Keywords: Jesus, age of the earth, young-earth, old-earth, Scripture, evangelicals, scholars, Biblical inerrancy, historical accounts, Old Testament, systematic theology
[Note: This article below was originally published in the The Master’s Seminary Journal 18/1 (Spring 2007): 69-98. With the permission of TMSJ, this web version has a longer conclusion than appeared in the published article.]
For several decades there has been a growing controversy within the church about the age of the earth.1 Young-earth creationists have been contending for a literal six-day Creation 6,000-10,000 years ago and a global Flood.2 In opposition have been various kinds of old-earth creationists advocating theistic evolution or progressive creation over millions of years, with many of them also arguing for a local Flood at the time of Noah.3 The old-earth views have dominated the church since the early 19th century,4 whereas the young-earth view was the almost universal belief of the church in the first 18 centuries.
What does Jesus have to say about the age of the earth? That surely should be a question of interest and importance to all Christians and a determining factor in their own belief on the subject. For Jesus, the Word of God was the bread of life, without which no man could live (Matt. 4:4). He taught that we are like a wise man who built his house on a solid rock, if we hear His words and act upon them (Matt. 7:24–27). As Ravi Zacharias correctly observes in his book which refutes atheism, “Jesus claimed to be ‘the truth.’ Let us test His claims and teachings. If they are true, what He says matters more than anything else in life.”5 The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy similarly declares about Jesus that, “His words were crucially important; for He was God, He spoke from the Father, and His words will judge all men at the last day.” The ICBI scholars added that “the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one,” and that, “as He bowed to His Father’s instruction given in His Bible (our Old Testament), so He requires His disciples to do.”6 Following the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus Christ, every Christian ought to conform his beliefs, teachings, and behavior to the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God.
Many Christians, even many Christian scholars, seem to be unaware that Jesus said things relevant to the age of the earth. Before considering those statements, it is important to briefly examine what Jesus said about Scripture generally and Genesis 1-11 in particular. This will shed light on how we should interpret the early chapters of the Bible. Then we will examine a number of the writings of young-earth and old-earth scholars to see how they deal with the teachings of Jesus on the subject. It will be argued that Jesus clearly was a young-earth creationist and that if we call Him Lord we should follow Him rather than the contemporary scientific majority, which primarily consists of unbelievers.
II. Jesus’ view of Scripture
In John 10:34–35 Jesus defended His claim to deity by quoting from Psalm 82:6 and then asserting that “Scripture cannot be broken.” That is, the Bible is faithful, reliable, and truthful. The Scriptures cannot be contradicted or confounded. In Luke 24:25–27 Jesus rebuked His disciples for not believing all that the prophets have spoken (which He equates with “all the Scriptures”). So, in Jesus’ view, all Scripture is trustworthy and should be believed.
Another way that Jesus revealed His complete trust in the Scriptures was by treating as historical fact the accounts in the Old Testament which most contemporary people think are unbelievable mythology. These historical accounts include Adam and Eve as the first married couple (Matt. 19:3–6, Mark 10:3–9), Abel as the first prophet who was martyred (Luke 11:50–51), Noah and the Flood (Matt. 24:38–39), Moses and the serpent (John 3:14), Moses and the manna (John 6:32–33, 49), the experiences of Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28–32), the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:15), the miracles of Elijah (Luke 4:25–27), and Jonah and the big fish (Matt. 12:40–41). As Wenham has compellingly argued,7 Jesus did not allegorize these accounts but took them as straightforward history, describing events that actually happened just as the Old Testament describes. Jesus used these accounts to teach His disciples that the events of His death, resurrection and second coming would likewise certainly happen in time-space reality.
All these above-mentioned statements reflect some aspect of Jesus’ attitude toward or belief about the Scriptures. But far more frequently Jesus reveals his conviction about the authority of Scripture. Its authority is shown in the way Jesus used Scripture. He constantly quoted the Old Testament as a basis for His own teaching on such things as church discipline (Matt. 18:16), marriage (Matt. 19:3–9), God’s requirements for eternal life (Matt. 19:16–19), the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:37–39) and the fact that He will cause family divisions (Matt. 10:35–36). He used the Old Testament as His justification for cleansing the temple (Matt. 21:12–17) and for His disciples picking grain on the Sabbath (Luke 6:3–4). It is the “weapon” He used in His response to the temptations of Satan (Matt. 4:1–10). And in a totally unambiguous manner, He stated that the Old Testament sits in judgment over all the man-made traditions and ideas of public consensus (Matt. 15:1–9). Jesus demonstrated that there is nothing higher than Scripture to which we can appeal as a source of truth and divine standards for what we are to believe and do (Mark 7:5–13). The thoughts of men are nothing compared to the commandments and testimonies of God. It is a very serious error, according to Jesus, to set them aside in order to submit to some other source of supposed truth, whether natural or supernatural.
There is no evidence that Jesus dissected the Old Testament and trusted only the so-called “theological,” “moral,” or “religious” portions. For Him all the Scriptures were trustworthy truth, down to the last jot (Matt. 5:18). Nor do we ever find Him appealing to some higher authority to bring out some “hidden meaning” of Scripture. Also, Jesus indicates that the Scriptures are essentially perspicuous: eleven times the gospel writers record Him saying, “Have you not read . . .?”8 and thirty times He defended His teaching by saying “It is written.”9 He rebuked His listeners for not understanding and believing what the text plainly says.
Jesus repeatedly and boldly confronted all kinds of wrong thinking and behavior in his listeners’ lives, in spite of the threat of persecution for doing so. Even his enemies said, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and defer to no one; for you are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth” (Mark 12:14). As Wenham has cogently argued, Jesus never adapted his teachings to the common, but ignorant and mistaken, beliefs of his audiences.10 Jesus knew the difference between parables and history and between the traditions of men and the truth of God’s Word (Mark 7:8–13). He spoke in truth (Luke 4:25) because He was and is the truth (John 14:6), and He frequently emphasized this with the introduction, “Truly, truly I say . . .” (e.g., John 3:3). He also explained that believing what He said about earthly, time-space reality was the ground for believing what He said about heavenly realities, such as eternal life, forgiveness of sin, and spiritual rebirth (John 3:12). In other words, if we do not believe what He said about things we can verify, how can we legitimately believe what He says about the things we cannot verify? He also said that believing the writings of Moses was foundational to believing His words (John 5:45–47). Jesus (like all the apostles and prophets) clearly viewed the Bible’s history as foundational to its theology and morality.
