“On the basis of internal evidence, it is this writer’s conviction that yom [the Hebrew word for day] in Genesis one could not have been intended by the Hebrew author to mean a literal twenty-four-hour day,” concludes Dr. Gleason Archer, a biblical scholar who is fluent in Hebrew and over 30 related languages, one of the main translators for the New American Standard Bible, and a bold defender of the historicity and authority of the Bible.
Nearly half of Americans, however, believe that the earth was created in six twenty-four-hour days because, they say, the Bible teaches this. The logical implication of this interpretation is that, according to the Bible, the earth must be young. But is this understanding of the creation account required by the text? More importantly, is it true? If it is not true, and the “days” of Genesis are intended to mean “ages” (as Dr. Archer testifies), then the Bible does not teach a young earth but allows for the evidence that the earth is very old.
Hugh Ross, an excellent scientist and Christian, has provided very convincing arguments that the days of Genesis one are not intended as 24 hour periods of time. Since it is his work that has been so convincing to me on this issue, I wish to lay out, in my own way, many of his arguments. I will also supplement them with much of the evidence I have gained from other sources. I also wish to point out that, even if the days of Genesis one are indeed 24 hour periods, it still would not follow that the earth is young. This is because Bible scholar John Sailhamer has recently argued a good case that if the days are 24 hour periods, they can be solidly understood as recounting the specific renovating of the promise land to make it suitable for man’s inhabitation. So, on his view, the creation of the whole universe is stated in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” but the rest of the chapter deals with a much later time when God made the earth suitable for man’s inhabitation. For those who are interested in looking into this view more, I recommend his book Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Boks, 1996).
Before beginning on our analysis of the meaning of “day” in Genesis one, an important point to recognize is that the issue is not whether Genesis one should be interpreted literally or figuratively. The issue is what the author meant to say. A literal system of interpretation recognizes the context, grammar, and historical setting of the biblical text, and seeks to understand the author’s true meaning.
Hugh Ross says “While young-earth creationists assert the `plain meaning’ of the text rules out all but twenty-four hour days, a careful look at various textual elements points to a different conclusion. Old-earth creationists find many scriptural reasons, apart from science, for interpreting the creation days as long time periods.” As we will see, a long-creation day interpretation is therefore consistent with the literal system of biblical interpretation, and with the historicity of Genesis.
The text allows for interpreting the “days” as “ages”
If it can be shown that Genesis does not require the meaning of twenty-four hour days, then this clearly shows that it is at least possible that the “days” are used to refer to long periods of time. It will further be demonstrated that the text actually implies an interpretation other than solar days, making the “age” interpretation likely.
The Hebrew words yom, ereb, and boqer
Yom is the Hebrew word translated “day.” According to Vine’s Expository of Old Testament Words, it can be used to indicate the period of daylight as contrasted with nighttime (Gen 8:22), a period of twenty-four hours (Gen. 39:10), or a period of unspecified duration without any reference to solar days (Gen. 2:4). According to Hebrew scholar William Wilson, yom is “frequently put for time in general, or for a long time, a whole period under consideration…Day is also put for a particular season or time when any extraordinary even happens.” Examples of various uses of the word yom are Genesis 4:3, where it means a process of time; Genesis 30:14 where it means wheat harvest time; Joshua 24:7 where it means a long season; and Isaiah 4:2 where it means a future era.
Ereb is the Hebrew word translated “evening.” It also means “sunset,” “night,” or “ending of the day.” Boqer is the Hebrew word translated morning. It means “sunrise” or “beginning of day,” with possible metaphoric usage. The evening and morning of the creation days refer to the beginning and ending boundaries of the day, not the rising and the setting of the sun. “For example, in my grandfather’s day refers to my grandfather’s lifetime. So the morning and evening of his day would be his youth and old-age.” By his references to the evening and morning of the day, Moses is showing that creation was in definite, ordered stages, instead of an arbitrary, unplanned event.
It should also be noted that this “day-age theory” does not mean that the “days” (“ages”) were defined by millions of years of light, then evening, and then millions of years of darkness, etc. It means that “day” in Genesis means an age of unspecified length during which solar days carried on as usual, as we have seen.
