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This site is for Christians wanting to learn how to answer the hard questions doubters and unbelievers are asking today
MICRO TOPIC 1.3.3

Bible dating method

 genealogies set time in scripture
PURPOSE: Helping Christians engage in intelligent conversations with doubters and unbelievers
Bible creation questions

QUESTIONS

discussed on this page

Tough questions people are asking about the dating method for knowing when Bible events occurred:

If scripture doesn't give dates, how can Christians claim to know the approximate time when events occurred in the Bible?

On what basis do Christians claim to know the age of the earth with precision (within a few thousand years) when science can estimate only to the nearest million years?

Does all human history start with Adam?

When did Adam live? How can we know?

Are Bible genealogies accurate? Are there gaps?

How do other occurrences (like dinosaurs and cavemen) compliment or contradict the Bible timeline?

How can a Christian give an intelligent and compelling biblical answer to people who think that Christians – and the Bible – are flat-out wrong in saying that there was no history (nothing existed) until10,000 years ago or less?

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WHY THIS MATTERS

Bible credibility and Christian witness

Conflicts between Bible timing and science timing

Nearly everyone educated in a public school in the past 50 years was taught that world history extends millions of years into the past.

Most Christians (church attenders) in the United States have been taught in their churches that world history extends no more than 10,000 years into the past. (This is a demographic statistical FACT; see survey section below.)

This makes unbelievers suspicious, even scornful, of anything Christians say about human origin or destiny.

For this reason, Christians should use the Bible timing method – genealogies – only for understanding Bible narratives and should not use genealogies for geological, biological or sociological events such as God's creation of the universe, first human life, or first human settlements.

The Bible's credibility and Christian witness is greatly damaged when Christians declare that science is all wrong based on what their churches teach about the earth's timeline.

For deeper study on this topic, see the Bible study here on People before Adam, which discusses the time between Genesis 1 (creation of humans) and Genesis 2 (first law and first sin).

Other Bible studies here on the topic of age are Big Bang, Bible creation 'days', Apparent age, and Garden of Eden.

Christians should be prepared with enough background information about both biblical and secular timelines to engage in intelligent conversation with doubters and unbelievers. The timing conflict between Bible and science is a major barrier to faith, especially for the younger generations.

Old Testament refresher

It's difficult for many Christians to place important Bible characters into a meaningful historical timeline, and remember the timeline.

A Christian's integrity as a teacher is diminished if it becomes apparent that the teacher is confused about the process of how God used the people of ancient Israel to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus.

The chart below will serve as a helpful refresher to keep the full story in a sequential perspective.

CALCULATING BIBLE TIME

Adam to Jesus: approximately 4,000 years

Jesus' family tree

Genesis 5:1-32 details the family line from Adam to Noah
Luke 3:23-38 details the family line from Adam to Joseph (adoptive father of Jesus)
Matthew 1:1-17 details the family line from Abraham to Mary (mother of Jesus)
This chart consolidates all three genealogies:
Chart courtesy of conformingtojesus.com

Calculations from Jesus' family tree

Bishop James Ussher was a very influential church leader in Ireland in the 1600s, prolific scholar, and author of The Annals of the World. Using Bible genealogies, he calculated that Adam was born in the year BC 4004. This date has been widely quoted and generally accepted ever since.

Over the last 400 years, hundreds of other theologians, historians, and scholars have drawn the family tree from their own study of scripture. Most come to essentially the same conclusion, as diagrammed above: Adam lived about BC 4000.

If Adam was created in the same week as the entire universe, as most Christians have been taught, this means that nothing existed – there was no universe – until about 6,000 years ago.

This is an incredulous statement to make in the modern world, so some theologians attempt to expand the family tree because of possible gaps in the Genesis genealogy, discussed in the next section.

ARGUMENTS FOR LONGER TIME

Possible gaps in the genealogies

Are there gaps in the genealogies?

Many Christians who believe that Adam was the first human on earth know that dating the first human to 4000 BC is out of synch with everything we now know about the world. Usually, they just shrug off the conflict by saying, without sufficient evidence or logic, that 'there are gaps in the Bible genealogies.'

