This particular post supports Old Earth Creationism so if you are not of this particular persuasion you might want to skip this one. In actuality I will be combining two of Dr. Strauss’s posts on this subject in this one post so as to present the three propositions that he makes mention of below, all together in this one post.
If you’re not familiar with OEC (Old Earth Creationism) or YEC (Young Earth Creationism) please consider viewing this post: bcooper.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/old-earth-versus-young-earth-creationism/
And for good measure I’m also going to include this link by J. Warner Wallace wherein he speaks about the attitude we should have with other Christians, whose beliefs may differ with our own on topics such as this one we are looking at: coldcasechristianity.com/2016/the-stuff-we-all-agree-on-when-it-comes-to-origins/
Does the Bible teach that the universe was created a few thousand years ago? I know many people, both secular and religious, who believe that it does and, therefore, insist that the Bible is in conflict with the claims of Big Bang cosmology which require a universe that is about 13.8 billion years old. Of course the Bible does not say how old the universe is, so why do some people believe it teaches a “young” earth, only thousands of years old. Such a claim is based on three propositions, all of which can be shown to be false, or at least not necessarily true. If the propositions are not correct, then there is no information in the Bible about the age of the universe. The propositions are:
(1) the genealogies in the Bible are basically complete,
(2) the six days of creation in Genesis are consecutive 24 hour days, and
(3) no time passes between the creation of the earth and the universe (as described in Genesis 1:1), and the subsequent six days of creation.
If proposition (1) were true, then we can trace the genealogies back to the six days of creation which would have then occurred about 4000 BC. I’ll discuss why we know this proposition is not true in a later post because I want to focus only on proposition (2) for now. (I’ll also discuss proposition (3) in a later post.)
The Bible clearly states that God prepared the earth for habitation and created all life on the earth in a period of six days. The Hebrew word yom is translated as the English word day. However, like the English word “day,” yomhas many meanings. If I say, “In George Washington’s day the colonists fought against the British,” the word “day” means a period of time. If I say, “It is a beautiful day,” the word “day” means “right now” because it might have been stormy just a few hours ago. In his study Bible, C.I. Scofield states, “The word ‘day’ is used in Scripture in four ways: (1) that part of the solar day of twenty-four hours which is light…; (2) a period of twenty-four hours… (3) a time set apart for some distinctive purpose, as ‘day of atonement’…; and (4) a longer period of time during which certain revealed purposes of God are to be accomplished…. Cp. Gen 2:4, where the word ‘day’ covers the entire work of creation.”
To help us determine the meaning of yom in regards to the six days of creation, let’s first see how the author of Genesis, traditionally believed to be Moses, uses the word yom in the rest of Genesis 1 and 2.
Verse Meaning of yom
Gen 1:5 Daylight
Gen 1:14 Daylight
Gen 1:14 Distinctive purpose days (plural)
Gen 1:16 Daylight
Gen 1:18 Daylight
Gen 2:4 A period of time (all six days of creation)
Gen 2:17 At the moment (“when”)
Notice that in every case (except possibly for the six days of creation), the word yom is never used by the author to mean a 24 hour day. Do we have any reason then to require yom to mean 24 hours in regards to the six days of creation? No, we do not. In fact historically there has never been a unanimous consensus about the meaning of the days of creation. Here is short list of some of the possible interpretations of the days of creation posed by good biblical scholars:
- Framework day: the days serve as an outline with no chronology implied.
- 24 hour day: the days are six consecutive 24 hour days.
- Day-Age: each day is a long period of time.
- Analogical days: the creation days are analogous to our days of the week but different in length and composition.
- Days of revelation: the days are six consecutive 24 hour days that God revealed the creation to Moses but have no correlation with the length of time of the actual creation.
- Gap theory: the days are six consecutive 24 hours days after a long gap of time since the original creation.
- Relativity days: the days are six 24 hour periods from God’s perspective but due to relativistic effects are long periods of time from our perspective.
There are many more ideas like Days of Divine fiat, Intermittent days, Days focused only on the creation of Palestine, and more. As you see, good scholars who understand the context and culture of the ancient Hebrews do not agree that the days are consecutive 24 hour days. In fact, one of the best scholars of ancient Hebrew, Gleason Archer writes, “On the basis of internal evidence, it is this writer‘s conviction that yom in Genesis one could not have been intended by the Hebrew author to mean a literal twenty-four-hour day.”1 Notice that one of the most prominent scholars who understands the appropriate language and culture says that the days of creation are definitely not 24 hours. It should also be noted that while modern English has about one million words, ancient Hebrew has about 3000 words (apart from proper nouns). There is no word in ancient Hebrew that distinctively means “era” or “epoch.” If the writer of Genesis wanted to say that God created the universe in six “epochs” the best, and only, word to use would be yom.