Moses’ purpose in Genesis One
Why would Moses enumerate creation through six “days” if he meant “ages” rather than a twenty-four hour period? Moses’ purpose in Genesis one was to show that God created the universe in distinct stages, that there was an orderly plan to God’s method of creation and God was working toward an ultimate goal, the climax of creation–mankind. This is in contrast to an idea that the world was created randomly or that God was not working toward a final purpose in creating.
Moses is showing that God had a plan for how He would create the world, and that He did it in stages, not a disordered clutter. The stages did not mix into each other, because one ended before the next began (indicated by his placing the boundaries on the “days” of evening and morning). This affirms God’s control and demonstrates the careful unfolding of His plans. As we will see later, yom was the only way that Moses could have indicated long, indefinite stages of time.
Moses’ use of the word for “day”
Moses, the author of Genesis, also wrote Psalm 90. In verse 4 he writes, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by…” This text does not mean that each day of creation should be interpreted as equaling one thousand years, but it is significant that Moses seems to indicate that God’s days are not necessarily our days. We do need to recognize that the creation week is unique, since it is enumerating God’s activity, not man’s. In the minimum, this should at least indicate a possibility that Moses, when using “day” for God’s activity, does not necessarily mean twenty-four hours.
Genesis 1:5 says that “God called the light, day, and the darkness He called night.” This is the first use of the word yom in Genesis, and it is not used to denote a twenty-four hour period, but instead it refers only to the period of daylight. In Genesis 2:4 the word for day is used to refer to the time that elapsed over the entire creation week, so it obviously refers to a time period greater than twenty-four hours. These various uses of yom, within the context of the creation account, show that yom is open to meanings other than a twenty four hour period. One cannot, therefore, eliminate the possibility that yom refers to something other than a twenty-four hour period for the six days of creation. In fact, it appears to be quite likely.
The unusual syntax of the sentences referring to the creation days
In these sentences, we would have expected the linking verb (were) to appear only once in the Hebrew, reading “and were evening and morning day X,” but instead the linking verb appears twice and it reads, “and was evening and was morning day X.” Hugh Ross recognizes that “If `day X’ were intended as the noun complement for the one evening and morning together, the linking verb should appear just once, in plural form,” and goes on to point out that this “is clearly a departure from simple and ordinary expression. It creates an ambiguity. …[this] suggests that `day’ here is to be taken in some unusual manner.” If the expression “evening” and “morning” were meant to define the “day” as a twenty-four hour period, we would not expect to find this structure of the sentences.
The text requires the interpretation of “days” as “ages”
We have seen that the word for “day” does not require a twenty-four hour interpretation, that it is actually used in some unexpected places to mean something other than twenty-four hours, and that the structure of the sentences in Genesis suggests (but does not prove) that days are to be taken in a way other than to indicate a twenty four hour period. Thus, the Hebrew text allows for long days. Now we will see that the text not only allows for this interpretation, but demands it.
The events of the sixth day require more than twenty four hours
On the sixth day of creation (1) God created the higher forms of animals, (2) God created Adam, (3) God planted a garden in Eden, (4) God made to grow the vegetation in Eden, (5) God gave Adam the responsibility for tending the garden, (6) Adam became lonely, (7) God had Adam name all of the animals, in search of a companion, (8) Adam was still lonely after this, (9) God put Adam into a deep sleep and made Eve from his rib, (10) Eve was presented to Adam as his new partner, and finally (11) God gave them instructions to multiply and care for the earth. (See Genesis 1:24-30; 2:4-24). How could all of these events have been completed in only twenty-four hours? At the very least, they would have taken several months.
Take, for example, the naming of the animals. While Adam did not name each individual animal, he did name each species, or group, of animals. A conservative estimate is that there were 3,000 species of land animals and birds to name. (The Bible says he named all of the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. “Beasts of the field” is not limited to mean livestock, but also includes all land mammals.) Adam would have had to name approximately one species every 10 seconds in order to finish in even 20 hours!
Some argue that Adam was able to perform these tasks at superhuman speed, since he was without sin at this point. However, Scripture makes no connection between intelligence and sinfulness. Additionally, Jesus was without sin and did not perform tasks at a superhuman rate.
