First use of “day” is 6 hours long. “Day” also is used of a 24 hour period (Exodus 20:8-11). The term “day” is not infinitely expandable. “Day” is specified as “evening and morning”. The Hebrew term “yom” is a hotly disputed idea. Arguments are put forth for “day” to mean 24 hours, an indistinct period of time like “age”. The use of the cardinal “first” seems to support the idea of a 24-hour day and is satisfying to me. God could have used long periods of time or short periods of time from a human perspective to achieve the acts of creation. I think He used days as He defines them in Exodus 20:8-11. The Divine commentary there can only be understood as referring to a 24 hour.
Let’s see what a Journal article says:
Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 05:1 (Fall 2000)
Article: A Defense Of Literal Days In The Creation Week
Author: Robert V. McCabe
DBSJ 5 (Fall 2000) p. 97-104
A Defense Of Literal Days In The Creation Week
Robert V. McCabe
Over the past decade, there has been a proliferation of articles defending either a literal or a figurative1 interpretation of the days in the creation week.2 While some of the issues associated with the debate about a literal versus a figurative understanding of the creation days in Genesis 1 have been discussed since the early days of the church,3 the figurative interpretation of the creation days representing each day as an extended period of time is of recent vintage.4 Though a few significant interpreters prior to the Reformation did not consistently interpret the days of the creation week in a literal manner, they clearly did not support, nor could they have even envisioned, afigurative use for each of the creation days representing an extended period of time. However, since the days of the Reformation, with a renewed and more consistent emphasis on agrammatical-historical hermeneutic, a literal interpretation of the creation days has been the prevailing view of orthodox Christianity.
This literal interpretation maintains that God created the
heavens and the earth and all things therein in six, successive 24-hour days. The literal interpretation of the creation days has come under a more threatening and increasing assault within the last 150 to 200 years. With the rise of modern geology, it became apparent to many that if modern man were to be able to explain the earth’s topography by the processes that he could observe, he would have to allow for an earth that had existed for millions of years.5 Because the geological data for an old earth seemed so overwhelming, many who claimed loyalty to the teachings of Scripture felt compelled to reevaluate the literal understanding of the days of the creation week. This reevaluation has resulted in a polarization of thought concerning the earth’s age. As in the time prior to the Reformation, two broad interpretative groups have again surfaced: those who interpret the days of creation figuratively and those who interpret the days literally. While those who interpret the creation days figuratively may have some level of hermeneutical continuity with a few pre-Reformation interpreters, their conclusions are radically different: an old earth model supported by modern scientific belief and by scientifically correct reinterpretations of key biblical texts. Those who currently interpret the creation days figuratively maintain either that each day corresponds to a long period of time,6 perhaps millions of years or whatever amount of time is demanded by current geological study, or that the days of the creation week are literary forms picturing a topical account of creation that focuses on vegetation and humanity, rather than a chronological sequence,7 and, concomitantly, providing tacit support for
an old earth model.8 Generally, the advocates of this figurative interpretation hold to some form of day-age theory, progressive creationism, framework hypothesis, analogical view, or theisticevolution.9
Against the figurative use of “day,” the literal interpretation of the days of the creation week has been a clearly expressed orthodox interpretation since the Reformation. This interpretation was reflected by Martin Luther: “We assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words
read.”10 John Calvin and Francis Turretin also clearly articulated a literal understanding of the days of the creation week.11 Various Protestant and Baptist confessions of faith have also affirmed a literal understanding of the creation “days.” From our own Baptist heritage, the literal interpretation of the creation days is clearly revealed in the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689: “In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very
good” (chapter 4, paragraph 1).12 This historic, literal understanding of the days of creation is still being affirmed by many evangelical and fundamentalist schools in our present day, such as Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.
In Article 6 on “Creation,” Detroit’s statement of faith says, “We believe in the original direct creation of the universe, a voluntary act of God whereby for his own glory and according to His eternal counsel, in six successive days of twenty-four hours each,
He gave existence to all things in distinction from Himself.”
A fair assessment of the historical data demonstrates that a literal interpretation of the days of the creation week has been the normal position of orthodox Christianity. If we consistently affirm the perspicuity of Scripture, the literal interpretation of the creation days provides the most internally consistent synthesis of Scripture’s comprehensive message about the nature of the creation week. My objective in this article is to provide a biblical justification for a literal understanding of the six days of the creation week. To accomplish this objective, I will initially provide biblical evidence to support this literal interpretation and, subsequently, answer some of the reputed biblical problems encountered by this position.
