Topic 1.2
Bible creation 'days'
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Earth cools and life develops
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Tradition
What traditional Christians think

Universe was created in six days

The typical traditional Christian belief – at least the publicly stated belief – is that the entire universe was created in six 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago. A recent Gallup Poll shows that 68% of weekly church attenders still believe this short timeline.

The basis for this belief is Genesis 1 – the first chapter in the Bible – which says that God created everything in six 'days,' presumed to be 24-hour calendar days.

Traditional Christians believe that humans have been on earth since the beginning of time (first week).

For centuries, without questioning, this is what children have been taught in Sunday School and adults have been taught from the pulpit.

Big bang in bible
Doubters
What doubters think

Universe was created over billions of years

The universe began with the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. Life on earth first appeared about four billion years ago and has been evolving ever since. Some think it all happened by 'natural selection' without God, and others think it happened at God's direction, but all doubters agree that the formation process was longer than six days.

Doubters – like nearly everyone except traditional Christians – believe that humans have come on the scene only relatively recently in the long history of life on earth.

'They're stupid'

'Stupid' is a harsh word but used often by doubters and unbelievers to express what they think of hard-line Christians with respect to knowledge of science and history.

They can't understand why any educated person today could still believe that humans were already on earth just five days after the Big Bang and lived in same time and place as dinosaurs. They think these kind of Christians must be 'brainwashed' by their church and are probably indoctrinated beyond reason regarding other matters, too.

Big bang in bible
Questions
Barriers to faith

• Does the Bible really say that the earth and everything in it was created in six 24-hour days?

• Comparing the Bible with science, do primary life forms come in the same or different order of first appearance?

• Why doesn't the Bible mention dinosaurs and hominids?

• Are humans an evolved animal?

• Have humans been on earth since the beginning (first week) of time?

• Is Covid-19 an example of evolution?

• Can a Christian believe in evolution?

• Are science and the Bible incompatible?

Big bang in bible
Discovery
See what the Bible actually says

Bible credibility is the issue

The primary reason why getting it right about geological time is important is because it reflects on credibility of the Bible in the minds of educated people.

People will think that if the Bible is wrong about when life began, the Bible is probably wrong about other matters, too. If the Bible isn't trustworthy regarding our origin, it isn't trustworthy regarding our destiny either. If Christians don't have it right about physical matters, they probably don't have it right about spiritual matters either.

There are two ways that God reveals truth to us: Nature (general revelation) and the Bible (special revelation). What God reveals in nature cannot contradict what he reveals in Scripture, and vice versa, because God does not contradict himself.

Now we encounter the word 'day' (of creation) which seems to cause a major contradiction between what science has proven and what the Bible says. Either (a) science is wrong or (b) the Bible is wrong or (c) our interpretation of the Bible is wrong. Which is it? Finding the answer is the purpose of this Bible study.
This section gives reasons for concluding that 'day' in Genesis 1 is more than 24 hours, in agreement with science

The Bible 'days'

Genesis 1:3-31

Creation Order

Tap below to see how Bible order is essentially the same as science order
DAY 1 – Light
Open / Close
'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters.' – Genesis 1:1-2

THEN GOD SAID
: 'Let there be light, and there was light.' – Genesis 1:3

God's first creation was light, the primary requirement for life. Light is so amazing that it cannot be defined by anything other than itself. See 1.2.2 for the qualities of light, physically and spiritually. It is the first require meant for life.

About nine billion years passed between Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 1:3.

The Biblical account of creation is seen from perspective of earth. The universe is about fourteen billion years old, but the sun is only about five billion years old. Because of younger age of the sun and earth's intense heat and dense cloud cover, the earth has been in darkness for most of its existence.

DAY 2 – Water and air
Open / Close
GOD SAID: 'Let there be an expanse between the waters ... so God separated the water under the expanse from the water above it.' – Genesis 1:6-7

The enormous cloud of cooling gasses and dust collapsed over the first nine billion years to form a crust on planet earth.

Violent collisions with comets and asteroids and condensing steam brought water, eventually covering the crust. God created an atmosphere ('expanse') of life-sustaining air between ocean and cloud.

The atmosphere makes earth habitable by absorbing ultraviolet radiation from the sun to warm the earth's surface, bringing rain for vegetation and air for breathing.

