Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

No, The Bible Doesn’t Say The Earth Is Only 6,000 Years Old

Fundamentalists of the “young earth” variety will often claim that the earth is just 6,000 years old.

Their reasoning? The Bible says so.

In fact, I’ve been following Ken Ham lately, and some of the stuff being put out by Answers in Genesis (Ken has blocked me on Facebook, FWIW) to see if they’ve had any new arguments. I’m continually amazed at how the young earth view of the universe is considered a foundational bedrock of their Christian faith. In a house of cards built by their own hands, they will frequently claim that believing in a universe that is anything more than a few thousand years old is a threat to the entire faith system.

I suppose it goes like this: The Bible dates the earth = if you can’t trust the Bible on that one point, you can’t trust any of it = all Christian faith hinges on a young earth.

There’s only one, massive, glaring problem with that: The Bible doesn’t date the creation of the Universe. 

Dating the age of the universe isn’t a question the Bible deals with. It wasn’t even on the radar of the people who wrote it.

Here’s the round about way young-earth fundamentalists arrive at their young earth position:

The Bible does give detailed genealogies of the ancestors of Jesus, which include how long an individual was reported to have lived. When you add up the life spans of all those listed in the biblical genealogies, add 2,000 years since Christ, you get somewhere around 6,000 or so. And that is the entire argument of young-earth creationism.

While young-earth creationism is tragically flawed on multiple counts, its ultimate flaw is that it fails to take the Bible seriously, all while claiming a higher view of Scripture than anyone else.

You see, ancient genealogies such as those listed in Genesis are not absolute, never-skip-anyone, genealogies– because that’s not how ancient Hebrew genealogies even work. In fact, it is quite common to skip over folks who, for one reason or another, were not considered noteworthy in the specific genealogical context. Instead, those writing these family histories would often use the term “begat” to refer to anyone who is in your direct bloodline. Thus, if Joe was the dad of Frank, and Frank had a son named Larry, in an ancient genealogy it would be entirely normal to say, “Joe begat Larry” even though Joe is technically the grandfather of Larry.

We even see this in the New Testament where Jesus is called the “son of David.” Obviously Jesus was not the son of David, but in ancient language it was completely permissible to say so since Jesus did in fact come from the line of David.

That’s just how these things work.

But even if these genealogies were absolute, that still doesn’t date the earth– but we can get into those issues another time.

Unfortunately, those like Ken Ham and other young-earth creationists, not only fail to take science seriously– they truly fail to take the Bible seriously. Instead, they try to read and interpret the Bible through Western eyes, with modern questions, giving no thought to ancient language, context, ancient cultures, genre, or a host of other issues that biblical scholars deal with on a daily basis.

To quote Donald Trump, it’s “sad!” to see fellow Christians building their entire worldview on such a shaky premise, all while claiming theirs is the “sure foundation.” It gives people a false impression of Christianity, the Bible, and quite honestly, it makes us look silly.

In the end, the idea that the Bible teaches the earth is 6,000 years old is total nonsense– and those who take the Bible seriously would know that.

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Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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38 Responses

  1. Nope, it certainly doesn’t. Though the existence of humans on this earth hasn’t been all that much longer than that time period.

  2. Having read many similar articles and commentry on this topic of the age of the earth and the role of the Bible in this discussion it is clear that the purpose of the Biblial writers is not clealy understood.
    These questions need to be honestly answered.
    Is the bible a scientific document?
    The Bible does contain some textual parts that reflect the scietific understanding of things as it was at the time of the writer, but scientific understandings do chage with time.
    Is the Bible a historical document?
    The Bibe does contain some textual parts that reflect the historicl knowledge of the writer, sometimes accurate but some times inaccurate.
    Who were these writers?
    What was their purpose in writing?
    They are writers, some known, some unknown, some to whom the writing is attributed, with a paticular purpose of telling a rather unique story and like all stories it has a beginning, complications, resolutions and an eventual conclusion.
    It has two characters God and Humankind.
    It tells of the ups and downs of the relationship between these two characters over thousands of years.
    It tell of what strengthens that relationship and what breaks or harms that relationship.
    It also tells of the relationships between the members of Humankind and what stregthens and what breaks or harms these relationships.
    Throughtout its entirity it is consistent in the undelying principles that strengthen these relationships and break or harm these relationships. Herein lies its cositent truth.
    In as much as we are all part of Humankind, we are part of this ongoing story. It is our story. Each of us may be like the writers of this story, perons of deep faith and trust in all that the Bible tells that builds, firstly a strong and lasting reationship between God and Humankind and secondly strong and lasting relationships between the members of Humanhind or we can ignore it, as many have and do.
    An interesting question.
    Which Biblical personality would best reflect your personality?
    Just asking.

