O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:
(I Ti 6:20, emphasis added)
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
(Ro 1:19-23, emphasis added)
The Bible is God's authoritative Word. That is what we claim, so why then do so many question the plain teachings of Genesis? Why relegate the first chapters of Genesis to the figurative or to "fabled" status and assign eons of time to the creative "days" of Genesis? Why "reconfigure" the clear language in Genesis when such compromise undermines the validity of the prophets' words and those of our Savior Jesus Christ?
Inundated with evolutionary and humanist world views at every turn and indoctrinated through years in the secular education system, the Christian can become intimidated by the relentless parade of educated men and women professing evolution to be a fact. They can begin to waver and erroneously accept that the available evidence is, if not proof of evolution, proof of an ancient Earth. So rather than abandon God, some chose to compromise on His Word and seek a means by which they can marry the supposed billions of years with the plain account of the Genesis days.
The "Real" Questions
It is often pointed out that those who insert vast eons of time into the Genesis days are not necessarily evolutionists. This is true. Then the real question is, why insist on compromising God's Word by inserting time and events clearly not intended by the text? If one doesn't accept evolution, then why the need force billions of years into the Genesis account?
It is claimed by some that you can be a Christian and believe in evolution. This is also true. But as a Christian one must always be "...ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you," (1 Pe 3:15). The real question then is, how can one convince a non-believer the Gospel is true when they do not accept the whole of God's Word as authoritative?
Becoming a Christian and continuing to walk with God requires that we know His will. If we do not believe that Genesis is literal and true, the real question is what parts of the Bible are true? What is the standard for determining what parts of God's word to accept and which to reject?
It is often argued that Genesis (the first 11 chapters) had to be allegorical. The argument is that the primitive humans were incapable of understanding the epochs of time or the events of the Earth's formation and evolution of life so God had to put it in terms and language that could be understood. It is said that he has created a "morality tale" that has been a part of oral traditions and is easily understood as such. The real question then, given God as the creator of the universe, was He incapable of creating a language His people could understand or was He incapable of creating a people who could not understand plain language? What is in the language then, that makes one accept the remaining chapters as historically accurate?
The real question is whether we can accept God's Word as authoritative, true and understandable, whether we will allow it to guide our walk and whether it can be understood without preacher or commentary. That can be answered by exploring the question of what Genesis 1 says and what God means when he says "...so that the evening and morning were the first day," (Ge 1:5, ending)
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (1 Co 14:33)
What does Genesis Chapter One Say?
Arguments about what the days of Genesis mean are moot unless we know what the Scripture says. Those that will force billions of years into the Genesis creation account often start their arguments with, "What it is really saying here..." or similar prefaces. Let's look at what it is "really saying".
Occurences in KJV
The First Day
1 In the beginning (07225) God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light (0216): and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good : and God divided the light from the darkness (02822). 5 And God called the light Day (03117), and the darkness he called Night (03915). And the evening (06153) and the morning (01242) were the first (0259) day.
(Ge 1:1-5, emphasis added, selected Strong's numbers shown)
Things to Note
- "Yowm"; (yom) is translated as "day" 2008 times by context in the KJV
- Young's Literal Translation ends verse 5 with "day one", Douay Rheims, ASV and NASB end with "one day"
- All Translations and paraphrased versions from the Vulgate on translate as "day one", "first day", "a day", "one day", etc.
