A Recent Creation
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen.l:l,2; 5;11; Rom. 8:19-21; 2 Pet. 3:3-7.
MEMORY TEXT: "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:19-21, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: The Bible presents the history of this planet as a great controversy between Jesus and Satan that has been going on for a few thousand years. Throughout history, God has been aware of the sufferings of the inhabitants of earth and has desired to bring pain, suffering, and death to an end as soon as possible.
A RECENT CREATION. One of the most hotly debated topics of modem times is the question of how life came to exist on earth. There are two basic choices: (1) through slow, naturalistic processes of evolution or (2) through a recent, fiat Creation. Closely related to that topic is the question of timehow long has life been on this planet? The contrast is starkeither hundreds of millions of years or a few thousand years. The conclusions of modem evolutionary science have made the defense of a recent Creation less and less popular even among conservative Christian denominations. The arguments presented here are based on the acceptance of God's Word.
Do we know how long it has been since Creation week? Do these passages in Genesis 1:1, 2; chapters 5 and 11; 2 Peter 3:3-5 suggest that the world is about six thousand years old?
It must be recognized that there is no single verse in the Bible that tells us precisely in what year or how long ago Creation week took place. Nevertheless, there is a considerable amount of chronological data in the Bible that, when looked at collectively, points to a recent Creation. For this reason, the idea that the first week of Creation occurred only a few thousand years ago has been the general understanding of both Jewish and Christian believers throughout history. This understanding was almost universally accepted among believers until the nineteenth century, when findings of modem geology began to challenge that conclusion. Ellen White said that "Many who profess to believe the Bible are at a loss to account for wonderful things which are found in the earth, with the view that creation week was only seven literal days, and that the world is now only about six thousand years old."Signs of the Times®, (March 20, 1879), vol. 5, number 12.
Over the centuries, many students of the Bible have been fascinated by the chronological data in the Bible and have attempted to use that information to reconstruct a chronology of the world. However, the chronological material in the Bible is not always easy to understand, and scholars have not been able to agree on a single biblical chronology. Thus, it is not surprising that by 1738, Des Vignolles of the Royal Society of Berlin, could claim that he knew of at least 200 biblical chronologies, with the dates for Creation ranging from 3500 to 7000 B.C. The most familiar of these chronologies was that of the Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656), of Armagh, Northern Ireland, whose time scheme was widespread because it was selected for use in the margins of the King James version of the Bible in A.D. 1679. According to Ussher's time scheme, Creation took place in the year 4004 B.C. Ussher's date was later refined by Dr. John Lightfoot, of Oxford, who argued (unfortunately without solid biblical support) that Adam was created at 9:00 a.m. on October 23, 4004 B.C.!
There are other evidences besides Ussher for a short chronology. The 200-plus different biblical chronologies noted by Des Vignolles tell us two things. First, it tells us that biblical data can be put together or interpreted in many different ways. This teaches us not to be too dogmatic. Second, all of these chronologies point to a recent Creation. Thus, in spite of some uncertainties, there is no reason for suggesting that the Bible teaches that Creation occurred millions of years ago, or over a period of many millions of years.
Can anything be found concerning gaps in the biblical genealogies? Ezra 7:1-5; 1 Chron. 6:3-15.
Some have suggested that the amount of time that has elapsed since Creation week might be extended if there were generational "gaps" in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11. It is true that often in both the modem and ancient Near Eastern genealogies, the father-son relationship is not always meant to be taken as direct-the so-named "father" may actually be a grandfather, great-grandfather, etc. There appear to be such cases of compressed genealogies in portions of the Bible written later. For example, if the genealogy of Ezra 7:1-5 is compared with the one given in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15, it appears that six generations are omitted in Ezra. Apparently, in this passage, noting the line of descent was more important than providing the complete record of the genealogy (see SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 186).
Genealogies were produced by ancient peoples for a variety of reasons. Many ancient Near Eastern genealogies that have been discovered were produced by the sociopolitical elite of large state or government bureaucracies. The genealogies produced were, not surprisingly, usually concerned with the succession of office holdersespecially kings, and also on occasion, priests (who functioned politically as well as religiously) and scribes. The purpose of these genealogies was to give status to individuals and to justify their holding of an office or certain land.
