Adding up the ages of the biblical patriarchs yields a date of about 6,000 years ago for the first human parents, Adam and Eve, formed by God at the end of six days of creation. What, then, are we to make of scientists determining the universe and our planet to be billions of years old?
We continue with general questions about the book of Genesis. Here are the answers as we best understand them in light of the Bible.
A young man recently asked, "The bones or fragments of bones like the skull cap of what is called a caveman have, from what I have found, been [dated as being from] a long time ago—some bones being from 80,000 years ago. The question is, if men were created 6,000 years ago, how could these bones exist?"
We need to understand that paleontological findings are typically overlaid with hypotheses (educated guesses) based on the theory of evolution, which casts considerable doubt on their value. Man's origin as recorded in the Bible does indeed date to about 6,000 years ago. So how do we reconcile this with the fossil evidence?
One of the first things to consider regarding these finds is the way they are dated. Radiometric dating methods can give results that vary widely for the same fossil (see, for example, Marvin Lubenow's book Bones of Contention), and a number of factors—including the worldwide flood that occurred during the life of Noah—may skew the results.
Thus, it is possible that some of these humanlike bones may actually be those of human beings who lived prior to the worldwide flood described in Genesis 6 to 9—making them only 4,500 to 6,000 years old. Scripture reveals that people then lived for hundreds of years, which could account for the fossils' thick skulls and bone structure.
Even if these bones are of manlike creatures that existed prior to 6,000 years ago, we must remember that the Bible records the history of physical life only as far back as the renewal of the earth in preparation for the creation of Adam and Eve. It does not speak of creatures that lived on the earth before that time. Without divine revelation, and with so many past geologic upheavals of the earth, there's no way of knowing for sure what these creatures were, what they actually looked like, when they existed or what purpose they served.
But the Bible is clear. Twice in Scripture, Adam is called "the first man" (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47). Clearly, Adam and Eve were the first human beings God made "in His own image" (Genesis 1:27).
Their descendants have a spiritual component, called "the spirit" in Ecclesiastes 12:7 or "the spirit of the man" in 1 Corinthians 2:11. The joining of this spirit with the Holy Spirit of God is what makes conversion possible (Romans 8:16). This would set human beings apart from any supposed prehistoric man (or manlike ape)—if there was such a thing.
The United Church of God (which sponsors Vertical Thought) deals further with these subjects in its booklet Creation or Evolution: Does It Really Matter What You Believe?
On the fourth day of creation week, the Bible says God "made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also" (Genesis 1:16). How can that be when He created light on the first day, and also separated day from night (Genesis 1:3-5)?
First, it is helpful to know that there is a difference between the original Hebrew terms translated create and made in Genesis 1. Where verse 1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," the term for "create" is bara, which "is only applied to a divine creation, the production of that which had no existence before" (Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, emphasis added throughout ).
Thus, when God created the heavens and the earth, the "heavens" included the sun, moon, planets and stars. This is why there was light, day and night on the earth on the first day.
However, the Hebrew word translated "made" in verse 16, asah, generally means to make or reconstitute something that already exists. So, instead of God creating the sun, moon, planets and stars on the fourth day, it is more accurate to say He fixed these objects in their places and made them "divide the day from the night" and set them "for signs and seasons, and for days and years" (verse 14).
As The Expositor's Bible Commentary explains: "In other words, unlike the syntax of verse 6, in verse 14, God's command assumes that the lights were already in the expanse and that in response to his command they were given a purpose, 'to separate the day from the night' and 'to mark seasons and days and years.'"
Therefore, the emphasis in Genesis 1:14-16 is not about creating something from nothing, but about establishing the purposes for these great lights in the heavens. In particular, it was to place all these objects in their proper orbits, thus setting the astronomical standards for the calendar and being able to measure the days, months and years.
What is meant by giving mankind "dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth" (Genesis 1:26)? Does this give man the right to exploit the earth?
No, God did not give His beautiful earth to mankind so people could destroy it.
In fact, He gave Adam precise instructions on how to take care of the earth: "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it" (Genesis 2:15). He did not place him there to carelessly neglect it, but instead to enhance and take care of it. The entire earth was, by extension, also to be properly maintained and its ecology preserved.
As some Bible scholars explain: "The gift of 'dominion' over nature was not intended to be a license to use or abuse selfishly the created order in any way men and women saw fit. In no sense were humans to be bullies and laws to themselves; Adam and Eve were to be responsible to God and accountable for all the ways in which they did or did not cultivate the natural world about them" (Hard Sayings of the Bible, 1996, p. 90).
Unfortunately, man has not been a good "keeper" or steward of the earth God created for him. Just as the prodigal son squandered his father's goods (Luke 15:13), so has most of humankind mismanaged the earth. Let's not blame God for it, but place the blame squarely where it belongs—on man and on Satan, who has influenced and deceived him (Revelation 12:9). Thankfully, God will yet set things right.