So why do some people then claim that the days of creation must be consecutive 24 hour long periods of time? When I ask this question I get three answers, (1) because each day is numbered (2) because each day has an evening and a morning, (3) because the book of Exodus refers to the creation days as patterns for the days of the week. But none of those criteria indicate that the day must be 24 hours. We can see this by examining other passages in the Bible.
In Zechariah 14:6-8 the phrase “one day” is used to mean a long period of time with both a summer and a winter. “And it shall come to pass, in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark, but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night; but it shall come to pass that, at evening time, it shall be light. And it shall be, in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea; in summer and in winter shall it be.” In Hosea 6:1-2 which says, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence,” the passage is not saying that the Lord will revive and restore the nation after two or three literal days. That is not what even happened historically. Instead, the passage is saying that in a short time the Lord will intervene to have a close relationship with his people. As these other scriptural passages indicate, the word yom associated with an ordinal does not have to mean that the length of the day is 24 hours.
Concerning the phrase “evening and morning” note two things. First, there is one passage of scripture written by Moses other than the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), Psalm 90, in which Moses writes, “You turn men back to dust, saying ‘Return to dust, O sons of men.’ For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.” (Psalm 90:3-6) Notice how Moses is using the evening and morning as metaphors for the beginning and ending of a human life. (Grass does not literally sprout in the morning and die in the evening.) Just as we use the English word “dawn” to mean “beginning” when we say “the dawn of a new age”, or we use the word “twilight” to mean “ending” as “a person in the twilight of his life,” so the terms “morning” and “evening” are used by Moses to mean “beginning” and “ending.” In Psalm 90 he is discussing the beginning and ending of a person’s life while in Genesis 1 he is discussing the beginning and ending of six periods of creation. Isn’t it interesting that God inspired Moses to write one passage other than the Pentateuch and in that passage he clearly uses evening and morning in a metaphoric way? Could that be primarily to elucidate the meaning in Genesis 1? Dr. Scofield acknowledges that the phrase “evening and morning” can simply mean beginning and ending of any period of time when he writes about Genesis 1, “The frequent parabolic use of natural phenomena may warrant the conclusion that it simply means that each creative day was a period of time marked off by a beginning and ending.” Second, the seventh day, which is God’s day of rest, does not have an evening and morning. If all days were consecutive 24 hour days, then it seems reasonable that the seventh day should have an evening and morning. But if evening and morning indicate “beginning and ending,” then the seventh day is a long period of time without a beginning and ending since it is continuing until now because God has ceased from the same kind of creative activity he did in the first six days and is still in his day of rest. So the phrase “evening and morning” does not indicate a 24 hour day.
Finally Exodus 20:9-11 states, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God…. 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.” This is clearly an analogy. It does not require that the days of creation are identical to the days of the week. We see the analogy repeated three chapters later where God employs the same pattern when pertaining to years, not days. Exodus 23:10-12 says, “And you shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow…. Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor….” In Genesis, God sets up a pattern of six periods of work followed by one period of rest. He then applies that pattern to the days of the week and the years of sowing. It is a general pattern that does not require the days of Genesis to be 24 hours. An analogy does not require the two analogous things to be identical.
There is absolutely no compelling biblical or textual reason to demand that the six days of creation be six consecutive 24 hour days. Consequently, the Bible does not say the universe is only a few thousand years old! The bottom line from scripture and ancient Hebrew is that we do not know the length of the days of Genesis, and consequently, we do not know when the universe was created based on the biblical account alone. In the words of C. I. Scofield from his reference Bible, “Scripture gives no data for determining how long ago the universe was created.”
It is time that skeptics and believers alike quit making the incorrect statement that the biblical timeline of creation is in disagreement with the Big Bang timeline of creation. That is demonstrably false.
1Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1994), p. 199.
This is the second article that Dr. Strauss authored on this particular subject and it deals specifically with: Genealogies and the Creation of Heaven and Earth
I’d like to continue with the topic of my previous post in which I used various passages in the Bible to show that the six days of creation in Genesis are not necessarily 24 hours each, but are periods of an undetermined amount of time. In that blog entry, I wrote that there are three propositions that are used by those who say the Bible teaches the universe is only a few thousand years old. Those propositions were (1) the genealogies in the Bible are basically complete, (2) the six days of creation in Genesis are consecutive 24 hour days, and (3) no time passes between the creation of the earth and the universe (as described in Genesis 1:1), and the subsequent six days of creation.
