How does the Bible teach 6,000 years?
The Bible’s history gives us the answer to the age of the earth
Many people write in and ask, “How do we know that the earth is 6,000 years old from the Bible?” Given that the chronogenealogies—genealogies where the age of the father at the time of the son’s birth is given in an unbroken chain—end shortly after Noah, how do we get from ~1600 AM (anno mundi = ‘year of the world’) to today, which we would argue is about 6000 AM?
How precisely can we know the earth’s age?
The precision by which we can know the timing of historical events or ages of things is constrained by the precision of the data we’re given. The timing we’re given in the chronogenealogies is accurate to within one year of the event. By this, I mean we can know that Adam was 130 years old when he fathered Seth, but we don’t know if he was 130 and 3 months, or just shy of 131, for example. This is true for all the ages. So when you add up the chronogenealogies, we know that the Flood happened in 1656, plus up to less than 10 years, because we have 10 numbers that have less than a year of uncertainty. If all of the numbers were recorded just shy of the next birthday (for instance, Adam was 130 and 11 months when he fathered Seth, Seth was 105 and 11 months when he fathered Enosh, and so on), the Flood could have been as late as 1665 AM. But clearly this sort of small-scale uncertainty won’t give any comfort to people who want to add thousands of years to human history.
The Flood to the Patriarchs
There is an unbroken chronogenealogy from Shem to Abraham in Genesis 11, and we’re given the information elsewhere in Genesis1 to extend the chronology until the relocation of Israel to Egypt when Jacob was 130 years old. Going by these numbers, Jacob went to Egypt in 642 + less than 12 years after the Flood, or 2298 + less than 22 years AM. The chronogenealogy ends here, with nearly 2,000 years to go until Christ.2 How do we extend the timeline?
The Patriarchs to the Exodus
Exodus 12:40 says that Israel was in Egypt for 430 years. This harmonizes well with Genesis 15:13 where God tells Abram that his descendants will be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years (enslavement did not happen on their arrival in Egypt but some time after Joseph died, when their number became threatening). So the Exodus happened in 2728 + less than 23 years AM.
The Exodus to the Kings
We know that Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years, meaning that they entered the Promised Land in 2768 + less than 24 years AM. But here the chronology becomes a bit hazier for a while. This is because we don’t know exactly how long the conquest took, or exactly how long it was before the judges started ruling Israel. We’re told how long each judge ruled, and how long each period of peace lasted, but some of these clearly overlap, and some judges clearly only ruled part of Israel, while another judge was ruling another part.
What about different dates for creation?
Many people have come up with dates for creation, such as James Ussher (4004 BC), Johannes Kepler (3992 BC), Gerhard Hasel (4178 BC), and Isaac Newton (~4000 BC). Additionally, there are various chronologies competing with each other today (though all with the same ballpark outcome) which would be more precise than this article, but also rely on assumptions that must come from a particular interpretation of the text. It is not the purpose of this article to choose any particular one of these chronologies, but rather to show how the plain interpretation of Scripture gives a straightforward chronology that leads us to believe the world is around 6,000 years old, regardless of which of these other chronological frameworks one uses.
But we have a clear statement in 1 Kings that allows us to continue a reliable chronology. 1 Kings 6:1 says “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord.”
So if we subtract 124 years (40 each for the wandering in the desert, Saul’s reign, and David’s reign, and 4 for the partial reign of Solomon), we get a period of about 356 years for the judges, which fits well with the numbers in Judges if we assume a few overlaps. So Solomon began to build the Temple in 3208 + less than 23 years AM. Notice that even though we’re thousands of years into history at this point, the uncertainty about the dates is less than 25 years!
The Kings to the Exile
If we go by the reigns of the kings of Judah, without assuming any co-regencies, from the Temple to the Exile of Judah would have been 429.5 years + less than 21 years. But we know that there were co-regencies in Judah, partly by comparing the kings of Judah to the kings of Israel.3 If we do that, we know that from the Temple to the Exile of Judah is actually around 345 years, at around 3553 AM. At this point, it’s possible to say what the date would be in our terms—and when one adjusts for the differences in calendrical systems, the vast majority consensus is 586 BC. This would mean that 1 AD would be around 4150 AM, plus or minus less than 50 years, and today we would be around 6150 AM, plus or minus less than 50 years.
The Bible is history!
It’s clear that from the very first verse of Genesis, the Bible is concerned with giving a factual account of how God has interacted with the earth. This means that it must give historically accurate details, as well as being theologically accurate. In fact, what we believe about God is based on historical claims, so if the history is inaccurate, then the theology must be as well! One of the ways the biblical authors communicated that they were giving actual history is by recording lifespans, or measuring the amount of time between certain events.
We can be confident that God’s Word is accurate in its historical details as well as in what it tells us about theology.
Age/Length of time
|Jacob in Egypt||Exodus||430||2728||Exodus 12:40|
|Exodus||Temple begun||480||3208||1 Kings 6:1|
References and notes
- Genesis 5 goes from Adam to Noah and his sons; Genesis 11:10ff goes from Shem to Abram; Genesis 21:5 states that Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born; Genesis 25:26 states that Isaac was 60 when Jacob and Esau were born, and Genesis 47:9 says that Jacob was 130 when he went to Egypt. Return to text.
- Some argue for gaps in the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies. For the reasons to take them as unbroken genealogies, see Sarfati, J. Biblical chronogenealogies, J. Creation 17(3):14–18, December 2003, creation.com/chronogenealogies. Return to text.
- For more detail about the challenges of interpreting the chronology of the kings of Israel and Judah, see Kaiser W., A History of Israel: From the Bronze Age Through the Jewish Wars (Broadville & Holman: Nashville, TN, 1998), p. 292–300. Return to text.
