The most popular view has been to consider the days in Genesis as literal or solar days - twenty-four hours in length. Most people who believe the days are literal twenty-four hour periods hold to what is known as the Recent Creation View. They believe that the creation of the universe is a relatively recent matter, happening some ten to twenty thousand years ago. Thus the earth and the universe are very young. Individuals who hold this particular view are called young earthers.
The Case For Solar Days And A Young Earth
The following arguments are given for the solar day theory and the recent creation view.
Those that advocate the solar day/recent creation view maintain that this is the normal reading of the Genesis creation account as well as the rest of the Bible. If one takes Scripture at face value, then they will conclude that the earth was created in six literal days a few thousand years ago.
History is also appealed to. Historically, the Jews interpreted the days as literal, solar days. The church has, for the most part, held to a literal understanding of the days of Genesis. This furthers the argument that if the Scriptures are taken at face value, the days will be understood in their normal sense.
In addition, those interpreters who believe the biblical record can be understood to mean ages instead of literal days recognize that the literal day view is the obvious view. Thus, all other views, would be the non-obvious interpretations.
4.A Day Defined
In Genesis 1:5
we find the term yom
as being defined as one day/night cycle.
God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day (Genesis 1:5).
Consequently, the author of Genesis, from the beginning, gives us the definition of day.
Elsewhere, Moses, the same writer who wrote the first chapter of Genesis, restated that the creation occurred in six literal days. The children of Israel were told they were to work six days and then rest upon the seventh because:
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).
The analogy of six days of work and one day of rest would not make sense if the days were other than literal. Therefore, those who advocate another view as to the meaning of the word day, have the burden of proof to show why the word should not be understood in its normal meaning.
6.Understood As Literal Days
Many Old Testament scholars contend that the ancient Hebrews would have only understood the days listed in Genesis 1
as literal days. Old Testament scholar James Barr of the University of Oxford wrote:
So far as I know there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the idea that creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (James Barr, personal letter to David Watson, dated April 23, 1984).
7.The Hebrew Word For Day
Another argument for solar days can be found in the Hebrew word (yom
) translated day in Genesis 1
. In the Bible yom
is used in the singular about 2,000 times in the Old Testament with the usual meaning being a solar day. We find the term is also used for the time of daylight (as opposed to night), and for a point in time, particularly in the future (such as the phrase day of the Lord). Only in rare cases, however, is it used for a period of longer than twenty-four hours and only if the context demands it.
8.Always Solar Days With Numerical Adjective
Furthermore, there are about 200 references in the Old Testament where yom
is used with a numerical adjective (e.g. day one, day two). This includes nine times within the creation account of Genesis (1:5, 1:8, 1:13, 1:19, 1:23, 1:31, 2:2 twice, and 2:3). In every other Old Testament instance, a solar day is always
in view. If the days in Genesis are anything but solar days, then they would be the only
exception to that usage.
In addition, when the word day is used in a numbered series in the Old Testament (for example Numbers 7:12-78
), it is always used as a normal day.
10.Plural Of Yom
We also find the plural form of yom
) is used over 700 times in the Old Testament and it always refers to literal days. The exceptions would have to be the two instances where it refers back to the original creation in Genesis if the days are not meant to be understood as literal.
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).
It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested (Exodus 31:17).
The term yom
is also used for the twelve hour period of daylight in four different places within the creation narrative of Genesis (1:5,14,16,18)). There are, however, no numerical adjectives used in these references. Day and night are described here as periods of light and darkness (verse 5) which would give further testimony that a normal day is in view.
12.Days Linked With Years
In Genesis 1:14
the term days are linked with years.
Then God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years (Genesis 1:14).
We find the word days linked with the word years. It is clear that literal days are in view otherwise the term years would be meaningless. This is another indication that the days in Genesis are meant to be understood as literal days.
13.Evening And Morning
As we examine the text we find other evidence that suggest the days were to be understood as literal. For example, the natural way of taking the phrase evening and morning would be in a twenty-four hour sense of light and darkness. This same phrase occurs one hundred times in other parts of the Old Testament and it always
has a twenty-four hour day in view. Again, Genesis 1
would have to be the exception to the rule.
G.F. Hasel, writing in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,
gives a fitting summary to the biblical evidence.
In the creation account of Gen. 1 appears the repeated phrase, and there was evening and there was morning . . . day . . . . This formula indicates (1) that evening and morning should be understood alike in all six days, (2) that the day begins with evening, (3) that each day is a real twenty-four-hour day, and (4) that thus, the daily rhythm of time has its beginning. The creation day is understood as a normal twenty-four hour day in Ex. 20:8-11; 31:15,17 (G.F. Hasel, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised Edition, General Editor G.W. Bromiley, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1979, Volume 1 p. 877).
The biblical use of the word yom
coupled with the repetition of evening and morning in Genesis 1
, have led many to conclude that a solar day is clearly in view in the Genesis account of creation.
14.God Has Rested
There is other evidence for the solar day view. The Bible explicitly states that God has rested from His creation.
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done (Genesis 2:2).
After the sixth day, God rested or ceased creating anything new. Though God is still resting from creation, the seventh day was a distinct period of time in the past when He rested. When the Bible says that God rested on the seventh day it is always in the past tense, not the present tense. Thus, the seventh day of creation is over. Hence it should not be made to refer to an unknown period of time as some have attempted to do.
It is also contended that the Scripture teaches that creation occurred suddenly. The Bible says:
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth . . . Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the earth stand in awe of him. For He spoke and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast (Psalm 33:6,8,9).