    1. That was actually pretty good.

      If I had to pick a biblical personality, it might be the rich young ruler that Jesus instructed to sell all he had and give to the poor. I am trying very hard to respond differently than he did, not always successfully.

  3. So, for the sake of argument, let us assume the earth is 6,000 years old.
    Just what the heck was god doing for the previous infinity?

    1. Martin Luther said, “Making switches for people who ask stupid questions.” Calvin’s answer was similar, except he said “preparing Hell” instead of “making switches.” Probably captures their proclivities pretty well.

      But having said that, your question is really good. I mean, in what sense can we even talk about time before creation?

    2. He was in relationship, hence the Trinity. But time as we understand it and experience it did not exist ‘before’ the big bang as space and time are interlinked. My head hurts.

  4. It may not say the Earth is 6,000 years old, but it DOES say:

    – there was light ( Genesis 1:3) BEFORE there were stars (Genesis 1:16)

    – there was night & day ( Genesis 1:4-6) BEFORE there was an Earth ( Genesis 1:9-10)

    – the flood covered the entire Earth (Genesis 7:17-19)… but somehow the people living in Europe, Asia, North & South America, Australia, and most of Africa didn’t notice it

    etc, etc, etc

    The point is, the age of the Earth isn’t the issue, the fact that the Bible is filled with ridiculous claims for which there is no evidence is reason enough to dismiss the Bible as anything other than a book of poorly written fables & myths…. most of which aren’t even particularly original, since similar accounts exist in older writings.

    1. – there was night & day ( Genesis 1:4-6) BEFORE there was an Earth ( Genesis 1:9-10)

      Actually, if you read the Hebrew, the Earth, covered with water, was already present before the events in Genesis occur. Genesis does not describe creation ex nihilo.

    2. Like many atheists and fundamentalist Christians, you insist on understanding the first few chapters in Genesis as a literal scientific textbook, and then reject or accept it on that basis. It was not written that way, though it should be said the general flow of the narrative accords with scientific findings – beginning of the Universe (as opposed to the steady-state theory previously believed by many scientists), creation of the earth, development of plant and animal life, and finally mankind.

      The more I look at the text, the more I think it was written to negate some of the other near eastern creation stories from other peoples, where the sun and the moon for example are viewed as ‘gods’ to be worshipped – Genesis says NO, the sun and moon have a function, and are not to be worshipped.

      I think those chapters say alot about mankind’s relationship with God – how we ‘hide’ from God when we sin, how God pursues us despite our rebellion against Him, how we often listen to others’ twisted words about God resulting in a twisted view of Him (God is mean when in truth he is very generous), how from the offspring of humanity evil was going to be defeated.

      But then if you insist on the scientific textbook view, you’ll never learn from it.

  5. What’s really bizarre about this entire argument is that it is pretty obvious what Genesis is, all you have to do is know who wrote it. It’s the founding creation myth of the Jewish people. Every society has one, it’s not some sort of weird thing. It’s only weird because AMERICANS don’t, our country is less than 300 years old so that concept is totally foreign to us, but you go to the old world and most other countries do, and everyone knows what it is, but they don’t take it as some sort of literal history. Christians have co-opted Genesis for our own purposes, which is perfectly fine, but you can’t disconnect a story from where it first came from and why it was originally told. The idea that Genesis was written to scientifically explain how the universe was created for modern 21st century Christians is so beyond the pale that it makes it difficult to even engage with these people. It’s like we’re not speaking the same language.

  6. Astounding! Amazing! a long civilized and entertaining discussion on a highly controversial topic. Congratulations! You all have my admiration, for whatever it’s worth. I hoist my coffee cup to Phil Ledgerwood, John Williams, Ron McPherson, Realist1234, Matthew, Herm, and Tonycutty. My apologies to anyone I might have missed.

  7. Wow. How did you miss the part where the Genesis genealogies can be dated relative to one another… except on purpose? You know, that whole “And when this guy was x years old, he begat this guy”, etc. Didn’t they teach math at that college you went to, doc?