(Also available in Russian)
I really appreciated this article. However I have long wrestled with the true Biblical length of time spent in Egypt. Lita quotes the reference Exodus 12:40 where my Bible references state that the Masoretic text says the 430 years is the time in Egypt, whereas the Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint state that this 430 years includes the time in Canaan. Also Paul in Galatians 3:16–17 states that the 430 years runs from the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 15) to the giving of the Law at Mt Sinai. One also has to consider the number of generations from, say, Jacob to Moses as, for example 1 Chronicles 6:1–3 says there are only three generations from Levi to Moses! Ruth 4:18–22 states there were only five generations from Judah (father of Perez) to Nahshon (wilderness wanderings)—see also Luke 3:32–35. I tend to believe that the 430 years does include the time from the covenant with Abraham and this leaves approximately 300 years in Egypt, or less. Could Israel have multiplied from 70 people to c.1.5 million in this time? Considering Exodus 1:7 I think this is certainly possible. There are many other references and factors I could mention, but will leave it there.
Glad you liked the article. You raise a number of good questions that others have raised in the comments above. For instance, in the response to Johnathan S., United States, 10 December 2012 we explain why the Masoretic Text is more reliable. In the replies to Karen M., United States, 13 December 2012, and to Syd W., South Africa, 15 December 2012, we answered about the timing of the Sojourn in Egypt, recognizing different views even within CMI. For the population at the time, see the reply to Mark J., Australia, 9 December 2012.
Before you claim that the Biblical Chronology is not accurate as claimed, please study the Biblical Chronology yourself and do not include extra-biblical sources. You may be surprised just how accurate it is. It will astound you to see that the king lists of many other ancient nations, are full of gigantic holes, glaring inaccuracies, and filled with fictional accounts of events that make it extremely difficult to really know what happened.
In contrast, the biblical timeline, is self-authenticating and supports the doctrines of the Bible. It points to Jesus Christ and Him alone. It also proves that, even though the Bible is a collection of books written over a period of 4000 years by different scribes as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, it is one book written by one Author and fits perfectly together with no discrepancies. No other book can compare. This is also the reason why spurious books, Gospel of Thomas, Tobit, Maccabees, and etc., exclude themselves rather than them being excluded by some council.
Dear Jonathan — I am not contesting Scripture at all. And your verse from John tells me nothing at all other than that Jesus had a deeper understanding of the scriptures than his detractors. But how can one agree that the scribe who wrote Genesis was given accurate up to the minute information? As to the ages of the Patriarchs, no court of law will accept the evidence of any person as to his own age, as no person is ever “present” at his own birth and cannot be regarded as a reliable witness to that event. So ages of the Patriarchs are surmised. I repeat my question: what is your basis for stating the following: “The timing we’re given in the chronogenealogies is accurate to within one year of the event.”
It's a matter of logic: Scripture gives the ages of the patriarchs to the nearest year; Christ said “Scripture cannot be broken”, as well as :
He (Abraham) said to him (the rich man in Hell), “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?
Moses was the editor of those reports of ages. Jesus said that disbelief in Moses was tantamount to disbelieving Him.
Therefore He has confirmed the accuracy of the ages reported by Moses in Scripture.
To quote your words: “The timing we’re given in the chronogenealogies is accurate to within one year of the event.” How would you know this? Where is that stated or promised?
You right—I did like the article.
I have been studying the Chronology for many years and have come to the one important conclusion. It witnesses of the accuracy of the Scriptures and points to Jesus Christ. In the beginning it highlights the coming of the Saviour and it, the chronology, ends with the beginning of Christ's Kingdom—when He was glorified (risen and ascended).
It has taken me years of study and I'm always filled with joy when I see the work of godly men supporting the Scriptures. Philip Mauro comes to 4046 BC as the date of creation.
The rates of decay have been calibrated to account for changing atmospheric conditions and fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field. The interesting thing is that for many of the over 40 radiometric dating clocks used, lack of calibrations actually underestimates the age. The Earth is certainly not 6000 years old. There is no scientific proof that it is 6000 years old, nor is there any progress on coming up with any method that could prove that hypothesis.
A lot of bald assertions above, but check out, for example, 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe, The earth’s magnetic field: evidence that the earth is young, and Diamonds: a creationist’s best friend: Radiocarbon in diamonds: enemy of billions of years, and of course the main article above!
I have a problem with this issue, and I suppose by extension the whole assumption that the Bible is literally the word of God.
Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds: But be careful to understand what we actually teach, e.g. Should Genesis be taken literally?
JW: I am NOT saying that it is not important, but I think that the content of the Bible (ie the various books) was decided at the Council of Nicea and the Council of Carthage? So a group of learned Christians convened and prayerfully decided which books were inspired by God and which weren’t.
JS: This is not correct. The leading authority on the Greek New Testament, the late Dr Bruce Metzger, pointed out (interviewed by Lee Strobel, L. in The Case for Christ, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1998 [emphasis added]):
What the synods and councils did in the fifth century and following was to ratify what already had been accepted by high and low Christians alike. It is not right to say that the Gospel of Thomas was excluded by some fiat on the part of a council; the right way to put it is, the Gospel of Thomas excluded itself! It did not harmonize with other testimony about Jesus that early Christians accepted as trustworthy. …
You have to understand that the canon was not the result of a series of contests involving church politics. The canon is rather the separation that came about because of the intuitive insight of Christian believers. They could hear the voice of the Good Shepherd in the gospel of John; they could hear it only in a muffled and distorted way in the Gospel of Thomas, mixed in with a lot of other things.
When the pronouncement was made about the canon, it merely ratified what the general sensitivity of the church had already determined. You see, the canon is a list of authoritative books more than it is an authoritative list of books. These documents didn't derive their authority from being selected; each one was authoritative before anyone gathered them together. The early church merely listened and sensed that these were authoritative accounts.
For somebody now to say that the canon emerged only after councils and synods made these pronouncements would be like saying, “Let's get several academies of musicians to make a pronouncement that the music of Bach and Beethoven is wonderful.” I would say, “Thank you for nothing! We knew that before the pronouncement was made.” We know it because of sensitivity to what is good music and what is not. The same with the canon.
JW: The Old Testament or T'naach contains the Origins of Creation, the Origins and laws of Judaism, the history of Israel and Judah, the Prophets, Psalms, Wisdom and the Song of Solomon.
