Creation: How Long is a Day?
1:5. "And there was evening and there was morning, one day".
was evening and there was morning, one day
some who have attempted to infer that this
repeated phrase marks the genesis of the Semitic
day beginning at evening. That is unlikely, for
the reason that the phrase marks the completion,
not the commencement of the activities on day
one of creation.
Leupold (online commentary,
section 1.55) translates this phrase, “Then came
evening, then came morning – the first day.”
What is clearly indicated here is a sequence of
events following the illuminated portion of that
first 24-hour day. God had created light, and
then localized it. The earth was rotating on its
axis in relation to that light. As the day wore
on, sunset finally arrived. So evening came,
and, after a period of time, morning came. That
completed the cycle of Divine activity on Day
One of creation.
(see at section 1.56)points
out that some have attempted to make Gen. 1 the
origin of the Semitic notion that a new day begins
in the evening. But he does not believe that can
be deduced from this passage. Here, he notes, the
arrival of evening followed by morning came at the
end of the first day’s activities, not its
beginning. For the Jewish people, the concept of a
day beginning at sunset is more likely related to
the Divinely-specified protocol for the observance
of the Jewish Sabbath (see Lev. 23:32).
In his comments
Gen. 1:5, C. F. Keil (Keil and Delitzsch)
wrote, "It follows from this, that the days of
creation are not reckoned from evening to evening,
but from morning to morning. The first day does
not fully terminate till the light returns after
the darkness of night; it is not till the break of
the new morning that the first interchange of
light and darkness is completed ...."
Here then, is the sequence on the first day of
creation: (1) God created the heavens. (2) God
created the earth. (3) God created by command
light. (4) As the earth rotated in relation to the
fixed light source, evening came, and with it
darkness. (5) The first 24-hour day was terminated
by the arrival of the dawn, or morning.
Two questions are at stake here: (1) What is the
nature of the word day (yom)?
(2) What is the significance of the word one
appearing in the cardinal, rather than the ordinal
(1) What is the
nature of the word day (yom)? The word day is used
in two different senses in Genesis 1:5. It is
first used by God to denote the illuminated
portion of existence upon earth as opposed to the
darkened portion of existence. As the earth
rotates on its axis, a given spot on the globe is
alternately exposed to light and then to darkness.
In English, it is appropriate to call the
illuminated portion "day" or "daytime." In Hebrew
it is yom.
In the second part of Gen. 1:5, day is used to
denote a complete cycle
of daytime followed by nighttime. We now speak of
a solar day, or a 24-hour day, but on Day One
there was no sun in respect to which the earth
rotated on its axis, but rather some other light
source. We are not told what that light source
was, but presumably, as suggested above, it was a
visible display of the glory of God. In any event,
the amount of time for a day-night cycle was
essentially the same then as it is today, granting
the entropy (decay) associated with six thousand
years plus of the earth's existence.
According to Francis
Humphrey, a third
of day (yom) is
to be found in Genesis 2:4:
Genesis 2:4, yôm
is part of an anarthrous 1
meaning not ‘in the day’
but simply ’when’."
There can be no doubt that, in the latter part of
Genesis 1:5, by writing, "And there was evening
and there was morning, one day," Moses was
delineating a 24-hour day or what in three days
could accurately be termed a solar day. The terms
evening and morning must doubtless refer to a
24-hour day. This limiting context is stated first
in Genesis 1:5, then repeated in Gen.
1:8, 13, 19, 23, and 31. As Humphrey concludes,
"…it is clearly preferable to read Gen.
1:5b as defining a yôm
for the following sequence of ordinals-namely
one cycle of evening and morning, signifying a
complete 24-hour day embracing both the period
of darkness and the period of light.”
It should be noted that the day-night cycle
of the first day was, by necessity,
different than the succeeding days. Whereas
each succeeding day began with daybreak or
dawn, the first day began in utter darkness.
In other words, when God created the heavens
and the earth (Gen. 1:1), it was pitch black
(Gen. 1:2). How long it was dark we are not
told. How long the Spirit of God was moving
over the surface of the waters before God
created light (Gen. 1:3), we are not told.
What we are told by God as recorded by Moses
is that God created everything that came
into existence in six days (Ex. 20:11). And
God nowhere in Scripture indicated a
chronological disparity between the first
day and the succeeding days. We humans would
be unwise unilaterally to impose a
difference where none is stated to exist.