DAY 3 – Land, life and vegetation
Open / Close
GOD SAID: 'Let dry ground appear ... let the land produce vegetation.' – Genesis 1:9-11

As temperature changed on the earth's surface, the thickening crust (floating on molten rock) began cracking, shifting and buckling. Parts of the crust were thrust above water to form dry land.

At first, there was total darkness on earth, but eventually light began to glow through the dense cloud cover and support simple organic life.

Starting with single cell organisms fed by photosynthesis and water, the food chain began in the sea and land about four billion years ago.

The Biblical account of creation is seen from human perspective of land on earth. First life on earth was tiny organisms like bacteria. Then vegetation started at the edges of water and land, spreading and expanding in water and on land. Ancient people would not have understood micro organisms and biological processes, so the Bible skips directly to vegetation they knew.

DAY 4 – Direct sunlight
Open / Close
GOD SAID: 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky ... let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years ... God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.' – Genesis 1:14-16

All celestial bodies were created from the Big Bang, starting as formless spinning gasses, too hot for light to penetrate. It took billions of years for them to merge, cool, solidify and achieve stable orbits.

Eventually there were breaks in the thinning clouds so that the sun, moon and stars became visible from human vantage point. Light existed before Day 4, but the sun had been obscured by dense cloud cover and unable to provide the direct sunlight needed for rapid growth of plants and trees, growing seasons, bird migrations and ultimately for human navigation and schedules.

For centuries the Bible's creation order was used by critics as irrefutable proof that the Bible is not trustworthy. They said it is impossible to have light (Day 1) and organic growth (Day 3) before sun (Day 4). But now that we understand the Big Bang – that most of earth's life has been clouded by vaporized gasses – the creation order shows that the Bible is trustworthy. No writer three thousand years ago could have possibly known this modern science without some direct knowledge from the designer/creator.

DAY 5 – Fish and birds
Open / Close
GOD SAID: 'Let the water team with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky ... So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems ... and every winged bird ... God blessed them and said, Be fruitful and increase in number ...' – Genesis 1:20-22

With direct sunlight, vegetation proliferated, especially in water, and became an abundant food source for new categories of life – fish and birds – which God created about 500 million years ago.

The above verses in Genesis do not preclude the likelihood that there were already some very simple forms of marine and avian life (as plankton and flying insects). The main point here seems to be that God created an enormous number of new creatures – large complex creatures – all with capacity to move about freely, unlike the stationary life of prior life forms, and God caused them to proliferate rapidly.

This is what scientists call the Cambrian explosion, the quick appearance of a massive amount of new life forms about 500 million years ago. Darwin said that the Cambrian explosion is his own biggest problem with his own theory of evolution. He was perplexed to acknowledge that so many new species of life could appear almost at once.

About 250 million years ago, a new kind of creature appeared, the dinosaurs. We know from archaeology that there were more than 700 species of dinosaurs of all sizes and types – from five pounds to fifty tons – some walked, some swam, some flew – and they dominated the earth for 175 million years.

Scientists now believe that modern birds are descendants of small avian dinosaurs that escaped the mass extinction 66 million years ago. All non-flying dinosaurs and three-fourths of all other species of life on earth were killed in that extinction, caused by an enormous meteorite about six miles wide crashing into the ocean near the Yucatan Peninsula, resulting in scorching fires, radioactivity, volcanic eruptions and sun hidden by dust.

Dinosaurs were the dominant part of God's creation in Day 5, but the Bible never mentions them, probably because they went extinct and no one in Bible times could comprehend the time scale or believe that these creatures actually existed.

In Day 5, there was extensive evolution and proliferation of fish and birds throughout the earth, expanding the food chain, getting ready for animals and humans in the next stage of life.

In each successive day, new life forms become more complex: In Day 3, life from seeds ... in Day 5, life from eggs ... in Day 6, live births.

DAY 6 – Animals and humans
Open / Close
GOD SAID: 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals ... God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.' – Genesis 1:24-27

Shortly after the great extinction 66 million years ago, God created a new kind of creature – animals – adapted to the new environment.

Then, about four million years ago – very recent in geological time – God created a very unique kind of intelligent bipedal creatures known as hominids and hominins, with physical form very similar to today's apes and humans, all having 95-97% identical DNA.

The last known hominin population (Neanderthals) was in Europe and vanished suddenly about 30,000 years ago.

The Bible never mentions hominins, probably because they went extinct and because few people in Bible times could comprehend a time span of millions of years or believe that soulless creatures looking somewhat like humans actually existed. The Bible account goes direct from animals to humans.

