Skip to comments.Is the Young-Earth Interpretation Biblically Sound?
Posted on 05/02/2010 5:04:56 AM PDT by truthfinder9
Warning! It is not with much joy that I have created this page. It was created in response to attacks and complaints about my position on the age of the Earth by fellow Christians. My purpose in writing this page is not to create controversy or division within the Christian community or even convert you to an Old-Earth viewpoint if you take a Young-Earth stance. I do feel it is important that those who are adamant that the young-earth position is the only biblical interpretation of Genesis look at the rather formidable scriptural problems in their interpretation before judging others on their "non-scriptural" views. I do not feel it is productive to become engaged in a debate about the age of the Earth with fellow Christians. However, if you feel that I have missed some of the scriptural problems in the young-earth or Day-Age interpretation, E-mail me and I will add it to this page. For those of you who are non-Christian, read this page with the understanding that the young-earth interpretation of creation is not the "only biblical view" of creation. Not only does the currently popular young-earth interpretation have major scientific discrepancies, but it contradicts much of what the Bible actually says.
What did the early church fathers believe about the lengths of creation days? The book entitled Creation and Time, by Dr. Hugh Ross documents in detail what first century Jewish scholars and the early Christian church fathers said regarding their interpretation of creation chronology (see Chapter 2, pages 16-24). Many early church fathers expressed no opinion on the subject of creation days, since it is a peripheral issue in Christianity. However, Jewish scholars who discussed creation chronology include Philo and Josephus, while Christian fathers include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus (through writings of Ambrose), Clement, Origen, Lactantius, Victorinus, Methodius, Augustine, Eusebius, Basil, and Ambrose. Among this group, all but one believed that the creation days were longer than 24 hours. The evidence presented in Creation and Time is both overwhelming and well documented (all references are given). All of these references are available at Wheaton College's server. Alternatively, these writings can be obtained on CD from Ages Software or Logos Research.
The entire universe (heavens and earth) was created on or before the first day (Genesis 1:1) and sunlight was upon the earth before the end of the first day (Genesis 1:3-5). There are those who say that the light described was not from the Sun and was not falling on the Earth. However, the text clearly establishes the frame of reference as being the surface of the waters on planet Earth (Genesis 1:2). In addition, the text indicates that the light is not some "diffuse light from God," but is directional, since the Earth is experiencing both day and night (Genesis 1:5). I have yet to hear one reasonable explanation of how there can be day and night on the Earth without the Sun shining until 3 days later.
The Bible actually suggests that Adam had seen death before the creation of Eve. When Adam was first put into the garden, God said that he could eat from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17). God threatened that Adam would "surely die" if he broke this command. This threat makes no sense unless Adam had already seen the death of animals. There is no recorded reply of Adam asking what death was. If he had never seen death this would have been an obvious question. This is strong biblical evidence that Adam had already seen the death of animals even before Eve was created.
Before the creation of Eve, God brought the animals before Adam for him to name. The text makes it clear that Adam named the animals, and not God (Genesis 2:19-20). This is important for an understanding of what Adam had seen prior to the Fall. If the young earth creationists are correct, one would expect the names of the carnivores to reflect the current (non-carnivorous) activities of these creatures prior to the Fall. However, Adam gave some very unusual names to some of the carnivores. For example, the Hebrew name for lion is derived from the Hebrew root that means "in the sense of violence." Was Adam referring to the violence with which the lion ate its vegetables? It doesn't seem likely! In addition, Adam named some of the predatory birds using a Hebrew word with the meaning "bird of prey." Were these birds preying on fruits and nuts? In naming the eagle, Adam used the Hebrew word whose root means to lacerate. Was the eagle ripping up plants with its talons?
|Lion||H738||from H717 "in the sense of violence"9|
|Cormorant||H799410||"bird of prey" from H7993 "to throw, cast hurl fling" - referring to its diving in pursuit of prey11|
|Hawk||H5322||"unclean bird of prey"12|
|Eagle||H5404||from an unused root meaning "to lacerate"13|
|Owl||H846414||from H2554 "to wrong, do violence to, treat violently, do wrongly"15|
It is abundantly clear from the names given to the carnivores by Adam that he had seen these animals in action - eating other animals prior to the Fall of mankind. The idea that all animals ate only plants prior to the Fall is contradicted directly by the biblical texts.