  8. Hi Ben.
    I think you’ve missed the real points of when the earth/cosmos was created.
    While I agree that it’s the geneaologies whence we obtain the age of the earth, there are far earlier issues which first must be dealt with.
    The creation narrative itself for starters.
    1- God created the heavens and the earth.
    2- There was dark and emptiness/void upon the face of the deep, as God’s Spirit hovered over (brooded) it.

    3- God said, “Let there be light”, and it was so.

    4- first day……

    There appears to be implied— but not clearly so– that there’s a gap of some sort between the initial creation of the cosmos, and the creation of the earth’s contents. Whatever took place, the earth was without form and empty when the 6 days of creation began taking place.

    We then enter chapter 2, and Adam, apparently alone, names all the animals.

    It’s at some point in the naming of the animals, where God says— It’s not good that man should be alone. I will make a help-meet suitable for him. How long was Adam at this, before Eve was created?

    We then have what appears to be an issue of— when did Adam’s age start being accounted? Was it at the fall, from the day of his being created out of the dust?
    The bible strikes me as being rather vague here. It’s readily assumed that it was from the day of his creation, but as I’ve looked at it over the years, it’s simply not stated, and therefore ambiguous at best. The only thing we do know is that Adam was 105 years when Seth was born. Everything before that is not clearly defined, agewise. We have no age for when Adam and Eve started having children. We don’t know when Cain, and Abel lived.

    So, what we do know?
    God created the heavens and the earth at some non-descript time in ancient past.

    God then set aside 6 days for creating light, plants, trees, sun, moon, stars, critters, animals, livestock, and man. He then takes a day off.

    We then read what some like to call the levitical description of creation, and see that Adam named the animals, over some non-descript length of time.

    Following this, we enter the garden’s interaction between Eve, and the serpent.

    As I’ve pondered this over the years, I’ve found a question that arises in my mind.

    how long did the serpent have to study the man, and his interactions, life, etc…. before he figured out that he had to get to the woman, to make it a once for all, end-game to accomplish his goal of separating man from God?

    How long did it take to get the woman to interact with the serpent, and to gain her trust? She obviously trusted the serpent to some high-level, because she sat there listening to it, in spite of her knowing what Adam told her about the fruit.

    Innocence does not mean lacking in intelligence. And I’m not entirely sure it means naivete either. It could, but not inherently necessary.

    It further strikes me that in order for the serpent to succeed in his plot against God, and man, he needed to get to man, at the first generation. Failure to get to Adam, meant he’d have to do it to an increasing number of people, exponentially making his job more complicated, and at higher likelihood of failure. Thus, it had to be Adam.

    Getting at Eve was a rather ingenious plot actually. Its success would depend entirely on how much Adam had come to love Eve. What was the cost Adam would be willing to bear to keep her? Would he be willing to die with her, lose his fellowship with God, to keep her? It was a high-stakes gamble, which, sadly for us, paid off. I say sadly, because humanity is the cash that the devil bargains with, and trust is the collateral. Trust God and live? OR trust anything, anyone else, and die?

    Remember— Adam was the one whom God told— you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day you eat thereof, dying, you shall die.

    Two questions arise here for me.
    1- what is— dying, you shall die? I’ve always been taught that Adam died spiritually that day, and his spiritual death, resulted ultimately in his physical death. Hence, Jesus’ statement of— unless you are Born again, you cannot enter or see God’s Kingdom. John 3:3-5, as well as the description in Ezekiel 36:25-27.

    2- what is the impact to the rest of humanity?

    Thus, We have to consider that in order to get to man, the serpent had to get to Eve first. She had to be the one to eat the fruit in order for the serpent to get at man.

    Thus, we have the fall of man.

    So, from creation, to Seth, is it in fact, 105 years? We don’t have ANYTHING which definitively shows when Adam’s age is defined by, or based upon. We can assume all day long, but that doesn’t mean that’s the correct delineator.

    So, while I understand that you think challenging the geneaological record will support your claim that the earth isn’t necessarily 6000 years old, I think your logic is flawed in doing so. You’re claiming a level of knowledge that none of us actually possess, because we simply were not present during the era in question. We didn’t know Moses. We don’t know EXACTLY what Moses did for those 80 days on the mountain with God, so these things alone would knock us off the rail in our attempts to make claims of knowledge regarding genealogical history. Granted, I’m in the same position with my ideas too, which is why the questions I’ve asked. It’s also why I’ve prayed, asking God for one thing when I get home to Jesus—- may I please be taken back through history (from the eternal perspective), and observe history unfold?

