Response to Young Earth Textual Arguments

Context, Culture, and Linguistics

This article comes in the form of responsive argumentation and not the standard hypothesis to theory or thesis. 

I'm thrilled to engage with John Stebbe; I know many of my readers are going to ask: "What are his credentials?" His credentials are simply that I think he's a YEC that can communicate clearly and knows the arguments and objections for his position. 

With that out of the way, let us examine his argument. 

// Mark 10:6: ‘… from the beginning of creation, He made them male and female.’

If the earth is billions of years old, then mankind has only come upon the scene rather recently, relatively speaking. But Jesus tells us that mankind has been on the earth "from the beginning of creation." This idea is incompatible with an old earth.

Another relevant passage:

Matthew 13:35: ‘I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.’

If mankind has not been here for most of the history of the earth, what would be the point of hiding things from the foundation of the world? Hiding things from the beginning of mankind would make more sense, if the earth is billions of years old. But Jesus appears to assume that mankind has been around as long as the earth has been around.

Another:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. - Romans 1:20

"perceived . . . ever since the creation of the world." If mankind has only been on the earth rather recently, relatively speaking, then who has been doing the perceiving? The focus of the passage is human beings who are without excuse. Human beings are the ones who have perceived God's attributes. If humans have not been around for most of the history of the earth, then why does Paul speak as if humans actually have been here since the creation of the world?

One more:

Luke 11:50,51: ‘… . that the blood all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation … from the blood of Abel .’

The murder of Abel is associated with "the foundation of the world." But if billions of years passed from the creation of the earth until the death of Abel, then this passage makes no sense. //

His first verse is Mark 10:6 which states: ἀπὸ δὲ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς·

If you notice the context of Mark 10 you'll see very quickly that has to do with Marriage and Divorce and not a claim on the age of the universe. However, I believe John is arguing that is would be implied because "beginning" ties the timeline together for when marriage was created. 

They use this argument without realizing a flaw presents itself immediately. If you look at the Creation polemic as literal six consecutive days, what do you not have? Marriage at the beginning of creation. If one looks at the English translation of Mark 10:6, it appears that Jesus erred in His description of Genesis 1. No matter how one counts the "days," human beings were not created "at the beginning of creation." Rather, male and female human beings were created at the end of God's creative acts (Genesis 1:24-31). 

Upon examination, you can see that the original Greek word, ktisis, translated "creation," has several other purposes. The most commonly used is the "implementation of ordinances," which plays right into the context of Mark 10. Jesus, He was merely claiming that the institution [ordinance] of marriage began immediately after both males and females had been created. This reference to marriage, rather than the creation, was made clear when Jesus instantly quoted from Genesis 2:24. Ah, but there is more - the parallel context and text can be found in Matthew 19:4 which states:

"Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matthew 19:3-6).

In this telling of Jesus' teaching on divorce, the Greek word ktisis does not appear at all. Instead, the verb ktizō, "to create" is found. Thus, further compounding the context that Mark's gospel is speaking about the creation of the ordinance of marriage. Like Mark 10:6, these verses have nothing to do with teaching about the age of the earth, nor can they imply any without creating a theological error. 

The Second Text to Examine

// Matthew 13:35: ‘I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.’

If mankind has not been here for most of the history of the earth, what would be the point of hiding things from the foundation of the world? Hiding things from the beginning of mankind would make more sense, if the earth is billions of years old. But Jesus appears to assume that mankind has been around as long as the earth has been around. //

First, I'd like to suggest that I, myself, my view, doesn't necessarily disagree with the above sentiment. I currently have no issue holding to the notion that earth and humankind were created within a close period. I've always tried to make the distinction between Young Earth and Young Universe. I firmly hold to the idea that the UNIVERSE is old, but the earth may very well be younger in age. 

However, that doesn't negate the context error of Matthew 13:35. Here we see Jesus quoting other Scripture, not creating a statement from His own mouth as John may presume. 

I will utter (ερευχομαι — ereuxomai). To cast forth like a river, to gurgle, to disgorge, the passion of a prophet. From Psalm 19:2; Psalm 78:2. The Psalmist claims to be able to utter “things hidden from the foundation of the world” and Matthew applies this language to the words of Jesus. Sure it is that the life and teaching of Jesus throw a flood of light on the purposes of God long kept hidden (κεκρυμμενα — kekrummena).

From the foundation ( ἀπὸ καταβολῆς )

“It is assumed by the Psalmist.(Psalm 78:2) that there was a hidden meaning in God's ancient dealings with his people. A typical, archetypical, and prefigurative element ran through the whole. The history of the dealings is one long Old Testament parable. Things long kept secret, and that were hidden indeed in the depths of the divine mind from before the foundation of the world, were involved in these dealings. And hence the evangelist wisely sees, in the parabolic teaching of our Lord, a real culmination of the older parabolic teaching of the Psalmist. The culmination was divinely intended, and hence the expression that it might be fulfilled ” 

You may also reference John Calvin's commentary here for more insight. However, it by no means should be a text attempting to prove the earth's age. You see how distant these two context's are for readers today? John sees an argument for the age of the earth, meanwhile, Jesus is attempting to show that He is the one who will speak in "weighty words" משלים - that is parables. In fact, Calvin says, "Now though Matthew seems to allude to the word parable, he undoubtedly means, that Christ spoke figuratively, in order that his very style, being more brilliant than ordinary discourse, might carry more weight and dignity." 

This may be a jab, but it must be noted that Christ, from all times, has added weight to His discourses by speaking figuratively and poetically. 

I add this notion because you must see the drastic distance of study here. If you are seeking the true context of a Scripture, your mind will not be on the age of the earth; it will be on the utter magnificence that is the Scripture's purpose and theological agenda. You cannot read the above exegesis and jump to the age of the earth. Nein, your mind will be consumed with the context and weight of that Scripture. But, I digress. 

Third Argument Examined

// For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. - Romans 1:20 

"perceived . . . ever since the creation of the world." If mankind has only been on the earth rather recently, relatively speaking, then who has been doing the perceiving? The focus of the passage is human beings who are without excuse. Human beings are the ones who have perceived God's attributes. If humans have not been around for most of the history of the earth, then why does Paul speak as if humans actually have been here since the creation of the world? //

Again, this would be an argument for Young Earth vs Old Earth - not necessarily that of Old or Young Universe. You may think I have been asserting semantics, but the two are drastically different in both text and science. However, again, I take offense to the context. First, I would like to note that there is a glaring issue with how some YEC use this verse. The issue is the word "καθορᾶται" which means: clearly understood. 

Currently, the easiest way to examine the world, which is precisely the mandate that Paul lays forth, that we have the ability to analyze, we find that everything points to an old universe and, most likely old earth. Whether you use carbon dating or realize we have neanderthal DNA or examine the world and its light travel or even the placement of stars as they did in the Old Testament - you end up with an old universe. Yet, millions of dollars are spent every year by YEC to show otherwise. Now, I'm not stating that I am 100% sure the universe or earth is OLD, but I am basing my observations of Paul's mandate of which is clearly understood. 

But back to the context, 

From the creation of the world - The word “creation” may either mean the “act” of creating, or more commonly, it means “the thing created,” the world, the universe. In this sense it is commonly used in the New Testament; compare Mark 10:6; Mark 13:19; Mark 16:5; Romans 1:25; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 4:13; Hebrews 9:11; 1 Peter 2:13; 2 Peter 3:4; Revelation 3:14. The word “from” may mean “since,” or it may denote “by means of.” And the expression here may denote that, as a historical fact, God “has been” “known” since the act of creation; or it may denote that he is known “by means of” the material universe which he has formed. The latter is doubtless the true meaning. 

For,

(1)This is the common meaning of the word “creation;” and,

(2)This accords with the design of the argument.