I accept the truths of the Old and New Testament. I accept that Salvation is found therein, as the Holy Spirit quickens it to our understanding.
JS: As explained above (response to Scott R., United States, 10 December 2012), the salvific and historical aspects can’t be separated.
JW: So, I believe that God created the Cosmos, that He is separate from it, that He has always existed. I am not so sure that trying to work out how old the earth is,
JS: Answered by the article above!
JW: or whether God literally created the world in six 24 hour days is essential to salvation.
JS: It is not, as explained in Can Christians believe evolution? But it's baneful to mix evolution with the Bible, as explained in depth in Response to the evolution appeasers. Even billions of years without biological evolution has a baneful effect on the Gospel, as explained in Did God create over billions of years? And why is it important?
JW: I have read and enjoyed many books about the early earth (Morrison etc),
JS: Was that Henry Morris?
JW: and I believe that God did it all-somehow!
JS: Again, why believe that, but not His word about when and over what time frame He did it?
JW: Whether it was EXACTLY as recorded does not to my mind throw doubt on the inspiration of Scripture or that archaeology is unimportant. I just think it is enough to know that where the Bible refers to God, His nature, Creation, our sinfulness and the history of the Jews, Jesus and the early Church; it is all true. The dates and understandings of some happenings might be cultural.
Actually the Age of Caleb gives a very good indication of the length of the conquest of Canaan. About 6 years.
Caleb was 40 years old when the Exodus began. He was 80 (40 + 40) years old when Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan. In Joshua 14:10, Caleb says that he is 85 (40 + 40 + 5).
Another interesting fact not mentioned is that there were only 64 years between the death of Joseph and the birth of Moses.
On another note regarding Chronology, I prefer Philip Mauro's to Ussher’s—Mauro uses the Bible Text only and fits the Bible perfectly without having to reference other extra-biblical sources.
You might like this 2001 ‘Viewpoint’ article Chronology for everybody by Ruth Beechick from our Journal of Creation.
Hi again. My point simply—not disproved—Israel was not in Egypt 430 yrs! Using the period to prove the 6000 yrs is fine, but not doing it from a faulty exegesis.
Jonathan Sarfati responds: Hi again.
The explanation to Karen M., United States, 13 December 2012 is well supported. In any case, it would be a matter of decades or centuries; not thousands, let alone millions, of years.
SW: God’s Word is not about propositions or logic, as you put it; a human approach! Please read 1 Corinthians 2.
JS: You are very mistaken here. I also note that you are trying to resort to human logic and stating propositions to try to prove that logic and propositions are wrong, a self-refuting claim. E.g. your claim about “faulty exegesis” presupposes the law of non-contradiction, since the claim would be meaningless unless “faulty” contradicted “correct”. Another off-site article explained clearly:
The fact of the matter is that logic is an attribute of God Himself. He is the God of Truth (Psalm 31:5). Christ is the Truth (wisdom, logic, and reason) incarnate (John 1:1; 14:6; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30; Colossians 2:3). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33); His Word to us is not yes and no (2 Corinthians 1:18). Thus He does not speak to us in illogical, paradoxical statements. Because logic is the way God thinks, the laws of logic are eternal principles. And because man is the image of God, these laws are part of man. There is, then, a point of contact between God’s logic and man’s logic, between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge. Both God and man think 1 + 1= 2; both agree that A is A.
Contrary to the platitudinous nonsense of the irrationalists, Scripture teaches that there is no such thing as mere human logic. For example, in John 1:9, we read that Christ, as the Logos of God (John 1:1; the Greek logos is the word from which logic is derived), is the true Light which gives light to every man. This being the case, it is evident that God’s logic and man’s logic are the same logic.
SW: The article links Exodus 12:40 and Genesis 15:13 to prove that Israel was 430 yrs in Egypt; wrong! You have to separate the “sojourning … of Israel” from “who dwelt in Egypt.” The faulty ESV on Exodus 12:40, is no substitute for searching the Scriptures & careful exegesis.
JS: The ESV is generally reliable, which is why we often cite from this version.
SW: Karen M, USA, asked the right question on Galatians 3:17, “it seems to indicate that there were 430 years from the time the promise was given to Abraham, not the number of years spent in Egypt;” she indicated the correct answer. Your answer was wrong, “dating from God’s reaffirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant through Jacob.” In Genesis 15:13,14 there is also a difference between being a stranger in a ‘land’—Canaan & Egypt—and serving a ‘nation’—Egypt. Check from Abraham’s entering Canaan until Israel left Egypt (about 215 yrs); you’ll find your 430 yrs. Scripture cannot be broken.
JS: Indeed not. The commentary I cited to Karen M. mentioned three views held by good scholars, and preferred the one I presented (and I agree).
[Note: not all in CMI are in agreement on which of the three resolutions to prefer, though we are all agreed that there is no way that this undermines the validity of the biblical 'big picture’ on this matter of chronology, which is an age of the earth to an order of magnitude of 6,000 years—Ed.]
SW: If CMI is wrong on this, can it be wrong on the 6000 yrs from Gen 1:1? Yes it can, and is.
JS: I could throw this back at you: if you are wrong about the big picture about the time frame—and you are—could you be wrong about a small time frame?
JS: Indeed they do. The latter makes it clear that Adam and Eve must have been there “from the beginning of creation”, not after an imaginary billions-of-years gap (as you hint below). See Jesus on the age of the earth.
SW: but you cannot now throw in Genesis 1:1–2. This is gross misinterpretation.
- What about gap theories?
- What is the ruin-reconstruction theory?
- Is the ‘soft gap’ idea better?
SW: Is there a hint of “high-mindedness” with CMI, dismissing others’ arguments of authority and exegesis, but hailing its own as always correct?
JS: Well, we are not going to say, “This is what the Bible teaches but we might be wrong”, any more than a mathematics teacher is “high-minded” to say that 1+1=2 and not 3 or 4 ;) Fortunately for both of us, CMI’s standard is the propositions of Scripture, which have an objective historical-grammatical meaning, not needing any magic decoder ring (see Hidden messages in Scripture?).
