Earth age opinions of prominent Christians - pre-1800

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The following is a list of published opinions by prominent Christians, making an explicit declaration as to the age of the earth, prior to the current evolutionary age. The differences in the ages below show two approximate dates for the creation of the world, either about 5500BC or about 4000BC. These two dates arise from the fact that the Greek translation of the old testament favored by the early church differs from the Hebrew Masoretic text in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11. [1]

Contents

List of dates

Name Born-Died Quoted age of Earth (years)
Irenaeus 130-202 less than 6000
Theophilus  ?-185 5529
Clement of Alexandria 150-215 dates Adam at 5592 BC and places creation outside of time
Hippolytus of Rome  ?-235 5500 at the birth of Christ
Julius Africanus 160-240 5500 at the birth of Christ
Origen 182-251 much less than 10,000
Lactantius 240-320 less than 6000
Eusebius of Caesarea 263-339 from Adam to the birth of Christ is 5228 years
Augustine 354-430 less than 6000
Venerable Bede 672-735 3952 years before Christ
George Syncellus  ?-810 5534 years at the resurrection of Christ
John Calvin 1509-1564 less than 6000
James Ussher 1581-1656 4004 at the birth of Christ
John Lightfoot 1602-1675 3928 at the birth of Christ

Quotes

Irenaeus, Against Heresies Vol 5, 28:3

For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works. This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year.[2]

Theophilus, To Autolycus Vol 3, 28

And from the foundation of the world the whole time is thus traced, so far as its main epochs are concerned. From the creation of the world to the deluge were 2242 years. And from the deluge to the time when Abraham our forefather begat a son, 1036 years. And from Isaac, Abraham's son, to the time when the people dwelt with Moses in the desert, 660 years. And from the death of Moses and the rule of Joshua the son of Nun, to the death of the patriarch David, 498 years. And from the death of David and the reign of Solomon to the sojourning of the people in the land of Babylon, 518 years 6 months 10 days. And from the government of Cyrus to the death of the Emperor Aurelius Verus, 744 years. All the years from the creation of the world amount to a total of 5698 years, and the odd months and days. [3]

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies Vol 1, 21

...from Adam to the death of Commodus, five thousand seven hundred and eighty-four years, two months, twelve days.[4]

Hippolytus of Rome, On Daniel, 2:4

For as the times are noted from the foundation of the world, and reckoned from Adam, they set clearly before us the matter with which our inquiry deals. For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year. And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day “on which God rested from all His works.” For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they “shall reign with Christ,” when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.” Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled. And they are not yet fulfilled, as John says: “five are fallen; one is,” that is, the sixth; “the other is not yet come.”[5]

Julius Africanus, Chronography

For why should I speak of the three myriad years of the Phœnicians, or of the follies of the Chaldeans, their forty-eight myriads? For the Jews, deriving their origin from them as descendants of Abraham, having been taught a modest mind, and one such as becomes men, together with the truth by the spirit of Moses, have handed down to us, by their extant Hebrew histories, the number of 5500 years as the period up to the advent of the Word of salvation, that was announced to the world in the time of the sway of the Cæsars. [6]

Origen, Against Celsus Vol 1, 19

After these statements, Celsus, from a secret desire to cast discredit upon the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that, while concealing his wish, intimates his agreement with those who hold that the world is uncreated. For, maintaining that there have been, from all eternity, many conflagrations and many deluges, and that the flood which lately took place in the time of Deucalion is comparatively modern, he clearly demonstrates to those who are able to understand him, that, in his opinion, the world was uncreated. But let this assailant of the Christian faith tell us by what arguments he was compelled to accept the statement that there have been many conflagrations and many cataclysms, and that the flood which occurred in the time of Deucalion, and the conflagration in that of Phæthon, were more recent than any others. And if he should put forward the dialogues of Plato (as evidence) on these subjects, we shall say to him that it is allowable for us also to believe that there resided in the pure and pious soul of Moses, who ascended above all created things, and united himself to the Creator of the universe, and who made known divine things with far greater clearness than Plato, or those other wise men (who lived) among the Greeks and Romans, a spirit which was divine. And if he demands of us our reasons for such a belief, let him first give grounds for his own unsupported assertions, and then we shall show that this view of ours is the correct one.[7]

Lactantius, Divine Institutes Vol 7, 14

Therefore let the philosophers, who enumerate thousands of ages from the beginning of the world, know that the six thousandth year is not yet completed, and that when this number is completed the consummation must take place, and the condition of human affairs be remodelled for the better, the proof of which must first be related, that the matter itself may be plain. God completed the world and this admirable work of nature in the space of six days, as is contained in the secrets of Holy Scripture, and consecrated the seventh day, on which He had rested from His works. But this is the Sabbath-day, which in the language of the Hebrews received its name from the number, whence the seventh is the legitimate and complete number. For there are seven days, by the revolutions of which in order the circles of years are made up; and there are seven stars which do not set, and seven luminaries which are called planets, whose differing and unequal movements are believed to cause the varieties of circumstances and times. Therefore, since all the works of God were completed in six days, the world must continue in its present state through six ages, that is, six thousand years. For the great day of God is limited by a circle of a thousand years, as the prophet shows, who says “In Thy sight, O Lord, a thousand years are as one day.” And as God laboured during those six days in creating such great works, so His religion and truth must labour during these six thousand years, while wickedness prevails and bears rule. And again, since God, having finished His works, rested the seventh day and blessed it, at the end of the six thousandth year all wickedness must be abolished from the earth, and righteousness reign for a thousand years; and there must be tranquillity and rest from the labours which the world now has long endured.[8]

