Re: History of 6000 Year old creation

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Sat Jul 06 2002 - 05:12:22 EDT

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    Hi Michael

    Your comment about Buffon is tantalising. I was under the impression ne was
    close to being a lapsed catholic with a near deathbed revival. can you tell us


    Michael Roberts wrote:

    > Dear Stephen
    > Will this be OK for starters - my chapter out of the book The Discovery of
    > Time ed S McCready . I wrote this two years ago and now find I was not
    > strong enough on the lack of YEC in the 18th century. Recently I have found
    > that it was Buffon who devised the Gap Theory in 1770s and not Chalmers. It
    > really stuffs up YEC as something which went out in c1660s with a slight
    > revival in the 1820s to 1840 and bopped down by such evangelicals as
    > Sedgwick and Hitchcock and really only dates back to 1961 when M and W wrote
    > their little book.
    > Michael
    > *******
    > The Early church
    > The early Christians were more concerned about time and chronology and soon
    > began to elucidate the biblical chronology. Until 400AD the vast majority of
    > Christians believed that the earth would last only 6000 years and had
    > existed for about 5500 years when Christ was born. They argued the latter
    > from taking all biblical chronologies, especially those in Genesis 5 and 11,
    > literally. The former idea stemmed from "Chiliasm" - a belief that the
    > earth would last Six days of millennia (from Psalm 90 vs 4 and 2 Peter 3 vs
    > 8). This was proclaimed, rather than reasoned, as in the Epistle of Barnabas
    > (c130 AD); "Therefore, my children, in six days - six thousand years, that
    > is - there is going to be the end of everything." This concern with the end
    > of the world, or the coming of the Millennium, may explain their great
    > interest in chronology.
    > An early example is Ad Autolycum by Theophilus of Antioch. Little is known
    > about him beyond that he became Bishop of Antioch in 169 AD and wrote this
    > volume after the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD. He was a Greek and was
    > strongly influenced by Jewish Christians. At the end there is a chronology
    > from creation to the death of Marcus Aurelius (d 180 AD), a duration of 5695
    > years, suggesting that Creation occurred in 5515 BC. The chronologies are
    > detailed and calculated from the biblical data and are not far off Ussher's
    > compilations and today's' estimates from Abraham to the Exile.
    > Theophilus was highly literalistic, while others, like Augustine, took the
    > days of Genesis allegorically; few reckoned the earth to be more than a few
    > thousand years old.
    > The Renaissance
    > The Renaissance was a time of broadening of horizons and exploration.
    > Columbus discovered the New World; Copernicus (1473-1543) rejected the
    > Ptolemaic system and proposed heliocentricity as the best explanation of the
    > relation of the sun and planets. There was a revival in the study of ancient
    > texts, classical and biblical, which also resulted in the Reformation. In
    > all this flowering of exploration, scholarship and literature there was a
    > sense of the unity of knowledge.
    > It also marked the dawn of a historical consciousness but concepts were few
    > and the Scriptures were some of few texts, which went back to the earliest
    > history. Thus attempts at the history of the world involved the fusing of
    > biblical and classical writings. An example is Sir Walter Ralegh's
    > (1552?-1618) History of the World, which he published in 1614 while in the
    > Bloody tower of the Tower of London. Ralegh considered the world to be
    > created in about 4000 BC and also gave a long dissertation on the four
    > rivers of the Garden of Eden (Genesis chap 2). Ralegh's date was the same
    > proposed by the Protestant reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546), the Roman
    > Catholic Cardinal Bellarmine (1542-1621), and the devisor of the map
    > projection, Mercator (1512-1594). A century earlier Columbus (1451-1506) was
    > more generous with 5443 BC. These few dates show how widely accepted a date
    > of 4000 to 5000 BC was for the origin of the earth. The majority of
    > Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians concurred on about 4000BC and the
    > Geneva Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) typically reckoned "the present
    > world is drawing to a close before it has completed its six thousandth
    > year."
