Review by Ruben Baron
First Published February 2009
Chapter 2 focuses on the Biblical age of the earth. That is, how can we interpret the age of the earth from the Biblical text.
Perhaps the most frequent argument heard from a YEC viewpoint is that a 24-hour day in Genesis 1 is “straightforward reading” of the Bible, or taking the Bible at “face value.” On pages 23-24 it is stated that the age of the earth is derived by computing the time before Abraham by means of the counting the years of the genealogies before Abraham, and making the assumption that the days in Genesis 1 are 24 hour days. Then several authors are quoted as to saying that the “plain understanding” of the text of Genesis 1 is that a day is 24 hours.
However, there are many problems with this assertion:
First of all, the important question is what does the Bible really mean as we read it in context, not what do we get with a “face value” reading. Many theologians throughout the centuries of the church have disagreed on many issues, because each side of the issue took a passage at “face value.” For example, a “straightforward reading” of Ephesians 1:5 teaches predestination and election in salvation, while a “straightforward reading” of 1Timothy 2:4 teaches that God desires all to be saved. So which is it, does God want some or all to be saved? A “straightforward reading” of John 10:28 teaches eternal salvation, while a “straightforward reading” of Hebrews 6:6 teaches that those saved can fall away. So which is it, is salvation eternal, or can one fall away from salvation? Of course, theologians of various persuasions have explanations to reconcile these verses, but the point here is that a “straightforward reading” does not always provide a correct understanding of a given verse, and may in fact be a serious misunderstanding of that verse.
Secondly, a YEC understanding of Genesis is not necessarily a “straightforward reading” of the text. The Bible does not give any “straightforward” dates in the early chapters of Genesis, but rather the dates of YEC are derived by computation from the genealogies listed in those chapters, along with many assumptions about the times given. I would not call this a “straightforward” understanding at all. Even the understanding of the word “day” in Genesis 1 and 2 is not “straightforward,” since there are at least three different possible meanings of the same word in Hebrew just in the first 35 verses of Genesis.
Thirdly, the quotation of Dr. Gleason Archer on pages 24-25 says “From a superficial reading”, while the very next paragraph asserts that he agrees that a “plain reading” supports six ordinary days. This is simply not what Dr. Archer said! The very point of Dr. Archer is that the Bible can not be read superficially to best understand what it is saying. He is not saying that a “plain reading” points to a 24-hour day.
The commandment to keep the Sabbath in Exodus 20:11 is then cited on page 25 as conclusive evidence that Genesis is to be understood as six 24-hour days, since the Sabbath is kept after six 24-hour days. However this verse can be just as easily understood as teaching a pattern for Sabbath rather than the length of time of the Sabbath. This same pattern is seen in other passages in the Law, such as allowing the land to rest every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11). In fact the very next verse (Exodus 23:12) repeats the command for a weekly Sabbath rest, as if to reinforce the pattern of the earlier verses rather than specifying a length of time. This point seems to be entirely missed in the discussion of Exodus 20:11 on page 25.
Next the meaning of the Hebrew word יום (yom — day) is described. It is recognized here that context does determine the meaning, with which both YEC’s and OEC’s would agree. But then it is asserted on page 26 that this word must mean a 24-hour day because:
It is used together with the words “evening” and “morning”. First of all, there are a few verses that allude to “evening” and “morning” in a generic sense such as Psalm 30:5, which could indicate that “evening” and “morning” do not necessarily refer to a 24- hour day. But more importantly, the fact that Genesis 1 is the only passage in the entire Bible that uses “evening” and “morning” and “day” together in a specific pattern actually demonstrates that “day” does not necessarily mean 24 hours in Genesis 1. There are over 2300 occurrences of the word יום in the Hebrew Bible, many of which clearly indicate a 24-hour day from the context. But in none of these places is this word used together with the expression “evening” and “ morning” in the same way as in Genesis 1.
It is used together with a cardinal number (one) on the first day and ordinal numbers (second through sixth) on the following days. Actually there are other passages that indicate that the expression with the cardinal number יום אחד(yom ehad — one day) is not necessarily a 24-hour day, such as Isaiah 66:8 or Zechariah 3:9. And almost all of the other passages that do refer to a 24-hour day have several other indicators of this which are not in Genesis 1. With regard to ordinal numbers (second, third, etc.), there is an interesting overlooked detail in Hebrew text of Genesis 1. The prefix article ה (ha — the) only appears with the cardinal number on the sixth day. But days two through five do not have this article with the ordinal number, which makes the structure of those days unique in the entire Old Testament. The expression “the sixth day” is indeed used elsewhere in the Old Testament to indicate a sixth 24-hour day. But the fact that only the sixth day among all of the other days mentioned in Genesis 1 has this construction indicates that these days are not all necessarily 24-hour days. The statement in the book that “Whenever yom is used in the Old Testament with either a cardinal or an ordinal number, it always means a literal day,” is simply given with no supporting evidence whatsoever, especially outside of Genesis 1.