beginning 18, firstfruits 11, first 9, chief 8, misc 5; 51 Total
light(s) 114, day 2, bright 1, clear 1, flood 1, herbs 1, lightning 1, morning 1, sun 1; 123 Total
darkness 70, dark 7, obscurity 2, night 1; 80 Total
day 2008, time 64, chronicles + 01697 37, daily 44, ever 18, year 14, continually 10, when 10, as 10, while 8, full 8 always 4, whole 4, alway 4, misc 44; 2287 Total
night 205, nights 15, midnight +02677 4, season 3, midnight +02676 2, night +01121 2, midnight 1, midnight +08432 1; 233 Total
morning 191, morrow 7, day 3, days + 06153 1, early 3; 205 Total
one 687, first 36, another 35, other 30, any 18, once 13, eleven + 06240 13, every 10, certain 9, an 7, some 7, misc. 87; 952 Total
Treatments exist that attempt to dispose of the necessity in translating "yowm" as day in Genesis chapter one. A large number of these citations usually consist of rare Old Testament occurences wherein "yowm" is translated into other usages. This argument falls apart when you look at the reasoning. First there is the context issue, in every instance where other uses are justified the word "yowm" is either compounded with other words as in "yowm'rab" (meaning long day) AND in the complete absence of numerical modifiers and "evening and morning" statements. Secondly, there is a frequency of use issue. The word "yowm" is translated as "day" 2008 times in the KJV, the total other uses is 278 including 44 occurences as "daily". The ordinary use outweighs the exceptional uses by nearly 10:1. Lastly there is a circular reference issue. You cannot invalidate the majority use of a word by citing the minority usage from the same source. This places the argument into a hopeless circular reasoning. If I cite the minority use of a word within a source to invalidate the majority use within the same source, I must reject the reliability the very reference I am using to affirm my position. If I accept the work as reliable then I accept the validity of all uses of a particular word within the source.
Plurality is another argument posed when the word "days" appears in the Old Testament. Every time the English "days" appear it is the Hebrew word "yamim". Without modification it can be used as an open ended statement as used in Genesis 6:4, "There were giants in the earth in those days;" This and similar uses usually indicate a reign, era or a lifetime; Genesis 5:17 "And all the days (Heb. yamim) of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years (Heb. shaneh): and he died." Even in these uses there is reasonable limiting context. Moreover, in the presence of a numerical modifier it is a perfect tense and inndicates a specific and ordinary use; Genesis 7:4 reads, " For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights". Can one reasonably argue that God was going to wait another seven months,years or indefinite periods to begin the flood, while Noah and the animals waited on the ark?
A few personalities with some formal Hebrew training insist that "yowm" in the creation account does not necessarily translate as day. There have been several blanket and generalized statements offered by these authorities but no explanation of the Hebrew rules supporting this position. This argument must be weighed against the vast and overwhelming scholarship to the contrary.
Direct consultation with a Hebrew scholar and rabbi in the area has affirmed that "yowm" modified by a numerator always indicates an ordinary usage. Further modified by "evening and morning" cements the usage as an ordinary day as there was a cycle of light and dark. It must also be considered that every translation from the Vulgate to our Modern paraphrases translates the days in Genesis 1 as ordinary days.
So what does Genesis 1 say? It says what it says:
" In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day."
(Genesis Chapter 1, KJV)
The "Days" of Genesis 1 as Metaphor
It is the assumption of this writer that the Scripture is meant to be understood. Therefore if there is an allegorical reference or a metaphor used, the context will define it as such. Words like "As a...", "...it was as if", "...it is like" or "Which things are an allegory..." (Ga 4:24) will denote the transition into figurative language.
There is also contextual framework that separates the literal from the figurative in many cases, the symbolic visions in Joseph's (son of Jacob) dreams and those of Pharoah, which were said to be dreams and contextually translated by Joseph.
The position of "metaphorical days" in Genesis raises serious questions of our ability to rely on and understand Scripture. The most glaring question is, how does one determine which (if any) Scripture can be taken at face value if some of the Scripture cannot? The language of Genesis 1 is of the same construction and syntax of the rest of Genesis. Where then do we mark the move from the metaphorical to the literal?
This argument is often posited, "In first Peter 3:8 it says '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.'," The problems here are manifold. The context is God's timelessness and patience. The language markers "a day is like..." are present. And one is left wondering why God would tell His people something He would not define for thousands of years.
One question remains if the "days" of Genesis are not literal. Assuming God wants His people to understand His Word and knowing the Hebrew language had specific words for week, month, year, etc., why not use a different term if He meant to convey a time period other than a day? Consider the following table:
The Genesis writer defined a cycle of light and dark for each day, he enumerated the days and did not even inject a modified version of "yowm" as in "yom'rab" or "long day". It should be clear then, that the days during the creation week were ordinary, literal days.
