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Dealing with the Days of Creation

Bob Waldron

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There is a controversy going on today concerning the days of creation described in Genesis 1: Are they literal days? Are they literal consecutive days, or are there periods of many thousands, or even millions, of years between them? The arguments rage, and they are often very, very technical, especially for people who have no technical background to speak of.

I. Two very different approaches to this subject.

  1. One is called by some “presuppositional,” and the other is “evidential.”
  2. These two terms immediately purport to place people who hold differing positions into proper cubbyholes.
    1. Those who are presuppositional go on assumptions that they have and fit the evidence wherever it will go.
    2. Those who are evidentialists look at the evidence objectively and rationally, and interpret the Bible accordingly.
  3. In connection with the creation, evidentialism means that scientists look at the rocks and other physical evidence and conclude that the earth and the universe is billions of years old. They then go to the Bible and seek an interpretation that fits their own findings.
    1. Thus, the primary factor relied upon is the physical earth and what it says.
    2. Thus, the book of nature is given primary significance, because it determines what the revelation means.
  4. On the other hand, presuppositionalists merely accept the assumption that the Bible is God’s word, and interpret all world phenomena so as to fit what the Bible says.
  5. One of the favorite examples an evidentialist would use of presuppositionalism is the Catholic Church’s position on the nature of the solar system.
    1. The position of the medieval church was that the earth was the center of the solar system.
    2. However, Galileo saw through his telescope that this was not the case.
    3. Gradually, the observations of Galileo and others forced the church to change its view of the nature of the world.
  6. Let me show another contrast or two that comes to mind. One concerns the date for the Exodus. Is the date of the Exodus 1290 or 1450? The late date or the early date?
    1. Probably, the bulk of scholars hold to the late date of 1290, and the reasons are primarily archaeological.
    2. But the Bible says in 1 Kings 6:1, that the fourth year of Solomon was the 480th year since Israel came out of Egypt.
    3. There are statements such as Jephthah’s (Judges 11:26), that Israel dwelt in Heshbon and its towns, etc., for three hundred years.
    4. Many of the positions of modern day archaeologists are held with antagonism for the Bible and no respect at all for its accuracy.
    5. Thus we have a rejection of the Bible version of the Exodus, and the belief that there were various Hebrew tribes at various times that invaded the land, and these are all amalgamated into one account late in Israelite history.
    6. These archaeologists would argue that they must accept the evidence as they see it.
    7. The problem is that they are giving much greater weight to their own thinking and observations than to the scriptures. They do not have enough respect for the Bible to say, “What are alternatives that we might consider to reconcile what we have found with the Bible?”
    8. Some have said, “If it were not for the statement in 1 Kings 6:1, I would be compelled to accept the late date.”
    9. With others, the statement in 1 Kings 6:1 carries no weight whatever.
  7. Sometimes the Bible uses figurative language that has been taken literally, and reality has had to help us understand that the language in question is figurative. The case of Galileo illustrates.
    1. The Bible uses language, as we do, that the sun rises and sets, and it is more convenient for us to do so, because, on a practical basis, that is the appearance of things.
    2. But it is one thing to use reality, science, and discovery to correct an erroneous application of figurative language, or indefinite language. It is another to use such things to contradict very plain, straightforward statements of scripture.

II. The contrast looked at from a different standpoint.

  1. The presuppositionalist.
    1. I object to the term presuppositionalism because it implies two things that are not true:
      1. First it implies that I, as one who accepts the Bible record as inspired, have no reasons for my position, only assumptions.
      2. Second it implies that the scientist proceeds on no assumptions, yet the history of science is littered with assumptions that were later proven wrong.
  2. Presuppositions?
    1. Is it a presupposition with me that the Bible is inspired? No, it is a claim made by the scriptures throughout the Bible (Exod. 4:15-16; 2 Sam. 23:2; Jer. 1:7, 9; Gal. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21).
    2. The evidence of the Bible itself has convinced me that the Bible is inspired.
      1. Its unity.
      2. Its view of God in distinction to the prevailing ideas of God in the world at the time.
      3. Its absence of idolatry.
      4. Its prophecies and promises and their fulfillment.
    3. This conviction is basic to everything that I do, and everything that I see, but it is not a presupposition. It is a principle established by the evidence.
  3. The point in this controversy is not that so-called presuppositionalists believe that physical evidence should be accommodated to scripture no matter what the results to logic and truth.
    1. As pointed out earlier, I realize that scripture sometimes uses figurative or accommodative language. I am perfectly willing to correct my understanding or interpretation of a passage if my observations compel me to do so.
    2. But I dare not take a passage in the Bible which all contextual evidence points to a literal interpretation and be willing to make radical alterations in my interpretations, when there are perfectly rational alternatives in interpreting the evidence.
  4. The point is primary commitment to the integrity of the scriptures and faith in a God who can do what the scriptures said He did.

