The Importance of Genesis 1-11 in Depth

Written by John Baumgardner, Bill Hoesch, & Alicia Hoesch

 

Has God spoken regarding the earth’s physical past, including its age? Many feel that this question is unnecessarily divisive in today’s intellectual climate and it therefore should not even be raised. Similarly, because the issue of the earth’s actual physical past is so intertwined with how one interprets the text of Genesis 1-11, further questions such as whether Adam and Eve were literal people, whether the temptation and Fall were literal events, whether a global Flood actually took place, and whether there was a literal Tower of Babel and a miraculous origin of languages, are now also viewed by many as divisive topics to be avoided. As a result, Genesis 1-11, as well as texts such as Exodus 20:11, Matthew 24:37-39, Romans 8:20-22, 1 Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 3:3-6, are largely ignored in many evangelical churches today. However, knowing the tragic outcome of no longer defending the historicity of Genesis in the context of early 20th century church history, we plead earnestly with our brethren to resist this currently growing trend. With humility we make the appeal that God in His word has indeed spoken very plainly  on these matters. What He has revealed concerning the events recounted in Genesis 1-11 is woven inextricably into the rest of Scripture. Because Genesis 1-11 is so foundational to the rest of the Bible, its truthfulness and historicity are absolutely critical to the authority of the Bible as a whole. And because Jesus so clearly affirmed the truthfulness of this portion of Moses’ writings, Jesus’ own authority also hangs on their reliability.

 

Why the standard time scale of geology is at odds with the Bible?

 

Why is the physical history of the earth, including its age, such a divisive issue today? Just what is the crux of the conflict? In short, the heart of the conflict is the time scale which the scientific community, particularly the professional earth science community, has developed over the past two hundred years and applies to interpret the earth’s past. Before we examine the underpinnings of this time scale, it is important to gain a grasp of just how profoundly it is at odds with Biblical revelation. First let us briefly consider how the standard time scale of geology portrays human history. Based on the ages assigned to the human burials at Qafzeh [1] and Skhul [2] in northern Israel, to cite just two examples, fully human people have lived on earth for a minimum of 100,000 years according to this time scale.

Moreover, if Neanderthals were fully human, as recent DNA studies seem to indicate, this pushes human history back another 200,000 years, again, assuming the standard geological time scale is valid.

 

How does this square with what we find in the Genesis text? Genesis 5 and 11 list, by name, 18 patriarchs through Adam’s son Seth who link Abraham with Adam. From the ages at which one patriarch became the father of the next one in the list, the Genesis account implies a time span of about 2000 years between Adam and Abraham. By contrast, the standard geological timescale requires between 100,000 and 300,000 years between the first human beings and Abraham. Instead of the 18 generations between Adam and Abraham listed in the Genesis text, the standard time scale requires thousands. If inclined to accept the latter framework,how then does one interpret the Genesis genealogies? Does it not essentially require that Genesis 5 be some sort of allegory? If Genesis 5 is allegory, then for the sake of consistency,must not Genesis 2-4 be allegorical as well? For most people, to place a thousand or more generations within the time span of Genesis 5 is tantamount to making the accounts of Adam and Eve, their temptation in Eden, and their Fall allegorical. It is no wonder that most people who are firm in their acceptance of the standard time scale tend no longer to defend Genesis 2-5 as literal history. On the other hand, for a person committed to handling Scripture carefully,placing a hundred millennia between Adam and Abraham is nigh to impossible to imagine.

A similar predicament arises with respect to the Flood of Genesis 6-8. As just mentioned,according to the standard time scale the first humans appeared on earth some 100-300,000 years ago, which, according to that time scale, is during the Ice Age. The standard time scale therefore requires the Flood to have occurred during or since the Ice Age. Such a date for the Flood presents a gigantic problem, however, for understanding Genesis 6-8 as genuine history. The problem is that the deposits formed during and since the Ice Age show no physical evidence for the sort of global cataclysm described in Genesis 6-8 and affirmed in the New Testament. There simply are no fossil-bearing sediment layers of large lateral extent or any other geological indicators of global-scale catastrophe within the Ice Age record or since. Sea level was actually lower during the Ice Age than it is today because of the water residing in the ice sheets. In short, dating the Flood to occur during or since the Ice Age is tantamount to saying that the Flood never happened because the key evidence for it is entirely missing. In other words, despite the detailed Flood account in Genesis 6-8, despite the many references to the Flood in the Psalms and the Prophets, and despite Jesus comparing the conditions just prior to His second coming to those immediately preceding the Flood, the standard time scale precludes the Genesis Flood from being part of the real history of the world.