    > Chiliasm
    > As the Reformation progressed some developed a revamped Chiliasm. In the
    > early 1600s the Dutch Protestant theologian Josef Scaliger put creation at
    > 25 October 3950 BC. (Autumn was a favoured time for Creation, as the fruits
    > would provide sustenance for the winter.) The most well-known Chiliaist was
    > Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh (1581-1656). Ussher, whose uncle was an
    > ancestor of the Queen (through an illegitimate niece of the Duke of
    > Wellington), was a very able scholar and no obscurantist. He became
    > Archbishop of Armagh in 1625. The most well-known of his works was Annales
    > Veteris Testamenti (1650), which was a solid piece of chronological
    > scholarship in which he argued from historical grounds that Jesus was born
    > not in 4BC. But he is remembered for his date of creation - 4004 BC. Despite
    > popular representations, he did not arrive at this figure from arithmetic
    > applied to dates of patriarchs and other Old Testament figures. To Ussher
    > there were six Chiliastic days of 1000 years apiece followed by the seventh
    > day of the Millennium. There were four Chiliaistic days before Christ and
    > thus Creation took place in 4004 BC, on the night before 23 October. Adam
    > was created on 28 October. This date causes amusement to many, but the rest
    > of Ussher's chronology was very sound for the 17th century as he was a
    > careful scholar. ( figure n.) His chronological calculations for the rest of
    > the Old Testament are close to today's estimates. Had not Ussher's
    > chronology been inserted in many English Bibles from 1704, he would probably
    > have been forgotten, except to historians who valued his careful work.
    > Theories of the Earth, 1660-1710
    > The Royal Society of London, founded in 1660, epitomised the flowering of
    > science both in Britain and the continent. The work of Robert Boyle, Isaac
    > Newton and others in physics and chemistry needs no introduction. Less
    > well-known is the natural history of John Ray (1627-1705), Edward Lhwyd
    > (1660-1709) and others. The period also saw the beginnings of a scientific
    > study of the earth and their findings were published in turgid volumes known
    > as "Theories of the Earth". On a first reading these seem to be a literal
    > reading of Genesis stories with a few semi-scientific glosses. A closer read
    > shows them to be more profound as they meld together the Bible, the
    > classics, almost mediaeval "book" learning with the citing of endless
    > authorities and scientific insight in a Chaos-Restitution interpretation of
    > Genesis One. Here they shared the outlook of most theologians (except
    > Ussher!) and literary writers such as Thomas Traherne and Alexander Pope.
    > Instead of taking the Creation story to teach creation in six short days,
    > writers, following an interpretation going back to the early Church Fathers,
    > claimed from Genesis (Chapter one verse one) that God first created Chaos
    > (without form and void) and after an interval recreated it in six days. The
    > duration of Chaos was undefined. With Ussher it was twelve hours, but for
    > most it was a long and unspecified duration. Some, notably Thomas Burnet
    > (1635?-1715), Edmond Halley (1656-1742) and William Whiston (1667-1752),
    > reckoned the days to be more than twenty-four hours. Halley attempted a
    > calculation of the age of the earth from the sea's salinity, but came to no
    > firm conclusions other than it was tens of thousands of years old. Likewise
    > theological writers of the day; Bishop Simon Patrick (1626-1707) reckoned
    > that God first created Chaos and then later re-ordered it in Six Days. He
    > said of the duration of Chaos, 'It might be . a great while;.' Few accepted
    > Ussher's date of 4004 BC for the initial Creation, though most accepted that
    > humanity first appeared in about the year 4000 BC, hence the general
    > acceptance of the rest of Ussher's chronology. The extension of time by the
    > "Theorists" and contemporary theologians was minute compared to the billions
    > of years of geological time, but was, as Stephen Gould wrote of Whiston's
    > argument that the day of Genesis one was a year long was, "a big step in the
    > right direction." In Britain the way was open for a longer time-scale.
    > Fossils and Geology
    > Not until the late 17th Century were "formed stones" or fossils recognised
    > as imprints of dead creatures rather than formed as "sports of nature" in
    > place. Only then could "fossils" be used to demonstrate former life and it
    > took a century before the succession of fossils was used to put strata into
    > historical order. Possibly the first person who used the succession of
    > fossils to demonstrate evolution was Charles Darwin in a notebook in 1838,
    > shortly before he "discovered" Natural Selection. In the 1690s there were
    > insufficient grounds to suggest "Deep Time" or the continual reworking of
    > the earth's crust as understandings of erosion were rudimentary. Ray,
    > Whiston and others cannot be expected to have done otherwise.