III. Jesus’ teaching on the age of the earth
Besides the above mentioned evidence that Jesus took Genesis 1-11 as straightforward reliable history, the gospel writers record several statements that Jesus made, which are relevant to the age of the earth. Those verses, hereafter collectively referred to as the “Jesus AGE verses,” show that Jesus was a young-earth creationist. They are:
- “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.” (Mark 10:6)
- “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.” (Mark 13:19–20)
- “. . . so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.” (Luke 11:50–51)
The key phrases that will attract our attention in these verses are “from (or since) the beginning of creation” and “since the foundation of the world.” Old-earth advocates who interact with these verses contend that in them Jesus is not referring to the beginning of the whole creation but only to the beginning of the human race, which they believe was millions of years after the creation of the universe, earth, trilobites, dinosaurs, etc. In what follows I will first present my exegetical arguments for concluding that Jesus is referring to the beginning of the world (Gen 1:1) in these verses. Then later I will come back to these texts as I interact with the writings of the few old-earth proponents who have addressed these verses with respect to the age of the earth.
1. Mark 10:6 “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.” Commentators agree that Jesus is quoting from Genesis 1 & 2, so the “male and female” he refers to are Adam and Eve. Jesus says they were “from the beginning of creation” (ἀπὸ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως). To what does that phrase refer—to the creation of Adam and Eve or to the beginning of creation in Genesis 1:1?
Besides its use in Mark 10:6, “from the beginning of creation” (ἀπὸ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως) appears in Mark 13:19 and 2 Peter 3:4. In 2 Peter 3:4, Peter is speaking about the past and the future of the whole heavens and earth, not simply of humanity. His reference to the beginning of creation must, therefore, be equally cosmic in extent. In a similar phrase in Revelation 3:14, Jesus says that He is “the beginning (or ruler) of the creation” (ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως), which certainly applies to all of creation.11
The phrase “
from the beginning” (ἀπὸ ἀρχῆς) occurs 20 times in the NT. Of those 20 uses five have the initiation point of the cosmos in view. Never does it clearly refer to the beginning of the human race. It appears three times in 1 John 1:1 and 2:13-14. Comparing the language of these two passages to John 1:1-3 (which uses Ἐν ἀρχῇ, “in the beginning”) shows that John is referring to the beginning of creation (not merely the beginning of the human race), for he speaks of Christ being in or from the beginning and the Creator of all things. The phrase also appears in Matthew 19:4 and 8, John 8:44, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and 1 John 3:8. Matthew 19:4–8 is parallel to the account in Mark 10, so the similar phrases must have the same meaning. John 8:44 and 1 John 3:8 speak about Satan and teach that he has sinned, lied, and murdered from the beginning. This undoubtedly refers to his fall, his deception of Eve, and his behind-the-scenes influence in Cain’s killing of Abel. Since we do not know exactly when Satan fell (except that it was before he tempted Eve), these two verses by themselves are too vague to either support or oppose clearly the view that “from the beginning” refers to the beginning of creation. But nothing in the context would restrict the meaning only to the beginning of the human race. Because of Paul’s comment on divine election in Ephesians 1:4 (that God chose us “before the foundation of the world”), it seems most reasonable to conclude that in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 he is referring to the same beginning of the whole creation. It seems unlikely that he has merely the beginning of the human race in mind here. Hebrews 1:10 contains the phrase κατ' ἀρχάς, which is translated as “in the beginning” in the most prominent translations.12 Since, according to the rest of the verse, this is when the the earth was founded or established and the heavens were made, the beginning refers to the events of the whole Creation Week. All other uses of “from (or in) the beginning” are irrelevant to our discussion, for the context shows that the phrase in these cases refers to the beginning of the Scriptures (i.e., the time of Moses), the first hearing of the gospel by some people in the first century, the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, or the beginning of Paul’s life or ministry. Never does it mean the beginning of the human race.13
From this discussion I conclude that the phrase in Mark 10:6, “from the beginning of creation,” is referring, in Jesus’ way of thinking, to the beginning of the whole creation, which encompasses the whole creation period described in Genesis 1. Jesus was not merely referring to the creation of the first marriage on Day 6.
2. Mark 13:19 “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.” Like Mark 10:6, this verse uses ἀπ' ἀρχῆς κτίσεως. But in 13:19 the phrase is modified by “which God created” (ἣν ἔκτισεν ὁ θεὸς). The relative pronoun is feminine, so the clause modifies either of the feminine nouns, “creation” or “beginning.” It is doubtful that Jesus is saying that God “created the beginning.” Such wording is not used anywhere else in Scripture, and it is difficult to see why Jesus would emphasize such a point. Also the closest antecedent noun of “which” is “creation,” linking the two together. Furthermore, Romans 1:18-20 indicates that sinners deny that God is the Creator, not the beginning of the physical world. So surely Jesus means the “creation which God created” with “creation” referring to the whole of Creation Week during which God created, not just to the events of making Adam and Eve.
Another consideration that supports this conclusion is that in Mark 13:19 Jesus creates a time-line: from the beginning of creation until now and on to the end of this present cosmos (v. 20), when heaven and earth will pass away (v. 31). Mark 13:24-26, 13:30-32 and Matthew 24:14 and 37-39 clearly show that Jesus thinks that the present human experience and the present cosmos will come to an end at essentially the same time (cf. 2 Peter 3 ). Together these verses would support the notion that humanity and the rest of creation also began at essentially the same time in the past. Since the suffering under consideration is human (not animal) suffering, there must have been humans at the beginning of creation in order for Jesus’ time-line to make sense. If there were no humans in existence from the beginning of creation (supposedly billions of years ago) until the relatively recent past, what would be the point of saying there will be a time of human suffering unsurpassed by any other human suffering since the beginning of the cosmos (when no humans existed, according to old-earthers) until the very end? Jesus could have easily said “since the creation of man until now” or “since Adam,” if that is what He meant. His choice of words reflects his belief that man was there at the beginning and human suffering commenced essentially at the beginning of creation, not billions of years after the beginning. His Jewish listeners would have assumed this meaning in Jesus’ words, for Josephus’s history of the Jewish people indicates that the Jews of his day believed that both the first day of creation and Adam’s creation were about 5000 years before Christ.14
Since Matthew 24:21 is a parallel passage to Mark 13:19, Matthew’s wording “since the beginning of the world” (ἀπ' ἀρχῆς κόσμου) must have the same meaning, with both accounts accurately reflecting what Jesus meant. While κόσμος sometimes refers to this sinful worldly system of man,15 it often refers to the whole creation,16 as in Matthew 24:21.
The foregoing evidence demonstrates that Jesus and NT writers never use the phrase ἀπ' ἀρχῆς to mean “beginning of the human race.” Most instances that refer to the ancient past mean the beginning of the whole creation starting in Gen. 1:1, thus supporting the young-earth interpretation of Mark 10:6 and 13:19.
An analysis of the commentary literature on Mark 10:6 and 13:19 yields four views of the phrases relevant to our study. Gundry and Morgan take the phrase in 10:6 to refer to the beginning of the whole creation (not merely the beginning of the human race or the beginning of marriage).17 Cranfield says the phrase in 10:6 doesn’t necessarily mean the beginning of Genesis or the creation narrative, but he gives no justification for his view.18 McKenna, Evans, and Wessel say the phrases refer to the beginning of human history but present no argument for their conclusion.19 France asserts simply that the phrase in 10:6 refers to “the period before the Fall.”20
Garland, Lenski, Cole, Gould, Lane, Hare, Edwards, Hendricksen, Brooks, Moule, and Wessel make no comment on these verses at all, or at least not on the phrases related to the age of the earth, or their comments are too vague to determine what they believed regarding our question.21
It is also noteworthy that the most respected Greek lexicon concurs with the young-earth interpretation of Mark 10:6 and 13:19 in its entries for ἀρχή and κτίσις.22
3. Luke 11:50-51 “. . . so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.” This statement of Jesus contains the phrase “foundation of the world.” The phrase is used ten times in the New Testament: seven times it is preceded by “from” (ἀπό) and the other three times by “before” (πρo).
In addition to Luke 11:50, the phrase “from the foundation of the world” (ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου) also appears in Matthew 13:35 and 25:34, Hebrews 4:3 and 9:26, and Revelation 13:8 and 17:8. In Hebrew 4:3 the writer says God’s creation “works were finished from the foundation of the world.” Verse 4 says that “God rested on the seventh day from His works.” The two statements are clearly synonomous: God finished and rested at the same time. This implies that the seventh day (when God finished creating, Gen. 2:1-3) was the end of the foundation period. So, the foundation does not refer to simply the first moment or first day of Creation Week, but to the whole Week.23 The context, grammar, and lexical evidence in Matthew 13:35 and 25:34, Hebrews 9:26, Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8 do not support any alternative sense of the phrase ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, particularly the restricted meaning “foundation or beginning of the human race.” Given that the other uses of “foundation of the world” include the beginning of creation in Genesis 1:1, we are justified in thinking that the phrase in these verses also refers to the very beginning of creation.
In Luke 11:50-51, we find “the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world” (ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου) juxtaposed with the statement “from the blood of Abel” (ἀπὸ αἵματος Αβελ). The parallelism is clear: “blood” in both verses, the two temporal phrases beginning with ἀπὸ (from or since) and repetition of “charged against this generation.” This strongly suggests that Jesus believed that Abel lived very near the foundation of the world.
The phrase, “before the foundation of the world” (ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου), appears in John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4 and 1 Peter 1:20. In John 17:24 the sense “before the beginning of all creation” (not merely before the creation of man24) best fits the context, for the Father loved the Son eternally before the creation of the heaven and the earth in Genesis 1:1 (“before the world25 was,” John 17:5).26 Similarly, given the nature of the foreknowledge of God, we can be certain that in Eph. 1:4 Paul meant that God chose believers in Christ before anything was created, not just before the first two humans were made.27 Undoubtedly in 1 Pet. 1:20 Peter also meant that Christ was foreknown by the Father before the creation of the earth (and therefore before the creation of anything else, since the earth was created first). So, in these cases “foundation of the world” refers to the whole Creation Week (Gen. 1).
The majority of Lukan commentators do not comment on our phrases under consideration.28
Marshall’s only relevant remark is that ἀπὸ καταβολῆς (from the foundation) is always used in the NT to refer to the beginning of the world.29 Similarly, Lenski comments that our phrase “implies that God laid that foundation when he called the world into being, and the phrase is used to denote the beginning of time.”30 Both comments support the young-earth interpretation of Mark 10:6 and 13:19.
Hendriksen says that “the reason why Jesus says ‘from Abel to Zechariah’ is that according to the arrangement of the books in the Hebrew Bible, Genesis (hence ‘Abel’) comes first; Chronicles (hence ‘Zechariah’) last.”31 However, the verses are not referring to the books of Scripture, but rather to people. Furthermore, scholars are not in agreement about which Zechariah this was in history or about when the present order of the OT books became canonical. A far more likely reason, given the contextual reference to the blood of these men (v. 51), is that Abel was the first prophet killed and Zechariah the last prophet killed.
Most of the commentators on Mark and Luke are silent on our phrases in these verses. Of those who do comment many support the young-earth interpretation. The others merely make assertions (without offering an argument for their interpretation) or the argumentation given does not overturn the conclusions of my analysis above.
IV. Preliminary conclusion about Jesus’ view of the age of the earth
From the study of these Jesus AGE verses we see that Jesus believed and taught that man has existed essentially as long as the entire cosmos has. Given His evident belief in the literal historical truth of all of Genesis 1-11 and historical reliability of the rest of the OT (including its chronological information such as in the genealogies of Gen. 5 and 11), we have strong grounds to conclude that He believed in a literal six-day Creation Week which occurred only a few thousand years ago. No other understanding adequately accounts for Jesus AGE verses and His approach to the historicity of Genesis.
But, as I will seek to demonstrate below, the vast majority of Christian old-earth proponents have not taken into account the Jesus AGE verses. and the arguments of the few who have commented on them lack cogency, are inherently self-contradictory, fail to deal with all the evidence or are inconsistent with the evidence.
V. Young-earth creationist references to the Jesus AGE verses
For decades, young-earth creationist writers have cited these verses in articles and books in defense of the earth being only thousands of years old, emphasizing that the statements of Jesus show that Adam could not have been created billions of years after the beginning, as all old-earth views maintain.32 Most of these creationist books are still in print.33 It would appear that either old-earthers are not reading the young-earth literature, as they tell the church that young-earth creationists are wrong about the age of the earth and about the importance of the subject, or the old-earther proponents are simply overlooking the point being made by young-earthers from the teaching of Jesus on this matter.
