Reading Time: 3 minutes

How old is the world?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

facebook twitter instagram

This earth from space photo comes from a digitally enhanced, 1972 NASA Apollo 16 Mission negative - one of the last manned flights at this distance - 10,000 miles, or 16,000 kilometers (Credit: Royce Bair via Flickr)

Shortly after I became a Christian, I purchased my first study Bible, an original Scofield Reference Bible which was first published in 1909.  That edition included in its notes the year in which Scofield believed that creation occurred.  Beside Genesis 1:1 I found the date, 4004 B.C.

I learned later that Scofield had followed the chronology of an Irish archbishop named James Ussher (ca. A.D. 1650), who added up the biblical genealogies to arrive at that year for creation.  As a result, generations of Bible students believed the Scriptures to teach that the world is 6,000 years old.  Since current scientific estimates date the Earth at 4.54 billion years and the universe at 13.8 billion years, the Bible and science seem to be in conflict.

However, Ussher’s dating system is by no means the only option theologians consider in dating the world.  Some “young earth” theorists use “Flood Geology” to argue that pressures caused by Noah’s flood make the earth appear far older than it is.  “Age appearance” advocates believe that God created the universe six to ten millennia ago, but made it to appear older than it is.  Others argue for a “gap” between Genesis 1:1 (when God made the universe) and verse 2 (when he remade it, presumably after Satan’s “fall” a few millennia ago).  However, most theologians believe that Genesis does not intend to date the universe and see no conflict between its narratives and scientific findings.

What does Genesis actually say?  God created the universe in six “days,” the Hebrew word for a defined period of time.  These were not necessarily 24-hour days marked by sunrise and sunset.  In fact, while “there was evening, and there was morning” each “day,” God didn’t create the sun and the moon until the fourth “day.”

Some of the ancient rabbis interpreted Genesis to mean that God created the universe in six literal days.  Others believed he created in six acts with undetermined periods of time between them.  Still others argued that he created in six “eons” or “ages.”  Genesis doesn’t specify.  Why not?

If I could tell you precisely how old the universe is, would such information change your life today?  The Bible doesn’t tell us everything we want to know, but it tells us everything we need to know.  What does it tell us about creation?  That God did it.  How long ago?  In how many days?  Apparently we don’t need to know, or we would.

Here the bottom line: God made you and your world.  You are here on purpose.  God has a Kingdom assignment for each of his children.  What’s yours?