It would not seem like God to “hurry up” the process of naming the animals, since one main purpose was to, in a sense, fellowship with and become familiar with the animals so that he would recognize his need for a companion like him (and then God would fulfill his need and create Eve). Taking 10 seconds per animal would provide nowhere near the necessary time for this familiarity and fellowship.
Most convincingly, when Eve was finally presented to Adam, he said, “This at last is bone of my bones…” Alan Hayword notes that all commentaries are agreed that the expression translated “at last” means “now, at length,” as it is translated elsewhere. The Hebrew indicates that Adam had been kept waiting a long time for Eve, not a few hours.
The length of the seventh day is more than twenty four hours
Each of the first six creation days is said to have had a definite beginning and ending “there was evening, and there was morning….” However, there is no such statement about the seventh day. “Given the parallel structure marking the creation days, this direct change in form for the seventh day strongly suggests that this day has (or had) not yet ended.” This possibility is directly confirmed in Hebrews 4:4-11, which teaches us that God’s Sabbath rest of the seventh day is still continuing. Due to the parallel structure of the creation week, since the seventh day is long, the others must be too.
Some point out that Scripture refers to God’s rest in the past tense “He rested.” But this no way implies that He has finished resting, and even if it did it (which it does not) it still would not be saying that the day is over. For example, if at 7 o’clock I say that a person “took a nap” at 6, I am saying absolutely nothing about whether he is awake yet or not. It would be possible for him to still be sleeping. And if he is awake, it could still be the same day. The biblical text, however, makes no mention of God ceasing from His rest. Hebrews 4 is clear and direct positive evidence that God’s Sabbath rest continues into the present, making the seventh day, at the very least several thousand years long. The argument from the past tense of “rest” does not even deal with Hebrews 4.
Theological support for long creation days
Dual revelation and appearance of age
As we will see later, the testimony of the natural world which God created is that it is very old, not young. Before examining the scientific evidence, however, the concept of dual revelation must first be understood. This means that God has revealed Himself through the general revelation of nature as well as the special revelation of the Bible. For example, see Job 10:8-14; 12:7; 34:14-15; Psalm 8; 19:16; 50:6; Acts 14:17; 17:23-31; Romans 1:18-25. People are said to be “without excuse” for not responding to God’s general revelation because nature is a source of truth that points to God. Therefore, the testimony of the natural universe can be considered a reliable and true expression of God’s character and how He created the world.
Since God speaks through creation, we cannot ignore or dismiss the scientific evidence as irrelevant to the issue. And since God is truthful and He does not trick or deceive (Heb. 6:18), then “whatever objects of His creation that we subject to scientific analysis will reveal their true age–provided the analysis is theoretically valid, correctly applied, and accurately interpreted. For created things to show a deceptive appearance of age would seem a direct violation of God’s own stated character and purpose.”
Some people point to Adam and Eve (created as adults, not infants) and Jesus turning the water into wine to demonstrate that God sometimes creates with the appearance of age. Therefore, He could have created the universe with the appearance of age. However, these events tell us nothing about the age of Adam, Eve, or the wine. The wine is simply said to have had excellent flavor, and flavor is not an indication of wine’s age.
Further, as Hugh Ross says, “we must consider, too, that Adam and Eve were made, not born. We would not infer any age from the size and capability of Adam’s and Eve’s bodies given our awareness, from God’s own report, that Adam and Eve were created as exceptions to the subsequent natural rule.” God’s own report says that Adam and Eve were created as adults. Where does God tell us that the universe was created with the appearance of age? On the contrary, God said “Let the earth bring forth vegetation” and that He “made to grow” a garden in Eden, events which take long periods of time. Ross continues, “Reliable age indicators for human beings do exist….skin tone, visual acuity, blood and bone chemistry, and memories of past events. I’m willing to speculate that tests of these age indicators in Adam and Eve would have revealed their true age.”
Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21 do not refer to animal death
“Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…” says Romans. This text is commonly interpreted to mean that there was no animal death before the fall of man, since this would place death before sin instead of after sin. Therefore, only a small period of time could have passed between the creation of the first life forms and the fall of man. Otherwise, the world would have been severely overpopulated with animals.
