The 6,000-year-earth position may be questioned on the grounds of logical, hermeneutical, text-critical, and intertextual tensions. Anomalies in the biblical story line and extrabiblical historical records provide additional evidence.
The life story of Noah seems oddly truncated and his death out of place if there are no gaps in Genesis 11. When we come to the end of the ninth chapter of Genesis, we find the standard epitaph, “then Noah died.” But if the chronogenealogist is correct, Noah did not die until Abraham was 58 years old.1 Of course, it is possible to suggest that Noah had moved away and was quite forgotten by the time Abraham was on the scene, but the finality of Genesis 9:29 seems quite out of sequence if Noah didn’t die until the end of chapter 11. A natural reading of the early chapters of Genesis strongly suggests that the Noah story ended a long time before the Abraham story began.
Similarly, when Abraham entered into the land of promise, he entered into a land of well-established cities and local governments (Gen 15:19–21),2 not a land of fellow-pioneers migrating in the aftermath of the recent Babel incident (which by the chronogenealogist’s reckoning might have taken place as recently as 27 years earlier).3 One cannot escape the hermeneutical “feel” that the story speaks of greater antiquity than this.
The 6000-year-earth position may be questioned on several grounds, some more substantial than others. I would like to suggest, though, that while all of the arguments developed below are load-bearing, the intertextual-exegetical arguments take pride of place in the ensuing material.
Originally published in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ) 2013. Used by permission.
The young-earth creationist community is in the midst of an identity crisis relative to the age of the earth. Some within the community aggressively defend a strict 6,000-year-old creation and chafe even at minimal deviation on this point. For these, a rigid terminus a quo for the age of the universe is the simplest and best arbiter for establishing one’s young-earth creationist credentials. Conceding even a slightly older universe is for this group equal to (1) discarding or at the very least compromising biblical inerrancy1 and (2) granting philosophical independence to the sciences, whether astronomy, geology, biology, or archeology.2
This rigidity has not always existed in the young-earth community. John Whitcomb, patriarch of young-earth creationism and co-author of the groundbreaking work The Genesis Flood, defended a span of 3,000 to 5,000 years between the Flood and Abraham, offering a probable date for the original creation of between 6,700 B.C. and 8,700 B.C.3