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Did God create everything in six 24-hour days?

Bible gives eight reasons for long 'day'
✓ REASON 1. 'Evening' and 'morning' are Hebrew markers for start and finish
GENESIS 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23 and 31. In the modern world, a 24-hour day is measured from sunrise to sunrise, but in ancient Israel a day was measured from sunset to sunset. The repeated phrase 'And there was evening' means the start of something. Used together with the phrase 'and there was morning' means that it was started and completed.
In ancient Hebrew, these phrases were the markers for the beginning of something and the completion of something. Day (yō·wm) does not always mean a 24-hour time period.
✓ REASON 2. Takes longer than 24 hours to produce vegetation
GENESIS 1:11-12. At beginning of Day 3, God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.'
It takes more than 24 hours for land to produce vegetation and bear fruit. This passage alone is proof enough that a day (yō·wm) as used here is more than a calendar day.
✓ REASON 3. No 24-hour time until Day 4
GENESIS 1:14-19. The phrase 'And there was evening, and there was morning – the [number] day' is the closing statement for Days 1, 2 and 3. But the sun and moon didn't come (accretion and visibility) until Day 4, for purpose of 'signs and seasons, and for days and years.' The movements of the sun and moon are the determinants for our 24-hour day, so in context yō·wm cannot mean a literal 24-hour day as we know it.
The concept of a 24-hour day came AFTER yō·wm time was already used in previous verses to express events prior to Day 4, the day the sun was 'made' (accretion, core formation; gigantic rock chunks, dust and gas pulled together by gravity). We now know from science that the sun and earth were shaped into their present forms about 4.5 billion years ago.

It took a long time to develop a cohesive core, constant gravitation and stable orbits. There was already light (through dense cloud cover) but in this fourth day the sun was made visible and reliable for purposes of measuring 'days and years;' therefore, calendar measurement (24-hour days) did not even exist for the first three days.
✓ REASON 4. Seventh Day still open and longer than 24 hours
GENESIS 2:2. The phrase 'And there was evening, and there was morning – the [number] day' is the closing statement for each of the six days of creation but not for the seventh day of rest (pause in new creations).
The seventh day is still open because the closing statement is not used; therefore, since more than 24 hours have already passed, day (yō·wm) as used here is more than 24 hours. We are now living in the seventh day – God's sabbath day of rest – so obviously 'day' means an undefined period of time. This passage alone is proof enough that a day (yō·wm) as used here is more than a calendar day.
✓ REASON 5. Day is used as both singular and plural
GENESIS 2.4*. This verse says, 'This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day the Lord God made earth and heaven.' The previous chapter says God made earth and heaven in six separate days.
As a closing statement, this verse uses the word day (singular) to express everything that happened in the preceding six days (plural). Day (yō·wm) in this verse means the SUM of six days; therefore, day must mean an indefinite period of time, more than 24 hours.
✓ REASON 6. Too much animal reproduction for 24 hours
GENESIS 1:24 and 2:19. 'And God said, Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so. ... Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature was its name.'
In Day 6, God used the land to produce living creatures, and then he brought the animals to Adam. It would have taken a long time for the land to produce so many animals; therefore, day (yō·wm) means more than 24 hours. This passage alone is proof enough that a day (yō·wm) as used here is more than a calendar day.
✓ REASON 7. Adam did not die that 'day'
GENESIS 2:16*. God said Adam must not eat the fruit from a particular tree, 'for in the day you eat from it you will surely die.' He ate the fruit but did not die within 24 hours.
Some people say that this warning to Adam meant 'spiritual death,' but that concept would be completely meaningless to him in his first day of life. And he did not die that day. Adam lived a long earthly life before physical death; therefore, day (yō·wm) must mean more than 24 hours.
✓ REASON 8. Interpretation consistency
GENESIS 3:7. 'Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.'
The narrowest interpretation of this passage would lead us to believe that Adam and Eve were blind until they sinned, but we understand that this is a figure of speech which can be used in different ways. Similarly, an earlier passage says that God breathed into man the breath of life, even though God is spirit and doesn't have lungs. So if eyes and breath do not need to be interpreted in the narrowest way, then neither does 'yō·wm.'
* The New International Version (NIV) is the only major translation that omits the English word 'day' in these two passages, but the Hebrew word yō·wm is written in the original text.

Reasons are augmented by knowledge from outside of the Bible

Good interpretation and explanation of any passage of scripture begin with the text itself, in the way ordinary people read the passage in their own favored translation of the Bible.

A deeper study moves into the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to see how ordinary people understood a particular word, expression, and/or concept at the time and place of writing.

But the text itself can take us only so far. Then we need to move outside of the Bible to study the setting into which the passage is set.

For example:

  • We understand the Exodus better when we know about Egypt's geography, religion, culture, and government at that time.
  • We understand the message of Jesus better when we know about the oppression of Jews under Roman rule and about Jewish religious beliefs, practices, and aspirations at that time and place.
  • We understand the ministry of the Apostle Paul better when we know about the geography, transportation, religion, culture and politics in lands around the Mediterranean Sea at that time.

The Bible tells the essentials we need to know, but it's a compact book for all times and generations and doesn't tell the entire story. For a deeper understanding, we need to fill in some blanks, and sharpen our interpretations, by gathering relevant information from other sources.