SW: I respect the work CMI is doing,
JS: Glad to help.
SW: but a loose handling of Scripture is never justified.
JS: Indeed not. Hence we provide Scriptural backing for our claims.
SW: A godly Bible scholar of the 19th century said: “we prayed out the truth on our knees in persevering prayer; today it is bought up cheaply.” Could you give me some testimony of CMI’s “praying out the truth”? Regards, Syd
JS: With respect, it’s worth revisiting an an answer we gave to a compromising chaplain who castigated biblical creationists, which is not to say we think you are anything like him:
There is no point praying for confirmation about something that God has already written against in Scripture. E.g. there is no point praying, “May I commit adultery?”, when God has clearly commanded us not to. We do not have to be emotionally blackmailed by Mormons asking “Have you prayed about the truth of Mormonism?”, since the Bible entails that it’s false. Similarly, God would not answer you in prayer in a way that contradicts what He has already revealed. So, if in your praying you found confirmation that you should disbelieve the Bible, that confirmation did not come from God who inspired the words of the Bible.
The Earth is around 4 billion years old. If you believe the Earth is 6000 years old based on just what is written in the Bible, then I can't argue with that.
Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds: It makes sense to trust the One who was there, not circumstantial evidence from people who weren’t. See The Parable of the Candle
RL: That is a matter of Faith and interpretation of the information given in the Bible.
JS: Biblical faith means a true belief, not blind credulity, and is not contrasted with reason or evidence but with sight. See Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation.
RL: However, if you want to use all information available including the science of Physics and fossil records, then it is highly probable the Earth is closer to Billions of years old than thousands.
JS: How about using the 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe?
RL: Science doesn’t answer every question and is not a substitute or replacement of God. Science simply states the workings of the Universe using the scientific method. It is useful to explain how things work and why it works that way.
JS: Oh, not this boring old ‘Non-Overlapping Magisteria’ canard, long ago refuted in Stephen Jay Gould and NOMA.
In fact, many scientists do try to answer the “why” questions, while the Bible does answer the “when” (about 6,000 years ago as shown), over what time frame (6 normal-length days), and “how” (God spoke and it happened).
RL: It doesn’t explain who made it or why it was made. God made the Universe.
RL: Now we don't have to look far for many occurrences of the acceptance of scientific facts to replace faulty church dogma based on interpretation of the workings of the Universe using the Bible. Shall we talk of Copernicus and Galileo's persecution for their contribution to refuting the Earth centered Universe?
JS: Yes, please, let’s. When you learn the real history, you will see that their main opponents were the scientific establishment of the day. The Church erred by marrying the science of its day to its theology, so it became widowed the next day. And now you want us to make the same mistake: twist the Scripture to fit the uniformitarian ‘science’ fad of our day.
RL: God has hung the planets in their orbits around the Sun but it was Newton who first calculated their orbits using gravity as a basis for the explanation of how and why they orbit as they do.
JS: Newton was a young-earth creationist who wrote more about the Bible than science! This was despite the fact that long-age teaching has very ancient roots (see Newton was a creationist only because there was no alternative?).
RL: Science just explains how God set up the Universe. There are basic physical principles and its good that He established these principles or we'd all be floating up to space.
JS: OK, please see Naturalism, Origins and Operational Science or we’ll just re-invent the wheel.
RL: As far as dating goes, physics experiments have repeatedly proved the decay rate principles used for dating the Earth.
JS: Even if you were right, this is not enough without assumptions about the initial conditions, that the systems were closed, and that the rate has been constant. See this interview with a Ph.D. nuclear physicist.
RL: Arguing that the dates are unreliable because of the large range given is actually the same argument that is used to date the Earth around 6000 years. It's just exponentiated.
JS: Actually, the presence of 14C in diamonds and DNA in dino bones severely constrains the upper limit of its age. That’s because they should long ago have disintegrated if the uniformitarian ‘dates‘ were right.
The level of precision throughout the article waxes and wanes. The title’s claim of “6,000 years” later on turns out to be 6150 years, which is actually only 6140 if you do the math. And the numbers being used are those that were passed on by Christ-rejecting Jews, the same ones who dated their times using a formula designed to attribute Daniel's messianic prophecies to Bar Kokhba.
Furthermore, the patristic sources you rely on for the deletion of the 2nd Cainan nevertheless support a creation date of about 5500 BC.
So there's a bit of a double standard at work here: accept Jewish sources, unless they give too recent a creation date, and accept Christian sources, unless they give too early of a creation date.
Suffice it to say that the Scripture supports a date for the creation of Adam somewhere between 6000 and 7700 years ago. Trying to pin it down more exactly than that is only opens you to charges of special pleading.
This is not reasonable. The “6,000” years is clearly intended to be a precision of one significant figure, or the date to the nearest millennium. The main body of the article provides greater precision, and explains why.
Actually, as explained in response to Victor M., New Zealand, 14 December 2012, it was the more recent date of modern Judaism that was the result of trying to fit in the false Messiah.
We also explained in the article referred to, Biblical chronogenealogies, why the LXX chronology was less reliable than the Masoretic. It’s the former that produces the 5500 BC creation date.
So far from “special pleading”, we have provided sound reasons for the date in the article.
Loved this article . I have often heard this figure as the time since creation but never seen it explained so well . Thank you.
I do believe Ussher's chronology is a bit off. Ussher misinterpreted Genesis 11:26, Thinking Terah begat Abram/Abraham at age 70. Actually what that verse says is that Terah was 70 when he started having children. Abram was not the firstborn of Terah.
This was answered above in the reply to Bernhard v.d.Z., Netherlands, 10 December 2012.
