Top Ten Biblical Problems for Young Earth Creationism—Answered
A response to Michael Jones of Inspiring Philosophy
Published: 21 January 2021 (GMT+10)
Can young-earth creationism be debunked just by a careful reading of Scripture? This is the claim made by popular YouTube apologist, Michael Jones, in a video posted to his Inspiring Philosophy channel on 11 December 2020. Numerous correspondents have asked CMI to respond to this video, titled, “TOP TEN Biblical Problems for Young Earth Creationism.” Jones is a theistic evolutionist, but does not try to refute CMI’s stance in this case by appealing to scientific evidence that allegedly proves evolution or deep time. Instead, he maintains:
… there are several passages within the Bible itself that create problems for the young-earth theory, meaning—if we took the plain reading of the text—in many places it would actually contradict the view that the earth and the universe are only about 6,000 years old.
Most of Jones’ claims have already been addressed on creation.com and in CMI’s books, and Jones ought to have familiarized himself with these before committing his arguments to video. But it will be instructive to walk through all ten objections and respond, so readers can have point-by-point answers. I have not reprinted the text of the video in full, but selected Jones’ most relevant words (in red) to summarize each objection. The numbered headings are my own paraphrases of his arguments, following his ordering. I aim to show that Jones’ ten arguments fall flat, and there is no good reason for biblical creationists to be flummoxed by any of them.
In general, we must wonder how Jones’ supposedly biblical arguments for an old earth were missed by almost all Christian (and Jewish) exegetes throughout the history of the Church. Long-age interpretations became popular only in the 19th century. It is no coincidence that this period also saw the rise of millions of years in uniformitarian geology. The novel interpretations of Genesis were explicitly motivated by trying to fit in millions of years. The interpretation that Jones favours is a 21st century invention.
This violates the doctrine of perspicuity of Scripture. Jones would implicitly have us believe that no one really understood Genesis until this century. The hubris is strong with this one.
10. Genesis 17:17 — Abraham’s doubt about conceiving a child undermines the idea of patriarchs living for literally hundreds of years.
Genesis recounts the story of Abraham and Sarah who were old in age and had no children of their own. God appears to Abraham and says he will have a son in his old age, and then in Genesis 17 it reads, “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is 90 years old, bear a child?’” So Abraham thinks it’s biologically impossible for someone past the age of 100 to have a child. But this seems to contradict the ages of his ancestors, also known as the early patriarchs, who were supposed to live for hundreds of years and have children in their old ages. … More importantly is the fact that, based on what Genesis 12 says, Abraham’s own father Terah would have had to have fathered Abraham at his own age of 130.
There are several problems with Jones’ reasoning. First, Abraham’s skepticism need not imply that this was a problem for earlier generations, just his own. This is true even if some in those earlier generations were still alive in Abraham’s day. It is true, for example, that Terah did not father Abraham until the age of 130 (compare Genesis 11:32; 12:4; Acts 7:4). But Abraham could have realized that lifespans were declining, so once he himself reached 100 he was already ‘old’, unlike his ancestors. Compare Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, who said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning” (Genesis 47:9). This makes good sense if the patriarchal ages are literally accurate, and had gradually declined just as Genesis portrays. It also shows Jacob understood he was already near the end of his life at 130 (he died at 147), even though his grandfather Abraham lived to be 175 and his father Isaac 180. Isaac similarly thought he was approaching death at 133 because his eyesight had failed, although he actually had 47 years left to live.1
Second, the difficulty in conceiving a child likely had more to do with Sarah’s age than Abraham’s. Genesis 18:11 tells us that Sarah was post-menopausal, and it is significant that, in Genesis 17:17, Abraham mentioned not only his own age but Sarah’s as well. After all, Sarah had been barren in her youth, so a fortiori she would hardly be expected to be fertile after menopause.
Contra Jones, Abraham probably did not think that his own age of 99 years in itself guaranteed that he could not have a child, since he went on to have six other children besides Ishmael and Isaac with his wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1–2). It is unlikely that Keturah was bearing children to Abraham all along, because the text most comfortably supports the idea that Abraham only married her after Sarah’s death and that, before Isaac, Abraham had no other sons besides Ishmael. At 75, Abraham opined that Eliezer of Damascus would be his heir. At 99, Abraham pleaded with God to let His covenant be established with Ishmael—the son of his concubine, Hagar. So, given that Keturah bore six more children to Abraham after this time, the oddity of Isaac did not mean that Abraham was incapable of siring children, but only that he could not conceive with his elderly post-menopausal wife Sarah. How we understand Abraham’s statement must take all of the biblical information into account. [Update, 21 January 2021: As a commenter helpfully noted, Romans 4:19 (cf. Hebrews 11:11–12) may indicate that Abraham did have a biological problem himself, since it refers to his body “as dead”. However, there is also some question about this rendering because there is a common textual variant which suggests the opposite, that Abraham “did not consider his body as dead”. In either case, though, this probably does indicate that Abraham was concerned about his own age and not just Sarah’s. Perhaps God’s rejuvenation is what allowed him to have more children with Keturah.]