However, this verse says nothing about animal death; it only says that death came to men–human beings. Romans 5:12 cannot be used to support the position of no animal death before sin since it does not even mention animals. When Paul writes that “sin entered the world” he is most likely using “the world” in the same way as it is used in John 3:16, where world obviously refers to mankind, not “planet earth.” “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” does not mean that God gave His Son for planet earth out of His love for it, but that He gave His Son for the world of mankind out of His love for them. Also, animal death is not related to sin, as man’s death is. Only man can experience “death through sin,” since animals never sinned.
Likewise, 1 Corinthians 15:21, when taken in context with verses 22 and 23, is very clear that “death” refers to people, not animals. If it was teaching about animals, we would be forced to conclude that it meant “For as in Adam all die [people and animals], so in Christ all [animals and people] will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him [both people and animals].”
The creation was “subject to decay” before the fall
Romans 8:20-22 is sometimes interpreted to mean that Adam’s sin brought decay, pain, and death upon creation, and that the second law of thermodynamics did not take effect until the fall. However, this passage says absolutely nothing about when this subjection to decay began; it only speaks of when it will end: “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Origen, an early church leader who lived in the third century (and therefore cannot be charged with scientific bias), said concerning this verse, “That the world is originated and subject to decay, since it took its beginning in time.”
Objections to long creation days
God is less powerful for not using twenty-four hour days
This is a very subjective argument. If God is less powerful for taking billions of years as opposed to six literal days, wouldn’t he be less powerful for taking six days instead of an instant? Actually, God can choose however long He wants to do something, and it has no bearing on His power. Furthermore, God’s greatness is attested to far better by an incomprehensibly vast and old universe than by young sphere of space which practically deceives us about its age. The old universe demonstrates God’s eternality, patience and unchanging character. A vast universe demonstrates His infinitude and omniscience.
“Day” always means 24 hour period when attached to an ordinal (such as first, second, etc.)
The first problem with this is Hosea 6:2: “after two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us.” Hugh Ross states that “for centuries Bible commentators have noted that the “days” in this passage (where the ordinal is used) refer to a year, years, a thousand years, or maybe more.” Most people familiar with Bible prophecy would agree that the “days” in this passage are thousands of years.
Second, the references used in support of this all refer to man’s activity, not God’s. Genesis one, however, is a unique situation, describing God’s activity, not man’s. Since the Bible has no other occasion to “enumerate sequential epochs” why must it be insisted that, since yom means twenty-four hours in other situations unrelated to creation, yom must also mean twenty-four hours in Genesis one? This seems to disregard the uniqueness of the situation and context of Genesis one.
Most importantly, however, there is no rule of Hebrew grammar that requires yom, when attached to an ordinal, to mean a twenty-four hour period. Therefore, the text of Genesis one does not require a twenty-four hour interpretation and still allows for a longer interpretation. Due to the unique situation of the creation week, we should look at the intentions of the author in this context (as we have) to determine the meaning of yom, not the use of characteristics of the word in other contexts.
The Hebrew word olam would have been used if “ages” were meant
It is commonly objected that the Hebrew word olam, which means a long indefinite time period, would have been used by Moses if he intended to convey the idea that the days of creation were long ages of time. However, Hebrew lexicons show that in Moses’ time olam was not used to indicate long time periods, but rather meant “forever,” perpetual,” “lasting,” or “the remote past, future, or both.” In Moses’ day, olam simply did not mean a long, indefinite period of time.
Exodus 20:10-11 compares the six days of creation to man’s work-week
It is therefore interpreted to mean that since our workweek is six days, so was God’s creation week. This text is best interpreted, however, as a unit for unit comparison, not as a direct equivalence between God’s days and our days. As Gleason Archer says, “By no means does this demonstrate that 24-hour intervals were involved in the first six `days,’ any more than the eight-day celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles proves that the wilderness wanderings under Moses occupied only eight days.” The emphasis in this text is on a pattern of one out of seven, not equivalence.
It is highly likely that the “days marked by the rotation of the earth are copies and shadows of the days distinguished by God in the Genesis record” just as “the high priests of Israel served at a sanctuary that is `a copy and shadow of what is in heaven’ (Hebrews 8:5)….The human and the temporal always are copies and shadows of the divine and the eternal, not vice versa. The seven days of our calender week simply follow the pattern established by God. God’s `work week’ gives us a human-like picture we can grasp.” The human workweek is a “shadow” of God’s six “days” of creation.