The conversation around the age of the earth, when what happened, ect. is very interesting. But since no one will really know the precise detail while we are here on earth, let us remind ourselves that “now we see through a mirror in a riddle, but one day we will see from face to face” and it will all be so clear and logic, that we will have no problem … so lets not waste too much time on something only God knows … Focus on how the Lord wants us to use our time for the building of His Kingdom and praying for this lost world, rather being busy for days and hours about something that will put nothing to our spiritual growth and relationship with Jesus. Don’t you think that He would made the scriptures more precise if He really wanted us to have all detail which perhaps is not crucial in His eyes. Fact is: He loves us and wants us to live for Him fully. But of cause, I know that people do have questions and we help to answer … its not wrong, but we must not replace our focus! Rather rejoice in the Lord! JvR
How exactly is it a waste of time to study something that God revealed in two whole chapters of Genesis, and which Luke cited when presenting His genealogy of Christ? As the article shows, the Scriptures are precise enough that we can calculate a ballpark figure for the world’s creation at about 6,000 years ago. See also the same author’s forthcoming Christmas Day article The genealogies of Jesus for why this is most relevant to the One on whom we should focus.
Today being 1 Tevet 5773 (14 December 2012), i.e. 200–300 years short of the 6000yr estimate, from which point onwards did the Jewish calendar commence, assuming that the Hebrews had the most direct command from God regarding chronology?
The point to remember here is that Modern Judaism is not biblical Judaism. For one thing, Modern Judaism missed the arrival of the Messiah—a most serious blunder! (I speak as an ethnic Jew who believes in Jesus/Yeshua as the Messiah)
They should not have done this because many prophecies have an expiry date (‘expiration date’ in America ;) of the time the Second Temple was destroyed in AD 70. Since all the genealogical records, apart from the Levites, were destroyed, no Messianic claimant can prove that he comes from David’s line. Yeshua could prove it: he came from David: both via Solomon through His adoptive father Joseph, and via Nathan through his biological mother Mary (see The genealogies of Jesus).
Actually, in the modern edition of Ussher's Annals of the World (above right), there is an explanation for the discrepancy in Appendix G. The current ‘Jewish calendar’ comes from Rabbi Yose ben Halafta and his Seder Olam Rabbah (The Great Order of the World, AD 160). For one thing, there is a 60-year shortfall because the Rabbi was mistaken about Terah (see reply to Bernhard v.d.Z., Netherlands, 10 December 2012, above). But more seriously, this Rabbi stripped over a century to make the Daniel 9 ‘Seventy Sevens’ prophecy fall on the false messiah Bar Kochba rather than on the true Messiah, Yeshua. The modern edition of Annals explains in an appendix:
By removing the 164 (or 165) years from the duration of the Persian Empire, Rabbi Halafta was able to make the 483-year Daniel 9:24–27 prophecy fall reasonably close to the years prior to the AD 132 revolt during which Bar Kokhba rose to prominence as Israel’s military and economic leader. Then with Akiva proclaiming, “This is the King Messiah” followed by “all the contemporary sages regarded him as the King Messiah,” the Jewish populace united around this false hope.
Do you think it’s possible that the act of defiance or the fall of satan and the third of angels he was in command of was the temptation of man. We know that Satan has freedom of heaven and earth because of Job, so I think that was what angered God. His act of rebellion.
It's most likely that Satan’s fall was just before he tempted Eve. As shown, there is a very narrow time window for this—see Timing of the Fall.
This was a great article. However, in Galatians 3:17 it seems to indicate that there were 430 years from the time the promise was given to Abraham, not the number of years spent in Egypt. I know there are no contradictions in the Bible, so how do we reconcile this difference?
The alleged contradiction is with Exodus 12:40–41, which says that the Egyptian sojourn was 430 years, and this began with Jacob and his 12 sons.
You are right that there are no contradictions in Scripture. This one is resolved by understanding the context. That is, that the Abrahamic Covenant did not apply to all descendants of Abraham. God specifically decreed that it would apply only though Isaac and not Ishmael (or Abraham’s later children via Keturah). Then He specifically decreed that this promise would apply to Jacob and not Esau. So the Galatians 3:17 is dating from God’s reaffirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant through Jacob (renamed Israel) in Genesis 46:1–4).
(From Donald Campbell in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (ed. Walvoord and Zuck, 1983.)
Nice job tracing the chronogenealogy, but what about the first five “days” of Genesis? And, knowing that God is an eternal being, just how long were those “days”? In fact if you assume that a day to an eternal being could be roughly a billion years to us mortals, then the geology scientists’ description of the formation of the earth, the oxygenation period, the appearance of dry land, the development of the lower species, etc., is roughly parallel with the first five days of Genesis.
This will not work, unless Sunday to Thursday are each billions of years long, because Exodus 20:8–11 clearly bases our working week on Creation Week. See also this refutation of “The days were ‘God’s days’ not ‘man’s days’”.
You are mistaken about the parallelism: long-agers place the sun before the earth and whales and birds after land creatures, directly contradicting the order in Genesis 1. See Evolution vs the Bible for more contradictions between the uniformitarian order and Genesis.
Can someone shed light on how we know that the genealogies are unbroken?
When someone died in the OT, the phrase “he was gathered to his fathers” seems to appear a lot. Given the biological difficulties with having multiple fathers, could it be that the writers were a little less literal than than is convenient for us? What if those mentioned in the genealogies were just significant or well-known personalities?
As a firm young-earth creationist, I applaud the gathering and organisation of evidence along biblical lines. However, holding that the earth is 6000 years old (rather than 6500 or 7000) is implied. That the world was created by God is clear and repeated teaching. Exactly when he did it has a lower theological standing.
As the article showed, it's not so much that the genealogies are unbroken (although that’s the best explanation), but that the chronology is unbroken. See response to Don D., Canada, 10 December 2012, above, as well as Biblical chronogenealogies for more.
As for “when God created”, while it might not be important to some, it was clearly important to a tatooed young Canadian man, who told a supporter that:
… he came to believe in a God and in Jesus as a result of reading Jonathan Sarfati’s book Refuting Compromise.
He told me that for the last 15 years he had been an atheist and now he was half way through the book and as a result came to believe.
He mentioned how important he felt it was to believe in a young creation because of the difficulties associated with old earth belief and the effects of sin. A co-worker in the restaurant where he works had given him a copy of Refuting Compromise.