Jones goes on to say:
And this would imply that, when Genesis assigns high ages to the patriarchs, it is probably not their literal ages but symbolic numbers for theological messaging, and that would mean Genesis doesn’t give us a literal chronology back to the creation of Adam …
He points to another video he created to elaborate on the alleged symbolism of the patriarchal ages. Even if he is correct that some of the numbers have symbolic significance, that doesn’t preclude them from being literal. Many other time periods in the Bible are both literal and symbolic, such as Jesus’ 40 days of being tested in the wilderness, which parallels Israel’s 40-year period of wilderness wandering. This is in keeping with the Gospel writers’ emphasis on how Jesus’ life imitated the early life of national Israel. But, in some cases, Jones’ proposals are subjective and speculative guesses, and some interpretations feel forced (like the alleged symmetry of 10 generations in Genesis 5 and 11). Plus, he can’t even say what many of the particular numbers represent.
By contrast, there are additional reasons to think the patriarchal ages were meant to be taken literally. For example, the high numbers are also casually scattered throughout the patriarchal narratives, not just in formulaic genealogies, and these cohere well when taken literally. Also, the long lifespans may explain why Abraham was known as an Eberite (the literal word for ‘Hebrew’ in Genesis 14:13), and why Shem and Eber are singled out in Genesis 10:21—possibly because they were the two oldest living ancestors. Some Jews and Christians were well aware of this, because they suggested that Melchizedek was Shem. Finally, it is curious that the decline of lifespans follows an exponential decay curve when graphed out. This would be a strange coincidence if the numbers had no basis in biology, but would be expected if the drop was caused by harmful genetic factors such as patriarchal drive, beginning with the drop caused by Noah’s extreme age at fatherhood.
9. Genesis 8 — Context shows the meaning of ‘earth’ in the Flood account cannot include absolutely all land surfaces.
A common view among young-earth believers is the idea that the earth was covered in a global flood about 4,000 years ago. …
Of course it is. The Flood account is loaded with universal language, e.g. the Flood covered “all the high mountains under all the heavens” (Genesis 7:19). While sometimes a single ‘all’ (kol) can be non-universal, the double kol in this passage points to the universal nature of the Flood.2 The account also repeats that all humans and other vertebrates outside of the Ark died, and only those on the Ark survived.
Also, many other details confirm this, such as the fact that the waters inundated mountains—including the mountainous region of Ararat (Genesis 7:19–20; 8:3–5), and the fact that God used a rainbow to promise never to send another such Flood (Genesis 9:8–17). Many local floods have occurred since, but not another global Flood.
But there is a problem for this view within Genesis 8. Verses 4 and 5 say the ark came to rest in the mountains of Ararat or Urartu and the tops of the mountains could be seen at this point. However, later in the chapter, Noah releases a dove and it returns to him because “the waters were still on the face of the whole earth.” But didn’t verse 5 say the tops of the mountains were seen? So verse 9 cannot mean the waters were literally covering the whole earth, implying the entire flood account might be hyperbolic in its description of the flood …
Jones seems to be unaware of our previous response to this argument. First, Chapter 8 is about the recession of the Flood from its zenith. At the zenith, the Flood prevailed 15 cubits above the highest mountains that then existed (Genesis 7:20). But as the Flood receded, mountaintops would be the first to emerge on the earth that would otherwise have been fully submerged.
Second, Kulikovsky has pointed out that the term ‘earth’ in Genesis 8:9 likely refers to habitable land where a dove could build a nest and find food, so would not include mountaintops or ocean basins.3 Plus, the text is speaking broadly, not being pedantic about minor exceptions to the universal language, much as one might say an entire audience erupted in applause even if there were a handful of non-clappers. If the Flood was global and the water, after it began to recede, did continue to extend around the planet while a few mountaintops began to poke above the surface as scattered islands, it would still be appropriate to say that the water covered the face of the whole earth, just as the text does. This phraseology does not demonstrate that the ‘earth’ in view was just a basin in Mesopotamia.
