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Creation 42(1):18–20, January 2020

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Time fears the pyramids?

How they fit into the true biblical history



An old Arab proverb states that “man fears time, but time fears the pyramids”. But how old are they really, and how do we fit them into biblical history?

Some of the most famous and ancient buildings of all time were the pyramids of Giza, Egypt. Of the ‘Seven Wonders’ of the ancient world, the Great Pyramid of the Pharoah Khufu (Cheops) is both the oldest ‘wonder’ and the only one that still exists. Another pyramid, not quite as big but still retaining its original limestone casing on the summit, was built by Khufu’s son, Khafre (Chephren). Khafre’s son Menkaure (Mykerinos) built a third main pyramid that’s considerably smaller.

The Giza pyramid complex includes some much smaller pyramids as well as the Great Sphinx, a limestone carving of a mythical creature with a lion’s body and a human head (thought to be Khufu’s).

When were the pyramids built?

The Giza pyramids were all built in the Fourth Dynasty, the ‘golden age’ of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Secular archaeologists date their building between 2589–2504 BC, which allows 85 years for their construction.1 However, according to the Hebrew Old Testament Masoretic Text (MT) timescale,2 this date is at or before the Flood. This cannot be possible, because even the pyramids could not have survived the massive upheavals and destructive power of this global cataclysm.

To underscore this, the pyramids themselves are standing on vast layers of sedimentary (water-laid) rock, both sandstone and limestone. In fact, most of the blocks used in constructing the pyramids are of these two types. The limestone contains large numbers of marine fossils such as seashells; like most fossils, these were buried due to this stupendous diluvial activity, with unimaginable quantities of sediment eroded, transported and dumped by the powerful forces of all that water.

In short, pyramids standing on Flood-deposited rock, and built with blocks made of the same, could never have been built before Noah’s Flood. Anything built pre-Flood would have been completely destroyed—and likely without trace, given God’s pronouncement in Genesis 6:7, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground.”

According to biblical history, the pyramids must have been built after Babel and the dispersion of humanity (Genesis 11:1–10).3 Specifically, Scripture connects Noah’s son Ham and his grandson Mizraim with the land of Egypt,4 who were likely Egypt’s founders.

14C dates—when experts can’t agree

The dates for the pyramids’ construction are based on radiocarbon (14C) dating, but the method, and particularly the assumptions behind the method (which when properly understood is really ‘the creationist’s friend’5) should be questioned. The dates were obtained from 14C found in wood, reed and straw left by the pyramid builders. In 1984, dates were obtained by the David H. Koch Pyramids Radiocarbon Project for the Giza pyramids that made the pyramids 374 years older than they expected. Between 1994 and 1995 a second analysis reported “significant discrepancies” from the earlier 1984 study. The theoretical date range varied greatly for samples containing organic material associated with Khufu’s Great Pyramid. These dates were based on the 14C dating method, which obtained a wider-than-predicted range of dates for the various materials tested, namely 400 years. This result was described as “history-unfriendly” in an online report, due to the lack of precision in the calculated results.1 However, even older (First Dynasty) tombs at Saqqara were dated at 2920–2770 BC, which the project report states is in “agreement” with other studies.

The problem of ‘old carbon’

These dates are well before the Bible’s timescale for the Flood based upon the MT, so since the pyramids must be post-Babel constructions, these dates should be questioned. The 1994–1995 study admitted “problems” with Old Kingdom dating. It stated that the builders used ‘old wood’ and recycled material from previous generations, thus contaminating the project’s carbon analysis results, giving a false older age.

Such use of older material by the pyramid builders as cited in the report may be the case, but 14C still has fundamental assumptions built into the method that, if not addressed, will return ‘inflated’ dates, much older than the Bible’s history will allow.

Radiocarbon dating measures the ratio of radioactive 14C to the stable 12C (14C/12C), which decreases over time.6 But the all-important question is, what was the starting ratio?

For one thing, the earth’s decreasing magnetic field is generally not taken into account. That is, a stronger field in the past would be a greater shield of cosmic rays that generate 14C from atmospheric nitrogen (14N). So the further back in time, the less 14C would have been produced, hence the starting ratio would have been smaller. The lower amount today in a specimen from that time would be interpreted as a greater age than the real age.