Thank you. You are precious.
- Satan is darkness (John 3:19)
- Fallen angels ruined the earth.
- Were there other planets or moons or stars before the (new) creation?
No there were not, because there was no “new creation” to be “before”. The fall of Satan must have occurred after God declared everything “very good” at the end of Creation Week (Genesis 1:31). For more, see From the beginning of the creation [Does Genesis have a gap?]
About “Satan is darkness”, see What does “God is light” mean?
I don’t believe your method for calculating the Biblical time line is correct. If one calculates the years in a direct father-to-son method, then the Bible will be in error. For example, we can see an error by comparing Genesis 11:12–14 and Luke 3:35–36.
12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:
13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:
Your model has Arphaxad as the direct father of Salah; however, when we read Luke 3:35–36, we see that is not the case.
35 Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala,
36 Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech,
Aphraxad → Cainan → Salah is the correct lineage. Therefore, the genealogy in Genesis 11:12 indicates that Aphraxad is not the direct father, instead he is the grandfather, or great great grandfather. Since this is the case, one cannot simply add the dates up. There is a correct way of tallying the years to determine a sound model that fits dates which corresponds to secular events. For example, according to a more precise method, one can calculate Peleg being born in 3153 BC, which coincides with Genesis 7:7–9, when the earth was divided according to 1 Chronicles 1:19, the invention of writing in Mesopotamia in 3200 BC, and even the Mesoamerican longcount calendar's mythical starting point in 3114 BC.
Unfortunately, the 6,000 year model has been propagated so many times by Christian apologists, it’s hard to reexamine the evidence and admit being wrong.
Unfortunately, this spurious extra Cainan has been propagated so many times by long-age apologists, it’s hard to reexamine the evidence and admit being wrong. However, it has long been known that this Cainan was not in the earliest manuscripts, and the name was missing in the earliest Jewish and Christian histories. See Cainan: How do you explain the difference between Luke 3:36 and Gen. 11:12? for detailed documentation.
About 6000 years is accurate, but may I make a couple of observations: When it says Adam was 130 years old at Seth’s birth, you have taken that to mean that Adam was 130 years old using 'exclusive reckoning' which is our western world practice. Jews typically used 'inclusive reckoning' meaning that he was in his 130th year or 129 years old by our 'clock'. If you extrapolate that to Abram, and also assume that each child was born half way through the year (as you correctly noted), you will get Abram born in the year 2000 (rather than your 2008). Pretty amazing to think he was born in the year 2000AM as well.
Jonathan Sarfati responds: We doubt that. The evidence is that Adam must have had 130 birthday anniversaries when Seth was born.
DN: Second, Exodus 12:40 LXX says 'the sojourning... in the land of Canaan and the land of Egypt was 430 years' So not all of the 430 years was in Egypt. Considering that the Exodus was in the fourth generation (Gen 15:16) and Moses was the fourth generation from Levi (Ex 6:16-20), the 4 generations cannot include Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The 430 years must start with the birth of Isaac (Gen 28:4). So the 400 years (Gen 15:13) and the 430 years Abrahamic covenant to the Exodus (Ex 12:40 LXX, Gal 3:17) terminate in the same year—the year of the Exodus from Egypt and the law at Mt Sinai—2500 AM.
JS: But see reply to Karen M., United States, 13 December 2012 (below).
DN: There’s a lot more detail than can be written in the space allotted here [ref. deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.] with a goal of postulating that the early church fathers were correct in their understanding that the earth would be under a curse for 6000 years and the millennial reign of Christ is the last 1000 years
JS: This indeed was a common Patristic (and Rabbinic) understanding, but based on a faulty premise. See 2 Peter 3:8—“one day is like a thousand years”.
DN: (the sabbath rest—see Hebrews 3).
DN: Therefore we are closer than many think to the end of the age …
JS: I’ll say no more on this than End-times and Early-times ;)
Hi Lita. The statement that the earth is 6000 yrs old is biblically unwarranted.
Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds: With respect, one must wonder if you read the article, which documents the biblical warrant.
SW: If God the Creator is silent on some things, do we His creatures presume to have the perfect answer?
JS: This is classic question-begging, since the article documented that God is not silent but spoke through the biblical propositions documented in the article.
SW: We’re fallible and simply make mistakes.
JS: Indeed ;)
JS: How do you mean?
SW: Also, the 430 yrs of "affliction" (Exodus 12:40) is not the period of enslavement in Egypt as you state.
JS: No it was not stated. The article actually said:
Exodus 12:40 says that Israel was in Egypt for 430 years. This harmonizes well with Genesis 15:13 where God tells Abram that his descendants will be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years (enslavement did not happen on their arrival in Egypt but some time after Joseph died, when their number became threatening).
SW: The accurate KJV says, “now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was 430 yrs.” Scripture is accurate and cannot be broken.
JS: See answer to Karen M., United States, 13 December 2012 (below).
SW: On the 6000 yrs: “In the beginning” in Genesis 1:1 is a grand truth of Scripture when God created the heaven & earth. In no way does it include any measurable time such as we find from vs 3—the 6 literal days of God’s creation for man as we see it today. From Adam, 6000 yrs is fine, but not from “in the beginning.”
SW: This is not a statement introducing the 6-day creation. Hebrew is a language that allows precise usage. “Created” in vs 1 is bara, quite distinct from asah (made) in Exodus 20:11, where after “the Lord made heaven and earth,” it goes on to include the creation of 6 days. Not the case with Genesis 1:1.
JS: Actually, they are not “quite distinct” but have considerable semantic overlap. Lita and I document this in Gap theory revisited.
SW: Why and how God “prepared” the earth for the creation for man later, Scripture is silent on.
JS: Well no, just because one is not able to hear the tree fall, it doesn't follow that it makes no sound ;)
SW: It does not mean that we must look for death & fossils before Adam. There are some things about God, His ways & works that are inscrutable!