One also wonders how a local Flood in Mesopotamia would have lasted a whole year in a region shaped like a half bowl. And how would the Ark have ended up in the Ararat mountains instead of the Indian Ocean?
Jones’ mention of the ‘hyperbolic’ description of Noah’s Flood probably alludes to John Walton’s attempt to get around the Bible’s clear meaning, which we have also answered. See The Flood was historically global, not hyperbolically global.
This is also supported by verse 13 where it says the waters dried from the earth. But this obviously cannot literally mean the entire globe since most of the surface of the earth is still covered by water.
Jones has misunderstood the mainstream argument here too, thinking that it depends on equating the word ‘earth’ with the entire rocky surface of the globe, including the ocean floor. On the contrary, it refers to the land, which does not remain under water today. Jones is attacking a straw man, following the usual custom of his fellow critics.
8. Genesis 2:24 — Adam and Eve were not literally ‘one flesh’.
Young-earth creationists are often proud of the fact and almost go so far as to brag that they just take the plain reading of Scripture and don’t have to reinterpret anything. …
[Taking all of Genesis 2 literally] is actually impossible because Genesis 2:24 cannot be understood literally. After Adam is introduced to Eve, it reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Since married couples are not sewn together this obviously cannot be understood as literal.
Whether biblical creationists are prideful is a red herring, but of course the concept of ‘one flesh’ is a metaphor about marital unity, and our hermeneutic does not demand that we take the expression literally. Jones has ignored what we have said about what it means to take Genesis plainly or even literally. He ought to read: Non-Christian philosopher clears up myths about Augustine and the term ‘literal’, where this was explained:
Modern informed creationists tend to disclaim that their hermeneutical method with the Bible is ‘literal’. That’s because they recognize that there are many different types of literature in the Bible—historical, poetic, prophetic, apocalyptic; and there are also plenty of figurative sections. So we tend to advocate a ‘plain’ interpretation, or, in technical terms, the grammatical-historical hermeneutic.[ref] The aim of this method is to read Scripture as its human authors and original audience would have understood it (so it could be termed an originalist approach). Nowadays, ‘literal’ often has the connotation of woodenly literalistic, and detractors of biblical creationists dishonestly knock down this straw man. However, no leading creationist is a ‘literalist’ in this sense, e.g. reading Jesus saying, “I am the door”, and thinking He had a knob and hinges.
However, [Gregory] Dawes documents that Medieval and Patristic interpreters likewise used the term ‘literal’ in a wider sense than ‘literalistic’.[ref] Their view of ‘literal’ interpretation could include a figurative meaning if that’s what the text taught. Thus, to them, the ‘literal’ meaning of “the windows of the heavens were opened” (Genesis 7:11) would include its metaphorical usage for a massive rainfall. Rather, the ‘literal’ meaning was contrasted with a spiritualized or mystical meaning not grounded in the text.[ref] That is, the ancient ‘literal’ interpretation corresponds rather well to the modern grammatical-historical hermeneutic.
We have also made some of these same points in such easy-to-find articles as Should Genesis be taken literally? Thus, Jones’ seizing upon a metaphor in Genesis as though it blows away biblical creation betrays an embarrassingly shallow knowledge of our actual position. We do not conclude that the earth is young because we have no category for metaphors or other literary devices. Rather, we argue based on a whole suite of positive contextual reasons that God intended to say He created recently, consistent with the way Jesus read Genesis.
7. Genesis 3:22 — The Tree of Life and Adam’s coming from dust both show he was mortal before the Fall.
Genesis 3 recounts the Fall of Adam and Eve and the exile from the Garden of Eden. Young-earth creationists believe before this there was no death, because God made everything perfect. So Adam and Eve would had to have been created immortal and the Fall resulted in their bodies being made mortal, and consequently death came as a result. However, Genesis 3 never says their bodies were changed or transformed to be mortal. God curses the ground but never places any curse on their bodies. In fact, all he does is bar them from the tree of life. Verse 22 reads, “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’” The implication numerous scholars have pointed out is Adam and Eve were already mortal, and the only way they obtained immortality in the garden was eating continuously from the tree of life. To make them mortal again, all God had to do was prevent access to this sacred tree. But that means humans were already mortal before the Fall, and were only granted immortality through a special fruit, not because they were created with immortal bodies.
Jones is making two errors here. First, Genesis 3:22 only indicates that eating from the Tree of Life was a sufficient condition for immortality, not a necessary one. In other words, the “implication” which Jones says “scholars have pointed out” actually commits a logical fallacy. Compare these two arguments with the same invalid logical structure (called affirming the consequent).
