Grey Thoughts
The Age of Things
Two of my favorite bloggers, Joe Carter and David Heddle, have been writing about the young earth/old earth debate recently. Joe has written on the problems with taking the genealogies in genesis as being a chronology and David has written on problems with the account of the fall introducing death. Now, whilst I greatly respect both guys and think they are very intelligent, I think history has shown has time and time again that intelligent people can believe really dumb things. Take Richard Dawkins for instance.

Now, I want to deal with each in turn, as well as some of the comments made in each post. John Safarti from Answers In Genesis already deals with Joe's question, and is well worth reading if you have the time. But onto my somewhat less academic response.

From Joe's post
The answer can be found in a dusty old theological journal from the late 1800s. Dr. William Henry Green, a Professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, published in Bibliotheca Sacra what should have become the definitive answer on the subject:
A bit of rhetoric to introduce the topic...Obviously however, Dr Green's journal was not considered a definitive answer on the subject. Perhaps his answer was not as convincing as Joe would have liked?

Joe continues by summarising Green's main points.
1. Comparison to other Biblical genealogies -- Abridgement and omission is found in numerous genealogical lists throughout the Bible. Unless there is outside evidence presented to show that Genesis 5 and 11 are intended to be continuous, there is no reason to assume that it is different that other genealogies.

2. Making unwarranted assumptions -- The author of Genesis provides the age of each patriarch at the birth of his son. Why would this information be included if the purpose was not to produce a chronology? While we may think this is a fair presumption to make, Green points out that the author never uses these numbers for that purpose. Not only does the writer not suggest their summation, but no other inspired writer of the Bible does so either. “There is no computation anywhere in Scripture of the time that elapsed from the creation or from the deluge, as there is from the descent into Egypt to the Exodus (Exod. 12:40), or from the Exodus to the building of the temple (1 Kings 6:1). And if the numbers in these genealogies are for the sake of constructing a chronology, why are numbers introduced which have no possible relation to such a purpose?”

3. It doesn’t match parallel texts -- If we assume that the author of Genesis was also the author of Exodus, then we can reasonably conclude that genealogies that are similarly constructed would be intended to have a similar design. Exod. 6:16-26, for example, records the genealogy extending from Levi to Moses and Aaron and includes the length of each man's life in the principal line of descent, viz., Levi (v. 16), Kohath (v. 18), Amram (v. 20). Green notes that the correspondence between this list and the ones in Genesis is “certainly remarkable”: “the numbers given in this genealogy exhibit the longevity of the patriarchs named, but cannot be so concatenated as to sum up the entire period; thus suggesting the inference that the numbers in the other genealogies, with which we are now concerned, were given with a like design, and not with the view of enabling the reader to construct the chronology.”

4. Different texts used different numbers -- The texts of the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures) and of the Samaritan Pentateuch vary systematically from the Hebrew in both the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11. For example, according to the chronologies based on these texts, the interval between the Flood and the birth of Abraham was 292 (Hebrew), 942 (Samaritan), or 1172 years (Septuagint). Ussher favored the Hebrew version yet doesn’t seem to grasp that the changes in the latter version were made in order to be more symmetrical; the redactors appear not to consider that that the ages are intended to produce a chronology.

5. The structure appears to define the purpose -- The structure of the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11, argues Green, seem to indicate intentional arrangement: Each genealogy includes ten names, Noah being the tenth from Adam, and Terah the tenth from Noah. And each ends with a father having three sons, as is likewise the case with the Cainite genealogy (4:17-22). This structure is similar to Matthew 1, which breaks out into three periods of fourteen generations. “It is much more likely,” says Green, “that this definite number of names fitting into a regular scheme has been selected as sufficiently representing the periods to which they belong, than that all these striking numerical coincidences should have happened to occur in these successive instances.”

These points cast considerable doubt on the supposition that the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 were ever intended to be a direct chronology, much less one from which the age of the earth could be deduced. Based on this evidence alone, there is no reason to assume that our planet has only been around for 6,000 years.

What is truly bizarre is the logic in the first 3 points. Which seems to be saying...1) Other geneaologies have missing people so the genesis one can't be a chronology. 2) the genesis genealogies are different in having information that would be useful in costructing a chronology, but no one bothers to add the dates up so genesis can't be a chronology... 3) Other geneaologies which do have some ages are done differently and can't be used to 'sum up the entire period' so the genesis genealogy, although done different, can't be a chronology.

