A Study of Origins and Genesis 1
"For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day ...." Exodus 20:11
Discredited Attempts to Build Time into Genesis 1
Introduction: Ever since Charles Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species on November 24, 1859, many Christian scholars have struggled to maintain an aura of credibility. The problem comes when they try to harmonize the Biblical account of Creation in six days with the scientific community's unquestioning assertion that the existing universe is the product of a hypothesized "Big Bang" about 13 billion years ago, followed by the unguided, evolutionary progress of species through the mechanism of "beneficial" mutations and "natural selection." Sadly, many Christian scholars of the Bible have allowed the ever-changing views of secular humanists to influence the interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2:4. In order to do that, they have concluded they must build time into Genesis where, in fact, it does not exist. Let us examine this phenomenon.
What is the nature of the word day (yom) (3117) in Genesis 1?
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 meaning of day (yom) is to be found in Genesis 2:4: "Finally in Genesis 2:4, yôm is part of an anarthrous 1 prepositional compound beyôm 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 to 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 atheistic, uniformitarian, 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:
Theories to Build Time into Genesis 1 by Redefining "Day"
Day-Age 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 Ross, Reasons to Believe, holds to Progressive Creationism. He also believes the Genesis Flood was local.
Framework Hypothesis. A non-literal hermeneutical stratagem to avoid the clear meaning of "day" (yom) 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 to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth and Beall, op. cit., ).
Intermittent Day 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.
Other Theories 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:
Gap 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 Reference 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 form and void" in Genesis 1:2:
Jeremiah 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 which connect it with a previous testing and fall of angels.
See Ezekiel 28:12-15 ; Isaiah 14:9-14 which certainly go beyond the kings of Tyre and Babylon.
The 1917 edition stated the concept of the Gap Theory in its note on the phrase "without form and void" as found in Jeremiah 4:23:
Cf. Genesis 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 1:1 .
The 1917 edition gave three options for defining the word "day" in Genesis 1:5:
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 1:6:
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. See Acts 17:26). All truly human (and other) fossils found are descendants of Adam. If they are buried in strata, they probably died during Noah's flood. There is no fossil record of pre-Adamic men, for there are none.
Chaos Theory of Origins. This is the interpretation that the earth as described in Genesis 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 earth. Young Earth Creationists have withstood this pressure. Allen P. Ross and Bruce Waltke hold to some version of this view.
Allen Ross, (The Bible Knowledge Commentary on Genesis, p. 28) for example, holds that Satan 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 Theory. 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 study on tohu wabohu, particularly the conclusion at the end of tohu and the conclusion at the end of bohu.)
I end this discussion of the nature of the word day (yom) with the following statement by Francis Humphrey:
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 case that regular 24-hour days are in view.
(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB 1995.)
Updated February 9, 2022