III. The days of creation of Genesis 1.

  1. In the Genesis account, two chapters are devoted to the creation:
    1. Chapter one concerns the general creation of the world.
    2. Chapter two concerns the special preparations God made for man.
  2. Different uses of the word day in Genesis one.
    1. Many efforts have been made to use the different meanings of day in the first two chapters of Genesis to prove that it may mean an age. It is a rather foolish argument, because in any context, just because a term may be used in several different ways, does not prove what any single use of the term means. That must be determined from the use of the word in its sentence and in its context.
    2. The word most often translated day is the Hebrew word yom.
    3. In the context of the first two chapters, it is used to refer to daylight as opposed to darkness (1:5).
    4. It is used perhaps of time in 2:4, but this is not certain. The idea that “these are the generations” may be saying, “These are the further developments of the heavens and earth when they were created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven” (2:4). Whether this is the precise meaning of day in 2:4, however, does not affect the truth that day is used often of time in a more general sense.
    5. Throughout the Old Testament, Yom is found by far most often meaning a 24-hour day.
      1. In every passage where a numeral is attached to the word, it consistently and always has the meaning of a 24-hour day.
      2. According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, Yom is translated “day” 1167 times.
      3. About 194 times the word has a number with it, and, without exception, the meaning of the word at such times is a 24 hour day.
    6. Some have brought up Deuteronomy 10:10 as an exception.
      1. The passage reads: “And I stayed in the mount as at the first time, forty days and forty nights....”
      2. It is argued that the word time is translated “day” in some versions.
        1. In the first place, it is not so rendered in the ASV, the KJV, the NIV, or the Amplified Bible.
        2. In the second place, it would not matter. Such a rendering is hopelessly wrong. The Hebrew is unmistakable. It reads “Ve-anochi amadti bahar kayamim harishonim.” Let me give a word for word translation:
        3. Ve-anochi amadti bahar kayamim harishonim ...
          And I stood in the mountain as the days the first ones
        4. Keil and Delitzsch give the translation “first days.” Thus, instead of the passage being an exception, it confirms the point made: that the Hebrew word Yom, when modified by a numeral, means a 24-hour day.
    7. Therefore, the usage of Yom says the word in Genesis one, as it describes the first day, second day, etc., means a 24-hour day.
    8. Second, the word is further defined by the use of evening and morning, this in a context where we have established day and night, light and darkness. It is a 24-hour day that has an evening and a morning.
    9. Third, the connection between this account and Exodus 20:11; 31:17 cannot be mistaken.
      1. Even if Genesis is composed of certain sections (toledoths, translated “generations”) handed down from the fathers and collated by Moses, it seems apparent that the lawgiver made the emphasis in 2:2-3: “And on the seventh day God finished His word which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
      2. Compare the passage with Exodus 20:11:“For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
      3. Note also Exodus 31:17: “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed.” It is interesting that the expression,“and was refreshed,” literally means “took breath.” God “took a breather.” Of course, this does not mean that God was tired. It is merely extending the idea of “God rested” just a bit. We ourselves use the expression to mean to stop our work.
      4. The whole reason for the emphasis upon the six days and the seventh day is to show why God chose the seventh day to be the day of rest He ordained for Israel.
      5. In order to do this effectively, the days of Genesis 1 and the days of Exodus 20:11; 31:17 must be 24 hour days.
      6. The progressive creationist's (Discontinuous Days of Creation) position is that the creation days were 24-hour days, but they were separated by very long periods of time, possibly involving millions of years. Therefore what God did on these days was to command a creative process to begin, but it took very long periods for these things to occur.
      7. However, if in fact, the six creation days were six 24 hour days separated by untold millions of other days, then God did not rest on the seventh day, but on the 2 billionth day.
      8. I want to look at one argument made by a proponent of the Discontinuous Days theory to support the theory of the separation of the six days by ages. He says that “Be fruitful and multiply” is an example of a command that was not completely carried out that day and proves that on the other days of creation God gave commandments which were not completely and required thousands and millions of years to complete.
        1. First, note that there are only two situations among the six days when this expression is used: one on the fifth day, when the living creatures of the water and the air came into being (1:22), and one on the sixth day when the living creatures of the land, including man, were created (1:28).
        2. On the other days the language specifies that it was done that day.
          1. On the first day, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
          2. On the second day, God said, “Let there be a firmament...,” and it was so.
          3. On the third day, God said, “Let the waters be gathered together, and let the dry land appear,” and it was so. He commanded the vegetation to appear, and it was so, and the earth brought forth the vegetation and God saw that it was good.
          4. On the fourth day God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven...,” and it was so.
        3. There were certain things that God did set in motion these days that He intended should be ongoing processes:
          1. On the third day, He appointed that the vegetation should perpetuate itself by procreating by its seed after its kind, but this does not mean there was no vegetation for millions of years after this.
          2. On the fifth and sixth days, God did not immediately fill the earth with the maximum number of animals and men, but He created a viable population of them.
          3. Since all creation was made for man and for his uses, there was a world of vegetation, and there were many more animals than there were men. God had no moral and spiritual plans for the plant and animal creation, so they could be left to themselves to breed, but God started out with two human beings so that He could work with them and their offspring.