The standard young-earth interpretation is that sin brought about death to all living creatures and the advent of carnivorous activity. However, the text says that sin brought about the death of humans (Genesis 2:17, Romans 5:12). There is no biblical basis for the idea that sin brought about death of animals. Likewise, the young-earth contention that carnivorous activity began at the fall is without a biblical foundation. In fact, it directly contradicts scripture, since such a drastic change in animal behavior would have required God to continue the creation process - something the Bible says He stopped doing after the sixth day (Genesis 2:3, Hebrews 4:4). If this were true, then God must have changed some of the animals to become carnivorous. Why would God judge the innocent animals for the sin of mankind and condemn them to the "evil" laws of survival of the fittest? If God did change some of the animals to become carnivorous, it must be one of the better kept secrets of the Bible.
What does scripture say happened after the fall? The reality is that God judged only those who committed sin:
|And the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, And dust shall you eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:14-15)|
|To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you shall bring forth children; Yet your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." (Genesis 3:16)|
|Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:17-19)|
There were no other judgments made by God, since all the guilty parties were punished. God does not pass judgment upon the innocent. There is no biblical basis for the young-earth belief that sin brought about the death of animals and the beginning of carnivorous activity.
Is death and pain bad or evil? First, I would like to point out that animals are incapable of sin. Since they lack a spirit with which to communicate with God, they have no concept of God and are not under any of God's laws or judgment. Therefore, death and pain inflicted by animals on other animals and plants is not evil. In addition, scripture clearly tells us that God Himself allowed humans to kill (Genesis 4:4) and eat animals (Genesis 9:3). In fact, God was pleased with the sacrifice of Abel, which involved the killing of animals. Therefore, scripture itself eliminates the death of animals and plants as being evil or bad.
In fact, God Himself is implicated in the death of animals. First, God killed animals to clothe Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:21) and then killed many animals during the flood (Genesis 7). God set up the system of animal sacrifice for atonement for sin (Exodus 23:18). In addition, scripture tells us that God created carnivores on day 6 and provides food for the carnivores of the Earth, therefore condoning the death of some animals for the survival of others:
"Who prepares for the raven its nourishment, When its young cry to God, And wander about without food?" (Job 38:41)
"Can you hunt the prey for the lion, Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, [God speaking] (Job 38:39)
The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God. (Psalm 104:21)
There is the sea, great and broad, In which are swarms without number, Animals both small and great... They all wait for Thee, To give them their food in due season. (Psalm 104:25, 27)
Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. (Luke 12:24)
If one states that the death of animals and carnivorous activity are evil, then one must admit, according to scripture, that God is responsible for these things and therefore a perpetrator of evil. Such a viewpoint would make God a sinner - something vehemently refuted by scripture. Views that the deaths of animals are evil are common arguments from atheists and New Agers, some of which has been seeping into the Church.
