

 962

 162

 800

 962

 62

 785

 847

 Enoch

 65

 300

 365

 165

 200

 365

 65

 300

 365

 Methuselah

 187

 782

 969

 187

 782

 969

 67

 653

 720

 Lamech

 182

 595

 777

 188

 565

 753

 53

 600

 653

 Noah

 500

 450

 950

 500

 450

 950

 500

 450

 953

 

One notices a pattern to the variants between the Massoretic text and the LXX which, with three exceptions, adds 100 years to the age of the patriarch before the birth of the firstborn and subtracts 100 years from his life after the birth of the firstborn. The exceptions are Jared, Methuselah and Lamech, in two of which (Jared and Methuselah) the LXX agrees with the Hebrew. The Samaritan Pentateuch disagrees with the Hebrew text in the lives of Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech, but never agrees with the LXX against the Hebrew text. According to the Hebrew text, the Flood occurred 1656 years after creation; according to the LXX it occurred in 2242 and according to the Samaritan Pentateuch in 1307 (Wevers 68). Scholars are disagreed on how trustworthy the Samaritan Pentateuch is.

Of those who accept the Hebrew text as the superior reading, there is universal agreement that the flood occurred 1656 years after creation if one adds up the relevant information in the Hebrew text. The text also gives the following chronological sequence.

 Chronology

 Man

 Age at Birth of Son

 Year of Man At His Birth

 Adam

 130

 —

 Seth

 105

 130

 Enos

 90

 235

 Cainan

 70

 325

 Mahaleel

 65

 395

 Jared

 162

 460

 Enoch

 65

 622

 Methuselah

 187

 687

 Lamech

 182

 874

 Noah

 500

 1056

 Shem, Ham, Japheth

  

 1556

 Flood in 600th year of Noah

  

 1656

 

The ten generations of Genesis 11 are also given according to the pattern of Genesis 5 — "A lived x number of years, and begat B. And the days of A after he had begotten B were y number of years." In the comparison with chapter five, the form has changed in that the structure does not contain the total number of years that a person lived nor the statement "and he died." However, the information about the total number of years that a person lived is given by implication, though not expressly stated. Here is the information provided there:

 

 

 

 Person

 Hebrew Text

 LXX

 Samaritan

  

 Year at Birth

 Add. Years

 Year at Birth

 Add. Years

 Year at Birth

 Add. Years

 Total Years

 Shem

 100

 500

 100

 500

 100

 500

 600

 Arphaxad

 35

 403

 135

 430

 135

 303

 438

 Cainan

  

  

 130

 330

  

  

  

 Shelah

 30

 403

 130

 330

 130

 303

 433

 Eber

 34

 430

 134

 370

 134

 270

 404

 Peleg

 30

 209

 130

 209

 130

 109

 239

 Reu

 32

 207

 132

 107

 132

 107

 239

 Serug

 30

 200

 130

 200

 130

 100

 230

 Nahor

 29

 119

 79

 129

 79

 69

 149

 Terah

 70

 135

 70

 135

 70

 75

 145

 No. of Years

 390

 1170

 1040

 

One will notice that with the inclusion of Cainan, the list in chapter 11 corresponds with that in chapter 5 in that both have ten generations. In both cases the genealogy ends with one who had three sons: Noah (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) and Terah (Abram, Nahor, Haran). In both cases the most important son is listed first (Shem/Abram). The fact that there are ten generations may encourage one to think that the generations have omissions in them, that the "ten generations" is a memory device. However, this does not explain the careful detailing of the years a person lived before giving birth to the next generation. There is no purpose in giving those numbers unless the author wishes his readers to understand that they were sequential.

One will notice that the LXX and Samaritan Pentateuch are in agreement against the Massoretic Text on the ages of the various patriarchs at the birth of the designated descendant and that they consistently add 100 years with two exceptions (Nahor [50] and Terah). This significantly extends the years between the Flood and Abram. Scholars generally believe that the Massoretic Text is the superior reading.