We do this kind of outside research routinely in Bible study generally, but Christians seem to have an unusual fear of investigating the setting for Genesis 1, probably because so many pastors over the centuries have threatened God's wrath upon anyone questioning traditional interpretations of that most ancient of all Bible texts.

We need to study not only God's Word (Bible) but also God's World (science) to get a better understanding of God's method and timing in creation. Outside information must not change the biblical account, but new knowledge about God's World can help us interpret God's Word with more precision for our time and place.

In extra-biblical study, not only do we find objects that are extremely old by every human observation and measurement, but we also find a consistent aging pattern:

Dinosaurs, for example, are found buried in lower strata than humans.

Cities have multiple layers of rubble built up from different settlements over the centuries. Archaeological sites are called 'tells' because even before modern imaging methods, it was possible to tell from the huge mound of earth that it was once an ancient city. Findings in each layer explain much about the city's history and can be compared with the findings from corresponding layers in other tells.

Glaciers leave tracks and moraines on the earth from their movement, and computer simulations of ice melts of various types and sizes produce time estimates.

Stars follow known paths at known speeds so that supercomputers can predict with perfect accuracy exactly where the stars will be in future dates – as with eclipses – and where they have been in past dates.

God has loaded the universe with strong evidence of very old age, much older than 10,000 years, probably millions or billions of years.

Why would God load the universe with all this evidence and then expect us to stop short of drawing some conclusions from it?

Understanding the age of the earth is much more than just dating objects we find. It's putting all our knowledge together to see an amazing aging pattern.

With a proper understanding of this setting for Genesis 1 – filling in with details from science – there is no need to invent the critical age theory to limit God's marvelous creation. We can believe that the earth exists just the way we find it.

Bible is vague about creation for good reason

We can understand why the Bible tells so little about God's timing and method of creation. If the Bible gave details, it would have been ridiculed throughout the centuries.

For example, suppose the Bible said that God created the earth through a colossal explosion which left only vaporized gasses that took billions of years to cool into solids ... the earth is just a relatively small rotating ball of molten rock with a thin crust ... it circles the sun once a year at an incredible speed ... and we are held in place by a mysterious force called gravity.

If that's what the Bible said, it would have been dismissed as a book of utter nonsense in earlier times.

So the Bible keeps it simple: God designed and created the universe. It didn't just happen by itself at random from nothing. God shaped it into its present form and brought life to earth in an orderly process, according to pre-established laws which He allows us gradually to discover and use. The key point is that the universe is the result of the intelligence and power of ONE sovereign creator/designer God.

If this is all we need to know from Genesis 1, why is age of the earth an issue at all? Why is it even mentioned here? Because, as discussed in Insight 1, what many Christians ascribe to the Bible about God's method and timing of creation is destroying the Bible's credibility in the minds and hearts of doubters and unbelievers and is repelling them from the gospel message.


Thinkers Bible Studies / Topic 1.2


Did God create everything in six 24-hour days?

for an informed answer
Insight 1: Bible credibility

Why timing matters

The real issue here is whether or not the Bible is a credible book of truth. People conclude that if the Bible is wrong about our origin, it's probably wrong about our destiny too. This is a big barrier to faith.
Insight 2: yō·wm is Hebrew word for Bible creation day

'Day' (Hebrew yō·wm) is an 'age'

From the original Hebrew manuscripts, the word 'yō·wm' has been translated as 'day' in English. This is a correct translation but it can mean either a 24-hour period or a long indefinite time, depending upon the context. See how a careful reading of the creation account in Genesis 1 shows that 'day' is a long period of time.
Insight 3: What God created in each 'day'

What God created in each 'day'

See what God made in each stage of His master design plan. The sequential order is not intuitive, but now confirmed by modern science. The ancient writer of Genesis could not have known God's method and sequence more than three thousand years ago without special knowledge direct from the Creator.

Meaning of 'evening' and 'morning'

The Bible uses a repetitive phrase at the conclusion of each stage of creation, but that doesn't necessarily mean a 24-hour period. In fact, time as we know it didn't even exist until visibility of the sun in Day 4.

Evolution is only within walled categories

There is abundant evidence of evolution within each major category of life, but a life form in one category never morphs into a life form in another category. Humans are not evolved but are a special creation in God's own image. The attributes that most define humans – intellect, laughter, music, art, mathematics, language, worship, etc. – are not evolutionary.

Real age, not 'apparent age'

The apparent age theory says that the earth is not actually old but just looks old. This theory is not biblical, requires a world of fakes, and is incompatible with God's character. God is not deceptive.  

Bible gives eight reasons for long 'day'

See eight passages of scripture which show, right from the Bible, that creation 'day' is longer than a 24-hour calendar day. These verses are usually overlooked in a casual reading of the first three chapters of Genesis.

Tradition vs. Bible

Common Christian belief about the days of creation comes more from tradition than from the Bible. Theologians have debated it for centuries. Prominent theologians have concluded that the Bible does not compel a 24-hour meaning for each 'day.' See reasons why this topic is usually buried in silence.

Here's where we combine the eight Insights to get an informed biblical answer: Did God create everything in six 24-hour days?

The insights here are like pieces of a puzzle. Put the pieces together and see the big picture! Now you'll be prepared to engage intelligently and coherently with anyone on the subject of God's creation days. Also see reader comments.
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Helping Christians engage in intelligent and coherent conversations with doubters and unbelievers