Bizarre....Joe's normal sense of logic seems to have eluded his grasp here. Not only do Green's points in (2) and (3) refute (1), they themselves are non sequitors.

Point 4 is similarly pointless. Different translations do not impact whether it is a chronology. It may mean a few of the numbers are off, but is it still a chronology.

Point 5 is the most interesting point. The stylistic features are worth noting, but it seems to be more of a stretch to claim this means that it isn't a complete chronology. For instance, each genealogy including ten names might be more meaningful if the groupings were split on some important person, as opposed to Terah. The comment about each ending with 'a father having three sons' shows just how much of a stretch this point really is. It is like those 9-11 lists that try and get all the facts that relate to 9-11. Just as those lists don't really mean anything, there is no reason to think that a father having 3 sons is necessarily a designed part of the geneaologies nor even if it is that it is relevant to whether they are chronologies or not. (For instance, it may be the case that the Author wanted a chronology, but to make it stylistically consistent, only listed 3 of the sons).

Whilst these points are all worth thinking about, I don't think they help much in addressing the old earth/young earth question. Clearly, using the information we know about these geneaologies to get an approximate date is a lot more useful than trying to argue from silence for other dates. Finally, even if Green's point is true, this hardly amounts to anything troubling to the young earth position.

In the comments Joe (and David) also makes the point that in treating genesis genealogies as chronology, you get some strange results, such as noah and abraham being contemporaries. (Check out a visual representation of Ussher's chronology). But why is this a problem? Simply because we don't think of them as contemporaries normally...but this is because we are used to thinking in 80 years of life, not 950....

In the comments David also makes a point I have responded to him before...
As for the views of the experts, the writings of the early church fathers show almost none (with the possible exception of Ambrose) held to a 24-hour view. Mostly for two reasons:

1) Some believed the sun, coming on day four, brought "time" along with it--that is there was no such thing as time before there was a way to reckon it, so at least the for the first three days it is meaningless to speak of duration.

2) To reconcile that Adam did not die within 24 hours after he sinned, but God said he would surely die, they decided that this was a case of a day being 1000 years to God (2 Pet. 3:8 ). Thus some viewed creation as spanning 6000 years.

Augustine, on the other hand, viewed creation as instantaneous-- mathematically speaking the most extreme possible departure from the 144 hour view.

I dealt with this in this post.
the ‘Holy Fathers’ interpreted Genesis (and other Scriptures) both literally and symbolically. That is, they believed the text was literal history, but that it also had a mystical meaning related to the spiritual life of the individual believer or the whole church. It is for this reason that superficial readers of these ancient writings can find passages, which appear to support their non-literal, old-earth views. Among the details of Genesis 1–11 that the ‘Holy Fathers’ (even the most mystical ones) clearly took literally are these: length of days (24-hours), order of Creation events (e. g. earth and plants before the Sun), instantaneous creation of living things with maturity (e. g. Adam being created as an adult not an infant, plants with fruit on the branches, etc.), and continues on saying They were not dogmatic about the precise age of the earth since the Greek text of the OT (Septuagint (LXX)—preferred by Orthodox theologians) and Hebrew (Masoretic) text disagreed (which didn‘t bother the ‘Fathers’),6 but they placed it approximately at 5500 BC . However, it is important to note, the ‘Holy Fathers’ were equally explicit that in the literal history of Genesis (as elsewhere in the Bible) the anthropomorphic language describing God was not literal (pp. 87, 198, 247, 277, 404). So David's misunderstanding of the early church fathers beliefs is understandable based on an incomplete investigation into the fathers ideas of scripture.

Regarding Augustine, he felt that the creation of the universe and life was instantaneous. But Augustine was not a hebrew scholar but was a member of the Alexandrian school which fancifully allegorized almost all Scripture, hardly a sound hermeneutic. (As a side note, Augustine was influenced by neo-platonic philosophy, just as many christian's today are influenced by scientific theory about the unobservable past)
Hopefully David will investigation this more fully before continuing to make the same claims.

Now on to David Heddle's post. David is arguing that the young earth position has major problems if they consistently interpret genesis.
My Christian brothers who are Young Earth Creationists (YEC) generally argue that there was no death before the fall. Interesting yet hypothetical questions about the result of an elephant stepping on an ant are often considered impertinent. Still we wonder: would the ant be impervious to any injury, or would it sustain catastrophic damage and yet survive? Or would God intervene to divert the ant before the pachydermial stomp?
Whilst it is generally stated as 'no death before the fall', the YEC is more precisely stated as 'no death of something with a nephesh spirit before the fall'. It is probable that ants (being insects) are not included.