    > Most of the writers had some "scientific" understanding and often spent as
    > much time refuting each other as suggesting new ideas. Some were mostly
    > speculative, as was Thomas Burnet's The Theory of the Earth. Despite his
    > devotion to the Deluge, he sought to explain phenomena naturalistically and
    > somewhat extended the duration of Genesis One. John Ray's Miscellaneous
    > Discourses concerning the dissolution of the world shows the beginning of
    > careful observation on earth processes and questions over geological time.
    > After reading the first edition of Ray's Miscellaneous Discourses, Lhwyd
    > wrote to Ray on 30 February 1691, 'Upon the reading on your discourse of the
    > rains continually washing away and carrying down earth from the mountains,
    > it puts me in mind.which I observed', and then described what he had
    > observed in Snowdonia. He described innumerable boulders which had "fallen"
    > into the Llanberis valleys. (Most of these are glacial erratics.) As 'but
    > two or three that have fallen in the memory of any man., in the ordinary
    > course of nature we shall be compelled to allow the rest many thousands of
    > years more than the age of the world.' Ray commented on Lhwyd's findings and
    > seemed deliberately to avoid facing the logic of Lhwyd's comments. He nailed
    > his colours firmly to the fence, and did not explicitly reject an Ussher
    > chronology. However from his discussion of Chaos and other comments, it is
    > fair to conclude that he accepted that the earth was considerably more than
    > five-and-a-half thousand years old, but left the reader to decide.
    > Time in the Enlightenment
    > Often the 18th Century is presented as a geological Dark Age until Hutton
    > shed light with his theory in 1788. The 18th century did not see a rapid
    > advance in geology until about 1780, as observers continued the work of
    > their 17th century forbears. Geologically the most important question was
    > how to work out the historical succession of strata and that occurred at the
    > end of the century.
    > Two who broke loose from the Theories of the Earth were de Maillet and
    > Buffon. Benoit de Maillet (1656-1738) was a French diplomat with a sound
    > grasp of the geography and geology of the Mediterranean and amplified
    > Cartesian cosmogony. His work Telliamed: or conversations between an Indian
    > philosopher and a French missionary did not appear until 1748, though
    > manuscripts had circulated from 1720. It was an odd work both accepting
    > mermaids and reporting careful observation on marine deposition. Our main
    > interest is that the author reckoned the earth to be over two billion years
    > old and according to Albritton the work acted as a leaven among 18th century
    > geologists.
    > Buffon
    > Buffon, born as Georges-Louis Leclerc (1707-88) was the Keeper of the Jardin
    > de Roi in Paris and in 1749 published the first volumes of Histoire
    > Naturelle, but by his death in had published only 35 of the projected 50
    > volumes. His work was widely available in English. His classification of the
    > natural world is of no concern to us, but his discussion of Whiston, Burnet
    > and Woodward in the first volume of his Natural History is. He had little
    > time for these Theories of the Earth and said, 'I reject these vain
    > speculations.' However according to Roger, his biographer, Buffon borrowed
    > more from Whiston than he was willing to admit. It also shows that the
    > Theorists' longer timescale was wellknown on the continent. Buffon also
    > carried out experiments on the cooling of red-hot globes of iron and then
    > applied his findings to the cooling of a globe the size of the earth and
    > estimated that the age of the earth to be about 75,000 years. Though vastly
    > greater than 4000 BC, it was not drastically different from British writers
    > in the previous century and gave some experimental data to support them. In
    > unpublished manuscripts Buffon reckoned the earth to be 3 million years old.
    > In 1751 he was censured by the theologians at the Sorbonne and responded by
    > claiming that the first verse of Genesis should read; "In the beginning God
    > created the materials of the heavens and the earth". This, in fact, is
    > similar to the ideas of the initial creation of chaos, which was so widely
    > held - at least by Protestants in Britain and Immanuel Kant.
    > Chaos and Time
    > Buffon went further than his contemporaries on the duration of time but the
    > consensus of a Chaotic existence of matter in the early phases of the
    > creation found its way into 18th century poetry. One was Erasmus Darwin
    > (1731-1802), whose early attempt of putting forward a theory of evolution
    > was in rhyming couplets. If Buffon is a forerunner of Charles Darwin,
    > Erasmus Darwin is doubly so. Charles wrote of his grandfather, 'he fully
    > believed in God as Creator of the universe.' and Erasmus's fin de siecle
    > poems on evolution, considered by Horace Walpole as "sublime", reflect
    > current understandings of Creation and Chaos,
    > '---- Let there be light!' proclaimed the Almighty Lord.
