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AGE OF THE EARTH—Is the Bible clear about the age of the Earth and universe?

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Planets in SpaceGod uses a relatively large amount of space in Genesis 1 to make it very clear that He created the universe in six days. There is no mention of billions-of-years or any great period of time. However, many people still wonder whether or not the modern scientific belief that the Earth and universe have existed for billions of years can be harmonized with a literal interpretation of the Bible.

Most Christians have heard the argument that the word “day” in Genesis does not mean a literal 24 hour type day, but rather that the “days” represent 6 great ages of time. This is often referred to as the day-age theory. Many people have wondered whether this argument is valid. It is true, after all, that the Hebrew word for day (yom) can have several different meanings, depending upon its context. However, it is our opinion that when all the facts are gathered, it is abundantly clear that God communicated with precision that all creation took place during the time period of six, normal, 24-hour type days.

  • The Hebrew word for day (yom) can have several different meanings. The meaning is always clear when read in context.

  • The first reference to “day” in the creation account is in the context of a 24 hour cycle of light and dark.

    “And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (NASV, see Genesis One).

  • When the word “day” is used with a number, such as day one, day two, etc., it always refers to a literal, 24 hour type day. This is true 100% of the time. This holds true all 359 times that “day” is used with an ordinal modifier (number) outside of Genesis chapter 1.

  • There is no Biblical indication that “day” is used differently in the beginning chapter of Genesis than it is throughout the rest of the book, or the rest of the Old Testament.

  • The “days” in Genesis 1 are always specifically used in connection with the words “evening and morning.” This phrase is used with “day” 38 times in the Old Testament, not counting Genesis chapter 1. Each time, without exception, the phrase refers to a normal 24 hour type day. It is also important to note that this phrase is never used in the Old Testament in a manner which is obviously metaphoric.

When the phrase “evening and morning” is coupled with a numbered modifier and the word “yom”, there is no stronger way of specifying a normal day. We understand that Genesis is describing six Earth rotations, not an unspecified period of billions of years.

We see therefore that a study of the Hebrew text of Genesis 1 states in clear language that creation took place during the period of six, normal 24-hour type days. Further evidence of this conclusion is given in Exodus 20:11. This passage, written in stone by the finger of God Himself, states,

“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.”

God, the only witness to the creation events, testifies that all things were created within a literal six day period.

Ultimately, whether one accepts this information or not probably depends more upon their interpretation of science than of the scriptures. For without the consideration of modern scientific theories of the age of the universe, there can be little reason to question the clear communication of the Bible.

As stated by Pattle P.T. Pun, a leading progressive creationist,

“It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of the Genesis record, without regard to all of the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created heaven and Earth in six solar days, that man was created in the sixth day, that death and chaos entered the world after the fall of Adam and Eve, that all of the fossils were the result of the catastrophic universal deluge which spared only Noah's family and the animals therewith.” [Pattle P.T. Pun, “A Theology of Progressive Creationism,” Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Ipswich, MA: March 1987), p. 14]

As in all areas of theology, God allows each believer to decide which side to take on a controversial topic. It must be noted, however, that the Scriptures are emphatically clear on this issue. The billions-of-years timescale estimated by modern scientific theories cannot be harmonized with the literal interpretation of the Bible by resorting to the misguided notion of a day-age.

Authors: Mark Van Bebber and Paul S. Taylor of Films for Christ

Further information

  • Order of Biblical Creation
  • Was the 4th day of Creation 24 hours long? Answer
  • 6th Day of Creation: 24 Hours? Could all of the events recorded on the 6th day of creation really have taken place during a normal, 24-hour-type day? Answer
  • Six Days? - Honestly!
  • Is the age of the Earth a trivial doctrinal point for Bible-believing followers of Christ? Answer
  • Progressive Creationist Hugh Ross, who is he and what does he believe? Answer
  • Age Estimation (in our Creation SuperLibrary)

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