Taking the Flood into account

However, it is the Flood which would have had the major effect on the carbon ratio. This becomes increasingly significant the closer the sample’s true age is to the time of the Flood. This is because the Flood buried huge amounts of 12C in vegetation, but the amount of 14C being produced is unaffected by this. This would significantly increase the post-Flood 14C/12C ratio compared to the pre-Flood times,7 thus giving an inflated age to any sample from the pre-Flood world.8

CMI’s website creation.com has papers5 documenting 14C tests done on samples of wood and coal (derived from wood) found within rocks laid down by the Flood. Such rocks are claimed to be millions of years old, so the wood and coal should be ‘undatable’, since even after only 100,000 years, there shouldn’t be any detectable radiocarbon left. The wood and coal ‘dates’ are always in the tens of thousands of years, which brings into serious question the entire long-age scheme of geological dating upon which the ‘millions of years’ age is based. At the same time, they are thousands of years ‘older’ than the Bible’s chronology—but since the wood was growing in the pre-Flood atmosphere/biosphere, which had low 14C, we would expect such inflated ‘dates’.

As the earth was progressively revegetated in the centuries after the Flood, the 14C/12C ratio rose too,9 such that the dates calculated from old samples appear to reduce from tens of thousands of years ‘too old’ (for biblical history) to only thousands of years as the true age of the sample becomes further from (after) the date of the Flood.

So it is not surprising that the Radiocarbon Project reported problems for Old Kingdom dates, and not surprising that all the dates are ‘older’ than biblical history would allow. This is not just because their dates were contaminated by older materials—which themselves were closer to the Flood in time. It is also because these pyramids themselves were built not that long after the Flood, so even contemporaneous materials would date as several thousand years too old for the above reasons.

14C—no threat to Bible history

It is clear that when such factors are taken into account, secular dating for the oldest of Egypt’s pyramids presents no threat to the accuracy of biblical history. The dates offered for these monuments are themselves questioned by the experts who calculate them—which are in turn based upon their worldview, which rejects any notion of the global Flood as a real event in history. In reality, the oldest of Egypt’s pyramids fit comfortably within biblical history and timescale as post-Flood and post-Babel monuments. They were built by the descendants of Noah, through Ham, Mizraim, and their offspring.

