(image courtesy ChristArt)
By Spencer D Gear
If the common evolutionary perspective is accepted, then the days of Genesis 1 are considered very long periods of time. An example of this explanation is that of Rich Deem, with his support for the Day-Age theory,
I believe in what has been called the “day-age” interpretation of Genesis one – that is, that each “day” is actually a long period of time during which God created life. This interpretation is not figurative in any way, but adheres to the scientific method in its analysis of the biblical texts. At its foundation is a literal translation of the Hebrew word, yom, which can mean a twelve hour period of time, a twenty-four hour period of time, or a long, indefinite period of time. The biblical basis for the translation of the word yom as long periods of time appear on another page.
‘Evidence to believe’ claims the following:
Based on the evidence, we submit:
- That the Day-Age interpretation is the more reasonable interpretation
- That when one properly reads Genesis 1, going back to the original language, one find(s) no contradiction with the findings of modern science. In fact, one finds confirmation of the Biblical record in modern scientific findings!
- That one can fully accept from a literal perspective the Genesis 1 record, accept the proofs from science of an old universe and old earth, and still be consistent in their beliefs about God and science
Consistency between the Bible and science is what we should expect. For if the Creator of the heavens and the earth also inspired the writers who penned the words of the Bible, why shouldn’t we expect the discoveries of science to support the Bible? It would be surprising if they did not.
Brad Bromling gives a contrary view:
The ancient Hebrews hardly could have imagined that the creation week was any different from theirs. Thus when the Ten Commandments were issued, requiring them to observe a day of rest, it was natural for the creation week to serve as their model (Exodus 20:11). It is doubtful that any of the Jews who heard this command raised a hand to inquire about the duration of either their week or God’s. Regardless of what the astronomers and cosmologists may say about the age of the Universe, Genesis describes a creation week comprised of ordinary days. Contemporary efforts to reinterpret these days succeed neither to enhance confidence in the truthfulness of Scripture nor to accommodate current age calculations.
For a similar view that supports literal 24-hours for the days of Genesis 1, see ‘How long were the days of Genesis 1?’ from Creation Ministries International.
An exegetical understanding, based on Genesis 1 grammar
There is an explanation that harmonises Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:14-19 that John H. Sailhamer (1990:33-34) has suggested. This is involved with the meaning of ‘the heavens and the earth’ in Gen. 1:1 which reads, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (NIV)
If the phrase, ‘the heavens and the earth’, refers to the universe or the cosmos (which seems to be the most likely understanding), then it is taken in the same sense as throughout the Bible as in passages like Joel 3:15-16. Thus, the creation of the universe would include the sun, moon and stars according to Gen. 1:1.
This is the kind of objection that is commonly raised:
Sailhamer’s exegesis and exposition stated that the place to begin with an understanding of the fourth day of creation (Genesis 1:14-18) is to view the whole of the universe (including the sun, moon and stars) to have been created ‘in the beginning’ (Gen. 1:1) and NOT on the fourth day.
If we try to understand the syntax of Gen. 1:14 and it is compared with the creation of the expanse in 1:6, the verses have two different senses. The syntax of 1:6 suggests that God said, ‘Let there be an expanse’. God was creating an expanse where there had not been any previously. So the author of Genesis clearly wanted to state that God created the expanse on the first day.
But when we come to 1:14, the syntax in the Hebrew is different though in English the translations are often very similar to 1:6. Gen. 1:14 states:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years (NIV).
In 1:14, God did not say, ‘Let there be lights … to separate’ in the Hebrew language, as if there were no lights before that and the lights were created. Instead, the Hebrew text reads, ‘And God said, “let the lights in the expanse of the sky separate”‘. So, instead of the syntax of 1:6, in 1:14 God’s command is assuming that the lights were already in the expanse and that in response to the command of 1:14 they were given a purpose, ‘to separate the day from the night’ AND ‘to mark seasons and days and years’. However, this grammar is not seen in the English translations. Let’s look at a few of them:
- NIV, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night….’;
- ESV, ‘And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night….’
- NLT, ‘Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night….’
- KJV, ‘And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night….’
- NASB, ‘Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night….’
- NRSV, ‘And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night….’
- New Jerusalem Bible, ‘God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night….’
- NET, ‘God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night….’
None of these actual translations conveys the grammatical difference that causes us to understand the Hebrew grammar, ‘Let the lights in the expanse of the sky separate…’ The New Living Translation (NLT) comes closest with, ‘Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night….’
What is the grammatical difference? The syntax of Genesis 1:6 uses hayah alone, while in Genesis 1:14, it is hayah + l infinitive (Sailmaher 1990:34).
The exegetical response, with God’s revelation (Scripture being the decider), is that if we are to understand the grammar of Gen 1:14 correctly, the author does not state that this was the creation of the lights, but the narrative assumes that the heavenly lights were already created. What is the assumption? The lights were created ‘In the beginning’ as stated in Genesis 1:1.
I’m indebted to John Sailhamer for this explanation and it makes sense when the grammar is considered.
I leave that for your consideration. I do not find the regular secular, scientific, and doubting argument about literal days to hold much theological ‘water’. It is designed to create doubt when the Hebrew grammar seems to solve the supposed problem.
Sailmaher, John H 1990. Genesis, in Frank E Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 2, pp. 1-284.
 This conclusion is based on science being the final arbiter over the Bible’s exegetical statements from Genesis 1. The alleged scientific, evolutionary conclusion is the decider. Human reason usurps the role of God’s revelation. It makes Scripture fit into the scientific framework, which is intolerable for biblical revelation.
 RayComfort #1, 9 September 2012. Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘On what day was the sun created’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7686289/ (Accessed 10 September 2012).
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 April 2018.