Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The Christian Bible tells us that the Earth is the first thing that God created, along with "the heavens". Why doesn't the Bible explicitly state when the creation occurred in relation to the time the Bible was written? What can science tell us about the origins of the Earth? Do our observations of the universe conflict with the Bible? How old do other religions claim the Earth to be and do their holy books support different conclusions?
This Bible question has been discussed in more detail on a previous episode of the Bible Inspectors Podcast. You can stream the episode below or continue reading on to view our sources for the various theological and secular positions.
Young Earth - The age of the Earth can be determined using a literal interpretation of the Bible by adding up the genealogies of ancient Biblical figures and estimating from there. Scientific methods for dating the age of the Earth are unreliable and contradict the Bible. The date of creation has been estimated by a wide range of "Young-Earth" Christian scholars to be anywhere from 5501 B.C. to 3836 B.C. Using these estimates the age of the Earth is approximated to be 6,000 years. (Answers in Genesis: How Old Is the Earth?)
Old Earth - A literal reading of Genesis in the original Hebrew can include the interpretation that "days" were long epochs of time. "Old-Earth" creationists accept the geological and cosmological estimates of a 4.5 billion year old Earth supported by 40 different methods of radiometric dating and numerous non-radiometric measurements. There is no conflict between the findings of modern science and a literal reading of the original Hebrew text of Genesis. (Evidence For God: A Biblical Case for Old-Earth Creationism)
Old Earth - "With a view toward encouraging a culture of biblical and scientific literacy and overcoming the anti-intellectual legacy of fundamentalism that sustains this particular "scandal of the evangelical mind", we offer a synoptic critique of young-earth creationism while developing and defending an evangelically acceptable alternative for understanding the relationship between God's works and God's words." (Journal Article: Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: A Biblical and Scientific Critique of Young-Earth Creationism PDF)
Unknown or Unimportant - "Like the theory of evolution the Catholic Church has no official teaching on the age of the Earth. Catholics are free to believe that the Earth is 6000 years old or that it is 4.5 Billion years old. The Catholic Church simply teaches that everything was created by the of Hand God in His own "time" and design." (Crawford County Catholics: Does the Catholic Church teach that the Earth is 6000 or 4.5 Billion Years Old?)
Young Earth - The age of the Earth cannot be determined through examination. The Torah is the only reliable evidence for determining age. As of the time of this writing, the age of the universe is 5,761 years. (Chabad.org: How Old is the Universe According to Judaism?)
Unknown, but likely Old Earth - The Torah does not necessarily contradict the findings of modern science concerning the age of the universe. The world may be only 6,000 years but appear to be billions of years old. Applying a relativistic approach to interpreting the length of "days" in Genesis can give us an age of the universe that agrees with modern science. (Aish.com: Age of the Universe)
Old Earth - "The Quranic account of creation is in line with modern scientific thought about the development of the universe and life on earth. Muslims acknowledge that life developed over a long period of time, but see Allah's power behind it all." (About Religion: Creation of the Universe)
Old Earth - Elements of the Quran correlate well to known modern scientific realities about relativity. The Quran demonstrates an understanding of relativistic time that says the Earth should be roughly 1/3rd the age of the universe due to its distance from God's Throne. The 6 days of creation do not conflict with the scientific observations which say the universe is 13.7 billion years old and that the Earth is 4.57 billion years old. (Miracles of Quran: Time is Relative - Age of Universe)
Very Old Earth - The age of the Earth is calculated from the age of Brahma as known from the Vedic chronology of Hinduism. The current age of this Earth is 155.5 trillion years. (Bhakti Yoga Meditation: Hinduism: Age of the Earth according to Vedic chronology)
~4.5 Billion Year Earth - "This dating is based on evidence from radiometric age dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the radiometric ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples." (Wikipedia: Age of the Earth)
~13.8 Billion Year Universe - "Measurements of the cosmic background radiation give the cooling time of the universe since the Big Bang, and measurements of the expansion rate of the universe can be used to calculate its approximate age by extrapolating backwards in time." (Wikipedia: Age of the universe) The difference in ages between the Earth and the universe shows that they were not created at the same time. (Space.com: How Old Is The Universe?)
Formation of Earth - Earth and the universe have different ages because the Earth was formed via gravity from material that had existed in different forms since the beginning of the universe. (Space.com: How Was Earth Formed?)
Rebuttals to Young Earth - "101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe" is an extensive list of arguments for young Earth creationism (YEC), compiled by Don Batten in June 2009 for Creation Ministries International (CMI). Although the list claims to have 101 points, several are just reworded duplicates and one is even a copy of the preceding item. Almost every reference link in the original article either goes directly to creationist sources, or to popular science magazines which support creationism. In the few cases where reputable peer-reviewed scientific papers are cited, their content is severely misrepresented or incorrectly interpreted. (RationalWiki: 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe Analysis)