Age of the earth


There are some who believe that the earth is about 5,000 yrs old others that it’s about 4.5 billion yrs old. I know what Genisis says and I believe that the Bible should not be taken totally literally and I am trying to find the offical view of the Vatican on this issuie but have been unable to ascertain it, can anyone help me? I am a historian and an amateur Astronomy and to me science is the tool of God. thank you


You are free to believe whatver you want about the age of the earth. I’m Catholic and believe it is about 4.5 billion years old. This does not contradict any Church teaching.
However, you have to believe that God created the universe out of nothing.


thanks for the reply can you direct me to a place that tell us that it does not contradict church teaching and how does it since in Genisis it says the earth was created in 7 days. thanks


That is about the crux of it all.

Personally I am open to the 'less-than-10,00-years" possibility. I think God can create, say, the Grand Canyon, in a state that looks to be a million years old, if He wants to.

Same with dino the D. They could have watched Noah build the ark, and died laughing at the time.
(sure wish he had smacked those two misquitos)




Here in the Philippines its almost 7am so I am off to work and don’t have time to look up the references.
However, on a quick note the Church does NOT have a teaching that says you must believe the earth is 6000 years old so by definition there is nothing to contradict.


I’m not sure of a specific source at the moment I can send you to. I can say that I have a copy of the New Jerusalem Bible, and in its appendix it has a timetable to place historical events along side biblical events.

I find it interesting in that more “current” events such as the writting of the Gospels are placed where they are believed to fall with respect to things like the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. More interesting is the timeline begins at 2 million BC with a note suggesting early earth. I’m drawing from memory at the moment so don’t take these as accurate, but it lists Adam & Eve around 16000 BC, Cain and Able next to the Iron Age around 9000 BC (hunter gatherers- early buildings and grouped civilizations), Abraham around 1850 BC, Moses at 1250 BC…

The purpose of which is not being definitive in these early dates in as much as the possibility it can coincide with modern science.



315 In the creation of the world and of man, God gave the first and universal witness to his almighty love and his wisdom, the first proclamation of the “plan of his loving goodness”, which finds its goal in the new creation in Christ.

316 Though the work of creation is attributed to the Father in particular, it is equally a truth of faith that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together are the one, indivisible principle of creation.

317 God alone created the universe, freely, directly and without any help.

318 No creature has the infinite power necessary to “create” in the proper sense of the word, that is, to produce and give being to that which had in no way possessed it (to call into existence “out of nothing”) (cf DS 3624).

319 God created the world to show forth and communicate his glory. That his creatures should share in his truth, goodness and beauty - this is the glory for which God created them.

320 God created the universe and keeps it in existence by his Word, the Son “upholding the universe by his word of power” (Heb 1:3), and by his Creator Spirit, the giver of life.

321 Divine providence consists of the dispositions by which God guides all his creatures with wisdom and love to their ultimate end.

322 Christ invites us to filial trust in the providence of our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 6:26-34), and St. Peter the apostle repeats: “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you” (I Pt 5:7; cf. Ps 55:23).

323 Divine providence works also through the actions of creatures. To human beings God grants the ability to cooperate freely with his plans.

324 The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.

Nothing here about the age of the world, or what you’re allowed to believe about it. In fact, the CCC is permeated by references to philosophy and science as ways of better knowing God’s creation and our purpose for being here.

I had a theology text book once (which bore an imprimatur and nihil obstat) that stated there is no contradiction between modern science and Catholic theology with regards to how the universe came to be – i.e., the methods that God employed.



