How do we reconcile an old earth with the Bible? Even if we grant the world is very old, God’s creation of Adam and Eve is dated by the Masoretic Text to 6,000 years ago, and the Septuagint to 7,600 years ago. But what if there were “generation gaps” (or additional gaps in the chronologies supplied in Genesis 5 and 11? Does this “buy us time” so to speak and make anthropology and archeology coincide with what the Bible teaches? That’s a major subject in Rebooting the Bible, Part 2. The following article below is drawn from Chapter 2 of the newly-released book.
Endorsement for Rebooting the Bible, Part 2.
“Most modern Christians have relaxed into a type of biblical certainty that undermines the divine gift of inquisitiveness. Speculation, debate, and research are foreign exercises to most. ‘My pastor is the one responsible for telling me what to believe,’ is, unfortunately, a typical response today to ideas and data that challenge dearly held beliefs and settled understandings of the biblical literature and history. Are individual Christians supposed to rest on the beliefs they’ve been taught, or, are they supposed to individually study to show themselves an approved workman in the field of biblical knowledge? Author S. Douglas Woodward once again makes the case that what we think we know about the Bible in some cases might not be completely accurate. With a keen eye for details and a researcher’s heart to follow the truth wherever it leads, Woodward presents a tour de forcein Rebooting the Bible, Part 2. This book is essential reading for anyone who desires to go beyond commonly held beliefs, actually to engage with the historical data. The truth honors Yahweh. It should be known and celebrated. I applaud Woodward for
the monumental effort at providing such truth.”
Dr. Mike Spaulding, Calvary Chapel, Lima, Ohio
Generation Gaps – Does a Corrected Chronology Contain “Gaps”?
The previous section considered what happens when we shorten the chronology of four alternate witnesses: The LXX, Josephus, LAB, and to some extent, the SP. The next and final analysis deals with what value, if any, there might be in lengthening the chronology beyond the LXX’s witness. Does it protect the Bible from criticism?
Here, we tackle a topic not discussed in RTB-Part 1. Although we have decried the idea of generation gaps, for the sake of argument, let’s consider it: “Do the chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 permit gaps between generations?” If so, “How much longer is the timespan of the adjusted timeline?“ While we have already stretched the MT timeline by proving the rabbinical sages artificially truncated it in the first and second centuries, does it make sense to stretch the timeline further? Is there biblical support for this? And if we do that stretching, how many generations must we insert to make “filling the gaps” coincide with some predetermined prehistoric date or period that gives credibility to the biblical chronology because it coincides with date endorsed by science? Since there are twenty generations in Gen 5 and 11, let’s randomly select 20 more generations to insert. How would that help make the Bible more believable? Does it prove that adding “gaps” (by artificially inserting make-believe generations) makes biblical chronology sensible?
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As proposed, suppose that we add 20 generations between 12 of the 20 generations. Admittedly, there are strong connections between the father and child at the beginning and end of each chrono-genealogy as the text tells us (Genesis 5 and 11), it would not seem permissible to add extra generations at the beginning or end of each list. Therefore, we must add them in between as, what Green called, the “less important names” in the lists.
In the Septuagint (which is already 1,500 years longer than the MT), adding generations pushes us further back beyond the Bronze Age into the “New Stone Age” (Neolithic), which began about 12,000 YBP (10000 B.C.) and concludes (according to some authorities) circa 4,500 B.C. By using the biblical chronological data we have in the LXX, we can calculate about how many additional years this would add to the length of the period. Referencing the Septuagint, from the time of Adam’s birth to Noah’s birth is a period of 1,656 years (Noah’s age at the Flood is 600, meaning the Flood occurred 2256 years from Adam’s creation). But here we must use the length of a generation, based upon its average length. We do this by counting the years from “begetting to begetting.” The 1,656-year duration averages 166 years added to the timeline for each entry (1,656/10 = 165.6). We would have to add two generations each in between 5 generations, that being 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8 (five gaps). Generations 1,2, 9, and 10 are reserved because the Scripture ties father and son together rather explicitly. If we follow the ages, begetting ages, and lifespans of the Antediluvian chronology in the Septuagint, this means that we could add about 1,656 years to Genesis 5 timeline, pushing us further back in time from 5616 to 7272 B.C. Do we stop there? Nope, let’s do the same for Genesis 11.
But how much do the shortened lifespans in the Post-Diluvian age of Genesis 11’s chronogenealogy extend the timeline? They give us a smaller average since the first generation to tenth generation (3458 BC. to 2228 B.C) is only 1,230 years. Again using the LXX, those years represent the elapsed time from the birth of Shem to the birth of Abraham. Whereas the Genesis 5 “stretch” (a good Oklahoma colloquialism for timespan) was for 1,656 years, in the Genesis 11 chronogenealogy, it’s only 1,230 years. Again dividing that number by 10 for the average from “begetting to begetting” is 123 years (1,230/10 = 123). So the average means we can add these ten, 123-year generations, two at a time, into the five-gap sequence I highlighted earlier. Adding these ten new generations from Genesis 11 to the earlier total, 7272 B.C., calculated by using Genesis 5 numbers, we arrive at 8502 B.C. That date is still within the Neolithic period. So, has this given us a date that coincides with any era or epoch that anthropology or archeology recognizes as distinct in a meaningful way? Has this helped us reconcile the biblical timeline with pre-historical ages in any decisive way?
No. Allowing gaps (doubling the number of generations) does not increase the credibility of the Bible. If the process continued, doubling the number of generations again (adding 20 more), we would push the starting line for humanity to about 11,000 B.C. Does this produce a satisfactory result? I would argue that it doesn’t. Adding generations into the supposed gaps appears to be a fool’s errand. It would seem that we would have to add almost 100 generations to the timeline to bring us to the years that some anthropologists believe homo sapiens first appeared – 100,000 B.C. Can we be asked to believe that the biblical record could allow this? Since it seems the answer would be “No,” it demands that we must posit a special creative act of God that did not involve evolution whatsoever. And that is what those loyal to the biblical text do.
