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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Is It Possible to Date the Earth and the Universe?

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Don Stewart
The idea that the Bible gives us enough information to exactly date the creation of the heavens and the earth is held by many people. Traditional Judaism holds the year 2000 is 5,780 years after the creation of the universe. In the seventeenth century the Irish Archbishop James Ussher put the date of creation in the year 4004 B.C.

Based Upon Genealogies

These attempts to date creation were based mainly on the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 10. When the different ages of the men in those genealogies were added up, they believed the result was the number of years between Adam and Abraham. Figuring backward from the time of Christ (in the case of Christians) the year 4004 B.C. was arrived at.


There are two main problems with doing this. First, the genealogies in the Scripture are not complete - there are gaps in them. This can be seen as follows.


In Matthew chapter 1 we read of the following people in the genealogy of Jesus.

and to Asa was born Jehoshaphat; and to Jehoshaphat, Joram; and to Joram, Uzziah; and to Uzziah was born Jotham; and to Jotham, Ahaz; and to Ahaz, Hezekiah (Matthew 1:8,9)

After Uzziah (or Ahaziah) we have Jotham. Yet when we read 1 Chronicles 3:10-12, we discover that there are three generations that are omitted by Matthew - Joash, Amaziah, and Azariah.

Now Solomon's son [was] Rehoboam, Abijah [was] his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son

Although Matthew lists Jotham after Uzziah (or Azariah) the writer of 1 Chronicles adds three different names. Therefore Matthew's genealogy is selective - it is not a complete list of everyone in the line of Jesus.

1 Chronicles

There is another example in 1 Chronicles 26:24 that biblical genealogies are sometimes incomplete. The writer gives a list of officers that were appointed when David made Solomon king in his place. This occurred approximately 970 B.C. In the list we read the following.

Shebuel the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, was officer over the treasures (1 Chronicles 26:24).

Gershom was one of the actual sons of Moses (Exodus 2:22). He was born before the children of Israel left Egypt. This occurred approximately 1445 B.C. Yet Shebuel, living in 970 B.C., is called Gershom's son. There are approximately ten generations that would have existed between Gershom (before 1440 B.C) and Shebuel (970 B.C). This is another example of the biblical genealogies being selective, not complete.

Genealogies In Genesis

Since we know that other biblical genealogies contain gaps, it is possible that the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 also contain some gaps. If this is the case, then it is impossible to calculate the exact number of years from Adam to Abraham. We simply do not know how many people lived, and how much time elapsed between the creation of Adam and the time of Abraham. Therefore the exact time in which Adam lived can never be known.

Not Part Of First Day

The next problem in attempting to date the age of the earth is the assumption that Genesis 1:1 is part of the first day of creation. This verse may be more of a general statement of what God did in the beginning. It may not be part of Day one of creation. If this is the case, then it is impossible to date when the heavens and earth were created. Since the creation of the heavens and earth is purposely not dated, we should give up any attempt to date the age of the earth and the universe from Scripture.

Day One

Furthermore, the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:5 merely says there was evening and there was morning, day one. While it can be translated first day this is not necessarily the case. When the word first is used in English translations it implies nothing preceded this day. Yet this is not necessarily the idea behind the Hebrew phrase. It could simply mean one day without commenting, one way or the other, if anything preceded it. Consequently the phrase translated one day in the first chapter of Genesis does not necessarily mean that this was the first day of creation.

General Date Known?

While no one can know the exact date of the earth and universe, it is argued that the general age of the earth can be known. The earth was created very recently in six literal days, and it is thousands, not millions or billions, years old. Although there may be gaps in the genealogies in Genesis, these gaps are not for millions of years.

In the two biblical examples given where genealogies do contain gaps, there is, at the most, only 510 years between the two names. Consequently, the biblical evidence is that Adam appeared several thousand years ago, not several million years ago. Therefore the earth can be dated to a general, though not a specific, time frame.


We do not have any specific date from Scripture as to exactly when the heavens and the earth were created. This matter is left silent by the writers of God's Word. Furthermore, there are problems with gaps in the genealogies. This does not allow us to come up with any specific dates. In addition, there the question as to whether Genesis 1:1 is part of the first day of creation. All of these factors eliminate the possibility of arriving at an exact date of Adam's creation.

Since the Bible does not list any date with respect to the original creation, we should be careful in our insistence as to the age of the earth and the universe.

It is possible that we can generally date the earth and universe as relatively recent based on a literal understanding of the first chapter of Genesis. The question remains, Is this what the writer of Genesis intended the biblical account of creation to be understood? Bible-believers today till remain divided over this issue.

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