Evidence For Literal Days In The Creation Week
English versions of Genesis 1:1–31 consistently translate the Hebrew noun יוֹם†as “day.”13 The semantic range of יוֹם†includes uses such as “daytime,” as opposed to nighttime, a calendrical “day” of 24 hours, a specific day, “lifespan,” “time,” “years,” and as part of compound grammatical constructions.14 While the semantic range of יוֹם†reflects that its various uses range from a literal day to a figurative use of “day” as an extended period of time, lexicographers consistently cite the enumerated days of Genesis 1:1–31 as examples of a solar day.15 In opposition to Hebrew lexicographers, many interpreters would contend that the figurative use of יוֹם†warrants reinterpreting each of the enumerated days of the creation week as extended periods of time.16 If this figurative use of יוֹם†were consistent with Genesis 1, it would provide an acceptable harmonization of Scripture and many currents views of science. However, we are persuaded that a figurative use of יוֹם†in Genesis 1 is incongruous with the semantics of the singular 17, יוֹם†its syntactical combinations, and its biblical parallels. Do the semantical constraints of יוֹם†permit a figurative use of it in Genesis 1:1–31, or do they suggest a literal use of יוֹם†? Is the use of the singular number, as opposed to the plural, significant in this passage? How do the modifiers of יוֹם†as well as surrounding phrases impact its literal or figurative use?18 How do other Scriptural passages interpret the days of creation? In responding to these questions, we will set forth five reasons why the unambiguous meaning of Scripture affirms that the days of the creation week be interpreted as six, successive 24-hour days.
(There is more to this article.)
1 In this paper I am using the expression “literal” day to refer to a normal, 24-hour day and
“figurative” day to refer to a non-literal day.
2 For a recent collection of essays treating both the literal and figurative interpretation of the
days in the creation week, see Did God Create in Six Days? ed. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. and David W.
Hall (Taylors, SC: Southern Presbyterian Press, 1999).
3 For a historical survey of the interpretation of the creation days, see Jack Lewis, “The Days of
Creation: An Historical Survey of Interpretation,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
32 (December 1989): 433-55.
4 A recent article by Robert Letham attempts to demonstrate “that a non-literal view ofG enesis 1
has a pedigree reaching back to the third century” (“‘In the Space of Six Days’: The Days of
Creation from Origen to the Westminster Assembly,” Westminster Theological Journal 61 [Fall
1999]: 151). Though it is true that there have been in the history of Christian doctrine dating
back to the third century those interpreters of the creation days advocating a figurative
understanding of these days, their non-literal interpretation was diametrically opposed to recent
figurative understandings of the creation days. Under some influence from Greek philosophy,
early figurative interpreters of the creation days, such as Origen and Augustine, taught that God
instantaneously created the world (see Gerhard F. Hasel, “The ‘Days’ of Creation in Genesis 1:
Literal ‘Days’ or Figurative ‘Periods/Epochs’ of Time?” Origins 21 : 6-7). While we
understand that some early interpreters had theological and hermeneutical ambiguities, none of
them argued for any of the days of the creation week to be millions of years old (see David W.
Hall, “Evolution of Mythology,” in Did God Create in Six Days? p. 275). Consequently, Letham’s
article is somewhat misleading and selective in his use of source material. For a more
comprehensive and evenhanded treatment of the historical data, see David W. Hall, “The
Westminster View of Creation Days,” Premise 5 (July 1998), available at
http://capo.org/premise/98/july/98/p980710.html; David W. Hall, Mark A. Herzer, and Wesley A.
Baker, “History Answering Present Objections,” available at http://capo.org/1540–1740.html; and
“The Patristics on Creation,” available at http://capo.org/patristics.html. Although Hall’s
conclusions have been recently challenged by William S. Barker (“The Westminster Assembly on
the Days of Creation,” Westminster Theological Journal 62 [Spring 2000]: 113-20), Hall has
effectively rebutted Barker’s challenge by demonstrating that orthodox theologians prior to 1800
clearly and uncompromisingly maintained that God created the world and all things therein in
the space of six literal days (“Still the Only View Expressed by Westminster Divines on Creation
Days,” at http://capo.org/OpenLetter.html).
5 See L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), pp. 153-54.
6 So Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994), pp. 45-52; Derek
Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press,
1967), pp. 56-57; James O. Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, 4 vols. in 1
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 1:139–59; R. Laird Harris, “The Length of the Creative Days in
Genesis 1, ” in Did God Create in Six Days? pp. 101-11.