IV. In coming up with any interpretation of Genesis 1, a student must be able to explain how God created the heavens and the earth in six days. To add numberless days to the six is not the answer.

  1. Exodus 20:11 eliminates utterly and completely the “Gap” theory.
    1. The gap theory says that there is a period of millions and even billions of years between verse one and verse two.
    2. The heavens and the earth were made first, and then immense ages went by.
    3. Some claim there was a pre-Adamic race, and many forms of life that existed, but all of that became waste and void.
    4. But Moses writes that in six days, God made the heavens and the earth and all that in them is. Now, until someone can show that Moses was making a figurative use of six days, and the seventh day, it remains that he said that the whole universe was made in six days. And to try to show a figurative use of the time element here contradicts the obviously literal use Moses made of it to show why the seventh day was chosen as the Sabbath.
    5. Sometimes the effort is made to use the seventh day, the day God rested, to show that “day” has a figurative meaning.
      1. Did God just rest on the seventh day, or is He still resting from His creation labors? Since He is still resting from creation labors, then that seventh day extends until now, and is not, therefore, a 24-hour day.
      2. Well, whatever the seventh day was on which God rested, that is the day upon which He commanded Israel to rest. What day was that?
      3. Is it a figurative day that extends from the cessation of creation until now? Or was the seventh day following six days?
      4. The point made is simply that God was busy at creation labors on six days, but that on the seventh day He stopped His creation labors.
      5. There were many other things God was doing, and continued to do, but the seventh day was the day when He stopped His creation labors in contrast with the six when He was actively creating. There is no intent to look beyond that seventh day, so as to say God has continued to rest until today.
  2. At this point one has a choice. He can either say, I must take what the Bible says and seek to respect it and honor it.
    1. I must make the effort to understand the creation around me in the light of God’s revelation.
    2. The book of nature must be interpreted by the book of revelation, not vice versa.
    3. But some examine the rocks and say these rocks indicate that the world is billions of years old.
    4. Therefore the world was not made in six days, but in six days separated by eons of time, or by six days that are eons of time.

V. What Genesis tells us.

  1. There is a simple explanation, but it is one that men in their wisdom do not like. It is not one which men can discover by their own wisdom; therefore, it is not scientific.
  2. And that is that when God made the world, it had the appearance of age.
  3. Now those who place the emphasis upon the physical world for determining how long it took to create the world talk about extrapolations, but extrapolations are not the point, and they are not getting the point.
  4. The point is that the earth had the appearance of age because God created the world in mid-cycle.
    1. In other words, Adam was a grown man.
    2. The trees he ate from were grown trees.
    3. Rivers flowed, through riverbeds carved out of the earth.
    4. Alluvial soil was already deposited at deltas.
    5. Humus littered the forest floors.
    6. Coal was already in the earth, but because of the way God designed coal to be made from plant life, evidence of the plants and other fossils were already there.
    7. Since light from the distant stars was necessary for men to guide themselves and to determine the seasons, that light was put in place.
    8. And since God ordained that light would be according to certain predictable physical laws, the light from distant stars bears the corresponding signs of having traveled that far.
  5. God created the earth thus so that it was ready to be used.
  6. Some cynics say that God has deceived men.
    1. Not only is this a very foolish statement; it also shows the depths to which those who say this have plummeted in their faith, and in their attitude toward God.
    2. You see, God gave us a revelation in which He told us exactly what He did, and why He did it.
    3. Therefore, the only men He “deceives” are those who will not hear, read, and accept the account He Himself has given them of His creation.


In the 33rd Psalm the writer says,

“By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.... For He spake and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 9).

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1994 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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