The Days of Creation
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 4 November 2008; Revised 26 February 2018
Scripture: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (Updated Edition 1995). Scripture quotations may be translated by the author or taken from different versions. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the article.
Syntax: The meaning of Hebrew words is taken from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), cited as "BDB."
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic and Jewish character of the entire Bible I use the terms Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
Abstract: The Bible declares that God created the heavens and the earth in six days (Ex 20:11; 31:17). The dating of creation is uncertain, but the account of earth history in the Bible fixes the creation of the heavens and the earth at not more than several thousand years ago. Yet, some followers of Yeshua interpret the biblical material in such a way that challenges the viewpoint of a young earth. This article seeks to answer these challenges and demonstrate the support for a recent creation in Genesis.
Among followers of Yeshua the subject of origins and the Genesis account of creation has unfortunately become divisive with some subscribing to Old Earth Creation (OEC) and others adhering to Young Earth Creation (YEC). The OEC viewpoint came about with the response of Christian writers to the influence of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and his book Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859). Nineteenth century Christian scholars attempted to reconcile the creation account of Genesis with the theory of evolution advocated by Darwin and his successors. These efforts continued into the 20th century in the work of various Christian scientists and Bible scholars.
According to evolutionist theory the universe came into existence by a "big bang" some 15 billion or so years ago. All the matter and all the energy in the entire universe was packed into a single "cosmic egg," a super-dense electron-sized particle. An instability arose, and it exploded ("boom!"), producing an even distribution of matter and energy in all directions. Basically, matter created itself. The formation of the solar system and the earth followed about 10 billion years later. (The oldest rocks on earth are dated about 3.8 billion years old.) Then humanoids appeared, having evolved from lower forms about 1-2 million years ago. The primary proofs offered for the advanced age of the earth is the light from distant stars, the geological stratification of the earth and the fossil record.
Thus, Christian scientists and Bible scholars sought a mediating solution. They made the mistake of assuming that evolutionistic scientists are people of integrity who would not knowingly falsify data or misinterpret data. The present generation is probably unfamiliar with the frauds of alleged human ancestors: Lucy, Java Man, Peking Man, Piltdown Man and others. Evolution begins with an assumption of atheism and omitting God from the study of origins makes them fools. They are thus predisposed to error.
[NOTE: The linked names are to Internet articles with more information on the theory and a critique of the theory.]
This position treats the Genesis narrative as parabolic literature instead of historical fact and its adherents accept whatever evolutionists say about scientific processes. Essentially God used evolution to create. Theistic evolutionists accept death and decay before Adam and treat the Genesis creation account as a Jewish tradition. (This is a subtle form of antisemitism.) Theistic evolution elevates unproven theories over divine revelation, contradicts Scripture and undermines the doctrine of divine inspiration.
The Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) is an informal collaboration dedicated to exposing the problems with naturalistic evolution. As a movement, IDM challenges Darwinian evolution in schools, textbooks, and politics. The Intelligent Design movement is led by scholars who argue that the design of living systems—and even the nonliving elements of the universe—suggest a Designer. Unfortunately, the proponents of IDM imply credit of the design to an anonymous "someone," not the God of the Bible.
This position assumes the earth and universe are billions of years old and the so-called geologic column is assumed to be evidence of an old earth. This position has liberal and conservative adherents. The more liberal picture God as doing relatively little in the way of actual creative acts during the supposed billions of years of creation. God simply steps-in now and then, to create new life forms. The more conservative Progressive Creationists present God creating the heavens and the earth ex nihilo (out of nothing), but just taking a long time to do it, achieving results in numerous progressive steps. They also credit God with many more creation miracles and generally reject the transitional forms of biological evolution.
Although there is difference of opinion among progressive creationists concerning many details of biblical interpretation, they generally believe that the "Big Bang" proposed by evolutionists was actually God's way of speaking stars and galaxies into existence through billions-of-years of natural processes. Like the theistic evolutionists, progressive creationists accept death and bloodshed as existing from the very beginning of Creation and these defects of nature were not the result of Adam's sin. Man was created after the vast majority of Earth's history of life and death had already taken place. Finally, the flood of Noah's time was local, not global, and it had little effect on the planet.