Archaeological digs reveal the first evidence of humans about 40,000 years ago. Hominins and humans may have coexisted at one time, and apparently there was some interbreeding because today Europeans and Asians have approximately 2% Neanderthal DNA, but other groups have little or none. This low percentage is further evidence that humans did not evolve from hominins.

God said: 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move upon the ground.'

The concluding act of the six days (ages) of creation was creation of humans, made in the likeness of God, not evolved, created with capacity to have a relationship with God and to rule the earth – the crowning jewel of God's creation!

DAY 7 – Pause / present time
Open / Close
BIBLE SAYS: 'Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array ... And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy [worthy of honor], because on it he rested [paused] from all the work of creating he had done.' – Genesis 2:1-3

A concluding statement is used to end each of the six days of creation – 'And there was evening, and there was morning – the [number] day' – but not used for the seventh day of rest, meaning that this day has not yet ended. We are still in the seventh day (age).

God is not making new creations during this pause, but procreation and evolution within categories continues. God has equipped humans with a unique body, mind and soul to rule the earth and do creative work to further fashion life on earth.

Other portions of the Bible tell us that in a future day (age), God will take back rule of the earth from humans and will resume new creative work here ... a new heaven and a new earth ... (see 3.4).

The problem word

See exactly what
the Bible says
MICRO
1.2.1
Tap above for study of Genesis 1 & 2
finding answer to this question
Does the Bible mean
calendar-day or age-day?

All about interpretation of 'day' (Hebrew 'yom')

The young earth concept is totally out of synch with modern science, due to the single Hebrew word ('yom') which is translated 'day' in English translations of the Bible.

The Bible is it's own best interpreter. The deep study on this topic shows, right from the Bible itself, direct from the Genesis 1 creation account, that the word 'yom' should be understood to mean a long indefinite period of time.

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 imbedded in formal doctrine in church denominations and seminaries, it becomes almost like heresy within the group to even question it, even in light of new information.

In earlier times – especially hundreds of years ago – it was necessary to travel to specialized libraries in various cities of the world to thoroughly research a subject like this because ordinary libraries did not have the needed books and documents. But now almost all universal knowledge is available to everyone on the Internet, and today we know much more than in years past.

An erroneous interpretation of the ancient Hebrew word 'yom' makes Christians seem uninformed at best, stupid at worst, and this is a handicap in presenting the gospel.

This single Hebrew word 'yom' – investigated in Topic 1.2.1 on this site – has created a huge barrier to Christian faith.

'Day' is a geological age

Summary from deep study

Topic 1.2.1 is a study of the text in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, the biblical account of creation. The study shows that 'day' in this creation context means a long indefinite period of time, a geological age.

Click to see TEN REASONS why creation 'day' is longer than 24 hours:

1.2.1 Creation 'day' not 24 hours

The Bible gives the order of first appearance of various life forms but does not give actual times or time spans.

The essential order summarized in the table above, from the Bible, is confirmed by cosmologists, geologists, biologists and archaeologists.

It is unlikely that the ancient writer of Genesis could have known this method and sequence without special knowledge from God.

Now modern science is filling in the time blanks, and a re-reading of Genesis 1 opens our eyes to new understanding of God's unfolding master plan.

In the English translation of Genesis 1, each stage of creation is called a 'day'. In the original Hebrew language in which the biblical account was written, the word is 'yom' (pronounced like home).

Just as in English, Hebrew 'yom' usually means a 24-hour period but can also mean a long indefinite period, depending upon context (as we say, this is day of the jet plane, this is the day of social media, etc.).

In 2 Peter 3:8, the Apostle shows how 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.'

Real age, not 'apparent age'

Some traditional Christians say that the earth is not actually old but just looks old, that it was created about 6,000 years ago with built-in apparent age. See Micro Topic 1.2.3 for the fatal flaw in the apparent age theory.

Evolution within categories

Evolution needs definition

'Evolution' is an emotionally charged word for some Christians. It frequently implies a universe that happened by itself from nothing without God, with man as an evolved animal, like in the anti-Christian illustration above, taught in public schools.

Actually, biological 'evolution' just means the process of gradual change that takes place over many generations within God's creation, during which species of plants, animals and other life forms slowly arise, change physical characteristics and eventually die out, all within defined categories and all according to God's dynamic design plan.