    I think if you really want to get back to the age of the earth being called into question, you have to start before then.
    Start with the first 3 chapters.

    Was there, and if so, how long, a gap in time, between Genesis 1:2, and 1:3?
    How long did it take for Adam to name the animals?

    How long did Adam live before Eve was created?
    From what point did Adam’s age get defined, the fall, or the creation (6th day)?
    Answer these, without assumptions, and you’ll be closer to how old the earth is. Until then, it strikes me that we’re still in exactly the same boat as we were before we were born.

    The 6000 years age is based on Bishop James Ussher’s calculations. We can corroborate his claims, but in doing so— we must assume the items I’ve noted.

    To call into question the geneaological listings just places you in the undesirable position of claiming that God is incapable of keeping an accurate record in the text he inspired (2 Tim. 3– that the bible is “God-breathed”). I.e., on some level that means calling God a liar. Do you REALLY want to do that?

    Do you REALLY want to make those assumptions to make the record fit whatever notions you have?

    My notions aren’t entirely better, but they are sticking with the written items in the bible.

    My ideas are still questions. Questions which could be answered in the bible, but having been reading it for a long time, several times now, I’ve still not found those answers.
    Which leaves me in the position of—- whom shall I believe?

    My own intellect’s capacity for ferreting these things out? The world’s capacity for calling God a liar (Has God REALLY said? which is exactly what the serpent did to Eve.)?
    Or do I, like everyone else has to choose….. Believe God, even though there are questions I have? Can I, will I, let God decide when those questions are best answered?

    What’s more important….. that I know what no one else knows? Or that I trust God, place my faith in Jesus, and follow him, letting him decide the right timing to answer such questions, even if that means I have to wait until after I die, or enter eternity?

    Especially when I…. indeed ALL Jesus followers— are promised that we will one day know as we are known. 1 Cor. 13:12.

    Best.
    Indeed an interesting article, but I think you’re on the wrong track to claim more than 6000 years. As Jews claim October 4004 BC, we’re already at 6020+. Although, their calendar is 5777, so go figure. Arguing with Jewish history places you on a bad footing to begin with.

    If you ever get a time machine, I’ll go with you. I have several stops I’d like to make, and I think you’d agree upon explanation.

  9. Science says that the universe is around 14 billion years old. Now pause for a moment. According to modern quantum physics the closer you get to a massive amount of gravity, the slower time will move for you relative to someone trillions of miles away. With that valuable piece of quantum mechanics, I will assume that the universe was created 14 billion years ago. The reason is that I will be using the big bang theory’s biggest flaw, which is:

    “where did the massive amount of energy in the big bang come from in the vast expanse of empty space?”

    Think of God living near a Ultrasupermassive black hole, and somehow he was able to transport the singularity of a smaller black hole into a different area of space. If the black hole has nothing to absorb it will eventually explode due to the lack of matter around it. It will turn its weight against itself. Kind of like a Prince Rupert drop. The outer shell of the black hole (event horizon) acts as the delicate string of glass that trails behind the indestructible main part. If you were somehow able to crack the shell, you would have an explosion of energy.

    Now, seeing as God is near a ultrasupermassive black hole, depending on how far away from the black hole the package was before it exploded, it would determine the time differential between God and Earth. One day for God is 2 billion years for earth.

    So about the description of how the earth was made… Its not all about earth.

    “God divided the light from the darkness.” the separation of matter. Dark matter that is. It isn’t physically separating the matter, just putting it into categories.
    The firmament- the planet’s and stars, the heavens
    The waters- energy and space
    The rest is a little out of order, but imagine trying to scientifically describe the birth of a new universe to… Say… An 8 year old. It’s pretty difficult, and to describe one thing that happens, they’ll ask how, so you have to explain what caused the thing to happen.

    I’m not trying to infringe on anyone else’s beliefs, but if you have any questions, concerns, or would like to have a discussion about the topic at hand, feel free to contact me through my personal email: kevin.lively.2000@gmail.com

    I am a Christian and have a firm testimony of Jesus Christ our Lord and savior. I am also a beginning scientist, so if you would like to talk to me on either subject, feel free to contact me. I may not be immediately available to reply because of high school, but I will get back to you as soon as possible.

