The Bible doesn’t definitively say — thankfully
Depending on which source you use, you’ll get answers to this question ranging anywhere from 6,000 years to 5 billion years.
However, if you believe that the Bible is the indisputable word of God, then you’re left with what it says.
Now, there’s no place in the Bible that definitively says, “The inhabitable earth is over 6,000 years old.” We should be thankful that it doesn’t, because if it did, it would be out of date the next year. Also, God is “all knowing,” and could never make a mistake like that.
Now let’s look at it this way … What do we use to prove how old we are? Yes, a “birth certificate.” Actually, we got this idea from God, who gave us His Word, the Bible, as a “birth certificate.”
Just as any of us could figure our age at any point in time by using our birth certificate, we can also calculate the age of the “inhabitable earth” by reading Genesis 1, where it plainly says that the earth was created on the first day of creation.
There were five days before Adam; Adam was created on the sixth day. It is calculated that there were 2,000 years from Adam to Abraham. Most Bible scholars agree that Abraham lived around 2,000 B.C., or over 4,000 years ago. Finally, understanding that a day with the Lord is “like a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8), and that Jesus Christ died over 2,000 years ago, we can calculate that the “inhabitable earth” is over 6,000 years old.
Now, how old the earth is that was “without form, and void, and filled with darkness” (Genesis 1:2) is the subject of another discussion.
— Bob McClain, Living By Faith Ministry, Oxford
The Bible answers more important questions
The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Swift quipped, “I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth.” While certainly true, this hardly answered the question, “How old are you?”
A similar reply could be formulated to address the age of the Earth — as old as the world and older than her people.
Since the beginnings of the planet occurred before any human account, the best estimation of the age of the Earth is 4.54 billion years, give or take about 50 million years. This estimation may change as scientific assumptions and evidence develop over time.
Let us not imagine that faith and science are at loggerheads. Rather, science is using our God-given reason to explore God’s creation. At the same time, we must not rely on our own understanding. Only God holds the key to every mystery of time.
The use of holy scriptures to try to discern a concrete timeline of cosmic history asks ancient texts to perform a function never intended by their writers. This reality in no way makes the scriptures less powerful or meaningful.
Scientists can calculate numbers and debate the age of the Earth, but the scriptures can bear witness to our covenant with God, the beauty of creation, and a responsibility to be just and kind.
—Lesley Ann Earles, First Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville