Q&A: The Age of Man

The Age of Man

Question

How many years B.C. did God create Adam and Eve? Was the earth populated with some form of man before Adam and Eve?

Answer

The Bible doesn't really tell us the date of the creation of Adam and Eve. Some have calculated dates based on approximations of generations, known dates from extra-canonical literature and archaeology, and specific information in biblical genealogies. Perhaps the most famous date is that put forth by James Ussher (1581-1656), the archbishop of Armagh and the primate of Ireland. He postulated the date 4004 B.C., and this dating was eventually included in the margin of the KJV.

Ussher's date is almost certainly wrong, though. It is based on archaic understandings of Eastern literature, especially of genealogies. Many modern Hebraists and other scholars of Eastern cultures suggest that the biblical genealogies are gapped, that they skip generations — perhaps many generations. There does seem to be good reason to affirm much dating back to Abraham's day, around 2,000 B.C., including but not limited to archaeological confirmations. But before that, the biblical record lacks too much information to be of much use in determining an actual date of creation.

With regard to the existence of other humans or humanlike creatures before Adam and Eve, the Bible seems to indicate that Adam and Eve were the first. Certainly they were without earthly parents, being specially created by God.

Whether or not the animals existed long before Adam and Eve is a question of interpretation. Some believe that Genesis 1 is a historical narrative that describes a literal six-day creation. Others believe the chapter is a poetic/metaphoric description of the events, perhaps one handed down to Moses in the form of an ancient hymn. If it is historical narrative, then it would seem that Adam was created in the first days of the world, so that no other such creatures would have predated him. If it is a poem, then we have no real data on the timing of mankind's creation relative to other creatures.

Modern science can offer some help in answering these questions, though not all scientific claims are of equal accuracy or value. Insofar as science has found apparently human remains dating back tens of thousands of years, it seems unlikely that Adam lived only 6,000 years ago. And insofar as science seems to have at least some reasonable arguments for the earth being very old, it is not unreasonable for Bible-believing Christians to think that the earth has existed in some form for eons. If Genesis 1 is poetic, there is no need to reconcile its precise details (such as timing) with geological history.

Of course, each bit of scientific data much be judged on its own merits. Scientists and theologians alike are biased and make mistakes. For my own part, I am convinced that Scripture is accurate. But I am not convinced that it precludes the possibility of animals predating mankind by a significant length of time, or that it precludes the possibility of ancient animals that resemble humans, or that it precludes the possibility of the earth being millions of years old, etc. Insofar as science's claims can be reconciled with Scripture, they are worth serious consideration. Insofar as they are not, it is worth asking whether or not we have understood Scripture properly.

Was there an Australiopithicus? It sure looks like there was, according to science. Was it an ancestor of mankind? Not according to Scripture, and certainly not according to what science can demonstrate with adequate certainty. Were there dinosaurs? Well, they've got these huge bones at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., that seem to indicate the answer is "yes," and the Bible doesn't describe Satan as having the power to make such things.

My policy is to consider all the data of God's revelation, both that in the Bible and that in creation, and to trust that the truth that they both reveal is mutually compatible. Science hasn't written the final scientific word yet, and we are always trying to improve our understanding of Scripture's original meaning. We have some of the answers, but not all of them. Some questions will no doubt remain unanswered until Jesus returns.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.