Predictions of the age of the earth based on the historical account of the Bible has been a controversial subject ever since modern science predicted that the earth was far older than anyone had imagined. Those who hold to a strict literal interprestion of Biblical dates state that the earth is only several thousand years old, while more recent interpretations of Biblical scripture place the earth at any range of ages. Below is a description of how each Biblical prediction is obtained.
Strict interpretation of the Bible places the creation of the earth at approximately 4,000 B.C.E. Belief in this age of the earth is known as Young Earth Creationism and was first established by Dr. John Lightfoot, a clergyman in the 17th century. This age of the earth is found using the detailed chronology of biblical events. Biblical text, along with other historical texts from other civilizations, places the reign of Solomon between 971-931 B.C.E. From various different biblical verses, including extensive genealogies, which include the age of each father at the birth of their sons, it is possible to count backwards from the time of Solomon to the creation of Adam, the first man, who, according to scripture, was created on the sixth day.
Other dates have also been given based solely on biblical texts10. The next earliest estimate places the creation of the earth anywhere from 4,000-8,000 B.C.E. This is found by considering that each generation in a genealogy can be off by as much as one year. If a passage says that a man’s son was born when the man was 30 years old, then the man could have just turned 30 or he could be one day from turning 31. This estimate also takes into consideration that it was common for genealogies to skip generations, meaning that the years from the missing generations are missing from the original estimate of 4,000 B.C.E. for the year of the earth’s creation. Combining these two possible corrections has allowed biblical scholars to estimate that the earth can be as much as 10,000 years old.
Several biblical theories account for the much older age of the earth provided by scientific evidence. The first is the Gap Theory. According to the Gap Theory, the biblical account for the age of the earth only accounts for the “New Earth”. Gap theorists claim that before the biblical account of creation the earth already existed, along with animals, plants, and even early humans. However, the rebellion of Satan caused this earth to be ruined and destroyed by God, leaving the earth dark and abandoned. God then recreated the earth in the literal six days of the bible. Although highly disputed, Gap theorists do point to various biblical texts for support and claim that this theory accounts for not only the older age of the earth given by science, but for the presence of fossils, which are from organisms that were destroyed at the end of the “Old Earth” era.
Another theory that some Christians believe coincides with science is the Day-Age theory. According to those who believe in this theory, the word “day” used in Genesis 1 does not refer to a literal 24 hour day. They claim that it should rather be interpreted to mean age. This is because the Hebrew word yom, which is translated into day in Genesis 1 actually has two translations. The first translation, and the one traditionally used, is a literal 24 hour day. However, the second translation is that yom means an age with no distinct chronological time. Day-Age theorists thus claim that the days spoken of in Genesis 1 actually refer to distinct ages in the creation story, which can span anywhere from several billion years to several thousand years, to an actual day. They conclude that, based on this flexibility in the timeline of the creation story, science and the bible do not contradict each other.
For a better version of this image go to Day-Age Timeline.