References and notes

  1. David H. Koch Pyramids Radiocarbon Project, Dating the Pyramids, Archaeology 52(5), Sep–Oct 1999; archive.archaeology.org. Return to text.
  2. Hardy, C. and Carter, R., The biblical minimum and maximum age of the earth, J. Creation, 28(2):89–96 (p. 96), 2014; creation.com/biblical-earth-age. Return to text.
  3. Sibley, A., Dating the Tower of Babel events with reference to Peleg and Joktan, J. Creation, 31(1):80–87, 2017. Sibley dates Babel to c. 340 years post-Flood at Peleg’s death, but dated to his birth would be 101 years post-Flood according to the MT timeframe. Return to text.
  4. Egypt is called “Mizraim” (Mitsrayim) 611 times in the Hebrew Bible, and the “tents/ land of Ham” in Psalms 78:51; 105:23, 27; 106:22. Return to text.
  5. See Radiometric Dating Questions and Answers; creation.com/dating . Return to text.
  6. This ratio is always adjusted to pre-Industrial Revolution levels to take into account the burning of fossil fuels since then. This in effect is returning some of the pre-Flood 12C to the atmosphere/biosphere. Return to text.
  7. Because the carbon dating calibration is based on the post-Flood world. See also: Cox, G., How old? When archaeology conflicts with the Bible, 1 Nov 2018; creation.com/archaeology-conflicts. Return to text.
  8. Easily found within the list of articles in ref. 5. Return to text.
  9. As the ratio rises to approach the pre-Industrial Revolution level used in radiocarbon dating calculations, the calculated ages will be less and less inflated, i.e. they will progressively approach the real age of the sample. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Andres M.
Hello Mr. Gavin, God bless you. You know, I wanted to know if you wrote an article talking about the eastern topic of the Egyptian religion and the ridiculous atheistic claims that Jesus copied his teachings from the Egyptian religion, such as Osiris or Horus, etc. Do you have an article refuting those claims?
Gavin Cox
Hi Andres, thanks for your comment on my article. Yes CMI has several articles that look at the idea that Christianity was borrowed from other religions, for instance Egyptian, or Greek, or Far East religions. Of course, when one drills down into the details the similarities are very superficial, and usually quite artificially forced into making connections that aren't there. I can recommend these articles: Was Christianity plagiarized from pagan myths? Feedback by Jonathan Sarfati; Copycat copout: Jesus was not made up from pagan myths feedback by Lita Cosner; Christianity and the origin of religion feedback by Shaun Doyle. Hope that helps, you can also use the CMI search bar to search for key terms you are researching. Every blessing, yours, Gavin.
Martin R.
What do you reckon to the video Were the Pyramids Built Before the Flood [link deleted per feedback rules]VI1yRTC6kGE
The video argues that the Septuagint is more reliable than the Masoretic text for dating purposes. It seems to be convincing but I am no expert. The video has more then 1.30million views so if the presentation is incorrect it needs to be challenged.
Gavin Cox
Hi Martin, regarding the YouTube video you mention that poses we should trust the Septuagint chronology over the Masoretic, you can use our creation.com search engine, which is very powerful, for instance, type "Septuagint" or "were the pyramids built before the flood" into the search engine you can find much helpful material, also videos free to watch on the subject. See also under "Related Articles" at the bottom of my article you will see a link to: Were the Egyptian pyramids built before the Flood?. You will find it very helpful and directly answers your query. Also regarding other Septuagint vs Masoretic chronology issues, these are also covered by my colleagues, see for instance: Is the Septuagint a superior text for the Genesis genealogies? by Lita Cosner, Robert Carter also: The biblical minimum and maximum age of the earth by Chris Hardy and Robert Carter, which hyperlinks to their Journal article: Textual traditions and biblical chronology Lita Cosner and Robert Carter. Their conclusions are the LXX chronology is inflated and the MT chronology is to be trusted as representing the historical information handed down to us. Hope that helps.
Col M.
Thanks for this, I think I am getting a grasp on it, correct me if I'm wrong. From Creation to Flood, C12 and C14 would have continued to grow. We know a lot of C12 arrived in the first week in the form of plants and animals, but C14 was produced more slowly in the upper atmosphere. Lets say (I know the figures are way off) that by the time of the flood for every 5000 Carbon atoms only 1 was C14.
The flood removed all the C12 so for every 5000 carbon atoms 5000 were C14. Then in the years since the C12 has recovered to some extent, but the ratio is still far C14 heavier than before the flood, because animals and plants weren't absorbing the C14 overload because they weren't there, plus the magnetic field was allowing more C14 to be produced. So lets say today, using my imaginary scale we still have 5 C14 atoms in that 5000 atom sample, and we decide that the present is the key to the past so this is our standard. Stuff from BEFORE the flood would have the lower C14 count, and wrongly applying the scientifically accepted half-life of C14 we assume a much older age.
I know the numbers are way off but is my logic fundamentally correct? Thanks for all the great work, Col
Gavin Cox
Yes, I think you are arguing in the right direction. Actually the ratio is for every trillion carbon 12 atoms in the modern biosphere there is one carbon 14 atom. Its amazing to think our modern mass spectrometers are so sensitive they can count to that range of accuracy. I found this useful paragraph on a site explaining carbon dating that explains things nicely:

"Radiocarbon oxidizes (that is, it combines with oxygen) and enters the biosphere through natural processes like breathing and eating. Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes. When a creature dies, it ceases to consume more radiocarbon while the C-14 already in its body continues to decay back into nitrogen. So, if we find the remains of a dead creature whose C-12 to C-14 ratio is half of what it's supposed to be (that is, one C-14 atom for every two trillion C-12 atoms instead of one in every trillion) we can assume the creature has been dead for about 5,730 years (since half of the radiocarbon is missing, it takes about 5,730 years for half of it to decay back into nitrogen). If the ratio is a quarter of what it should be (one in every four trillion) we can assume the creature has been dead for 11,460 year (two half-lives). After about 10 half-lives, the amount of radiocarbon left becomes too miniscule to measure and so this technique isn't useful for dating specimens which died more than 60,000 years ago. Another limitation is that this technique can only be applied to organic material such as bone, flesh, or wood. It can't be used to date rocks directly."