Between Arphaxad and Salah, the LXX adds the name of Cainan. It adds: "And Arphaxad lived a hundred and thirty-five years and begot Cainan. And Arphaxad lived after he had begotten Cainan, four hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Cainan lived a hundred and thirty years and begot Sala; and Cainan lived after he had begotten Sala, three hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters, and died." One might be ready to dismiss the variant reading as a LXX addition. However, in the lineage of Christ given in Luke 3, Cainan is included (3:36), demonstrating the presence of the name in the genealogies of the first century and adding Luke's inspired testimony to its inclusion in the text here. Including Cainan brings the list of names to ten making it correspond to the ten generations in chapter 5. The LXX most probably reflects a variant textual reading that has not been preserved in existing Massoretic texts.

Adding the information gleaned from Genesis 11, we have the following chart:

 Chronological Chart

 Man

 Age at Birth of Son

 Year of Man at Birth of Son

 Noah

 500

 1556

 Shem

 100

 1656

 Arphaxad

 35

 1691

 Cainan

 30

 1721

 Shelah

 30

 1751

 Eber

 34

 1785

 Peleg

 30

 1815

 Reu

 32

 1847

 Serug

 30

 1877

 Nahor

 29

 1906

 Terah

 70

 1976

Abraham was born 1976 years after creation

 

Putting this information together, we arrive at an approximate age of the earth. The date for Abraham varied from 2166 B.C. to 1750 B.C. depending upon various items for discussion which are previously mentioned. Rounding 1976 years to 2000, one arrives at an approximate age of the earth, according to the genealogies found in Scripture at 4166 B.C. to 3750 B.C. One can understand and appreciate Ussher's chronology which dated creation at 4004 B.C. The earth is approximately 6000 years old based on the Bible evidence.

The Chronology of the Bible (3)

Mike Willis

Examination of the Chronologies

Those who believe in an old earth and in the Bible are forced to address the chronological data provided in Scripture. There are a number of different arguments that are made. There are three approaches to the chronological information in Genesis 5

1. The genealogy assumes an unbroken line of descent from the creation to the Flood. This is the assumption underlying the chronology of Archbishop Ussher and others. The twenty generations are twenty literal men. The advantage of this position is that it is the most natural understanding of the text.

2. The genealogy has missing links. The fact that ten generations exist from Adam to the Flood (Gen. 5) and from the Flood to Abraham (Gen. 11) causes some to think that the ten generations is a selective genealogy using ten as a memory device much like that which appears in Matthew 1 which divides the genealogy of Jesus into three sections of 14 names each. W.H. Green's article "Primeval Chronology" (Bibliotheca Sacra [1890] 285-303) is generally cited to document that genealogies frequently have missing links. Among the evidences cited by Green are the missing links in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus where three names drop out between Joram and Uzziah (namely Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah [Matt. 1:8]) and the omission of Jehoiakim after Josiah (Matt. 1:11). Another example is the omissions in the genealogy of Shebuel, King David's appointee as ruler of his treasures (1 Chron. 26:24), who is described as "the son of Gershom, the son of Moses," which is obviously abridged. Other comparisons of genealogies demonstrate omissions (cf. 1 Chron. 6:3-14 with Ezra 7:1-5). In response to this, one needs to note three things: (1) The fact that some genealogies have omissions is no proof that all of them do. We know that some genealogies have omissions, which omissions are known by other evidences, such as (a) comparison with other texts, (b) the necessity of additional generations known from chronological data drawn from other texts (for example, we know the approximate time from Moses to David; this could not be covered in two generations), (c) the use of a memory device, such as specifically mentioned in Matthew 1:17 ("So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations."), and other indicators. To assume that every genealogy has omissions is an unwarranted assumption. To assert that a particular genealogy has omissions without any evidence to sustain the assumption is dangerous exegesis. The burden of proof lies on the person who asserts that there are omissions in the genealogical table in Genesis 5. If there are missing links in Genesis 5 and 11, there is no evidence to prove it (except for Cainan). One can readily admit that some genealogies have omissions and should be alert to that possible problem in any genealogy. However, one is mistaken to assume that, because some genealogies have omissions, all do. (2) A genealogy with gaping holes is no genealogy at all. The genealogy of Jesus would be meaningless if it were made to fit modern evolutionary theory. Let me illustrate what I mean. If the 75 generations of Jesus' genealogy in Luke 3, which traces Jesus' ancestors back to Adam, are to cover a mere ten million years (a low number for the evolutionary model), then each person in that genealogy represents approximately 13,330 years. What meaning does a genealogy have if it is extended that far? This is more drastically shown if the period between Adam and Abraham (twenty generations) covers ten million years. In that case, each person in the genealogical table represents 500,000 years. What meaning does a genealogy have if it is extended that far? (3) One should observe the difference between a genealogy and what appears in Genesis 5. I place the following texts side by side for this comparison:

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ (Matt. 1:1-16).
 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died. And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan: And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died (Gen. 5:3-11).

The difference in the two is noticeable. In a genealogy, the text simply says "x begat y." The additional information of how old the person was at the birth of the next person in the genealogical chain, how many years he lived after the birth, and how old he was at death are not part of a bland genealogy. Benjamin B. Warfield admitted that "when brought together in sequence, name after name, these notes assume the appearance of a concatenated chronological scheme. But this is pure illusion" ("Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race," Studies in Theology 243). He asserts that the additional information given about each person is irrelevant parenthetical information that may be compared to a reading such as the following: "Adam was eight cubits in height and begat Seth; and Seth was seven cubits in height and begat Enosh; and Enosh was six cubits in height and begat Kenan" (244). I cannot accept that the information given is parenthetical information that merely gives an illusion of a chronology. The construction of this table consistently cites the age of the father at the birth of the son, which information is meaningless if one is not to understand a chronological sequence and if there are omissions in the list.

One should also recognize that the genealogies of the Bible are not all alike. One must look at the purpose that is served by each genealogy in the context in which it is written. A genealogy designed to show that one is from the seed of David is different from one that is showing the unbroken chain of priests from Aaron to the present. In the former case, omissions would be natural and expected; in the second, omissions would be a serious flaw.

One also needs to call attention to why some men are searching for more time in the genealogical tables. The need for more time is not based on Bible evidence that demands it. Rather, the need for more time is based on geological time tables, archaeological dating sequences, the evolutionary model, and such like presuppositions. The dating systems of such disciplines are far from absolute. One needs to be careful not to lay aside the only inspired and infallible account of man's origins and creation in order to adhere to admittedly fallible dating systems, especially in disciplines of study with flawed presuppositions (such as those affected by the evolutionary hypothesis).

The advantages to the interpretation that postulates omissions in the genealogy are: (a) It explains why ten generations (completeness) are cited; (b) It allows more years for mankind's existence for those who see some need for it.

3. The genealogy refers to dynasties, not individuals. This interpretation explains the narrative as follows: Adam and his successors ruled for 930 years. At the end of 930 years, the dynasty of Seth began. In the 105th year of Seth, the family of Enos came to headship. Seth, after being at the head of the affairs for 912 years was succeeded by the family of Enos in the 1842nd year of man. The totals of the genealogies according to this interpretation is 8,225 years (Davis, ISBE I:143). This interpretation has the disadvantage of not using the obvious meaning of the names involved; one most naturally thinks that the names cited are mere men, not dynasties. The advantages to this interpretation are that (a) it explains the longevity of the lives; (b) it asserts no omissions. But even this interpretation will only add 6000 years to the age of the earth, much less than is needed by those who accept the pronouncements of modern science that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.