Apart from the question of the meaning of the word “day,” the remaining pages in Chapter 2 give other biblical evidences used to support a YEC view of creation:
Genealogical evidence. As mentioned above, the use of genealogies is certainly not a “straightforward” way to resolve the question of a young or old earth. With or without gaps in the genealogies, along with many other assumptions, a time period can indeed be calculated from the genealogies. But at best, this calculated time is the time from Abraham to Adam, not the time from Abraham to the beginning of creation.
Death and suffering before sin. Page 27 begins what is perhaps the strongest theological argument used to support YEC. This argument is always framed in very emotional terms so that the reader is almost compelled to accept the argument just for emotional reasons. This theological argument is presented as follows:
Since sin is associated with death and suffering, and since sin entered the world through Adam, then there could not be any death or suffering before Adam. Since OEC accepts the existence of fossils and animal death before the sin of Adam, then it cannot be biblically supported.
Furthermore the OEC’s are accused that “their view necessarily undermines the foundation of the Gospel message,” since the Gospel involves redemption from sin, which is associated with death and suffering.
YEC’s also ask how can the creation be called “very good” (Genesis 1:31), if there are fossils and animal death before Adam?
The fact the fossil thorns and thistles have been found seem to contradict Genesis 3:18 that associates them with the Fall.
The vegetarian diet prescribed for Adam in Genesis 1:29-30 also seems to rule out animal death before the sin of Adam, but yet there are fossils that clearly show signs of animal death.
All of these points are based upon the following YEC assumptions:
The most important assumption is that animal death is a consequence of human sin. This point has been discussed in great detail in other places, but one example will suffice here. Romans 5:12 makes it clear that death spread to all men (not animals) because of the sin of Adam. Animals are not at all included in this verse, because the subject is human sin and spiritual death through sin. Even if physical death is also included here, it still does not apply to animals in this verse and other verses that deal with the sin of mankind.
There is also the assumption that if the creation is “very good” then there cannot be any kind of imperfection in the creation. But “very good” does not mean perfect in the abstract, but perhaps optimal in light of the purposes of God. The very fact that God placed Adam in the Garden implies that the rest of creation was not optimal for Adam. Also the fact that Adam is put in the Garden to cultivate it (Genesis 2:15) also shows that work is not associated with sin and that processes in nature that we see at work today also were there in the Garden.
The mention of thorns and thistles is made on the assumption that thorns and thistles did not exist at all before the Fall, but Genesis 3:18 does not really say this. Thorns and thistles are used simply as a means of expressing the curse of the ground after the Fall.
The focus of Genesis 1:29-30 is not to command a vegetarian diet, but simply to give a statement that the purpose of plants is to provide food for all animal life, which still remains true today.
Of course theologians can continue to debate about the meaning and purpose of all of these verses, but the point here is to show that YEC interpretation is simply that — an interpretation that is based upon its own assumptions. Frequently YEC’s accuse OEC’s of making unwarranted “assumptions,” but as can be seen above, YEC’s also have many assumptions in their own interpretation of the Bible.
What does the New Testament teach? On page 28 it is asserted that Jesus Christ confirmed that the Earth is young, based upon His statements in Mark 10:6 and Matthew 19:4, in particular with the expressions of “from the beginning of creation.” But since Jesus is quoting from the creation account in Genesis (probably Genesis 1:27 and 5:2) this statement could just as easily be understood as referring to the account of creation in Genesis without making a statement one way or the other about the age of the earth.
Similarly it is asserted that the expression “since the creation of the world” in Romans 1:20 shows that the earth had to be young. The idea here is that mankind had to be around the entire time of creation to observe the creation, but this expression can also easily be understood as emphasizing that God’s attributes are obvious from the beginning of creation, whether men are present or not to see them.
Restoration of Paradise. The final argument on page 29 of this chapter asserts that Isaiah 65:25-26 alludes to the original creation and the vegetarianism associated with the creation. The assertion of vegetarianism at creation was already shown above to not necessarily be correct, and besides, most interpreters of the Bible take these verses to refer either to the coming Millennium or to the new heaven and the new earth (depending upon one’s theological perspective). To state that OEC’s deny either the Millennium or the new heaven and the new earth because of an old earth time scale, is simply unwarranted. The very fact that the either the Millennium or the new heaven and the new earth is an entirely different kind of creation than the creation that we see now makes this argument against OEC irrelevant.
In summary chapter 2 should have been the strongest chapter for a YEC viewpoint of creation, since YEC is primarily based upon a theological arguments from the Bible “without the influence of modern science.” But even in this chapter the case for YEC from the Bible is not that strong after looking more carefully at the text of the Bible.
To learn more
about old earth creationism, see
Old Earth Belief,
or check out the article
Can You Be A
Christian and Believe in an Old Earth?
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