One perennially popular concept concerning the origins and age of our world is biblical fundamentalist creationism. In recent years, many battles have been fought between its adherents and various boards of education throughout the United States over science textbooks in schools. Evolution, it is argued, is only a theory, not proven fact, and creationism is as entitled to be considered as any other theory.
Such arguments are but the latest chapters in the ongoing war between the creationists and established scientific and academic institutions which have championed evolution since, at least, the infamous Scopes trial of Tennessee in 1925. Today, debate over the origins of the Earth, life and humankind has entered the political arena, and in some places a candidate’s views on the matter can determine whether or not he or she wins or loses an election.
Creationists are happy to point out the many internal inconsistencies in modern evolutionary theory (and correctly so), but their own Biblical belief structure is also filled with many glaring contradictions. Let us take a look at some of them.
Most fundamentalist Christians today who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible hold as ‘gospel’ truth that the world is only six millennia old, and base this concept on the chronological listings given in the Book of Genesis chapters 5 and 11. More specifically, these two chapters give a listing of the generations from Adam to Noah, and from Noah to the immediate generations before Abraham, with the age links to Abraham offered later in Genesis.
Each generation listing includes the number of years that a patriarch lived before they begat their next generation offspring. By taking all these numbers and finding their sum, it is then added to circa 2167 B.C.E., which biblical accounts indicate was about the time when Abraham was born.
From historical records it is generally recognized that the year 931 B.C.E. was the date of the division of the kingdom of Israel at the death of Solomon. Following I Kings 6:1 and Exodus 12:40, Bible scholars place the entrance of Jacob in Egypt in 1877 B.C.E. Since Jacob was 130 years old at this time (Gen. 47:9), he was born in 2007 B.C.E. Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born (Gen. 25:26), and Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5). This puts Abraham’s birth at 2167 B.C.E. The Genesis account mentions that Abraham left the city of Ur of the Chaldees in Sumeria on his migration to the land of Canaan—and historical records confirm that Ur was at its cultural and political heights in 2150 B.C.E.
When all the links are brought together, from Adam to Abraham and from Abraham to 931 B.C.E., the final calculation gives a date for the creation of Adam and the earth very close to 4000 B.C.E.
Because of calendar miscalculations made in the early Christian era concerning the birth of Christ, most creationists today accept the chronological calculations of Bishop Ussher that creation took place in 4004 B.C.E., with the biblical flood being dated at 2348 B.C.E., after which the known ancient civilizations of the world came into existence, founded by the generations of Noah through Abraham.
The first major problem with accepting biblical chronology as a basis for dating is that it clashes with what are now becoming fairly well-established historical dates for the beginnings of the known ancient civilizations. If the Noachian flood supposedly wiped out all life on the planet save Noah and his family, whose immediate offspring were then responsible for the founding of all recognized historical civilizations, then according to biblical chronological calculations all these civilizations cannot be dated earlier than 2348 B.C.E., the year of the Flood.
Yet in Egypt the date for the appearance of the first dynastic Pharaoh, Narmer-Menes, based on various king lists, is now placed at 3200 B.C.E. , and one of the key dates for the Sothic cycle in the ancient Egyptian calendar system is well established as being in 2780 B.C.E.
In Sumeria, the reign of the first historical ruler of Ur, Mesannipadda, based on king lists and supporting archaeological evidence, is now put at 2700 B.C.E.
In India the beginning of Indian history, based on ancient texts and astronomical observations, originated in at least 3102 B.C.E.
In China, the date of the reign of the first Chinese emperor, based on historical listings, began in 2758 B.C.E., while the first year of the Chinese calendrical system is determined at 2638 B.C.E.
Among the Maya of the Yucatan, the beginning year of their calendar, according to the Good man-Martinez-Thompson correlation of the Maya Long Count of Thirteen Baktuns, is calculated at 3114 B.C.E.
It is not surprising that, as the above dates are becoming more firmly established with continued new archaeological and historical discoveries, many Bible scholars are abandoning the use of biblical chronology as a method of dating events, particularly in trying to find the dates for the creation and the flood.
In addition, looking purely at the biblical records themselves we find textual evidence of gaps in the chronological chains. In Hebrews 7:9-10 is the statement: “Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes to Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father (Abraham), when Melchesidec met him.” Levi, as is known in the Genesis account, was not the son of Abraham, but was the patriarch’s great-grandson, Isaac and Jacob being the two interim generations. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5), Isaac was more than 40 when Jacob was born (25:20-21), and Jacob exceeded 40 years when Levi was born (26:34, 29:18, 31-34). Since Abraham, says the Bible, lived to be 175 years of age (25:7-8), it is evident that Abraham had been dead several years before Levi was born.
