{3}         STUDY: Antiquity of the Earth


Most scientists believe the universe was originated 15 billion years ago and the Earth (and the Solar System) was formed 4.5 billion years ago. To this assertion, Christians have to answer 2 questions: [1] What do you believe is the real age of the universe? [2] When did the creation described in Genesis 1 happen?



How do Christians solve the problem of apparent conflict between science and the Bible?

In response to this problem, there are 4 schools of thought:

[1] No need to harmonize: Science and religion are two different spheres. The statements in science do not explain religion, and vice versa.

[2] Accept scientific data: The observations in science are objectively true. Therefore the Bible is to be interpreted in a way to fit scientific data.

[3] Accept Biblical data: Scientific data may appear to be objectively true but God holds the key to ultimate reality. When there is an apparent conflict, scientific data are rejected or are interpreted in a way to fit the Bible.

[4] Harmonize: When all the facts are rightly understood, there is no real conflict between science and the Bible. We can accept data from both science and the Bible. When there is an apparent conflict, we can try to harmonize the two.

While the Bible is not a book of science, it is a book of truth. The Bible does not record science and history in the precise details required in academic works. Yet, if the author was recording what he believed actually happened, then it is true and factual. If scientific data are accurately and objectively arrived at, there are also true. The conflicts are only apparent. This course holds the 4th position.

Schaeffer is his book No Final Conflict lists 7 areas where Christians who believe in the total truthfulness of the Bible can have different opinions:

o        [1] There is a possibility that God created a “grown-up” universe.

o        [2] There is a possibility of a break between Gen 1:1 and 1:2 or between 1:2 and 1:3.

o        [3] There is a possibility of a long day in Gen 1.

o        [4] There is a possibility that the flood affected the geological data.

o        [5] The use of the word “kinds’ in Genesis 1 may be quite broad.

o        [6] There is a possibility of the death of animals before the fall.

o        [7] Where the Hebrew word bara is not used, there is the possibility of sequence from previously existing things.


Based on astronomical observations, how big is the universe?

[1] Solar System: Our Earth is the 3rd of 8 planets surrounding the sun, the star at the centre of the Solar System. [In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union formally declared that Pluto is no longer a planet.] Within 11 light-years of the sun are 20 other stars, the closest being Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light-years away. [1 light-year is 9.4 trillion km or 5.9 trillion miles; trillion means the number followed by 12 zeros.]

[2] Milky Way Galaxy: The sun is one of over 100 billion stars in our disk-shaped galaxy (called the Milky Way Galaxy) with a size of 100,000 light-years across. The Solar System is 32,000 light-years from the centre of the galaxy, or 18,000 light-years from the edge.

[3] Local Group: Our galaxy is one of a small cluster of 20 galaxies called “the Local Group”, the nearest being the Small Magellanic Cloud Galaxy which is almost 100,000 light years away.

[4] Local Supercluster: The Local Group is one of unknown number of galaxies in the Local Supercluster with a size of 150 million light-years across. Our galaxy is 45 million light-years from the centre of the supercluster, or 30 million light-years from the edge.

[5] Known Universe: Scientists, by using powerful telescopes, can detect quasars that are 15-17 billion light-years away. These quasars are rushing away from us at more than 90% of the speed of light. This is regarded as the limit of the known universe. Scientists are reasonably sure that there are more than a billion galaxies. The estimated number of stars is 100 quintrillion (1 followed by 20 zeros).


Can the Big Bang Theory explain the origin of the universe?

[1] The Big Bang Theory (proposed by Father George Le Maitre in the 1950s) describes the origin of the universe from a big explosion from some primordial nucleus of infinite density with a dimension of 10-35 cm (extremely small) and a temperature of 1032 degrees Kelvin (incredibly high). Based on existing evidences, it is quite certain that the universe came into being with a Big Bang.

[2] Evidences:

[a] Hubble observed the expanding universe in 1931. There is a red-shift in the spectrum of light from distant galaxies in all directions.

[b] Cosmic background microwave radiation was discovered in 1965 by Penzias and Wilson. It is the remnants of Big Bang.

[c] The extension of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity by Penrose and Hawking in 1970 proved that the origin of space-time is a singular point of infinite density.


Does the Big Bang theory conflict with the Bible?

[1] The Bible did not describe the mode of how the universe was formed. Gen 1:1 describes the fact of creation without mentioning any details while Gen 1:2 continues the description using a perspective from the earth.

[2] The Big Bang theory supports a definite beginning of the universe and contradicts the belief that the universe was always there. It unavoidably leads to the concept of the First Cause (or God).

