Categories: Old Testament
When reading Genesis it seems like the world is pretty young – maybe a few thousand years old? If this is true, why do scientists think dinosaurs lived millions of years ago? Does that mean there were dinosaurs during Adam's life? Also, where were God's people during the ice age?
It appears that the question is based on a chronology of Genesis based on "real time," i.e., each day is literally a 24-hour period. Accepting this premise, let's calculate the age of the earth.
Using the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 and working backwards, Abraham lived about 2000 BCE. There were also about 2046 years between Adam and Abraham. This gives us a total of roughly 4046 years from creation to Jesus' birth. Add the current year of 2010 and we have a total time of 6056 years. This calculation suggests that the earth is around 6000 years ago. This theory is generally called "Young-Earth Creationism."
However, that's a hard sell because scientific and geological evidence suggest that the earth is billions of years old. So how can these figures be reconciled?
While some will argue for a literal reading of the numbers, more scholars ascribe to the "day-age" interpretation of Genesis (also known as "Progressive Creationism"). It's a technical way of saying that each day is much longer than 24 hours; indeed, each "day" represents a long period of time – maybe as much as millions of years. This is based on the Hebrew word for "day." The Hebrew word is yom, and it can mean 12 to 24 hours of time – as well as a "long" or even "indefinite period of time."
According to the "day-age" interpretation, the universe is roughly 13-14 billion years old. Here's how:
- Day 1 of creation corresponds to the formation of the earth and solar system, about 4.5 billion years ago.
- Day 2 corresponds to the creation of a water cycle and the continents, about a billion years later.
- Day 3 corresponds with plants having been around 450 million years.
- Day 4 relates to Day 1 – the lights now have a name and populate the heavens.
- Day 5 relates to Day 2 – sea life has been in existence for 600 million years; birds at least 150 million.
- Day 6 relates to Day 3 – dinosaurs lived from 245-65 million years ago. The earliest man-like creature might go back as far as 6-8 million years (still long after the dinosaurs have been gone). Modern humans might only be 50,000 years old.
Were Adam and Eve first?
So where do Adam and Eve fit in to all of this? Did God create them the first people? Scholars don't think so, nor do they think they were among the humanlike creatures of millions of years ago.
On Day 6, God created people and commanded them to "be fruitful and to multiply." In Genesis 2:28, Adam is all by himself – which turned out not to be a good thing. Later, Adam and Eve's son Cain was driven from "the face of the earth," but a mark was put on him so no one would hurt him. He went to the land of Nod, which was already inhabited, and found a wife. They named their son, Enoch.
Adam and Eve, however, were the first people that God had a relationship with. He created and chose them to have a special place in the garden. Their story was passed on from generation to generation, highlighting this relationship with God. It provided Abraham's descendants with a cultural identity – from the very first they had been created and chosen.
In telling these stories, the ancient people tried to explain the world, as they understood it. They tried to answer the questions as to how things got started or why life was so hard. Every ancient culture had its own story. "Adam and Eve" is ours.
Some believe there might have been as many as 30 different "ice ages" during earth's history. Others limit it to four or five, while still others think only one occurred. However, the most prevalent view is that there were five, the first occurring a few billion years ago. The most recent probably occurred about 10,000 years ago.
An "ice age" is technically called a "glacial period," and does not mean that the entire world was encased in ice. It means that ice extended farther than usual, causing major changes.
During the last glacial period, which lasted thousands of years, the ice sheets might have been 4-6 miles thick. Their formation lowered the ocean about the length of a football field (360 feet), allowing animals and people to migrate to different places. The weight of the ice also affected the continental terrain, creating new lakes and mountains and boundaries.
If the last one ended 10,000 years ago, people would definitely have been around. No doubt the colder weather posed major difficulties for them, but we know they survived because we're here!