By Shelby Smith
I recently had the opportunity to spend some time near Lake Tahoe California. On the trip, I was amazed by the huge size of the many trees of the area that were as much as 100 feet tall. It made me wonder just how old some of these trees were. Only a few hundred miles south of this area is the location where some of the oldest trees in the world are found. These trees known as the Bristlecone Pines and many others have been claimed to be over 4,700 years old. This is a revised age that was developed after much debate, because at one point some of these trees were believed to be around 10,000 years old. However, this does not line up with the Biblical account that states the Flood took place only about 4,300 years ago. So let’s observe the size and age of these trees to see if the science lines up with the Bible.
There are a handful of these large trees living in California and it is generally thought that the larger the size the older the tree, however, that is not necessarily the case. The large redwoods found in the Sequoia National Park are some of the largest in the world. The largest of these giant Sequoia trees is known as “General Sherman,” it reaches a height of 275 feet tall and is near 100 feet in circumference. Age estimates on this large tree were initially placed at 6,000 years old, until those estimates were lowered to 2,150 years old (Bates, 2002). This was done by counting the tree rings and comparing them with other trees in the area.
The tallest living tree has been measured at 379.1 feet tall just beating out three other redwoods that were all within several feet of this height (Bourne, 2009). The largest tree ever recorded was an Australian Mountain Ash that reached a height of 492 feet tall and was cut down in 1872 (Bates, 2002). It has been estimated that these giant trees add enough new wood each year to equal a tree that is one foot in circumference and 100 feet tall. Therefore, these large trees put on a huge amount of mass every year that is not dependent on age but on the kind of tree that is being observed. The bristlecone pines tree rings have been counted and determined to be some of the oldest trees on the planet and the largest of these trees reaches a height of only 60 feet tall.
Now that we have established that size is not a determining factor for age, let us focus on the age of the oldest trees on the planet determined by a number of different factors. The oldest group of trees, found in Tasmania, was once estimated using carbon-14 dating to be 30,000 to 40,000 years old, but as we know this type of dating method uses present day process rates that are not necessarily the same as they were in the past. This clearly does not follow the Biblical account of earth history and when the rings of these trees were counted the oldest was 3,500 years old. The oldest tree that has ever been recorded by counting tree rings is a bristlecone pine by the name of “Methuselah.” This pine tree was recorded to be 4,753 year old placing it before the Flood and this still does not follow the Biblical chronology. So if these trees put on a single ring each year why, or more appropriately, how do we have a date that is before the Flood.
Some scientists were amazed that these trees could resist drought, parasites, and fire for such long periods of time. This made some curious to find out if trees could in fact put on more than one tree ring per year. It was found after much study that the bristlecone pine trees are among the oldest trees on earth, and they are able to put on more than one tree ring per year given the right conditions.
Once again, we see that conditions are a very key aspect not only in geology, but also in biology. Scientists took bristlecone pine seedlings and placed them under good conditions and found that more than one ring could be produced in a single year. The conditions necessary were moist warm conditions that were supplemented by normal winter day-length, provided by a heat lamp (Bates, 2002).
These are the exact conditions one would postulate as occurring just after the Flood. There would be elevated oceanic temperature caused by the extreme volcanic activity that would provide adequate moisture for several hundred years after the Flood in the mid to lower latitudes. This could account for the 300-400 or so year’s difference in the present tree ring date assessments and the Biblical date of the Flood (4,753-400= 4,353).
Another possible question posed in this study is that if these trees are so resistant to the natural problems, which allow them to last thousands of years, why do we not find any that are over 4,000 years old? If we did, it would be a definite conflict with the Biblical timing of the Genesis Flood. We do not find any that are older than this because when the tree rings are counted and science is applied to these counts, the oldest known trees fall into the appropriate Biblical age. The Bible is once again proven correct. The extreme age of these trees is a testament to our magnificent Creator who masterfully engineered them to last long periods of time avoiding death due to disease and other natural disasters, but this is also a mighty witness to the accuracy of the Word of God.
Bates, Gary (2002). Patriarchs of the forest. Creation 25(1) pp. 10-13.
Bourne, Joel K. (2009). Redwoods: The super trees. National Geographic 216(4), pp. 28-63.