    > Astonished Chaos heard the potent word:-
    > Through all his realms the kindling Ether runs,
    > And the mass starts into a million suns;'
    > The views of Erasmus Darwin on the age of the earth are similar to
    > Christians of the time. Take William Williams (1717- 1791), who wrote the
    > hymn Guide me O thou great redeemer. In 1756 he wrote Golwg ar Deymas Crist
    > (A View of Christ's Kingdom) an epic poem answering the Deists. Chapter II
    > of his epic poem is an account of Creation. There were two creations: the
    > creation of the basic materials - Chaos - and the creation of the universe
    > with those materials, all of which God accomplished 'in one hundred and
    > forty four hours', as in Genesis. Though the Re-creation took 144 hours,
    > Pantycelyn gives no indication how long Chaos had existed. Most other
    > religious writers held similar views and only a minority espoused a young
    > earth. At the end of the 18th century they also sang about it as in Joseph
    > Haydn's oratorio The Creation, with the orchestral introduction on The Chaos
    > followed by the aria 'And a new created world sprung up at God's command'.
    > The libretto of The Creation dates from England in about 1750. An unknown
    > poet took Milton's ideas in Paradise Lost and wrote it for Handel. In 1792
    > Haydn obtained a copy while in England and put it to music on returning to
    > Austria.
    > Many poets incorporated Chaos when versifying on Creation or related
    > matters. The ubiquity of Chaos is evidenced by the Black poet Phillis
    > Wheatly's Thoughts on the Works of Providence;
    > That called creation from eternal night.
    > 'Let there be light,' He said: and from his profound
    > Old Chaos heard
    > Wheatley was a slave born in Africa who was purchased and treated as one of
    > the family by John Wheatley of Boston. The Wheatleys, slave-owners and
    > slave, moved in Evangelical circles and are more properly considered in
    > respect of abolitionism, but this sheds light on how the concept of Chaos
    > and thus of the duration of time was widely held. Sadly Phillis died in
    > poverty at the age of 31 in 1784.
    > Hutchinsonian Literalism
    > Very different are the clerical scientists John Hutchinson (1674-1737) and
    > his disciple Alexander Catcott (1725-79). In 1748 Hutchinson wrote Moses'
    > Principia to oppose Newton. Both lay great store on Genesis and sought to
    > correct the "errors" of Newtonianism. Far less is made of the Chaos than in
    > the Theories and Hutchinson seems not to hold that the period of chaos or
    > tohu va bohu was of any significant duration. In 1868 his disciple Catcott
    > wrote his Treatise on the Deluge which implied that Chaos was of short
    > duration. The Hutchinsonian ideas were held by some until the early 19th
    > century and the last Hutchinsonian scientist seems to have been the
    > entomologist William Kirby (1759-1850), who argued for a Six-Day creation in
    > his Bridgewater Treatise. It would be fair to see Hutchinsonianism as a
    > biblicist reaction to the prevalent Newtonianism.
    > For the first three-quarters of the century there was no consensus on the
    > duration of time. What the uneducated believed no one can say with certainty
    > but the case of Phillis Wheatley should caution against assuming a mere six
    > thousand years as only the literate have left any evidence. A minority did
    > take the Bible literally and adhere to an Ussher chronology,
    > but most Christians, whether evangelical or not, stretched matters with an
    > indefinite chaos with humanity limited to 6,000 years. It is difficult to
    > decide whether the lines of William Cowper (1731-1800), an evangelical poet,
    > who also wrote a poem of appreciation to the botanical poet, Erasmus Darwin,
    > reflect a concern for geology or not,
    > Some drill and bore
    > The solid earth, and from the strata there
    > Extract a register, by which we learn
    > That he who made it, and reveal'd its date
    > To Moses, was mistaken in its age.
    > William Cowper "The Task"
    > The Discovery of Deep Time.
    > Until the end of the 18th Century the vastness of time was little
    > understood. Though the priority for the discovery of Deep Time is often
    > assigned to James Hutton (1726-97), the Scottish physician and scientist,
    > the "discovery" was also made by several scientists in Europe in the last
    > two decades of the 18th century; the Genevan polymath and mountaineer Henri
    > de Saussure (1740-99) in the Alps near Chamonix in 1778, the much-maligned
    > German mineralogist Gottlieb Werner (1749-1817), the Parisian
    > palaeontologists Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) and Alexander Brogniart and in
    > England, the Canal engineer William Smith (1769-1839) working near Bath.
