I just returned from a few days in Yosemite. It is probably my favorite place on earth, and one of those rare locales where you can simply sit back and feast on the majestic beauty that surrounds you. The dramatic granite walls that enclose the Valley certainly are candy to the eyes, and contemplating how they were formed, my thoughts meandered down a (for me) seldom trodden mental path. Is the earth young, or old?
Geologists tells us that millennia ago, molten lava from Sierra range volcanoes formed deep beneath the earth’s crust. Over time (a LOT of time), the lava cooled in its cavernous abyss. While this lava was cooling and for thousands of years afterward, the earth’s surface eroded away through annual weather patterns, until eventually the cooled lava (now granite) reached the surface of the earth. From there, periodic ice ages formed glaciers that grew and receded over the land, sculpting the rock into what we now recognize as the Yosemite peaks—Half Dome, El Capitan, Glacier Point, Matterhorn Peak, Mt. Dana, and others.
Let me say before I go any further that I am a biblical creationist. I believe every word from Genesis, that, “In the beginning, God created….” But I have never believed in a Young Earth. I believe what geologists tell us about the way Yosemite was created, along with many other land forms around the globe.
Setting science aside for a moment, let’s look at the discussion strictly from the perspective of Scripture. I am no expert, but from what I understand there are two main elements to consider: 1) what is the meaning of the Genesis 1 word for ‘day’; and 2) what about those genealogical lists in the Old and New Testaments? The Hebrew word for day, used in Genesis 1, is Yom. Young Earth proponents would argue that this word always means a 24-hour period, but there are plenty of scholars that believe it can accurately be translated to mean a “period of time,” even in the Genesis 1 sense that includes the words ‘evening’ and ‘morning.’
Of importance, to my mind, is that the first Greek translation of the Bible (the first translation of the Bible into any language) was said to have involved 72 Jewish scholars, who translated the Hebrew word Yom to the Greek word Kairos. Here’s how Wikipedia defines Kairos, as opposed to the other Greek word for time, Chronos:
Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. What the special something is depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative nature.
In the beginning God created…. I believe God created in six unique and separate periods of time – at the perfect time – not necessarily six literal, consecutive 24-hour days. Again, I am not an expert, but if the (Jewish scholar) Septuagint translators had intended to mean chronological days, wouldn’t they have used the word Chronos instead of Kairos?
Many people, too, have done the math with the genealogical lists in the Old and New Testaments (especially the one found in Luke), and concluded the history of the human race doesn’t justify the theory of an Old Earth. God made the heavens and the earth in six days…on the sixth day he created Adam…thus the genealogy supports a very Young Earth. However I don’t think it can be proven that these lists are all-inclusive. Anyone who has learned about and studied recorded family histories can tell you that, especially in ancient days, it was not uncommon to write about family ‘groups’ (including many subsequent generations) without mentioning the names of every single generational head of household.
So is the earth young or old? Frankly, does it matter? The biblical creation story is accurate regardless of which direction you pitch your tent. So why let something so inconsequential divide us? Here’s what really matters: not how long it took God to create the world (whether a few days or a few billion years), or even the process by which He created it; but that He did create it, just the way He wanted it. Time has most certainly changed the face of our planet, but it has not changed God’s purpose in creating the people who inhabit it: borne out of love, for the pleasure of fellowship, as a reflection of His beauty, and the centerpiece of His glory.