Conclusion

In conclusion, one must address the biblical material provided in these chronologies. If the earth is 4.5 billion years old, in what sense are Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies? Let's assume that the genealogies cover 100,000,000 years, which is still a mere pittance of time given the evolutionary model. The 100,000,000 years must be divided among the twenty men mentioned in the genealogical tables. Each person represents 5,000,000 years. If there is but one ancestor recorded for every 5,000,000 years, in what sense are Genesis 5 and 11 genealogical tables? Would anyone working on his family's genealogy accept such omissions?

However, let's suppose that there are omissions in the chronological tables provided in Genesis 5 and 11. Let's suppose that there are ten men missing between each entry. Still one is left with a young earth. Abraham was born approximately 2000 years after creation, assuming that there were 20 generations. But, if we insert 10 generations of approximately the same proportion of years, we still would have a relatively young earth. The first ten generations occupied 1656 years. We will multiply that by 10 to arrive at 16,560 years. The second ten generations occupied 420 years. We multiply that by 10 to arrive at 4200 years. Adding 16,560 to 4200 years, we arrive at the figure of 20,760 years old. Compared to the evolutionary model of 4.5 billion years (that is: 4,500,000,000 years), the extremely minor difference of between 6000 years and 20,000 years is minuscule in the light of such enormous figures.

Those who postulate an old earth of 4.5 billion years find themselves in serious contradiction to the biblical evidence. The biblical record simply has no place for eons of time prior to Genesis 1. Those who teach that the earth is 4.5 billion years old cannot fit that amount of time in any place in the Bible after Genesis 1. They are left with one chapter in the Bible to find room for their 4.5 billion years — Genesis 1. If the evidence of a 4.5 billion year old earth is not found in Genesis 1, it cannot be found in the Bible! Those who believe in and teach an old earth are teaching a doctrine that cannot be harmonized with Scripture. To believe in the old earth and that mankind has existed on this earth for millions of years is to deny the historical account of man as related in Scripture.

Belief in an old earth undermines credibility in the biblical account of man: The Old Testament record omits millions of years of man's history, in an account that has the surface appearance of being a straightforward chronological record of man's existence. The truth is, according to those who believe in an old earth, the earth has existed for billions of years; mankind has been on this earth for millions of years. The earth was not created in six-literal days but over millions of years of natural evolution with periodic intrusions by the creative hand of God. If this is a true account of what transpired, the Bible account is untrue. Plainly and simply stated, the old earth theory is an attack on the inspiration of Scripture.

The Chronology of the Bible (4)

Mike Willis

Looking For Years In Genesis 1

In looking at the chronology of the Bible, we have followed the text of Scripture back to Genesis 1. Even giving the most generous interpretation of the genealogies/chronologies of Genesis 5 and 11, there is general agreement that the time from Adam to today is a relatively short period of time. The natural reading of the text approximates 6000 years; a generous insertion of years in the chronology would still leave the world very young (in the tens of thousands of years old). The only other place in the Bible to find the long eons of time necessary for the old earth point of view is Genesis 1. This view states that there long ages between the creation of the world in Genesis 1:1 and the creation of Adam in Genesis 1:26. A variety of interpretations of Genesis 1 have been introduced in support of this view. These interpretations are not arising from those who are studying the text of Scripture to allow the natural meaning of the text to be elucidated. Rather, these interpretations are arising from those who have allowed scientific pronouncements that the earth is very old to look for alternative interpretations of the creation account to make them harmonize with Scripture, in my opinion. Let us look at these alternative interpretations.

The Gap Theory

Genesis 1:1-2 reads as follows: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Some scholars have proposed that there is a long period of time between the time when the universe was initially created and God began to act to make the creation a cosmos. The natural reading of the text does not leave one the impression that there is a long period of time between verses 1 and 2. Scholars generally reject this interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2 on exegetical grounds.

Keil commented about those who wish to find a gap between vv. 1 and 2 as follows, "This suffices to prove that the theosophic speculation of those who make a gap between the two verses, and fill it with a wild horde of evil spirits and their demonical works, is an arbitrary interpolation" (Genesis 49).

