Several ways of dating Creation exist. People of many cultures have held traditional beliefs that the Earth, or indeed the entire Universe, was brought into being in a grand Creation event by one or more gods. Once calendars were developed in these cultures, many people began to ponder the question of precisely how long ago it was that this event happened.
Biblical dating of Creation
The Bible begins with the Book of Genesis, in which God creates the world, including the first human, a man named Adam, in six days. Genesis goes on to list many of Adam's descendants, in many cases giving the ages at which they had children and died. If these events and ages are interpreted literally throughout, it is possible to build up a chronology in which many of the events of the Old Testament are dated to an estimated number of years after the Creation.
Some scholars have gone further, and have attempted to tie in this Biblical chronology with that of recorded history, thus establishing a date for the Creation in a modern calendar. Since there are periods in the Biblical story where dates are not given, the chronology has been subject to interpretation in many different ways, resulting in a variety of estimates of the date of Creation.
Two dominant dates for Biblical Creation using such models exist, about 5500 BC and about 4000 BC. These were calculated from the genealogies in two versions of the Bible, with most of the difference arising from two versions of Genesis. The oldest was translated into Greek from the Hebrew Torah during the third century BC as the first book of the Septuagint. It was used by Jews until about 100, then by all Christians until 405, then by the Byzantines until 1453, and is still used by the various Orthodox churches. The newest was due to a revision of the Torah by Jews about 100, which was slightly modified about 900 (though not affecting this genealogy), and is still used by all Jews. Jerome translated it into Latin as the first book of the Vulgate in 405, then it was used by all Western Christians, who split into Roman Catholics and Protestants beginning in 1517. Basically, the patriarchs from Adam to the father of Abraham were often 100 years older when they begat their named son in the Septuagint than they were in the Vulgate (Genesis 5, 11). The net difference between the two genealogies was 1466 years (ignoring the "second year after the flood" ambiguity), which is virtually all of the 1500-year difference between 5500 BC and 4000 BC.
Jewish scholars subscribing to similar interpretations give two dates for Creation according to the Talmud. They state that the first day of Creation week was either Elul 25, AM 1 or Adar 25, AM 1, almost twelve or six months, respectively, after the modern epoch of the Hebrew calendar. Most prefer Elul 25 whereas a few prefer Adar 25. These place the sixth day of Creation week, when Adam was created, on the first day of the following month, either Tishri or Nisan, the first month of either the civil or biblical year, respectively. In both cases, the epoch of the modern calendar was called the molad tohu or mean new moon of chaos, because it occurred before Creation. This epoch was Tishri 1, AM 1 or October 7, 3761 BC, the latter being the corresponding tabular date (same daylight period) in the proleptic Julian calendar.
According to the Eastern Orthodox Church calendar, the world was created on September 1, 5509 BC.
One of the most well known estimates in modern times is that of Archbishop James Ussher (1581–1656), who proposed a date of Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC, in the Julian calendar. He placed the beginning of this first day of Creation, and hence the exact time of Creation, at the previous nightfall. See the Ussher-Lightfoot Calendar.
- Edgar Frank, Talmudic and Rabbinical Chronology (New York, 1956)
- J. Ussher, The Annals of the World iv (1658)
Date of Creation according to Hindu scripture
According to Hindu scripture, the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, existence in four yugas (ages) totalling exactly 4,320,000 years, and dissolution. The current universe is believed to have been created about 3,893,100 years ago and is expected to dissolve about 426,900 years from now.
Date of Creation according to the Mayan calendar
The Mayan calendar dates the creation of the Earth to August 11 or August 13, 3114 BC (establishing that date as the zeroth day of the Long Count 18.104.22.168.0).
Date of Creation according to modern astrophysics
According to the Big Bang theory, the universe as we know it began 13.7 ± 0.2 billion years ago. Those who hold to the theory of evolutionary creationism view this as the beginning of the Creation event. Atheists, among others, see this as the event from which the universe originated, and indeed time itself began. In an atheistic view this is not necessarily creation per se, because that word may be seen as implying the existence of a creator, but a singular point in space-time, after which the laws of physics describe the history of the universe.