- If it rained, the grass would have been wet.
- The grass was wet.
Therefore, it rained.
(Not necessarily, because the grass could have been made wet by other means as well.)
- If Adam regularly ate from the Tree of Life, he would have been immortal before the Fall.
- Adam was immortal before the Fall.
Therefore, he regularly ate from the Tree of Life.
(Not necessarily, because Adam could have been made immortal by other means as well.)
Second, even if we grant the assumption that the Tree of Life was necessary for Adam’s pre-Fall immortality, it does not follow that human death was a possibility, let alone actually occurring, before the Fall. This was already addressed in The Genesis Account, p. 314:
Genesis 3:22 reveals that God prevented Adam from eating from the Tree of Life after the Fall, lest he live forever in sin. From this, some argue that since he required eating of this tree to sustain his deathless condition, one cannot claim that Adam was created immortal. However, this does not follow, because God ordains both the means and the end. In the original creation, the end is that Adam would be without death, and part of the means could have been the Tree of Life.
Nothing in our view requires that Adam’s body was innately immortal, just that he would not have died had he not sinned. Jones has not shown otherwise.
This is also supported by the fact that Adam is called dust, which is an idiom in the Bible to denote that one is mortal. In Genesis, it might just be metaphorical language to denote that he was a mortal human, meaning Adam was mortal before the Fall, which implies that death was a possibility before sin entered.
Here again, Jones is drawing on John Walton, whom we have answered on this point. In my review of Walton’s book on Adam and Eve, I wrote:
While Walton recognizes that Adam himself is both historical and archetypal, he doesn’t consider that ‘being made from dust’ can be both as well. But biblical archetypes often work this way. All believers “have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), yet this is only figuratively true of us because it was literally and historically true of Jesus. Plus, we were literally made from dust in a collective sense due to the fact that we all go back to Adam.
Furthermore, there is textual evidence that Adam was formed from dust in a unique, historical sense. For one thing, the references to others’ formation from or return to dust occur in poetic passages, while Adam’s formation in Genesis 2:7 is historical narrative. Also, taking v. 7 as a nod to Adam’s mortality may be anachronistic, since it’s not until 3:19 that God spoke of reversing the process and sending Adam back to dust.
Besides, Walton’s interpretation makes no sense of the context in which Genesis 2:7 occurs. Verse 5 describes the setting, highlighting the lack of a “man to work the ground.” So, v. 7 should be seen as the provision of what was lacking. But highlighting human mortality is no solution to the absence of man; creating man is. …
In addition, the New Testament authors treat the formation narratives as unique historical events. In 1 Timothy 2:13, for example, Paul makes a theological point about the roles of men and women based on the chronology of their origins. He says, “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” But this would be incoherent if Paul understood Adam’s ‘formation’ as a declaration of mortality rather than Adam’s individual coming into existence. Walton even admits that Paul is not using Adam and Eve archetypically in this verse (p. 95) but fails to recognize how this contradicts his interpretation of Genesis.
So, when the text describes Adam’s creation from dust, it is describing his literal origin from raw materials, not his mortality. (And this speaks against the idea that he evolved from ape-like ancestors as well.) Thus, neither of Jones’ arguments here comes close to establishing that the death of humans or other nephesh creatures occurred before the Fall, as is required by old-earth views. His faulty claims certainly do not overturn the clear teaching of Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21–22 that human death was a consequence of Adam’s sin.
6. Genesis 2:4 — Genesis 2 is subsequent in time to the events of Genesis 1.
Young earth creationists often argue that Genesis 2 is a recap of what takes place on day six within Genesis 1, when God made humans. But Genesis 2:4 poses a problem for suggesting this chapter is a recap. The verse begins with, ‘These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.’ This is what scholars call a toledoth, and it is used throughout Genesis, almost like chapter markers for the ancient audience. However, when this phrase is used it always introduces what comes after the person or the generations that follow him. It is never used to denote a recap of something that happened prior to this.
The toledoth structure is hardly news to CMI. The Genesis Account, for example, follows the internal section breaks of the toledoths rather than the artificial breaks of chapter numbers, added far later.