Later biblical genealogies especially after the rise of the monarchyalso at times had this purpose. The Israelite exiles returning to their homeland were undoubtedly concerned on occasion as to how they could reclaim ancestral lands, and genealogies might be important in assisting them in this purpose. Genealogies would also be important for determining the legitimacy of those who claimed to have rights to certain offices, especially levitical offices. This may be part of the reason why the books of Ezra and Nehemiah recorded genealogies of the returning exiles (see Ezra 7 and 8 and Nehemiah 7). Disputations over genealogies to establish one's rights or status in society is probably what was behind Paul's caution not to waste time arguing about genealogies (1 Tim. 1:4 and Titus 3:9); it was not a concern over chronology. By contrast, the genealogies of Genesis 1-11 have a different function, which clearly reflects the concerns of a premonarchal, tribally structured society (the people for whom Moses was originally writing). The genealogies, thus, are uniformly concerned with ancestral lines that involve relationships that are only those of kinship; not of office and land-holding where compressed genealogies were sufficient.
After reading the following explanation, do you think there are gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11?
There are several reasons for believing that the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 were not deliberately compressed as others sometimes were. First, these early biblical genealogies cannot be simplistically compared with other ancient Near Eastern genealogies, or even those that appear later in the Bible. None of the ancient Near Eastern examples have a precise parallel with the way the genealogies of Genesis 1-11 are written (see Richard Hess, Biblica, vol. 70, pp. 241-245).
Specifically, the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11, are unique in that they are expressed in what is called a "chrono-genealogical" formula. That is, when person X lived so many years, he begot person Y; after he begot Y, he lived so many more years; altogether he lived Z years. (See Origins, vol. 7, no. 1, 1980, pp. 23-37; vol. 7, no. 2, 1980, pp. 53-70.) As T. C. Hartman observes, the length of years lived and the age at which the next figure named was begotten "is never recorded in the Ancient Near Eastern king lists. This is in contrast to the biblical genealogies for whom the only purposes in using numbers seems to be that of recording the life span of each name bearer and the age at which he begot the next name bearer. ...""Some Thoughts on the Sumerian King List...," Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 91, pp. 25-32. Not only is this formula unique to the Bible, it is constructed so tightly as to make it impossible to disrupt by the insertion of a generational gap.
This tightness is reinforced by the Hebrew verb used in these passages "begot" (wayyoled-et); it is the verb most commonly used in the Bible to express the actual physical fathering of an offspring (Judg. 11:1; 1 Chron. 8:9; 14:3; 2 Chron. 11:21; 13:21; 24:3). When combined with the unique genealogical formula, it is virtually impossible to insert generational gaps into these particular genealogies. The combination of the unique time formula with this verb form suggests that the author of Genesis 1-11 was interested in both time and the accuracy of this genealogy.
|When you consider all the seemingly uninteresting genealogies in the Bible, why do you think God wanted them there? "In light of what we have just studied about genealogies, how might an understanding of the way they function in the Bible strengthen one's belief in Creation?|
What insights does the Spirit of Prophecy give concerning the purpose of these early genealogies, as well as the possibility of gaps? (See Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 125, 83.)
In Patriarchs and Prophets, Ellen White emphasizes an important pointthat God has never been without faithful witnesses on the earth (p. 125). Thus, she writes, "The antediluvians ... had no written records; but ... had strong memories, able to grasp and to retain that which was communicated to them, and in turn to transmit it unimpaired to their posterity. And for hundreds of years there were seven generations living on the earth contemporaneously, having the opportunity of consulting together and profiting each by the knowledge and experience of all."Page 83, emphasis supplied.
According to Ellen White, how did Enoch learn of the Fall and the plan of salvation? (See Patriarchs and Prophets, page 84.)
Enoch heard "from the lips of Adam" the "dark story of the Fall" and the story of "God's grace as seen in the promise"page 84. The idea that Enoch could have met Adam is possible only if one assumes that the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are to be taken in a straight-forward manner as they readwith no gaps. If this is the case, then Adam and Enoch would have overlapped by 308 years (see SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, P. 185).
Based on the explanation below, for what major event did Enoch's translation serve as a warning?
Enoch's translation to heaven just before the Flood is paralleled by the translation of the living righteous from the earth ad the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming. Methuselah, the son of Enoch, listened to the preaching of his grandson Noah, who faithfully warned the inhabitants of the old world that a flood of waters was coming. Methuselah, his sons, and grandsons lived in the time of the building of the ark. They, with some others, received instruction from Noah and assisted him in building the ark. (See Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, pp. 59, 60.)
|Enoch walked with God prior to his translation from this world to heaven. Walking with Him here leads us to wailing with Him there. How am I wailing with Jesus here and now as I await His soon coming?|
What was Ellen White's view on the age of the earth?
There is no doubt whatsoever that Ellen White endorsed a recent Creationthat is, that Creation week took place only a few thousand years ago. Scores of times she makes reference to the fact that "the world is now only about six thousand years old."The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1, p. 87. Some have wondered whether the six-thousand-year figure she repeatedly used was something revealed to her by the Lord or whether it was a figure she used from the margin of the King James Bible, much as she used facts from history books.
