Theology of Creation,
Scientific Evidence,
and Education

Two Creationist Interpretations of Genesis 1

This page contains these sections:
Overview  —  A Summary of Interpretations    No Consensus    Tools - Summaries - Reports
The 6 Days  —  The Logical 3-and-3 Framework    How long is a yom-day?    The Gap View
Is it scientific?  —  Concordism    Chronology (Young Earth & Day-Age)    Ancient Near-East Cosmology

Genesis 1 — An Overview of Creationist Interpretations

In this page "creationist" and "creationism" are defined properly, to include all Judeo-Christian theists who believe that God designed and created the universe, whether they think the process of creation was young-earth (by miracles), old-earth progressive (by miracles and natural process), or old-earth evolutionary (by natural process), where "natural" does not mean "without God" because God designed and created nature, sustains it and can guide it.

What is the meaning of Genesis 1?  Does it describe a 144-hour creation?  Or when we examine the text, are other interpretations possible or preferable?  When we carefully study the text of Genesis 1, in the context of the whole Bible, should we conclude that the universe is young, or old, or that neither view is clearly taught?

        Two Interpretations?
        Although the title of this page says "Two Creationist Interpretations" it could be eight or more.  But it's only two if we think about TWO TYPES of interpretationschronological (with 6 or more variations) and non-chronological (also with variations).  In addition, we can ask questions about the "scientific concepts" we see in Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible.
        Another perspective is that two types of interpretation are young-earth (biblical creationist) and old-earth (unbiblical evolutionary).  This us-and-them distinction is encouraged by prominent young-earth creationists who define their own view as "creation" while everything else is "evolution" that either is atheistic or is on the road to atheism.  The way they see it, a young-earth view that is based on the Bible is biblical creationism, but any old-earth view that is based on the Bible is unbiblical evolutionism, even when it's proposed by a Christian whose beliefs are in every way based on the Bible.  This claim is examined in AGE OF THE EARTH — THEOLOGY by asking, "Is it wise, for faith and evangelism, to imply that A Young Earth and The Gospel of Jesus are linked in a ‘package deal’ where either both are true, or neither is true?"

A Summary of Common Interpretations

        Does Genesis 1 describe history in chronological sequence?  In a day-age view, each yom (a Hebrew word with several meanings, although it usually is translated as "day" in Genesis 1) is a long time period of unspecified length.  In a young-earth interpretation, each yom is a 24-hour day, and the entire creation process occurred in six consecutive 24-hour days.  Or creation might have occurred in nonconsecutive 24-hour days with long periods between each day.  Or the days might be analogical days.  Or maybe God described, in days of proclamation, what would occur during the process of creation.  In a gap view there was an initial creation (in Genesis 1:1) followed by a catastrophe (in 1:2) and a re-creation on the earth (beginning in 1:3).
        Or is the intended meaning historical but non-chronological?  In a framework view, the six days form a logical framework in which history is arranged topically, and probably not chronologically.*  The two problems in Genesis 1:2 — the earth was "formless and empty" — are solved in Days 1-3 (by separations that produce form) and Days 4-6 (by filling each form).  And if you compare the separations and fillings in each pair of days (1-and-4, 2-and-5, 3-and-6) you will find parallels between these related aspects of creation.   {* claims about chronology vary: a person who thinks "there is a framework" can claim "the history is also chronological" or "it's not chronological" or anything in-between}

        What is the purpose of the concepts used in Genesis to describe our world?  Everyone agrees that Genesis 1 teaches theology.  But does it also teach science?  In Genesis 1 do we see the scientific what-and-when details of creation, as if the process had been videorecorded?  When we ask "what does Genesis 1 teach us about science?" this is part of a more general set of questions asking "what does the Bible teach (and not teach) about science, history, and theology?" and "are these teachings correct?"
        Some scholars say "no, Genesis does not teach science" because they think the descriptions in Genesis 1 were written specifically for the original readers, in their cultural context, by using the "scientific concepts" of familiar theories about physical reality (in their ancient near-eastern cosmology) for the purpose of more effectively challenging false theories about spiritual reality (in the polytheistic "nature religions" of surrounding cultures).   {more about concepts}

        ALL interpretations acknowledge the clear statements of essential creation-theology in Genesis 1:   Everything in nature was created by God, and is subordinate to God.   There are no polytheistic "nature gods" so we should worship only the one true God who created everything.   God's creation is good but is not divine, so nature is placed in proper perspective.   God declared His creation to be "very good" so we can reject the idea that physical things (created by God) are intrinsically bad;  our problem is sin, not physicality.   And humans are special because God created us in His own image.

