Science in Christian Perspective



  How Long Were The Days of Genesis?
Thomas Key
Rte 2, Box 47A
Citronelle, AL 36522

From: JASA 36 (September 1984): 159-161.

Since the Darwin Centennial of 1959, there has been a growing enthusiasm among Bible believers for Young Earth interpretations of creation. Prior to 1959, fundamental and conservative Bible scholars, ministers, and others commonly accepted Old Earth interpretations such as:

1. The Castastrophism group of Theories: Proponents of these theories have in common the belief that there were millions or billions of years between Genesis 1: 1 and 1:2, that the original creation of Earth was destroyed in one or more catastrophes, and that Genesis 1:2ff describes its re-creation in six literal days.

2. The Day-Age Theorists assert that the "days" of the creation account were ages. "Evening and Morning" means "Beginning and End."

3. The Alternate Day-Age Theorists say that the "days were twenty four hours long each, but that they were separated by vast expanses of time to allow the newly created plants and animals to multiply.

4. The Revelation Day Theorists interpret the "days" of creation, not as days in which God created the various things, but as days in which God spoke to Moses.

5. The Eden Only Theorists hold that the Earth is billions of years old, but that Genesis 1:2ff is recent and pertains to Eden only.

6. The Relativity Theory is difficult to explain. Essentially, its adherents teach that time and space are not absolute as we earthlings generally suppose, but are relative. "A day with the Lord is as a thousand (or more) years." At the speed of light time stands still. God is light. The days of Genesis cannot be dogmatically stated as being any particular length. From certain viewpoints the days might be said to be a few seconds in length, while from other viewpoints they might be said to be twenty four hours or many centuries or more in length.

7. The Allegory Theorists hold that the Genesis account is written in a style of Hebrew that is not employed in literal historical selections, such as in the bulk of the Pentateuch or in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. The language is a lofty, majestic form of Hebrew that strongly suggests other than a strictly literal interpretation. Allegory Theorists hold that the Creation account emphasizes that the universe and life on earth were created by God. Some proponents suggest that there is a striking parallel between the Creation account and the new birth and spiritual growth in Jesus Christ.

Since 1959, we have seen the pendulum swing rapidly and decisively towards Young Earth theories. These include:

1. The Literal Theorists assert that the earth and the universe were created in 4,004 B.C. in six literal days.

2. The Extended Literal Theorists recognize that Ussher miscalculated the date 4,004 B.C., and that the earth and the universe were evidently created at least a few thousands of years earlier.

3. The Flood Geology Theorists assert that the earth and the universe were created only a few thousands of years ago, but that the Genesis Flood caused practically all of the fossils and strata.

4. The Apparent Ages Theorists say that the Earth was created only a few thousands of years ago. Some say that the Flood gave it a false appearance of vast age. Others say that God created it with an appearance Of great age to fool skeptics and to test believers. Still others say that Satan counterfeited the apparent vast age to fool believers and to keep skeptics trapped.

The new Young Earth Creationists are using aggressive techniques that are totally inappropriate in either scientific or Christian circles. These techniques include name calling, e.g., referring to Bible-believing Christians who adhere to Old Earth theories of creation as "evolutionists." Other techniques of aggression can be observed in their various meetings and elsewhere, e.g., their typical absolute refusal to discuss strengths and weaknesses of various points of view.

One serious weakness of Young Earth theories is their insistence that the Creative Days were necessarily twentyfour hours long. Their arguments include:

1. That anytime in Scripture a number precedes the word "Day" a literal day is meant. (This of course, is their own rule and is not a rule of Hebrew grammar.)

2. That the expression, evening and morning, limits the days to twenty four hours. (A review of the Scripture-e.g., Psalm 90:4-6 and elsewhere-shows that this is not necessarily true.)

3. That the relationship between the Seventh Day and honoring the Sabbath Day proves that the Creative Days were twenty four hours long. (But the emphasis in Exodus 20 is on the number seven, and not on the duration of the days. (Cf. "Sabbatical Year").

However, there are some serious problems that conservative and fundamental Christians must consider before they become rigidly committed to twenty four hour days. For example, Noah was instructed by God to put two of each of the unclean animals on the Ark. And God started the human species with two individuals. Since our God is a consistent God, such consistency would lead us to expect that God would have created two individuals of each dioecious species (that is, species with two separate sexes), and one individual of each of the asexual species. Now if the creative period were a literal calendar week, the animals would have died quickly of starvation after they eliminated the pairs of plants that God created on Day Three. Therefore, either Day Three was a long period or it was followed by a long period to allow plants to obey God's command to multiply.

Careful reading of Genesis chapters I and 2, would suggest that the Sixth Day was rather crowded for a mere twenty four hours. Genesis 1:24 and 25 are typically interpreted as meaning that all land animals were created on the Sixth Day. Genesis 1:26 and 27 tells us that God created the first male and female humans. Genesis 1:28 allows them to get acquainted with God in a time of fellowship, and God blessed them and instructed them to multiply and fill the Earth, to subdue the Earth, and to have dominion over the fish and birds and all animals.

In Genesis 1:29 God told the couple that He had given them the herbs and the trees for food. They evidently took time out to get familiar with the herbs and the trees as well as with the birds, fish, and land animals. And, certainly Adam and Eve took time out to get acquainted with each other that Sixth Day.

It is very hard to believe that all of these events took place within the day-light hours of a literal twenty four hour day. But, consider also that Genesis 2:4ff goes into much more detail about other events during the Sixth Day. Genesis 2:15 says that God put the man in "the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it." So, God on this eventful Sixth Day taught Adam how to cultivate the Garden.

