Did God create the world in 6 literal days?

 (image courtesy opednews.com, public domain)

 By Spencer D Gear

This is the type of question that thoughtful Christians sometimes ask:

This sounds like a dumb question but if in God’s time 1 day is 1,000 years, does that mean that He created the world in 6 days or 6,000 years? I know that God created the world in 6 days and rested on the seventh, but I was wondering that. If he literally created the world in six days then where does the 1 day = 1,000 years come from?[1]

The topic being addressed on this Christian forum was, ‘Did God literally create the world in 6 days?’

A.  Is a day compatible with a thousand years?

My initial response[2] was to ask, ‘Why don’t you quote the verse? It’s in 2 Peter 3:8,

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (NIV). This has to do with God, the eternal One, and time. I urge you to read D Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermon on 2 Peter 3:8-9, ‘God and time‘.

These verses seem to indicate that God created in six literal days because of the parallel with 6 days to labour and to rest on the 7th, as in Exodus 20:8-11 (ESV),

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

B.  Days, long periods of time or   figurative language?

Scarlet Time and Dates Button

There was another response to an issue raised about the creation of the sun:

No where in Genesis does it say God created the sun, you are reading into it and changing the sentence by trying to understand it on your terms and not Gods [sic]. God created light, you just assume he speaks of the sun. The first day is when light was created on the fourth day the stars were aligned into the zodiac we know today to give us signs to go by.
You my friend are not rightly dividing the word of God, with that said look at the verses I cited earlier in a KJV bible and explain them please if what I have been shown is wrong.[3]

How does one respond to such claims? This was my attempt:[4]

I think you are trying to split hairs.

Genesis 1:1 is VERY COMPREHENSIVE as to what God created, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’.
Are you saying that this does not include God’s creating the sun? I find that to be straining at a gnat!
Exodus 20:8-11 is specific as to the meaning of ‘day’ in comparison with the days in the creation of the heavens and the earth:

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (ESV).

Or do you want this to mean:

8 “Remember the Sabbath [long period of time or figurative day], to keep it holy. 9 Six [long periods of time or figurative days] you shall labour, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh [long period of time or figurative day] is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six [long periods of time or figurative days] the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh [long period of time or figurative day]. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath [long period of time or figurative day] and made it holy.

The comparison with the work week of 6 literal days and 1 literal day of rest, with the 6 days of creation and 1 day of rest by God makes the parallel very obvious. God is speaking of 6 literal days of creation and 1 literal day of rest.

I have a hunch that if it were not for the theory of evolution, the 6 literal days of creation would not be creating issues for us. What was Darwin’s aim when he proposed the theory of evolution? I invite you to read, ‘Darwin’s arguments against God‘. Darwin wanted God out of the picture with the creation of the world.

I invite you to consider how worldly science – in many areas – wants God eliminated from the creation events so that He can be replaced with a human ‘origin of the species’.

I have a high regard for empirical science that depends on repeatability to experiment with various products. My mechanical heart valves depend on daily doses of the drug warfarin and vitamin K when needed to reverse warfarin’s excessive impact on the blood.

C.  The nature of ‘days’ doesn’t really matter?

Another view was, ‘I don’t think it’s a dumb question but does the answer really matter? None of us will know for sure till Abba answers us HimSelf or gives divine revelation’.[5]

Does it really matter?[6] For consistency of interpretation it does matter. Does it matter that ‘day’ as a long period of time or a figurative day conflicts with Exodus 20:8-11? Yes it does! I want to be a consistent biblical interpreter when comparing Genesis 1 with Exodus 20, for example.

Alister McGrath has an interesting assessment in ‘Augustine’s Origin of Species‘.

D.  What about ‘day’ in Genesis 2:4?

Today

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Another fellow wrote:

The days in Genesis 1 are literal days, 24 hr or less. Both the Exodus passage agrees that God made everything in 6, 24 hr days. There is a problem though, and I think it’s in Gen 2:4 “in the day” the Lord made heavens and earth. Is this still 24 hour? Because here the author does not say what day it was. This is like saying “back in my youthful day” etc. What do you guys think?[7]

This question has been asked many times over by questioning people as the use of ‘day’ in Gen 2:4 seems to have a different meaning to ‘day’ in Genesis 1. My response[8] was that evangelical commentator on Genesis, H C Leupold (1942), divides Gen 2:4 into two verses and joins the second part with v. 5.

His translation of Gen 2:4a is, ‘This is the story of the heavens and the earth at the time of their creation’. He explains that his translation, ‘at the time of their creation’ is rendered literally: ‘in their being created’. He further wrote that ‘since it is a temporal phrase, we have rendered it: “at the time,” etc. It marks the occurrences that are to follow as practically a part of the creation story’ (Leupold 1942:111).