It is not to state an historical fact, but to show that they had the means of knowing their duty within their reach, and were without excuse. Those means were in the wisdom, power, and glory of the universe, by which they were surrounded (Barnes, Notes). 

The very next sentence is vital - "His eternal power" this is the pivotal point of all of scripture. God is showing that He alone is the true God to be worshipped. From Genesis to Revelation, it is about HIS supremacy, yet we are attempting to bark over the date of the earth. Please, take a moment to think of these two perspectives. They could not be more polar opposite in purpose and plan. Do you believe Romans 1:20 was to say that the earth was young, or was it Paul showcasing two things (1) God has eternal power and (2) we clearly know this. 

Things that are made - By his works; compare Hebrews 11:3. This means, not by the original “act” of creation, but by the continual operations of God in his Providence, by his doings, ποιήμασιν poiēmasinby what he is continually producing and accomplishing in the displays of his power and goodness in the heavens and the earth. What they were capable of understanding, he immediately adds, and shows that he did not intend to affirm that everything could be known of God by his works; but so much as to free them from an excuse for their sins.

You can see that context should sweep you away from the debate of age and into the realm of awe and magnificent worship of God's power. If it does not do this, I implore you to step away from debates on age and study a few commentaries to fall back in love with the theological primer that is Scripture. Romans 1 is about unbelief and the purpose of the Gospel. 

John's Final Argument Examined

// Luke 11:50,51: ‘… . that the blood all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation … from the blood of Abel .’

The murder of Abel is associated with "the foundation of the world." But if billions of years passed from the creation of the earth until the death of Abel, then this passage makes no sense. //

The scripture in question is this in full: "ἵνα ἐκζητηθῇ τὸ αἷμα πάντων τῶν προφητῶν τὸ ἐκκεχυμένον ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης," 

That same glaring issue presents itself again here. Did Abel die at the foundation of the world? Did Abel die in the beginning? For John to assert, all these verses are proofs of Young-Earth by stating "from the beginning...from the foundation.." you must declare that it all happened day one. Day 6 isn't the beginning, because if you allow for Day 6 to be the beginning or the start, then you turn that phrase into a non-literal meaning which allows for Old Earth Creationist to say "in the beginning is a paraphrased way of stating long ago." So, John, must stick to either a literal definition and make a grand theological error by stating it all happened in the same day or concede that it's not a literal definition and allow for other meanings to take place. 

11:50: "since the beginning" - NET (Mostly YEC) translator states, "This should not indicate a time to the reader." Further, the context of this is a cultural concept called "blood guilt". Verses you must read prior to reading this: Matthew 23:25; Genesis 9:5; Genesis 4:8; Matthew 25:34; 2 Ch 24:20-22; 2 Samuel 4:11; Matthew 23:34; Ps 9:12; Matthew 13:35 and rightfully understand the context. 

In fact, we know that Abel was very much of age when he was killed by his brother. He was not slain as an infant, toddler or young boy, he was slain when he was of age. Therefore, years and years had passed - indicating exactly the premise that I suggested, which was, the word for "beginning" is not a literal usage but rather a generalizing word for the beginning of humanity. 

That would ask the question of "Do you believe humanity is young?" I would say yes but noting the difference between young humanity, earth and universe. 

This concludes our examination presented by John, who, I surely admire. I think that when we read Scripture in light of its context, not only do we not find the age of the earth, but we see the magnificent theological unfolding of God's inherent power. My Young-Earth mentor always says, "Context is king," and I agree entirely. You should be swept away in awe of the connections that the New Testament makes between the Old Testament and the New. The cultural significance of blood, restorations, and so forth. The concept of a King dying for His people to reconcile them back to God and the sheer weight and glory of the Gospel, which was spelled out in parable throughout Jesus' ministry. Please, I encourage you to read the context and care more about the meaning of the Scripture than attempting to prove any age of the world, young or old.