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What is the age of the universe?

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In Genesis 1:1, we are told that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible gives no date for the creation; the only hint is that it happened “in the beginning.” In Hebrew, the word for “beginning” is bereshith, literally meaning “head.”

All Christians agree that God created the universe. Where Christians have a difference of opinion is in the interpretation of the word day (Hebrew yom) in Genesis chapter 1. Those who hold to a literal, 24-hour day believe in a comparatively young earth; those who hold to a non-literal, poetic day believe in a much older earth.

Many scholars and Christian scientists believe the word day in Genesis refers to a literal, 24-hour day. This would explain the repetition throughout Genesis 1 of the statement “and there was evening, and there was morning.” One evening and one morning make up one day (in Jewish reckoning, a new day begins at sunset). Others point to the non-literal use of the word day elsewhere in Scripture, e.g., “the day of the Lord,” and argue that evening to morning does not equal a day and should instead be understood as figuratively referring to beginnings and endings of periods of time (Genesis 2:4; 2:27).

If the genealogies in Genesis chapters 5 and 11 and the rest of Old Testament history are interpreted strictly literally, the creation of Adam can be dated to approximately 4000 BC. But this would only date the creation of Adam, not necessarily the creation of the earth, let alone the universe. There is also the possibility of “gaps” of time in the narrative of Genesis 1.

All that to say, the Bible does not explicitly give the age of the universe. Got Questions Ministries takes the position of a young earth and believes literal, 24-hour days in Genesis 1 are a preferred interpretation. At the same time, we do not have serious disagreements with the idea that the earth and the universe might be significantly older than 6,000 years. Whether the differences are explained by gaps or by God creating the universe with the “appearance of age” or by some other factor—a universe older than 6,000 years does not cause significant biblical or theological problems. In other words, this is not an issue over which Christians ought to suffer doubt or discord.

Ultimately, the age of the universe cannot be proved from Scripture or from science. Whether the cosmos is 6,000 years old or billions of years old, both viewpoints (and everything in between) rest on faith and assumptions. It is always wise to question the motives of those who argue the earth “must be” some specific age, and that the evidence could not possibly be interpreted as anything else. There are good and bad reasons, logic, and motivations on all sides of this question. Only one view will ultimately be proved true, but in the meantime some options are more biblical than others.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022