I believe the earth is closer to the 4.5 billion years old than the 5,ooo years claimed by others. This is from CNS about a book by Pope Benedict:

COLOGNE, Germany (CNS) – Pope Benedict XVI has said that he sees no conflict between faith and science in the exploration of the universe’s development, but he has criticized those who see evolution as an explanation for everything. The remarks, made in a discussion he hosted at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, with some of his former students in September last year, have been published in a German book titled “Schoepfung und Evolution” (“Creation and Evolution”). The book was published April 11 by the Sankt Ulrich Verlag publishing house. The students have met annually since 1978 with their former doctoral supervisor, but this is the first time they have published the lectures and discussions. During the discussion, the pope said it was not a matter of “deciding either in favor of a creationism, which out of principle excludes science from its considerations, or in favor of a theory of evolution, which underplays its own gaps and refuses to see questions which go beyond the methodological possibilities of natural science.” What was important, he said, was “the interplay of different dimensions of reason, an interplay which opens up into the road to faith.”

It should be remembered that those who wrote the Book of Genesis did not intend it to be a accurate histroical document in the same sense that we see a histroical document. It was meant to convey what our relation to God was, and it did a beautiful job of that.



I agree with the “less than 10,000 year old” point of view…especially since it is the only way to reconcile the fact that, as St. Paul said, “through one man’s disobedience sin entered the world, and death came by sin…”, which really implies there was no death before sin…(ergo, no evolution).

Moreover I believe in the integrity of the Scripture where it says>>>

"For by the Word of the Lord the heavens were created, and all the host by the breath of His mouth,…for He spoke and IT WAS DONE ; He commanded and IT STOOD FAST". (Psalms33)
Doesn’t sound like evolution to me.:thumbsup:

Heavy Hand


The seven days may not be literal 24 hour days. This is not really that new of an idea. Awhile back I read St. Anselm (I think) who espoused the non-literal position.


The problem I have with taking that position (which is really a compromise to accomodate evolution) is that the ‘order’ of the Creation days makes it untenable.

Most people who take that position fail to realize (usually due to ignorance of Scripture) that the sun, moon , and stars were created the day AFTER the green trees,grass, and fruit bearing trees!:eek: So it really DOESN’T allow one to project evolution into the equation…since we all know that in evolution theory there is no way green herb and trees, etc. can exists for the millions of years without the sun…
…unless they are simply trying to get us to believe God made a mistake in the order of His Creation…NOT! :stuck_out_tongue: At least I’m not buying it.:rolleyes:


Thanks for the post.


Death to man came by sin. Where does that passage exclude death to all other living things?


God also could have created us 24 hours ago and placed in us all our memories so it seems like we have all existed much longer. But would he do that? No. Why not? God does not deceive.


Sure, an individual Catholic can entertain the idea the earth is young, for a few seconds, before examining any geology texts on the question…

The Popes from Pius XII forward have not entertained the idea the earth is young:

“Thirty years ago, on 22 November 1951, my predecessor Pope Pius XII…‘With the same clear and critical gaze with which it examines and judges the facts, it discerns and recognizes there the work of creative Omnipotence, whose strength raised up by the powerful fiat uttered billions of years ago by the creating Mind…’” (JPII on Pius XII, 10/3/1981 to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, “Cosmology and Fundamental Physics”)

“The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer…the Bible…does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven.” (JPII, ibid above)

“…the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the ‘Big Bang’ and has been expanding and cooling ever since… and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life…the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5 - 4 billion years ago.” (International Theological Commission headed by Ratzinger / Benedict, Communion and Stewardship, 2004)

“…science has long since disposed of the concepts that we have just now heard – the idea of a world that is completely comprehensible in terms of space and time, and the idea that creation was built up piece by piece over the course of seven [or six] days. Instead of this we now face measurements that transcend all comprehension. Today we hear of the Big Bang, which happened billions of years ago and with which the universe began its expansion – an expansion that continues to occur without interruption. And it was not in neat succession that the stars were hung and the green of the fields created; it was rather in complex ways and over vast periods of time that the earth and the universe were constructed as we now know them.” (Ratzinger / Benedict XVI, In The Beginning…)

