Is the Young-Earth Interpretation Biblically Sound?
by Rich Deem

Warning! It is not with much joy that I have created this page. It was created in response to attacks and complaints about my position on the age of the Earth by fellow Christians. My purpose in writing this page is not to create controversy or division within the Christian community or even convert you to an Old-Earth viewpoint if you take a Young-Earth stance. I do feel it is important that those who are adamant that the young-earth position is the only biblical interpretation of Genesis look at the rather formidable scriptural problems in their interpretation before judging others on their "non-scriptural" views. I do not feel it is productive to become engaged in a debate about the age of the Earth with fellow Christians. However, if you feel that I have missed some of the scriptural problems in the young-earth or Day-Age interpretation, E-mail me and I will add it to this page. For those of you who are non-Christian, read this page with the understanding that the young-earth interpretation of creation is not the "only biblical view" of creation. Not only does the currently popular young-earth interpretation have major scientific discrepancies, but it contradicts much of what the Bible actually says.

Scriptural Problems in the Young-Earth Interpretation
Young-Earth Doctrine What the Bible says
The traditional interpretation of the church is that creation days are 24 hours long False, this is a recent interpretation of Genesis. Nearly all of the early church fathers believed that creation days were longer than 24 hours. If fact, most believed that creation days were 1,000 years long...
The Sun was created on the 4th day The entire universe was created on or before the first day and sunlight was upon the earth before the end of the first day. How could there be day and night on the Earth if it were not rotating on its axis?
There was no death or carnivorous activity before the fall. The Bible suggests that Adam knew what death was before the fall of man... If there was no death prior to the fall of man, then God must have changed some of the animals to become carnivorous. Why would God judge the innocent animals for the sin of mankind and condemn them to the "evil" laws of survival of the fittest? In addition, this would require God to have continued creating (altering the animals), something the Bible says He rested from after the sixth day.
Physical death and carnivorous activity is evil God killed animals to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21) and in the flood judgment (Genesis 7), and sanctioned the killing of animals as a sacrifice as early as Genesis 4. In addition, according to the Bible, He provides food for the carnivorous animals (4 OT references and 1 by Jesus). Carnivorous activity is NOT evil, but was DESIGNED by God.
Entropy (2nd law of thermodynamics) began after the fall. The Bible clearly states that entropy began well before the fall. Stars cannot shine (Genesis 1:3), animals move (Genesis 1:20), etc. if the 2nd law was not in effect. Now refuted by Answers in Genesis (A young-earth creation society)
Pre-fall Eden was perfect and will be restored at the 2nd coming of Jesus The creation before the fall was described as "good" and "very good" but never as "perfect." In fact, the text states that part of the creation was "not good." Eden was neither without pain or temptation to sin, and, as such, was far from the perfection described in the New Creation.
Gnosticism and New Age belief in the young-earth interpretation Some young-earth creationists (a minority) claim that Satan messed up God's original creation - essentially recreating it. This Gnostic view, along with the New Age view that death and carnivorous activity are evil have permeated the young-earth camp...

Scriptural Problems in the Young-Earth Interpretation

The traditional interpretation of the church is that creation days are 24 hours long

What did the early church fathers believe about the lengths of creation days?  The book entitled Creation and Time, by Dr. Hugh Ross documents in detail what first century Jewish scholars and the early Christian church fathers said regarding their interpretation of creation chronology (see Chapter 2, pages 16-24). Many early church fathers expressed no opinion on the subject of creation days, since it is a peripheral issue in Christianity. However, Jewish scholars who discussed creation chronology include Philo and Josephus, while Christian fathers include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus (through writings of Ambrose), Clement, Origen, Lactantius, Victorinus, Methodius, Augustine, Eusebius, Basil, and Ambrose. Among this group, all but one believed that the creation days were longer than 24 hours. The evidence presented in Creation and Time is both overwhelming and well documented (all references are given). All of these references are available at Wheaton College's server. Alternatively, these writings can be obtained on CD from Ages Software or Logos Research.

The Sun was created on the 4th day

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding CreationThe entire universe (heavens and earth) was created on or before the first day (Genesis 1:1) and sunlight was upon the earth before the end of the first day (Genesis 1:3-5). There are those who say that the light described was not from the Sun and was not falling on the Earth. However, the text clearly establishes the frame of reference as being the surface of the waters on planet Earth (Genesis 1:2). In addition, the text indicates that the light is not some "diffuse light from God," but is directional, since the Earth is experiencing both day and night (Genesis 1:5). I have yet to hear one reasonable explanation of how there can be day and night on the Earth without the Sun shining until 3 days later.