JS: Theologian Herman Hoeksema put it very clearly:
All of Scripture is given us that we might understand it … all of it is adapted to our human mind, so that, even though there be many things in that revelation of God which we cannot fathom, there is nothing in it that is contrary to human intelligence and logic. … Either the logic of revelation is our logic, or there is no revelation. [The Clark – Van Til Controversy]
SW: The Spirit illuminates Scripture to believers when we wait humbly and prayerfully on Him for that which God would have us know; which brings glory to Him, and not that which serves our own purposes.
SW: I appreciate the task of CMI to counter evolution & atheism, but let’s be careful not to use God’s holy Word, which reveals pre-eminently His Son & salvation,
JS: Thank you for your generous comments :)
SW: as a book of human science to outsmart evolutionists.
Thanks for the fantastic work you do and how much light and truth you shed and share with all who want to be a good Barean :)
I would like to comment or better ask for you opinion on the issue regarding the mentioned suggestion that the fall could not have occured before the creation of man.
Could it be possible that the fall took place before at least day 2? I find it very interesting that God does not say "and it was good" after day 2 where the atmosphere is created. He says after day 6 that "all that he had MADE was good" which may not refer to satan being already on earth.
Satan is also called the prince of the power of the air (atmosphere?).
I'd appreciate your thoughts on this and wish you a fantastic Christmas time.
There are several biblical statements which give us a 'window' during which Satan could have fallen. This is described in The Fall, Curse, and Satan, so I'll direct you there.
Dear Lita Cosner, I read the explanation in the article but it doesn't make sense to me. What happened after the Fall can't give any clue to what was going on before it. That is, it can't give a time reference. Before the Fall Adam and Eve were perfect, immortal, pure (not having sex or having the need for it) and the universe was in perfect balance. Afterwards it's a whole different story. What they were like after the Fall can't give us any insight into what they were like before it, or how long they were like that.
How long Adam and Eve were in the Garden before the fall makes no difference to my article, strictly speaking. The important chronological markers for Adam are:
1. He was created on Day 6.
2. He had Seth when he was 130 years old (Genesis 5:3).
Now, it doesn't matter, strictly speaking, how long Adam was unfallen, because that time would still be counted as part of his age when he had Seth.
Thank you so much for this article; it summarised the whole time period so clearly and simply.
In spite of an already firm belief in the Biblical chronology’s reliability, I found the surprisingly small margins of error a real eye-opener.
The chronological table was especially helpful. I once tried to work one out and got rather muddled, especially from about Abraham onwards. Kings and Chronicles can be even more confusing because of some overlap (I only remember that Uzziah's son was probably co-regent after he became sick). The fact that many kings had similar names or variations on the same names doesn't help.
Thank you again, and God bless you
We’ve got cave paintings in the south of France that are dated older than your supposed biblical age of the earth!
Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies: How do you know the paintings are that old? See also Chauvet Cave controversy.
GT: The age of the earth is a well known fact and it’s much older than 6000 years old, by a couple orders of magnitude.
JS: But see Age of the earth: 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe, showing why billions-of-years dogma contradicts real science.
GT: You’d have an easier time convincing people that the earth is flat.
I always thought 6,000 was about right, and new that calculations could be off because of calendar differences, but never thought of when in the year they were born. Makes since. Though I always thought the margin of error was much higher. When talking with people I always said +/- 1000. Only +/- 50yr? That is pretty accurate and amazing. I'm not going to be so wishy washy anymore. A question though. How do they know the calendar they went by before the flood, or is it assumed to be the same calendar that the writer of genesis used, since he would have used what he understood to be a year?
Yes; since Moses penned Genesis, and its original audience was the ancient Hebrews, it would have been written to be understandable to them. So when it says a year, it would be a year as they understood it.
I am wondering if it was an oversight or intentional that alternative chronologies based on either the Septuagint or Samaritan texts are omitted? While there are various points of controversy over which texts are indeed correct, it should probably have been considered noting the sidebar quote "It is not the purpose of this article to choose any particular one of these chronologies...".
If the Septuagint is used, the date for creation is pushed back 1386 years and for the Samaritan, 301 years. The date for the flood is pushed back 780 years in the Septuagint which predates standard Egyptian civilization, whereas you have to assume the standard Egyptian chronology is wrong using the Masoretic chronologies. Josephus first century Jewish chronologies referred to the Septuagint numbers, as he was apparently unaware or unwilling to use the chronology preferred today.
The Septuagint in Exodus 12:40 also clarifies the pre-exodus enslavement of 430 years as including the time in Canaan.
While this in no way validates or invalidates arguments between old earth creationists, new earth creationists, and atheists I believe it is an often ignored sidebar that some biblical versions teach an age of mankind closer to 7400-7500 years.
There are a few statements that are not really correct. One is that both the historical and theological statements of a work must be true. Or the implication that if some historical facts are wrong, then the theological facts are also wrong.
Jonathan Sarfati responds: But the biblical authors didn't make this distinction. See for example Genesis: History … or Mystery? and Why is it so important to interpret Genesis as reliable history?
Note also, The true Christ of the Bible affirmed not only Genesis but all the other passages of Scripture that skeptics most love to mock—see Jesus Christ on the infallibility of Scripture.
SR: There are examples of famous works of myth (The Iliad and Odyssey, for instance) that have historical places and events that are true or possibly true, but that doesn't automatically mean that the stories about the mythical gods and goddesses are also true.
JS: Already responded in A high view of Scripture?:
There is a world of difference between Greco-Roman myths—such as the exploits of Jason and the Argonauts or Cupid and Psyche—and the genre of the early chapters of Genesis, as we have amply demonstrated; see also here and here. Also, the Apostles were at great pains to distinguish their own eye-witness accounts of Jesus from myths and “cleverly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:1), and were Jews who abhorred paganism (see Acts 14). See Was Christianity plagiarized from pagan myths?
SR: In the Bible, if there is some historical detail that is inaccurate, it doesn't detract from the overall theological content. There are liberal denominations of Christianity, for instance, that believe that even if there are incidental or not-so-incidental historical events that are inaccurate or incomplete, that it doesn't remove anything from the theological message of the Bible.
