555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

56. Is It Possible to Approximate the Date of the Creation?

An ever fruitful topic is the date of Creation. The chronology which one finds in the marginal columns of many of the older Bibles, notably in the Authorized Version of King James, is not a part of the Bible itself by any means. It is the work of Archbishop Ussher, an illustrious prelate of the Irish Church, who lived 1580-1656. His chronological labors were directed towards affording an idea of the time that elapsed between certain events in recorded history. For this purpose he took the year 1 A. D.—the beginning of the Christian era—as his starting point, and reckoned backwards as far as reliable recorded history afforded good working ground. He reckoned as far back as 4,000 years before Christ, and then finding no more available material in the form of history, either written or inscribed, he had necessarily to stop. He did not by any means imply, however, nor are his figures interpreted by Biblical scholars to mean, that he had reached the point of Creation. On the contrary, he had simply gone as far as recorded history enabled him to go. The Mosaic books in the Old Testament did not claim, in any sense, that the world was created in 4000 B. C. The first line, first verse, and first chapter of Genesis distinctly tells us that "in the beginning" God created the heaven and the earth. Moses was educated at the court of Egypt and imbibed all that was worth learning of the Egyptian civilization, which was old even at that date. But before Egypt there had been still older kingdoms and civilizations. Any one looking up the history in any good encyclopedia of Babylonia, Phoenicia, Chaldea and other ancient nations will form some idea of the great antiquity of that portion of the world's history which has not yet been definitely written. In the last century, the world has yielded up many of its secrets to excavators, and consecrated scholarship has made unquestioned discoveries, which are accepted by all the churches, showing that recorded time must now be pushed back to a period at least 2,000 years earlier than Ussher's computation. How far beyond this we have to travel to get at the date of Creation is as much a conjecture as ever. Science tells us that countless ages may have passed in the early stages of the world's geological development; and even before man appeared on the scene. It is true that scientists differ in this as they do in many other things, but the essential fact remains that the world is far older by many thousands of years than our forefathers supposed. We have better light on the subject than they had, and yet in no vital sense does that light conflict with the words of Scripture "in the beginning." In the New Testament also the same identical language is used at the opening of John's Gospel, chapter 1, verse 1, "In the beginning was the Word." Thus we see in both dispensations, the old and the new, a recognition of the fact that the date of the world's creation is far beyond man's computation.