More than 99% of all species that have ever lived on earth have died out.

Basically, there are two principal ways people think about evolution:

  • Godless evolution: God has no part in it. Life just happened by itself from nothing, without design, by random chance and survival of the fittest; believed by about 22% of Americans.
  • Theistic evolution: The method and timing used by God to form his creation in stages over long periods of time; believed by about 33% of Americans. Belief in theistic evolution does not in any way diminish God as designer/creator or change Christology (birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ).

And, viewed from another perspective, there are two ways people think about theistic evolution:

  • Single-cell evolution: All life started from a single cell organism that has evolved over time into all life forms.
  • Evolution within categories: There is abundant evolution within each major category of life, but a life form in one category never morphs into a life form in another category, and there is are no in-between life forms.
Nearly all people who believe in Godless evolution also believe in single-cell evolution. Therefore, there are three primary kinds of belief about evolution, illustrated by the diagram.
This site finds overwhelming evidence for View #1.
Certainly God is powerful enough to create all of life from a single cell OR from creations within categories. Many devout Bible-believing Christians believe in singe-cell evolution (View 2). The issue within theistic evolution is not what God is able to do, but rather what God actually did, as best we can understand it.

How much evolution?

More than 99% of all species that have ever lived on earth are estimated to have died out. This is clearly evident from archaeological finds, and we now observe hundreds of species dying out every year.

Evolution is a fact of life. Even staunchest traditional Christians believe that there is at least some degree of evolution at work in nature around us. They regard it as 'micro evolution' that operates within small sub-classifications of plants and animals. Some degree of evolution is indisputable, but how much?

EVOLUTION ONLY WITHIN CATEGORIES
Even from common-sense observation alone, we see that evolution is occurring within the broad categories of life ... but a life form in one category never evolves into a life form in another category.
The categories are walled, as diagrammed here.
Each category, in progression, is a separate new kind of creation at a point in time, each more complex, as outlined in Genesis 1.

Walled categories

Genesis 1 tells where the evolution lines are drawn, corresponding to the 'days,' and it names the categories, as diagrammed above.

Each category is more complex than the one that precedes it ... no life, then life ... reproduction from seeds, then eggs, then live birth ... ultimately humans. Each category is necessary in the food chain for support of the next category.

Common observation confirms that a stone never turns into a bush ... a bush never turns into a fish ... a fish never turns into a bird ... a bird never turns into an animal ... an animal never turns into a human.

The categories are walled. There is evolution within categories, but not between categories.

Humans are becoming larger, stronger and smarter, but the Bible says that humans are not evolving into a higher form of life on earth. The six 'days' (stages) of new creation have ended. Humans are God's crowing creation.

The only thing higher for us is eternal life in a new and better realm of existence, offered through Jesus, as explained throughout this site.

Humans are unique creation

The qualities that most separate humans from animals are NOT evolutionary, such as laughter, music, art, mathematics, language and worship. These qualities are unique to humans, created into us, not evolved into us, and not found in any other creatures.

Man (generic) is not an improved animal. Genesis 1:26 says that God made man in his own image, and we have God-like qualities.

Like God, man is a trinity: body (physical), soul (mind, will and emotion) and spirit (connection to God), to be studied later in Topic 2.5.

Evolutionary theory is limited to body and has no way of coping with soul and spirit, no way of dealing with the total person.

FOUR REASONS
why humans are created, not evolved
> REASON 1. Evolution has boundaries
There are no part-way creatures bridging the categories. The gap between animals and humans is extremely wide, not even close! Genesis 1 defines the boundaries for evolution.
> REASON 2. Bible says humans unique
The Genesis account specifically names humans as a separate category of creation, made in the image of God, with moral and spiritual consciousness, and possibility of eternal life.
> REASON 3. Missing links
If there were evolution from a single cell all the way to man, there would be abundant links, half-way creatures at borders of the main categories. The links are missing, affirming that there is no cross-over.
> REASON 4. Human qualities not evolutionary
The qualities that most separate humans from animals – as laughter, music, art, mathematics, language and worship – are NOT EVOLUTIONARY.
Time perspective

Bible provides the big picture

The biblical account of the six 'days' of creation is short and simple, all in the first chapter of Genesis. It was written for and by ancient people who had no understanding of modern science.