For millennia, few questioned Moses' account
of the origin of the universe, the earth,
and life. Indeed, through the first roughly
1800 years of the church's existence, it was
assumed that God created the cosmos and that
he did it in six days. There were some
allegorists, such as "Clement, Origen, and
Augustine, [who] did not consider the days
of creation as 24-hour days, but, even as
old-earth advocate Davis Young states,
neither did they see non-literal days
conflicting with their young-earth view"
(Davis A. Young, Christianity and the Age of
the Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,
1982), p. 19 and 22, as quoted by James R.
Mook, "The Church Fathers on Genesis, the
Flood, and the Age of the Earth", p. 26 in Coming
Grips with Genesis). It was understood
that a day meant a day. But with the advent
of the theory of evolution,
with its emphasis on geological uniformitarianism,
a number of theologians and Hebrew scholars
attempted to find new ways to interpret the
account. Many tried to reconcile the
Biblical account with the vast amounts of
time demanded by the doctrine of evolution.
Instead of allowing the clear teaching of
Scripture to stand in judgment on on the
anti-supernatural biases and presuppositions
of the scientific community, the Christian
community, led by Christian scholars,
capitulated to the dogmas foisted upon them.
But those who took the Bible seriously had
to deal with the text of Gen. 1. So they
resorted to non-literal methods of exegesis
or ingenious manipulations of the Hebrew
syntax to accommodate the scientific views.
One way to do that was to assign vast
periods of time to the account of the "days"
of creation. Here is a brief list of the
theories regarding the days of creation that
have been concocted to satisfy the time
parameters mandated by evolution:
Theory. The days of creation
are not literal days, as a straight-forward
reading of Gen. 1 would lead one to believe.
Instead they represent vast periods of time.
This theory, unsupported by an exegesis of
Gen. 1, was concocted to create the amount
of time required by the uniformitarian
presuppositions of the dogma of evolution.
Specifically, for example, uniformitarian
geology holds that the geologic strata found
around the earth were laid down by natural
processes over millions upon millions of
years. But this is untrue. The geologic
strata were not laid down gradually over
millions of years by natural processes, but
over a short period of time during the
global, catastrophic geological devastation
caused by the Flood of Noah (Gen. 6-8).
Another term for this non-literal approach
to the days of creation is Progressive
Creationism. Astrophysicist Hugh
Believe, holds to Progressive
Creationism. He also believes the Genesis
stratagem to avoid the clear meaning of
in Genesis 1:1-2:3 in a failed attempt to
harmonize the Biblical teaching of Creation
with the Old-Earth
implications of the theory of Evolution.
In the Framework Hypothesis, God was not
meaning to convey literal or scientific
truth. Rather He sought to convey a theology
of creation through a literary or symbolic
framework of six days. Proponents of
the Framework Hypothesis include Arie
Noordtzij, Meredith Kline, Mark D. Futato, Lee
Irons, Henri Blocher, Bruce Waltke, Gordon
Wenham, Mark Throntveit, Ronald F. Youngblood,
and W. Robert Godfrey (all referenced with
their publications by Todd
S. Beall, "Contemporary Hermeneutical
Approaches to Gen. 1-11", footnote 11,
pp. 151-152, Coming
Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and
the Age of the Earth).
Theory. This theory holds
that there were vast quantities of time
between the days of creation. No
straightforward reading of the account in
Gen. 1 would lead one to support this
theory. It was concocted by Biblical
scholars who have been cowed into believing
that science demands an Old
Earth. The evolutionary
theory demands vast quantities of time.
Old-Earth creationists, attempting to
accommodate the Biblical account with Evolution,
keep searching for ways to insert more time
into Genesis. Inevitably, they violate a
normal reading of the passage.
that Insert Time into the Genesis Record
In addition to theories regarding the days
of creation, other theories have been
created to insert more time into the
Creation Account of Genesis:
Theory. There is an enormous
gap of time between Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2.
According to some who hold this theory, God
created an initial pristine universe as
described in Genesis 1:1. But something
ruined it. What or who ruined it? Why it was
Satan and his angels, who fell. So God had
to judge the world with a global cataclysm.
This accounts for the trillions of fossils
scattered throughout the geological ages.
Genesis 1:2 then, according to these
theorists, describes the condition of the
earth after God judged it. It was utterly
dark, without form, void, and covered with
water. Genesis 1:3-31 accounts for God's recreation
of the cosmos. The Gap Theory is also known
as the "Ruin
and Reconstruction" Theory. By
whatever name, this theory is untenable
theologically, because it makes God say that
everything He had created was "good" (Gen.