While it is true that she never explicitly indicated that the 6,000-year figure was revealed to her from the Lord, she was quite specific in stating that the Lord's revelations to her explicitly denied a date for Creation earlier than that permitted by the Scriptural account. "But apart from Bible history, geology can prove nothing. Those who reason so confidently upon its discoveries have no adequate conception of the size of men, animals, and trees before the Flood, or of the great changes which then took place. Relics found in the earth do give evidence of conditions differing in many respects from the present, but the time when these conditions existed can be learned only from the Inspired Record. In the history of the Flood, inspiration has explained that which geology alone could never fathom."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 112.
Earlier, in reference to the "day-age" theory, she explicitly denies the claim of unbelieving geologists who claim that the world is very much older than the Bible record makes it. She notes that such geologists "reject the Bible record, because of those things which are to them evidences from the earth itself, that the world has existed tens of thousands of years."Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, pp. 91, 92.
These statements suggest that if one were to challenge Ellen White on the 6000 years, her answer would simply be"Fine, let's see what the Bible says and follow its lead." However, the Lord left no doubt in her mind that the time back to Creation was to be measured only in thousands of yearsnot millions, hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands of years.
Since Ellen White's day secular science has concluded that most of the life-bearing rocks in the earth are nearly 570 million years old (for some organisms, even older). The real battle is between those who argue for a recent Creation of only a few thousand years and those who argue that life (and death) has existed on the earth for millions of years.
|How does a belief in a short history of the earth help you trust God?|
FURTHER STUDY: Look up the following passages: Rev 6:10; 21:3-5; Rom. 8:22-27. What do these texts tell us about God's concern for humanity's suffering?
"Noah, the faithful preacher Of righteousness, lived for three hundred and fifty years after the flood, Shem for five hundred years, and thus their descendants had an opportunity to become acquainted with the requirements of god and the history of His dealings with their fathers. But they were unwilling to listen to these unpalatable truths; they had no desire to retain God in their knowledge; and by the confusion of tongues they were, in a great measure, shut out from intercourse with those that might have given them light."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 120.
One reason many people have suggested that there are gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 is that because in his recounting of the genealogy of the post-Flood patriarchs, Luke includes an additional name, Cainan, after Arphaxad (Luke 3:35, 36; Gen. 11:10-26). This Cainan's name is included in the LXX (Greek Septuagint) version of Genesis 11 but not in the Masoretic (Hebrew) text. Scholars have long debated which version is correct. If there were originally an additional Cainan in the Hebrew version, the omission of his name was more likely the result of a later scribe's error rather than an attempt at abbreviating this genealogy. (See Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 16.).
SUMMARY: While we cannot be dogmatic on the precise year when Creation took Place, all the available biblical information points toward a recent creation of life on this planet, on a few thousand years ago. God's love will not allow pain, suffering, and death to continue much longer. He intends to redeem the earth and its inhabitants soon!
J. H. Zachary
Stephen grew up in a Christian home in Bangladesh. His parents sent him to an Adventist school, where he could grow in his knowledge of Christ. But Stephen took the spiritual environment for granted and put off making a decision for Christ. After he graduated he studied in a government school, where he soon forgot the lessons he had learned in the Adventist school. He eventually turned from God and married one of his classmates.
He borrowed money to start a business, but when his business collapsed, he ran from his creditors, neglecting his family responsibilities. As his life crumbled, Stephen remembered the peace he had known in a Christian environment. He recalled the teachings he had learned but never appreciated and the close walk with Jesus he could have had.
While still in hiding, Stephen heard about Sathsuraila (sath-soo-Me-ah), an Adventist training center in Bangladesh. The school trains lay Volunteers to plant churches. Stephen enrolled in some classes. He gave his life to God for service, and he determined to make amends for his past mistakes and to be a good husband and father. He sent for his family in India.
Stephen learned how to reach Hindus and Muslims with the gospel, how to help people stop smoking how to conduct small group evangelism, and how to review the Adventist doctrines with them.
After he completed his studies, Stephen accepted a call to work in two Muslim communities in Bangladesh. He makes friends with the villagers, helping them in their gardens and teaching them ways to improve their health. He has helped many villagers stop smoking. Stephen has organized small groups for Bible study; currently 30 villagers worship with him in three small groups.
Thus far Stephen has led 11 people to the Lord. He hopes to plant a church in each village before the year is over and to construct a small clinic to help with the medical needs of the villagers.
After years of running from God, Stephen feels that finally he is where God wants him to be.
Stephen Biswas (left). James H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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