Must the “days” all be equal length?
This is a good question that is sometimes asked. It is, of course possible that the “ages” were all an equal length. However, since the length of the ages is not defined, equality between the days would not be required. The point of the six days is simply to show that creation was ordered and in stages, not to imply anything about equality in their length.
Further, the New Testament refers to Christ’s entombment as lasting “three days and three nights,” even though all three “days” are not an equal time period. Christ died about 3:00 p.m. on Friday, remained in the tomb on Saturday, and rose early on Sunday. The expression “three days and three nights” means “during a period of three days” rather than implying a full three days and nights of equal length.
Long creation days imply evolution
This is simply not true. First of all, even 15 billion years is not enough time for evolution to occur. Second, the most serious Biblical problems with evolution have nothing to do with any interpretation about the age of the earth. The Bible still does not allow for evolution, even though it allows for an old earth.
Also, it should be emphasized that, even though the earth is old, Adam and Eve were still recent creations (most likely in the last 10,000-20,000 years). They were created toward the end of the sixth day, which is fairly recent, and the genealogies recorded in Genesis seem to require a recent creation of Adam and Eve. Old-earth creationism does not dispute a recent creation of Adam and Eve.
Long creation days are an accommodation to current scientific thought
This is not true, either. First, we have established that there are good reasons within the Bible itself for believing in long creation days. Second, many of the early church leaders held to long creation days. Justin Martyr, Hyppolytus, and Irenaeus believed that the days were each a thousand years. Clement of Alexandria did not believe in twenty-four hour days. Augustine said, “But at least we know that it [the Genesis creation day] is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar.” Since these Christian leaders lived before the modern scientific evidence we now have access to, they cannot be charged with scientific bias. Finally, as we saw earlier, properly interpreted science will always agree with the Bible.
Biblical Texts That Imply An Old Earth
The Old Testament uses the earth’s age to illustrate God’s eternity and infinity
For examples of this, see Psalm 90:2-6, Psalm 102:22-28, and Micah 6:2. Considering that many humans lived to an age near 1000 years, “The brief span of a 3000 year terrestrial history (in the context of wisdom literature) seems an inadequate metaphor for God’s eternality. The fact that the Bible does consider the antiquity of the founding of the earth a suitable metaphor for God’s eternality suggests the biblical view of a very ancient earth.”
More direct hints at the earth’s age
Second Peter 3:5 says that the heavens existed “long ago”; Habakkuk 3:6 says that the mountains are ancient and that the hills are “age-old.” These passages at least seem to indicate an earth older than a few thousand years.
Scientific evidence for an old earth
Physicist Murray Gell-Mann, in testimony sent to the Supreme Court concerning the age of the universe, said it would be easier to believe in a flat earth than to believe in a six thousand year old universe. Allen Hammond and Lynn Margulis expressed that “Adoption of [young universe creationism] requires, at a minimum, the abandonment of essentially all of modern astronomy, much of modern physics, and most of the earth sciences. Much more than evolutionary biology is at stake.”
Some might ask, If one does not accept the scientific evidence for evolution, why would one accept it for an old earth? Quite simply, the scientific evidence for evolution is lacking, whereas the evidence for an old earth is overwhelming. Further, where evolution is concerned, as Alan Hayward points out, the experts are not all in agreement with themselves.
“There always have been eminent biologists who have argued vigorously against Darwin’s theory of evolution, and more of them are doing it today than at any time for a hundred years…But when it comes to the question of the age of the earth, it has to be recognized that the real experts are all in agreement. Despite many years of extensive reading in this area I have never come across a single example of an eminent geologist rejecting the geological evidence for an ancient earth; nor an eminent astronomer rejecting the astronomical evidence for an ancient universe; nor of an eminent nuclear physicist rejecting the evidence from radio-active dating. Clearly, the evidence for an ancient earth must be very much stronger than the evidence for evolution.”
I will only discuss this evidence briefly here, due to space, but anyone seriously interested in knowing the truth of the universe’s age should investigate several sources. I would suggest beginning with Hugh Ross’s book The Fingerprint of God, or Creation and Time. We will briefly examine three pieces of support for an old universe.