7 Mark D. Futato, “Because It Had Rained: A Study ofG en 2:5–7 with Implications for Gen 2:4–25
and Gen 1:1–2:3, ” Westminster Theological Journal 60 (Spring 1998): 17; Futato’s article is a
complement to an article by Meredith G. Kline “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony,”
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 48 (March 1996): 2-15; see also Kline’s earlier
article, “Because It Had Not Rained,” Westminster Theological Journal 20 (May 1958): 145-57; so
also Henri Blocher, In the Beginning, trans. David G. Preston (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press, 1984), pp. 49-59.
8 While advocates of the framework hypothesis may not explicitly argue for an old earth, the
reinterpretation of the creation week as a topical account, rather than a chronological account, is
certainly coordinate with old earth creationism. If there is any doubt about what is, at the
minimum, implied by the framework hypothesis, its implications are explicitly stated by Meredith
Kline, when he maintains that his understanding of Scripture’s teaching about biblical
cosmogony “is open to the current scientific view of a very old universe and, in that respect,
does not discountenance the theory of the evolutionary origin of man” (“Space and Time,” p. 15,
n. 47), though he also insists that he adheres to the historicity and federal headship of Adam. He
further laments that young earth creationism “is a deplorable disservice to the cause of biblical
9 For a summary of these types of categories, as well as varying levels of interaction with each,
see Thomas Allen McIver, “Creationism: Intellectual Origins, Cultural Context, and Theoretical
Diversity” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1989), pp. 403-530; C. John
Collins, “Reading Genesis 1:1–2:3 as an Act of Communication,” in Did God Create in Six Days?
pp. 145-51. For a presentation and critique of progressive creationism and theistic evolution, as
well as young earth creationism, see Three Views on Creation and Evolution, ed. J. P. Moreland
and John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999).
10 Martin Luther, Luther Works, Volume 1, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1–5, ed. Jaroslav
Pelikan (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1958), p. 5.
11 John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, trans. John King, 2 vols.
(reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), 1:78; and Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic
Theology, trans. Francis Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., 3 vols. (Phillipsburg, NJ:
Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), 1:444–45.
12 The Second London Baptist Confession’s doctrinal affirmation about creation is derived from
the earlier Westminster Confession of Faith (1646): “It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the
beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein, whether visible or
invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good” (chapter 4, paragraph 1).
13 To cites a few examples, see the nasb, nasb ‘95, niv, kjv, nkjv, rsv, nrsv, nlt, tev, cev, and NET
14 See David J. A. Clines, ed., The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, 4 vols. to date (Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1994-), 2:166–85 [hereafter cited as DCH]); and William L. Holladay, A
Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pp.
130-31 (hereafter cited as CHAL ); see also the pertinent discussion by James Stambaugh, “The
Days of Creation: A Semantic Approach,” Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 5 (1991): 70-78.
15 For example, see DCH, 2:166; Francis Brown, Samuel R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds.,A
Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (reprint ed., Oxford: At the Clarendon Press,
1972), p. 398 (hereafter cited as BDB); Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew
and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 5 vols., rev. W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm (Leiden:
Brill, 1994–2000), 2:399 (hereafter cited as HALOT). Not only is the literal use recognized by
lexicons, but it is also reflected in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, s.v. “ יוֹם†,” by M.
Saeboe, 6:23 (hereafter cited as TDOT ); and New International Dictionary of Old Testament
Theology and Exegesis, s.v. “ יוֹם†,” by P. A. Verhoef, 2:420 (hereafter cited asN IDOTTE).
16 Besides some of the previously cited sources in footnotes 6 and 7, see also Perry G. Phillips,
“Are the Days of Genesis Longer than 24 Hours? The Bible Says, ‘Yes!’” IBRI Research Report 40
(1990): 1-5; and Thomas Key, “How Long Were the Days of Genesis?” Journal of the American
Scientific Affiliation 36 (September 1984): 159-61; Dick Fischer, “The Days of Creation: Hours or
Eons?” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 42 (March 1990): 15-22; and R. Clyde
McCone, “Were the Days of Creation Twenty-Four Hours Long? ‘No,’” in The Genesis Debate, ed.
Ronald F. Youngblood (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), pp. 12-35.
17 While we do not endorse James Barr’s denigration of biblical inerrancy T(he Bible in the
Modern World [London: SCM Press, 1973], pp. 13-34), we do concur with him when he maintains
that biblical exegesis demands a literal interpretation of the creation days (Fundamentalism
[Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978], pp. 40-43).
18 For a helpful study of the semantics of יוֹ†ם†, see Hasel, “Days,” pp. 21-31.