But note that Jones has actually made a much stronger claim than John Walton, his source for this assertion. Walton admits that sometimes toledoth sections do overlap, as I pointed out in my review, which severely weakens Jones’ argument. Leading creationist works have noted the fact that toledoths generally move the narrative forward, but their flexibility in allowing for recaps means that the presence of a toledoth in Genesis 2:4 is not sufficient grounds to conclude that the rest of the chapter happened much later than the events of chapter 1. It certainly doesn’t overturn the clarity of the biblical texts which show that the humans of Genesis 1 are to be equated with Adam and Eve from Genesis 2—texts which Jones does not discuss in this video. For example:
- Eve is “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20) because subsequent generations descended from her, not from a wider population of earlier humans.
- Adam’s genealogy in Genesis 5 begins with quotations of Genesis 1 (Day 6), which shows that Day 6 included Adam’s origin.
- The rationale for the Fourth Commandment leaves no room for Adam and Eve to have been created after Creation Week, given that God made all that is in heaven and earth “in six days” (Exodus 20:11) and He finished all His work by Day 7 (Genesis 2:1–2).
- Jesus placed the timing of Abel’s murder at “the foundation of the world” (Luke 11:50–51), which means the six-day creation cannot be pushed back eons before Abel’s parents, Adam and Eve.
- Jesus also said that God’s expectations for marriage are rooted in the way He created humanity “from the beginning of creation” (Mark 10:6)—not billions of years later! He quoted from both Genesis 1 and 2, linking them together, to establish His point. This leaves no room for the world in general, let alone earlier procreating couples, to have existed ages before Adam and Eve.
- The Apostle Paul explicitly called Adam “the first man”, in contrast with Jesus “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). He did not merely mean that Adam was the first of the two men under consideration (as does verse 47 where the contrast is with Christ, “the second man”). The context of verse 45 indicates that Adam was the first of all men.4 Paul also told the Athenians that all nations came from one man (Acts 17:26).
- Paul could assume that all people bear the image of Adam (1 Corinthians 15:48–49) because all people have descended from him (not just those who lived from the first century AD onward, as Joshua Swamidass’ genealogical Adam theory arbitrarily assumes).
Furthermore, there are serious Gospel-impacting theological difficulties with the idea of a human population existing prior to Adam and Eve. If these other people were not sons and daughters of Adam, were they fallen “in Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:22) and, if so, on what basis? How does Jones understand Romans 5:19 when it says that “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners”? These and other questions related to original sin are important as some theistic evolutionists have been led by their monkeying with Adam to embrace Pelagianism.
But there is no need to go there, as the toledoth of Genesis 2 does not demand that its events all took place after Genesis 1. Adam and Eve were not latecomers to a pre-existing population. The biblical testimony is united that they were the “male and female” humans made on Day 6.
Scholars like Michael Heiser know Genesis 1 speaks of encompassing all of humanity, not just one man or one couple …
Sorry, but these concepts are not mutually exclusive. The first couple was all of humanity at the time of their creation, as Scripture overwhelmingly affirms.
5. Jeremiah 4 — The language used in Genesis 1 is elsewhere used to describe a non-literal situation.
… it seems the prophet Jeremiah used very similar language from Genesis 1 to metaphorically describe the fallen northern kingdom of Israel. … He says northern Israel is now formless and void, there is no light, no man, no birds of the air, and no vegetation. … But if the same language is used in reverse in Genesis 1, that implies all it is saying is, God took a disordered cosmos and made it function properly for human civilizations to begin.
Good grief, this is not how proper exegesis works. One cannot merely find a few similar expressions in two passages with completely different contexts and conclude that both texts must be using the expressions in identical ways.
In the Bible, judgment is often treated as a reversal or undoing of creation. E.g. the Flood reverses the Day 3 acts where God separated land from sea, so that the whole earth is covered in water again. In this case, Jeremiah is making allusions to Genesis 1, employing its motifs to indicate that the judgment he predicts will be so devastating that it will be like creation is partly undone as well. Jeremiah portrays the judgment going all the way back to Genesis 1:2, where the earth was formless and empty. It’s logical to interpret the later passage in terms of the earlier passage it quotes, not vice versa as Jones does.
The expressions are obviously being used non-literally to dramatize the seriousness of the forthcoming disaster. However, one must not only pay attention to similarities between passages, but to differences as well. And Genesis 1 differs greatly from Jeremiah 4. There are many indicators both inside and outside Genesis 1 that it should be taken as historical narrative—a record of what God actually did over six calendar days, when He actually brought things into being. Jones ought to have familiarized himself with the arguments in 15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History, for example. Other relevant articles include Genesis is history! and Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history.
