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Did God create everything in six 24-hour days?

'Day' (Hebrew yō·wm) is an 'age'

A huge problem is caused by interpretation of the word 'day' (Hebrew yō·wm)

The young-earth concept – that the earth is less than 10,000 years old – is totally out of synch with modern science due to a misunderstanding of the single Hebrew word yō·wm, which is translated 'day' in English translations of the Bible.

In most instances, yō·wm means a 24-hour day simply because that's what's meant most of the time it's used. But yō·wm is a flexible word so that, when the conversation was about an indefinite time, the word is understood from the context to refer to a longer time.

Yō·wm was used in the Hebrew language the same way we use 'day' in our English language.

'Day' to us usually means 24 hours, but sometimes we say things like, 'In the day of sailing ships ...' or 'In his day ...' or 'This is the day of social media ...' or 'At the end of the day ...' The reader knows from the context what we mean.

For example, here's how yō·wm is used in another passage in the Old Testament:

'The day of building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt ...'
– Micah 7:11

Tap HERE to see the Hebrew>English Interlinear Bible showing the word usage in Genesis 1. Tap HERE to see the Hebrew>English Interlinear Bible showing the word usage in Micah 7. The same original Hebrew word yō·wm is used in both passages, so therefore that word in scripture does not always mean 24 hours.

So the question is: Why do some Christians say that yō·wm as used elsewhere, as in Micah 7, can mean a long indefinite time but cannot have that meaning in Genesis 1? There is no reasonable answer except long tradition.

A rule of translation is that if a word or phrase can have two or more meanings, select the one that best fits the context of the surrounding passages.

The context within the creation story itself gives many clues that 'day' means longer than 24 hours. For example:

  • It takes longer than 24 hours for land to produce vegetation (Genesis 1:11-12)
  • 24-hour measurement of time did not even exist until Day 4 (Genesis 1:14-19)
  • There was too much animal reproduction for a 24 hour period (Genesis 1:24 and 2:19)
  • The seventh day is still open and obviously longer than 24 hours (Genesis 2:2)
  • Adam did not die that 'day' (Genesis 2:16)

Another clue is Genesis 3:6 in the creation story, referring to Eve: 'She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked ...'  We know from the context that they were not blind and that the phrase 'eyes were opened' means that they received new spiritual understanding.

The Apostle Peter acknowledges that 'day' can be used as a time variable: 'But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day' (2 Peter 3:8).

Many Bible manuscripts and translations are now online for verification

The Bible is its own best interpreter. To read the Bible objectively – to distinguish what the Bible actually says from what tradition says – it's important to read related passages together from several different translations of the original Hebrew or Greek text.

Fortunately, today's Internet gives everyone instant access to a vast library of Bible documents without registration or cost. For depth of study, you can read the Bible from interlinear versions from Hebrew-to-English or Greek-to-English, and for the breadth of study, you can read the Bible in parallel from dozens of English side-by-side versions.

This makes it possible for people today to read and understand the Bible themselves rather than just accept what others say about it.

Scholarly definitions of yō·wm

Generally, ancient languages did not have huge vocabularies and were not as precise and nuanced as modern languages. Word meanings were often defined by the context in which they were used.

See these resources for deeper research into the meaning of yō·wm:

  • Ancient Hebrew Research Center: 'The Hebrew word yō·wm means a 'day,' but not specifically a twenty-four hour period, but instead more generically like in 'a day that something occurs.'
  • Strong's Exhaustive Concordance for yō·wm: '1) day, time, year 1a) day (as opposed to night) 1b) day (24 hour period) 1b1) as defined by evening and morning in Genesis 1 1b2) as a division of time 1b2a) a working day, a day's journey 1c) days, lifetime (pl.) 1d) time, period (general) 1e) year 1f) temporal references 1f1) today 1f2) yesterday 1f3) tomorrow.'

Church creeds usually overpower new knowledge

Centuries ago, the young-earth concept became a part of church creeds. For example, the Westminister Confession (written 1647 but still extensively used) states that the earth was created 'in the space of six days.'

Whenever a concept becomes embedded in the formal doctrine of church denominations and seminaries, it becomes heresy within that group to even question it, even in light of new knowledge, and the doctrine is defended based on tradition rather than what the Bible actually says.

Today we can understand the Bible better than at any other time in history because we now have a massive amount of scholarly information from historical manuscripts, linguistics, archaeology, and cosmology not available to early church fathers.

Except for the correct but misleading way the word yō·wm is translated 'day' in modern English, there is nothing in the Bible or science to even suggest that each of God's six major creative processes was a time equal to 24 hours in our modern calendar.

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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