 

Some Christians who accept the standard time scale insist that the Flood of Genesis wasnot global in extent but ‘universal’ nevertheless with respect to the limited distribution of humans at that time. However, a local Flood which was ‘universal’ relative to the human population during the Ice Age also is not a viable rational possibility. There were Ice Age hunters roaming Europe, Asia, and North America—far from the Mesopotamian Valley—long before the third millennium B.C., according to the standard time scale. A local flood restricted to the Mesopotamian Valley obviously could not have destroyed all those humans who were in Europe, North America, and distant parts of Asia. Yet without such a destruction of the peoples in these distant places, the account of human history given by Genesis 1-11 (including the Flood and the Tower of Babel with a consequent dispersal of small family groups to form the ethnic identities which continue to exist to this day) simply cannot be successfully defended.

 

Most Christians and many Christian leaders, we suspect, are not fully aware of the devastating consequences relative to the trustworthiness of Scripture and to the authenticity of the Lord Jesus that accompany a careless acceptance of the standard time scale. Interpreting earth history in terms of that time scale makes Genesis 1-11 appear as a quaint fable, instead of God breathed truth that recounts the genuine history of the world.

 

The obvious alternative, of course, is that the Genesis text is correct and the standard time scale of geology is in serious error. As scientists with Logos Research Associates, we unreservedly affirm this alternative position, namely, that the Genesis text is accurate history and the standard time scale is profoundly in error. It cannot escape our notice that every argument for deep time involves a gigantic extrapolation of modern-day processes and rates backward into an assumed very distant past. These extrapolations are all grounded in assumptions that are rarely scrutinized, but which should be. The most important assumption is the one that radioisotope decay rates have remained constant since before the earth was formed. It is upon this single assumption of time-invariant decay rates that the standard geological time scale of billions of years today ultimately relies. The Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE) research initiative undertaken from 1997 to 2005 demonstrated that this key assumption is simply not valid. [3-6] Astonishing to many, this research provided multiple independent lines of objective radioisotope evidence that the earth is thousands, not billions,of years in age.

 

Moreover, other scientists, some of whom are part of Logos Research Associates, are showing that the earth’s rock record, objectively interpreted, testifies powerfully to a recent, global tectonic and hydrological cataclysm corresponding to the Flood described in Genesis 6-8.[7,8]  The plant and animal remains now preserved as fossils in strata that blanket the continents can be interpreted in no other way than by rapid burial. In this framework, humans, all extinct plants and animals fossilized in Flood strata, and all plant and animal varieties on earth today,are directly descended from God’s original creation only a few thousand years ago. The RATE research provides objective grounds for reinterpreting the roughly 600 million years assigned to the fossil-bearing part of the rock record by the standard time scale to a far briefer interval,with the fossil-bearing rock record itself the product of a massive planetary cataclysm.7-8  From the perspective of the Biblical account of earth history, this cataclysm must correspond to the Genesis Flood. Remarkable examples of soft-tissue preservation, such as flexible blood vessels and red blood cells found in the remains of dinosaurs and other animals, testify powerfully to the reality and the recentness of this cataclysm. [9]

In this alternative framework, the year-long Flood which produced the thousands of feet of fossil-bearing sediments was in turn followed by an Ice Age lasting only a few centuries.8 In other words, relative to the earth’s rock record, the Flood occurred before the Ice Age, not during or after it, and left abundant physical evidence. Also, in this framework, the Ice Age hunters were Noah’s descendants who, like the other people groups, were scattered across the earth after the Tower of Babel. This alternative framework (corroborated by the RATE findings that nuclear decay rates were much higher during brief episodes in the past) collapses the billions of years of the standard time scale into mere thousands of years. The implication is that Genesis 1-11 can be understood as straightforward narrative history. It means that Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah were real individuals who lived on earth just a few thousand years ago. It means that the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 can be understood at face value without requiring a hundred millennia to elapse between Adam and Abraham. It means that the Flood really did occur in the third millennium B.C. and that the evidence for it is overwhelmingly abundant on all the continents on earth. It means that the humans buried at Qafzeh and Skhul in northern Israel lived in that region after the Flood and were descendants of Noah’s sons.