Is the death of human beings evil or bad? God designed physical death and made it come upon humanity when Adam sinned. This death is both judgment and mercy. Sin brings about spiritual death, which can only be atoned for by the blood of Christ. Judgment of sinners is based upon their evil deeds. Therefore, God, in cutting short the lives of sinners, reduces their punishment for sin. One should note that long life was not a blessing, but a curse on early mankind. These long lifetimes led to widespread wickedness, such that God was forced to eliminate nearly all of mankind and reduce the lifetimes of post-flood humanity. Scripture tells us that the death of the righteous is actually good:
Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones. (Psalm 116:15)
for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. (Romans 14:8)
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; (Philippians 1:23)
And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them." (Revelation 14:13)
The young-earth doctrine that entropy did not start until the fall of humans into sin is directly contradicted by the text of Genesis 1. First, let's understand what entropy is so that we can see how it is directly affirmed in the opening chapter of the Bible. Simply put, the second law of thermodynamics states that heat flows from hot bodies to cold bodies. This law affects virtually everything that happens in our universe. It allows the Sun to shine and warm the Earth. It has also been called the law of decay, since it addresses the "decay" of the universe. Since all heat flows from hot bodies to cold bodies, the logical end result will be that at some point the entire universe will have the same temperature. To a large degree, this phenomenon has already occurred. At the Big Bang, the almost infinitely hot beginning of the universe became spread over the expanding size of the universe. Greater than 99.9% of all the energy of the original cosmos was dissipated within minutes of the Big Bang, and is now measurable as the 2.7°K background radiation. In a few hundred billion years the entire universe will have dispersed to become one uniform temperature (assuming God has not intervened before then). The Bible clearly states that entropy began well before the fall of mankind. Stars cannot shine (Genesis 1:3), animals move (Genesis 1:20), etc. if the 2nd law was not in effect. Those who say the 2nd law of thermodynamics did not start until the fall must postulate that God changed all the laws of physics - all the stars, planets, animals, etc. - essentially remaking the entire universe. There is not even a hint in the Bible that God did this. Indeed, the Bible says that God rested from all his creative work after the sixth day. Just recently, the young-earth creation society, Answers in Genesis refuted the idea that the second law of thermodynamics began at the fall, although the idea is still quite prevalent among other young-earth groups.
Another indication that the earth after the fall was similar to before comes from a description of the valley of the Jordan:
Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere--this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah--like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. (Genesis 13:10)
Most young earth creationists are unaware that a post-fall valley is compared to the garden of Eden.
The creation before the fall was described as "very good" (Genesis 1:31), but never as "perfect." The words used in Genesis 1:31 are meod tob, which mean "very" or "abundantly" (meod) and "good" or "beautiful" (tob). This combination of words is used several times after the Fall to describe Rebekah (Genesis 24:16), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2), Adonijah (1 Kings 1:6), and figs (Jeremiah 24:2). Since these words are used to describe fallen (imperfect) humans, it is obvious that the Genesis text is not referring to a perfect creation, but one that is, as translated, very good. The Hebrew word used to describe the perfection of God is tamim, which is never used to describe God's temporal creation. In fact, the Genesis creation text describes part of the creation as "not good" (Genesis 2:18). Eden was neither without pain (Genesis 3:16) nor temptation to sin (Genesis 3:1). In addition, God's command to humans in Genesis 1 was to "subdue" the earth (Genesis 1:28). The Hebrew word for "subdue" is kabash, (Strong's number H3533), which means to bring into subjection to human influence. This very statement implies that the world was hostile and unsuitable for human domination without some effort. This statement implies that the creation before the fall of man was neither perfect nor even prepared for humans to "fill the earth." God, in His mercy, started humans in His personally planted garden, Eden (Genesis 2:8), protected from the reality of the rest of the earth (weeds, drought, etc.) that needed to be subdued. When the first humans sinned, they were kicked out the garden (Genesis 3:24) into the reality of a hostile world in need of being "subdued."
In contrast, the New Creation is described as being perfect (1 Corinthians 13:10, Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 9:11). In fact, the new creation will be vastly different from Eden and this universe. The Bible specifically states that there will be no crying, mourning, death or pain (Revelation 21:4) in the new creation. Likewise, the laws of gravity will be replace or reduced, since cubes with 1,500 mile sides (Revelation 21:16) are not possible under our current laws of gravity (any object this size would immediately become a sphere in our universe). Also, in the new creation, there are no stars or Sun (Isaiah 60:19-20, Revelation 21:23, Revelation 22:5). Since there will be no entropy in the new creation, stars could not burn. However, God himself will provide the light, which will be truly marvelous to see.