Genesis 2:16 tells us that God told Adam that "Of every tree in the Garden thou mayest freely eat." Adam apparently was shown many or all of the trees at that time. Otherwise, God's instructions would not have been meaningful. Genesis 2:17 tells us that God then pointed out the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and forbade the eating of it or. pain of death.

Now as hard as it is to believe that all of these preceding events could have occurred in the daylight hours on the Sixth Day, let us look at Genesis 2:19. It informs us that God formed "every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air. and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them, and whatsoever Adam called every living creature. that was the name thereof."

Genesis 2:20 says, "And Adam gave names to all cattle. and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found any help meet for him." So. Adam completed the naming of all birds and land animals before he met Eve. Adam obviously would not do a sloppy job in naming all the animals that God had made. How long did it take Adam to name each one-twenty minutes? Ten minutes? Let us assume that it took Adam a mere five minutes to observe and study each animal pair carefully, noting its colors, feeding behavior, territorial behavior, courtship behavior, play behavior, nesting behavior, parental behavior, and its interactions with other animals. That is a very large order, but Adam was perfect. After careful observation of each pair of birds and land animals, Adam finally succeeded in giving appropriate names to each. Naming one every five minutes, he would name twelve per hour. Assuming that he worked eight hours after all the preceding activities on that Sixth Day with no coffee breaks, no rest room breaks, and no lunchroom breaks, Adam would name ninety six in one day. Let us round it out to one hundred on that Sixth Day. There are twelve thousand species of modern mammals, to say nothing of several times that many extinct mammals. Adam would need one hundred twenty days to name all of the modern mammals and several times that to name the now extinct ones. Flood Geology enthusiasts cannot try to "sneak out the back door" and assert that Adam named only the animals of Eden. Literalists must face verses 19 and 20 that say that Adam named all the animals that God created. Of course, devout people who are accustomed to studying the Bible, "comparing Scripture with Scripture," should readily see that the literalists ignore for their own convenience such superlatives as Genesis 41:47 and Luke 2:1.

In addition to the mammals Adam also named during the same Sixth Day all the birds that God made (8,600 species), all the reptiles (5,300 species), and all the amphibians (2,500 species)-a process that would add another 164 days under the same unreal procedure suggested for mammals. If we include the extinct species, the time required would be a few times larger. Literalists usually claim that insects and other invertebrates were also created on the Sixth Day. By the same process it would require another 23 or so years to name the current species! If he named all of the now extinct species, several times that would be required.

Now, while naming all the animals that God had made, Genesis 2:20 implies that Adam spent some time during that busy Sixth Day to notice that all the animals had mates, "but for Adam there was no help meet for him." And Genesis 2:21describes how God caused Adam to go to sleep, and how God created Eve from his rib or side. Obviously, the pair would have wanted much time to get acquainted on that Sixth Day before retiring for the evening. And Adam would have been excited about showing Eve around the Garden, and telling her how he had succeeded in naming all of the animals that God had made.

Examination of the Fourth Day presents us with another set of problems. Genesis 1: 16 indicates that God created the sun, moon, and stars. The closest star to us other than our sun is Alpha Centauri, which is four and a half light years away. Adam and Eve could have seen no stars in the heavens other than our sun for four and a half years if these are literal solar days. With each succeeding decade the light from a few more stars would finally reach Earth. After about half a century, Polaris, the North Star, would appear. But Genesis 1:18 is very clear that the stars were to "rule over the night," while Genesis 1:14 says that they were to "be for signs and for seasons, and for days, and for years." God's purpose for stars simply does not fit easily with the notion that the creative days were only twenty four hours long.

In addition, remember that many stars are millions of light years away from Earth while many others are billions of light years away. Unless we recognize that their light has been traveling for millions or billions of years to Earth, we are forced into a serious problem. Some revert to the Apparent Age interpretation, and actually claim that God created the light already on the way, thus giving the false appearance of vast age! In the first place this is not necessary for an Eternal God. In the second place this Apparent Age theory forces God to lie.

Apparent Age theorists often counter with questioning us about "how old did Adam and Eve appear to be when they were created?" But that is an altogether different matter. If they had been created as helpless zygotes, fetuses, babies, or children, they would have died. It was essential for our first parents to have been created in the young adult stage. It would be folly as well as totally unnecessary and a lie for stars to have been created with light already on the way. The God of the Bible is a Holy and non-deceptive God. He does not lie in word or in action.

Another point must be considered--Genesis 2:10-14 describes four large rivers in existence in Eden prior to all of those events of the Sixth Day. These large rivers could not come from a mere mist that occurred once (Genesis 2:6). Rivers come from melted snows and rains. They also come from underground springs. However, underground springs come from melted snows and rains. Four large rivers in Eden that went over "the whole land of Ethiopia" (Genesis 2:13), to Assyria (Genesis 2:14) and including the Euphrates (Genesis 2:14) would have required rains, rains, and more rains over an extended period of time. There would not have been adequate time between the Third and Fifth Days, if those were solar days, for such huge river systems to have formed.

Finally, Genesis 2:4 reads, "These are the generations of the heavens and of the Earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens." The use of the word, day, here in the Genesis account is one of the many times that "day" does not mean a twenty four hour period. Other examples are "day of Abraham" and "The day of the Lord." The word, generation, in Scripture always refers to an expanse of time, never to a mere week of solar days. But, it is interesting that the plural form, generations, is used, indicating even much more time for the so-called creative week.

These are but a few of the many reasons that I believe that we fundamentalists and conservatives must believe that those Creative days were vast periods of time.