    1. Keep learning and keep reading.

      I like
      Why Evolution is True by Coyne,
      Your Inner Fish by Shubin and
      The Story of Earth by Hazen.

      The original Cosmos series with Carl Sagan is amazing.

      There are lots of other great books and videos on science out there.

      And keep asking questions!

  10. I think Fundamentalism and its unscientific, unacademic approach to theologies are causing people to abandon their faith in God and creating more atheists. (Fortunately I took the opposite direction.)

    1. If your approach to faith is based on lies, don’t be surprised when people reject it. You wouldn’t buy a nice modern building if the foundations were rotten.

  11. No,
    it definitely doesn’t say that. But it does indeed say that creation
    was ‘six days’ and that God rested… on the 7th (Sabbath) ‘day’. To
    the best of my knowledge we are still in the ‘7thday’ though hings took
    place on this day that weren’t to take place. That, or course, being the
    ‘sin’ that Adam and Eve brought into this world and subsequently passed
    on to the rest of us humans.

    1. God does not rest. An omnipotent being does not get tired. The entire creation account is referring to grace and christ. The “days” teaching is not literal.

  12. This is something I shared on reddit if you don’t mind me sharing this here. I have an idea and need help form the entire community to help pass this out and I have one more thing I need help getting as the place doesn’t take American Express.

  13. Nailed it!!! I’ve never held to the idea that the world is 6000 years old, not have i believed the universe to be billions of years old. There are flaws and misunderstandings on both sides, but you brought out good points. The bible is an eastern book written in a completely different mindset than western philosophy. Good job.

  14. I find the whole thing strange. The YEC literature that I read when I was
    young admitted this about the genealogies and had an age of at least
    12.000 years, which seems too much thinking already for Ham and Co. At
    least they tried to make sense and be intellectual honest, which doesn’t seem the case at all here.

  15. Genesis is a Creation Myth. Like many other Creation Myths it attempts to convey A Truth through a fabulous narrative. The earth is not 6,000 years old and there was no Adam and no Eve; nevertheless, the Bible does have something to say about man’s relationship with the divine.

    It’s like Aesop’s Fables. We learn a truth from each fable, but we don’t believe an actual tortoise ever raced a hare.

    This is Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams, one-time head of the Anglican Church, discussing Creationism, I.D. and evolution. https://www.theregister.co.uk/…/archbishop_backs…/

    And for anyone who wants a quick tour of Creation Myths around the world.

    http://www.bigmyth.com/2_eng_myths.html

    Believing in the literal truth of Genesis doesn’t make you a better Christian: quite the opposite; you have spurned the the gifts you believe your God gave you and retreated to narrow dogmatism.

  16. Consider that there are no absolutes. Everything is fluid. “Truth” is in a constant state of flux and will never be fully known. Theories that are now held as absolutes, will, in time, be proven wrong. I guess the important thing is to enjoy the journey of learning.

    1. Yes, it is. I can’t even remember when I first learned that the planet was this old although I must’ve been really young. Paleontology wasn’t one of the fields I was most interested in growing up compared to botany or chemistry.

  17. Gotta tell ya, nothing says “Come to Jesus” like a “pastor” popping into the. comments to call everyone who disagrees with him an atheist. Good stuff.

    1. I seriously sometimes wonder if people think they’re worshipping God when in reality they’re just worshiping the Bible without realizing it

  18. Talk about missing the point. Bishop James Usher is the one that came up with that figure. He added the genealogies and arrived at a 6000 y/o earth. The big problem with his calculations​ is, the Bible has people living nearly a thousand years. Ken Ham is often fond of saying, who are you going to listen to the word of god or the word of Man, not realizing that’s​ exactly what he’s doing.

  19. How to Create Atheists in 3 Easy Steps
    ===
    1. Drill into your youth that either the Earth is 6000 years old, or the Bible is completely false.
    2. Wait for your youth to discover the overwhelming landslide of evidence that the Earth is far, far older than 6000 years.
    3. Profit?

    1. I’m not sure how the “profit” line fits the equation, but I did begin as fundamentalist, so I suppose your steps describe a very small part of my conversion to atheism.

      However, I became a liberal Christian before I became an atheist; and I have seen such steps lead to more liberal Christians than atheists. I’m not picky, as long as a little more reason wins the day.

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