Introduction: Blindsided into Debate
I was attending a Christian conference and staffing an Answers in Genesis booth. As I walked around to look at the other booths at the beginning of this conference, a man quickly came up to me (from his booth), even though there was a crowd waiting to speak with him. He evidently felt the need to confront me (in front of the crowd at his booth) because he saw that I was wearing an Answer in Genesis conference badge.
In a hostile tone, the first thing out of his mouth was something akin to, “Is Answers in Genesis here at the conference? Well, I guess I am going to have to find your booth and set you straight about the age of the earth!”
Perhaps you are thinking, “I’m glad I wasn’t in that situation.” Well, I don’t like those situations either! But for some reason, I tend to be in the middle of debates way too often. What ran through my head was, “How did I get myself into this situation? I was only walking through the conference halls!” But I realized there was crowd of people staring as this man began his diatribe, so there I was, blindsided and thrust into a debate.
Needless to say, 2 Timothy 2:24–25 and 1 Peter 3:15 say to always be prepared to give an answer and be ready in season and out of season to rebuke and correct with gentleness and patience. I realized this “out of season” debate was going to occur, but I still need to do it with gentleness, while being bold.
I asked this man, “In the context of the first marriage between Adam and Eve, do you think Jesus was wrong in Mark 10:6 when He said that God made them male and female at the beginning of creation? Or do you believe that the creation has been around for 13 billion years and marriage first came about at the end of creation a few thousand years ago with Adam and Eve?”1
For the reader, allow me to explain why I asked the question this way. If you start with the Bible, Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day of creation. So Adam and Eve were created about five days after the initial creation event on Day One. Then if you add up the genealogies from Adam to Jesus you get a few thousand years (about 4,000 years). Most chronologists agree on this point.
But all Christians who have bought into an old earth have much more than 4,000 years between creation and Christ. They insert about 13.7 billion years between the creation event that they call the big bang and the marriage between the first human male and female. They further state that Adam and Eve only showed up a matter of thousands of years ago. So all old earth scenarios have marriage (between a human male and female, which first began with Adam and Eve) about 13 billion years after creation, which is the end of creation, nowhere near the beginning of creation.
Returning to questioner, it was apparent that he was not ready for that question. What I did was contrast his stated position against what Christ had said. And this man knew it right off the bat. So did the crowd watching. They wanted to hear his answer, and so did I.
Realizing he was trapped in a “catch-22,” this man immediately changed the subject to talk about what secular scientists believe about the age of the earth. I wasn’t going to let him do that. He needed to address what Jesus said.
So I again kindly asked, “Was Jesus wrong in your view?” This man, who was so confident and aggressive, began to squirm right where he stood. And he responded, “I don't want to deal with that.”
That is the crux of the issue: either you trust God’s Word, or you don’t.
At this point, I concluded our conversation by saying, “That is the crux of the issue: either you trust God’s Word, or you don’t.” Hopefully, it was apparent to the crowd that this man was not standing on what Christ said in His Word but was clinging to outside influences and did not want to address what Christ had said. Frankly, I was nervous, but I was being bold and seeking to be kind and gracious.
Why Is Mark 10:6 So Powerful?
Jesus said the following in the context of marriage and divorce:
But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ (Mark 10:6)
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’” (Matthew 19:4)
If one believes Christ is Lord and is dedicated to following the words of Jesus, then accepting millions of years becomes an enormous problem. According to any old-earth and old-universe scenario, many billions of years ago the creation began, and man only arrived on the scene a matter of thousands years ago. How could any professing Christ-follower think that Jesus was in error and that marriage between that first man and a woman (which Jesus clearly believed were Adam and Eve because in the context of Mark 10:6 he quotes from Genesis 1 and 2) only happened at the tail end of 13 or so billion years?
Jesus, the Creator, makes it clear that the first marriage between man and woman (Adam and Eve) came at the beginning of creation. From the chronological information given in Genesis 5 and 11 and in other biblical passages, Jesus was speaking about 4,000 years after this creation.
Since the days in Genesis are regular 24-hour days and Jesus was speaking about 4,000 years later,2 then the first marriage on Day Six was at the beginning of creation, speaking in non-technical language as Jesus was. If the earth is indeed billions of years old, then the first male and female came nowhere near the beginning of creation but the tail end of creation. This is a major theological problem because it calls into account the truthfulness of Christ in any old-earth/old-universe scenario.
Possible Responses to Mark 10:6
Those who religiously and unquestionably believe in the evolutionary timescale over against God’s Word, yet profess Christ as Lord, have tried to respond because they understand this is a devastating argument from Christ Himself against a “billions-of-years-ago” creation. Of course, the man at the conference did not want to give an answer, but others have tried. There are three common responses that need to be examined.