In Matthew 1:2-17, Matthew lists the generations from Adam to Jesus, giving a total of fifty-one names. But when we compare this list with the Old Testament records, a number of discrepancies are revealed. In verse 8, the evangelist wrote: “And Joriam begat Ozias.” From 2 Kings 8:25, 11:2 and 14:1, we find that three names have been omitted between these two—Ahaziah, Joash and Amaziah. In verse 11, Matthew lists Josias as the father of Jechonias. But 2 Kings 23:34 and I Chronicles 3:16 tells us that Jehoiakim was the son of Josias, and Jechonias was the son of Jehoiakim. Altogether, four generations were left out of the Matthew listing.
As another example, the genealogy of the prophet Ezra is listed in the Old Testament in Ezra 7:1-5 and in I Chronicles 6:3-14. It is evident from a comparison of the two lists that a total of six consecutive names have been omitted in the Ezra listing.
What all these discrepancies indicate is that the Biblical text is certainly not infallible when it comes to attempting to preserve accurate listings of generations. Such discrepancies also offer us no precedence in trusting the genealogy listings of Genesis 5 and 11 as being any basis for offering an accurate chronological system upon which to establish historical dates.
Not only are there significant gaps in the Genesis listings, but when we trace the modern Bible text back to its supporting historical sources, we find much confusion when it comes to dealing with the Genesis generation year numbers.
The most widely accepted translation of the Bible used today, the Kings James Version dating to 1611—and the version which Bishop Usshur used to make his chronological calculations—is based on the comparison and translation of three major textual traditional sources: the Massoretic Text (MT, which traces its history from the early 2nd century A.D.; the Septuagint (LXX), from about 250 B.C.E.; and the Samaritan Pentateuch (Sam Pent), from about 400 B.C.E. What is very revealing when comparing these more ancient sources is that none of them fully agree on the exact year numbers given for the Genesis generations.
The scholars of King James’ time finally accepted the MT’s numbers, but the choice was a very arbitrary one. The major difference is that the LXX lists an additional 100 years from that of the MT for all the patriarchs ages when they gave birth to their sons (the next generations), while the Sam Pent gives an additional 100 years to just the generations from Noah to Nahor. What the addition of these various numbers does is throw off any attempt at calculating dates, either for the flood or for creation.
If one takes the inflated numbers of the LXX, for example, creation is placed at 5654 B.C.E. and the flood at 3398 B.C.E. Admittedly, these numbers bring biblical chronology a little closer in alignment with modern historical dating, but not in all instances. Even these stretched dates continue to fall short as more accurate radio-isotope dating techniques and new historical records are brought to light, allowing archaeologists to pinpoint time-wise artifacts and events with greater confidence farther back than the fourth millennium B.C.E.
Adding further to the confusion is the fact that the LXX lists the name Cainan as the son of Arphaxad, which the MT omits, but who is nevertheless mentioned by Luke in his chronology (Luke 3:36), indicating the evangelist had access to the LXX but not the MT as his source. If both the names and the numbers are not consistent among the various sources, then clearly they cannot be the basis for determining any form of accurate chronological, let alone historical dating.
As an interesting aside, there may have been a good reason why the compilers of the MT may have purposely reduced the original Genesis generational numbers. About the same period that the MT was prepared, there were many early Christian scholars who were beginning to believe that the duration of the world would be exactly seven thousand years. This belief made its appearance in such contemporary pseudographia as the Book of the Secrets of Enoch and the Epistle of Barnabas. The idea was that the seven-day week of creation had special eschatological significance, and—based on 2 Peter 3:8, each creation day supposedly represented a thousand years.
Attempting to calculate the beginning of the seven thousand years using the Genesis numbers given in the LXX would have proven to have been difficult, for the chronology based on them gives 5654 B.C.E. as the creation date, an odd number indeed to work with. But by subtracting 100 years from each of the Genesis patriarchs pre-begatting age, the round number of 4000 B.C.E. for creation could be produced-a number which would have appealed to the symmetry-seeking minds of the Hellenist Christians. Adding six days or six thousand years to 4000 B.C.E. meant that the close of world events was to theoretically occur in A.D. 2000, after which would come the millennium, the thousand years or seventh day of rest.
