John 8:31-32

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Genesis 1 - Why I Believe the Earth is Old

This post is a brief overview of the first chapter of Genesis, verse by verse with some notes about various word definitions and relevant scientific studies. This is by no means a comprehensive discussion, but just something to pique your interest and perhaps give a different perspective on this controversial passage. I put  it together for a presentation to my small group to answer the question Why Do I Believe the Earth is Old? It is basically an overview of the booklet Genesis One A Scientific Perspective by Hugh Ross PhD. So, here we go!

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The Hebrew words for heavens and earth when used together as they are here are defined as “the totality of the physical universe.” The word translated created is used only when God is bringing something into existence. Genesis 1:1 tells us that God brought everything into existence at a finite point in the past from a position outside space and time (He is not a part of the physical universe.) The idea that the universe has a beginning has been confirmed by scientific observation and research over the past few decades. This verse is the “initial setting” for the narrative that follows.

Genesis 1:2 Now the earth was (or became) formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The universe, galaxies, solar systems and planets have been created and now God is going to tell us what He did to make earth ready for humanity. The frame of reference has changed from a view of the universe to “the surface of the deep.” The rest of this narrative is from the perspective of the Holy Spirit at or on the surface of the earth.

The initial conditions of planet earth, according to astronomers who have studied other planets in our solar system as well as planets at various stages of development in other solar systems, are as described in Genesis 1:2: formless, empty, and dark (due to a thick atmosphere and much interplanetary debris). See also Job 38:9 I made the clouds it’s [the sea’s] garment and wrapped it in thick darkness.

DAY 1: Genesis 1:3-5 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Light becomes visible from earth’s surface and so day and night are now discernible. The atmosphere is translucent at this point, but not yet transparent. The word for “let there be” is not the same word as “create”, but rather “to be, become, exist, or happen.” Without going into a lot of details, it is nothing short of miraculous that the atmosphere on our planet is as thin and light as it is.

The word translated “day” is [yôm] in Hebrew. It has many definitions and we must be careful not to make assumptions based on our preconceived ideas or what we read in English. Here are the choices:
  • day (as opposed to night)
  • day (24 hour period)
  • a working day, a day's journey
  • days, lifetime (pl.)
  • time, period (general)
  • year
  • temporal references (yesterday, tomorrow, etc.)
“And there was evening and there was morning.” This is not a normal Hebrew expression for a day, which would usually be evening to evening (think Shabbat/Sabbath) for a 24 hour day. It is more likely an expression meaning from beginning to ending of these particular creation activities.

DAY 2: Genesis 1:6-8   And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

This is the formation of the stable water cycle on earth, which is necessary for the support of all life. See also Ecclesiastes 1:7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the ea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. And Isaiah 55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that is yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater. Again, the word for “made” is not the same as the word as “created” in vs. 1.

DAY 3: Genesis 1:9-13 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

Plate tectonics and volcanic activity begin to raise the land above the surface of the water so that life can begin. Plant life also appears. There are three words used for the various kinds of plants and the English translation of those words tends to be more specific than the Hebrew words imply.

DAY 4: Genesis 1:14-19 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

This day is often the most controversial because people forget that we are still observing what’s happening from the surface of the earth and things that God already created are just now becoming visible from that vantage point. Verses 16-18a are a parenthetical statement reminding us what happened “in the beginning”; now that they are visible the author is telling us why God created them for the earth.

Finally, by day 4 the atmosphere begins to become transparent due to a number of changes that have occurred on the earth:
  • Stabilization of air temperature and pressure
  • Slower rotation rate
  • Consumption of carbon dioxide by plants, and
  • Decrease of volcanic activity.
DAY 5: Genesis 1:20-23 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

The word translated “living creatures” in verse 20 refers to “swarms of small aquatic creatures” which when used for water life include mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and amphibians – the most primitive creatures that require light for regulation of their body clocks. The earliest fossils are of these types of creatures.The word translated “great creatures” in verse 21 refers to “soulish” animals – those that can form relationships with each other or with humans. There are two words used for “created” one which indicates that previously existing materials were used (i.e. the dust of the earth), but they were fashioned into something completely new.

