What biblical reasons are there to accept the scientific view of the earth as billions of years old?

I’ve never thought of any of those as stories with “figurative details that have no narrative intent other than to embellish the story.”

Moreover, when someone thinks that everything in Genesis 1 beyond “God did it” is mere embellishment, I have to say that myth or fable are the two descriptive words that come to mind - and I read the Bible as dismissive of such narrative devices (1 Tim 1:4; 2 Tim 4:4, Tit 1:14).

First, just a clarification about semantics.

I see how there is a similarity between understanding body and blood in this context on the one hand and day in the Pentateuch on the other, but I would not call them both symbolic. The former I would indeed call symbolic or figurative, but the latter I think of as just different meanings for the same word. Thus I think that those who insist that understanding “day” as an indefinite period of time is being just as literal as taking it to mean 24 hours have a point.

That said, I think I will try to understand the word symbolic as you are using here:

I can see how you might say this, but doesn’t that take you from “Six days you shall labor…For in six days the Lord made…” to “Six indefinite periods of time you shall labor…For in six indefinite periods of time the Lord made…”? If not, how do you justify the mixture of “Six days you shall labor…For in six indefinite periods of time the Lord made…”

(I am not trying to challenge you; I’m trying to understand your thinking.)

I can see why someone would look at things this way. However, I can’t see it this way because God can only speak through nature implicitly, but through Scripture He can speak explicitly. All other things being equal, I think explicit communications leave less room for misunderstanding than implicit communications. On this basis, I find it easier to interpret nature to find compatibility with the Bible.

I recognize that makes me odd in this world and not just in this forum, and that’s why I’m working extra hard to make sure I’m not missing something. Thanks for helping me try to work my way through this.

I took no offense. Thanks for helping me try to work my way through this.


I’ve made it well known that I am a Unitarian Universalist. You know the position that Unitarians hold regarding Jesus.

As for the Bible’s texts… if I don’t take literally God’s quoted “ironic sarcasm” (aimed at Job regarding his ignorance of the [fictional] heavenly storehouses) … I don’t see how I could possibly take a six day creation literally.

What does your non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 tell you, if anything, beyond “God did it”?

Right, since it doesn’t make sense for humans to work 6 eons and do no work on the seventh, it is reasonable to use the human week as a symbol for the Genesis week. The length of the week in Genesis is still open for debate (if one ignores the science) but I don’t believe that the verses in Exodus demand a literal week in Genesis.


A) I see that what separates humans from the rest of the animals is moral responsibility;

B) I see an etymological explanation for why Snakes don’t have legs and why humans should kill snakes.

C) I see a polemic exercise against any deities linked to snake or serpentine deities;

D) I see a polemic exercise against any worshippers of the Sun, Moon or the Host (aka “The Seven”).

E) An etymological story explaining why humans are not immortal, are destined to a life of labor, and why women suffer labor pains.

F) The etymological reason for the practice of Resting on the 7th day.

I’m sure there are additional themes that can be excavated from the Eden story.

An example of an ornamental embellishment (with no metaphysical or theological content) is the idea that women herald from an ancient tradition of the Lady of the Rib - which is clever word play in the Sumerian myth including a female being named Lady of the Rib (or Lady Rib) who cured GILGAMESH of pain in his ribs. The Hebrew version co-opts the pagan version’s use of the Sumerian phrase.


How do you help a man gymnast who feels he must always hold a loaded gun in his hand (even with the safety switched to “on”) while performing his gymnastic routine… but who is terrified that the gun might go off and kill him or someone he loves?

It has been explained that the gun could be unloaded… or that he could put the gun down just when he performs… but he says his convictions do not allow him either option!

I don’t believe anyone can formulate an answer for such a man.

Sorry if I missed emphasizing the embellishment aspect. Yet the stories are designed (embellished) to make a point, and every piece of it has a purpose!

Genesis 1 is a mythos!
You’re missing the point of a narrative story like this. It is defined precisely as a “Mythology” as the technical term! The word has been devalued in our society to automatically mean something “not true”. Yet, the technical term for a narrative Cosmology is a Mythos! Definition of Mythos

Even a “scientific” explanation is a mythos because it is explaining a belief structure of a group of people. Is the Scientific, or Biblical explanation a Mythos? They both are.

The question is, which one is a mythos that accurately defines the chapters of Genesis 1? They both do! As I have siad over and over, Science is the mythos of How and Bible Mythos of Why. Both correct for the venue they speak to and have authority in!

I am inclined to answer your question with another question, “Should we find any biblical reason for any age of the earth?”

As a Christian, my understanding of creation commences with the gospel according to John, proclaiming the Creator as the Word of God. I cannot see any reference to time or age in this. Once I commence with this, Genesis makes sense as teaching us the where and what of work, and the ultimate goal, God’s Sabbath rest.

To indulge in time and ages, if creation in Genesis occurs when God spoke, again it removes a scientific basis for any time (certainly I cannot think of God speaking for 24 hours, or years, or whatever).