There was no death or carnivorous activity before the fall

The Bible actually suggests that Adam had seen death before the creation of Eve. When Adam was first put into the garden, God said that he could eat from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17). God threatened that Adam would "surely die" if he broke this command. This threat makes no sense unless Adam had already seen the death of animals. There is no recorded reply of Adam asking what death was. If he had never seen death this would have been an obvious question. This is strong biblical evidence that Adam had already seen the death of animals even before Eve was created.

Adam named the animals, using terms that described their carnivorous activity

Before the creation of Eve, God brought the animals before Adam for him to name. The text makes it clear that Adam named the animals, and not God (Genesis 2:19-20). This is important for an understanding of what Adam had seen prior to the Fall. If the young earth creationists are correct, one would expect the names of the carnivores to reflect the current (non-carnivorous) activities of these creatures prior to the Fall. However, Adam gave some very unusual names to some of the carnivores. For example, the Hebrew name for lion is derived from the Hebrew root that means "in the sense of violence." Was Adam referring to the violence with which the lion ate its vegetables? It doesn't seem likely! In addition, Adam named some of the predatory birds using a Hebrew word with the meaning "bird of prey." Were these birds preying on fruits and nuts? In naming the eagle, Adam used the Hebrew word whose root means to lacerate. Was the eagle ripping up plants with its talons?

Adam's names for carnivores
Animal Strong's # Meaning
Lion H738 from H717 "in the sense of violence"9
Cormorant H799410 "bird of prey" from H7993 "to throw, cast hurl fling" - referring to its diving in pursuit of prey11
Hawk H5322 "unclean bird of prey"12
Eagle H5404 from an unused root meaning "to lacerate"13
Owl H846414 from H2554 "to wrong, do violence to, treat violently, do wrongly"15

It is abundantly clear from the names given to the carnivores by Adam that he had seen these animals in action - eating other animals prior to the Fall of mankind. The idea that all animals ate only plants prior to the Fall is contradicted directly by the biblical texts.

What about Romans 5:12?

The standard young-earth interpretation is that sin brought about death to all living creatures and the advent of carnivorous activity. However, the text says that sin brought about the death of humans (Genesis 2:17, Romans 5:12). There is no biblical basis for the idea that sin brought about death of animals. Likewise, the young-earth contention that carnivorous activity began at the fall is without a biblical foundation. In fact, it directly contradicts scripture, since such a drastic change in animal behavior would have required God to continue the creation process - something the Bible says He stopped doing after the sixth day (Genesis 2:3, Hebrews 4:4). If this were true, then God must have changed some of the animals to become carnivorous. Why would God judge the innocent animals for the sin of mankind and condemn them to the "evil" laws of survival of the fittest? If God did change some of the animals to become carnivorous, it must be one of the better kept secrets of the Bible.

What does scripture say happened after the fall? The reality is that God judged only those who committed sin:

The Serpent
(Satan)
And the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, And dust shall you eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:14-15)

The Woman
(Eve)
To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you shall bring forth children; Yet your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." (Genesis 3:16)

The Man
(Adam)
Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:17-19)

There were no other judgments made by God, since all the guilty parties were punished. God does not pass judgment upon the innocent. There is no biblical basis for the young-earth belief that sin brought about the death of animals and the beginning of carnivorous activity.

Physical death is evil

Is death and pain bad or evil? First, I would like to point out that animals are incapable of sin. Since they lack a spirit with which to communicate with God, they have no concept of God and are not under any of God's laws or judgment. Therefore, death and pain inflicted by animals on other animals and plants is not evil. In addition, scripture clearly tells us that God Himself allowed humans to kill (Genesis 4:4) and eat animals (Genesis 9:3). In fact, God was pleased with the sacrifice of Abel, which involved the killing of animals. Therefore, scripture itself eliminates the death of animals and plants as being evil or bad.

In fact, God Himself is implicated in the death of animals. First, God killed animals to clothe Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:21) and then killed many animals during the flood (Genesis 7). God set up the system of animal sacrifice for atonement for sin (Exodus 23:18). In addition, scripture tells us that God created carnivores on day 6 and provides food for the carnivores of the Earth, therefore condoning the death of some animals for the survival of others:

"Who prepares for the raven its nourishment, When its young cry to God, And wander about without food?" (Job 38:41)
"Can you hunt the prey for the lion, Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, [God speaking] (Job 38:39)
The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God. (Psalm 104:21)
There is the sea, great and broad, In which are swarms without number, Animals both small and great... They all wait for Thee, To give them their food in due season. (Psalm 104:25, 27)
Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. (Luke 12:24)

If one states that the death of animals and carnivorous activity are evil, then one must admit, according to scripture, that God is responsible for these things and therefore a perpetrator of evil. Such a viewpoint would make God a sinner - something vehemently refuted by scripture. Views that the deaths of animals are evil are common arguments from atheists and New Agers, some of which has been seeping into the Church.