Of course, this all assumes the ratio in the biosphere has not significantly changed. It does not take into account a faster than uniformitarian rate for the degrading of the magnetosphere, which allows more solar neutrinos into the upper atmosphere, where they interact with Nitrogen 14 to form Carbon 14. So the strong magnetic field before the Flood means, to put it in your words, the biosphere ratio was carbon 12 'heavy' compared to today's ratio. But since the Flood there was a draw-down of the atmospheric carbon due to the regrowth of vegetation on the land. Two factors would then increase the C14:C12 ratio:

1. Plants discriminate against C14 cf C12 CO2 to some extent.
2. The production of C14 from N14 would continue unabated (or even more due to the decay in the magnetic field, as stated) while the atmospheric C12 decreases as the CO2 concentration decreases.

Both of these would contribute to a higher C14:C12 ratio in living things after the Flood compared to before the Flood (that is, they would look younger according to C14 dating). Hence pre-Flood items will date ~30-40k years.

The chapter in the Answer Book explains carbon dating and the Flood better than I could, see /images/pdfs/cabook/chapter4.pdf

Thanks again, and I hope this email will help in clarifying what is really quite an involved and complex topic. I am not sure anyone has a complete handle on what happened at the Flood in terms of quantifying the carbon ratio, rather simple models.
Thomas R.
So when was the Great Pyramid of the 4th dynasty built?

I’m making a rough guess of around 1900 to 1950 BC?
Gavin Cox
Interesting question, if we base the date on 'uncalibrated' C14 dating and an over extended Manethoic chronology, then the 4th Dyn. pyramids are dated for their construction between c. 2580–2560 BC (4th dynasty), which makes them 630 years old by the time Abraham saw them (presuming that he did of course). However, if we don't constrain ourselves to Manetho or C14 dating inaccuracies then, yes, 1950 BC could be both the time of the pyramid's construction and Abraham's visit to Egypt. I'm sure Gary won't mind me quoting from his lengthy Framing the Issues article, where he states the following:

"Before Abraham went to Canaan (Genesis 11:31), he originally came from Ur of the Chaldeans. Ur was a Sumerian city-state in Mesopotamia, and the Sumerians have been credited with the invention of mathematic tables. For example, we still divide a circle in to 360° based upon the Sumerian innovation. Interestingly, the Sumerians built ziggurats that are strikingly similar to pyramids, and researchers still question today how the ability to build these arose contemporaneously as there are no Egyptian records mentioning the Sumerians. One could imagine exposure to mathematics for the first time would cause rapid advancements in many things, including architecture. It would certainly be a prerequisite for the construction of pyramid building. Admittedly, this is speculative and Josephus is not an indisputable authority. He certainly had an interest in advancing the Jewish cause, so we should be cautious about citing this as evidence. But Sumer was advanced, Abraham did visit Egypt, and secular historians are often baffled by the rapid rise of Egypt.

Abraham visited Egypt 215 years before Jacob and his family moved to Egypt. We can biblically derive the date of the Exodus (see later), and regardless of whether we ascribe to the short (215) or long sojourn (430 years) timeframe of the Hebrews in Egypt, it would have put Abraham’s visit well within the timeframes of the Old Kingdom pyramid builders of Egypt (if we do not ascribe to the secular dates though). Again, while this is interesting, it remains speculative as the Bible has no mention of any of this with regard to Abraham’s dealings with Pharaoh."

My thoughts would be that it would have taken a while for the population to grow significantly enough to be able to support a massive civic construction project like Khufu's Great Pyramid, which would have been a massive undertaking. CMI has done much to advance creationist understanding on modelling population growth, see this article Modelling biblical human population growth by Robert Carter and Chris Hardy.
The fact is, constrained by the Masoretic time scale, a significant population could have arisen in Egypt from Babel to the time of Abraham to allow for the Great Pyramid to be built.
Indeed, the modern world population is easily explained since the time of the Flood from 3 founder couples just 4,500 years ago, see How did we get so many people in such a short time? by Jonathan Sarfati.
Hope that helps.
Bill P.
Good article. Like you I also agree the Pyramids were built after "The Flood" & after GOD scattered them from Babel while they were building that tower. They knew of Noah, his family & how they survived the flood that GOD sent to judge the earth. They were told by Noah & his family who were still alive. YET these newer generations did what man has always done since "The Fall". They sinned against GOD & HIS command & decided to "make a great name for themselves" & build a city w/a great tower that would reach up into the heavens. GOD came down saw what they were doing, (being motivated by the pride in their hearts) & confused their language to cause them to scatter throughout the earth, BUT their pride went w/them. So no matter where they settled they still wanted to make a great name for themselves.
All around the world we have structures built by the people who settled there, starting w/the Pyramids followed by other great towers, including great manmade mounds of earth like the structures found in the far east, the islands in the Pacific, western Europe & in the Americas. They still had the knowhow from the experience they gained in Babel & passed it down to the next generation. Even today experts are in awe of what they built & are still trying to figure out how these so called primitive people built such things.
Side Note: I learned recently that when the Spanish came to South America and saw their grand cities and towers still being used then that they walked by grand structures that were built by generations centuries earlier, yet by the time they (the Spanish) arrived they were already covered with thick vegetation, and they never noticed them.
Now today the world is trying to rebuild what GOD put a stop to in Babel, still motivated by that same pride.
TY for sharing.
Alf F.
"This is because the Flood buried huge amounts of 12C in vegetation, but the amount of 14C being produced is unaffected by this."