"Now there is another misunderstanding that is constantly found in the ongoing discussion, and I have to deal with it right here at the beginning. I refer to what is called ‘creationism.’ Nowadays the belief in a creator is automatically run together with ‘creationism.’ But in fact to believe in a creator is not the same as trying to understand the six days of creation literally, as six chronological days, and as trying to prove scientifically, with whatever means available, that the earth is 6000 years old. These attempts of certain Christians at taking the Bible absolutely literally, as if it made chronological and scientific statements – I have met defenders of this position who honestly strive to find scientific arguments for it – is called ‘fundamentalism.’ Or more exactly, within American Protestantism this view of the Christian faith originally called itself fundamentalism. Starting from the belief that the Bible is inspired by God, so that every word in it is immediately inspired by Him, the six days of creation are taken in a strict literal way. It is understandable that in the United States many people, using not only kinds of polemics but lawsuits as well, vehemently resist the teaching of creationism in the schools…

“The Catholic position on this is clear. St. Thomas says that ‘one should not try to defend the Christian faith with arguments that are so patently opposed to reason that the faith is made to look ridiculous.’ It is simply nonsense to say that the world is only 6000 years old. To try to prove this scientifically is what St. Thomas calls provoking the irrisio infidelium, the scorn of the unbelievers. It is not right to use such false arguments and to expose the faith to the scorn of unbelievers. This should suffice on the subject of ‘creationism’ and ‘fundamentalism’ for the entire remainder of this catechesis; what we want to say about it should be so clear that we do not have to return to the subject.” (Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, Catechetical Lecture for 11/13/2005)

Phil P


In God’s time, a day could have been a million years in our earthly human concept of what time is. Did God create the universe and everything in the universe in 6 “days”? sure, but His day may be our million years.


I’m not a Catholic, but it seems to me that if the Church had to list all the things that *didn’t *contradict church teaching, deforestation would be advanced considerably (though I suppose the info could be stored electronically).

Wouldn’t the burden of proof be on someone who claimed that an old earth *did *contradict Church teaching?



Welcome to the forums HH

What most people realize is that on the first day God created light, not necessarily the sun and moon, perhaps another light source which of course could have provided the necessary energy for the development of the “green trees, grass, and fruit bearing trees”.

[] Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. 2 And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters. 3 And God said: Be light made. And light was made. 4 And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness. 5 And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day.

Scripture is not a complete history, it isn’t intended to be. God never says this is everything “I” did (John chapters 20 & 21). Fortunately God did provide us His Church which is guided to all truth (John chapters 14, 15 & 16).
The point is the Church says Scripture and science do not contradict on this, why try to make the contradiction?


Interesting… so, if God’s word about creation is viewed or interpreted as an allegory, then what should be said of other events in the Bible… like the parting of the Red Sea and Exodus, or the Great Flood?

Jesus mentions Noah specifically in the Gospel of Mathew:

23 For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man. Mathew 24: 37-39.

Was the Great Flood an allegory, or a story written in “order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe.”

According to the St. Thomas quote you gave, anything appearing to be unreasonable in the mind of others should not be made as to not provoke the scorn of unbelievers.

Herein lies the problem: when you apply a litmus test of what is reasonable or not, you open the door to discounting pretty much all of what the Word of God stipulates.

Ultimately, when you begin to associate much of God’s Word with symbolism, allegories and metaphors you then begin to reduce God’s authority. God then becomes defined by what our mind can only comprehend, not on the awesomeness of what is possible and what is capable by a power we can only begin to imagine.

I have no problem with a young earth… because I dare not put God in a box that can define his sovereignty over what is possible or not, or what is reasonable or not.


When we read the Old Testament we read it with knowledge from the New Testament, thereby reading Scripture in its proper context. Jesus clearly teaches us using parables, allegory, metaphors. It would make perfect sense to understand the Words of God in the OT in the same light. In fact, Jesus teaches us exactly this in John:

[]John 14:10 Do you not believe, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself. But the Father who abideth in me, he doth the works.

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