Some of the early 19th century defenders of young-earth creationism (called “Scriptural geologists”) also used these statements of Jesus as they resisted the idea of millions of years that was engulfing geology at that time.34 In 1834 the Anglican minister, Henry Cole, argued this way from Mark 13:19:
Now, is there a geologizing mortal upon Earth who will assert, that the Redeemer is here speaking of “afflictions” experienced by a world of creatures, who lived in a mighty space between “the beginning,” and the present race of mankind? Will any geological sceptic, we repeat, dare aver, that our Lord is here referring to a race of beings of whom his disciples had never heard, and whose existence was never known to men or saints, till discovered by wondrous Geologians in the nineteenth century! Must not every scientific, unless he violate every remnant of natural understanding, honesty, and conscience, confess that the Saviour is here speaking to sons of men of the “afflictions” of the same sons of men which have been from the beginning of the Creation of this world? Then, here is the creation of man immediately, manifestly, and undeniably, connected with “the beginning”!35
But the early 19th century Christian old-earth proponents largely ignored the Genesis text and all of them overlooked the Jesus AGE verses, as they told the church to accept millions of years and to regard the age of the earth as unimportant. As will be seen, old-earth proponents continue to do this.
As part of a thorough survey of evangelical scholarly literature addressing the age of the earth, we consider first commentaries on Genesis, then systematic theology texts and finally a variety of other popular-level or scholarly books that discuss the issue.
VI. Commentaries on Genesis regarding the Jesus AGE verses
1. Young-earth creationist commentaries on Genesis. Morris, MacArthur, and Leupold refer to at least one of the Jesus AGE verses to argue for the historicity of Genesis 1-11.36 This supports their young-earth conclusions about Genesis, although they do not explicitly make the point from these verses about Jesus believing in a young-earth. However, Morris’s study Bible, The Defender’s Bible (Grand Rapids: World, 1995) is explicit on this point.37 Rice says nothing about the Jesus AGE verses.38
2. Old-earth creationist commentaries on Genesis. Almost all Genesis commentaries by old-earth proponents that I examined apparently overlooked the Jesus AGE verses (most also show little, if any, acquaintance with young-earth literature). These include Kenneth Mathews, John Walton, Bruce Waltke, J. Vernon McGee, Warren Wiersbe, John Sailhamer, Allen Ross, Arthur Pink, Ronald Youngblood, Gordon Wenham, and Griffith Thomas.39 Space precludes detailed comment on them.
However, James Boice’s commentary is worthy of brief discussion because 1) he does refer to some of the Jesus AGE verses and 2) his lack of careful reflection on the issue of the age of the earth is symptomatic of the above commentaries. In the chapter entitled “Fact or Fiction?” (a question about Genesis that Boice fails to answer clearly), he has a sub-section called “The Teaching of Jesus.” Boice there says that, “A special aspect of the attitude of Scripture to Genesis is the teaching of Jesus Christ. This obviously carries special weight. . . . it is surely of interest to those who profess to follow Jesus as their Lord to know what He said. His teaching has special weight if only because we revere the Lord highly.”40 Yes, indeed! How sad then to see that Boice discusses Matthew 19:3-6 but not the parallel passage in Mark 10:2-6, which shows Jesus to be a young-earth creationist. Boice quotes a small part of Mark 13:19 to say that God created. But he does not quote the rest of the verse, which is so relevant to the age of the earth, and he does not comment on Luke 11:50-51. Is this giving special weight to Jesus’ teaching on this subject?
Boice rejects theistic evolution, but he also rejects the Flood as the cause of most of the fossil record. He has doubts about the gap theory, and sees problems with the day-age view and framework hypothesis. So he is not sure how to harmonize the Bible with millions of years. In chapter 8 on young-earth creationism’s view of Genesis 1-2 Boice uses quotes from Whitcomb and Morris’ The Genesis Flood to summarize the view. He then gives several points that should guide one’s evaluation of young-earth creationism. He says, “First, there is the concern for biblical teaching. More than this, creationists want to make biblical teaching determinative.”41 Boice is correct, and such a hermeneutic is the necessary corollary of the doctrine of inspiration. Whatever God says should always be determinative for the believer, regardless of the views of other supposed sources of authoritative truth that contradict God's Word. Boice quickly adds that “we have to admit here that the exegetical basis of the creationist is strong.”42 But as his discussion continues, he reveals that the only reason he rejects the young-earth creationists’ admittedly sound exegesis is because so-called “science” confidently asserts that the creation is billions of years old.43 What happened to the teaching of Jesus, which Boice says is so determinative?
VII. Systematic theology texts regarding the Jesus AGE verses
1. Young-earth creationist systematic theology texts. In his discussion on creation, Berkhof argues for literal days and against the gap and day-age views.44 He does not explicitly state his view on the age of the earth, but uses Exodus 20:11 in defense of his view, rejects theistic evolution, rejects human evolution and seems to reject old-earth geology.45 However, he does not refer to the Jesus AGE verses, except to affirm (by reference to Mark 10:6) that the creation had a beginning.46 Ryrie refers only to Luke 11:51, and then merely in relation to Jesus’ view of the extent of the OT canon.47 Reymond lists many OT and NT references (including Luke 11:51) to support his contention that Genesis 1–11 is reliable history and he refers to Mark 10:6 when he states that “to question the basic historical authenticity and integrity of Genesis 1-11 is to assault the integrity of Christ’s own teaching.”48
2. Old-earth systematic theology texts. For the most part, systematic theology texts written by old-earth proponents also overlook the Jesus AGE verses, or if they do refer to them, they do not comment on the implications for the age of the earth. I carefully examined the relevant discussions of Hodge, Feinberg, Thiessen, Erickson, Buswell and Henry.49) I will comment on two other texts as representative.
Lewis and Demarest discuss the origin of the world and humanity in their 1996 theology text. In numerous statements they badly misrepresent the young-earth view,50 which is not surprising since they do not demonstrate any familiarity with the recent creationist literature (but refer to much recent old-earth literature). It would appear that they did not even read carefully the two older books by Henry Morris (published in 1974 and 1984, respectively), which they cite and both of which refer to the Jesus AGE verses.51 They argue for the day-age view, concluding that “ultimately, responsible geology must determine the length of the Genesis days.”52 What happened to the principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture? They do refer to Mark 10:6, 13:19 and Luke 11:51, and affirm that “Jesus clearly endorsed the validity of the Old Testament creation doctrine”53 and that “the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles who wrote the New Testament by the Spirit’s inspiration understood the early chapters of Genesis to be informative.”54 However, it is not clear what “endorsed the validity” and “informative” in these statements are meant to convey regarding the truthfulness or proper interpretation of Genesis 1-11. In any case, Lewis and Demarest apparently have failed to grasp the implications of Jesus’ words for their view of the age of the earth.
