Dating the earth can be challenging.
Dating the earth in years can be challenging. Everyone knows that some believe the earth is billions of years old, while others think the earth is 6,000 years old. Then, there’s a group somewhere in between, while others say they don’t know. These theories, including the latter, argue that observable phenomena can support their positions. So how can we know how old the earth is?
Charles Darwin thought there were so many variables at work that it was nearly impossible to determine the earth’s age. However, we must remember that Darwin trained in medicine and theology, not geology. Let’s take a deeper look into the earth’s age according to the Bible.
How old does the Bible say the earth is?
Let’s start with the Bible and work from there. When you read the Bible, you might realize that the world’s history isn’t an endless linear succession of years, but instead, it’s broken up into catastrophic events that changed everything in the world. This is what Peter meant in 2 Peter 3:1-6 when he said in the last days, some will say that things have always been as they’ve been. These scoffers say there won’t be a disastrous breakdown of the kingdom of God in the second coming of Jesus because they would tell everyone that things have always been this way and to look at history.
However, observable data and the Bible conflict with anyone tempted to join this group of scoffers. People who hold to creation’s visible and biblical record also hold to catastrophism. The scoffers who don’t believe in the flood or Peter’s message believe in a viewpoint of the earth’s history called uniformitarianism. The Bible explains that there was creation instead of a catastrophic rearranging of chaos and the fall. Genesis 1:2 reminds us that the earth didn’t have form, darkness faced the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the waters.
Both events transformed the ways things were before the events. Before the flood and after the fall, another epoch existed. After the flood, the world was dramatically and significantly reconfigured. The flood marked a gap between the past and the emergence of a new environmental and geological norm for the future. All of this is part of Peter’s argument, which is a good argument. It’s also the certain and inerrant word of God.
We don’t have to look far to see that the world strengthens the Bible. Whether microscopic life forms suddenly fossilized or woolly mammoths walked the earth, the observable world tells us something remarkable happened, which Peter affirms and says the extraordinary event was the flood.
How can we correctly date the earth?
Like scoffers of the past deny that event, scoffers of today do the same thing. Someone may ask, “What do fossils and mammoths have to do with dating the earth?” The answer is everything. We can’t take present, observable information about the earth and project it back when about five cataclysmic events altered the atmospheric, environmental, chemical, geological, marine life, mammalian and the rest of the earth.
Those five cataclysmic events include creation, pre-fall, post-all after Adam and Eve’s sin, ante-diluvian, before the flood, and post-flood. Based on scripture, it would be challenging to say the earth’s age based on observation because too many things have changed. If we were to apply the scientific method, it would require two samples with similar constitutions, which is impossible. Thus, the case is bursting with difficulties.
Going back to the data you see in the Bible, you may argue that the genealogies leave no doubt about the earth’s age. For those who believe that the Bible is the accurate word of the living God, it’s understandable that some would think you can total up the years from Adam to Noah to get an exact dating on the earth’s foundation. The only concern is that the genealogies, while accurate, include the people who lived through these transformative historical events. Can you calculate the earth’s age by generations if some generations lived through the flood, Eden, and the antediluvian years?
The earth isn’t the 67th book of the Bible. It has a record that gives us so much information, but the record doesn’t speak. God spoke through the Bible. According to the Bible and Peter, the “sample” has been spoiled by sin. Some may say a series of catastrophic events compromised the specimen. It’s challenging to compare our existence now to the reality before the flood or after the fall. Furthermore, the six days of creation are supplied in 24-hour periods or “yom” in Hebrew. The problem with dating is, again, one of precise comparison.
Can we understand what a day means on the second day of creation with what’s left of a day after creation’s completion? We are unsure, but the Bible was created in six days, and God took a rest on the seventh. Genesis 1 and 2 aren’t examples of mythology or poetry. Their language is that of a historian. Still, even if you believe the earth was made in six days and God rested on the seventh, and you trust the genealogies given from Adam to Noah, you can’t assert the age of the earth.
What can we know?
The Bible is clear on some topics. For example, it discusses the method of salvation and our moral obligations in great detail. However, the Bible doesn’t give as much information on other topics. One of the topics that the Bible doesn’t explicitly address is the earth’s age. One method to determine the earth’s age assumes that the six days of creation in Genesis 1 were 24-hour periods with no gaps in the genealogy or chronology of Genesis. Then, the years listed in the genealogies of Genesis are added to get an approximate time from creation to specific Old Testament figures. The earth would be 6,000 years old using this method. However, it’s important to note that this is a calculated number, not one the Bible gives.
Another method to determine the earth’s age is using resources like geologic cycles, carbon dating, etc. Scientists try to determine how old the planet is by comparing different methods and seeing if they match. According to this method, the earth is between 4 and 5 billion years old. Again, this is a calculated number, not one the Bible gives.
The Bible doesn’t explicitly state the earth’s age. The earth’s age does not affect one’s view of morality, sin, salvation, heaven or hell. However, the Bible does discuss who created the world, why He created it, and how we’re meant to relate to Him.