The expansion of the universe
Astronomers are able to measure the speed of galaxies and quasars, and have determined that the farther away an object is in space, the faster it is moving away. Because of this, the universe must be expanding outward from a starting point in space and time. The distances between the galaxies “result from the velocity of expansion multiplied by the time of expansion.” By measuring the rate of motion (expansion) and the distances between galaxies, the amount of time that the universe has been expanding can be calculated. (This is done from the standard equation time = distance/velocity.) Scientists can soundly conclude from this that the universe is approximately 15 billion years old, and the results are accurate to within 15 percent. So, even if the measurements were off by the maximum possible of 15%, this still would not bring the age of the universe to anywhere near a few thousand years.
This is one of the biggest problems for the young earth view. For one thing, we can see light from stars that are billions of light years away. Therefore, it would take billions of years for that light to get here (light travels one-light year each year, so billions of light years would require billions of years). If the universe is young, then this light could not be here yet.
Some say that the speed of light has not always been the same, but used to be much faster. However, measurements on the spectral line in distant galaxies prove that the speed of light has been constant for at least 14 billion years.
Others say that astronomers are wrong about the great distances to stars and galaxies. First, the wide variety of measuring tools for these distances are accurate to at least 15 percent. There is no support for saying that astronomers are off by 100%. Second, “If the stars are really near rather than distant, they must be extremely tiny, far tinier than the minimum size necessary for a star to burn. And if stars are neither distant nor tiny, another problem arises: Such massive luminous objects so close would light up the night sky as bright as day. There would never be darkness on earth.”
Others say that God created the light as already spanning the distance to the earth. This does not solve the problem either, because “star light and galaxy light give direct indications of their travel distances. The spectral lines (light waves at various frequencies) of stars and galaxies are broadened in direct proportion to the distance they travel. The random motion of gas clouds in space causes this effect. The radiation between the spectral lines grows redder as it travels through interstellar and intergalactic dust. This reddening, like the effect of forest fire smoke on our view of the sun, is directly proportional to the distance the light has traveled” (emphasis mine).
If the universe is young, then the light at most could have been traveling for several thousand years, and the reddening would indicate this short travel distance. However, the light indicates that it has traveled over the distance of billions of light years (as great as 14 or 15 billion). For God to create the light as already here the instant the distant stars are created (and have the light show that it did not really travel for billions of years) is one thing. But for God to make this light to indicate that it traveled several billions of light-years when it really only traveled a few thousand (if any) is to suggest that God “deliberately deceived us.” The Scriptures indicate that God does not “cover up” the evidence for His miraculous intervention, which He would have done if He created the light to be instantly here.
Furthermore, “We have watched star explosions that happened billions of years ago, but if the universe is not billions of years old, then we are seeing light from stars that never existed–because they would have died before creation.” In other words, since the explosions would have happened after the creation of these stars, the light from them would have had to have traveled the full distance through space, even according to the view that God “expanded” the first light rays to be here instantly. Therefore, in order for the light from the explosion to reach us, the explosion would have had to happen before the star even existed (according to the young-earth view). We have already established, however, that the testimony of nature, according to the Bible, will not lead us to conclusions that are not true (see section on dual revelation).
The age of the sun
As Ross notes in Creation and Time, “Various measured characteristics of the sun–including its effective temperature, luminosity, spectra, radius, outflow of neutrinos, and mass—all guaranteed that the sun is burning by nuclear fusion and that this fusion has been proceeding for about 5 billion years.”
Young-earth arguments examined
I refer the reader to Hugh Ross or Alan Hayward for a more detailed analysis of these arguments. After personally examining approximately 20 of the best young earth arguments, I agree with Hugh Ross concerning these arguments when he says (in reference to all 80 young earth arguments, not just 20) that they all involve “one or more of these four problems: Faulty assumptions; faulty data; misapplication of principles, laws, and equations; or failure to consider opposing evidence.”
Talk radio host John Stewart has asked many prominent young universe advocates if they knew of any scientist who became convinced of a young-universe on the basis of scientific evidence. They have always answered “No.”