DAY 6: Genesis 1:24-31 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Verses 24-25 focus on three types of animals God created (not all animals are mentioned here, just those that would interact closely with humans), long-legged land quadrupeds which are (1) easily domesticated and those which (2) make good pets and (3) short-legged land mammals like rodents, rabbits, etc.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Again on day 6 two words are used for “created” indicating previously used materials (i.e. the dust of the earth) being fashioned into something completely new. The “new” aspect for mankind is the spiritual dimension, the “image of God”. DNA evidence now shows that all humanity descends from one man and one woman who lived about 50,000 years ago. Personally I think this is majorly cool! No evolution for this mama!

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

God now gives His command to Adam and Eve to populate the earth take care of His creation. The entire chapter of Genesis 2 goes into the details of the sixth day.

DAY 7 Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested (or ceased) from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Note that the repetitive phrase “there was evening, and there was morning” is not included for the seventh day. This leads us to believe that the seventh day may not yet have ended. There has been no evidence of anything new having been created since humanity appeared on the scene.


From scientific observation the universe and the earth appear to be old. I believe that these observations do not contradict the creation accounts found in Genesis and throughout the Bible. It is contrary to God’s nature to be deceptive.
  • The universe is currently observed to be 13.75 billion years old.
  • The earth is currently observed to be 4.5 billion years old.
I also take exception to the idea that people who believe the earth is old are on “a slippery slope” regarding inerrancy of the Bible. The Christians I know and whose work I have read that believe the universe and earth are old tend to be exceptionally strong in their belief that the Bible is God’s infallible Word and that no part of it should be changed or ignored.

A question that has come up in my small group regarding a number of topics is "What would it take for me to change be view?" My answer regarding the age of the earth is this: evidence that is independently verifiable and accepted by both Christian and non-Christian scientists showing the age of the universe, earth, and humanity is different than currently observed and measured - this could go either way younger or older.

I hope you have found this interesting and perhaps new. As always I would love to see some comments or discussion about this post. I have lots of other topics in mind, but if there are specific things you like to see address please let me know.


  1. The biggest problem I see with all of our Age Dating Theories is that there are several assumptions that need to be constant in order for those procedures to be accurate. (e.g. Carbon 14 decay, by definition, goes from 100% to a Trace% in "only" 100,000 years. Also, the environment must remain constant, something which never happens.) Logically, if all these methods were accurate, different methods would all produce similar calculations, would not contradict each other, and we could Triangulate an Age.

    Second, if it did take Millions of Years, I believe God would have told us so. Since the Millions of Years Theory (NOT proven as fact) is such a huge stumbling block to many "former Christians" who grew up in the Church and no longer attend, given God's hatred of dissention (Prov 16:12), I must conclude that the source of this must not be from God.

  2. Thanks for your comments. I'm glad you were willing to share your thoughts. I know there are lots of different dating methods that range from purely observational (e.g. counting tree rings or ice core layers) to the very technical. That would be an interesting topic to research and write a posting about. Stay tuned!

    The thing to keep in mind about what God told us in the Bible was that it was written thousands of years ago to a completely different culture and in a language that had about 3000 words to work with. The word translated "day" in Genesis 1 is the only word that could have been used to express a very long but definite period of time in Biblical Hebrew. Also, the main purpose of the Genesis 1 and 2 accounts of creation was to teach the Israelites (and the rest of us) that the universe and earth and EVERYTHING was created by the One True and Living God. I think that since the description of how God DID that creating is so accurate to what scientists are learning about now (the past 200 year or so) is even more confirmation of the accuracy and authority of the Bible. There is no way Moses could have known/guessed/made up the sequence and chronology of creation if it had not been revealed to him by the One who did it! Also, note that there are many more places in scripture that talk about creation besides just Genesis 1 & 2 and that provide more details.

    I am interested in your comment that the age of the earth is "a huge stumbling block to many "former Christians" who grew up in the Church and no longer attend." Would you provide some additional information on this? The data that I've looked at recently (in the book Already Gone, by Ken Hamm which tries to make that exact point) really did not seem to support that claim (looking at the raw survey data in the back vs. his interpretation of it). My concern is that many non-believers are so turned off by the young earth view of science that they will not even give the Bible a chance to speak to them.

    This is definitely not a salvation issue, and I totally agree that it should not become an issue of dissension or divisiveness. On the other hand we need to be open to both God's Word and His creation and since truth does not contradict truth; continue to pray, search, learn, study, seek. I'm not sure what you mean by "the source of this must not be from God" since all I am trying to do is make the connection between His general revelation and His special revelation. If it is truth it is all from God. If it is interpretation then it must be held loosely.