Is the death of human beings evil or bad? God designed physical death and made it come upon humanity when Adam sinned. This death is both judgment and mercy. Sin brings about spiritual death, which can only be atoned for by the blood of Christ. Judgment of sinners is based upon their evil deeds. Therefore, God, in cutting short the lives of sinners, reduces their punishment for sin. One should note that long life was not a blessing, but a curse on early mankind. These long lifetimes led to widespread wickedness, such that God was forced to eliminate nearly all of mankind and reduce the lifetimes of post-flood humanity. Scripture tells us that the death of the righteous is actually good:

Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones. (Psalm 116:15)
for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. (Romans 14:8)
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; (Philippians 1:23)
And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them." (Revelation 14:13)

Entropy (2nd law of thermodynamics) began after the fall

The young-earth doctrine that entropy did not start until the fall of humans into sin is directly contradicted by the text of Genesis 1. First, let's understand what entropy is so that we can see how it is directly affirmed in the opening chapter of the Bible. Simply put, the second law of thermodynamics states that heat flows from hot bodies to cold bodies. This law affects virtually everything that happens in our universe. It allows the Sun to shine and warm the Earth. It has also been called the law of decay, since it addresses the "decay" of the universe. Since all heat flows from hot bodies to cold bodies, the logical end result will be that at some point the entire universe will have the same temperature. To a large degree, this phenomenon has already occurred. At the Big Bang, the almost infinitely hot beginning of the universe became spread over the expanding size of the universe. Greater than 99.9% of all the energy of the original cosmos was dissipated within minutes of the Big Bang, and is now measurable as the 2.7K background radiation. In a few hundred billion years the entire universe will have dispersed to become one uniform temperature (assuming God has not intervened before then). The Bible clearly states that entropy began well before the fall of mankind. Stars cannot shine (Genesis 1:3), animals move (Genesis 1:20), etc. if the 2nd law was not in effect. Those who say the 2nd law of thermodynamics did not start until the fall must postulate that God changed all the laws of physics - all the stars, planets, animals, etc. - essentially remaking the entire universe. There is not even a hint in the Bible that God did this. Indeed, the Bible says that God rested from all his creative work after the sixth day. Just recently, the young-earth creation society, Answers in Genesis refuted the idea that the second law of thermodynamics began at the fall, although the idea is still quite prevalent among other young-earth groups.

Another indication that the earth after the fall was similar to before comes from a description of the valley of the Jordan:

Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere--this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah--like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. (Genesis 13:10)

Most young earth creationists are unaware that a post-fall valley is compared to the garden of Eden.

Pre-fall Eden was perfect and will be restored at the 2nd coming of Jesus

The creation before the fall was described as "very good" (Genesis 1:31), but never as "perfect." The words used in Genesis 1:31 are meod tob, which mean "very" or "abundantly" (meod) and "good" or "beautiful" (tob). This combination of words is used several times after the Fall to describe Rebekah (Genesis 24:16), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2), Adonijah (1 Kings 1:6), and figs (Jeremiah 24:2). Since these words are used to describe fallen (imperfect) humans, it is obvious that the Genesis text is not referring to a perfect creation, but one that is, as translated, very good. The Hebrew word used to describe the perfection of God is tamim, which is never used to describe God's temporal creation. In fact, the Genesis creation text describes part of the creation as "not good" (Genesis 2:18). Eden was neither without pain (Genesis 3:16) nor temptation to sin (Genesis 3:1). In addition, God's command to humans in Genesis 1 was to "subdue" the earth (Genesis 1:28). The Hebrew word for "subdue" is kabash, (Strong's number H3533), which means to bring into subjection to human influence. This very statement implies that the world was hostile and unsuitable for human domination without some effort. This statement implies that the creation before the fall of man was neither perfect nor even prepared for humans to "fill the earth." God, in His mercy, started humans in His personally planted garden, Eden (Genesis 2:8), protected from the reality of the rest of the earth (weeds, drought, etc.) that needed to be subdued. When the first humans sinned, they were kicked out the garden (Genesis 3:24) into the reality of a hostile world in need of being "subdued."