In his Systematic Theology Grudem deals with Mark 10:6, but not Mark 13:19 or Luke 11:51. His refutation of the young-earth reasoning from Mark 10:6 is one sentence: “This argument also has some force, but old Earth advocates may respond that Jesus is just referring to the whole of Genesis 1-2 as the ‘beginning of creation,’ in contrast to the argument from the laws given by Moses that the Pharisees were depending on (v. 4).”55 This objection makes little sense; it actually affirms that Adam and Eve were indeed at the beginning of creation, not billions of years after the beginning, just as young-earthers contend. In any case, whatever statements in Deuteronomy 24 the Pharisees were relying on is irrelevant to Jesus’ statement and belief about when Adam and Eve were created. Furthermore, Grudem apparently imagines how old-earth advocates might evade the force of this young-earth argument, but he does not cite and I do not know of any old-earth proponent who has actually reasoned this way. So, the young-earth argument from Mark 10:6 has more than just “some force.”
VIII. Other old-earth writings regarding the Jesus AGE verses
The following authors either promote or at least accept belief in millions of years: Snoke, Arnold, Lucas, Forster and Marston, Ramm, Cabal, and Kaiser.56 So do Newman and Eckelmann, E. J. Young, Harris, Mark Ross, Moreland, Scofield, Orr, Hague, Wright, and Mauro, Davis Young, Snow, and Stek.57 So also do Bradley and Olsen, Blocher, Hugh Ross, Howard Vos, Free, Archer, Sailhamer, Warfield, and Kline.58 But none of these scholars interact with the Jesus AGE verses and most of them do not consider at all the New Testament teaching relevant to the correct interpretation of Genesis 1-11. Other authors who do the same deserve some comment. Their handling of Scripture on this subject is illustrative of the works above.
In Evolution and the Authority of the Bible Nigel Cameron presents some strong arguments in favor of the young-earth view, although he does not explicitly endorse it. He considers Matthew 19:4 to be a “strong testimony to an historical reading of Genesis by Jesus himself.”59 After discussing other relevant NT verses he concludes:
The New Testament view of the early chapters of Genesis, both as to the essentials (that Adam was a real man and that he really fell) and also as to certain details (such as the order of creation and Fall—Adam created first, Eve first to fall), is that an historical reading of the narrative is the appropriate one. . . . Evangelical Christians who desire to interpret Scripture faithfully will follow the New Testament writers in treating Genesis 2 and 3 as history. If they reject this reading, they do so at their peril.60
Cameron gives no reason for limiting his conclusion about historicity to Genesis 2-3, instead of applying it to all of Genesis 1-11. Cameron seems to imply that the historicity and fall of Adam are the only essentials taught in the early chapters of Genesis and that only “certain details” (of the order of creation and fall of Adam and Eve) are important, straightforwardly clear and trustworthy, but that the details about creation in six days, the global Flood, and the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are not. He fails to provide any rationale for such a selective reading of the details of the text. The New Testament writers clearly indicate that they treated all those chapters (and their details) as literal history. Do we not reject or ignore the details of the Creation narrative or the Flood to our peril also? And should we not consider Jesus’ view on these matters, as well as the views of the NT writers? Cameron has not heeded his own very appropriate warning.
Given Cameron’s affirmation of the authority of Scripture, I wanted to find out more about his views after reading his 2001 email to a colleague of mine, in which Cameron said this about his above-mentioned book: “I have long taken the view that it is open to us to be agnostic on the “alternative” we put in place of the standard evolution position. It's fair to say that when I wrote that book I was more sympathetic to the young-earth view than I am now, but I was not committed to it even then.”61 So in January 2004 I wrote Dr. Cameron to clarify his position on the age of the earth and whether he still held to the arguments presented in his book. He replied, “My position has all along been somewhat agnostic, and indeed I do not think we are obliged to come up with alternative scenarios. So I don't think my position has changed!”62 This is doubly perplexing when we note two more things. First, Cameron explains that the rapid, 19th-century compromise of the church with millions of years was because “first in geology and then in biology . . . nineteenth century, biblical commentators hastened to accommodate their interpretation of Scripture to the latest orthodoxy in science.”63 And, secondly, he gave a glowing endorsement (on the back cover) of Douglas Kelly’s defense of young-earth creationism (which includes reference to the Jesus AGE verses and other NT references to Gen. 1-11), Creation and Change (1997), saying “A highly intelligent engagement with these crucial verses with which God declares himself to be a speaking God who is our maker. The discussion is scholarly but accessible, a model of the kind of exegetical theology which the church of our day needs.” Surely, such inconsistent reasoning creates problems for our commitment to the authority of the Bible and of Jesus, our Lord, not to mention our ability to articulate the gospel in an intellectually rigorous and coherent way to a skeptical world.
In Genesis in Space and Time, Francis Schaeffer says that the Bible “is a scientific textbook in the sense that where it touches the cosmos it is true, propositionally true” and “wherever it touches upon anything, it does so with true truth, but not with exhaustive truth. That is, where it speaks of the cosmos, science, what it says is true. Likewise, where it touches history, it speaks with that [sic] I call true truth, that is, propositional, objective truth.”64 He argues that Genesis 1 and 2 are united descriptions of one creation account and even refers to Mark 10:6-8 to support that view.65 He argues for the historicity (even the “historicity of the details”) of the account of Adam and Eve66 and the historicity of the Flood and even (rather weakly) defends it as being global.67 However, he devotes merely one paragraph to the question of the length of days in Genesis 1, and only asserts that יוֹם (yom, day) can mean a long period as well as a normal day and so “we must leave open the exact length of the time indicated by day in Genesis.”68 He gives absolutely no exegesis to defend this view. Following William Henry Greene and B.B. Warfield, he briefly argues that the genealogies of Gen. 5 and 11 have gaps.69 But nowhere does he discuss the verses showing Jesus to be a young-earth creationist.
In his No Final Conflict (1975) Schaeffer said this book should be studied with the above book as a unity.70 But this book, he says,
deals with the possibilities open to us where the Bible touches science in the first chapters of Genesis—that is, the possibilities that exist if we hold to the historic Christian view that both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety are the written Word of God without error in all that they affirm about history and science as well as about religious matters.71
Schaeffer affirms the “space-time” historicity of Genesis 1-11 and unity of the whole book. In defending this he cites the toledoths72 in Genesis and fourteen New Testament verses. He says that “absolutely every place where the New Testament refers to the first half of Genesis, the New Testament assumes (and many times affirms) that Genesis is history and that it is to be read in normal fashion, with the common use of words and syntax.”73 Nevertheless, although he rejects the gap theory, he does still allow it as a “theoretical possibility.”74 He accepts the day-age view as possible, as well as the literal day view, and says that he is not sure about the matter. He appears to lean toward a global Flood but is hesitant about how to relate it to geological ages. And he accepts that animals could have died peacefully before the Fall, but that there would not have been violence and agonizing, cruel death (as in one animal chasing down another) before Adam’s sin. But he fails to mention and take account of the Jesus AGE verses. Failing to take account of them certainly makes it easier to accept Schaeffer’s possibilities for harmonizing the Bible and millions of years. But that is a serious oversight.