The Gnostics claimed that the physical universe was evil, whereas only the spiritual universe was good. Therefore, God was responsible only for the creation of the spiritual - the physical universe was created by evil god(s). Some young-earth creationists claim that Satan messed up God's original creation - essentially recreating it. This is a Gnostic view, which was refuted by nearly all the Christian church fathers of the second and third centuries. Although young-earth creationists do not associate hidden knowledge with salvation, they do propagate concepts that have no biblical basis, which have not been promoted by the Christian church until this century. The young-earth viewpoint presupposes that death and carnivorous activity are evil - something promoted by New Age religions and atheistic philosophies.
I think we Christians will know the facts soon enough.
As big as our world is, even judged against this finite universe it is next to nothing. In an infinite universe it would not even exist without being created. The time effect is just our perception of existence within the infinite.
God will laugh at those, on both sides, who thought that this argument was important.
So as mankind there is the issue how we came into existence. God has mysterys for a purpose, some answers are never going to be solved in our lifetime. man wants to be like god. when you were dating, did you have to know everything about your spouse. there were some mysterys about your spouse you have found out after marriage, honeymoon, children and so forth. God is in charge, and why do we have to go into the endless debate new creation or old creation. We here now, and learn to live with it and when you get to heaven, ask God how and when he created heaven and earth.
Early Genesis has always been a major point of disagreement, and probably always will be.
Wow, a lot of work. As I go through this I find I must comment on the logic for Adam naming animals.
We could say that Adam knew Hebrew and then applied Hebrew names to animals as they seemed appropriate based on their behavior or we could say that Adam simply made up sounds that pleased him and that as he taught his children these sounds, the children developed a language which used the names of animals to describe certain observed behaviors which developed into the Hebrew of the bible.
Adam naming the animals shows me a lot about work-life balance. Adam was given work before the fall. He had 3 activities to keep him busy. He named the animals, he kept the garden and he walked with God. His life encompassed mental work, physical work and a spiritual relationship with God.
I don’t know of another short story that has has much theological information jammed into it as the creation myths (and before someone slams me on the use of the term myth, please look it up).
If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
How was Eve created?
Did Adam have to wait 16+ years before he had a companion or did God make Eve in an “aged” state?
If God can do that with Eve, why couldn’t he do that with the Universe, or the Earth, or trees, or...
Personally, I side with the Young Earthers, but in the big picture of important issues, Old Earth vs. Young Earth, to me really isn’t that big of a deal any more.
I am fascinated by the young vs. old earth debate. I started as an old earth who is being less sure of his position each year. There are three areas which need to be reconciled in order for me to be a firm believer of a young earth. These are a literal interpretation of the scripture, the theological consistency with other major themes and finally the evidence of the world.
I am convinced that its not possible to reconcile the biblical text to an old earth on a literal basis. Too many problems arise for either interpretation to be the final word. I would say that if the scientific evidence of old earth was not present that an old earth would never be considered.
On a theological basis, the old earth theory sets the stage for a theology that is an anathema. The creation story describes that eating the fruit of the garden would make Adam and Eve “like gods”. The evolution promise could be used to bring about that desire. Over time mankind will evolve to become gods. The young earth theology removes this prospect. Mankind is reduced to an impossibly small period of time that its impossible for us to evolve and that our only hope is in turning to God. Young earth makes other theological struggles of understanding almost irrelevant. It almost doesn’t matter how God has redeemed us through his son because we have no other options to choose from if this world is finite in time and space. Theologically, I am an agnostic as to whether an old earth or young earth is required to be consistent.
On the evidence of the world most scientists today seem to be in agreement of an old earth. Personally, I am beginning to see flaws in their reasoning.