In contrast, the New Creation is described as being perfect (1 Corinthians 13:10, Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 9:11). In fact, the new creation will be vastly different from Eden and this universe. The Bible specifically states that there will be no crying, mourning, death or pain (Revelation 21:4) in the new creation. Likewise, the laws of gravity will be replace or reduced, since cubes with 1,500 mile sides (Revelation 21:16) are not possible under our current laws of gravity (any object this size would immediately become a sphere in our universe). Also, in the new creation, there are no stars or Sun (Isaiah 60:19-20, Revelation 21:23, Revelation 22:5). Since there will be no entropy in the new creation, stars could not burn. However, God himself will provide the light, which will be truly marvelous to see.

Gnosticism and New Age belief in the young-earth interpretation

The Gnostics claimed that the physical universe was evil, whereas only the spiritual universe was good. Therefore, God was responsible only for the creation of the spiritual - the physical universe was created by evil god(s). Some young-earth creationists claim that Satan messed up God's original creation - essentially recreating it. This is a Gnostic view, which was refuted by nearly all the Christian church fathers of the second and third centuries. Although young-earth creationists do not associate hidden knowledge with salvation, they do propagate concepts that have no biblical basis, which have not been promoted by the Christian church until this century. The young-earth viewpoint presupposes that death and carnivorous activity are evil - something promoted by New Age religions and atheistic philosophies.


Related Pages Top of page


A Matter of Days by Hugh RossA Matter of Days by Hugh Ross

Dr. Ross looks the creation date controversy from a biblical, historical, and scientific perspective. Most of the book deals with what the Bible has to say about the days of creation. Ross concludes that biblical models of creation should be tested through the whole of scripture and the revelations of nature.

Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth by Mark S. Whorton, Ph.D.

This book, written for Christians, examines creation paradigms on the basis of what scripture says. Many Christians assume that the young earth "perfect paradise" paradigm is based upon what the Bible says. In reality, the "perfect paradise" paradigm fails in its lack of biblical support and also in its underlying assumptions that it forces upon a "Christian" worldview. Under the "perfect paradise" paradigm, God is relegated to the position of a poor designer, whose plans for the perfect creation are ruined by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. God is forced to come up with "plan B," in which He vindictively creates weeds, disease, carnivorous animals, and death to get back at humanity for their sin. Young earth creationists inadvertently buy into the atheistic worldview that suffering could not have been the original intent of God, stating that the earth was created "for our pleasure." However, the Bible says that God created carnivores, and that the death of animals and plants was part of God's original design for the earth.


References Top of page

  1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
  2. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:3-5)
  3. And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)
  4. Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:15-17)
  5. Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. (Genesis 2:19-20)
  6. but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17)
    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12)
  7. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:3)
    For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, "AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS"; (Hebrews 4:4)
  8. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering (Genesis 4:4)
  9. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, *as I gave the green plant. (Genesis 9:3)
  10. And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
  11. "You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor is the fat of My feast to remain overnight until morning. (Exodus 23:18)
  12. Then God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens." (Genesis 1:20)
  13. And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good [meod tob]. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)
  14. And the girl [Rebekah] was very beautiful [meod tob], a virgin, and no man had had relations with her; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar, and came up. (Genesis 24:16)
  15. Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman [Bathsheba] bathing; and the woman was very beautiful [meod tob] in appearance. (2 Samuel 11:2)
  16. And his father had never crossed him at any time by asking, "Why have you done so?" And he [Adonijah] was also a very handsome [meod tob] man; and he was born after Absalom. (1 Kings 1:6)
  17. One basket had very good [meod tob] figs, like first-ripe figs; and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten due to rottenness. (Jeremiah 24:2)
  18. Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18)
  19. To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you shall bring forth children; Yet your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." (Genesis 3:16)
  20. Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1)
  21. And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28)
  22. And the LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. (Genesis 2:8)
  23. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)
  24. but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:10)
    For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
    But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; (Hebrews 9:11)
  25. "and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4)
  26. And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. (Revelation 21:16)
  27. "No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory. "Your sun will set no more, Neither will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be finished. (Isaiah 60:19-20)
    And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:23)
    And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)
  28. Note: Atheists often use this argument to "prove" the God does not exist (a perfect God could not create an imperfect universe). However, the Bible clearly states that the universe was designed to be temporary and will be replaced by a new, perfect universe (Isaiah 60, Revelation 21).

http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/youngearth.html
Last Modified May 18, 2006

 

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