I don't quite get this. Could you please give a little more detail?
Gavin Cox
My answer:
Sure. As the article references explain, we have to think in terms of ratios (C14:C12), because that is what is being measured in labs, in the present. The BIG assumption is that the ratio has not changed much in the past, and that where it has, it can be accounted for. This is wishful thinking of the highest order, especially the further one goes back in history.

However, it’s when we factor in the Flood, then that assumption of 'unchanged ratios' really is blown out of the water (pun intended). The Flood buried vast amounts of the pre-Flood biomass (that is, organic—i.e. carbon-based—life-forms) in other words, all of the C12 of the planet (in the form of vegetation and animal life). Also, the weeks of torrential rain would have ‘scrubbed’ the atmosphere of soluble gases—and carbon dioxide is very soluble in water (forming weak carbonic acid). That pre-Flood carbon dioxide would, like today, most have been C12, but a tiny proportion of the CO2 molecules would have involved C14. All that C12 stopped all at once absorbing C14 being produced in the upper atmosphere. The production of C14 in the upper atmosphere likely continued un-changed during the Flood (although that is an assumption, it is a reasonable one). At the end of the Flood, then, you can think of it as the carbon cycle having been given a reset. It would have taken a very long time after the Flood before the processes that give rise to C14 in the upper atmosphere would bring the proportion of ‘C14-charged’ carbon dioxide gas molecules to the levels we see today: about one C14 for every one trillion C12 atoms. In other words, the BIG assumption I mentioned is invalid: the Flood must drastically have changed the C14:C12 ratio.

In the antediluvian era, there is every reason to believe that C14 and C12 were in equilibrium. As mentioned, the proportion of radiocarbon to normal carbon is incredibly small, and this ratio gets even smaller with each decay half-life (5,730 years). Fast forward to the present day, over 4,000 years later. The buried C12, which we sample today in buried organics, would have had an 'old' appearance, which became locked-in prior to the Flood. This is because the magnetic field of Earth in the centuries before the Flood was much much stronger than it is today. How do we know? Well, as a matter of science fact; e.g. it was reported recently that, “Earth’s magnetic field seems to have been weakening, especially since around 1840, at about 5 per cent per century” (Coghlan, A., River of iron flows near Earth’s core, New Scientist, 7 January 2017). This resulted in far less C14 being produced for animals and vegetation to absorb (in the form of carbon dioxide) at that time, and for animals, in turn, to ingest in the form of plant carbohydrates. Therefore the ratio of C14:C12 was much less than the ratio measured today. (If you ask how a strong magnetic field leads to lower production of C14, it is a logical consequence of the way in which C14 forms but you’ll have to read up about that yourself).

Think of a sample of something from before the Flood, containing carbon. The proportion of C14 in it would logically be much less than if it formed under today’s conditions. Thus, that Flood age ratio would return a calculated age significantly in excess of its real age. In fact, the calculated carbon age of all Flood bio mass is remarkably consistent, within the region of c. 50, 000 years, even for 'very old' carbon, like coal.

So the buried C14:C12 ratio means that material from that point in Earth history appears older than it is, and from that point the ratio of C14:C12 reduces at a steady clock-like rate (C14 changing into Nitrogen 14). If that is still clear as mud, then remember, Carbon dating is perhaps the most complex dating method to get one’s head around!

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