Days of Genesis
The Days of Genesis
The present standard evolutionary estimate for the age of the earth is 4.5 billion years old, with the age of the universe being roughly 8-12 billion years old. From time to time various attempts have been made to reconcile the Bible with this human estimate. One of the methods that has been attempted, is to argue that the days of Genesis are not literal days, but rather, that they are vast periods of time.
What Is Fueling This Train?
The only reason that I can think of as to why someone would want to harmonize the Bible with human estimates concerning the age of the earth is that they are more impressed with scientific estimates and guesses than the Word of God in this area. Let us remember that human theories concerning the age of the universe and the earth have greatly varied in just the last 40 years. 40 years ago it was very popular to assert that the age of the universe was two billion years old. Recently, scientists changed their estimate of the age of the universe from 30 billion years to half of that. Such is telling us that their dating methods are anything but precise. In the book What Is Creation Science, the authors note some 68 scientific methods of dating the earth and universe, and many of these methods yield dates in the thousands and not millions or billions. Scientific theories change with the times and the latest fad is often proven false in the next generation. I like the attitude expressed by the Holy Spirit through Paul, "Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar" (Romans 3:4), and His caution to Timothy, "avoiding…the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’" (1 Timothy 6:20).Among liberal churches of Christ, a man by the name of John N. Clayton has identified belief in a six-day creation as a basic component of fundamentalism, and places such a belief in the same category as belief in UFO’s and demon exorcism. We should not be ashamed of anything in the Biblical record (Romans 1:16), for God was there at Creation and He is the Creator (John 1:3).
The Bible Not A Scientific Textbook?
"It is of course true that the Bible is not a textbook on science, but all too often, it would seem, this fact is made a pretext for treating lightly the context of Genesis one. Inasmuch as the Bible is the Word of God, whenever is speaks on any subject, whatever that subject may be, it is accurate in what it says" (Studies in Genesis One, Edward J. Young, p. 43).
The Use of the Term "Day" In Genesis 1
- To symbolize the term "day" in Genesis 1 is to completely ignore the context. First, God defined what is a "day" in this chapter, "And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day" (Genesis 1:5).Can you think of any clearer language that this to portray and ordinary day? In verse 14, the terms "day" and "days" are clearly put in contrast to seasons and years, "to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years" (Genesis 1:14). If one can say that the term "day" is symbolic for ages, with as much authority one could also say that the term is symbolic for seconds.
- The days cannot be ages because Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31), and they lived through day six and seven. Was Adam millions of years old? ("So all the days that David lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died" Genesis 5:5). I have heard a recent argument that says, "The days cannot be literal days because Genesis never says that the seventh day ended and Hebrews 4:1-9 teaches that God’s Sabbath rest remains for us to enter. Thus, this seventh day is an age of thousands of years, and therefore justifies interpreting the other days as ages". Points to Note: The text says concerning the seventh day that "in it He rested from all His work" (Genesis 2:3). It does not say that God is still resting as if the day were still going on. 2. To argue that Hebrews 4:1-9 is teaching that the seventh day never ended is a horrible misuse of this passage. Actually, the passage is talking about a rest which Christians haven’t entered as yet, "There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God…Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest" (4:9,12). If the seventh day has never entered, then everyone born since Adam has been part of that "rest", just being alive would make you part of that rest, this would be true even of unbelievers! How can you forfeit being part of "time"?
- "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; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy" (Exodus 20:11). God parallels the workweek among the Jews to the week of Creation. Clearly, the use of the term "day" and "days" in this context is literal, for the Sabbath was a literal day and not an age. An another argument I have heard is that the emphasis concerning the Sabbath is not on 24 hour days, but on the number seven, after all, the Sabbath principle also applied to years (Leviticus 25:4-5). While it is true that there was a Sabbatical year and a jubilee (the seventh Sabbatical year), those years are not said to have been observed because the Lord created the heavens and the earth in six days.