So, the question is, “Why push our supposed history back to pre-history (which according to this process) lands us only further back into the ‘pre-history period’” (i.e., the prehistoric epoch). If we posit this, the only narrative record that exists of what was happening in the world at that time would be the Bible. Cuneiform records won’t begin in Sumeria for another 4,000 years. Moses won’t write the Pentateuch for another 7,000 years from this point in time’ that is, – 8502 B.C. – to a date circa 1600 B.C. (in my calculations – the standard evangelical position is roughly 1420 B.C.). Does this seem plausible? Some scientists believe a tribe of humans existed near the Danube River, who invented writing about 2,000 years before the Sumerians (circa 4500 B.C.). Indeed, many other places in Europe supposedly show human activity thousands if not tens of thousands of years before the “cradle of civilization” arose in Sumeria. But that doesn’t change things. The records of secular history only coincide with the Bible’s records, once we adopt the LXX’s chronology and dismiss the MT chronology as a partisan corruption.
That’s why I stress there is a colossal erroneous assumption in William Henry Green’s 1890 excursion into secular accommodation. What good would inserting generations do for us? Would it help solve the problem of the “old earth” contrasted with a view that Creation took place about 7,500 years ago? Has it allowed us to cross the chasm from the first appearance of homo sapiens to when humanity began to keep records of what was happening? Has it fixed the challenge of how we can reconcile a human species that didn’t appear on the scene (according to evolutionary science) from 100,000 years to 1 million years earlier than this speculative date of 8502 B.C.? Hardly. It is a waste of time to insert 20 generations into 10 reasonable gaps. It buys us nothing.
Arguing for gaps doesn’t even touch the problem of how “the old earth” and a recent creation (only thousands of years ago) can both be true simultaneously – that is, reconciling science with the Bible. When Green wrote his article (1890) and B.B. Warfield seconded his motion (1911), they took the “old earth” for granted, either (1) because the “new science” won over converts; or (2) because Christians and Jews already assumed the world was old even before they had heard of Darwin. But the age of the earth in 1890 was likely still thought to be only tens of thousands of years to a million years – not 4.5 billion years. It seems somewhat obvious that once you go past 10000 B.C. (12,000 years before present), one cannot posit that Adam was the first man and Eve the first woman who lived at or slightly before that time. This fact means that what inspired Green and Warfield to give up on the notion of a “tight” biblical chronology with no gaps, is logically shown to be irrelevant. Green and Warfield wanted to dismiss the doubt about biblical chronology with a novel interpretation of Scripture and a quick wave of the hand. In essence, for Green and Warfield, there were other more significant topics to contend with than getting bogged down into a quagmire of dating Genesis 1-11. Given they thought they had supplied the right, rational answer – it was time to move on. This was a watershed moment for Evangelicalism. Green and Warfield “screwed the pooch” (forgive the crude expression, but it makes my point necessarily strong).
Consequently, my argument is this: Recorded history begins about 5,300 years ago in Mesopotamia (circa 3,300 B.C.), and within another 100 years it springs up in Canaan, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, and even China. History ties our “beginnings” (our genesis) to the same dates provided in the Septuagint. We don’t need to add 3,000 years to the timeline of archeology and (with a few tweaks) Egyptology. It already fits quite well. Therefore, we shouldn’t argue that Adam and Eve were historical figures living more than 10,000 years before today. If there were humans before this pair, that’s a different story. We don’t need to create extra space, chronologically speaking, to include 20 new generations in the mix and hide them between the lines of the two chronologies in Genesis 5 and 11. Not only does this not buy us anything, but it also makes the biblical accounts less credible. Archeology or Egyptology doesn’t mirror the outcome of such an action. It doesn’t answer Darwinism’s claims. And it can’t even be supported with the biblical text. The notion has struck out with three straight strikes.
Therefore, we can rightly conclude that arguing for gaps in the biblical chronology is without merit. In short, generation gaps don’t reconcile science and the Bible. If it were that easy, Green wouldn’t have been the first to suggest it. But what we can’t overlook is that most evangelical theologians don’t give the fact that “gaps don’t exist,” any thought. They assume it’s true – even though it’s unreasonable, unscientific, and unbiblical.
Now, the issue of whether there were humans before Adam and Eve is the question of whether a “pre-Adamic race existed.” That is a very different matter. We won’t tackle that topic until the last chapter of the book. For now, the question remains whether the Genesis chronogenealogies allow gaps in the first place. As we will see, there are other strong arguments that Genesis 5 and 11 chronologies do not allow for gaps in any way, shape, or form. The chronogenealogies interlock in such a way that it would break the logic of their construction if we tried to insert other generations into the genealogy.
Furthermore, there is no biblical evidence to suggest this is permissible (not for these two ancient timelines which are unique in this regard) even though elsewhere in the Bible, many other genealogies do some generation-skipping. But there is something extraordinary about Genesis 5 and 11. And when we understand this, we will see why the LXX chronology delivers on the promise of precisely dating history as far as the significant events of Genesis 1-11 are concerned.
Uriel’s Machine (2000) by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas list numerous examples. Forgotten Archeology (1993) by Michael Cremo, places human activity with sophisticated tools a million years before present. Many other books address “stone-age” locations for human activity pre-dating Sumer. But respected dates for homo sapiens’ presence begin no earlier than 4500 B.C. Before that date, due to questions about radiocarbon dating, the more interesting discussion is with “very high civilizations” that may have existed before 10000 B.C. We will take this matter up in the last Chapter of the book.
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