Compare Jeremiah’s use of motifs from Genesis 1 to the way the Garden of Eden is used allegorically in Ezekiel 31. This chapter likens the nation of Assyria to a cedar tree (v. 2), and says that the trees in the Garden of Eden were envious of this great tree (v. 9). Obviously, trees can’t literally be jealous at all, certainly not jealous of a nation (which is not actually a tree), and one which existed thousands of years after them. Rather, Ezekiel is using the Garden of Eden as a symbol of glory or majesty. The glory of Assyria was so great that it is hyperbolically portrayed as rivaling objects in Eden. But does this mean that, when Genesis speaks of the Garden of Eden, it can only be a symbol of majesty there as well, rather than a literal place? No, and Jones acknowledges that Eden was a real place in history. So it is completely insufficient and illegitimate to dismiss the literal truth of Genesis creation by pointing to non-literal ‘un-creation’ language found in judgment passages.
Jones also gives away his reliance on John Walton once again when he says that Genesis 1 is merely about God causing creation to “function properly”. This fallacious reading has already been exposed in my critiques: Is Genesis 1 only about functional creation? and John Walton reimagines Adam and Eve.
4. Genesis 1:14-19 — It is impossible for days to exist before the sun, and the sun and moon cannot have been constructed from pre-existing light.
The most popular objection used against young earth creationism is the fact that nights and days exist before the sun which is created on day four. Days and nights cannot exist without the earth rotating and moving around the sun.
It’s true that this is a common objection, and it is one we have answered many times. For a recent response, see Literal days before the sun (based on an article written about 20 years ago), that cites Patristic and Reformed answers. Genesis makes it clear that God began Day 1 by creating the periods called ‘day’ and ‘night’, and it is this time cycle of light followed by dark that is essential for literal days, not the sun per se. Granted, the earth rotating with respect to the sun is now what causes the cycle of day and night, but why should God not be allowed to establish this cycle another way, before He created the sun to govern the day? Biblical creationists are driven to that conclusion by the text, whereas other interpretations impose ideas from outside of Scripture.
Young-earth believers often reply by suggesting maybe there was another light source, or they will argue that God made the light on day one and then gathered it together into the sun on day four. But this seems unlikely since Genesis 1 talks about the sun and the moon being created together as lights, and the composition of the moon is not the same as the sun. You cannot gather light together to make the moon. It only reflects light from the sun. Also, you just cannot separate the sun into pieces and have the same resulting chemistry necessary to provide sunlight for plants supposedly created on day three. This whole response from young-earth creationists is simply contrived and ad hoc.
This is a bizarre tangent, and it’s unclear to whom Jones is responding here, or whether he’s just made this up. I have never heard this idea that God somehow physically manufactured the sun and moon out of pre-existing light, and this is certainly not required by the literal six-day interpretation. God could have created the sun and moon on Day 4 by whatever means He desired and, from then on, appointed the sun in particular to supply the daylight that had been occurring by other means on Days 1–3. The composition of the sun and moon is completely irrelevant. Also, God could have met the needs of the plants with whatever light it was that was eventually replaced by sunlight, or He could have left plants without it for a single day, just as they currently survive the dark each night. Jones is wrongly assuming far too much about God’s methods for creation, and not allowing the text to speak for itself.
3. Genesis 1:28 — The charge to humanity to subdue and rule the earth indicates that the earth was not perfect.
As noted before, young-earth believers say before the Fall the earth was blissful and perfect with no death or suffering. But Genesis 1:28 suggests the opposite was true. Humanity is told to subdue the earth and have dominion over all animals. In Hebrew, these words are extremely harsh. The first word is used of war conquest and enslavement. The second word refers to ruling harshly over someone or oppression. So God is telling humans to make a warlike conquest on the earth because it needs to be subdued, implying the earth wasn’t perfect and humanity was elected to transform the earth into a better place. But to do that meant tackling the harsh environments forcefully. The scholar Joshua John Van Ee notes the use of the second word for ruling over the animals seems to suggest humans had the right to use animals for any purpose like food and clothing, implying they already had the right to kill and eat animals.
Jones and his sources are reading things into the text that aren’t there. In Earth Day: Is Christianity to blame for environment problems, Carl Wieland and Jonathan Sarfati pointed out:
Man is indeed told in Genesis to have dominion (רָדָה rādāh) over the Earth, to subdue (כָּבַשׁ kābash) it. The Hebrew words used can have the sense of crushing, like grapes in a winepress, but also reigning over something, controlling it. Control or reign can of course be benevolent, as well as destructive. E.g. Micah 7:19, in which to subdue (kabash) our sins is a sign of God’s compassion. Leviticus 25:43 ff condemns ruthless dominion (radah). In contrast, 1 Kings 4:24–25 says that Solomon’s dominion (radah) resulted in peace, safety and ‘each man under his own vine and fig tree’. So the type of radah must be decided by context. Since these words were spoken by God into an Edenic situation, before the Fall, it is especially hard to imagine any sort of destructive or ruthless implication to them.
There can be plenty of things for humans to subdue and rule in a world that is free from flaws, defects, death, and disease. This dominion mandate would include challenging tasks like cultivating gardens, training beasts of burden, harnessing fire, crafting musical instruments, and eventually developing the printing press, rockets, smartphones, and so forth. It’s also completely spurious to read into radah the right to eat animals since mankind was explicitly given permission to eat meat only after the Flood (Genesis 9:2–4). This passage reinforces the obvious meaning of Genesis 1:29 that man’s original diet was restricted to plants alone. Jones is overriding the clear teachings of Scripture based on disputable interpretations of the less clear.
2. The Hebrew verb bara (“create”) — In Genesis 1, this word does not speak of creation ex nihilo, nor perhaps even the creation of material objects.
Many young-earth creationists believe this word refers to God creating out of nothing, and it is used frequently throughout Genesis 1. But looking at how the word is used outside of Genesis 1 implies bara doesn’t necessarily mean creation out of nothing. It might not even refer to material creation at all. John Walton has done a full semantic analysis on the word …
There are times it could refer to material creation out of nothing but it never necessarily does. And there are clear examples where bara cannot refer to material creation. … Kenneth Matthews notes bara more likely refers to bringing about activity rather than material manufacturing, implying Genesis 1 is not about material creation.
It is easy to demonstrate that bara doesn’t have to mean creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), since counterexamples are common. For instance, God creates all individual people (Psalm 89:47) even though they are born from ancestors. But, had Jones consulted our introductory materials like The Creation Answers Book (chapter 3), he would have seen that informed creationists do not assert that bara implies ex nihilo. Certainly, the biblical support for a young earth does not depend on any such assertion.
It’s also true that bara can refer to the creation of non-material things. God can obviously create immaterial objects like souls or even more abstract things like the state of calamity (Isaiah 45:7). But how does it follow from this that “Genesis 1 is not about material creation”? It doesn’t. Neither the idea of de novo material creation nor that of ex nihilo creation need be inherent in the definition of the verb bara to be present in the text. But both are derived from the wider context of Genesis 1 as I have explained.
Jones also misrepresents Matthews, who actually has no dispute with the idea that bara refers to the making of material objects in Genesis 1. Matthews only says that bara “always refers to the product created and does not refer to the material of which it is made.”5 He is alluding to the fact that some other Hebrew verbs—those which express the making, preparing, or forming of one thing into another—refer to both the source material and the end product in the accusative case.6 For example, in Genesis 3:21, God made garments (product) of skin (material). But the objects of bara specify end products only and the ‘ingredients’ are left unspecified. For instance, Genesis 1:27 says that male and female people were “created” (bara) without explicitly informing us that they came from dust and a rib respectively, although we later learn that from Genesis 2. But the bodies of these people are material and Matthews does not deny that the term bara is talking about the coming into being of these humans—including their material bodies.
Walton’s analysis of bara also fails to support Jones’ claims, as I’ve explained more fully in Is Genesis 1 only about functional creation? Spoiler alert: it isn’t.
1. Genesis 1:1 — The Bible’s first verse is actually a dependent clause.
This may come as a shock to you, but the very first verse of the Bible can create difficulties for young-earth models. The reason is, over the past few decades scholars have noted the first verse lacks a definite article in Hebrew. So the way we translate it may not be accurate. Instead, scholars like John Sailhamer and Robert Holmstedt have argued it would make more sense to translate it as, ‘When God began to create the heavens and the earth’. What this would mean is, verse 1 is no longer a complete sentence but what we would call a dependent clause in an incomplete sentence. So this would mean, verse 1 is dependent on the following clause which is in verse 2. So Genesis is really saying, ‘When God began to bara the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void.’ In other words, when God started bara-ing the heavens and the earth, it was already there as formless and void.
This may come as a shock to Jones, but the weight of evidence strongly disfavors this claim. It has already been addressed in The Genesis Account, pp. 89–90. Here I quote portions of that section:
This phrase in context means an absolute beginning, as per the orthodox translations “In the beginning God created”.
