How do you reconcile the Biblical date (Ussher) for Adam, with the age of
Homo Sapiens of approx. 150,000 years?
First of all, a bit of history. Bishop Ussher’s date is not
authoritative. He claimed that the universe was created on October 23,
4004 BC. He used lengths of reigns of kings of Israel which would not be
accepted by current scholarship. It is an oddity of history that for some
reason his published “age” of the universe caught on and became a sort of
almost official “Christian” age of the universe.
Actually, this minor criticism is not really relevant to your question.
The real question is whether it is true that one can use information in
the Old Testament to calculate the age of the earth. For this to be
possible, two assumptions must be made.
1. There are no “gaps” in the biblical geneaologies. In other words, when
the OT writers called so and so the “son of” somebody else, we must take
it literally as the latter person was born to the former.
2. The “days” of Genesis chapter one are literal twenty-four hour periods.
Both of these are discussed thoroughly in Douglas Jacoby’s book, “Genesis,
Science and History.” (www.ipibooks.com). The second is discussed even
more thoroughly in my book “Is There a God?” (also at www.ipibooks.com).
Let me discuss the first. It is common knowledge among scholars that it
was a Jewish custom to describe the grandsons, great grandsons and
occasionally even farther removed descendents of a father as his “son.”
It is almost certain that the geneaologies in Matthew and Luke, for
example, have significant gaps. In other words, in Matthew 1:14, where
one finds “Zadok, the father of Akim,” we can assume that Akim was a
direct male descendent of Zadok, but we cannot assume that he was his son
in the sense that western cultures would use the word. I believe that we
can apply reasonably good dates to the biblical figures back to Abraham.
However, before Abraham, trying to apply a particular date to the people
mentioned in Genesis is not possible. When did Adam live? Assuming, of
course, that he did live (and because of my faith in the Bible, I do
believe he lived), we cannot say when he lived. Almost certainly 4004 BC
is significantly an underestimation of how long ago Adam lived.
The second point is not terrifically important to your question, since
Adam was created during the last “day” of creation. Nevertheless, I
believe, based on careful research and consideration of the evidence, the
style of Hebrew writing, and for other reasons (see my book Is There a
God), that the “days” of Genesis are not literal twenty-four hour periods;
rather I believe that these are metaphorical days which represent great
periods of time over which God created the universe and the earth as we
find it today. I believe Biship Ussher is massively off in his estimate.
Nevertheless, the current scientific estimates for the appearance of truly
modern human beings, although probably less than your quoted 150,000
years, certainly seems too long ago to fit the description of Adam and
Eve, even if we allow that the geneaologies have gaps. What is the answer
to this fact? I have a couple of suggestions. However, I will admit I do
not have a definitive answer. One possibility is that the gaps in
genaeologies in Genesis are actually quite big. In other words, Adam and
Eve did indeed live tens of thousands of years ago. Another possibility
is that God allowed relatively modern-appearing proto-humans to exist, or
even to “evolve,” yet chose to create the first true humans, Adam and Eve,
into whom he breathed his spirit and to whom he gave a soul in the
relatively more recent past. We cannot do the experiment and go into the
past to give a definite answer to the question of exactly how and when
Adam and Eve fit into natural history. What we do have is a biblical
account which I know is inspired, because the entire Bible shows
convincing evidence of being of divine origin. One of the thinks I like
to emphasize is that we need to recognize what we know by evidence and
what we know by faith. I know by evidence that the Bible is from God,
that the universe was created and that life was created. I do not know by
evidence that Adam and Eve existed, as I have no scientific proof or
otherwise that they live. I know about Adam and Eve by faith in the only
truly reliable, inspired book (or set of books, actually) ever
To summarize, the date used by Bishop Ussher is not reliable. Even
extremely conservative scholars would put the creation of Adam and Eve
earlier than Ussher’s date. Allowing for the fact that Jewish
geneaologies are known to include gaps by design, the creation of Adam and
Eve may be pushed back considerably. In the end, I cannot give you a
definitive statement about the date of their creation. I freely admit
that I believe in the Genesis account by faith in the veracity of the
Bible. Exactly where this miraculous creation of the first man and woman
created in God’s image fits into scientific data, I am not sure.
John Oakes, PhD