 

And God said…

 

The theological consequences of acceptance of the standard time scale of geology do not endwith the implication that the Genesis accounts of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the Fall,the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the line of patriarchs linking Adam to Abraham cannot be interpreted as the actual history of the world. They go still further. The consequences extend also to how Genesis 1 itself is to be understood. That text introduces the God of the Bible as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the seas, and all that is within them in breath taking fashion. At face value, the account indicates that what God spoke immediately became reality in a dramatic supernatural manner. From our best and most current molecular biology it is now apparent that a near-instantaneous supernatural means of creation is the only rational way for generating the kinds of living systems we see around us. Is there a more scientific way to account for the astonishingly complex life forms around us, including ourselves? We know of none. Certainly, neo-Darwinism is utterly impotent as a mechanism to produce living beings of such dazzling complexity, especially with non-material coded DNA instructions specifying the mechanical details down to the level of each individual atom. And if such direct super natural action is required for each of the multitudes of different kinds of living organisms we see around us, is it that big a conceptual step to infer that God employed the same supernatural action to create and fashion the material earth and cosmos as well, as the Genesis 1 text seems so clearly to indicate?

 

The standard time scale of geology, which dates earth’s physical origin to 4.6 billion years,and the first multi-celled life to nearly four billion years later, unnecessarily reduces Genesis 1 to a fable. It steals glory from the true and living God who Himself must have authored this chapter. In these brief few verses God presents Himself as the supernatural Creator of all things and then declares His completed creation to be very good. Why not interpret this chapter at face value?

 

Especially if nuclear decay rates have not been constant from the beginning, as the RATE research attests, and if radioisotope dates therefore logically cannot be absolute, is there any good scientific reason not to do so? We at Logos Research Associates find none. We contend that Christians in the 21st Century have every reason for unwavering confidence that the God of the Bible is indeed the Creator, who supernaturally and near-instantaneously created all the kinds of life in the manner described in Genesis 1. Given what we currently know of the complexity at the molecular level of all living things, we should be unshakable in our confidence in God and what He has revealed to us in His word.

 

A Sobering Prophesy

 

Can conclusions of science be influenced by the worldview of those who apply it to study the natural realm? More specifically, is true science necessarily wedded to the proposition that time-invariant natural law must be the sole explanation for all of reality? Many since the Enlightenment have insisted that nature is a closed system, governed exclusively by uniform,time-invariant natural law and that science must conform to this philosophical premise. From radioisotope dating to distant starlight, every argument for an old earth depends on this Enlightenment/atheist assumption. But what/Who ultimately reigns over the physical history of the world? Is it time-invariant natural law or God? Most of the early pioneers of modernscience including Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle,Nicholas Steno, and Isaac Newton, as well as later ones such as Carolus Linnaeus, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and Lord Kelvin were earnest theists who openly acknowledged God’s active reign over the realm of nature. The Bible, of course, reveals that in the Creation,in the Flood, and in the resurrection of Christ, God obviously upset the uniform course of nature and acted supernaturally and sovereignly. Is God allowed to do so? Was He being antiscientific?  Certainly not. Neither is it anti-scientific for the person who believes the Bible to affirm these events. In fact, it would be unscientific to do otherwise if they actually occurred.

 

Peter’s final words to the Church in 2 Peter 3: 3-6 are very pertinent. In this passage, Peterpredicts that skeptics in the latter days will mockingly call into question our Lord’s SecondComing using a specific rationale, namely, that “ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continuesas it was from the beginning.” Peter points out that by appealing to a time-invariance ofnatural processes, these latter-day skeptics will proceed willfully to deny God’s supernaturalwork of creation and judgment during the global Flood. The very scenario that Peter describedhas indeed unfolded in a vivid manner during the last 200 years. The Enlightenment maxim ofthe uniformity of natural causes has taken hold and has come to dominate the outlook today inintellectual and academic circles throughout the world. The claim that earth’s history extends back billions of years is a direct and logical consequence of this philosophical approach. Is the Church so immune to deception today that she can afford to disregard Peter’s dire warning?

