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Do you believe the Bible or do you believe the world?

What should you do when conventional wisdom is at odds with the Bible? For example, the conventional wisdom in our society is that the earth is billions of years old. If you add up the numbers in the Bible you arrive at the conclusion that the earth is around 6,000 years old. Now what? Some people who claim to believe the Bible have tried to show that the Bible allows for an old earth. Others continue to insist on a young earth. Who is right? Does it matter?

Let me start by explaining why it matters. Look at the following verses. What do these verses tell us about our relationship with the world?

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

1Cor. 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1Cor. 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”;

James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

1John 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.

These verses make it very clear that there is hostility, conflict, and disagreement between God and the world. Furthermore, these verses make it clear that each person has to choose one or the other. Look again at James 4:4

James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Each person must choose between God and the world. We cannot be friends with both. Our beliefs regarding the age of the earth are important because if this is a subject that the world is wrong about, then choosing to believe the world means we are making ourselves an enemy of God.

With this in mind, let’s see what Genesis 5 says about the age of the earth. Genesis 5 is a genealogy from Adam to Noah’s sons. This genealogy specifies how many years there were between each man in the genealogy. If you add up the numbers, you end up with 1,556 years between the creation of Adam and the birth of Noah’s sons. If you combine Genesis 5 with other numbers in the Bible, you end up with about 4,000 years between the creation of Adam and the birth of Jesus. The rest of this post will deal with Genesis 5 and whether or not there were only 1,556 years between Adam and Noah’s sons.

Here are the relevant verses from Genesis 5.

Gen. 5:3 ¶ When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.

Gen. 5:6 ¶ Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh.

Gen. 5:9 ¶ Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan.

Gen. 5:12 ¶ Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel.

Gen. 5:15 ¶ Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Jared.

Gen. 5:18 ¶ Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and became the father of Enoch.

Gen. 5:21 ¶ Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah.

Gen. 5:25 ¶ Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and became the father of Lamech.

Gen. 5:28-29 Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son. Now he called his name Noah …

Gen. 5:32 ¶ Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Again, if you add up the numbers in these verses, you arrive at the conclusion that there were approximately 1,556 years between the creation of Adam and the birth of Noah’s sons. One of the arguments that has been used to argue that the Bible allows for an old earth is to claim that the genealogy in Genesis 5 follows Jewish custom and skips generations; therefore, the actual time between Adam and Noah’s sons was much longer than 1,556 years. There is some truth in this regarding the nature of Jewish genealogies, but the conclusion about the length of time is faulty. Let’s start with what is true about this.

Each verse listed above contains the phrase “became the father of”. This is a translation of the Hebrew word “yeled”. Yeled is a verb that can indicate a man fathered a child or it can indicate a woman gave birth to a child. Look at Genesis 17. Both words in red are the Hebrew word yeled.

Gen. 17:17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

The first usage of yeled refers to Abraham and the second refers to Sarah.

Yeled can also refer to grandchildren or great grandchildren. Genesis 35 tells us that Zilpah bore two sons, but then Genesis 46 lists her grandchildren and great grandchildren and uses the word yeled to say that Zilpah bore 16 persons to Jacob. The word in red is the word “yeled”.

Gen. 35:26 and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher.

Gen. 46:16 The sons of Gad: Ziphion and Haggi, Shuni and Ezbon, Eri and Arodi and Areli. Gen. 46:17 The sons of Asher: Imnah and Ishvah and Ishvi and Beriah and their sister Serah. And the sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel. Gen. 46:18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah; and she bore to Jacob these sixteen persons.

With all this in mind, let’s look at Genesis 5 again. The words in red are the Hebrew word “yeled” and can mean the relationship is father-son, grandfather-grandson, or even more distant than that.

Gen. 5:3 ¶ When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.

Gen. 5:6 ¶ Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh.

Gen. 5:9 ¶ Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan.

Gen. 5:12 ¶ Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel.

Gen. 5:15 ¶ Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Jared.

Gen. 5:18 ¶ Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and became the father of Enoch.

Gen. 5:21 ¶ Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah.

Gen. 5:25 ¶ Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and became the father of Lamech.

Gen. 5:28-29 Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son. Now he called his name Noah …

Gen. 5:32 ¶ Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

This tells us that the genealogy in Genesis 5 may indeed have skipped generations. So what is the faulty conclusion? The faulty conclusion is to say that there were more than 1,556 years between Adam and Noah’s sons. Even if the genealogy skips generations, the text still plainly tells us how many years there were between each man listed in Genesis 5. For example, if Enoch was the grandson of Jared, the text is telling us that Jared was 162 years old when his grandson Enoch was born. Therefore, Genesis 5 is clearly telling us that there were approximately 1,556 years between the creation of Adam and the birth of Noah’s sons. The text does not allow for the idea that the time between Adam and Noah’s sons was significantly greater than 1,556 years.

Why does this matter? The world claims that the earth is billions of years old. The Bible is very clear that the earth is only thousands of years old. The attempt to make Genesis 5 span a long period of time is an attempt to bring the Bible into alignment with the world regarding the age of the earth. At some point every person needs to decide whether they are going to believe the Bible or whether they are going to believe the world.

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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”