The Day-Age theory is part of Progressive Creationism. The key principle in this theory is that the "days" in Genesis 1 were of indefinite length. Advocates invariably appeal to Peter's allusion to Psalm 90:10 in saying, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day" (2Pet 3:8). It is claimed that the first three "days" of creation were not governed by movement of the sun and moon, so these days must have been of indefinite length. Also, too much activity took place on the sixth day (Genesis 2) to fit into a normal day: Adam's naming of thousands of animals, his perception of his loneliness, and the subsequent creation of Eve. [NOTE: The narrative does say that Adam named thousands of animals, only that he gave names to the animals that God brought to him (Gen 2:20), which was intended to impress upon Adam his uniqueness and aloneness.]
Advocates of this position interpret Revelation 12:4 as referring to a prehistoric event, and thus assumes an indefinite time break must have occurred between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. During this "gap" angelic warfare cause destruction of God's original creation and the rest of Genesis 1 is the story of God reconstructing what Satan had destroyed. The Scofield Reference Bible (1909) was a champion of the Gap Theory (or the Ruin-Reconstruction Theory) and has influenced many conservative Christians. If Revelation 12:4 depicts a heavenly catastrophe it had no connection with God's creation. In fact, the "star-throwing" event could have occurred at any time during ancient history. It could have been a trigger event for opening the "windows of heaven" (Gen 7:11; 8:2) that unleashed the global flood of Noah's day (BBMS 184).
There is no intention in this article of doubting someone's relationship with Yeshua on the basis of their view of origins. I want to encourage all believers to be like the noble-minded Jews of Berea who examined the Scriptures to confirm what they had been taught (Acts 17:10-11). In my view the weaknesses of the Christian positions on origins listed above have been ably demonstrated by creation scientists (BBMS 115-125). For a concise comparison of the various beliefs about origins see the chart prepared by Dr. Henry Morris. The various compromises have serious deficiencies:
• These positions contradict Scripture, change the meaning of Bible words or twist passages to mean what they want them to mean.
• The positions make divine revelation irrelevant.
• These positions violate the biblical prohibition against syncretism with worldly philosophies (Col 2:8).
As for the supposed proofs of an old earth, young earth advocates have offered the following solutions:
• No proven FACT of science contradicts the Bible, but evolutionist assumptions and theoretical models do contradict the Bible.
• The light from distant stars may be explained by Einstein's theory of General Relativity and change in the speed of light.
• No intermediate forms have ever been found in the fossil record, which can be explained by the global flood of Noah's time. An animal dying won't create a fossil, because it decays over time. Fossilization requires rapid burial.
• The global flood of Noah's time easily explains geological stratification.
• There is no proof that evolution is going on now.
• Symbiotic relationships in nature, such as birds or butterflies that pollinate specific plants, had to have been created at the same time for either to exist.
Cosmogony is a technical term that refers to a theory or story of the origin and development of the universe, the solar system, or the earth-moon system. According to the Genesis narrative creation included these basic characteristics.
In Scripture the Person responsible for the existence of all things is called the Creator. The biblical term is not a noun but a participial form of the Hebrew verb bara (SH-1254) in Ecclesiastes 12:1, Isaiah 27:11; 40:28; 43:1, and 15. In the LXX and the Besekh the Greek verb is ktizō, (SG-2936), meaning to create, form, shape, or make. In Scripture these two verbs are only used of the creative activity of God. A participle is considered a verbal adjective. It is often a word that ends with an "-ing" in English (such as "speaking," "having," or "seeing"). It can be used as an adjective or substitute as a noun. The use of the participle indicates that creating is an essential part of the nature of God.
Genesis 1 describes the origin of the heavens and earth as the unilateral and independent decision and act of Elohim (God). God did not need any help nor would he resort to an unpredictable and wasteful process conceived of in evolution. Compromise theories essentially turn God into an inefficient scientist. The word Elohim, which is the plural form of Eloah, occurs 32 times in the first chapter. Elohim represents the full triunity of God (Father + Son + Spirit). A mathematical equation that represents the nature of God is not 1+1+1=1, but 1x1x1=1. (In this multiplication formula inserting more "ones" does not change the result.) That is the mystery of God. Throughout the chapter Elohim is working and the very nature of the universe attests to the plurality of the Creator. The universe is a compound unity of time, space, and matter, each of which also consist of three parts.
