THE DAYS OF GENESIS
The Bible, which is the inerrant word of God, teaches that God created the universe from nothing. Contrary to naturalistic evolution, it teaches that different kinds of animals were created distinctly. Contrary to theistic evolution, it teaches that man was created separately from all animals, and made in God's image.
But over what kind of time frame did God create our universe? Some Bible believers insist that the world must be only 6,000 years old, because the world was created in six days, according to Genesis 1.
In this article I will argue that the Bible allows for a much older earth, because the days of Genesis 1 should not be interpreted literally.
THE DAYS CANNOT BE LITERAL.
The "days" of creation in Genesis 1 cannot be literal because of the parallel account of creation in Genesis 2. After God put man in the Garden, He paraded the animals before Adam, who "gave names to all the cattle...birds...and to every beast of the field" (2:20). Adam, however, had no helper, and God created Eve for him. Some amount of time must have passed between Adam's creation, the naming of the animals, and then Eve's creation. But if the days of Genesis 1 are interpreted literally, all of these events must have occured in one 24 hour day, because on the sixth day "God created man...male and female He created them" (1:27). Because of all the things that sixth day as described in Genesis 2, the sixth day of Genesis 1 cannot be literal.
THE DAYS MUST BE AGES
To prove that the days are ages, consider the seventh day. All the other days of creation ended with the phrase, "and there was evening and there was morning, a xth day." I understand that phrase to mean that each of those days had a distinct conclusion. However, there is no such statement for the seventh day, which must mean that it has not ended. In other words, on the seventh day God ceased creating new life forms, and that day has continued until now because He still "rests" from creating new life.
This interpretation is supported by two NT texts. Hebrews 4:1-9 teaches that God's sabbath rest remains for us to enter. And in John 5:16-18, Jesus justified healing on the Sabbath because "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." Jesus' point is that He can still do some things even though He is observing the Sabbath, because God the Father can still work (through providence) even though He is still observing His Sabbath (rest from creating new life).
The seventh day of the creation week in Genesis began at the creation of Adam and Eve, and has continued since that time. Thus, this seventh day is an age of thousands of years, and therefore justifies interpreting the other days as ages.
ANTICIPATING SOME OBJECTIONS
(1) But doesn't "day" always refer to a 24 hour day? Normally, yom does refer to literal days, but in the context of creation yom is used in three different ways: day as opposed to night (1:16), 24 hour days (1:14), and the entire period of creation (2:4).
(2) But what about the Sabbath command in Exodus 20? Exodus 20:9-11 does base the Sabbath command on the creation week, and clearly that command was applied to literal days of the week. However, the emphasis of the Sabbath is not on 24 hour days, but on the number SEVEN. After all, the Sabbath principle applied to years (Leviticus 25:4-5), and the jubilee, every seventh sabbath year (Leviticus 25:8-55). In Exodus 20, the seventh day of our week is paralleled to the seventh day of God's creation week, which we proved earlier is an age of many years.
(3) If the days are ages, how could the universe have existed for three prior ages before the sun was created on the fourth age? Actually, the sun was already in existence after the first day, because the phrase "God created the heavens and the earth" (1:1) refers to the entire universe. What happened on the fourth day was that the sun, moon, and stars became visible to the earth's surface for the purpose explicitly given in 1:14--"to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years." This interpretation is supported by several OT scholars, including Gleason Archer (A SURVEY OF OT INTRODUCTION).
(4) But doesn't this interpretation open the door for evolution? In my opinion, the older the earth is understood to be, the more glaring the problems are with evolution. To illustrate, one of the problems with evolution is that there are no transitional fossils which prove that one kind of animal became another. Let's grant that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. In 4.5 billion years not a single fossil has been found which supports the transitional forms we should expect to find if evolution was true. In reality, even if our universe is 15 billion years old, as astronomers suggest, that still is not enough time for the random formation of the chemicals needed for human life.
The days of Genesis 1 may be interpreted literally, but that is not the best biblical interpretation. Further, we must refrain from assigning specific dates to creation (such as 6,000 years) when the Bibles does not demand such. The length of time God chose to create the world is immaterial, since He is eternal. As Moses wrote in Psalm 90:4, "For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by."
DAYS OF GENESIS -- A RESPONSE
I am glad to agree with Shane concerning several of the facts that he stated in his introduction. Specifically, we are in full agreement about the inerrancy of the Word of God and that it teaches that God created the universe from nothing. Furthermore, it is good to see that Shane distances himself from those who teach both "naturalistic" and "theistic" evolution. Most people who teach the "day/age" theory that Shane has accepted do so in order to support their theistic evolution viewpoint. I am very glad that Shane does not believe that false doctrine.
