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Old Earth or Young Earth?
The Answers are in the book of Genesis

An essay donated by Rev. Jim Persinger

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Overview:

The debate over the age of the earth has been building since geologists first started dating rock strata and Darwin introduced us to the concept of evolution. Whether it's billions of years old or only a few thousand is a topic that seems to be impossible to come to an agreement on. Most people believe one or the other, completely ignoring all evidence contrary to their beliefs. A few attempts have been made to reconcile the two but rebuttals to the arguments seem to come faster than the theories themselves.

I believe the answer to this question lies right there in the first chapter of Genesis and one need only look to the original Hebrew Scriptures. "Old earthers" rely on science while ignoring the Bible and "young earthers" blindly stick to the King James Version of the Bible while ignoring science.

The keys to unlocking this mystery require first, an open mind, and second, a look at what was originally written about creation. I am vehemently opposed to allowing one's personal bias to get in the way of the truth. We must start from the scriptures and learn from them, not bring our own preconceived notions to the scriptures. Every English version of the Bible that I've found has shown signs of personal bias in the translation. No two translations completely agree with each other and even the KJV has been revised several times. If you have ever sat in church trying to follow along with what the pastor is reading and found all the words don't match up it's because you're reading from different "editions" of the KJV. In this essay, I will use the most common edition of the KJV as a reference only. It's the version that is most widely read in the English speaking world and it's also the version that Dr. James Strong used as a reference for his "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible". Strong's Concordance is considered to be the most accurate resource for Biblical study and is certainly the most widely read. These are the only two references I use in my work unless otherwise noted.

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Analysis of the Genesis creation story:

Now, let us start "In the beginning".

Gen 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

"In the beginning" comes from the Hebrew word "reshiyth" meaning "first" and the word heaven comes from “shamayim” meaning "sky", so the first verse should read "First, God created the earth and sky."

Gen 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

In the first sentence, the translations for the words "was", "without form" and "void" are not completely accurate. The Hebrew meanings of these words are:

"was:" hayah, meaning become or come to pass

"without form:" tohu, meaning to lie waste; a desolation (of surface)

"void:" bohu, meaning to be empty; a vacuity, i.e. (superficially) an undistinguishable ruin

In the second sentence:

The "Spirit" of God comes from “ruach” meaning wind

"Face" is from “paniym” meaning "surface.

There are a couple of ways to interpret this verse so I will give both possible translations.

  1. The earth became desolate and empty, darkness was over the face of the deep. The wind of God moved over the surface of the waters.
  2. It came to pass that the earth was laid waste and ruined, darkness was over the face of the deep. The wind of God moved over the surface of the waters.

As you can see, both versions say the same thing. We'll come back to this after looking at verse 3.

Gen 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

This verse is actually translated pretty accurately, at least close enough that nothing is really lost in the translation. The only reason I even mentioned this verse is because it's important to subject at hand.

Let's put all three verses together and see what the scriptures tell us. I will take the liberty to paraphrase:

"First, God created the earth and sky. The earth became a wasteland, desolate, empty and ruined. Darkness covered the surface of the oceans. God caused a wind to blow over the waters."

As we can see, the Hebrew Scriptures paint a different picture than the one we've been taught. If the scientists are right about their old earth theory, then millions (or billions) of years could have passed between the original creation and destruction of the earth. The scriptures do not tell us how much time passed nor the reason for the destruction. Since the details were not given to us, we can only speculate.

Because of the fossil record and the study of rock strata, scientists believe that the earth is billions of years old and dinosaurs have been extinct for at least millions of years. They very well could be right without compromising the inerrancy of scripture.

The leading scientific theory for the extinction of the dinosaurs is a meteor impact in the Yucatan Peninsula:

"The shock wave from the impact would indeed have triggered massive earthquakes in the region and indirectly triggered other earthquakes around the globe. A tsunami would have formed from the impact, which occurred in a shallow sea. The giant waves would also have been generated by the earthquakes and undersea landslides triggered by the shock wave."

"The dust thrown up by the impact, the soot generated by the firestorms and the smog formed from the oxides of nitrogen and sulfur particles would have blocked sunlight for many months. The surface of the Earth would have plunged to freezing conditions -- typically 70 degrees Fahrenheit below normal -- and photosynthesis would not have been possible, even if plants had survived the fires and acid rain." 1

This scenario certainly fits the description of the wasteland as depicted in the Hebrew Scriptures. The earth would certainly have become desolate, empty of life and ruined. Darkness would have covered most of the earth. In Genesis 1:2, God caused a wind to blow ridding the planet of the soot and dust particles that caused the darkness giving the earth light once again as seen in Gen 1:3. Once there was light again, the rest of the new creation process could begin.

As you can see, this is an issue that can be laid to rest. Billions of years ago, God created the earth and sky (probably at about the same time as the rest of the cosmos), it was populated with the plants and animals that we now see only as fossils. At some point the earth was destroyed in a great catastrophe, not only causing the extinction of plants and animals but also altering the topography of the earth. Somewhere around 6 to 10 thousand years ago (according to theologians) God "re-terraformed" the planet, created the new plants and animals and, of course, man

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Reference used:

  1. Michael Paine, "Did asteroid-induced firestorm destroy the dinosaurs?" Space, at: http://www.space.com/

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Site navigation: Home page > Visitor essays > here

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Originally published on 2006-AUG-08
Latest update: 2006-AUG-08
Author:
Rev. Jim Persinger

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