As far as I can see, only what is implied by the history of creation - from the beginning until the first century AD - that it presents.

The citations I gave should indicate that I’m using the word as the apostle Paul - who knew nothing of our modern devaluations - used it.

I am conscious of the views on the subject; as a boy the priest taught us of the seven day narrative and all that comes with this. I am concerned more with serious debates that pit biblical text against science. My parents, and their parents, were told similar stories, but not as a basis for salvation, but instead as an understanding of creation. I think there is a world of difference between stories and narratives given at some point in time, and scripture.

On the first few centuries AD, my reading indicates that Christians were dealing with: (a) yes God is the Creators through the power of His Word, and (b) we prefer a particular narrative to separate us from narratives such as an eternal matter, chance and the four elements, and other pagan outlooks.

I repeat my question, “Should we find any biblical reason for any age of the earth?”

I repeat my answer. Only this time, I will elaborate on it as well.

Notice that my answer spoke of history - not science.

I am not at all concerned about “debates that pit biblical text against science.” What concerns me is any debate that pits a history implied by science against history (implied or explicit) in the biblical text.

Can you appreciate that my concern is not science but rather history? I only mention science because it is the one projecting the history that ostensibly conflicts with the history I see in the Bible. My purpose in coming to BioLogos is to find out for sure if “ostensibly” is “actually.”

How am I to find this out?

First, I should seek to make sure I understand the history implied by science. All my interactions here have confirmed my understanding of the history projected by science - that the earth is 4.543B years old. I have not misunderstood this. I don’t have to have an aptitude for science to understand that it is making a historical claim about the age of the earth, nor do I need an aptitude for science to understand what that claim is. The historical claim of science is that the earth is billions of years old and practically everyone in this forum has confirmed this…and in quite emphatic fashion. Mission accomplished with respect to this first step.

Second, I should seek to make sure I understand the history of the earth implied by the Bible. That is the purpose of the question that leads this thread. It has seemed to me that the Bible implies an age of the earth that is numbered in the thousands of years - not billions. In asking this question, I’m trying to find out if I’ve misunderstood the Bible on this point. Mission ongoing.

This is what I am trying (unsuccessfully) to focus this interesting exchange - how do you arrive at an implied (not explicit if I understand your comment) age of the earth from the Bible?


This distinction is untenable.
You write:

This is an attempt to finesse a dismissal of science by attempting to argue 'History implied by Science’s is somehow not Science.

But the History of which you speak is thoroughly embedded in the Scientific scenario! You cannot divorce the former from the latter!!

For example, Science absolutely and positively affirms that Dinosaurs existed… then became extinct… before large Mammals ever appeared.

You cannot reject this History without rejecting the Science that defines and confirms said History!!

Ah. But… hmm…I thought I made this apparent in the original post (especially as supplemented by my post My Problem Is Not “Day”- It’s “Six Days”). Please re-read. Moreover, I will now attempt a summary with some re-phrasing to further assist you. Your question is very much on point.

Through its genealogies, the Bible implies a historical time line for the human race. Even if one were to assume some gaps in those genealogies, that could only add thousands of years - not billions - to the total. The thousands of years begin on the sixth day of the creation week since that’s the day when the first man was created. Thus I infer from the Bible that the age of the earth is in the thousands of years. I feel no need to be more specific than that, though I don’t dispute that others might legitmately be more precise.

Someone could object to what I’ve just said by saying, “Those days don’t have to be 24-hour days; they could be indefinite periods of time as in ‘the day of the Lord’ or “the day of eternity’ and thus the earth could have been created billions of years before the human race began.” My answer to this is that interpreting “day” as “an indefinite period of time” is much easier in Gen 1 than it is in Ex 20:11 or Ex 31:17. Even if you could get past the obstacles in those two verses and find a way to define “day” as indefinite periods of time” in them, you still have the problem of Genesis 2:1-3, which states that the creation process ceased thousands of years ago while, by contrast, models that peg the earth’s age in the billions of years do so based on the assumption that the processes we see at work now have been in operation all that time. In other words, the processes by which God created the world are not the processes by which He maintains it. Thus the Bible does not seem to allow an age of the earth in the billions of years even if “day” is understood to mean “eon.”

I trust all this answers your question, but I am willing to say more if this is not enough. I can’t expect anyone to helpfully critique my position if I haven’t made clear what it is.

You prove my point that there is a distinction between science and history by employing it yourself in this sentence.

No sir. That would be like me saying that because I can describe two things:

  1. the front wheels of a car , and
  2. the steering wheel of a car…

Then only one can be what steers the car. The two things (plus the driver of course) are inextricably linked together.

Any Science discipline which predicts an outcome (which is 100%), was established by its ability to accurately describe what happens, where it happens, why it happens, and when it happens.

Now you come to geology and you think you can say: “Geology is great Science… but the Histories produced by Geologists are completely separate from Geology… and up to wide interpretation.”

That doesn’t make sense.