Consequences of Compromise
If vast amounts of time are forced into the days of the creation week, there are profound consequences. For one, if the plants were made (developed) over a vast third "day", then how would they survive a vast and indefinite night. How would they survive until the sun and moon were placed. One would have to disregard the periods of darkness in the creation account and disregard the order of creation events. The understanding of Genesis 1 becomes hopelessly convoluted.
There are consequences to the veracity and understanding of the remianing Scriptures. Starting with Moses, the work week and Sabbath are defined in Exodus 20:
" Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 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."
This uses the creation account to directly define the workweek. If the "days" that the creation took place were vast and indefinite periods of time, this command of God is meaningless. Consider that with a epoch=day position in place you must work six vast and indefinite periods of time followed by a vast and indefinite period of time resting. First and last days of the week are undefinable because there is no authoritative standard if the "days" of creation are indefinite periods of time. Moses, a prophet of God understood the creation days as literal, ordinary days.
Jesus the Son of God
Jesus Christ, our Savior and the Word incarnate made several statements referencing the creation, two:
"But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female." (Mark 10:6)
"And he answering said to them, `Did ye not read, that He who made them, from the beginning a male and a female made He them," (Mt 19:4, emphasis added in both)
Here we have the son of God referencing Adam and Eve in a discourse on marriage. He affirms the Scripture as an authority for the discussion. He accepts the Scripture as reliable when it says that man and woman were there at the beginning of the world. As the son of God He was there at the creation (John 1:1-3). How can He assert that mankind was there at the beginning of creation if the "days" of Genesis were vast epochs of time? If one forces vast amounts of time into the creation week, Christ's words become a fable, a lie or betray His ignorance. Accepting the fable at best, dillutes the authority of the Scripture he used. Any of them call into question His claim to the Sonship of God!
Paul, Inspired Apostle of Christ
In Romans 1:29, Paul the inspired apostle of Christ writes:
"For 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, so that men are without excuse." (NIV, Emphasis added)
Notice that Paul says there was someone there at the beginning of the world to see and understand. The indictment that man is without excuse affirms that man was there at the beginning, understanding God through His creation.
The Scripture claims that Paul was chosen by Christ and inspired of God. That he was an apostle of Christ. If the "days" in Genesis are not ordinary days, then again Paul is either fabricating or is ignorant. Such a man could not be inspired of God.
A Little Housekeeping - Final Thoughts
The question has been raised, how can one insist that the first three "days" of genesis are "Solar" days when the Sun (Sol) was not even placed in the heavens? For this reason I used the term "ordinary day"; technically there is no "Solar Day" without the Solar. "Ordinary Day" is meant to indicate a day of approximately 24 hours or one revolution of the Earth. However this does not invalidate the point that the days of Genesis were ordinary (approximately 24 hours) days.
The discussion of light within darkness is not the focus of the article. However we "know" that light is composed of photons, the stuff. If this "stuff" is scattered then we see darkness, there is no energy either visible or otherwise but the "stuff" is still there. Science acknowledges the presence of scattered photons in space. Light as we know it exsists within an electromagnetic spectrum. The frequency and wave lengths of light is detectable and measurable. The spectrum is highly ordered. On the first day of creation, Scripture tells us that that God spoke the light into existence and then "divided" (separated or gathered) the light from the darkness. He brought it together, focused it.
The Scripture then notes that God called the light "day" (day as opposed to night, "daylight") and started a cycle of light and dark, night and day. "...there was evening and morning, the first day.".
The promise of Christ is separate and apart from ones understanding of Genesis. If one believes that God exists (Heb 11:6), confesses Christ (Mt 10:32) and puts Him on in baptism (Gal 3:27); they will be saved (Mark 16:16).
However, our command is to preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15, et al) as well as being prepared to give a defense of our faith to anyone who asks (1 Pe 3:15). If we show the Bible as untrustworthy by our compromise, then our efforts will be hobbled. Further, the interdependance of Scripture on itself is such that if one continues in their belief that Genesis is not true or literal, the possibility exists that one's own faith may suffer
The question has been raised whether bringing this topic to discussion can hurt the unity of Christians. It is this author's position that we can not possibly hope for unity if we are not unified in what we hold as our authority. We can trust in the completeness, consistency and truthfulness of God's Word.