In Genesis 2:4 the Creator is identified as YHVH-Elohim. YHVH is translated in Christian Bibles with "LORD" (small caps) and in the Messianic Jewish versions with "ADONAI" (small caps). This translation convention may be confusing to Christians since there is a separate Hebrew word of Adonai. Contrary to Christian scholarship the correct pronunciation of YHVH is not known with any certainty. While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). Thus, Moses made it clear that the Creator was not just an anonymous monotheistic being, but the God who revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush and established the everlasting covenants with the patriarchs and Israel (Ex 20:11). For more information on the name YHVH see my web article The Blessed Name.
The Latin phrase means lit. "out of nothing." There was no "big bang," only a "Big Word" (John 1:1-3). God spoke matter into existence. The universe did not begin with matter already in existence as evolution teaches. God said, "Let there be" and it happened. It did not take God billions of years to speak those words. A psalmist declared: "For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Ps 33:9). Paul affirmed, "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible" (Heb 11:3).
The creation narrative has a geocentric point of view in that the earth is the focus of most of the recorded acts of creation and the center of God's attention throughout Scripture. Humanistic science with its "heliocentric" orientation attempts to marginalize earth by its focus on the solar system and interstellar space and searches for life "out there." Earth becomes insignificant because it is just a speck in the universe. Contrary to science the Bible never asks, "what is earth?" (compared to the cosmos), but "what is man?" (Job 7:17; Ps 8:4; compared to God).
Six times in Genesis 1 (3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), God describes His work with the Hebrew adjective tov (SH-2896), "pleasant, agreeable, good, excellent, beautiful," and verse 31 climaxes with "very good." The LXX renders the adjective with kalos (SG-2570), meeting a high standard or an exceptionally high quality; especially such that inspires or motivates others to embrace what is beautiful or praiseworthy (HELPS). God could not be more pleased with the artistry of His creation. In every work of creation on every day the result was without defect, all functioning in the manner intended and in complete harmony. There was no death, no chaos, no sin.
The verb to make or bring forth (asah, SH-6213; BDB 793) occurs seven times in Genesis 1. The verb has two kinds of meaning, first, "to do," and is often used in the Tanakh of "doing" or obeying commandments, and it often means working or toiling in physical labor. The second kind of meaning has to do with making something material and may be translated as make, construct, produce, or create. The use of asah with this kind of meaning also indicates that the subject is active in bringing about the result. In Genesis 1 the verb asah is used of God making or bringing forth the firmament (v. 7), the fruit of the trees (v. 11 & 12), the sun and moon (v. 16), the animals (v. 25), mankind (v. 26), and all that was created in the six days (v. 31).
In each case the verb is an imperfect tense, indicating continuous action until the work was completed. The narrative repeats the verb in 2:2-4 three times. In 2:2 the verb is perfect tense, which denotes action completed in past time, and in verses 3 and 4 the verb is an infinitive construct, which expresses the result of the creative action. Each thing brought into existence had no previous existence. There was no "natural development" in any of these creations. God spoke each molecule and element into existence. "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts" (Gen 2:1-2). The Hebrew verb rendered "completed" is kalah (SH-3615), which means accomplish, at an end, complete, or finish. The LXX renders kalah with sunteleō, which means properly, to culminate or consummate, reach the desired end-point, the result (HELPS).
One of the implied teachings of Genesis, found in the creation week, and the birth chronologies, has to do with how God thinks of time. The myth makers of the pagan nations did not conceive of time in terms of a historical linear ordering of events reaching from a historical beginning to a final consummation of all things. Instead, they regarded time as cyclical, based on the continuous change of seasons. In pagan myths time has no significance and no meaning. (The same could be said of evolution.) The Bible presents time as linear. A man’s behavior in the present will determine his state in the future. Man’s time on earth has great value and so we must consider carefully how we use our time. Moses said in Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (NKJV).
In Genesis 1:1 the time reference "beginning," (Heb. rêshit, SH-7225; BDB 912), cannot possibly mean billions of years. "Beginning" indicates the starting point, the first step in a series of events. In addition, the six days of creation in Genesis 1 function as parameters for defining the extent of "the beginning."