Geisler’s encyclopedia of apologetics has three articles relevant to our discussion. In “Genesis, days of” (where he argues against young-earth creationism) and “Genealogies, Open or Closed” (where he argues for gaps in the Genesis genealogies) he does not deal with the Jesus AGE verses.75 In “Creation and Origins,” he does refer to and even quote Mark 10:6 and 13:19, but he uses them to state only that creation was a past singular event, rather than a continuing process.76 However, this contradicts Geisler’s endorsement of Hugh Ross and the idea of millions of years, because the evolutionary astronomers and geologists (whom Ross relies on) argue for millions of years on the basis of presently observed physical and chemical processes going back in an unbroken sequence to the beginning of time. In other words, the evolutionists deny that the creation activities are different from present-day processes, in contrast to what Geisler (rightly) believes.
In a basic apologetics book, Geisler and Bocchino say that the order of creation in Genesis “does offer an extremely accurate account of the order of creation as compared to the discoveries of modern science [i.e., evolutionary cosmology and geology].”77 However, their supposedly wonderful harmonization fails to mention the creation of the birds, Sun, Moon or stars.78 So, once again we see a lack of careful attention to the biblical text. They tell their readers that they will not deal with the technical Hebrew details to defend their old-earth view. But they do not say where such details are discussed and unfortunately they fail to reckon with the Jesus AGE verses and the other NT teaching germane to the age of the creation. Nevertheless, they do urge their young-earth readers to “stop the infighting over the question of age” because “many sincerely honest and intellectually gifted scholars” argue for an old earth.79 Unfortunately, neither sincerity, nor honesty, nor intellectual giftedness, separately or combined, ensures correct (biblical) thinking, and history affords many examples of times when many, or even the majority of, scholars were wrong.80
In his recent book on science and faith, Collins does address some of the Jesus AGE verses, saying that “if this [young-earth] argument is sound, I’m in trouble.”81 This is because he rejects the literal, six-day creation view. After summarizing accurately the young-earth argument from the Jesus AGE verses, he says that it “finds its credibility from the way the English ‘from the beginning’ seems so definite; but the Greek is not so fixed.”82 He then discusses several verses to argue that “from the beginning” in Matthew 19:4 & 8 is referring to the beginning of the human race. He says that the phrase found in 1 John 1:1, and 2:13-14 relates to Christ and refers “to a ‘time’ before the world began.” The same phrase used in 1 John 3:8 and John 8:44 in relation to Satan refers, he contends, “to the beginning of the world or perhaps to the beginning of his own rebellion.”83 On the other hand, he correctly observes that 1 John 2:7, 24 and 3:11 refer to the time when John’s readers became Christians or to the beginning of the apostles’ ministry. Without further comment Collins then concludes, “If we apply this insight to the verses in Matthew 19, we find that they most naturally refer to ‘the beginning’ of the human race.”84 Attempting to neutralize the young-earth argument from Mark 10:6, he refers to Matthew 24:21 (“from the beginning of the world”) and its parallel passage in Mark 13:19 (“from the beginning of the creation”). He says that these phrases here cover all of time or at least all of the time that humans have existed to experience tribulation. But he contends that the total time since the absolute beginning is irrelevant to Jesus’ point in Mark 10:6. So he concludes that these discussed verses “have no bearing on the age of the earth.”85
Several things can be said in response. First, we might ask how Collins knows that young-earthers only build their argument from the italicized word (“the”) in the English phrase “from the beginning.” None of the young-earthers cited above argue this way. But in any case, the English phrase is no more definite than the Greek phrase. Second, in 1 John 1:1 and 2:13-14 John easily could have said “He who was before the beginning” (cf. John 17:24 and 1 Pet. 1:20). But he rather says “He who was from the beginning.” Given the opening of his gospel, which refers to the creation of all things in the beginning, there is no reason whatsoever to see these verses as lending support to the restricted meaning of “the beginning of the human race.” Third, neither of Collins’ suggested meanings of the verse about Satan (1 John 3:8) or the verses about Christians (I John 2:7, 2:24 and 3:11 ) supports his restricted interpretation. Since we don’t know precisely what “from the beginning” refers to with respect to Satan, those verses cannot be used to support Collins’ particular interpretation of “from the beginning of the human race.” But also, while that verse and the ones related to Christians in 1 John may be construed to give “insight” to Collins’ interpretation of Matthew 19:4, they do so only because he has ignored the additional words “of creation” in the parallel passage of Mark 10:6.
Lastly, Collins overlooks Luke 11:50-51, which is relevant to his argument about Mark 10:6. It should be noted that neither I nor any other young-earther has argued that the age of the earth is “the point” of any of these Jesus AGE verses. Although the particular phrases we are studying are incidental to the main thrust of Jesus’ statements, they nevertheless do reveal something of Jesus’ worldview, i.e., that He was (and still is) a young-earth creationist. In Luke 11 Jesus could have said merely that “the blood of all the prophets will be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel . . .” and left out the words “shed from the foundation of the world.” This latter phrase is unnecessary to warn people of judgment, but its presence reveals an aspect of Jesus’ worldview. The same applies to the additional but unnecessary (if Jesus is only referring to the beginning of the human race) words “of creation” in Mark 10:6 and 13:19. Furthermore, it is very doubtful that any Pharisees and any Christian readers of the Gospels prior to the 19th century would have thought that Jesus was referring to only the creation of man or the beginning of the human race, for there is no biblical evidence that long ages of time elapsed between the absolute beginning in Genesis 1:1 and the creation of man in Gen 1:26 and, as we noted earlier, Jesus always treated the OT narratives as straightforward history.