There is No Consensus
Linguistic scholars and theologians who are evangelical Christians, after careful studies of Genesis and the Bible as a whole, have not reached agreement about the meaning of Genesis 1.  For example, in 1982 the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy decided (by agreement of all members except one, Henry Morris) to not include a 144-hour creation as an essential component of a fundamentalist belief in inerrancy.    Creation-Relevant Statements of Affirmation & Denial from ICBI  (3 k)

Principles of Interpretation (biblical hermeneutics & exegesis)
Interpretation of the Bible from Theopedia, an overview  (9 k)
Biblical Hermeneutics: An Introduction by Robert Hommel, an in-depth overview  (32 k)
• I.O.U. — Later, there will be more web-resources about hermeneutics, exegesis, and eisegesis.

Research Tools (neutral, not advocating any view)
Word Studies in Genesis One is the text of Genesis 1 plus definitions for each word, by Hugh Ross (8 k) (tip: open this page in two side-by-side windows, one for the text, one for definitions)
Scriptures [throughout the Bible] Related To Creation — a list compiled by Hugh Ross (3 k, amount of text)

Brief Summaries (neutral, not advocating any view)
Four Views of the Biblical Creation Account (Calendar Day, Day-Age, Framework, Analogical Days) by Reasons to Believe (3 k)
The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, with each view (24-Hour, Day-Age, Framework) explained by its proponents, followed by responses (from the other views) and a counter-response:  publisher's description (5 k + 3k) and review (7 k)

Comprehensive Creation Reports by theologically conservative denominations
Report of the Creation Study Committee (2000) for Presbyterian Church in America:  This report is large, but the Table of Contents has links taking you to each of the sections — which examine interpretations of Genesis 1 (Calendar Day, Day-Age, Framework, Analogical Days, and others) and much more — where you then can decide what to read.   (233 k of text in main body + 37k in appendix)
Report of the Committee to Study the Views of Creation (2004) for Orthodox Presbyterian Church:  This report is even larger, but you can see what's available — sections on views (day of ordinary length, day of unspecified length, day-age, framework, analogical day) and much more — in the Table of Contents, and use an easy math trick to overcome the lack of links; for example, to find the Day-Age View (which the ToC says is on page 1637) take the last two numbers (37) and add 2 to get 39, then tell your PDF-reader to go to page 39.   (380 k + 280k)

ABOVE, interpretations disagree about two main questions:
Why was Genesis 1 written with a six-day structure?
Does Genesis 1 describe scientific principles and history?
BELOW, these questions about structure and science are explored.

The Six Days
Why was Genesis 1 written using a six-day structure?  Is it a chronological history of a creation that occurred in six 24-hour days, or in six longer periods of time?  Or is the six-day structure a literary framework that provides a logical outline of creation?  Or is there another purpose?

The 6-Day Framework
In a framework view (summarized above) the six days form a logical framework in which history is arranged topically in two sets of days (1-2-3 for separations, and 4-5-6 for fillings) that have parallels between related aspects of creation in three pairs of days: 1/4, 2/5, and 3/6.
        Acknowledging the existence of this logical framework is compatible with all major views of the creation process — young earth, old earth progressive (with natural process plus miraculous-appearing creations that were independent or by genetic modifications), or old earth evolutionary — and with any combination of creation by miracles and/or natural process.  A claim that the history in Genesis 1 is non-chronological also can be compatible with all major views, although young-earth creationists usually reject a nonchronological interpretation because the self-perceived plausibility of their view depends on a belief that "the Bible requires young-earth theology" because this requirement is necessary to overcome the weakness in their young-earth science.   VIEWS OF CREATION
        It's important to recognize that non-chronological does not mean non-historical.  In the framework, creation history could be written in a way that is only topical (not chronological, not making any statements about the sequence of creation or its duration), or only chronological (if there is no framework *), or both chronological and topical.   /   * You can check this for yourself by reading the text of Genesis 1 carefully, with an open mind, with the intention of answering this question:  Is there a framework with two logical patterns (123 456, 14 25 36) in the six days?