JS: Actually, Paul made it very clear that if Jesus’ Resurrection didn't happen in real history, then we are of all people to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12–19) Liberals like Spong who deny the Resurrection, and Mascord who supports gay ‘marriage’, are being consistent.
I have a question regarding the 6 days of creation. It seems to me that a day is not necessarily 24 hours. A better definition of a day would be one rotation of the earth. Even now a day on Mercury is not the same as a day on Jupiter or Earth. We have no idea how long it took the earth to make one rotation during the week God was working. Each day would have been as long as God needed it to be, but it would still have only been a day. Wouldn't this resolve some issues regarding the creation?
We have been known to use the phrase “earth-rotation days”, e.g. in the classic article How long were the days of Genesis 1? What did God intend us to understand from the words He used?
We see no biblical or scientific evidence that this rotation period was substantially different from the 24 hours of today's solar day (or synodic day, ‘sunrise to sunrise’; compare the sidereal day or ‘star-rise to star-rise’ of 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.0916 seconds).
A long rotation period would not only be ad hoc, it really would not solve the major problem. That is, the billions of years is derived from the rock record, the rock record contains fossils, fossils are remains of dead things. But death in the Bible is the result of Adam’s sin. Any long-age view puts death—“the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23) and “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26)—into a creation God declared to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). See Did God create over billions of years? And why is it important?
I am very thankful for Mark's interpretation of the article. As I (mis)read the article, Lita was saying that Jacob went to Egypt only 12 years post-Flood!! That felt VERY wrong to me...and I caught up to what was being said through the reply. Might I suggest a reformatting of the "plus x years"? Perhaps using parentheses would keep others from having that confusion enter their minds.
Second comment in this regards: are there no possibilities of gaps in the chronologies? I personally do not expect that there would be any, but I raise the question in the hopes of a little further information. Thank you.
There is no possibillity of gaps in the chronology, because even if (as some people think) Person C was actually the grandson or further descendant of Person B (although from the data this is extremely unlikely), we're still told that Person B was X number of years old when C was born. The amount of uncertainty is about 50 years, as shown in the article.
In the article table it states: Terah Abram 130 2008
but the 130 is not good. even without reading one would know it makes no sense. When Terah really was 130 years old, then why would Abram think he was too old as he reached 90 when the promise of a son was given.
see Gen 11:26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
The reason Abraham thought he couldn't have children may have had more to do with the fact that Sarah had been barren for many years at this point—if it hadn't happened by this point, it wasn't likely to happen at all.
As the article Biblical Chronogenealogies says:
Note that Abraham was not Terah’s firstborn. Gen. 12:4 says Abraham was 75 when he left Haran, and this was soon after Terah died at 205 (Gen. 11:32), and the difference (205–75) means Terah was actually 130 years old when Abraham was born, not 70 (Ussher seems to have been the first modern chronologist to have noticed this point). The latter figure refers to Terah’s age when the oldest of the three sons mentioned was born, probably Haran.
But how do we know how long were Adam and Eve on Earth before the Fall? I don't think there is a reference for a time frame for this. Correct me if I'm wrong. If there is no time frame, it could have been thousands of years, for all we know. And time didn't necessarily have the same meaning as it has today since the universe was clearly different then (not in a state od decay).
In another article, we presented some evidence that the Fall had to be soon after creation. I'll direct you there.
It is a great exercise for Christians to read the various texts concerned and reconstruct it for themselves. I have done this myself and where there may be difficulties - the various articles mentioned bring light to bear and affirm the incredible internal consistency and evidence of God's word.
Very good article Lita. It is very hard to extend the time frame of history given the exact numbers supplied by the Bible. I have one question. You say that Jacob went to Egypt approx 642 years after the flood. What is the best estimate of world population at this point? God Bless. Mark.
Dr Don Batten's classic article Where are all the people? gives some guidelines, but of course growth rate has a lot of variables. As the article points out, current average rate is 1.7%, but far from modern medicine increasing it, as some think, in some African and South American developing countries, it is about 3%. So using a simple Excel setup, and starting at 8 people, for 642 I arrived at the following. For a 1% growth rate, it's only 4,700 people . But 2% already gives you 2.6 million, and 3% is a staggering 61 million. So 'best estimate' is pretty sensitive to the parameters you choose. Note, btw, that Dr Batten's article shows that biblical data indicate a growth rate in the early post-Flood years of about 3.7%. Even a very conservative 0.5% average easily gives us current world population in the years since the Flood from only eight people, incidentally.
I like Creation and most of the articles, and I also have trouble to age the Planet Earth, I think it is 6000 years/or little bit more/ since Adam. Lucifer was before Adam no one know surely how long they were on Earth, when did he rebel against the Creator and 2 third of God's angels agreed with Lucifer but God /triune God/with His faithful angels defeated them. These event happened for sure, and we know they were heavenly being, so no one is able to tell the age of the Earth. To me at this moment is billions of years old but not after the earthly calendar, and I am not on evolution side, but something is missing. Anyway I will keep on praying about this, something science received which confirms the Bible,and some oppose it, to me really not that important to know the age of the Earth rather than to have the faith in the living God, who is able to tell us the truth.God probably keep it in secret, just to search for Him..… This article is very good and I can see clearly the history.
God bless you all.
This is actually a common concern but is resolved when one considers some clear biblical teachings. First is Exodus 20:11, which makes it clear that everything, heaven, earth and all their inhabitants, i.e. everything that was made, was made in those six days. And at the end of them, God said that everything He had made was all very good. That means that the angels were created in those six days (probably at the beginning of Day 1, as they rejoiced when later that day the foundations of the earth were laid, as Job 38:4–7 indicates). It also means that Lucifer’s rebellion could not have happened yet. Since he tempted Eve after his rebellion, obviously, this must have happened after creation week but before the temptation of Eve. I have sometimes said (using human experience as an analogy) that it takes little time for pride to well up in the heart, and not long at all to rouse up a rabble of followers to join one in rebellion.