How precise is the Bible about the date of creation?
Published: 15 January 2012 (GMT+10)
Ussher’s historical work was a great achievement. However, the Bible doesn’t provide a to-the-year precision for the date of creation.
These feedback emails talk about the age of the creation according to the Bible (and ‘science’). Can we discern from the Bible the exact year or day for the date of creation? CMI’s Lita Cosner replies.
Thank you so much for your fantastic, solid resources that have given me a much greater ability and passion to defend God’s word.
Thanks for these comments; they’re very encouraging to us.
I have a couple of questions that I have been wondering about for a while.
Clearly the Bible describes a timeline of the world that extends approximately 6000 years back. I know that some creationist groups and Christian publications give the creation an exact date of 4004 BC (based on Ussher’s chronologies?). Does The Bible provide such precision? If so, why then is CMI reluctant to use this date, instead saying the world is ‘around’ 6000 years old?
We think that Ussher’s chronology is top-quality research using the finest historical resources of his day (some of which have since been lost, making his work that much more important). We’ve written defending Ussher against slander by compromising ‘progressive creationist’ Hugh Ross. (See Archbishop James Ussher—blundered or brilliant?)
That being said, we don’t think that the Bible allows for to-the-year accuracy regarding the date of creation. This is because the Bible tells us that Adam was 930 when he died, but depending on how age was reckoned, Adam’s precise age could been quite some months different from exactly ‘930 years’. E.g. today on official documents in Western countries, citizens are frequently required to indicate their age in years as being that achieved at their last birthday, even if it was 11 months ago. The same goes for all other ages and date measurements in Scripture. This does not allow for long gaps; notice that it is only months that are uncertain, not long periods of time. Whether the creation year was 4004 BC or 4050 BC does not really affect any of our arguments.
Notice that when to-the-day accuracy was important, the Bible was more than capable of providing that record, for instance, in the Flood account we have the exact day when it started, when the rains stopped, when the Ark first rested on the mountain, and the day they disembarked (Genesis 7). The year is given as the 600th year of Noah’s life, so since we don’t know what exact date that was, we can’t know exactly which year the Flood events took place, but we can know how long they took to occur.
Surely this would contradict your views of upholding the Word of God as inerrant and accurate. On the other hand, if The Bible does not give us an exact year, how was this date first arrived at, and why do some Christians still hold this idea so tightly?
This does not affect the inerrancy of the Bible because the Bible is exactly as accurate as it intended to be—and when we’re talking on the scale of thousands of years, a chronology that allows us to arrive probably within decades of the creation year is incredibly accurate. Similarly, some people accuse the Bible of giving an incorrect figure for pi, but again, it’s a matter of where one chooses to round off (see Does the Bible say pi equals 3.0?).
Some Christians may hold to the 4004 BC date “so tightly”, but we don’t, so we really can’t comment as to their motives. Perhaps they think that a specific date for creation helps to prove the Bible more than a range of dates. However, in general we do endorse Ussher’s timeline. It’s notable that many scholars calculated a creation date very similar to Ussher’s based on the biblical data, so there is definitely a constraint on the range of allowable dates (see Old-earth or young-earth belief: Which belief is the recent aberration?)
Also, for an organisation which claims to defend the word of God as inspired and trustworthy (which you do a fantastic job at), why do you not promote the various other proofs within the biblical text that prove its supernatural origin? They are commonly referred to as Microcodes, and include the Equidistant Letter Sequences, the messages within genealogies, and the astonishing underlying grammatical heptatic structures.
Simply put, we’re not certain that these Bible codes are valid (What about the ‘Bible Codes’?). Also, we think that even if they were codes, they would require the text to survive without any copying errors whatsoever. We know this is not the case. Plus ancient scholars and commentators don’t record any awareness of such codes, so this would imply that God put things in Scripture that His people for most of history couldn’t benefit from, until people with sophisticated computer programs came along. Also, belief in such Bible codes can lead one to look for hidden messages in Scripture (like Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination) and these can sometimes even overshadow the plain message in Scripture. As a ministry that is dedicated to promoting the authority and the importance of the Bible’s plain interpretation, I hope you can see the problems we would have with encouraging the use of Bible codes. (See Hidden messages in Scripture?).
Obviously there are a lot of fakes out there, but the genuine ones, often promoted by commentators, are incredible, and really confirm that an intelligence beyond the human authors is responsible for The Bible.
You can find commentators to promote about any view you want, so that argument really doesn’t convince me. And there are many aspects of the Bible that confirm its divine origin without appealing to Bible codes.
Obviously this is outside the scope of scientific creation research, but surely such supernatural confirmations of the authenticity of The Bible should be a major part of promoting the authority of The Bible?
I don’t mean to be flippant, but if someone isn’t convinced that the Bible is divinely inspired from its message, they won’t be convinced by a Bible code. The Bible codes are interesting, but many times Bible code enthusiasts promote the codes almost at the expense of the plain meaning. That we can find phrases ‘encoded’ in the text doesn’t necessarily mean that the text was written with the intention of placing codes in there to start with. With any language, which is in itself a code, it’s easy to find what one wants to look for.
Even if the Bible codes were authentic in our view, they wouldn’t be a major focus of our ministry because again, we promote the plain interpretation of Scripture. And once you have to introduce a whole decoding mechanism, you’re not engaging in plain interpretation.
Thanks again for all the amazing work you do-you are a great encouragement.
Thanks for your kind comments.
Jacqueline P. from Australia writes:
I think evolution magnifies God. A seven day creation does not. The universe started 14–15 billion years ago. The flat earth thinkers today have no credit, thank goodness. However, I go along with Adventist thinkers regarding much of what I believe, including the seventh day sabbath.
Adam came after the sixth day, and after the seventh day of rest. Maybe about seven thousand years ago (?) Why? Because he became “a son of God” and started the line of God’s chosen people. Since Christ came to die for the world, everyone can choose turn to God and accept salvation and eternal life.
[Web references removed as per our Feedback rules—Ed.]
Thanks for writing in. However, there is not much for me to respond to, as you have only made assertions, not arguments. You don’t say how a billions-of-years old creation would glorify God, much less how you would get around the problem of death before the Fall. We also note that evolutionists don’t think a loving God is presented by a cruel, wasteful process involving death of billions of unfit creatures (see here for some examples). You apparently have little idea about what evolutionists teach.
You also don’t say how God is glorified when we ignore what He said He did in Genesis, preferring the fallible theories of God-haters.
If Adam was created after Creation Week, what happens to the Sabbath command you claim to believe in? This was based on the fact that God made everything in Creation Week (Exodus 20:8–11). Furthermore, who were the male and female humans created in God’s image on Day 6 (Genesis 1:26–28)? If we didn’t come from them, then how could we be made in God’s image? Jesus, unlike you, equates them to Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:3–6 and Mark 10:6–9 cite Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as the same man and woman).
You fail to reason from Scripture, and since we come from such different starting points, further discussion is unlikely to be productive. But if you do wish to continue, perhaps answer this: Some questions for theistic evolutionists.
By the way, the leader of the Flat Earth Society believes in evolution, so evidently he has more in common with you than with us! The article states:
“The Flat Earth Society is an active organization currently led by a Virginian man named Daniel Shenton. Though Shenton believes in evolution and global warming, he and his hundreds, if not thousands, of followers worldwide also believe that the Earth is a disc that you can fall off of.”
Lita Cosner and Jonathan Sarfati