1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) and "very good"
(Gen. 1:31) even though the re-created world
was littered with the fossils of animals
that had died and lay buried in the geologic
strata that everywhere around the globe
testify of a cataclysmic judgment.
Furthermore, it diametrically opposes the
clear statement that it was by one man,
Adam, that sin entered the world, and death
through sin (Romans 5:12-14). Though it
never used the words "gap theory", the Scofield
Bible popularized this unbiblical
concept and helped spread it through scores
of otherwise conservative Bible colleges and
seminaries. Here are the words of the 1917
edition commenting on the phrase "without
and void" in Genesis 1:2:
4:23-27 ; Isaiah 24:1; 45:18 clearly
indicate that the earth had undergone a
cataclysmic change as the result of divine
judgment. The face of the earth bears
everywhere the marks of such a catastrophe.
There are not wanting imitations (sic - the word is intimations) which
connect it with a previous testing and fall
See Ezekiel 28:12-15 ; Isaiah 14:9-14 which
certainly go beyond the kings of Tyre and
The 1917 edition stated the concept of the
Gap Theory in its note on the phrase "without
and void" as found in Jeremiah 4:23:
1:2 . "Without form and void" describes the
condition of the earth as the result of
judgment ; Jeremiah 4:24-26 ; Isaiah 24:1
which overthrew the primal order of Genesis
edition gave three
for defining the word "day" in Genesis
The word "day"
is used in Scripture in three ways:
(1) that part of the solar day of
twenty-four hours which is light Genesis
1:5; Genesis 1:14 ; John 9:4; 11:9.
(2) such a day, set apart for some
distinctive purpose, as, "day of atonement"
( Leviticus 23:27 ); "day of judgment"
Matthew 10:15 .
(3) a period of time, long or short, during
which certain revealed purposes of God are
to be accomplished, as "day of the Lord."
The 1917 edition also revealed its bias
toward the Day-Age Theory in its notes on
the word "evening"
in Genesis 1:5:
The use of
"evening" and "morning" may be held to limit
"day" to the solar day; but the frequent
parabolic use of natural phenomena may
warrant the conclusion that each creative
"day" was a period of time marked off by a
beginning and ending.
Some who hold to the Gap Theory even posit a
race of pre-Adamic men, of which the Bible
never speaks. To the contrary it affirms
that God made every nation of men from
one (my translation, emphasis mine.
17:26). All truly human
fossils found are descendants of Adam. If
they are buried in strata, they almost inevitably
died during the Flood of Noah. There is no fossil
record of pre-Adamic men, for there are
of Origins. This is
the interpretation that the earth as described
1:2 was chaotic, cursed, under God's
judgment, and even evil. As such it needed to
be redeemed. It is my view that otherwise
conservative scholars who hold to this
view have felt compelled to adjust their
exegesis of Scripture to accommodate the
prounouncements of evolutionists and their
view of an ancient
Creationists have withstood this
pressure. Allen P. Ross and Bruce Waltke hold
to some version of this view.
Allen Ross, (The
Genesis, p. 28) for example, holds that
ruined the original heavens
and earth, which God had created at
some point in the dateless past. What this
amounts to is a more sophisticated version
of the Gap
. People who hold to this view
import from elsewhere in Scripture elements
of sin and cursing and judgment into Genesis
1:2 that are not found in the text of Gen.
1. The earth as described in Genesis 1:2 was
neither chaotic, nor sinful, nor evil, nor
under judgment. It was simply unorganized
and unproductive, uninhabited, aqueous, and
dark. It was all that God intended it to be
at this stage
of God's creation
on Day 1.
(See my word
, particularly the conclusion
at the end of tohu
and the conclusion
at the end of bohu
end this discussion of the nature of the
word day (yom)
with the following statement by Francis
Humphrey in his article "The meaning of yôm in Genesis 1:1-2:4."
(2) What is the
significance of the word one (echad) appearing in
the cardinal, rather than the ordinal
form? The careful Hebrew scholar
notes that Moses used the cardinal one
in reference to the initial day of creation
(Gen. 1:5), but thereafter used the ordinals
in the succeeding days (Gen. 1:8, 13, 19,
23, 31; 2:2-3).