Thomas Whitelaw addressed the gap theory saying, "Honest exegesis requires that ver. 1 shall be viewed as descriptive of the first of the series of Divine acts detailed in the chapter, and that ver. 2, while admitting of an interval, shall be held as coming in immediate succession — an interpretation, it may be said, which is fatal to the theory which discovers the geologic ages between the creative beginning and primeval chaos. . . . There can scarcely be a doubt, then, that the expression (that the earth was waste and void as described in v. 2, mw) portrays the condition in which the new-created earth was, not innumerable ages, but very shortly, after it was summoned into existence" (The Pulpit Commentary: Genesis 4-5).

Lange wrote, "Among all the interpretations of Gen. i., the most difficult as well as the most unsatisfactory is that which regards the first verse as referring to a period indefinitely remote, and all that follows as comprised in six solar days. It is barely hinted at by some of the patristic writers, but has become a favorite with certain modern commentators, as furnishing them with a method of keeping the ordinary days, and yet avoiding the geological difficulty, or seeming to avoid it, by throwing all its signs of the earth's antiquity into this chasm that intervenes between the first and second verses" (Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Genesis I:167). He continues to state the motivation prompting this interpretation, "It is evidently brought in as a possible escape from the difficulties of geology, and would never have been seriously maintained had it not been for them" (167). Lange shows how the interpretation violates the principles of grammatical exegesis. He asserts that it changes the usual meaning of the waw conjunction and the structure of the verbs in vv. 1-2 which should be interpreted as either contemporaneous or in direct continuation (168). Giving the verb hŒyŒh (the second "was," mw) a pluperfect sense ("the earth had become waste and void) distorts the grammar. He compares the construction in Genesis 1:1-2 to Job 1:1-2 which says, "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters." He then asks, "Who would think of separating the second hŒyŒh (the second "was," mw) here from the first, or sundering the evident continuity?" (168). One can just as reasonably insert a gap of eons between vv. 1 and 2 of Job as he can in Genesis. Victor P. Hamilton (New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Genesis I:115-116) and Kenneth A. Mathews (The New American Commentary: Genesis I:139) reject the gap theory on exegetical grounds.

More recently some have proposed that the gap should be placed between verses 2 and 3 of Genesis 1 rather than between verses 1 and 2. Verses 1-3 reads as follows: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." As was stated previously about the proposed gap between verses 1 and 2, the natural reading of the text does not give the impression that there is a long period of time between verses 2 and 3. However, the suggestion is made that during the period between verses 2 and 3, the rocks could cool and the mountains could form through natural means. Consider the following in reply to this suggestion: (a) What evidence is there that the rocks needed to cool? The fact of the matter is the Scripture does not speak about the need for rocks to cool as a result of creation. The very idea that the earth was very hot and needed a long period to cool down stems, not from the statement of Scripture, but from contemporary pronouncements of scientists who posit the "big bang" theory to explain the beginning of the universe. The God who created the world could create the world cool just as easily as he could create it hot and allow billions of years for the natural means to cool down. (b) The Bible evidence says that the world was covered with water when it was created. The statement "darkness was upon the face of the deep" states as much. The deep is used to describe the primaeval ocean which completely covered the world at creation (BDB 1063). (c) The suggestion has been made that mountains were forming during this time. What Bible evidence is found in vv. 1-3 to suggest that this is true. The biblical evidence for the formation of mountains is found in third day of creation when God separated the dry land from the water that covered the earth (Gen. 1:9-10). Again, notice that there is not one scintilla of biblical evidence of a gap between verses 1 and 2 or between verses 2 and 3. One who asserts that there is a gap has the obligation to prove what he asserts.

