Age of the Universe Recorded in the Bible
In the previous chapter, we discussed the creation of the universe written in the Bible. However, the age of the universe identified by astronomical observations is about 13.7 billion years whereas it is only 7 days in the Bible. How can we understand this? This is so called ‘age problem’ and has been puzzled many including theologists.
The reason for having difficulties in explaining the age problem is related with the concept of time we are perceiving. We think that the time flows from present to future direction and can’t be reversed. This fixed concept of the time have prevented us for explaining the age problem. To discuss further, let’s first estimate the age of the universe recorded in the Bible.
According to the Bible, God created everything from universe to human in 7 days. The genealogy of the first human Adam to his descendants is recorded in Genesis chapter 5:
"This is the written account of Adam's line...(Genesis 5:1)”.
If we add up all elapsed time from Adam to his 9th generation Noah, it becomes 1,656 years. The Noah's flood occurred in the day of Noah and if we know when the flood was happened, we can calculate the total age of the universe recorded in the Bible. There are some debates about when the Noah’s flood occurred, but most data suggest that it happened about 7,500 years ago. So, the age of the universe recorded in the Bible is about 9,156 years (7 days+ 1,656 years +7500 years). How can we explain this huge difference age of the universe recorded in the Bible and estimated from astronomy?
To resolve the age problem, let take a close look at the Genesis again. The Biblical record of age from Adam to Noah seems quite accurate, but the dating of the Noah’s flood might have some uncertainty. However, even if the Noah’s flood occurred 75,000 years ago or even 750,000 years ago, it doesn’t affect much to the age of the universe 13.7 billion years. Then, you might be wondering whether the record in the Genesis is wrong or is there some clue about the age of the universe in the Bible? If you read the Genesis carefully and have some basic knowledge of astronomy, you will notice that there is a key to solve the age problem in the first 7 days of creation in the Bible.
Here is a reason. As shown in the figure below, a day in human world is defined by 24 hours, which is the time taken for an earth to make a full rotation along it’s rotation axis. If the earth faces toward the sun, we call it day and if it faces away from the sun, we call it night.
So, to define a day on earth, we need to have earth as well as sun a priori. However, as recorded in the Bible, the earth was created on the 3rd day and the sun was created on the 4th day. God used a day from the 1st day of creation, which is even before the earth and the sun are created. This suggests that a day used in the Genesis is not the same as the day our human defined, but is the day defined by God’s point of view. The length of the human’s day depends on which planet we are living in. If God created us in Jupiter, our day will be about 10 hours whereas it is 243 days if we were created in Venus.
Fig. 13. Earth and Sun have to exist before define a day
Fig. 14. A day in Venus (left) is 243 days and in Jupiter (right) is 10 hours
Now, we understand that the age problem was originated from misinterpreting the 7 days in the Bible in human point of view. Then, how long it will be for the first 7 days in the Genesis in terms of human time scale? This seems a tough question, but if we compare creation process written in the Genesis with the astronomical observations, we can estimate the time scale.
The 1st day of the creation in Genesis is represented by creation of light. This corresponds to the period from start of the Big Bang to the Inflation era, which is about 10-35 seconds (time scale called Plank time). The 2nd day of creation is represented by creation of space which corresponds to the inflation era of 10-32 seconds. The 3rd day of the creation is represented by creation of the earth. The age of the earth estimated from radio-active dating is 4.6 billion years. Thus, the 3rd day of the creation corresponds to 9.1 billion years (13.7 minus 4.6 billion years).
Here, we notice some unexpected result. A day use by God is not fixed, but is changing: either it is very short or very long interval of time. Unlike human’s day on earth (which is fixed to 24 hours), why God’s day is changing? This is probably because of God created the time and governs it. Are there any Biblical evidences that validate this hypothesis? The answer is yes!
In 2 Peter in the Bible, we find the following verse:
“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).
This verse suggests God governs time (by expanding or contracting). Time expansion is well-known by Einstein's theory. According to the theory of special relativity, time can be dilated (expanded) in a moving system. If we are traveling at the speed of light, we won’t be aged due to the time dilation. However, unlike the time expansion, our science is not advanced enough to explain the time contraction.
Fig. 15. Einstein's time dilation equation
In addition to expand or contract time, God can freeze time. The following verse is written in the Joshua:
“The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day (Joshua 10:13)”.
The time freezing was happened when Joshua fought with the kings of Amorites. This verse is another evidence that God governs time. Stopping time is quite amazing, but more surprising fact is time reversal as recorded in the 2 Kings. Hezekiah is one of the Judea kings and reigned between 716 – 697 BC. In 712 BC, he became ill and almost dying. So, Hezekiah prayed to God for healing and God accepted his prayer and performed time reversal as a sign of acceptance.
“The LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz (2 Kings 20:11)”.
The ‘stairway of Ahaz’ is a sun dial used in King Ahaz era and God reversed time 10 steps back.
The time reversal is even harder to understand and can only be heard in science fictions or movies such as ‘Back to the Future’.
Fig. 16. The stairway (sun dial) of Ahaz
In additions to these amazing events, there are many miracles recorded in the Bible. One of the representative miracles is the virgin birth of Jesus. Many people don’t believe this but, the virgin birth (Parthenogenesis) is commonly practiced in the lab in these days. Most of us believe that we are living in a technologically very advanced world. So, if can explain any miracles in the Bible with the current technology, we accept them but if we can’t, we simply reject. However, our current level of technology will look like an infant stage if viewed from God’s point of view. As we discussed in the previous section, creation of the universe written in the Bible looks not convincing in the first place, but if we look closely, then we can find hidden truth behind it. Thus, we have to believe that the Bible is a written record of God’s word of truth.