The story speaks only about things that were known and observed by them at that time. For example, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams were teeming with plankton then as now, a primary essential ingredient in the marine food chain, but because plankton can be seen only under a microscope, ancients had no idea of their existence; therefore we would not expect the Bible to mention plankton any more than to mention dinosaurs.

The Bible story tells just enough to make the point that God created the earth in six distinct stages.

Even with access to today's vast scientific knowledge, most weekly church attenders still believe that each stage was exactly 24-hours and that it all happened in one week, less than 10,000 years ago. (Gallup Poll has been tracking this for 36 years.)

These same people usually have no trouble believing that continents were formed by shifting tectonic plates (extremely long time!) and that much of the earth's surface was carved by glaciers (extremely long time!). Then how can they reasonably say that all this happened in a week, less than 10,000 years ago? People who try to squeeze God's majestic creation into six calendar days create unnecessary contradictions and barriers to Christian faith.

Plate tectonics and glaciers / slow evolution

Plate tectonics. Some things are so large that we don't think of them as evolving. The surface of the earth, for example, is slowly and constantly being reshaped by tectonic plates of crust 5-20 miles thick, floating on molten rock. The sheets collide, cause earthquakes, reshape continents and form mountains. The plates move over vast distances, but at a speed of only and inch or two per year.

Tap video to see discovery of an ancient tropical rainforest under the ocean floor in Antrctic, a current example of how we know that the earth if very old and constantly changing.
Old forest discovered
beneath Arctic ocean
Video
Glaciers. There have been at least five major ice ages on earth. The last one began about 110,000 years ago and ended about 15,000 years ago. Arctic glaciers slid down past the Great Lakes, scarring the landscape and leaving lakes, rivers and moraines after the melt. Even now, 10% of the world's land surface is still covered by glaciers.
There is so much evidence for the times and effects of plate tectonics and glaciers that no informed person doubts that it actually happened. So a claim that the universe is less than 10,000 years old and that all this happened in one week is ludicrous to well-educated people.
It makes God too small and blunts Christian witness when people try to shrink God's limitless time into puny calendar time just to defend a misleading translation of a single Hebrew word.

Bacteria and viruses / fast evolution

Just as evolution works on huge things like tectonic plates and glaciers, so it works on small things like bacteria and coronavirus.

There are now about 10 million species of life on earth that can be seen with the naked eye, but when microorganisms are taken into account, researchers say that the earth might be home to a staggering one trillion species.

Bacteria. Bacteria are the smallest – and perhaps the oldest – creatures on earth. They are single cell, too small to see without a microscope. Bacteria are everywhere, including soil and air. There about 10 trillion bacteria in the human body, and they evolve (mutate) rapidly. Most bacteria are good for the body and essential for human survival, but some (we call them germs) are bad.

Viruses. Even more amazing are viruses, smaller than bacteria; some good, some bad. Unlike bacteria, they do not reproduce by themselves, but they quickly evolve into new forms so that, upon entering a host cell (as a human body), a bad virus can cause the cell to reproduce the intruder's DNA or RNA, resulting in serious infection and disease or even death for the host.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging widely in severity. MERS-CoV, SARS-Cov and COVID-19 are coronaviruses. Because they evolve rapidly – sometimes in hours or days – they can appear suddenly as new deadly species.

For most people, the most disastrous world-changing event in our lifetime thus far is COVID-19 ... the rapid evolution of a single microscopic virus and that fateful day in late 2019 when it first entered a human cell. Pandemic is a current example of evolution.
Christians should be informed and comfortable in explaining what science tells us about God's ever-changing creation
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Big bang in bible
Summary
Bible Creation Days
  • Bible was right. Science agrees that the Bible is accurate in its order of first appearances, a counter-intuitive sequence that would have been unlikely for the Genesis writer to know three thousand years ago without divine revelation from the designer/creator.
  • 'Day' is more than 24 hours. A careful re-reading of Genesis 1 shows that the Hebrew word 'yom' – translated 'day' in English – means a long indefinite period of time.
  • Evolution. Within specific categories – vegetation, fish, birds and animals – there is evolution, adaptation and proliferation over long periods of time. Species come and go. New species are generally better, stronger, smarter than older species. The old makes way for the new and prevents suffocation from over-crowding. This happens all within God's design plan, without any new creative act during this seventh 'day.'
  • Humans. Humans are a special creation, not evolved animals, created in God's own image, the only creature with possibility for eternal life.
  • Importance. Getting it right about origin of the universe is important because it affects credibility of the Bible.
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