Perhaps you have wondered: When did God create the earth, and when did God create Adam and Eve?
While the Bible does not reveal the mysterious age of the earth, it does lay out roughly how many years elapsed between the point God created Adam and Eve, and the point the Messiah was born in Bethlehem.
I explored the earth’s age in my 2016 eBook, Open-Ended Creationism: Thinking Outside the Box of Time. I also addressed it in these two CP op-eds: “The Age of the Earth is God’s Business,” and “How Long Were the Days of Creation?”
William Lane Craig has been on a quest to discover the historical Adam. Craig is a winsome ambassador for the Christian faith. He demonstrates tremendous kindness and grace as he engages believers and skeptics alike in a wide range of philosophical and theological discussions.
Craig’s latest book is titled: In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration.
Craig is convinced that the genre of Genesis 1-11 “can most plausibly be classified as mytho-history – a narrative with both literary and historical value.” Craig argues that "there are lots of clues in the text that Genesis 1-11 was not meant to be taken as a literalistic, historical account” (51:30 / interview).
For example, Craig says, “I think the creation of Eve out of Adam’s rib is almost undeniably figurative language….and God creating Adam out of dirt and then blowing into his nose seems to be figurative” (1:20 / interview).
He also says, "I would simply ask people to be open-minded about considering, whether or not, just as we take the last book in the Bible to be symbolic and imagistic, whether or not that might also be a way of plausibly interpreting the first 11 chapters of the first book of the Bible.”
If you compare the symbolism of Revelation, however, to the historical narrative of Genesis, you discover that the two books are completely different from one another. If Genesis 1-11 was truly intended to be figurative, then what are we to make of the descendants of Adam and Eve listed in Genesis 5:1-32, 9:29, and 11:10-32? The exact age of each person is detailed with precision: Adam–930 years; Seth–912 years; Enoch–905 years; Kenan–910 years; Mahalalel–895 years; Jared–962 years; Enoch–365 years; Methuselah–969 years; Lamech–777 years; Noah–950 years, Shem–500 years, Arphaxad–403 years, Shelah–403 years, Eber–430 years, Peleg–209 years, Reu–207 years, Serug–200 years, Nahor–119 years, Terah–205 years.
Bernard White wrote, "The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are unique in the Scripture record. Gerhard Hasel’s term chronogenealogy captures a major aspect of that uniqueness: they are genealogies with a major chronological component. By including ages at the birth of each named son, the number of years each individual lived after begetting that son, and the stated or implied total years of life for each individual, the two genealogies appear to provide a means by which to calculate the approximate number of years from Adam to Abraham.”
Genesis 5 and 11 reveal that there were about 2000 years between Adam and Abraham. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17) begins with Abraham and culminates with Christ, which spanned another 2000 years. All of these descendants and events over roughly 4000 years from Adam to Christ are woven together in Scripture into a beautiful tapestry.
William Lane Craig believes that Adam lived on the earth "sometime between one million years ago at the earliest, and fifty thousand years ago at the latest.” The timeline running through Genesis 1-11 refutes Craig's hypothesis. It connects the chronological dots from Adam to Noah, and then from Noah to Abraham. The historical narrative of Genesis 1-11 is just as literal as the historical narrative of the first five books of the New Testament.
Dr. Thomas Baurain notes, “There are at least 100 quotations or direct references to Genesis 1-11 in the New Testament. Every New Testament author refers to Genesis 1-11. There is not the slightest evidence that any biblical author regarded those events as myth or allegory.”
It is one thing to know when Adam and Eve were created, but far better to know that you have been redeemed, saved, justified, born again and forgiven. “How can a person know such a thing?” By placing your faith in Jesus Christ, as I recently addressed in this piece: “How to Know Christianity is True.”
It has been nearly a century since William Jennings Bryan argued against the unverifiable theory of evolution in the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial.” When pressed by Clarence Darrow, Bryan sincerely stated that he didn't know the age of the earth. In fact, Bryan often shared this insight: "It is better to trust in the Rock of Ages than to know the age of rocks.”
Whatever you choose to believe about the timeline of Adam and Eve and their descendants, and about the age of the earth, just remember: When you stand before your Creator on Judgment Day, all that will matter is what you did with Jesus Christ.
Jesus declared, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37-39).
The Lord was meticulous in graciously giving us the 66 books of the Bible, written by 40 different authors, over a period of 1,500 years. At the end of the day, the people and events in Genesis are just as historical as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.