I was teethed on Discover magazines about “the Great Expansion” and “Primordial Hyperinflation.” I could never let go of the FACT that the Earth and the universe do truly APPEAR old. Forget about plate techtonics, think of light travelling towards us from star systems billions of years away. Was the light created mid-journey?
At the same time, I am a biblical literalist (except where the bible gives indications of a figurative tone).
Then it occurred to me, however: Humans have all sorts of remnants and effects of development and aging, not only the wierd-but-famous example of the belly button, but long-bone striation, cell hyper-differentiation, a pituitary gland and other developmental endocrine-system elements, brown-cell fat tissue, and so forth. In toto, Adam would hardly seem human without these traits, but with them, Adam would seem “aged,” or “developed,” even though he had been created “in situ” as an adult.
Why not so for the Earth? And the universe and the stars? At first what seemed like an absurd notion — that light would be created “on its way” to Earth from distant galaxies — made sense. How else to permit us to wonder at the universe, than to allow light to reach us despite being from galaxies far further from us than 7,000 light years? How else to let us be amazed at pulsars, quasars, black holes, galaxies, superclusters, supernovae? Should God have created a static universe it would be by definition a simpler, smaller one. Instead, he presents us with a universe of such mind-boggling complexity that we can only stand agape at it. And to do so, he presents one that appears older than 7,000 years.
Is the universe old or young? I can only know that the bible is truth, that God blesses wisdom, and that the universe appears old. How evil it is that self-styled “scientists” use the wonders of God’s creation to deny the Creator to our children. How evil, also, is it that “Christians” declare that science has no place in Christianity.
See my post immediately following yours.
Time is short here. I don’t really care about the two sides of the argument, but this article has holes.
One of the big errors is that Adam did not come up with Hebrew names for the animals and birds mentioned. Hebrew didn’t arise as a language for many many generations after Adam. We don’t know what language and meaning he used for the critters.
This is just Freshman level stuff pulled from someone’s fanny. Sorry I can’t stay for the conversation.
It is absurd to claim that things were made to look old. Then God is a deciever and liar. Another serious, unresolvable theological minefield for YECs. Contrary to the claims of YECs, old-earthers are biblical literalists. But the YECs got you guys thinking they’re such heretics, your actually afraid to read what they say.
God didn’t do that because that would make him a liar and a deceiver. YECs try to blow this problem off, but to belive in apparent age is to throw out Christianity entirely. Don’t let them browbeat you into believing what is obviously untrue.
This made me pause and think of the Earth's age in a way I hadn't before. First off, I definitely fall in the category of Young Earth believers. I have said, when challenged on this, that I would come to God 'as a child' and believe what he wrote, without questioning why His creation had all the markings of billions of years of age.
But your post made me ask a question I hadn't asked before; If the earth were many, many, many years older then the biblical chronology depicts, what of all the (perhaps thousands of) generations who populated the planet prior to the few thousand years before the Lord sent us His Son? Were they doomed to perish simply because God's plan had yet to even start? Why would God let millions of years pass (or let evolutionary processes occur so we'd have their traces in our explorations) but never give those from before Adam's time a path to salvation?
The author writes this under the subtitle of Romans 5:12, and yet if one bothers to read merely three chapters further in the very same book of Romans, one finds this:
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, preached a very well-known sermon in the 18th century, that went on at length on this topic, entitled The General Deliverance.
The author fails on this point, and doesn't do so well on others. He's not arguing science from a Christian point of view, he's arguing Christianity from a scientific point of view, and that tells the tale.
I'll grant that the world appears old. I'll not contradict the Bible, though. Throw out the Genesis account of Creation or even attempt to rationalize it and accomodate current scientific thinking as this author has, and you're left with big problems, theologically, that reverberate all the way through to Revelation, from beginning to end.
Even the biblical account of time creates the same question. What of all those who preceded Abraham after Noah. What of all those destroyed in the flood. What of all those who came after Jesus and never heard the word. What of infants who die in birth.
I don’t think our idea of what God should do is able to encompass God’s plan.