Thursday, August 18, 2011

According to Genesis

According to Genesis, Adam and Eve were created about 4000 BC (Gen. 5 & 11)...

In general, this is an excellent post. I’m just going to pick on this one statement–because it reflects a common, subconscious conflation.

Genesis doesn’t place the creation of Adam and Eve anywhere on our calendar. Assuming the days of Gen 1 are consecutive calendar days, assuming the genealogies have no gaps, it remains the case that Genesis doesn’t date the creation of Adam and Eve to c. 4000 BC.

That’s because the Bible doesn’t give us a continuous calendar marking off the days from the moment of creation to the current date. What the Bible gives us is a rough, internal, relative chronology.

I say it’s “rough” because it doesn’t give us a day-by-day sequence. I say it’s a relative chronology because it places some recorded events earlier or later than others. And it supplies a terminus ad quo or time-zero at the moment of creation. But it doesn’t give us an absolute chronology. Rather, it gives us a set of internal relations.

What’s really involved in calculations like this is an effort to correlate Genesis with our calendar. We begin with a chronology of the ANE, then try to intercalate Genesis somewhere in that framework.

So we’re dealing with a hybrid chronological construct, which has both biblical extrabiblical information feeding into it. And, of course, a chronology of the ANE is a complex historical reconstruction, with various methods, assumptions, and interpolations.

When we talk about the date of creation or the date of the flood, it’s important to distinguish between biblical and extrabiblical considerations.

This goes to a point of tension in young-earth creationism. On the one hand, creationism is sceptical of standard cosmological and geological dating techniques. On the other hand, creationism tries to time Noah’s flood or the origin of the world within narrow parameters. It would make more sense for creationism to be consistently rather than selectively sceptical about standard dating techniques.


  1. Thanks for this clarification, Steve.

  2. Several years ago I made a timeline starting from Adam and Eve and going through the building of Solomon's temple. That was the first event I could find that actually comported to something we could place within a hundred years or so margin of error. The only real big question marks I could find between creation and Solomon's temple was the number of years Israel spent in Egypt and whether there were any gaps or overlaps in the Judges. But nowhere in Genesis, or the Pentateuch for that matter, could I find an event datable by our modern calendar.

    The timeline I made makes some assumptions about the question marks I have about those things, so the dates are speculations. I'll leave it in the public side of my dropbox with a link for a little while if anyone wants to take a look at it. Of note are the number of generations alive at the same time. Also the fact that Abraham's father died after Isaac was born. The only thing I could figure is that Abraham took his inheritance at Haran leaving his father legally dead to him so he could continue on his journey. Another possibility is that the accounts are somehow out of chronological order.

    Also, it's interesting that According to this timeline, Abraham was born some 50 or so years before Noah died. It's possible that Noah could have passed on some significant antediluvian accounts directly to him. Likely? I don't know. Possible: certainly.

  3. It would make more sense for creationism to be consistently rather than selectively sceptical about standard dating techniques.

    Yep, and I am.

  4. Steve,

    An infinite Being inspired the Bible and even took care to preserve the "ages of begetting" of Adam's children and his children's children, such that Moses could write them all down later, but there's still plenty of gaps?

    Why would God take care to allegedly preserve such exact figures right to Moses' day, but the figures hang between enormous unspoken gaps such that you don't even want to take a shot at guessing how long such gaps might be? Are we talking gaps of 100,000 years between each named patriarch? Are we talking about gaps that eventually stretch out the biblical begettings to the time of Homo Habilus, or perhaps Homo Erectus? Or just a couple hundred thousands of years of gaps stretching back to Neanderthals and Cro Magnon?

    If you believe Moses authored Genesis and had access to antique information of people's "ages of begetting" from Adam to Abraham, and the latter's immediate descendants (like Joseph) wound up in Egypt and they build some pyramids there, then you should note that archeologists have dated the pyramids, and Egyptian civilization in general. So what magnitude of "gaps" are left after Abraham's children move to Egypt? Maybe a thousand year or so. So I guess you have to squeeze most of the big gaps between each named Patriarch mentioned in Genesis.

    Augustine of course, used to dispute that Egyptian civilization went back as far as ancient Egyptian stories claimed it did, because he was worried it would disrupt people's faith in the Bible if they began to imagine that Egyptian civilization went back earlier than the Hebrew tales Adam and Eve.

    Also, check out my discussion of Sumerian and Hebrew "ages" of kings and patriarchs, respectively, based on Bruce Vawtner's book on Genesis, and some other info. Such ages are more a matter of artifice than history:

  5. Ed,

    You're one of the dumbest infidels I know. Why do you think you're doing the cause of infidelity any service by your chronically boneheaded arguments?

    Was my argument predicated on gaps in the genealogies? No. I made the *lack* of any gaps in the genealogies an explicit premise of my post. How did you manage to overlook that and then attack the polar opposite position?

    What's your problem, Ed? Did you fry your brains on LSD?

    Go back and read the post. Byl's chronology assumes the genealogies have no missing links. In responding to Byl, I explicitly granted that assumption for the sake of argument.

    In addition, I've repeatedly blogged on how I'd go about defending a YEC chronology. And I didn't appeal to gaps in the genealogies.