[3] The numerical accuracy of the force of the Big Bang helps to prove the intelligence of God and the impossibility of chance happening. Observations of cosmic background radiation in 1992 show that the evenness of the radiation is within 0.00003ºK in all directions. Some describes this phenomenon as “no less than the handwriting of God” because the phenomenon demonstrates the amazing precision in the rate of the explosion. If the explosion was too fast, galaxies would not have formed. If the explosion was too slow, it would have collapsed resulting in a contraction of the universe.

[4] Thus the Big Bang theory actually helps in proving the existence of God. If Big Bang is not the work of God, it will be like a complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica came into being after an explosion in a printing shop.


What are the evidences used to prove that the Earth is billions of years old?

[1] Geology: [a] The geologic column is built up by many layers of sedimentary rocks and each rock stratum containing different kinds of fossils. [b] The tallest mountains on Earth today are fold mountains that were formed from the slow mountain building process which we can still observe today. [c] Geologists believe that different continents were originated from a single supercontinent which were splitted by the continental drift that occurred 60 million years ago. [d] Different ice ages were identified in past history of the Earth.

[2] Physics: The age of rocks can be estimated by dating methods using radioactive elements and carbon 14. The age of the Earth can be dated by other geological methods, such as salinity of oceans (presuming that the oceans started out with fresh water), the thickness of cosmic dust, etc.

Based on radiometric method of dating, in particular using uranium, the age of the Earth is estimated to be 2 to 6 billion years. However, if other methods of dating are used, such as salinity of oceans, radioactive carbon 14, cosmic dust, sedimentary rocks, the results are very different, from a minimum of 10,000 years to a maximum of 100 million years.

[3] Astronomy: The universe is expanding in all directions. Astronomers can observe objects that are 15-17 billions light-years away.


In Genesis 1, is one day equivalent to our present 24 hours?

There are 4 possible explanations to the word “day” (Heb. yom):

[1] Geological “era”

o        [a] Different meaning of yom: Hebrew yom can mean a “time” (a time with sunlight, Gen 29:7), 24 hours (Gen 7:4), a year (Gen 41:1), or an undefined period of time (Gen 35:3; Ps 50:15; Zec 4:10).

o        [b] “Day of the Lord” or “Day of Jehovah” do not mean 24 hours (Isa 2:12; Joel 1:15; Zep 1:14). Day can mean 1000 years (Ps 90:4; 2Pe 3:8).

o        [c] If the sun was created on the 4th day, days 1,2,3 could not be 24 hours. At least the first 3 days mean geological epochs or ages.


o        [a] It cannot explain “there was evening, and there was morning.”

o        [b] If the days are long, the plants created on the 3rd day would all die before the creation of the sun on the 4th day.

o        [c] If “day” is very long, then is “night” also means a long night? If so, then all plants would have died.

o        [d] There is a suspicion that we alter the Bible to harmonize science.

o        [e] Most Hebrew scholars believe that “day” means 24 hours.

[2] 24 hours

o        [a] “Evening and morning” imply 24 hours.

o        [b] If the 4th, 5th, and 6th day are 24 hours after the creation of the sun, then the first 3 days should be the same.

o        [c] The Sabbath Day of the Israelites followed the rest on the 7th day. It must mean 24 hours. Therefore the other 6 days should be 24 hours too.

o        [d] The day numbers are actually numbers (1,2,3) not ordered numbers (1st,2nd,3rd). The direct translation should be “And there was evening, and there was morning—one day” so it means 24 hours.


o        [a] The length of the first 3 days before the creation of the sun cannot be defined. However, the rotation of the Earth on its axis must have started so it could mean one rotation.

o        [b] The 7th day could not be one day because there is no mention of “evening” and “morning”. [Many Bible scholars including Buswell believes that we are presently still in the 7th day (Ps 95:11, “my rest”; Heb 4:9, God’s Sabbath is still coming).]

o        [c] According to ch.2, many events occurred in the 6th day: creation of Adam, building of Eden, creation of trees and animals in Eden, naming of animals by Adam, sleeping of Adam, creation of Eve. All these will certainly take more than one day.

o        [d] While “day” in the 4th Commandment refers to the Sabbath Day (24 hours), the “day” in the 5th Commandment means a time period.

[3] Day means 24 hours of revelation: God reveals the creation of the 1st day in 24 hours of the author’s time, the creation of the 2nd in the next 24 hours, and so on.

o        [a] This is reasonable if God revealed the creation process directly to Moses.

o        [b] This explanation can solve many problems, including apparent conflicts with science.

