The biggest question on the lips of many Christians and their opponents is the age of the Earth. Does the Bible say the Earth is only 6,000 years old? Proponents of Young Earth Creationism would answer in the affirmative, whereas their ‘scientific’ adversaries would say they are wrong. Or, rather, the ‘scientific’ camp would say that the Bible may assert that the Earth is 6,000 years old, but that it is wrong nonetheless. The accepted figure in mainstream science for the age of the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years.
A Biblical Myth
So, is there anywhere in the Bible where the Lord reveals that creation is only 6,000 years old? Simply put, no. This age is inferred from a chronology first proposed by James Ussher in the 17th Century.
Who was James Ussher?
James Ussher (1581 – 1656) was a well-respected Irish Church leader and scholar. He was a Biblical literalist, and his most important contribution to history was the so-called ‘Ussher Chronology’ that purported to give the precise age of the world. Ussher based his study on earlier estimates by the Christian scholar Bede (8th Century) and the Rabbi Jose ben Halafta (2nd Century). Ussher’s chronology stands out as being rationally argued and carefully calculated, based on the ages of all the Patriarchs. Ussher’s chronology gave the precise date of creation as 6.00pm on 22 October, 4004 BC. Thus the world was 5,638 years old at the time of writing, and 6,019 years old in A.D. 2015
Was Ussher Right?
Ussher may well have been meticulous in his calculations, but he was wrong in one critical sense. He failed to understand the first two chapters of Genesis in a spiritual and symbolic sense. The Bible is full of beautiful and deeply meaningful poetic metaphors and spiritual lessons to a seeker that approaches them with faith. Ussher’s error was to de-spiritualize the Bible and expect it to act as a mere science textbook, rather than a vehicle of God’s sublime will.
The Bible Misinterpreted
A careful examination of the facts reveals that the Young Earth Creationists are wrong. The 6,000-year-old Earth comes from a historical error and misrepresentation of the Book of Genesis. Once Christians get beyond this error, the true beauty and significance of the creation accounts can be appreciated.