THERE is a debate today among evangelicals concerning the age of earth. One view is more sympathetic to scientific evidence than the other. I think the reason for different conclusions about the age of the earth, is the inclusion of the so-called evidence from science into the hermeneutics of Genesis one and two. Both “Old Earth” and “Young Earth” advocates’ use of science is unconvincing. Science should not determine our interpretation of Scripture. The historical-grammatical method of hermeneutics alone should equip us to rightly divide God’s Word.
For example, the “Young Earth” advocates say God created with the appearance of age. This is obviously true with Adam and Eve. On their first day on earth, they had the appearance of being twenty or thirty. What about planet earth? Did it also have the apparent age of twenty or thirty? Wayne Grudem asks “Why would God create so many different indications of an earth that is 4.5 billion years old if this were not true” (Systematic Theology, page 307)? This is how old the earth is according to some evangelical “Old Earth” advocates like Davis A. Young. Of course, “Young Earth” advocate Henry Morris would argue against this dating. But again, Grudem asks “Would not the hundreds of Christians who are professional geologists be prepared to acknowledge the evidence (of Morris) if it were there?” Grudem acknowledges this is not the case. I personally believe in the “Young Earth” view, but not because of alleged scientific evidence.
The “Old Earth” view also has problems scientifically. Just as Grudem honestly evaluated the scientific weaknesses of the “Young Earth” position, he also points out the flaws of “Old Earth” conclusions. For example: “The interpretations of Genesis 1 presented by old earth advocates, while possible, do not seem natural to the sense of the text. Davis Young’s own solution of ‘seven successive figurative days of indeterminate duration’ really does not solve the problem, for he is willing to spread God’s creative activities around on the various days as needed in order to make the sequence scientifically possible. For example, he thinks that some birds were created before Day 5” (page 307). Grudem, who holds strongly to no view on the age of the earth, points out the fallacy of science in the hermeneutic process.
What are evidences from the text of Genesis one and two on the age of the earth?
“Old Earth” supporters say the word “day” is used of long periods of time in Scripture and so “day” must have that meaning in Genesis one and thus there must be an “Old Earth.” The word “day” (yom) in Genesis one and other Scriptures with a numerical designation (“the first day”) means a 24 hour day. Yom in Genesis 2:4 or 2:27 and other usages such as “the day of the Lord” does not have the qualifying nomenclature and is not limited to a 24 hour day. The numerical designation with “day” and the context of Genesis one demand a “Young Earth.”
You cannot say that the narrative genre of Genesis one and two is Hebrew Poetry, as “Old Earth” advocates contend, just because there is the literary convention of “repetition” and therefore cannot be interpreted literally. All genres in Scripture use repetition to stress important words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. See the repetition or inclusio in 1 Sam 2:10 and 2 Sam 22:51 of the important words “king” and “anointed” that bookend these books on the rise of the monarchy in Israel. Neither is the use of symbolic language limited to Hebrew Poetry. The dominant literary technique of Hebrew Poetry is tight parallelism in each verse. This unique literary devise is not in Genesis one. Genesis one and two are narratives giving the factual account of creation in six 24 hour days. Psalm 104 is the poetic version of the six days of creation. Genesis one and Psalm 104 are completely different literarily. Psalm 104 has the characteristic parallelism of Hebrew Poetry that is absent in the narrative of Genesis one.
God’s interpretation of the days of creation is clear in Exodus 20:9-11 in regard to the fourth commandment: “Six days (24 hour days) you may labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work….For in six days (24 hour days) the Lord made the heavens…and he rested on the seventh.” Our interpretation of Scripture should not be based on what science has observed but on certain hermeneutic principles which applied to Genesis one produces the interpretation of a “Young Earth.”
Apparently, David read Genesis one and two and saw in this historical account of creation the greatness of God. In worship of his awesome Creator, David poetically gave vent to the praise in his heart in Psalm 104 for God’s six days of creation. For example, verse one is the poetic equivalent of Genesis 1:1: “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with honor and majesty.” Since we can not see God who is spirit, we can observe what He has robed Himself in, His creation, and worship His almighty power that spoke the universe into existence. That same power made us a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) in Christ when we trusted Christ as our Savior. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”