The Hebrew noun yôm (SH-3117; BDB 398), "day" occurs eleven times in Genesis 1. The Hebrews did not conceive of time in the abstract, but used yom overwhelmingly in the sense of ordinary measurable time. Yom occurs 2,203 times in the Tanakh. Out of these occurrences about 90% refer to a calendar event or some portion of a 24-hour day. Its first mention in Genesis 1:5 is used to mean daylight in contrast to night since creation began in darkness and God had just created light. Afterwards yôm is used to denote a specific division of time: (1) the basic 24-hour unit of the calendar (Gen 1:14); (2) a working day (Ex 20:9); (3) a day's journey (Num 11:31), (4) a component of the duration of decreed activities and events (e.g., Gen 7:4; Ex 12:15; Lev 12:2); and (5) the time or duration of prophesied events (Jer 23:5; Ezek 4:5; Dan 12:11-12; cf. Rev 11:3; 12:6).
Yôm is used to allude to past events that may seem general in nature: (1) in Genesis 2:4 yôm is used to refer to the six days of creation; (2) yôm is used to summarize the length of a person's life (Gen 5:5); (3) yôm is used as a time reference for the reign of a monarch (Gen 14:1); (4) yôm is used for the period of time spent in mourning (Gen 27:41); and (5) yôm is used for the time of harvest (Gen 30:14). All of these time references still rely on the basic concept of a finite and measurable period of time.
A special use of yôm is in the preposition-noun construction miyôm, which lit. means "from the day," "from today," "since the time of" or "from this day onward" (Gen 47:27; Ex 10:6; Lev 23:15; Deut 9:24). Unfortunately, some Bible versions obscure this meaning with its translation of "eternity" in Isaiah 43:13 (AMP, NAB, NASB, NLT TLB, and TLV). In this verse these versions treat miyôm as meaning eternal time before creation or an indefinite time of eternal past to eternal future. However all other Bible versions treat miyom in this verse as a definite reference point, either before creation, since creation, or from the time Isaiah was given the message. Of interest is that the Hebrew noun olam (SH-5769), which can mean indefinite time, whether past or future, does not occur until Genesis 3:22.
Almost 90 important words in Scripture, such as "angel," "atonement," "command," "covenant," "holy," "man," "salvation" and "worship" first occur in Genesis. All the first mentions have substantive meaning. Indeed, it would be contrary to sound communication principles for a word to have an indefinite meaning the first time it is used in the Bible.
Evening and Morning
The second use of yôm in the Bible is described as a period of time consisting of an evening and morning (Gen 1:5). This description is applied to each of the six days of creation (Gen 1:8, 13, 19, 23 and 31), and after this in Hebrew and Jewish culture the "day" was reckoned in this manner. The word for "evening" Heb. erev (SH-6153) by itself is not a definite clock time, but a reference to the hours of diminished light beginning at sunset (e.g., Gen 8:11; 24:11). The word for "morning," Heb. boqer (SH-1242), denotes the end of night, the coming of dawn and then the hours of the day from sunrise to sunset (e.g., Gen 19:27). The fact that the sun and moon were not created until the fourth day does not negate the description of the first three days as being the length of an evening and morning.
What would God have to say to make it clear that "evening and morning" means a 24-hour day? If yôm means a long age of a thousand, million or billion years, then how long was the evening portion? How long was the morning portion? If "evening" and "morning" are meaningless words, then the words "seasons" and "years" in Genesis 1:14 would likewise be meaningless. If yôm can't be taken literally in Genesis 1, then it's impossible to determine its meaning. If the straightforward meaning of the Hebrew word isn't accepted, then the meaning of every other word in Genesis 1, indeed the whole Bible, is uncertain. The person who does not know what yôm means or believes that the true meaning cannot be known cannot accuse anyone who believes he knows of being wrong. Uncertainty is not a trump card against certainty.
Day With a Number
Counting or numbering days (cf. Ps 90:12) was an integral part of Hebrew culture as indicated in the calendar that regulated agricultural and religious life and the many genealogical lists in Scripture enumerating the lifespans of important people. Thus, every time yôm occurs with a number (e.g., "third day"), it always has a literal meaning. Such a designation occurs over 100 times in the Torah alone. If "third day" in Genesis 1 is meaningless, then what does the assertion of Abraham circumcising Isaac on the eighth day (Gen 21:4) mean?