Shane's argument that "the days cannot be literal" is based upon two premises: 1) There was not enough time in one 24 hour day for everything to happen that is reported to have happened on day six of the creation week, and, 2) The seventh day of the creation week (God "rested") continues until now. It is a long "age", and therefore the other days must also be long ages.
I maintain that Shane is wrong in both of these premises.
First, it is a mistake to assume that Adam named every living thing. Genesis 2:19 says, "God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." Keil and Delitzsch explain that the reference is not to "all the beasts, but simply to that of the beasts living in the field game and tame cattle - and of the fowls of the air - to beasts, therefore, which had been formed like man from the earth, and thus stood in a closer relation to him than water animals or reptiles. For God brought the animals to Adam, to show him the creatures which were formed to serve him...The naming of the animals, therefore, led to this result, that there was not found a help meet for man." (vol.1, pg. 67, 88) It seems clear that the purpose of bringing the animals (some animals, but clearly not all animals) before Adam was so that he might see that none of them would be the proper helper for him. It would emphasize the need for a special creation - the creation of woman - to fill this special role. This information is valuable - even for us today - as we seek to fully understand the husband and wife relationship that God designed.
But the amount of time involved in this process need not be lengthy. There is no reason to assume that it could not have taken place within a 24 hour day. I disagree completely with Shane when he says, "Because of all the things that occured on the sixth day.. the sixth day of Genesis 1 cannot be literal." He has not proved that these activities would require a long "age" of time in order to be accomplished.
Shane is wrong when he says, "The seventh day of creation week in Genesis began at the creation of Adam and Eve, and has continued since that time." Verses 26-31 in Genesis 1 show clearly than man and woman were created before the end of the sixth day. Thus, if Adam lived for at least part of day six and then continued living into the seventh day, and if these days were actually long ages of time, then how long did Adam live? If Shane's position is correct, we would be forced to conclude that Adam lived an indeterminate length of time. But, we know that he actually lived 930 years (Gen. 5:5). While this is certainly a long time, it hardly fits the "long ages" that are desired by the "day/age" advocates.
Shane's second argument states that the seventh day (when God rested) actually continues until now. From this he concludes, "this seventh day is an age of thousands of years, and therefore justifies interpreting the other days as ages." Shane's appeal to two New Testament texts to prove this point is inconclusive. While Hebrews 4:1-9 mentions God resting from his creative work (vs. 4), it is actually used as an analogy suggesting that faithful Christians can enter into a rest at the end of their labors (see vs. 1). It does not teach that the seventh day of creation week continues until today, or that we may enter into that SAME rest. Shane's use of John 5:16-18 is confusing. The passage mentions God working, not resting. How this speaks to the issue at hand is hard to understand. It is clear that in this text Jesus was addressing the source of His authority. It came from the Father. That is clearly how the Jews understood it, and they "sought the more to kill him, because he ...said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God."
The Scriptures teach that there was an end to the seventh day, just like the other six days of the creation week. Exodus 20:11 says, "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Notice the past tense verbs. "The Lord MADE the heaven and earth... and RESTED the seventh day." The seventh day of creation week does not continue until now. Shane has failed to prove his case.
Here are a few affirmative arguments to support the view that the days of creation were literal 24 hour days:
1) God defined His own terms in Genesis 1:5. "And God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day." A period of light followed by a period of darkness constituted a day. Unless Shane wants to argue that it stayed light for long periods and then stayed dark for long periods (which, of course, poses huge difficulties), we will have to stand upon this clear statement and conclude that the days really were literal 24 hour days. Furthermore, Genesis 1:14-18 mentions the sun and moon and stars, and says they were made to be "for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years." If we are to believe that the days were actually long ages of time, then what were the seasons and years?
2) Romans 1:20 says, "Since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made" (NIV). This verse claims that someone has been here to see and understand God's power ever since the creation of the world. This poses no problem to those of us who believe that man was created within the same actual week that everything else was created. But, those who want to believe that each day represents a long "age" have a problem. If man was created eons after the other elements of creation were formed, then this makes no sense. This line of reasoning is confirmed by Jesus' own statement in Mark 10:6. "From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female." The day/age theory places man at the end of millions or billions of years of geologic time. It light of these verses, it cannot be true.
3) If the days were actually long "ages", then we have the wrong chronological order of events. For instance, plants were created on day three, but insects were not created until day five or six. But many plants depend on insects for cross-pollination, etc. How did plants survive for long "ages" without their needed counterparts in the insect world? Other similar problems of chronological order exist that strongly argue against the day/age theory. We accept Shane's disavowal of theistic evolution, but we know that this day/age theory is commonly held by many who teach this false doctrine. It is not true, and is actually an unnecessary attempt to compromise the truths taught in the Bible with the unproven claims of some scientists. They teach that we live in a ancient universe, while in actuality we live in a relatively young universe that was created in six literal days by our omnipotent God.
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