Though the "gap theory" has been proposed by some brethren (e.g, Robert Milligan, Scheme of Redemption 25), it has not been seriously pushed by brethren. Furthermore, the gap theory (aside from its problems for exegesis) is rather harmless. If there was a long period of time between vv. 1 and 2, this time provides no help to the evolutionary theory. Neither plants nor animals had yet been created, so having a long period of time between vv. 1 and 2 does not explain the fossil record. Since life on earth had not yet been created, billions of years between vv. 1 and 2 would not give time for evolution to occur. Furthermore, the condition of the earth as described in vv. 1-2 is such that a gap is not useful for geological chances in the earth's surface because the earth is completely covered by water. While the theory is a mistaken interpretation of Genesis 1, it is rather innocuous in its ramifications so far as I can see.

The Multiple Gap Theory

Another approach to the Genesis narrative that posits large sections of time in the Genesis account is the view that the days of creation are twenty-four hour days but they are separated by long periods of time. This view asserts that God acts on a given twenty-four day to do what is said to occur on that day. This is followed by long ages to allow the gradual and slow development of nature to occur. For the natural earth, this means that the erosion of water forms the valleys, the thrusting of the earth creates the mountains, etc. For the living creatures this means that long periods of time allows the living animals to evolve in micro evolution to develop the various species. This is a hybrid day-gap theory for which there is not one particle of exegetical evidence in the text of Scripture.

This view believes that the six days of creation are 24-hour days, but separated by long spans of time. According to this interpretation, God acts in creating something and then allows long periods of time for natural evolution to occur. When evolution reaches an impasse, then God acts again in creating that which is next needed. This is sometimes called progressive creation but it is simply theistic evolution under a different name. This is a more serious departure from the Genesis text.

Creative Days

A third interpretation of Genesis 1 which has for its purpose accommodating itself to the old earth theory posits that the days of creation are creative days. The various explanations of the creative days are as follows:

The framework hypothesis. The framework hypothesis states that the days of Genesis 1 are a rhetorical device for the recording the spiritual theme of creation. This view states that the presentation in Genesis 1 is logical, not chronological. This interpretation speaks of the creation account as allegorical, parabolica, or liturgical. The view asserts that Genesis 1 speaks of the fact of creation but not its method.

Day-age theory. This interpretation denies that the days of creation are twenty-four hour days, asserting instead that the days of creation are long eons of time. The primary argument cited from the text of Scripture to support this view is that the Genesis 1 mentions days one through three before the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. The argument affirms that the days cannot be the normal twenty-four day, the time necessary for the earth to rotate on its axis, receiving its light from the sun and moon since the sun and moon were not yet created. This view is a rather popular view among Evangelicals who believe in an old earth. To charge that everyone who adopts the day-age theory is an evolutionist would be unfair. No such charge is being made in this series of articles. However, one must insist that there is nothing in the text of Scripture that implies the day-age theory and that acceptance of the old earth chronology is what motivates the interpretation that the days of Genesis 1 are long ages.

Much has been written about the "days" of creation inasmuch as some scholars try to fit Genesis into the modern geological tables of the evolutionary mold. Scholars on both sides of the issue of whether the Genesis account of creation is history or myth are agreed that the effort to make the days of Genesis 1 eons of time is misguided. On the liberal side, scholars such as Skinner (International Critical Commentary: Genesis), who holds that the creation narrative is legend or myth, said, "It is recognised by all recent harmonists that the definition of 'day' as 'geological period' is essential to their theory: it is exegetically indefensible" (5). He continued, "It is therefore shown conclusively, not only that the modern attempts at reconciliation fail, but (what is more important) that the point at issue is not one of science, but simply of exegesis. The facts of science are not in dispute; the only question is whether the language of Genesis will bear the construction which the harmonising scientists find it necessary to put upon it" (5). Similarly, Simpson in The Interpreter's Bible said, "There can be no question but that by Day the author meant just what we mean — the time required for one revolution of the earth on its axis. Had he meant an aeon he would certainly, in view of his fondness for great numbers, have stated the number of millenniums each period embraced. While this might have made his account of creation less irreconcilable with modern science, it would have involved a lessening of God's greatness, one sign of which was his power to do so much in one day" (I:471). Davidson (The Cambridge Bible: Genesis) wrote, "Attempts to make it (yÔm) still more flexible, to mean different aeons or stages in the known evolution of the world, and thus reconcile Genesis I with modern scientific theory, are misguided" (18).

