Time is a mysterious concept. We experience the passage of time every day, yet physicists still debate exactly what time is and how it relates to space, matter, and energy. As Christians, we believe that God created time along with the rest of the universe. But when did He create it? What does the Bible tell us about the origins of time? In this post, we will examine the biblical evidence to try to answer the question “When did time begin according to the Bible?”
The Bible does not give an explicit date for the beginning of time. However, based on clues throughout Scripture, we can draw some conclusions about when God created time and set the cosmic clock ticking. Here are the key takeaways:
- God existed before time began. He is eternal and uncreated.
- God created the heavens and the earth “in the beginning,” initiating time.
- This “beginning” was on the first day of creation week around 6000 years ago.
- God created day and night on that first day, establishing cycles of time.
Let’s now look at the biblical evidence for these conclusions in more detail.
God’s Eternal Existence
The Bible tells us that before God created the universe, He already existed eternally. The Lord declared to Moses:
“I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14, NKJV)
God did not come into being when time began. He simply is and always was. The Psalmist proclaimed:
“Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:2, NKJV)
From eternity past to eternity future, God exists. He inhabits a different realm outside of time and space. The apostle Paul explained that God “inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). He transcends the boundaries of our temporal universe.
So before God said “Let there be light” and kicked off creation, He had no beginning Himself. He dwelt in timeless eternity. Augustine described God as existing in an “eternal now.” Scripture tells us God is “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 1:8). He bookends time, reigning as King of Eternity before and after the world’s ages.
God Created the Heavens and the Earth
Though God is eternal, the universe He created had a definite beginning. Genesis 1:1 tells us:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (NKJV)
This verse describes when time first began. “In the beginning” denotes the start of the created order. When God made the heavens and the earth, He brought space, matter, and energy into existence. By creating a material world, God also created time itself. Before this, no “when” existed. But in the beginning, God forged the cosmic clock and set it ticking.
The Hebrew word translated “created” in Genesis 1:1 is “bara.” This special word refers to God creating something out of nothing. Only He can truly create in this way. Genesis 1:1 marks the transition from God’s timeless eternity into the temporal existence of the universe. Augustine called this boundary between eternity and time “the beginning of all the ages.” It represents the origination point for our cosmic timeline.
So Genesis 1:1 records the opening act of creation, encompassing the creation of the entire natural universe and time itself. All that followed on the subsequent six days involved organizing the heavens and earth to function in a certain way. But the raw materials themselves burst into being on that initial day.
The First Day of Creation Week
Genesis 1 does not present a tightly dated timeline like we are used to today. So we have to look at clues throughout Scripture to discern when “in the beginning” likely was. Based on genealogies and other historical details in the Bible, theologians have approximated creation week to have occurred around 4000 BC. The original ancient Hebrew calendar started in 3761 BC, so 6000 years ago.
If we take the biblical genealogies at face value, adding up the years, we arrive at an approximate date for Genesis 1 around 6000 years ago. Of course, some gap theorists argue for longer ages. But a straightforward reading of Scripture points to the origin of the universe occurring around 6000 years ago.
The “first day” described in Genesis 1:1-5 was not a day as we currently understand it, with 24 hours from midnight to midnight. The earth was not yet rotating on its axis in relation to the sun. God had not yet created the sun itself! So this “day” reflects the meaning “a period of time.” It describes the first stage of creation week.
On this first day period, God said:
“Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:3-5, NKJV)
So God’s first creative act initiated cycles of time. While the sun was not formed until day four, God Himself provided the light source at this initial stage, likely radiating from His own glory in some way. The cycle of light and darkness established concepts of time measurement from the very start.
Incredibly, modern cosmology seems to confirm that light itself was the first entity created, bursting into existence in the Big Bang around 13 billion years ago. As theologian Gerald Schroeder observes, this science lines up with Genesis 1 if we understand it from the perspective of a Creator outside of time. From an eternal God’s timeframe, six days could appear to be cosmic eras to us. So modern physics corroborates the biblical concept of light inaugurating creation.
Although the Bible does not provide a precise date when time began, we can draw the conclusions that:
- God existed eternally before time and creation began
- The material universe and time itself were brought into being by God “in the beginning”
- The initial day of creation week likely occurred around 6000 years ago
- God created light on that first day, initiating cycles of time measurement
From the trajectory of Scripture, we see that God stands sovereignly apart from and prior to time. Yet He chose, for His own glory, to form an temporal cosmos and grant humanity days, seasons, and years to dwell within it. Our eternal Creator stepped into time to redeem mankind. The Lord of Time became a baby in a manger named Jesus Christ.
As finite creatures bound by time, we struggle to grasp the timeless nature of our infinite Creator. Yet through God’s Word, we can understand enough to worship Him as the eternal Alpha and Omega who is, who was, and who is to come. When we comprehend the scriptural truth about when time began, our response should be to redeem the time we’ve been given in grateful service to the Lord of all eternity.