Difficulty: This explanation comes from human reasoning but has no support at all in the Bible.

[4] Literary framwork: The word “day” is only a literary style.

o        God can create the whole universe in 6 days or even less. The length of time is not defined in the Bible. The story simply presents a sequence.

Difficulty: With this explanation, every detail in the creation story can be explained away. It is simply a way to avoid all problems.


When was the universe created?

There are 3 theories of creation, each widely accepted by a group of theologians and Christian scientists.


Creation with age theory

Gap theory

Day-age theory

24-hour days, creation 6,000 to 10,000 years ago; Great Flood as a major factor (flood geology – use the Flood to explain geological facts)

24-hour days, original world corrupted by sin from Satan; a large gap between Gen 1:1 and 1:2; Gen 1:22:4 describes re-creation

days equivalent to epochs of very long periods, creation billion years ago; Gen 1:1 creation of universe included sun and moon; 1:2 view from perspective of the Earth




·  Adam was created already as a young man

·   evidence for the coexistence of man & dinosaurs (though apparently disproved)

·   lack of accuracy of dating (dating methods not trusted)

·   evidences of catastrophism (not uniformitarianism) in the past, geologic changes could happen in a short time

·   Sabbath day (Ex 20:9-11) imitates 7th day in creation.

·   repeated mention of “evening and morning”

·   Gen 1:2; 2:7 the word “was” (Heb. haya) should be translated as “became”

·   Is 45:18 “empty” same word as “empty” in Gen 1:2 (Heb. tohu, bohu); Is 34:11; Jer 4:23 words “chaos”, “desolation”, “formless”, “empty” all relate to judgment; possibly the result of corruption of the original world

·   1:21,27 word “created” (bara) only for animals & man, others words mean “made” (asa, indicating renewal)

·   1:28 “replenish”= fill over again

·   prima facie (Latin, at first sight) view: 1:12:4 only describe chronological order

·   Ps 90:4, 2Pe 3:8 — 1000 years=1 day, God’s time scale

·   yom” can mean a period of time

·   “evening” (not night) and morning can mean: This epoch had its gradual beginning and gradually merged into the epoch which followed

·   Buswell: presently still in the 7th day (Ps 95:11, “my rest”; Heb 4:9, God’s Sabbath is still coming)

·   can accommodate theistic evolution




·  cannot explain fossils (due to flood? otherwise, God’s deception?)

·   no evidence of worldwide flood

·   deny all dating methods

·   no 24-hour days before the sun was created

·   Were there humans in the first creation (none of pre-Adam fossils are human)? If not, why was man not part of the first universe?

·   too much emphasis was put on the word “made”

·   Is long time needed? Was man created separately?

·   What about Adam, did he live a long time in the 6th day?

·   The plants were created on the 3rd day and the sun on the 4th day. If the 3rd day is long, all plants would die.



What are the supports for gap theory?

[Reference: “Between the Lines: An Analysis of Genesis 1:1,2” by Arthur Custance]

Gap Theory: Gen 1:1 describes the original creation of the universe by God. It was somehow became ruined. The most popular interpretation is the destruction by Satan and the rebel angels.

[1] For Gen 1:1, Custance analyzed the use of Hebrew word bereshith, concluding that it should read “in a former state”. The reason is that there are more precise Hebrew words if the author meant “in the very beginning.”

[2] The word “created” (Heb. bara) means strictly “to carve out” and in sculpture, it means “to perfect”. Therefore Gen 1:1 can be translated “In a former state God perfected the heavens and the earth.

[3] In Gen 1:2, the word “and” (Heb. waw which can mean “and” or “but”) was understood by the Jew in Alexandria in 300 BC and by Josephus and by Jerome (in Vulgate) to mean “but”.

[4] The verb “was” (Heb. hayah) should be translated as “became”. Then, the Earth did not begin formless and empty; it became formless and empty. [Some argue against this meaning because the word would mean “became” if haya is followed by the Hebrew letter lamedth. However, Custance points out examples where lamedth is absent yet the word means “became”, such as Gen 19:26 and 2Ki 17:3.] Even more, the abnormal word order in Hebrew implies that it is pluperfect and should be translated “had become”.

[5] The phrase “formless and empty” (Heb. tohu wabohu) usually carries a negative connotation elsewhere in the Bible, in connection with something under God’s judgment. [Jer 4:23 is the only other occurrence of the couplet and the passage Jer 4:23-26 clearly reflects the creation imagery of Gen 1.]

[a] Tohu is used of something which has been laid waste (Isa 24:10; 34:11; Jer 4:23) or has become desert (Dt 32:10) or of anything which is the object of false “worship” and therefore displeasing to God, as in Isa 41:29.