On the conservative side, scholars say the same thing. Keil who defends the historicity of Genesis 1 says, "But if the days of creation are regulated by the recurring interchange of light and darkness, they must be regarded not as periods of time of incalculable duration, of years or thousands of years, but as simply earthly days" (I:51). Similarly Leupold (Barnes Notes) commented, "Nothing but the desire to secure harmony with the contentions of certain physical sciences ever could have induced men to tamper with this plainest of exegetical results" (69).

What the scholars observe coincides with the evidence in the lexicons. In their classic work, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Brown, Driver, and Briggs gives these definitions for yÔm: (a) day as opposed to night; (b) day as a division of time (as is used in the phrase "a day's journey"), which is defined by "evening and morning"; (c) day of the Lord, "chiefly as time of his coming in judgment"; (d) the plural form occurs with various meanings (days of his life, in the days of . . ., etc.); (e) the plural days as an indefinite period (some days, a few days), of long time (many days), or days of old; (f) time (time of harvest); (g) today; etc. (398-401). There is no cited use of the singular form of day being used with the meaning of long eons of time.

Moses had an extensive vocabulary at his command. Here are some of the words that Moses used to describe time:

Day = yÔm

Week = Áœb_aÔ

Month = ú¿deÁ

Year = ÁœnŒh

Long periods of time = d¿r — "period, age, generation" (cf. Ps. 90:1)

Eternity or long periods of time = ÔÔlŒm — "long duration, antiquity, futurity" (cf. Gen. 9:12)

Moses also had the ability to use large figures. He could relate that Adam lived to be 930 years old and that Methuselah lived be 969 (Gen. 5:9, 27). He could relate that the number of fighting men in Israel's army when they departed Egypt was 603,550 (Num. 2:32). Had Moses wished to express the idea that there were long eras of time represented in the period of creation, he had the vocabulary to express that idea. But to do so, he could not use yÔm. He would have to use other words to express that idea. But, he chose not to use those words, choosing instead to use the word yÔm. To be sure that there is no doubt as to the meaning of yÔm, Moses places in apposition to it the phrase "evening and morning" (Gen. 1). Simply stated, there is no lexicographical data to support the concept that the six days refer to long periods of time; there is no textual evidence to suggest that long periods of time transpired between the days of creation.

The position that the days of creation means long periods of time raises other serious questions to be answered. If "days" means long eons of time, what does "years" mean? If "day" means long eons of time, what does the appositional phrase, "it was evening and morning, day . . .," mean? Does "evening" mean a half eon of total darkness? Does "morning" mean a half eon of total light? Or, is the long eon of time in day three (prior to the creation of the sun, moon, and stars) a long eon of twenty-four days consisting of evening and morning? If so, how does one learn that? In what sense does an eon have an evening and a morning?

The idea that the days of creation represent long periods of time creates problems rather than solving them. In the creation account, plant life is created on day three and the sun, moon, and stars on day four. This poses no problem to those who understand Genesis 1 to be referring to six twenty-four days. However, for those who believe that the days of Genesis 1 are long eons of time, this is an enormous problem. Those who make science the authority to guide one's interpretation of the Bible need to use their science to explain for us how plant life survived for long eons of time without sunlight? And, how did those plants which depend upon animals to pollinate and reproduce survive for the millions of years between days three and six as is demanded by this theory? The symbiotic relationships so critical for the survival of both plant and animal life demand that the days of Genesis 1 be twenty-four hour days. Those who follow the long day interpretation of the days of Genesis 1 are forced to believe in unrevealed miracles to avoid believing in the miracles of creation!