But there are big problems with the gaps theory:

The straight male line from Adam to Jesus is clearly stated in the Bible. If there are major gaps, then the Bible is at least misleading, and the genealogy should be restated. But if the genealogy is restated for convenience because it is incomplete and unbelievable, why not restate other troublesome Bible passages too? Obviously, that would be rewriting scripture and intolerable.

If the Bible genealogy shows more time as gaps than as stated facts, then a reasonable person would have to conclude that it is not a credible genealogy at all and that the Bible is deceptive or fraudulent.

Just for a margin of safety, let's say that the Bible record is only 50% complete and overall omits as many generations as it includes. That would put Adam's time at approximately BC 8000, which still would not explain known human activity before that time.

Gaps – even enormous gaps – cannot even come close to reconciling Bible genealogies with modern knowledge.

Time from Adam to Noah

The time from Adam to Noah is stated clearly in Genesis 5, when human life was much longer. Each father is not only named but given his age at birth of his son. For each generation, the son is again named and aged at birth of the son, thus preluding the possibility of any gaps without changing the meaning of the words father and son.

In this way, time is calculated from Adam to Noah at precisely 1,056 years.

Time from Noah to David

If there are significant gaps in the genealogies, it is probably in the stated period of approximately 2,000 years from Noah to David, with 24 named generations. Calculated, that averages to 83 years per generation, which seems too high even in light of longer life spans at that time. It is reasonable to suspect that there are gaps in this segment of the genealogical record.

Assuming a generation to be 26 years rather than 83 years, this would add another 4,000 to the timeline and put Adam's existence at about BC 8000.

Time from David to Jesus

The Bible documents the period of approximately 1,000 years from David to Jesus with two genealogies: Mary (mother of Jesus, Matthew 1) with 28 generations averaging 36 years, and Joseph (adoptive father of Jesus, Luke 2) with 39 generations averaging 26 years.

There is no room for significant gaps here, and parts of the lineage are confirmed by recorded extra-biblical history.

Gaps can't resolve the conflict

No matter how much manipulation of the genealogies, there is no way to reconcile the biblical time of Adam with science, archaeology, and history.

The only way to reconcile the timelines is to realize that scripture does not compel the belief that the first human in Genesis 1 is the same person and time as Adam (first sinner) in Genesis 2. This is examined in the Bible study here on People before Adam.

WHAT PEOPLE THINK

Churches teach: Less than 10,000 years

Church teaching becomes the reality

The secular world thinks it's incredulous that most church-going Christians today believe that people didn't exist until 10,000 years ago, or less.

All the theories about generational gaps and apparent age in private discussions mean nothing in the final analysis. What matters is what the masses of Americans believe, because belief is reality for them.

Our individual experiences and perceptions of what other people believe are not reliable and cannot be projected. We need a credible national survey for the facts – not the facts about how long humans have been on earth per se, but the facts about how long people BELIEVE humans have been on earth.

Gallup, the largest and most trusted survey organization in America, has been tracking this subject with this same question every three years for the last 37 years: 'Which of the following statements come closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?'

In the latest Gallup Poll on the subject, 68% of the respondents who said they attend church every week chose this response: 'God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.'

This large random sample of the entire U.S. population included Catholics and Protestants and was taken in 2019, prior to the Covid pandemic.

Unbelievers have strong reasons for their impression, received in many different ways, that Christians in America believe that there is no human history before Adam, and all less than 10,000 years ago.

Unbelievers assume that this is what the Bible says, and then they reject the Bible as a book of truth.

To see what the Bible actually says about earth's early history – all the relevant verses about life before Adam – see the Bible studies here on Big Bang, Bible creation 'days', and People before Adam.

It's troubling to many people, even Christians, that major periods of earth's history don't fit within the timeline starting with Adam, such as dinosaurs and cavemen. These topics are explained with scripture in the above studies on this site.

PROBLEM AND SOLUTION

Everyone guilty for what Adam did?

Gap theory cannot resolve the problem

As shown here, the gap theory in Bible method of dating (genealogies) can reconcile

What's the problem?

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Gallup

Surveys

Perception is reality

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Solution

Acknowledge Adam not first.

Complicated if say Adam create first week of anything.

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