The fact that
for the bulk of the passage [Genesis
1:1-2:4], the word yôm
is accompanied by sequential numerical
denotation and the language of ‘evening and
morning’ gives a prima facie
that regular 24-hour days are in view.
Steinmann has written a definitive
on the use of echad in Genesis 1:5.
It is entitled, "Echad as an Ordinal Number and the Meaning of Genesis 1:5." Here is a list of the topics Steinmann
as an ordinal number in numbering units of
time" (p. 577). His conclusion (p. 580): "Echad
may be used in place of the ordinal rishon
when enumerating time periods, but only in
two special idioms. One of these
designates the day of a month, the other
the year of a reign of a king. In all
other cases of periods of time (days,
months or years) the ordinal number is
2. "Countables" (p. 581). The cardinal
can serve as an ordinal number to
count the first of a small number of
things. Examples include:
Gen 2:11: “the first [river]” (of four
Gen 4:19: “the name of the first [wife]
was Adah” (of two wives)
Exod 26:4, 5; 36:11: “the first curtain”
(of two curtains)
Exod 28:17; 39:10: “the first row” (of
Exod 29:40; Num 28:7: “for the first
lamb” (of two lambs)
1 Kgs 6:24: “the first cherub” (of two
Job 42:14: “the name of the first [he
called] Jemimah (of three daughters)
Ezek 10:14: “the face of the first
[creature] was the face of a cherub (of
in Genesis 1:5" (p. 582). In this regard Steinmann
If this means, as most translators and
commentators understand it, “There was
an evening and a morning, the first
day,” we can find no precedent for the
use of echad
here. It cannot be the use of a cardinal
number as an ordinal to enumerate a time
period, since this only applies to days
of a month or the years of a king’s
reign. Neither of these is the case
here, despite the references to the use
as an ordinal to denote a first day by
Moreover, this cannot
be the typical use of echad
to begin a list of countables. First,
the lack of an article on both echad
is unattested elsewhere in the OT for a
list of countables. Secondly, none of
the following ordinal numbers for the
second through fifth days has an
article, nor is there an article with yom
(Gen 1:8, 13, 19, 23). This, again, is
unattested elsewhere in the OT.
What is Steinmann's
It would appear as if the text is very
carefully crafted so that an alert
reader cannot read it as “the first
day.” Instead, by omission of the
article it must be read as “one day,”
thereby defining a day as something akin
to a twenty-four hour solar period with
light and darkness and transitions
between day and night, even though there
is no sun until the fourth day. This
would then explain the lack of articles
on the second through fifth days (p.
like the English word “day,” can take on
a variety of meanings. It does not in
and of itself mean a twenty-four hour
day. This alone has made the length of
the days in Gen. 1 a perennially
controversial subject. However, the use
in Gen 1:5 and the following unique uses
of the ordinal numbers on the other days
demonstrates that the text itself
indicates that these are regular solar
days (p. 584).
of the preceding, it is clearly
preferable to read Gen. 1:5b as defining
for the following sequence of ordinals -
namely one cycle of evening and morning,
signifying a complete 24-hour day
embracing both the period of darkness
and the period of light. Having used the
to establish that definition of yôm, the
chapter then goes on in the expected
It is clear that both Humphrey
concur that echad,
in Genesis 1:5, is not being used as an
ordinal, but as a cardinal number in order
to define what a day is in the context of
Genesis 1:1-2:3: A day is a 24-hour period
equivalent to a solar day. Day (yom)
cannot be stretched into a lengthy period
I agree with their conclusions.
ends his entire
article with the following
observation, with which I concur:
It has been
my experience that those who question the
normal historical narrative reading of
Genesis 1:1–2:4 tend to be my fellow
evangelicals. Theological liberals
recognize the text as saying that God
created the universe in six 24-hour days.
They see evangelicals who adopt
alternative readings of the text as
engaged in a form of suspect apologetics.
I believe the liberal critique to be
accurate. Where I differ from them,
however, is that I believe the text is
correct in what it is teaching. A more
effective apologetic therefore lies in
simply admitting what the text proclaims
and showing that it has far more
explanatory power than many people think.
In that light, I am excited by the kind of
research being conducted by CMI
and likeminded creation science
organizations. God means what He says and
He did it just as Genesis says he did!
lacking the definite article. If the
definite article were present (represented
by the vowel marking pathach under
the beth) then it would signify
‘in the day’. Its lack signifies an
idiomatic use meaning ‘when’ as in the NIV