[b] Bohu appears only 3 times in the Bible. In Jer 4:23 the desolation which the two words together are used to portray is the result of a direct judgment of God upon the land and upon its inhabitants. When Jeremiah saw this vision, judgment had already been executed, and the land was in a state of desolation. The prophecy has been commonly understood as a metaphorical “reversal” of creation that leads to primordial “chaos”. In Isa 34:11 the same may be said, for the scene is one of God’s “day of vengeance” (v. 8). In this case it is Idumea which is under consideration. The confusion is to be complete, the judgment final.

[c] We are explicitly told in Gen 1:1 of the creation of the earth, and Gen 1:2 appears to qualify it as a tohu; yet Isa 45:18 says equally explicitly that God did not create the earth in a state of tohu. With support from Rabbinical Commentary, “formless” can mean “was destroyed”. Then Gen 1:2a can be translated: “but the earth had become a ruin and a desolation.”

[d] The phrase “the foundation of the world” in Ro 8:22 uses a different Greek word (katabole) than precise Greek word for “foundation” (themelios). It may mean “thrown down”.

[6] The deep (Heb. tehom) means either a place of judgment or a place under judgment.

[a] In the Bible, “the deep” was always associated with the place to which must finally be banished from the presence of the Lord those who were not worthy to enter heaven.

[b] In Septuagint, like the New Testament, has Abussos, in place of tehom, and undoubtedly the Abyss of Rev 9:11, etc., is the same concept.

[7] While the word “create” (Heb. bara) appears in v.1, 21 (fish and birds), 27 (man); the word “make” (Heb. asah) appear in v.7 (sky), 16 (sun and moon and stars), 25 (animals).

In 2:3, God had rested [shabath] from all his work [melakah] which God created [bara] and made [asah].

The word “made” was regarded mostly as equivalent to “create” as Ex 20:11 says that “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth.” However, “made” has the sense of “appointment”. (2Sa 2:18; 2Ki 22:12,14; 1Ch 4:35) The significance of the appointment is that they received divine sanction as part of God’s plan. In Ps 104:9, we clearly have a reference to Genesis 1:16 and to the appointment of the sun and the moon as markers of time. The Ex 20:11 probably points to the reconstitution of the Earth.

[8] The existence of animal cemeteries in different parts of the world (US, Siberia, Italy, and Brazil) is clear evidence of a sudden catastrophe of massive scale, perhaps global. These take the form of very extensive beds in which millions of bones of a very wide variety of species of animals are found indiscriminately mixed together. In these cemeteries there are the remains of herbivorous as well as carnivorous animals and the bones of the former apparently show no signs of having been gnawed. This is a proof that both types of animals perished together. Furthermore, there is little evidence of weathering, a fact which is taken to mean that they were buried almost as quickly as they were destroyed.


What are the problems of gap theory?

[1] The Hebrew verb haya is not followed by the Hebrew preposition la. So it could not be translated “became”. [see Custance’s answer in point 4 above]

[2] The phrase tohu wabohu appears in only 2 other passages in the Bible: Isa 34:11 and Jer 4:23. In both instances, the context points to future actions by sinful humans.

[3] The Bible teaches that God alone, not Satan or any other created being, has the power to create and to destroy what God creates. [However, the original world might have been destroyed by God like the Noahic Flood as a result of Satan’s corruption of it.]

[4] If there was a previous world that failed, then God failed. How can we be sure that God would not fail again?

[5] Astronomers, physicists, and geologists have established that the physical laws governing the heavens and the Earth have not changed since the universe was created.

[6] Some theologians criticize this theory as a way to avoid confronting the problem or “an easy way out” because it satisfies both the 24-hour creation days as well as the great antiquity of the Earth. [However, if this is the best explanation of the Bible, then being “an easy way out” is not a good reason to avoid it.]



        To the vast universe beyond human comprehension, we can only say: how magnificent is our Creator God and how insignificant is man! To the perfect planning of God in creation, we can only say: how infinitely wise is our God. God is truly worthy of our worship.

        We need to affirm that there is no conflict between the Bible and science. There are many reasonable and acceptable answers to the questions about the antiquity of the Earth. We need to humbly admit that there may not be any definitive answers.

        While evangelical Christians may hold different views on the antiquity of the Earth, this is not a question of essential belief. After examining all the arguments, we can tentatively subscribe to any of the 3 views but at the same times allow the possibility that the other 2 views may be the correct explanation. Furthermore, we should encourage evangelical scientists and theologians to work together despite disagreements.