The Framework Interpretation of Genesis 1 in brief introductions by Rich Milner & Ray Bohlin (neutral), Craig Rusbult (pro), and Carol Hill (pro)  (9 k total)
book review of The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation by Scott Yoshikawa  (11 k)
Genesis One by Jimmy Akin, explains why the Framework Interpretation is "most plausible from a careful reading of the text" after he analyzes other views: Day-Age, Revelatory Days, Gap, and Ordinary Days.  (20 k + comments)
Framework Interpretation: An Exegetical Summary by Lee Irons, with sections that are a mixture of framework essentials (The First Three Days, The Two Triads) and extras (Because it Had Not Rained, The Seventh Day).  (17 k)
When evaluating the framework, we should distinguish between Essentials and Extras by Craig Rusbult, looks at essentials (the framework's structure and its function in describing history) and extras (as in Meredith Kline's "rain" argument and "two registers" speculations), and evaluates anti-framework criticisms.  (12 k + 3k)
Length of Days in Genesis by Rowland Ward, with perceptive ideas about essentials, extras, and more.  (54 k)
Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony by Meredith Kline, with a focus on "rain" and "two registers" that are framework-extras.  (55 k + 10k, PSCF)
Because it Had Rained by Mark Futato, is a commentary on Genesis 2:5-7 and the Genesis framework.  (65 k, including extensive footnotes)

Report of the Committee to study the Framework Hypothesis for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (140 k), concludes that "the framework interpretation, as formulated in this report, accords with the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures and summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church." — Initially a "Consensus Statement on Creation and Hermeneutics" was available on the web, but it was eliminated, as explained in the final paragraph of Section 1.  (same text in different format)
• a condensed version of this is in OPC's Comprehensive Report, and the PCA's report also describes pros-and-cons.

Most of these papers criticize framework-essentials (that should be the main focus) and also framework-extras (that receive too much attention).
The Literary Framework View is described and criticized by Wayne Grudem on pages 300-304 of his book about Systematic Theology. (page 304 is missing from the google-sample)
Is Genesis a theological argument (polemic) and thus not history? by Don Batten, David Catchpoole, Jonathan Sarfati, Carl Wieland (chapter in Creation Answers Book)  (14 k)
A Critique of the Literary Framework View by Andrew Kulikovsky, criticizes essentials and extras in claiming that "the presence of clearly defined literary devices in no way implies that the days are literary devices or that they are non-chronological" and concluding that "the language, syntax, narrative style and progression of thought, all indicate chronological history."  (34 k)
Re-Visiting the Creation Days... Again by Mark Zylstra  (31 k)
How far should evangelicals go? by Todd Beall, criticizes all old-earth views, especially framework  (27 k +9k)
From Chaos to Cosmos: A Critique of the Framework Hypothesis by Joseph Pipa  (77 k + 23k)
Genesis 1: Fact or Framework? by John MacArthur, claims the framework is a "slippery slope" that leads to denying all history in the Bible, and is based on making science the authority for scriptural interpretation  (6 k)
Critique of Framework Interpretation by Robert McCabe, is huge (in two parts:  94 k + 37k,  289 k + 60k)

YOM — What is the length of a "day" ?
IF the days are intended to be chronological , THEN how long were the days?
In the Bible, the Hebrew word "yom" has several different meanings.  What is the intended meaning of yom in Genesis 1?

