No matter where I speak in the world, people in my audiences press me for a precise date for God creating the first human beings, Adam and Eve. Seeing how disappointed they are when I tell them that neither the Bible nor science offers an exact date gives me some understanding of why Archbishop James Ussher and John Lightfoot felt compelled to calculate, to the day and the hour, the timing of God’s creation of Adam and Eve.
Best Biblical Dates for Adam and Eve
Using the numbers associated with the genealogies in Genesis, Exodus, Kings, and Chronicles, Ussher and Lightfoot determined that Adam was created on October 23 at 9 a.m., 45th meridian time, in 4004 BC. Their determination presumed that these genealogies were exhaustive—with no generations missing. A wealth of biblical scholarship proves otherwise.1
Though the biblical genealogies offer little help in establishing Adam’s creation date, three other biblical clues do. First, Genesis 10:25 states that the world was divided in the time of Peleg. Given the context of God scattering humanity over the whole face of Earth, this statement probably refers to the time when the Bering land bridge became the Bering Strait. Reliable carbon-14 dating places this event at 11,000 years ago. This date implies that the worldwide scattering of humanity must have predated 9000 BC and that Noah’s flood must have occurred before 9000 BC. The creation of Adam would have occurred much earlier yet.
Second, Genesis 2 describes four known rivers flowing out from named locations—in the mountains of Arabia and the mountains surrounding Mesopotamia—and meeting together in the Garden of Eden. (Adam was placed in Eden shortly after he was created, and Eve was created in Eden.) The only time these rivers can join together on dry land is when most of the Persian Gulf is dry.2 The drying up of most of the Persian Gulf requires that Earth be in an ice age. The last ice age persisted from 120,000 to 13,000 years ago and the ice age before that from 135,000 to 230,000 years ago.
Third, the earliest archaeological evidence for human activity appears in both the Persian Gulf region and in eastern and southern Africa. This evidence implies an easy migration route between the Persian Gulf region and eastern and southern Africa. This route took the form of lush growth along the Gihon River through southern Arabia and a land bridge connecting the southwestern part of Arabia to the horn of Africa. Such a migration route existed three times during the last two ice ages: 55,000, 75,000–130,000, and 150,000–160,000 years ago.3 It was most favorable for human migration during the first two of the three epochs.
The most likely biblical date for the creation of Adam and Eve, therefore, would lie between 55,000 and 120,000 years ago. However, the date could be stretched as far back as 230,000 years ago.
Best Scientific Dates for Adam and Eve
The earliest undisputed evidence for human industry comes from carbon-14 dates establishing that humans used tools to grind roasted grains into flour at least as long as 32,614 ± 425 years ago.4 The earliest undisputed evidence for symbolic expression and advanced art dates back to 36,000 years ago.5 The earliest undisputed evidence for rapidly advancing tool technology and the manufacture and use of clothing and jewelry dates back to 40,000–45,000 years ago.
Thermal and optical luminescence dating techniques indicate that jewelry and art pigments were being used by humans 70,000–80,000 years ago and even as far back as 165,000 years ago.6 However, thermal and optical luminescence dating can only be trusted to yield upper limits—that is, the dates could indicate more recent times.
The latest genetic dates for mitochondrial Eve range from 107,000 to 197,000 years ago.7 The latest genetic dates for Y-chromosomal Adam range from 101,000 to 200,000 years ago.8 The reason these genetic dates are in such discord is that they presume different molecular clock rates. Molecular clocks, however, are notoriously unreliable timekeepers.9
The best available science places the origin of humanity previous to 45,000 years ago. However, scientifically, the origin of human beings could date as early as 200,000 years ago.
The uncertainties in both the biblical and scientific dates are numerous. Furthermore, it is unlikely that future biblical and scientific research efforts will ever reduce the uncertainties. Fundamental barriers prevent us from achieving significantly better dates. However, what is most encouraging for the Christian faith is that the biblical and scientific dates agree.
- Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2015), 237–38.
- Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey through Genesis 1–11 (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2014), 96–100.
- Ash Parton et al., “Alluvial Fan Records from Southeast Arabia Reveal Multiple Windows for Human Dispersal,” Geology 43 (February 2015): 295–98, doi:10.1130/G36401.1; Hugh Ross, “Did Arabia Provide a Migration Route for Early Humans?,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, May 28, 2015, http://www.reasons.org/articles/did-arabia-provide-a-migration-route-for-early-humans.
- Marta Mariotti Lippi et al., “Multistep Food Plant Processing at Grotta Paglicci (Southern Italy) around 32,600 Cal B.P.,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 112 (September 2015): 12075–80, doi:10.1073/pnas.1505213112.
- Michael Balter, “Radiocarbon Dating’s Final Frontier,” Science 313 (September 2006): 1560–63, doi:10.1126/science.313.5793.1560; Hélène Valladas et al., “Palaeolithic Paintings: Evolution of Prehistoric Cave Art,” Nature 413 (October 2001): 479, doi:10.1038/35097160; Nicholas Conard, “A Female Figurine from the Basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in Southwestern Germany,” Nature 459 (May 2009): 248–52, doi:10.1038/nature07995.
- Chris Stringer, Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth (New York: Times Books, 2012), 108–41; Marian Vanhaeren et al., “Middle Paleolithic Shell Beads in Israel and Algeria,” Science 312 (June 2006): 1785–88, doi:10.1126/science.1128139; Curtis Marean et al., “Early Human Use of Marine Resources and Pigment in South Africa during the Middle Pleistocene,” Nature 449 (October 2007): 905–8, doi:10.1038/nature06204.
- Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross, Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Humanity, 2nd ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2015), 265–66.
- Ibid., 267–88.
- Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity’s Home (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 178.
Subjects: Adam & Eve, Anthropology, Archaeology, Human Migration, Human Origins, Garden of Eden