We therefore have good reasons to reject Collins’ attempts to avoid the clear implications of the Jesus AGE verses for our understanding of the age of the earth. Also, it is clear from his book that the driving force behind Collins’ old-earth interpretations of Scripture is his unquestioning trust in the claims of the evolutionary geologists about the age of the rocks. At the end of his four-page discussion of geology he states, “I conclude, then that I have no reason to disbelieve the standard theories of the geologists, including their estimate for the age of the earth. They may be wrong, for all I know; but if they are wrong, it’s not because they have improperly smuggled philosophical assumptions into their work.”86 But, as I argue elsewhere,87 smuggling philosophical assumptions into their work is precisely what geologists have done (usually unknowingly because of the educational brainwashing they received). Without the uniformitarian assumptions of philosophical naturalism, which have controlled geology (and astronomy) for the past two centuries, there would be no “evidence” for millions of years.
Endorsed by Hugh Ross, Stoner promotes the day-age theory and attempts to refute the young-earth
arguments from the Jesus AGE verses.88 First of all, he says that “Adam was created on the sixth
day of creation, not the first. This was not the beginning of creation no matter how long or short
the creation days were.” But, as noted before, “the beginning of creation” refers to the whole
first week and when Jesus said these words 4,000 years after the beginning, the sixth day was
truly at the beginning of creation, on the level of precision that He was speaking (everyday
language to a non-scientific audience). Secondly, Stoner argues that κτίσις (“creation”) in
In their little 1991 booklet on evolution, Ankerberg and Weldon mention Matthew 19:4-5 (parallel to Mark 10:6) as part of their defense of the young-earth view. They even state that they have studied the various old-earth reinterpretations of Genesis “in detail and believe they all have fatal biblical flaws.”91 Tragically, Ankerberg has since ignored Jesus’ teaching, and his own reasoning based on it, and has abandoned the young-earth view by sympathizing with Hugh Ross’s old-earth views in an October 2000 TV debate between Ross and Kent Hovind.92 He has continued to promote Ross’s teaching in a 2004 TV series and in another series with Kaiser and Ross in 200593 and by moderating (but not with impartiality) the 8-part The Great Debate between Ken Ham and Dr. Jason Lisle from Answers in Genesis and Drs. Kaiser and Ross, which was televised starting in January 2006.94
Wenham contends correctly that Jesus “consistently treats the historical narratives as straightforward records of fact.”95 In his discussion that follows this statement he cites more than 50 passages from the gospels and refers once to Mark 10:6 and three times to Luke 11:50-51. After one mention of the latter passage Wenham states, “This last passage brings out his [Jesus’] sense of the unity of history and his grasp of its wide sweep. His eye surveys the whole course of history from ‘the foundation of the world’ to ‘this generation.’”96 Wenham notes that “curiously enough, the narratives that are least acceptable to the so-called ‘modern mind’ are the very ones that he seemed most fond of choosing for his illustrations.”97 But then he strangely reasons later, on the same page, in reference to Mark 10:2 that “the references to the ordinance of monogamy ‘from the beginning of creation,’ for instance, do not seem to necessitate a literal interpretation of chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis for their validity.” However, in the process of justifying this view he overlooks Mark 10:6 and instead focuses on the laws of Moses referred in Mark 10:3-4 (cf. Deut. 24:1, 3). He seems not to have applied his own true statement to his thinking on origins: “Thus to our Lord the Old Testament is true as to its history, it is of divine authority, and its very writings are inspired by God Himself.”98
Wenham presents the same arguments in summary form in his contribution to the defense of inerrancy.99 He gives good reasons for rejecting the notion that Jesus accommodated His teachings to the (supposed) erroneous beliefs of His contemporaries. He cites Luke 11:50-51 three times (quoting it in full once) to affirm that “Jesus consistently treats Old Testament historical narratives as straightforward records of fact.”100 But in his listing of 27 gospel passages, he starts with Abel (instead of Adam) and again overlooks Mark 10:6 and 13:19. When he later does refer to Mark 10:2ff, he states,
The teaching of monogamy as being God’s plan from “the beginning of creation” perhaps does not necessitate a literal interpretation of chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis for its validity; but subsequent reference to the changed situation under Moses seems to require it. Seldom can a non-literal meaning be applied without some loss of vividness and effectiveness.101
Sadly, Wenham’s scholarly understatement weakens the authority of our Lord’s straightforward records of fact. And nowhere in his discussion does Wenham explain on what grounds he does not accept the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2.
In a 1989 article on the history and future of evangelicalism, Wenham begins with these words: “Many devout and thoughtful people are deeply worried as to where evangelicalism is going.”102 He recounts with sadness the fact that many evangelicals have slid into liberalism or at least a denial of inerrancy. He decries that the Christian faith and morals have lost much ground in the 20th century. He admits that “Darwin raised problems for biblical Christianity which neither the Victorians nor ourselves have ever wholly solved,” but he strongly rejects young-earth creationism. He considers it to be “far saner and healthier” to reject Darwinism while still accepting the millions of years demanded by evolutionary geologists and cosmologists, though he does not endorse any particular old-earth reinterpretation of Genesis.103 In his proposed plan of action to revive evangelicalism, he says that “we shall probably have to work again and again at Genesis 1-11,” but apparently that means coming up with new alternative old-earth reinterpretations, rather than accepting the straightforward literal interpretation which Jesus and the apostles affirmed.104 He concludes by saying, “we want the Church united in utter loyalty to Christ and his revelation . . . without compromising biblical principles.”105 But is it loyalty to Christ for us to ignore or reject our Lord’s teaching regarding the literal truth of Genesis and the age of the earth?
The sayings of Jesus recorded in the gospels demonstrate that Jesus was clearly a young-earth creationist. There is nothing in His teachings that would support an old-earth view (of man being created long ages after the beginning of creation).
These two figures illustrate the importance of Jesus’s statements on this subject.
As figure 1 illustrates, the time from when Jesus spoke these words as recorded by Mark and Luke back to the first day of creation would be about 4000 years, assuming that there are no gaps in the Genesis genealogies.106 Jesus taught that Adam was at the beginning of creation (the 6th day on a 4000-year timescale would be the “beginning of creation” in the non-technical everyday language that Jesus was using).
Contrast this to the evolutionary view, illustrated in figure 2, that all old-earth proponents embrace, namely that the big bang happened about 14 billion years ago, earth came into existence about 4.5 billion years ago and true Homo sapiens only came into existence a few hundred thousand years ago (or less). On a 14-billion-year timescale this would mean that man came into existence at the very tail end of creation to-date.
So we cannot believe Jesus’ view and the evolutionary view on the age of the earth at the same time. They are diametrically opposed to each other.
