Friday, June 02, 2017

OEC chronology

1. As I've said on more than one occasion, I think it's useful to explore and develop both YEC and OEC interpretations of Genesis. Recently I discussed YEC, now I'll turn to OEC. 

To my knowledge, OEC chronology is less developed than YEC chronology, in the sense that there's less effort to place Gen 1-11 in a general timeline. Biblical chronologies usually begin with Abraham, c. 2000 BC. 

2. The major events in Gen 1-11 are:

i) Creation of the world (Gen 1:1-2:3).

ii) Creation of the Garden (Gen 2).

iii) The Fall (Gen 3)

iv) Ramp up to the Flood (Gen 4-5).

v) The Flood (Gen 6-9).

vii) Tower of Babel

Where do those happen on an OEC timeline? 

3. OEC accepts conventional astronomical and geological dates. 

Like YEC, OEC accepts fiat creation of natural kinds, including the special creation of Adam and Eve.

On OEC, as I understand it, God introduces a natural kind into the ecosystem by fiat creation. Through adaptation, the original nature kind produces a number of varieties.

Natural kinds are phased in in a staggered fashion. For instance, you have the age of the dinosaurs. That includes a corresponding climate and vegetation. 

Then you have the age of birds and mammals. That sort of thing. 

Unlike YEC, OEC doesn't have a particular stake in the order of their appearance. In principle, plants could antedate animals. Marine organisms could antedate land animals. 

BTW, this isn't just a face-saving conjecture. Intelligent design theorists contend that, as a matter of fact, the fossil record does show the abrupt appearance of organisms with well-developed, novel body plans that have no precursors. Likewise, they argue that there is no incremental pathway for some organisms to develop from precursors. 

4. So when does human history begin? I suppose the answer depends in part on our ability to date and distinguish human fossil remains from extinct apes. Darwinians use comparative anatomy. A problem with that frame of refernce is that we can't gauge the mental abilities of fossils. We need living specimens. 

One possible way to demarcate humans from extinct primates is the presence of artifacts which unmistakably indicate human intelligence, viz. artwork, musical instruments, weapons, symbolic markings, domestic construction, burial customs. 

The earliest datable artifacts would give us a rough terminus ad quo. Presumably, humans antedate the earliest artifacts we happen to discover. So the terminus ad quo would be however much earlier. But that's a rough terminus ad quo. 

5. On that chronological spread, the flood might have happened tens of thousands of years ago. 

6. Scholars sometimes attempt to correlate Gen 4:17-22 with archeological periods, viz. neolithic, copper age, bronze age, metallurgy, &c.

However, that involves some dubious assumptions:

By the same token, the Tower of Babel is typically related to Mesopotamian ziggurats. But while that's possible, we need to make allowance for similar structures to develop independently.  For instance, do Egyptians pyramids, Mesoamerican pyramids, and Mesopotamian ziggurats reflect cultural diffusion? Do they go back to a common point of origin? Or do these represent independent developments? 

Whether we should expect to find remnants of the Tower of Babel depends on the date, building materials, erosion, and recycling materials. 

7. Some young-earth creationists believe the genealogies in Gen 5 & 11 are closed, while others believe the genealogies are open. The former think the universe is about 6000 years old while the latter think the universe is about 10,000 old. 

The question is whether an OEC timeline stretches the chronology of Gen 1-11 beyond the breaking point. 

i) Except for partial preterists, young-earth creationists allow for great gaps in long-range prophecy. 

ii) If the basic purpose of the genealogies in Gen 5 & 11 is to trace a lineage from Adam to Abraham, then I don't think it much matters how far apart the links are. The point is that only Abraham has that particular set of ancestors. Doesn't matter how distant they are in relation to each other so long as they converge on Abraham. You just need a sample that singles out Abraham. 

iii) If Gen 1-11 is only concerned with narrating the big events, the most theologically significant events or turning-points leading up to Abraham, then that would be consistent with vast intervals in-between. The Bible is typically severely selective in what it covers. 


  1. As an Old Earth leaning person, I don't assume we need to accept secular geological or cosmological dates. We simply hold that the earth and universe appear to be very old, or at least appear that way. Mature creation is still a viable alternate explanation for the appearances.

    As long as the standard cosmological model relies on conjectures involving dark matter and dark energy, I'm not going to hang my hat on it. More exploration and research is needed.

    Perhaps those questions are not solvable, at least to any significant level of confidence.

    Establishing an Adam to Abraham timeline, however, might be a more realistic goal, as I indicated in our correspondence, but it would require expertise in pre-historic archeology. Even then we would not want to rubber stamp the conclusions of secular scientists. They'll find a charred hazelnut at a site, carbon date it, and say that this is proof of human presence at that date! This kind of "science" needs to be reigned in. To say nothing ofvtge fact that their work is hampered by the pre-commitment to the idea that humans evolves from earlier hominids.

  2. I would strongly recommend Todd Wood's work on human origins and baraminology. It is a world apart in terms of its quality and care. There is a sense in which we can gauge mental capacity- we can see musical instruments at Neanderthal sites, for example. And we can find that H. Naledi had a distinctive burial ground, indicating ritual behavior which appears to set the human race apart from the other creatures of God. Though giving your post a second look, I think you recognize that.

    Of course, for us YECs, there are a couple of key factors- first, since the civilization described in Genesis 4 precedes the flood, it is unlikely to identifiably survive. The most robust creationist models identify the Paleozoic and Mesozoic sediment as flood deposits, as these sediments have enormous depositional patterns stretching thousands of square miles, whereaas the Cenozoic (conventionally 65 mya to present) sediment reflects local deposition, which is observed at present. So the earliest traces of human life we find in the Cenozoic are from the period after the flood. Moreover, if Babel is ever found, it will be found near the bottom of the Cenozoic layers, where nobody at all is looking- we should expect it to be in sediment conventionally dated to around 50 mya.

    I don't think the ziggurat structure developed independently, but reflects a common tradition ultimately rooted in God's revelation to Adam to Noah.

    Exegetically, the main point is Genesis 5 and 11. And what ought to be recognized is that these genealogies are species-unique. Only here are we told the age of the father at the birth of the son. This is precisely the information required to actually construct a chronology, and it means that it doesn't ultimately matter if the genealogy had gaps. Whether Enosh is Kenan's father or great-great grandfather, he was 90 at Kenan's birth. No other genealogy in Scripture contains such information, and especially when we read it in light of the temporal precision given to us in Genesis 7-8, the prima facie case for its chronological intention is strong.

    One more point- which is very rarely recognized- Genesis 11:10 tells us that "when Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arphachsad 2 years after the flood." Here, the author actually breaks the literary form of the genealogy to inform us that he was born two years after the flood. If we did not have this little detail, we would have to rely on conjecture in constructing a precise and complete chronology from the creation to Abraham. And it is of note, I believe, that the scriptures continue to provide the relevant chronological links- from Abraham to the exodus is 430 years (as understood by Paul in Galatians 3, which is the apostolic exegesis of Exodus 12), from the exodus to the Temple is 480 years, as we learn in 1 Kings 12, and then we have a running chronology of history through the years given for the reign of the kings from David's line.

    I don't think there is any reason internal to the scriptural text to read this information as being irrelevant, in the mind of the author, to the construction of a chronology. The hypothesis of chronological intent on the part of the author (and Author) elucidates otherwise curious or superfluous features in Genesis.