- "Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female" (Matthew 19:4); "But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female" (Mark 10:6). Jesus, the Creator (Colossians 1:16), placed the creation of Adam and Eve from the beginning of creation. But if the days of Genesis are millions or billions of years in length, then the creation of Adam and Eve is hardly from the beginning, rather their creation is closer to the end of creation than the beginning of creation. In fact, those who contend that the days of Genesis were long ages, argue that humans came into existence far closer to our end of time than the beginning of creation.
- "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). If God’s invisible attributes have been clearly seen "since the creation of the world", then mankind has been around since the creation of the world. But if the days are vast ages, then contrary to this verse, God’s attributes have only been seen for a very small period of time.
"Is Anything Too Difficult For the Lord?"
An argument that I am hearing is that much happens on the sixth day in the book of Genesis for that day to be a literal day. That there just isn’t enough time for the creation of man, woman, and for Adam to name all the animals. Too me, this type of argumentation is questioning God’s ability to do what He said He did. I know that God isn’t impressed when people doubt His promises and power(Genesis 18:13-14; Mark 9:22-24). Remember, the creation of Adam and Eve was miraculous and could have taken very little time. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, the miracle was instantaneous. In reference to Adam naming the animals, nothing is said about him naming every animal that exists or every breed and variety. The text simply says, "God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them" (Genesis 2:19). Nothing is said about fish, insects, marine life, and so on. I am kind of suspicious of this argument, for I can see someone thinking that this task might have taken two days or three, but how in the world can people think that such a task took millions of years?
- Arguments like the above begin in a certain mindset, where human logic is beginning to elevate itself over the plain statements of Scripture. If we can’t believe what Genesis says about the sixth day, then what are we going to do with the Flood of Noah’s time and all the miracles in the Bible after that?
Refusing To Fix A Date for the Earth?
Those who believe that the days of Genesis were long ages will make statements such as, "We must refrain from assigning specific dates to creation when the Bible does not demand such. The length of time God chose to create the world is immaterial, and we must respect the silence of the Scriptures on this point".
- First of all, the Bible isn’t silence about how long it took God to create the world (Exodus 31:17).
- Secondly, we need to learn a lesson that institutional brethren have learned in this discussion, for they have faced the same type of arguments. Bert Thompson noted that when institutional brethren faced this debate over the age of the earth, many writers were arguing that we need to reserve judgment on this topic and just wait and see. He quotes Jack Wood Sears, former chairman of the biology department at Harding University as saying, "For example there is difficulty with the age of life on the earth. Science, as I indicated earlier, has seemed to indicate that the life has been here much longer than we have generally interpreted the Bible to indicate…Since I hold science to be a valid approach to reality, and since I have concluded upon much and sufficient evidence, that the Bible is inspired and therefore true, the only rational recourse, it seems to me, is to withhold judgment about a seeming contradiction". While at first glance such an attitude may appear noble, the truth of the situation is that such men did not remain silent on this issue. Far from being silent, Dr. Sears actually met Mr. Thompson in a debate on this very topic in 1983. Thompson writes, "In reality, what these writers mean when they say ‘we’ should ‘wait and see’, or that ‘we’ should ‘reserve judgment’ is that all those who believe in a young earth should wait and see or reserve judgment. In the meantime, they will continue to advocate publicly their position that an ancient earth is wholly consistent with the biblical record" (Reason & Revelation, August 1999, "The Bible and the Age of the Earth", Bert Thompson, p. 3).
Does It Really Matter?
If we accept the premise that we can’t really understand what the term "day" means in Genesis 1, then how can we have any real confidence in interpreting anything else in the Bible? For example, when the Bible says that Jesus "died" on the cross, does it really mean that he "died" or was He just sleeping? When the Bible says that we must be baptized to be saved, what is the real meaning of the terms "baptized" and "saved"? And if the term "day" means millions of years, then why didn’t God just say so? In addition, such a theory is the first crack in the wall, which if unchallenged, will eventually bring the theory of evolution into the church. For if one generation concedes that the evolutionary time frame is correct, then why shouldn’t the next generation take the next logical step and simply accept the theory?
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Beaverton/(503)644-9017