There is no absolute proof, of course, that the Genesis numbers were reduced to conform to eschatological purposes, but the possibility exists nonetheless. The fact that the MT numbers do produce the round date of 4000 B.C.E. is highly suspicious, suggesting a degree of artificiality.
Just as Matthew manipulated the numbers in his listing of the generations from Adam to Jesus to demonstrate an inherent symmetry, so other early Christian writers may have done the same with other textual traditions that have come down to us today.
Another major premise of creationism is that the greater majority of geological stratification and the fossil record it contains was the result of the biblical flood of Noah. Among modern creationist scientists there is some disagreement as to whether strata usually identified as remains of the Ice Ages should be included as part of the flood record, or whether the Ice Ages were a post-flood phenomena, to be regarded as a climatic reaction to the flood itself. Either way, most creationists will agree that all the layers from the Precambrian up to (and possibly including) the Quaternary are to be designated as remains of the Noachian flood. This is inclusive of between 95% and 98% of the existing total geological record.
Where the problem begins is in realizing that if at least 95% of the strata was laid down by a single deluge event, then it also means that all the fossils contained in that strata were from creatures buried during the flood. And if they were buried all in one event, then they all had to have been alive when the flood occurred.
It is believed today from studies of animal behavior that one of the major factors that determines the limits to animal population numbers is based on what is called the territorial imperative, the fact that fauna can experience stress and trauma leading to sickness and even death when their numbers exceed a certain number in a given area.
As one example, a deer population on an island when it reaches a certain maximum will begin to experience increased heart attacks and digestive disorders leading to early deaths brought on by being in closer contact with greater numbers of their own kind.
Wolf packs, if they sense there are too many of their species in a certain region, will migrate out of season to find new hunting grounds elsewhere.
Birds, sitting on a wire or on a fence, will cluster only to a certain limit before they instinctively feel their individual territorial space is becoming too crowded, and will fly off to seek another more comfortable roost.
In a more drastic case, lemmings of the Arctic, when they reach overpopulation and outstrip their food supply, will panic and jump off the nearest cliff, drowning in the sea in large numbers so that the rest can survive from overcrowding.
There are also certain natural self-regulating controls among animal fertility levels. When penguins in Antarctica all come together for their mating season, the collective population will take stock of how many penguins have gathered. Then the female birds will lay one, two or three eggs depending on the numbers present so that a constant density can be maintained and not exceeded.
What is true on the smaller scale also holds true on the larger global scale. The earth’s surface, being of a limited area, can maintain only a limited amount of living beings in a comfortable manner before the territorial imperative is exceeded, and the living beings begin reducing themselves in numbers as a built-in form of population control. Whether or not the ratio of land-to-ocean environments is increased or decreased, or whether or not the planet has a uniform temperate climate that increases the support for the growth of all life, there still exists an upper limit to the number of life-forms the earth can support at any one time period. This is what can be termed the planetary MOQ or Maximum Optimum Quantity.
So far, only about 20% of the land area of the earth has been explored for fossils and less than 1% of the ocean’s fossil record has been identified. Yet even in this small fraction of the total fossil record that has been revealed, the amount of life so far discovered embedded in the Precambrian to Quaternary strata is already equal to 4 to 5 MOQ, or four to five times what the earth could possibly support at any given moment.
If this quantity unearthed from the fossil record to date holds true as the average for what still exists in the remaining landed fossil record yet to be brought to light, then we are looking at the total planetary fossil record containing an MOQ of 20 to 25, or twenty to twenty-five times the maximum optimum quantity of life the Earth could support at one time.
Since the landed fossils represent only one-fourth of the surface of the planet, if the average numbers found so far also remain consistent for what future explorations of the ocean depths may yet reveal, then we may be talking about an MOQ for the total global fossil record of 80 to 100 times.
Unless pre-flood conditions for the earth were so radically different beyond anything we could imagine today, there is no way that all the life represented in 95% of the fossil record could have been alive at the same time to have been destroyed and buried by the single flood event. Otherwise it would have been necessary to stack animals on top of each other everywhere on the earth’s surface to accommodate all of them.
As one critic of creationism quipped, if such animal numbers did exist before the flood, then Noah would have had no problem in getting them two-by-two into the Ark-they would have simply fallen in, because there was no place else to go.
The above is an edited excerpt from a privately published book, Remnants of the Lost: Out-of-Place Artifacts From the Incredible Past, by Joseph Robert Jochmans, copyright 2008. Inquiries about this and other books by the author can be directed to: Forgotten Ages Research, P. 0. Box 94891, Lincoln, Ne 68509. U.S.A.