    > None should be given all the credit. However by 1800 the age of the earth
    > was known to be millions of years.
    > Bound up with this was the development of the use of fossils to determine
    > stratigraphy and the historical order of rocks. Before long the succession
    > of life was known with the attendant fact of extinction. The stratigraphic
    > column was slowly worked out and was the main task of geologists until
    > mid-century and slowly the familiar sequence of Cambrian, Ordovician, etc.
    > was worked out.
    > Yet no precise figure could be given to the age of the earth; de Saussure
    > thought the earth to be very old, his compatriot Luc (1727-1817)
    > thought it to be tens of thousands, yet in the 1780s Abb» Soulavie was
    > denounced for impiety by fellow Abb» Barruel for allegedly giving an
    > estimate of 356,913,770 years. By 1820 the eccentric British
    > clerical-geologist William Buckland (1784-1856) was reckoning "millions of
    > millions" of years. There was no concerted attack by the church as most
    > educated Christians happily accepted geologists findings, which was not
    > surprising as many were clergy. Prominent at the end of the 18th century
    > were John Playfair (1748-1819) of Edinburgh and Joseph Townsend (1739-1816)
    > of Bath, who publicised the work of Hutton and Smith respectively. Some
    > churchmen did oppose geology, but they were always a small minority.
    > Christian Accommodation
    > At the beginning of the 19th Century many Christian or nominally Christian,
    > writers modified the consensus of the Theorists. The sequence based on
    > Genesis One to Eleven of the initial creation of Chaos, re-ordering Creation
    > in Six Days with man being created in about 4000BC and then the Deluge
    > evolved into a vastly extended Chaos to allow for the vast time of geology
    > and a multiplication of Deluges. Theologians quietly slipped geology into
    > the Chaos. The first theologian seems to have been Thomas Chalmers
    > (1780-1847) at St Andrews in the winter of 1802. In 1816 the future
    > Archbishop of Canterbury, John Bird Sumner (1780-1862) published similar
    > ideas in A Treatise on the Records of Creation. Both Chalmers and Sumner
    > were Evangelicals - of an intellectual bent. This harmonisation of geology
    > and Genesis was widely accepted and prevented any major conflict, but from
    > 1820 to 1850 a minority tried to dismiss geology and insist on a Six-Day
    > Creation. Their strongest opponents were the clerical geologists and their
    > supporters.
    > From about 1810 the main concern of English geologists was simply to work
    > out the stratigraphic order of rocks before asking more philosophical
    > questions. Most geologists accepted some kind of multiple Catastrophism with
    > Noah's Deluge as the last of these, and were known as Diluvialists. In the
    > 1820s some geologists, notably Charles Lyell (1797-1875), rejected
    > Catastrophism and suggested a more gradual Uniformitarianism. Thus meetings
    > of the Geological Society of London were often fiery debates between the
    > Fluvialists led by Lyell and the Diluvialists led by the Rev W.D.Conybeare
    > (1787-1857), when no holds were barred. These were great fun as were the
    > associated dinner parties where the port flowed freely. The debates are
    > often presented as if it were Lyell who introduced notions of a great age.
    > He did not as all of the "Conybeare Sect" (as Lyell called his friends)
    > accepted vast geological ages. Some of the humour may be seen in Henry De la
    > Beche's watercolour cartoon lampooning Lyell's "piddling" geology. De la
    > Beche (1796-1855) was the first director of the British Geological Survey.
    > However the result of Uniformitarianism was that the Deluge was no longer
    > seen as geologically significant or as the last of many Catastrophes, but
    > many geologists were not entirely convinced of Lyell's Uniformitarianism.
    > Lyell scarcely affected opinions on the age of the earth.
    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: "Stephen J. Krogh" <>
    > To: <>
    > Sent: Wednesday, July 03, 2002 7:56 PM
    > Subject: History of 6000 Year old creation
    > >
    > > I am looking for references for how old is the concept of the 6000 yr old
    > > earth or creation. I know this was discussed in earlier posts but am
    > unable
    > > to find them. Thanks.
    > >
    > >
    > > Stephen J. Krogh, P.G.
    > > The PanTerra Group
    > >
    > >

    "It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can 
    long survive
    when men have seen the earth as a pale crescent dwindling against the stars,
    until at last they look for it in vain".

    Arthur C. Clarke

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