Dust on the moon’s surface
It is sometimes argued that if the universe were old, there would be many feet of dust on the moon’s surface. This theory was based on calculations pertaining to the rate at which extra-lunar dust settles on the moon. Since there is only a few inches, the moon (and therefore earth) must be very young. This argument has been outdated for a long time. It was disproved with the development of satellites, which more accurately determined the rate at which dust collects on the moon. This modified calculation shows that if the moon is billions of years old, then the correct amount of dust would be only a few inches (as we have), not several feet.
Decay of the earth’s magnetic field
Another argument is that the earth’s magnetic field is decaying. Young-universe advocates have calculated that, due to its rate of decay, this process must have begun in the last 10,000 years. Therefore, the universe must be young. However, the earth’s magnetic field, it has been shown, “builds itself up” after “decaying” and has been undergoing this process for a long time. “The proof for this pattern lies in ancient geologic strata found throughout the world. The rocks reveal that the earth’s field reverses its polarity roughly every half-million years. Each reversal process lasts roughly 10,000 years.”
It is said that if the universe were old, the galaxies would no longer be together because there must be enough mass in a galaxy to overcome the individual velocities within it. Since the galaxies do not have enough mass to stay together for billions of years, if the universe were old, the galaxies would be dispersed.
There are two faulty assumptions here. The first is that all matter in the clusters is luminous (shining by its own light production). There is good evidence that “most of the mass is non-luminous,” as Ross points out. Thus, there is enough mass to keep the clusters together for billions of years. The second invalid assumption is that the galaxies can be treated as point sources. Astronomers are unanimous that they cannot be treated as points.
Human and dinosaur footprints together
It has been shown that the alleged “human” footprints were not human after all. Ross documents that “The footprints are too far apart to have been made by humans. They fit well, however, the stride of the dinosaurs. Most of the human’ prints are too large to have been made by humans. Many of the human’ prints show dinosaur features, for example, claw marks, anterior V-shaped splaying, fissure patterns, and drag or swish marks from a tail or snout…For these reasons and others, both secular and Christian scholars have concluded there is no factual basis for claiming that any of the footprints in question are human.”
Hugh Ross further refutes the arguments that ” the continents are eroding too quickly,” that “the sun burns by gravitational contraction and thus must be young,” that “Granite crystal halos can arise from 218 Po decay only if the earth is young,” that “since computer models of the spiral structure of galaxies show that the spiral collapses after two or three rotations, spiral galaxies must be much younger than astronomers claim,” and that “since a comet’s lifespan is only a couple of thousand years, given the rather limited supply of comets, their present existence proves the solar system cannot be any older than a few thousand years.”
The testimony of some leading evangelical scholars
After examining both sides of the issue at the International Conference on Biblical Innerancy, the respected biblical theologians at this conference, who were all committed to the authority, historical accuracy, and inerrancy of the Bible, concluded that “adherence to six consecutive twenty-four hour creation days is nonessential to belief in biblical inerrancy.”
Some prominent, conservative, evangelical scholars who firmly believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, the historicity of Genesis, and believe in long creation days are Gleason Archer (quoted earlier), William Lane Craig (perhaps the best Christian apologist in America), R.C. Sproul (prominent theologian) and Norman Geisler (a prominent apologist). I recognize that the scholars listed here are neither individually or collectively infallible. Nonetheless, it does lend support to the long day interpretation, since these men are committed to understanding what the Bible says through their first-rank scholarship.
Why is this important?
First, it is always important to know the truth. If something is taught in the Bible, we should strive to have an accurate understanding of the issue. A proper understanding of creation will also lead to better understanding of the Bible as a whole and God’s plan for this universe. It is also important that one does not make the Bible mean something that it doesn’t (see James 3:1).
Second, the claims of so many creationists that the Bible teaches a young earth are a stumbling block to many non-Christians that should not be there. Many people refuse to consider Christianity because they have been taught that the Bible irreconcilably contradicts science on the age of the universe. Many scientists have investigated the young universe arguments and are thoroughly unconvinced, and are forced to conclude that the Bible is refuted by science. This is not a good thing, considering that the Bible does not take a position for a young universe. Also, scientists have often been made to feel like the enemy, which closes them off to a serious consideration of the Bible. It needs to be shown that the science is a friend of the Bible, not an enemy.