- Some say biblical creationists have the same problem by appealing to Mark 10:6 because Adam and Eve were created on Day Six, not Day One of creation, which they claim is the “beginning of creation.”
- Some insert words into Mark 10:6 to change the meaning to “beginning of the creation of marriage.”
- Some suggest that beginning is referring to an entire figurative “six-day” creation period or Creation Week regardless of its length.
Looking at Response 1
This popular response by some theologians was dealt a fatal blow by Dr. Terry Mortenson.3 But let’s consider it briefly here. The argument incorrectly makes the assumption that the “beginning of creation” means the “first day of creation.” The Bible doesn’t say Day One of creation; it says the “beginning of the creation” (or simply, “the beginning” in the parallel passage of Matthew 19:4).
If you were to watch a movie and then tell a friend about the beginning of the movie, would that consist of the first word or frame of the movie only? Absolutely not; it would be a range of time surrounding the beginning of the movie and the events that get the movie going.
There are other places in the New Testament that affirm “the beginning” was near the events of the beginning that range from the absolute beginning to the events that even occurred soon after Creation Week, such as the fall into sin. Let’s look at some of these:
- The absolute beginning: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1–2).
- Upon the creation of Adam and Eve (the first marriage): “He said to them, ‘Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so’” (Matthew 19:8).
- After the “very good” creation was completed (Genesis 1:31) but prior to Adam’s sin: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
- After sin entered the world so that tribulation can be possible: “For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be” (Mark 13:19).
The point is that the entire Bible stands or falls on Christ’s truthfulness.
If an old-earth proponent uses response 1, then he is conceding that Jesus was wrong. But can Jesus err? No. But for the sake argument, if Jesus erred on this point, then perhaps Jesus erred in passages concerning salvation. If this were the case, then it would undermine the gospel, which a professing Christian claims to believe. The point is that the entire Bible stands or falls on Christ’s truthfulness.
Looking at Response 2
Who is fallible, sinful mankind that he should try to add to Scripture to change the meaning of that Scripture in order to “correct” God’s Word to fit with man’s fallible ideas about the past? Years ago, when I seriously contemplated the idea of millions of years and the big bang, this was the conclusion to which I finally arrived. I realized that when I try to add millions of years into Genesis, that I would be required to reinterpret God to “correct” Him. Then it hit me. God is always right, and if we have to “reinterpret” God’s Word over and over again to mean something other than what it plainly says, then we, as fallible people, are the ones in error (Exodus 20:11; Matthew 19:4–5; Mark 10:6; and so on)!
Allow me to give a glaring instance of something like this as a preface to responding to this second response on Mark 10:6. When I hear someone add to Scripture in order to make it align with views not clearly expressed in Scripture, I think of the treatment of John 1 by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What Do the “Witnesses” Do?
Jehovah’s Witnesses view Jesus as a created archangel, named Michael. So John 1 becomes a major problem for Jehovah’s Witnesses because Jesus, the Word, is the Creator of all things that has been created. They change the Scriptures in their New World Translation (NWT) to align a little closer with their religion:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 NKJV)
[Jehovah’s Witness change:] In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. (John 1:1 NWT)
Notice how the change is that the Word was “a god” as opposed to “God.” Sadly, this is done to change the Bible to conform to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ fallible unitarian theology, even though the NWT really argues for polytheism (more than one God) in this instance. But the point was to try to demote Christ from being God.4
This obvious example causes problems for Jehovah’s Witnesses because a created Christ (in their view) really cannot endure and satisfy the infinite wrath of God upon sin. The only person that could do that is Christ, who is God, as the infinite Son who could satisfy the wrath of an infinite God to truly pay the debt in full. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a false created Christ who cannot save them, since that created Christ could never take the punishment we deserve any more than we could.
Should We Be Doing the Same Thing as the “Witnesses”?
In a familiar but different fashion, old-earth creationists that utilize response 2 do something quite similar. They essentially insert “of marriage,” which changes the meaning. Unlike Jehovah’s Witnesses, they do not add this to a new translation nor does it affect the character of Christ, so I wouldn’t dare call my old-earth brethren cultic, but I must admit that this tact is identical to what many cultists do. I do not want my brothers in Christ to go down that path—as I once travelled down that path myself!
But in common, both Jehovah’s Witnesses and old-earth creationists have taken outside ideas and imposed them on the Bible to mean something other than what the text says. It is essentially either mixing with Unitarian religious beliefs or, in this instance, mixing with secular humanistic religious beliefs (e.g., millions of years).