But onto the main thrust of David's position
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen 2:16:17)

This is, in part, the basis for assuming that there was no death prior to the fall. But of course if it does refer to physical death, it would really argue, by its narrow focus, that animals already died, unless you think animal death was introduced after human death, which seems absurd.

YEC problem 1: The pain of death threat in Gen. 2:17 appears to apply only to humans.
Indeed. On looking at ONLY Gen 2:17 it indeed appears only to apply to humans. But exegesis is about more than just the single verse.
In Genesis 3:21 God slays animals (The first recorded animal death in the bible) as a result of the fall. You could also look at Gen 1:29-30 (All animals vegetarians), Hebrews 9:22 (Blood must be shed to pay for sin - And which blood was that before Jesus? Animals - Animal death was required to pay for sin), Romans 5:12-21, Romans 8:18-25 (The whole world suffers because of sin - Animals and all), I Corinthians 15:21,22,26, Acts 3:21 (ALL things to be restored), Revelation 21:4. All these versus provide a fuller context of the bibles teaching on death and make it more consistent to view all nephesh death as being the result of sin, not just human death.

The 'narrow' focus is more a result of the specific consequences for Adam and Eve. This is why Gen 2:17 mentions nothing about pain in child birth, hard toil or thorns.

Another problem is that the carrying out of the death sentence appears to be scheduled for the very day of the infraction. If this is physical death, how many ways can we explain the fact that Adam did not drop dead on the day he sinned? I can think of some:

1. God changed his mind.
2. Adam did not die, but the process of death began.
3. A day is a thousand years (1 Pet. 3:8) and Adam did die within 1000 years.
4. The death being referred to is not physical but spiritual death.

A few things come instantly to mind.
The first is that David is ignoring proper exegesis of the word 'Yom' when he states "The problem here, for YECs, is that if a day does not mean a literal day in Genesis 2, perhaps it doesn't mean a literal day in Genesis 1.". This is just not the case. The use of Yom in the above passage is contextually able to be interpreted as a long period. In Genesis 1 it is not. Simple. Done. QED.

David's second problem is therefore not a problem. But he does pose another question
That leads to an interesting question. Had they not sinned, would Adam and Eve have lived forever?
Well of course, and his complaints about the current population are somewhat irrelevant. If Adam and even didn't sin, we have no idea what would have been the state of things 6000 years later. In fact, it is impossible to know and arguing we would be overpopulated is a shallow rhetorical trick.

Also, if David's claim is that this verse talks of spiritual death, then he also has the same problem. Because Adam and Eve's spirit did not die that day (or any other day for that matter...our spirit is eternal) was merely seperated from God. It may be 'dead to sin' but this is not what the verse says dead (die).

Finally, David says
However, Gen. 3:22-23 is one of the most puzzling passages in all of scripture. It states there is a tree of life in the garden, and that God exiled Adam and Eve so that they would not eat of it and live forever. So that is a reasonable (fatal, perhaps)argument against my contention that unfallen Adam and Eve would have grown old and (peacefully and painlessly) died, only to move on to an even better paradise. However, it raises more questions than it answers. What are these trees, and why does it appear they (especially the tree of life) have magic properties?...

Why the phrase 'magic properties'? Did the mud that Jesus used to heal the blind man have magic properties? What about Jesus' cloak which healed the bleeding woman? Moses' staff seems to have had magic properties...even when he did something that was against God's will (Bring water from the stone the second time). Clearly, an object can have properties that seem magic and this doesn't argue against the 'Tree of life'
Genesis 2:17 "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

The following is from the Eclectic Notes commentary on Genesis.

"But 'dying thou shalt die' -which is literally the penalty here, does not convey the thought of two deaths it is simply a very common Hebrew idiom as 'eating thou mayest eat' in the verse preceding, and meant to express, as all translations probably give it, the certainty of it. Nor does 'in the day' involve more than that in the day that he sinned the penalty would be certain: it does not mean necessarily that it would be inflicted then. (Comp #Eze 33:12.)"

So by eating what they were forbidden to eat Adam and Eve cut themselves off from God and immediately, "that day," began dying.
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