 

Natural evil—how did it arise?

 

There is yet another major consequence of accepting the standard time scale. It makes God the author and cause of natural evil. If, in accord with the standard time scale, vertebrate animals had been on earth for roughly a half billion years before the Garden of Eden, then predatory violence and diseases such as cancer in the animal world had occurred for hundreds of millions of years before humans appeared. Therefore, natural evil such as death, predation, disease,and suffering cannot logically be attributed to volitional acts of Adam and Eve, who, according to the standard time scale, had not yet appeared on history’s stage.

 

The Biblical record of earth history, by contrast, places the creation of the heavens, the earth,and all life including humans during a brief interval of time only a few thousand years ago,followed by a global Flood cataclysm some 1650 years later which generated most of the fossil record. In this framework all the predation and disease recorded in the fossils corresponds to animals that perished in the Flood, which occurred after the creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall. In this case, natural evil including animal death, predation, disease, and suffering can logically be traced to Adam’s sin. This reflects a titanic difference in how one understands the history of the world!

 

Likewise, Genesis 1:30-31 presents some significant theological challenge for the view that the standard time scale of geology must be accepted as valid. First, because this view requires hundreds of millions of years of predatory violence and death prior to the creation of Adam and Eve, God’s ‘very good’ appraisal of the world in Genesis 1:31 must be viewed as strange and incoherent. Furthermore, Genesis 1:30 states that God gave “every green plant for food to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life”. These words demand that all animal life in the original creation was vegetarian.[10]  This is in direct contradiction of the interpretation of the fossil record which the standard timescale dictates. So not only does the standard time scale require a twisting of what ‘very good’means regarding animal death and predation, but it also leads to a direct contradiction of the plain meaning of Genesis 1:30.

 

What does Scripture teach elsewhere regarding the goodness and normality of predatory violence and death? Isaiah describes a future time (Isaiah 11:6-7) when “the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze; their young will lie down together; and the lion will eat straw like the ox.” In similar fashion the apostle Paul foresaw a future in which “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21) and be released from its present “pangs of childbirth” (Romans 8:22). This is generally understood to be when the present ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2) is cast out and Christ reigns in his stead. These predictions of a future time without predatory violence imply that predation was not a feature of the original creation described by God as very good. Attributing natural evil to God is not an insignificant theological issue to be swept under the rug. It is a serious assault against His holiness and goodness.

 

Only two options

 

From these considerations, we at Logos Research Associates are emphatic: it is rationally impossible to reconcile the text of Scripture, especially Genesis 1-11, with the time scale generally accepted and used by the secular world today. This time scale hangs on the very thin thread of radioisotope dating that relies on the crucial assumption of time-invariant decay rates, an assumption we are persuaded is the chief source of error. Regardless of the source of the inconsistency, however, there is but a single binary choice. One can choose to believe the Bible and reject the standard time scale at no loss to science, or one can choose to believe the standard time scale and reject the Bible (at great loss). There is no logically defensible middle ground.

 

Given this state of affairs, we plead especially with those in leadership positions within the body of Christ to weigh carefully how they handle the age of the earth issue. Any public endorsement of the standard time scale which places the earth’s creation at 4.6 billion years ago, the first indisputable multicellular organisms at about 600 million years ago, and the first indisputably true human beings at about 100,000 years ago is tantamount to teaching that the Bible is filled with factual error. If the secular time scale is true, then the Bible is in error regarding the history of mankind, in error concerning the supernatural manner in which God created the world, in error concerning the world after God created Adam and Eve in which all the animals were herbivorous, and in error concerning the reality of a global Flood cataclysm.  If the secular time scale is true, then the Biblical account of the manner in which sin and death entered the world is false, and God Himself implicitly becomes the author of the natural evil we observe around us today. Defending God’s goodness in a world of suffering and evil then becomes apologetically hopeless.

 

Furthermore, since the Lord Jesus placed His unreserved stamp of authority on the writings of Moses, if the Torah is filled with factual error, this means that Jesus also was in error and therefore cannot be divine. James 3:1 cautions “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” Those in the body of Christ who function as teachers bear a sober responsibility and assume a serious level of accountability. The thought of even hinting that the Bible is not factually true and that Jesus was mistaken in His endorsement of Moses’ writings should cause someone who understands his/her genuine accountability before Christ to recoil in terror.