When people try to interpret Mark 10:6 in a way that makes it compatible with the idea of millions of years, then what is the difference between that and what cultists do with the text? Don’t mistake what I’m saying here; old-earth proponents can still be saved as long as they trust in Jesus Christ, the Creator, alone for their salvation. They, unlike those who hold Unitarian views of a created Jesus, still believe in the Jesus of the Bible who is God. But their handling of Scripture, like that of cultists, undermines the truth and authority of the Bible.
Let’s now turn our attention to why adding “of marriage” to the Mark 10:6 is not a viable interpretation of the text. In refuting Drs. John Ankerburg and Norman Geisler, Dr. Terry Mortenson states the following:
They argue that ktisis (which is actually the noun “creation” not the verb “create,” as [Ankerburg/Geisler] say) in Mark 10:6 should be translated as “institution” so that Jesus should be understood to be talking about the beginning of the institution of marriage, not the beginning of creation. They base this interpretation on the fact that in 1 Pet 2:13 ktisis is translated in the NIV as “to every authority instituted among men” or in the NASB as “to every human institution.” But they have not paid careful attention to the presence of “among men” (NIV) and “human” (NASB) in this verse.
The Greek text is clear. The phrase under question is pasē anthrōpinē ktisei, where the whole phrase is in the dative case (so literally “to every human creation”) and the adjective anthrōpinē (“human”) modifies ktisei (“creation”). An institutional authority (such as kings, governors and slave masters, which Peter discusses in the context) is indeed a “human creation.” But this is a very different contextual use of ktisis than we find in Mark 10:6, where no adjective is used to modify “creation.” Furthermore, in Mark 10:6 Jesus could have easily said “from the first marriage” or “from the beginning of marriage” or “since God created man” or “since God created Adam,” if that is what He meant.
Finally, if we give ktisis in Mark 10:6 the meaning “authority” or “institution,” it makes no sense. What does from the beginning of authority or beginning of institution mean? To make it meaningful Ankerberg and Geisler would have to add a word to the text, which would have no contextual justification.5
Furthermore, the Jews and pre-“millions-of-years” commentator Dr. John Gill also affirm this was the beginning of the creation, meaning the creation “of the world.” Dr. Gill writes the following:
Of the world, or of man . . . “from the beginning of the creation of the world,” is a way of speaking often used by the Jews [Bereshit Rabba, sect. 3. fol. 2. 3. & sect. 4. fol. 4. 1.]6
This may be read in #Ge 1:27 and from thence this sense of things collected; that God, who in the beginning of time, or of the creation, as Mark expresses it, made all things, the heavens, and the earth, and all that is therein, and particularly "man," as the Vulgate Latin, and Munster’s Hebrew Gospel supply it here, made the first parents of mankind, male and female7
When it comes down to it, contrary to old earthers’ intentions, advocates of this second response are indirectly doing something that the cults also do—they are adding words to Scripture not to make it consistent with some other religious writings, but with the majority view in the scientific community.
Looking at Response 3
If one concludes that “from the beginning of creation” (and likewise “from the beginning” in Matthew 19:4) means “all of the creative period, regardless of its length,” then this is saying that there are 13 billion years of time in the “creative period,” which is the beginning, middle, and even encompasses the bulk of the end of the creation by the time Jesus made this statement (see also Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2; 1 Peter 4:7)!
It is strange that one would think that 13 billion years or so have passed and that all of it is the beginning of creation—and now suddenly we are at the end after a few “measly” thousand years (e.g., Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2; 1 Peter 4:7). Going back to our movie illustration, this would be like telling someone that the end was the last second of a movie and that the other two hours of it were only the beginning.
So here old-earth advocates are changing the definitions of the words middle and end to also mean “beginning.” So they are changing the meanings of words to try making them align with their old earth/old universe view. Such a redefinition of terms is unwarranted.
Conclusion of the Matter
Jesus’s words here devastate the concept of an old earth or old universe.
Jesus’s statement in Mark 10:6 is reasonable and accurate in the young-earth view, and any view of an old earth fails when trying to deal with marriage of man and woman being at the beginning of creation. In short, Jesus’s words here devastate the concept of an old earth or old universe.
So it makes sense why this man at the conference didn’t want to address my question about Mark 10:6. In fact, his response was better than most in retrospect. At least he realized there was a problem and opted to remain silent and not reinterpret Christ’s words. So for that, I commend him.
Sadly, many others are more than willing to try to reinterpret Christ’s plain meaning in Mark 10 because of their absolute adherence to millions and billions of years. Be praying that Christians would see through this idea of mixing secular religious ideas like millions of years with their Christianity. It undermines the authority of the Bible, and in many cases it directly undermines the gospel itself.