The implication is that creation came about in a sudden manner. There does not seem to be any long period of time from the commandment to the fulfillment. We can point to the analogy that other miracles of God recorded in Scripture occurred instantaneously. For example, God caused the Red Sea to immediately part (Exodus 14:21
) and Jesus changed water instantaneously into wine (John 2:9-11
Sudden creation is consistent with the way God has worked throughout the entire Scripture. It also fits well with the interpretation that the days were twenty-four hours in length occurring only a few thousand years ago.
16.Symbiosis (Mutual Need)
Symbiosis is a scientific term for the mutual need that certain types of living things have for one another. For example, many plants cannot reproduce without the help of certain insects or birds. This mutual need is strong evidence of the need for literal days in the Genesis creation account.
The Bible says that that plants were created on the third day (Genesis 1:9-13
), birds on the fifth day (Genesis 1:20-23
), and insects on the sixth day (Genesis 1:24-25
). Plants can only survive a short period of time without birds and insects. It is impossible for them to exist for millions of years waiting for birds and insects to come on the scene. In addition, many types of birds eat only insects. How could they have survived while waiting for millions or billions of years for the insects to arrive? Symbiosis between these living things speaks loudly for a twenty-four hour day in Genesis 1
17.The Testimony Of New Testament
The New Testament also provides evidence that the days were considered to be literal. There are a number of passages that say the human race was created about the same time as the universe. Mark records Jesus saying:
But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female (Mark 10:6).
If a considerable time elapsed between the creation of the material universe and of humanity then this verse would be misleading. Therefore, the creation must have taken place relatively recently.
This evidence has led many people to believe that God meant for us to understand the days of creation in the normal sense of the word - literal days. These literal days of creation took place recently in earth's history. Thus the world is only a few thousand years old. God created the world in six days to set a pattern for humanity.
Difficulties With Literal Day/ Recent Creation View
Though the twenty-four hour day/recent creation view has been popular, it has not gone without criticism. Many Bible-believing scholars do not think it was the intent of the author of Genesis to communicate that the days were normal solar days. They respond to the arguments in the following manner.
1.Text Not That Clear
Those rejecting the literal day view contend that the text is not that clear as to the days being literal. On the contrary, they point out that the word day can and does mean more than just a solar day in the context of the creation account.
Even if one grants the idea that the days in Genesis are meant to be understood as normal, solar days, this does not necessarily mean that the creation of the earth was something recent.
3.Not Always Believed
Furthermore, the church has not always believed in literal twenty-four days of creation. There was not
unanimous opinion among interpreters as to the length of the day. Many interpreters, before the age of modern science, advocated the days as indefinite periods of time.
4.Age Of Earth
The main objection to the literal day/recent creation view is the seeming ancient age of the earth and universe. If the earth was created in six literal days only a few thousand years ago, then we should be able to see evidence of this. The consensus of scientists, both Christian and non-Christian, agree that the earth and universe are billions of years old. Why, they ask is there no scientific evidence for a young earth?
Not Scientifically Credible
Furthermore, it is contended that the evidence that some believing scientists bring forth for a young earth does not stand the test of scientific credibility. Most scientists, Christian and non-Christian, accept the idea of an old earth and universe.
Say There Is Evidence
Those who hold to the young earth viewpoint disagree with that scientific assessment and claim their scientific findings validate their position. They say it is not necessary to appeal to billions of years to explain the various geological stratas. A universal Flood can answer many earth-age discrepancies, but other factors should be considered also.
Many scholars, who believe that the Scriptures do speak of literal days, explain the so-called discrepancy between the Genesis and modern science by saying that God accommodated the information in Genesis to the limited scientific knowledge of that time. Thus the Scripture does speak of God creating the universe in six literal days, but this was only for the benefit of those living at the time who could not understand any other concept.
It is, however, dangerous to assume that the people were told something by God that He knew was not true. If God accommodated Genesis to communicate to the non-scientific Hebrews living at the time, He may have done it elsewhere. How can we be certain that this has not happened with other biblical passages? How can we be certain where God has told the entire truth and where He has not?
6.Solar Days Without Sun?
Another objection concerns the creation of the sun. It seems the sun was not created until day four. How can you have solar days without the sun? Since the sun was not created until the fourth day it is incorrect to speak of actual twenty-four-hour days until after that point in the program of the Creator.
Those holding the literal twenty-four hour day respond in various ways. For example, the first three creative days could have been short periods of time anticipating the creation of the sun upon day four. In addition, we assume that all six days were of the same length because the same descriptive phrases are used of each group of three days.
Created On Day One
It is also argued that it is not necessary to assume that the sun was created on the fourth day. It is more likely that it was created on day one and then made to appear on the fourth.
7.Events Of Day Six
The events of day six are said to have been impossible to complete in one twenty-four hour period. The Bible says that after God created all the land animals on the sixth day, He created them male and female. God created Adam first and gave him the responsibility of tending the Garden of Eden. God then granted Adam the opportunity to name the animals that had been created earlier that day. Later, God fashioned a wife for him by means of a rib removed from Adam during a deep sleep.
How Can They Fit?
It is hard for many to imagine how all these events could have occurred in one twenty-four hour period. This has led many to believe that the days represent stages of unspecified length, not literal twenty-four hour days.
Events Can Fit
Those holding to the literal day theory respond by saying the events of the sixth day can be made to fit into a solar day. One need not assume that Adam had to name all the animals before he felt the need for a helper. Seeing a few of the animals with female counterparts would have been sufficient to create the need in Adam for someone to help him.
Summary On Literal Day/Recent Creation Theory
The strength of literal day/recent creation theory is that it takes the creation account at face value and is consistent with the rest of Scripture that God created the world in six days. The obvious problem concerns the age of the earth and universe that seems to be much longer according to modern science.