A Thousand Years?
"But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day." (2Pet 3:8)
Some people attempt to use Peter's contrast of a thousand years to a day to rebut the straightforward meaning of yôm in Genesis 1 by treating Peter's saying as simply a restatement of Psalm 90:4, "For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by." Moses stressed that God is not bound by time as people are (Psalm 90:2). Thus, when God exercises His patience to allow people to be saved, a thousand earth years may go by. As appealing as this interpretation might be, it ignores the fact that Moses and Peter were discussing two entirely different subjects.
Peter's contrast doesn't work unless we know how long a thousand years last in terms of calendar days. If yôm is indefinite and meaningless, then so is the expression "a thousand years." Maybe Peter meant a million years or a billion years. Interestingly, the early church fathers took Peter's words literally and interpreted the passage as meaning that just as there were six days of creation so there would be a thousand years of history for each creation day, and then the Day of the Lord would usher in the seventh or Sabbath millennium, just as God rested on the seventh day after creation. (See The Epistle of Barnabas 15; Irenaeus, Against Heresies V, 28:3; Julius Africanus, Five Books of Chronography, III; Commodianus, Instructions, 80; and Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, 7:14.)
The fact that Peter stated his proposition forwards and backwards is significant. The context shows that Peter is answering mockers who dispute the reality of the Second Coming by giving them an overview of history beginning with creation (verse 5) and concluding with the day of judgment (verse 7). These two events are the bookends of earth history. Therefore, it makes sense that Peter's cryptic comment has to do with God's perspective of earth history.
The Seven-Day Week
Genesis introduces the first mentions of the components of the calendar: day (Heb. yôm, Gen 1:5), week (Heb. shabua, Gen 29:27), month (Heb. chodesh, Gen 7:11), and year (Heb. shanah, Gen 1:14). The "day" is measured by the regular appearance of the sun as the earth rotates, the "month" is measured by the moon's phases as it revolves around the earth, and the "year" is measured by the annual rotation of the heavens as the earth orbits the sun. The week is the only calendar component that has no astronomical basis. Yet, all human cultures since the beginning of time have observed the seven-day week.
Perhaps mankind simply imitated God's first week because He hallowed it (Gen 2:3), but more likely when God created man in His image He imprinted the week into man's DNA. The commandment to work six days and rest the seventh day came as no surprise and the basis for obedience is the fact that God had created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested the seventh (Exodus 20:11; 31:17).
Some cultures have tried a "week" of slightly more or less than seven days for a while, but they found it unworkable. Indeed, the revolutionary governments of France in 1792 and Russia in 1929 tried to change the traditional week, hoping to destroy Christianity. The French set up a ten-day week and the Soviets a five-day week. They were rigidly enforced, but lasted only a few years (Henry Morris, The Long War Against God, 311). It may be that the end-times anti-Messiah will attempt the same reordering of the calendar (Dan 7:25), but he will fail. The seven-day week continues to stand as a unique and unmistakable testimony to the first week of history.
The willingness of well-educated people to adopt the compromise theories listed above is a mystery. Why do they not want to believe the Bible? Part of the answer may lie in the tendency of so many Christians today to make themselves the ultimate determiner concerning what the Bible means. It is no surprise that these same Christians pick and choose what commandments they want to follow. For me the summaries of the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days and rest on the seventh day in Exodus 20:11 and Exodus 31:17 are sufficient evidence for taking Genesis 1 literally. Moses was the recipient of divine revelation and an unimpeachable authority. To contradict Moses is folly. Just believe.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
For Further Reading
Paul D. Ackerman, Ph.D., It's a Young World After All. Baker Book House, 1986.
Duane T. Gish, Ph.D., Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record. Creation Life Publishers, 1985.
Ken Ham, The Lie – Evolution. Master Books, 1987.
D. Russell Humphreys, Ph.D., Starlight and Time. Master Books, 1994.
Henry Morris, The Genesis Record. Baker Book House, 1976.
Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of "Progressive Creationism" (Billions of Years) As Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross. Creation Book Publishers, 2011.
Creation Online Resources
Barry Setterfield, Genesis Science Research.
Copyright © 2008-2018 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.