This is the traditional understanding, reflected in the ancient translations, including the LXX, Vulgate, and the Targums, and the dominant understanding throughout church history. E.g., the LXX translators rendered the first word en archē (ἐν ἀρχῇ) which is consistent with an absolute beginning. Also, in Isaiah 46:10, there is clearly an absolute beginning in “declaring the end from the beginning (mērē’shît מראשית)”.
For the ‘dependent clause’ understanding to be right, it would require the noun ‘beginning’ to be in a ‘construct state’ (used for possessive), but Leupold points out that this would require the article (ha ה, ‘the’), lacking here (note, Hebrew has no indefinite article analogous to the English ‘a’, ‘an’).[ref] Some defenders of a relative beginning even point to the lack of the article here, but as Wenham says this is common for time-related phrases:Temporal phrases often lack the article (e.g. Isa. 46:10, 40:21, 41:4, 26; Gen 3:22, 6:3,4; Mic 5:1, Hab 1:12). Nor can it be shown that ראשית may not have an absolute sense.[ref] …
Indeed, the dependent clause translation is clearly artificial, and uses ‘awkward grammar’, entailing a huge sentence where “Genesis 1:2 inserts three clauses between the supposed prepositional phrase of 1:1 and its supposed main clause in 1:3”.[ref]
Hershel Shanks (1930–2021) founder of the Biblical Archaeology Society, cited noted liberal Julius Wellhausen in calling it “a verzweifelt geschmacklose [desperately tasteless] construction, one which destroys a sublime opening to the world’s greatest book.”7 Copan and Craig have also offered six reasons why the dependent clause view is incorrect, and they note that it is rejected by most contemporary scholars.8 Indeed, some scholars have reversed themselves on this point, as shown by the Revised English Bible (REB) going back to the traditional rendering of Genesis 1:1, twenty years after the NEB by the same scholars opted for the dependent clause. Jones has simply embraced the less evidence-based reading here, and is out of step with modern scholarship on this point.
If Jones genuinely had compelling arguments from the Bible to refute a young age for the world, I would join him in rejecting that viewpoint. But these ten, individually or cumulatively, fail to mount a real challenge. It is a shame that Jones is promoting them to the detriment of those who might fail to see through his sophistry.
I’d encourage Jones to interact more with what leading creationists have written, so he doesn’t continue to misrepresent us and ignore the responses we have already given. Intellectual honesty requires him to address the strongest claims for the position he’s attacking. CMI addresses recognized leaders in evolution, such as Richard Dawkins, and in old-earth creationism, such as Hugh Ross, and even those on whom Jones relies for his own views, like John Walton.
It would also be good for him to consider our biblical case for a young earth and a global Flood, and against theistic evolution. Perhaps this could lead him to reevaluate his views. We’d love to see him come to embrace a more biblically faithful position on Genesis.
References and notes
- Sarfati, J., The Genesis Account, p. 699, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, 2015. Return to text.
- Leupold, H.C., Exposition of Genesis, 1:301–302, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 1942. Leupold says about Genesis 7:19, “A double ‘all’ (kol) cannot allow for so relative a sense. It almost constitutes a Hebrew superlative. So we believe that the text disposes of the question of the universality of the Flood.” We know that there are examples where ‘all’ is not a literal universal, but Leupold responds, “However, we still insist that this fact could overthrow a single kol, never a double kol, as our verse has it.” Return to text.
- Kulikovsky, A.S., Creation, Fall, Restoration, p. 229, Mentor Press, Scotland, 2009. Return to text.
- In the context immediately preceding verse 45, Paul had not been discussing a comparison of Adam and Christ (not since verses 21–22), so there is no antecedent reference point to limit Adam’s position as “the first man” to the set of two. Rather, the concept is drawn from Genesis, given that Paul quotes Genesis 2:7. Also, the contrast with Christ as “the last Adam” indicates that here the broad sweep of history is in view, not just the relative chronology of the two men. Whether or not there were any other ‘Adams’ besides these two, the text claims that Christ is the last of all ‘Adams’. Likewise, Adam is the first of all men. Return to text.
- Matthews. K., The New American Commentary: Genesis 1–11:26, p. 128, Broadman & Holman, Nashville, TN, 1996. Return to text.
- Kautzsch E. (Ed.), Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 2nd English Edition, translated by A.E. Cowley, pp. 371–372, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1910. Return to text.
- Shanks, H., How the Bible begins, Judaism 21:51–58, 1972; quote on p. 58. Return to text.
- Copan, P., and Craig, W.L., Creation Out of Nothing, pp. 36–49, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 2004. Return to text.