How old is the earth and does it really matter?
I grew up being taught that the earth is not as old as scientists make it out to be. If Christians take Genesis literally, then the earth cannot be older than 10000 years. For them the Hebrew word “Yom” refers to a literal day and not a period of time. This word “yom” has been a subject of debate amongst theologians and scientists. Young earth creationists argue that when it comes to creation, this word has to be interpreted as a literal day. However one of the things I have come to realize is the limitations of the ancient Hebrew language. Whilst the English language has a variety of words to express different meanings, the ancient Hebrew language does not have that same luxury. There are less than 9000 words in its vocabulary. So when we study the Old Testament, we find the word “yom” being used to indicate a time period anywhere between 12 hours to an indefinite period of time. If a student of the Old Testament limits the meaning of “yom” to just 24 hours, then they would have problems with the other Old Testament verses that uses “yom” because it clearly indicates a longer period of time. I would encourage Christians to do a word study on “yom” to understand this.
Moses has been traditionally regarded as the writer of Psalm 90 and 91. In Psalm 90:4, Moses talks about how a thousand years is like a day gone by in God’s sight. Then in Psalm 90: 5-6, Moses compares how people are swept away by death like grass that sprouts up new in the morning and dies in the evening. If Christians were to take Psalm 90 literally and ignore science, they could easily say that grass lives for only a day. But science tells us otherwise and grass can be both annuals and perennials. So for Moses, “yom” does not have to literally mean 24 hours but rather it indicates an indefinite period of time and yet revealing that God is still very much in control.
My understanding of “yom” in ancient Hebrew then cannot be just defined as being a length of time. Because of the limited words in ancient Hebrew, the focus of the word “Yom” should not be on the time period but on the action that is taking place. When we look at verses that use “yom” we need to look at what is taking place rather than the time period like God creating the world in Genesis 1, or Cain bringing the fruit of the ground to the Lord in Genesis 4, or the reign of Solomon in 1 Kings 11 and so on.
So for me, the question how old is the earth or the length of time God created the world is not the issue to be worried about and debated but the fact that God created the world. I am prepared to personally accept scientific arguments about the age of the earth or how it came to being. For me whether the earth is less than 10,000 years or billions of years old is not something to lose sleep on. The issue is whether we acknowledge that God is involved in creation and He saw that it was good.