As one reads those who are presenting the position that the days of creation are long eons of time or twenty-four days separated by long eons of time, he is provoked to ask, "Why are these long periods of time necessary?" "What is going on during these long periods of time that is so critical to the beliefs of those who hold this position?" The only answer that makes any sense is this: The long periods of time are necessary to allow time for evolution of animal life, to allow the geological effects that are observed to occur (the fossil record), and to explain the great distances posited in astronomy. In each of these, the motivating force is to bring the interpretation of Scripture in line with early twenty-first century pronouncements of science.

The text of Genesis 1 gives not an iota of evidence that the days of Genesis 1 refer to long eons of time or that long eons of time separated the six days of creation. There is nothing in Genesis 1 to support the old earth theory.

Furthermore, this interpretation of Genesis one contradicts open plain and unambiguous statements of Scripture about creation. Scripture emphasizes that the omnipotent power of God is demonstrated by his creation. The psalmists wrote,

For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast (33:9).

Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created (148:5).

The instantaneous nature of creation was view as proof of God's omnipotent power. Twice the Scriptures state that God created the world in six days:

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exod. 20:11).

It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed (Exod. 31:17).

In both of these texts, the six days of creation followed by the day of God resting is the explanation for the week, including the day of Sabbath rest. If the creation account does not explain the division of time into weeks, there is no explanation for its beginning. The year can be explained by the rotation around the sun, the month can be explained by the new moon, and the day can be explained by the earth's rotation on its axis. But, why has the division of time into a week occurred? The only explanation posited is the days of creation!

The New Testament statements about the chronology of man are contradicted by the view that God created the material universe billions of years before he created man. In the model presented by those who believe in an old earth, the earth was created billions of years before man was created. Man was created relatively recently, a few million years ago. In contrast, Jesus said,

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female . . . (Matt. 19:4).

In the parallel account in Mark, Jesus said,

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female (Mark 10:6).

In what sense can these statements that God created man at the beginning be true if man's creation occurred billions of years after the beginning of creation and much nearer to today than at the beginning of creation?

The theory that Adam was created billions of years after the earth was created or that the six days of creation represent long eons of time contradicts the plain statements of Scripture. As such, this theory undermines confidence in the creation account and, by implication, the inspiration of Scripture.

Conclusion

How old is the earth? Again, the Bible does not present a specific date, but it does provide a framework that demands belief in a young earth. The contemporary theory that the earth is 4.5 billion years old is not an innocuous doctrine. It is an essential part of a system of unbelief known as naturalism or humanism. Some misguided Bible students whose aim is to harmonize the biblical account of creation with the pronouncements by scientists that the earth is billions of years old unintentionally are undermining the credibility of the Scripture by capitulating to the old earth theory. Once the authority of science is used to govern the exegesis of Scripture, the entire basis for accepting the doctrines of Scripture is undermined. At issue is no less than the inspiration of Scripture. We are reminded, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If God's word cannot be trusted in its account of creation, how can it be trusted in its account of the atonement? If God's account of creation must be reinterpreted to fit the latest pronouncements of geologists, astronomists, and biologists, how can one escape reinterpreting the account of the virgin birth to fit the pronouncements of medical science? The non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 is not a discussion about how many angels can stand on the head of a pin; it is a serious threat to the inspiration of Scripture.

The "Big Bang" is not the Bible's friend. Those who teach that the "Big Bang" theory harmonizes with Genesis 1 are myopic. There is only one aspect of the "Big Bang" theory that has any resemblance to the creation narrative — namely that the earth had a beginning. Its time for the beginning, its explanation for the beginning, and its explanation from what happened subsequent to the beginning are all grounded in naturalism and naturalistic evolution. Bible believers who tell brethren that the "Big Bang" theory is the Bible's friend are misguided at best and disastrous at worst. Let us be careful not to make the mistake of trying to interpret the Bible to conform to the pronouncements and theories of twenty-first century science. If the Bible is married to twenty-first century science, she will be a widow in the twenty-second century.

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