The Non-Literal Days of Genesis

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I decided to read Genesis this morning for my devotional and came upon a very good summary of the old earth/young earth argument. I have The Apologetics Study Bible, the Holman CSB version. This article is by Ted Cabal, and will just quote his summary paragraphs:

Young earth creationists (YCs) interpret the days as 24-hour, consecutive periods for reasons such as the following: (1) The days in Gn 1 are consecutively numbered and comprised of an “evening and morning.” (2) Exodus 20:8-11 commands a literal week of six days of work and one day of rest based on God’s original creation/rest week. The two weeks would seem, then, to be of equal duration. (3) According to Rm 5:12, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,” but old-earth creationism would have animal death entering the world before the sin of Adam and Eve.

Old earth creationists (OCs) argue against 24-hour creation days for reasons such as these: (1) The Hebrew word for “day” (yom) is used in different ways in the creation account. For instance, Gn 1:5 refers to yom only to daytime (daylight), not nighttime. Also, Gn 2:4, literally translated, speaks of “the yom that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” (2) God’s rest on the seventh “day” has no evening and morning (Gn 2:2-3), and Heb 4:3-11 portrays this same Sabbath as continuing to the present time. (3) Adam could not have named all the birds and animals in 24 hours according to Gn 2.

YC (1): Consecutively numbering days does not imply 24-hours. I could easily consecutively name “ages.” The evening/morning example could be convincing, IF the Bible only used the word day to always mean 24-hours, which it doesn’t. The OC (1) argument clearly refutes the consistent literal 24-hour day interpretation. Since the Bible uses day flexibly, it cannot be proved, based on evening and morning, that these are 24-hours days.

YC (2): The literal days for us does not mean God’s days are literal. See OC (1) argument.

OC (2): This is a very telling argument. God did not end his seventh day, and Hebrews tells his rest, his seventh day, continues to this very day.

YC (3): did Adam die the day he ate the fruit? God said, “For on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” (Gn 2:17). Since Adam did not physically die, it seems clear to me that it can be understood God (who does not lie) was talking about spiritual death.

OC (3): Yep, how do you name all the animals in 24 hours – 12 hours, really, considering he would need daylight to see them.

I have also spent some time reading Genesis 1 and considered whether it is plausible for all the things of day 3 to happen in 24 hours. Dry land appears and all the vegetation coming forth. It does not seem logical to have all the vegetation of the earth grow differently than it grows currently, for it takes time for plants to grow and produce seeds and fruit, weeks for grasses and years for trees. And on day 5, God created the sea creatures and birds and told them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters of the seas.

First, God did not fill the waters. He command the creatures to multiply, then fill. Certainly even a single generation of any animal takes longer than 24 hours. God could do it (as in, cause the reproduction of these animals to last only minutes), but why would He have the creatures live one way (quick reproduction) and then change that to the normal life times of today?

This, coupled with the ambiguity of “yom” used in Genesis, essentially ends the argument for me. I am convinced that the days are not literal, but I do want to read more of what the YCs have to say, particularly in Also, by believing an old earth, I do not believe I am undermining the Bible in any way whatsoever.

Comment on 09-Jan-12: Here is, apparently, an entire book putting Old Earth Creationism on Trial on the site Rather than just dismissing the argument as over, I will concede to read it to correctly assess the validity of the YC argument. I am, however, reading Signature in the Cell and so will not be able to read this book for a while.

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