Twentieth century young-earthers have been using the Jesus AGE verses in support of this view for decades. In contrast, of the sixty one old-earth proponents authors examined (many of them among the top scholars in evangelicalism) only three (Grudem, Collins and Stoner) dealt with the Jesus AGE verses and attempted to rebut the young-earth creationist interpretation of them. But the old-earth arguments were found wanting. Sadly, many of these old-earth proponents refer to each others’ writings (therefore circulating their misguided arguments), and the vast majority of them do not attempt to refute the best young-earth arguments and in fact give little or no evidence of having even read the most current, leading young-earth writings. Sadly, these old-earth writers have had a wide influence on the church through seminaries, Bible colleges and through the endorsement of such prominent Christian leaders such as James Dobson, Bill Bright, Charles Colson, R.C. Sproul,107 etc.
There is only one reason that the above sixty-one old-earth authors hold on to the idea of millions of years. It is not because millions of years is taught in the Bible (for it is not taught anywhere there).108 It is, as many of these men plainly indicate, because they are operating with the assumption that the evolutionary geologists and astronomers have proven scientifically that the creation is billions of years old.109 But this is simply an uninformed and false assumption. We do not need to take months or years of study to see this. About 25 hours of study would be sufficient. I plead with my old-earth Christian readers to become up-to-date on the scientific arguments for a young earth.110
In light of this study, Mark Noll’s scathing criticism of young-earth creationism is shown to be grossly in error. In his widely acclaimed book denouncing young-earthers for the (supposed) scandalous misuse of their minds, he states that they use
a fatally flawed interpretive scheme of the sort that no responsible Christian teacher in the history of the church ever endorsed before this century came to dominate the minds of American evangelicals on scientific questions; . . . [These young-earthers] are almost completely adrift in using the mind for careful thought about the world. . . . thinking they are honoring the Scriptures, yet who interpreting the Scriptures on questions of science and world affairs in ways that fundamentally contradict the deeper, broader, and historically well-established meanings of the Bible itself.111
Sadly, Noll heavily bases his indictment of young-earth creationists on the historical interpretations of an openly agnostic (and former Seventh Day Adventist) historian of science, Ronald Numbers,112 whom (amazingly) Noll describes as a “truly professional” historian who has “few bones to pick with basic Christian teachings.”113 Numbers is certainly a justifiably respected historian of science. But being an agnostic he is far from being unbiased or neutral on basic Christian doctrines—he rejects most, if not all, of them! Furthermore, Noll also accepts the condescending evaluation of young-earthers by James Moore (a former evangelical, turned skeptic), and many other non-Christian historians. He offers no substantive exegesis of Scripture to defend his old-earth views and completely overlooks the Jesus AGE verses as he harangues young-earthers for shallow thinking and lack of scholarship. Judging from his text and footnotes, we might justifiably conclude that the only young-earth literature he has read is the introduction to Whitcomb and Morris’ The Genesis Flood (published 45 years ago!), although he seems to have read a considerable amount of literature from theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists. So where does the scandalous use of the evangelical mind really lie? And just who is using a fatally flawed hermeneutic to interpret Genesis? It is truly sad to see such a justly respected Christian historian ignore the overwhelming witness to young-earth creationism in the first 18 centuries of church history.
We need to heed the words spoken by God to Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. While the gospel writers record different aspects of God’s declaration about the nature of Jesus’ Sonship (Luke 9:35, Mark 9:7, Matt. 17:5), they precisely agree in their quotation of God’s command: “Listen to Him!” Evangelicals, and especially evangelical scholars, need to listen to what Jesus says about Genesis 1-11 and the age of the earth. And if we call Him our Lord, how can we possibly have a different view of the matter than He has and in addition say that the age of the earth does not matter?
I return to a quote, which I used at the beginning, but which is worth repeating. Ravi Zacharias is correct to say that, “Jesus claimed to be ‘the truth.’ Let us test his claims and teachings. If they are true, what He says matters more than anything else in life.”114 Unfortunately, Zacharias appears not to have heeded his own exhortation, for he gives a glowing unqualified endorsement on the back cover of an apologetics book by his (former) RZIM colleague, Paul Copan.115 However, Copan defends the day-age view and promotes the writings of Hugh Ross and Henri Blocher. And none of these men makes any mention of Jesus’ teaching on this matter. As another example of inconsistency, Zacharias himself claims to be a “firmly committed young-earth creationist” in his standard reply to correspondents asking about his view. Yet he recommends (without qualification) six books: one older book by a young-earther and five books by old-earthers, including Ross and Blocher.116
Jesus made some sobering statements about the importance of believing His words. In John 8:31-32 we read, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” And in John 12:47-50 He warns,
If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.
Among the words which the Father commanded Jesus to say were those in Mark 10:6, 13:19 and Luke 11:50-51. Those verses are also relevant to Paul’s warning about how we respond to the teaching of Jesus: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Tim. 6:3-4). And in John 5:45-47 Jesus says, “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
Given this study, it seems legitimate to conclude that if we do not know and believe Christ’s words about the age of the earth, then we may not believe Moses’ words either. But if we do believe and submit to the authority of Jesus’ clear and straightforward words concerning the age of the earth, then we must believe Moses’ clear and straightforward words about the details of Creation Week, the Fall, the Flood, the Tower of Babel and the other historical facts in Genesis 1-11.
We cannot with consistency follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and at the same time follow the teachings of the evolutionary geologists and astrophysicists (and the Christian geologists and astrophysicists who promote their old-earth teachings in the church). As the old-earther, C. John Collins, rightly reasons, if millions of years indeed transpired before Adam was created and Jesus believed Adam was at the beginning of creation, “then we must conclude that Jesus was mistaken (or worse, misleading), and therefore he can’t be God.”117
Let us no longer ignore our Lord’s teaching. If we call Him Lord, can we have a different view of Genesis and the age of the earth than He had? Will we seek academic respectability or will we seek to be faithful to Jesus Christ and His Word? Will we go with the opinions of the majority of contemporary scientists (most of whom are in rebellion against God), who insist that the earth and universe are billions of years old? Or will we go with the inerrant, authoritative and perspicuous Word of the God of truth, who teaches us plainly that the earth is only about 6000 years old?
It really is a question of authority: the authority of God vs. the authority of man; the authority of Jesus vs. the authority of the contemporary scientific majority. Isaiah 66:2 says, “‘For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,’ declares the LORD. ‘But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’” For the last 200 years most of the church, following most of her leaders and scholars, has trembled at the words of men rather than trembling at the Word of the Almighty Creator. May God help us to submit to His authority, humble ourselves again, and tremble at His Word, including the words of Jesus about the age of the earth.