Third, Christians are often considered anti-intellectual because of this issue. Granted, if it were clearly taught in the Bible that the universe is young, that would be one thing. But since the Bible teaches nothing on a young earth (at best it would imply a young earth if the six days were twenty-four hours–which they are not), it is not wise to make this such an important tenant of Christianity. The result has often been that Christians appear to be closed to any evidence contrary to their view, with the attitude “don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.” This, along with the weak scientific evidence for a young universe, is what is interpreted as ant-intellectual by many. Since the age of the earth is not adequately founded in Scripture, Christians should be open to the evidence and make up their mind after thorough investigation, not after being closed to the evidence.
Allowing for an old-earth also liberates the Christian to use the extensive scientific evidence for God’s existence. There is much good evidence from recent scientific findings that supports the existence of God. This evidence also points to the God of the Bible as creator. However, much of this evidence that supports God’s existence must be refuted or ignored by those who believe in a young earth. Unfortunately, there are many skeptics who would benefit greatly from hearing this evidence.
Most importantly, it must be admitted that the Bible does not directly teach a young earth. In fact, the Bible leaves the question open. Claiming that the Bible teaches a young universe only adds an unnecessary stumbling block to those who are skeptical about the faith.
- Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1994), p. 199.
- George Gallup, “Creation/Evolution Debate Goes On,” Los Angeles Times Syndicate, quoted in The Sacramento Bee, August 28, 1982, p. B7, cited in the introduction of the resource listed in note 3.
- Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1994), p. 45.
- W.E. Vine, Merrill Unger, William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985), p. 54.
- William Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Dregel Publications, 1978), p. 109.
- Ross, p. 46.
- Laird Harris, Gleason Archer, and Bruce Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. II (Chicago: Moody, 1980), pp. 694, 125.
- Ross, p. 46.
- This was an idea common to the polytheist cultures of Moses’ day, and when we compare the Genesis account of creation to the polytheistic accounts, it becomes clear that Moses was arguing against these idolatrous and polytheistic concepts and defending the true God and His ways.
- Ross, p. 48.
- Alan Hayward, Creation and Evolution (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1985), p. 165.
- Ross, pp. 48-49.
- Ross, pp. 53-54
- Ross, p. 54.
- Origen, On First Principles, book III, chapter V, cited in Ross.
- Ross, p. 47.
- Ross, p. 47.
- Archer, Harris, and Waltke, Vol. I, pages 672-673. Also see Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p. 72.
- Gleason Archer, “A Response to the Trustworthiness of Scripture in Areas Relating to Natural Science,” Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible, ed. Earl D. Radmacher and Robert D. Preus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academic Boods, 1986), p. 329, cited in Ross.
- Ross, p. 60.
- Ross, p. 75.
- Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 81,” Writings of Saint Justin Martyr in That the Fathers of the Church, vol. 6, Ludwig Schopp, editoral director, pages 277-278, cited in Ross.
- Iranaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, chapter XXIII, section 2, cited in Ross.
- Clement of Alexandria, “That the Stromata, Book VI,” Clement of Alexandria: A Study in Christian Platonism and Gnosticism, by Salvatore R.C. Lilla, pp. 198-199, cited in Ross.
- Augusinus, Aurelius, Bishop of Hippo, “That the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book Five, Chapter 2,” in Ancient Christian Writers: THat the Works fo the Fathers in Translation, ed. Johannes Quasten, no. 41, St. Augustine, cited in Ross.
- Ross, p. 52.
- Allen Hammond and Lynn Margulis, “Creationism as Science: Farewell to Newton, Einstein, Darwin…,” Science 81 (December 1981), p. 55; cited in Ross.
- Hayward, p. 204.
- Bertram Schwarzschild, “Supernova Distance Measurements Suggest an Older, Larger Universe,” Physics Today (November 1992), pp. 17-20; cited in Ross. My explanation of the expansion of the universe relied heavily on Ross’s book, p. 92.
- John Peacock, “Fresh Light on Dark Ages,” Nature 355 (1992), p. 203; cited in Ross.
- Ross, p. 96.
- Ross, pp. 96-97.
- Ross, p. 97.
- Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books), p. 230.
- Ross, p. 103.
- Ross, p. 106.
- Ross, chapter 10.
- Ross, p. 156.
Scripture quotations are generally from the New American Standard Bible, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, by the Lockman Foundation.