The history of ‘deep time’ is a fascinating one to follow. What I mean by that, is that it’s fascinating to follow how many times the dates changed and their progression, and the infighting and grandstanding with the individuals involved and the dates they were trying to protect. We didn’t start out with a 13.8 billion year old universe and a 4.5 billion year old earth. We arrived there over the course of time and after a lot of fanagling and arm-twisting, and push-pull between the secular parties wishing to separate science from theology.
As I mentioned in my last post, the Greeks from the 3rd and 4th centuries BC, and even earlier perhaps with the Milesian school of Greek philosophy in the sixth century BC, had believed in long ages and had taught a theory of evolution long before Darwin. One can study the writings of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes to see this. Evolutionary myths had also found their way into the religions, philosophies and mythology of countries from Egypt to China. Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism all reflect an evolutionary cosmology as part of their story of origins. One might even begin to argue that the beginning of evolutionary cosmologies and long ages goes back to the Sumerian/Babylonian civilization that arose after the universal and worldwide judgment of God in the Flood of Noah and scattering of people groups at the Tower of Babel in the 3rd millennium BC.
We have to remember that the Hebrew people group have always believed in a recent creation and thousands, not millions and billions, of years for the age of the cosmos and earth. The Jewish calendar of today reflects this; 2013 in the Gregorian calendar is the year AM (Anno Mundi or year of the world) 5773 in the Jewish calendar. That is, according to the Jewish way of reckoning, it has been 5,773 years since ex nihilo creation by God of all that exists. The early Christian Church in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries AD took this reckoning from the Jewish Scriptures and carried it forward. It comes from Genesis 1 and the Biblical chronologies found in Genesis 5, 10 & 11, 1 Chronicles 1, Matthew 1 and Luke 3.
When we come to the beginning of the Christian era we find a fascinating thing. Humans have for the most part, always tried to keep track of time, in an historical sense. Early Christian historians and chronologists were no exception. Eusebius of Caesarea (265-339 AD) was just such an historian and chronologist.
Eusebius was the bishop of Caesarea and a prolific writer. Writing in honor of Emperor Constantine around the time of the Council of Nicea, he put together a book that was a chronology of world history; combining as he did the histories of the Jews, Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans. He used three sources: the Hebrew Bible, Flavius Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, and Julius Africanus’ Chronologia. Africanus (160-240 AD), was considered the father of biblical chronology and may have borrowed from a brief chronology by Theophilus of Antioch (115-180 AD), 50 years earlier. In each historian; Josephus, Theophilus, Africanus, and Eusebius, the date for the age of the creation by God of all things was not yet 6000 years. This was carried forward by later chronologists: Isidore of Seville (560-636), Bede the Venerable (673-735), Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202). When we get to the 1500’s, Martin Luther’s chronology (Supputatio Annorum Mundi) had a creation date of 3961 B.C. A century after Luther, Archbishop of Armaugh, James Ussher calculated a creation date of 4004 B.C. in his Annals of the Old Testament. Ussher’s calculations were placed in the margins of the then very popular King James Bible. The great astronomer Johannes Kepler’s chronology and after him, Isaac Newton’s chronology all had a recent creation of the cosmos and earth, and all were not yet 6000 years to the date of their writings.
The point, mis hijas, is that the church, since its inception and through the ages with the writings of these historians and chronologists has always believed in an approximately 6000 year old date for the cosmos and earth. It wasn’t until the late 1700’s that this changed. ‘Deep time’ would be conceived once again in the birth of modern geology and men like James Hutton, William Playfair, and Charles Lyell. The church would then capitulate, trying to accommodate long ages to Biblical statements. This was disastrous, and we are where we are today with numerous compromise theories vying for market share in the minds of the Christian community. Very few churches, very few denominations, very, very few seminaries and theological institutions teach and believe what the church once believed through 18 centuries of its history. This to a complete shattering and undermining of the gospel we say we believe and preach to an unbelieving nation and world.
With love, I remain,
Dear ol’ Dad
Vaya con Dios mis hijas