Eusebius of Caesarea, Chronicle, The Hebrews

After Augustus, Tiberius became emperor. In his 15th year, the fourth year of the 201st Olympiad [28 A.D.], our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ the Son of God, appeared amongst men. So from Antiochus Epiphanes until the 15th year of Tiberius, is 201 years. And from Alexander of Macedonia until the same year of Tiberius, is 352 years. And from the second year of Dareius [until the same year of Tiberius], is 548 years. [p131] And from the 15th year of Tiberius until the final siege of Jerusalem in the second year of Vespasianus, is 42 years. From Adam until the second year of Dareius, is 4680 years. And from the second year of Dareius until the 15th year of Tiberius, is 548 years. So the total, from Adam until the 15th year of Tiberius, is 5228 years. From the 15th year of Tiberius until the 20th anniversary of Constantinus Victor Augustus, is 300 years. So the overall total, according to the Hebrews in the Septuagint version, is (?) 5518 years. According to the Jews' Hebrew text, it is 1237 years less; and according to the Samaritans' Hebrew text, it is 935 years less. [9]

Augustine, City of God, Vol 12, 10

Let us, then, omit the conjectures of men who know not what they say, when they speak of the nature and origin of the human race. For some hold the same opinion regarding men that they hold regarding the world itself, that they have always been. Thus Apuleius says when he is describing our race, “Individually they are mortal, but collectively, and as a race, they are immortal.” And when they are asked, how, if the human race has always been, they vindicate the truth of their history, which narrates who were the inventors, and what they invented, and who first instituted the liberal studies and the other arts, and who first inhabited this or that region, and this or that island? they reply, that most, if not all lands, were so desolated at intervals by fire and flood, that men were greatly reduced in numbers, and from these, again, the population was restored to its former numbers, and that thus there was at intervals a new beginning made, and though those things which had been interrupted and checked by the severe devastations were only renewed, yet they seemed to be originated then; but that man could not exist at all save as produced by man. But they say what they think, not what they know. They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.[10]

Venerable Bede, De Temporum Ratione, "On the Reckoning of Time"

Dates the creation at 3952 years before Christ

Georgius Syncellus, Chronography

...on this same holy day of the life-giving resurrection, the 5534th year from the creation of the universe commenced.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol 1, 14

Hence God was pleased that a history of the creation should exist—a history on which the faith of the Church might lean without seeking any other God than Him whom Moses sets forth as the Creator and Architect of the world. First, in that history, the period of time is marked so as to enable the faithful to ascend by an unbroken succession of years to the first origin of their race and of all things. This knowledge is of the highest use not only as an antidote to the monstrous fables which anciently prevailed both in Egypt and the other regions of the world, but also as a means of giving a clearer manifestation of the eternity of God as contrasted with the birth of creation, and thereby inspiring us with higher admiration. We must not be moved by the profane jeer, that it is strange how it did not sooner occur to the Deity to create the heavens and the earth, instead of idly allowing an infinite period to pass away, during which thousands of generations might have existed, while the present world is drawing to a close before it has completed its six thousandth year.[11]

James Ussher, Annals of the World

The difficulties of the Chronologers, perplexed by that love of contention, so termed by Basil, being at last overpassed, I incline to this opinion, that from the evening ushering in the first day of the World, to that midnight which began the first day of the Christian era, there was 4003 years, seventy days, and six temporarie hours; and that the true Nativity of our Saviour was full four years before the beginning of the vulgar Christian era, as is demonstrable by the time of Herods death. For according to our account, the building of Solomons Temple was finished in the 3000 year of the World, and in the 4000 year of the World, the days being fulfilled, in which the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, was to bring forth Christ himself.

John Lightfoot, From the Talmud and Hebraica, Matthew, 2

We thus lay down a scheme of the times when Christ was born: He was born in the year of the world 3928.[12]

References

  1. http://www.setterfield.org/000docs/scriptchron.htm#toadam
  2. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vii.xxix.html
  3. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.iv.ii.iii.xxviii.html
  4. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.iv.i.xxi.html
  5. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iii.iv.i.x.ii.html
  6. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf06.v.v.i.html
  7. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf04.vi.ix.i.xx.html
  8. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.iii.ii.vii.xiv.html
  9. http://www.attalus.org/translate/eusebius5.html#97
  10. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102.iv.XII.10.html
  11. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.xv.html
  12. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lightfoot/talmud.i.iii.html
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