Then, Gen 2:4b, 5 he translates as, ‘At the time when Yahweh God made earth and heaven, then no shrub of the field was as yet in the earth and no plant of the field was as yet sprouting forth; for Yahweh God had not caused rain to descend upon the earth, nor did man exist to till the ground’.

He explains that verses 4a and 4b are usually translated

‘as a whole, with the result that two temporal clauses of nearly identical meaning appear within the sentence, calling forth artificial attempts at distinctions. By keeping 4a separate as a title and by combining 4b with 5, this trouble is removed, and a very natural rendering results. For the two initial clauses of v. 5, introduced by waw, may be correlative…: ‘when God made heaven and earth neither was there shrub … nor had any plant sprouted’. At the same time the complicated sentence structure which the critics make of v. 5-7 is shown to be quite unnecessary and quite cumbersome: v. 5 protasis; v. 6 rather parenthetical, or a concessive clause; v 7 apodosis – all of which calls for a very artificial rendering…. Nor is terem the conjunction ‘before,’ but the adverb ‘not yet’ (Leupold 1942:112, emphasis in original).

He explains that Gen 2:4b ‘takes us back into the time of the work of creation, more particularly to the time before the work of the third day began, and draws our attention to certain details, which, being details, could hardly have been inserted in chapter one: the fact that certain forms of plant life, namely the kinds that require the attentive care of man in greater measure, had not sprung up. Apparently, the whole work of the third day is in the mind of the writer’ (Leupold 1942:112).
The specific question asked by this person related to the meaning of ‘in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens’ (Gen 2:4 ESV).

Leupold explains that

it is not important to the author to mark the point of time within the creation week when this condition prevailed. Consequently, the opening phrase of 4b, beyom, is to be rendered as it so often is “at the time” and not “in the day” (1942:113).

I found this explanation helpful as it gives the meaning of the ESV’s translation of ‘in the day’ to be ‘at the time’. This clears up the confusion for me.

E.  Some resources

For some penetrating, thought-provoking articles on creationist topics, I have found Creation Ministries International (CMI) to have some targeted answers to questions about origins. And some of them are by Christians who are scientists.

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I am somewhat guarded in recommending this CMI website because of  its short-sighted view that one has to be a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) to be regarded as having a high view of creation. This is not the case.

The YEC theory is only one view among Christians. There are other evangelical Christians who are as committed to the Gospel and the authority of Scripture as CMI staff and writers, who are convinced of Old Earth Creationism (OEC). One such person is Dr. Norman Geisler. He wrote:

There are unprovable presuppositions in most, if not all, the scientific arguments for an old earth…; that is, an earth that is millions or billions of years is biblically possible but not absolutely provable…. Given the basics of modern physics, it seems plausible that the universe is billions of years old. And as shown [in what he presented] there is nothing in Scripture that contradicts this…. There is no demonstrated conflict between Genesis 1-2 and scientific fact…. A literal interpretation of Genesis is consistent with a universe that is billions of years old (Geisler 2003:648, 650).

See these articles on the nature of creation:

blue-arrow-small Did God create plants on Day 3 out of nothing?

blue-arrow-small Does yom with a number always refer to 24-hour days?

blue-arrow-small Answering 10 big questions in detail;

blue-arrow-small Geology and the young earth;

blue-arrow-small Distant starlight and the days of Genesis 1;

blue-arrow-small William Lane Craig’s intellectually dishonest attack on biblical creationists;

blue-arrow-small The dating game;

blue-arrow-small Evolution vs God;

On another website, Ken Ham deals with the question,

blue-arrow-smallCould God Really Have Created Everything in Six Days?

That should get you started on some Christian answers to the origin of the world.

Geisler lists these orthodox Christians who held to a universe of millions or more years old. These included: Augustine, B B Warfield, C I Scofield, John Walvoord, Francis Schaeffer, Gleason Archer, Hugh Ross, and most of the leaders who produced the 1978 Chicago Statement on the inerrancy of the Bible (Geisler 2003:650).

F.  Bibliography

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Leupold, H C 1942. Exposition of Genesis, vol 1, chapters 1-19. London: Evangelical Press (originally by The Wartburg Press).

G.  Notes:


[1] Lik3#1, Christian Forums, Apologetics, ‘Did God literally create the world in 6 days?’ http://www.christianforums.com/t7775833/ (Accessed 26 September 2013).

[2] OzSpen#3, ibid.

[3] Godssontoo#10, ibid.

[4] OzSpen#13, ibid.

[5] HisSparkPlug#12, ibid.

[6] This was my brief response at OzSpen#14, ibid.

[7]Faith24#15, ibid.

[8] OzSpen#18, ibid.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 22 September 2018.