 

The challenge before us

 

Because many in the church have, for two hundred years, been reading Scripture through the eyes of Lyell and Darwin, they have become blinded to the very heart of Scripture. The Lord Jesus is Lord of the universe precisely because He created it (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16). There is sin, suffering and death because there was a literal Fall when man rebelled against God(Genesis 3:14-19, Romans 5:12). This is why we suffer, and this is specifically why Jesus had to die (Romans 5:6-10, 5:17-19). The global catastrophe at the time of Noah was just phase one of God’s judgment. It was a foreshadowing of a future judgment to come (Matthew 24:37-39,2 Peter 3:5-7). These are all crucial aspects to the gospel. These all become blurred when we accept an old earth. For Christ’s church, the stakes simply could not be any higher!

 

We realize that many in Christ’s body are not aware of the gravity of these issues, nor of all the helpful resources that are now available. We encourage every Christian believer, especially Christian leaders, to become informed on these topics, which are so much a part of the spiritual warfare of our day.

 

References

 

[1] K. Kris Hirst, “Qafzeh Cave (Israel): Middle Paleolithic Site of Qafzeh Cave,” http://archaeology.about.com/od/qterms/qt/qafzeh_cave.htm

 

[2] K. Kris Hirst, “Skhul Cave (Israel): Middle Paleolithic Site of Skhul Cave,” http://archaeology.about.com/od/skthroughsp/qt/Skhul-Cave-Israel.htm

 

[3] D. R. Humphreys, “Young helium diffusion age of zircons supports accelerated nucleardecay”, in Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth CreationistResearch Initiative, L. Vardiman et al., eds., Institute for Creation Research and the CreationResearch Society, 2005. (http://www.icr.org/article/young-helium-diffusion-age-zircons/)

 

[4] J. R. Baumgardner, “Carbon-14 evidence for a recent global Flood and a young earth,”in Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist ResearchInitiative, L. Vardiman et al., eds., Institute for Creation Research and the Creation ResearchSociety, 2005. (http://www.icr.org/article/carbon-14-evidence-for-recent-global/)

 

[5] A. A. Snelling, “Radiohalos in granites: evidence for accelerated nuclear decay,” inRadioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist ResearchInitiative, L. Vardiman et al., eds., Institute for Creation Research and the Creation ResearchSociety, 2005. (http://www.icr.org/article/radiohalos-granites-evidence-for-accelerated/)The entire book Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth CreationistResearch Initiative is now available online for free at http://www.icr.org/rate2/.

 

[6] D. DeYoung, Thousands not Billions: Challenging the Icon of Evolution, Questioning the Ageof the Earth, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2005[7] J. R. Baumgardner “Catastrophic plate tectonics: the physics behind the GenesisFlood,” in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, R. L. IveyJr., ed., pp. 113–126, Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, 2003. http://www.logosresearchassociates.org/Documents/Baumgardner/Catastrophic-Plate-Tectonics-The-Physics.pdf; other related articles are posted at http://logosresearchassociates.org/team/john-baumgardner/#more-88.

 

[8] A. A. Snelling, Earth’s Catastrophic Past—Geology, Creation, and the Flood, Institute forCreation Research, Dallas, TX, 2009.

 

[9] M. H. Schweitzer et al., “Soft-tissue vessels and cellular preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex,”Science, 307, 1952, 2005; M. H. Schweitzer et al., “Analysis of soft tissue from Tyrannosaurusrex suggest the presence of protein,” Science, 316, 277, 2007; M. H. Schweitzer et al.,“Biomolecular characterization and protein sequences of the Campanian hadrosaur B.Canadensis,” Science, 324, 626-631, 2009; B. Thomas, “Dinosaur soft tissue finally makesnews,” http://www.icr.org/article/dinosaur-soft-tissue-finally-makes/; B. Thomas, “Originsbreakthroughs of 2010: paleontology”, http://www.icr.org/article/5859/.

 

[10] J. Stambaugh, “Creation’s original diet and the changes at the Fall,” TJ (now Journal ofCreation) 5(2), 130–138, 1991.

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