Since I already discussed proposition (2), I’d like to continue on with propositions (1) and (3) and show that the genealogies in the Bible definitely have gaps in them, and that the language clearly indicates that Genesis 1:1-2 occurs before the first day of creation allowing a significant amount of time to pass.
The genealogies in the Bible trace the lineage from Jesus all the way back to Adam. If there are no gaps in the genealogies, then we can use Jesus’ approximate birth year along with other historic events to date the creation of Adam, the first human. As I did with the days of creation, I will only use the biblical text to show that there are, in fact, gaps in the genealogies. This can be done by comparing the genealogies of the same family line as recorded in different places in the Bible. First, it is important to realize that the Hebrew genealogies deal with ancestral lines, not every generation. The Hebrew word translated “begot” refers to generations. The Hebrew word translated “father” refers to ancestors. The Hebrew word translated “son” refers to descendants. We can see this clearly if we compare Matthew 1:8 with 2 Chronicles 21-26. Matthew writes “Joram begot Uzziah,” but this account skips three generations mentioned in Chronicles: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah. Matthew even makes a point that there are 14 generations between David and the Babylonian captivity, but to have 14 generations, Matthew had to drop at least three generations that were mentioned in Chronicles. Now in the 21st century we would never delete 3 generations and then make a point that there are 14 generations in the lineage. We would consider that dishonest because we think of genealogies as complete. However, the Jewish mind-set did not think that way and Matthew ignores the 3 generations because it fits nicely into the three sets of 14 generations he wants to highlight. Clearly, deleting genealogical generations for some purpose is consistent with the practice of recored Hebrew genealogies.
Some people who claim the chronology of the genealogies is complete try to differentiate between the genealogies and those with chronology. But we can see from the Bible itself that even chronologies are not complete. For instance, Luke’s genealogy claims, “…the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem…” in Luke 3:35. But in Genesis 11:10-12, we find that Cainan, who Luke includes, is actually missing from the chronology. In Genesis the order is reversed from Luke but we see, “…when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad…. When Arphaxad had lived 35 years he became the father of Shelah….” So it is clear that even chronological lists have gaps in them. The biblical scholar, C. I. Scofield writes, “Genesis 11:10 means that, when Shem was 100 years old, his wife bore a child who was either Arphachshad or an ancestor to Arpachshad. Many links in the chain of ancestry may have been left unmentioned.”
If many links in the chain of ancestry are not mentioned, then we can’t dogmatically claim that the genealogies are even “mostly” complete. We just don’t know how many links have been dropped. We do know that genealogies have gaps of unknown length, so it is reasonable to conclude that, perhaps, many generations been dropped in many genealogies. If God created humans tens of thousands of years ago, and an oral record of genealogies was passed from generation to generation until they were finally written down about 3500 years ago or so, then I think it would be very reasonable to predict that there would be about 25-30 significant people remembered orally regardless of the amount of time that has passed, and that is the number listed from Adam to the time when the author of Genesis wrote the names down. Because the genealogies have gaps, they do not give us any information on when humans appeared on earth.
Let’s now turn to the final proposition listed above. The question is whether Genesis 1:1 is a summary statement about the creation or whether it is a creation that occurred before the days of Genesis begin. I believe that the events of Genesis 1:1-2, God’s creation of the heavens and the earth, describes the creation of the universe and occurs before Day 1, and takes a long period of time. The six days of creation, then, explain what God is creating to prepare the earth as a suitable habitat for humans. Again, I’ll explain my reasoning for this belief by looking exclusively at the biblical text. First, note that every day of creation, from day 2 to 6, begins with “And God said….” This pattern would indicate that day 1 begins in Genesis 1:3, where God says, “Let there be light.” Next, the word “created” in Genesis 1:1 is in the perfect tense which usually indicates it occurred before the subsequent story. In addition, the conjunction “and” links verse 2 with verse 1. Finally, in Genesis 1:2 the earth, water on the earth, and darkness already exist. If Genesis 1:1-2 were a summary statement then there would not be darkness on the face of the earth because God created light on day 1. But if it is the conditions before day 1 started, then the surface of the earth would be dark before God’s creation of light. The conclusion from the text, then, is that Genesis 1:1-2 describes the creation of the universe before the events of creation day 1 in Genesis 1:3ff and could take a long period of time. From observational science, we can determine that the amount of time from the Big Bang until the formation of the early earth took a little over 9 billion years.
In my last two posts, I have shown that the presuppositions needed to claim the Bible teaches a universe that is only thousands of years old can be easily refuted simply by examining the biblical text itself. The Bible gives no definitive information about the age of the universe. However, the Creator himself has given clear evidence of the age of the universe from within his creation, and we have the privilege and responsibility to observe the record that he has left for us.