        In a FRAMEWORK view (above) this question is not important if the six days are the logical framework for a topical history of creation that is not the chronological history.
        ANALOGICAL DAYS view — the six days are God's work days (measured in His time, not ours) that are analogous to our work days, with Genesis 1 setting a pattern for our 7-day week of work and rest.
        SOLAR DAYS view — each yom is a 24-hour day (a calendar day), and creation occurred during a period of 144 hours;  this is almost always a young-earth view, proposing that creation occurred recently, usually 6,000-10,000 years ago.
        DAY-AGE view — each yom is a long period of time;  this is almost always an old-earth view, proposing that creation occurred during a period lasting billions of years.
        INTERMITTENT DAYS — with 24-hour days that are separated by long periods of time.
        DAYS OF PROCLAMATION view — in six consecutive 24-hour days, God proclaimed what he would create, but the actual creations did not occur during this 144-hour period.
        The GAP view (ruin-and-reconstruction) is described below.

12 Views of Yom in Genesis 1 (strengths & weaknesses) by Norman Geisler  (5 k outline)

proposes that "the ‘days’ are God’s work-days, which are analogous, and not necessarily identical, to our work days, structured for the purpose of setting a pattern for our own rhythm of rest and work." {quoting part of the Creation Report (12 k) from PCA which summarizes the main ideas}

proposes (in a young-earth theory) that all creation occurred during a 144-hour period in the recent past.
How long were the days of Genesis 1? by Russell Grigg, who looks at the meaning of yom and concludes that "God, through the ‘pen’ of Moses, is going out of His way to tell us that the ‘days’ of creation were literal earth–rotation days."  (10 k)
"yom" means a 24-hour day by Ken Ham  (40 k + 8k)
In the Space of Six Days by Kenneth Gentry  (17 k)
A View of Creation by Ashby Camp  (150 k in 52 pages, but much of it is footnotes)
• IOU — Answers In Genesis (young earth) has a links-section that will be searched/evaluated to find useful pages.

FLEXIBILITY — questioning the necessity of a "solar days" view:
The Days of Creation — a statement by Westminster Theological Seminary explains why "we recognize that the exegetical question of the length of the days of Genesis 1 may be an issue which cannot be, and therefore is not intended by God to be, answered in dogmatic terms."  (12 k)
The Days Of Genesis: An Old-Earth View by Paul Copan (written as part of a dialogue with John MacArthur, who takes a young-earth view) claims that flexibility, regarding the timing of creation, is biblically justified  (12 k)
The Trustworthiness of Scripture in Areas Relating to Natural Science by Walter Bradley & Roger Olsen, is a multi-purpose paper discussing scripture (mainly the text of Genesis 1, including "bara" and "asah" which indicate the use of miracles and natural process during creation) plus science (about evolutions and age) written for the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy in 1982. (old earth, 67 k + appendix by Norm Geisler + notes)

ARGUMENTS against a young-earth "solar day" interpretation:
Why I Believe Genesis is Historically Accurate by Glenn Morton, explains why the text of Genesis does not support the common young-earth arguments.  (17 k)
Young-Earth Creationism: A Literal Mistake by Dick Fischer, looks at the literal meaning of the text in Genesis, and compares it with a young-earth interpretation.  (39 k + 3k)

DEBATES between proponents and critics of a "solar day" view:
  • Davis Young (old earth) and John Byl (young earth) discuss relationships between Scripture and Geology:  Part 1 and Part 2 by Young, response from Byl and reply by Young.  (from Westminster Theological Journal, 1989)
  • In a "Timothy Test" a young-earth scientist, Russell Humphreys, asks us to imagine an intelligent nonscientist in biblical times who knows the scriptures well (similar to Timothy, the apprentice of Paul);  Humphreys claims that "if scripture really is straightforward and sufficient, then the meaning Timothy derives from the words is probably the meaning that God intended everybody to get."  Is this always a useful interpretive principle?   1. Perry Phillips (22 k) [old earth],  2. Russell Humphreys (11 k) [young earth],  3. Jonathan Sarfati (19 k) [young earth],  4. Perry Phillips (22 k), where page sizes (22 k,...) don't include end-notes.

proposes (in an old-earth theory) that each yom — which is the Hebrew word usually translated as "day" — was a long period of time, not a 24-hour day.
Biblical Evidence for an Old Earth by Stephen Jones, is a brief outline (4 k) of arguments that are examined more closely in these pages:
the meaning of "yom" by Rich Deem (10 k + 28k references)  /  also, Biblical Evidence for Long Creation Days (14 k + 2k) plus end-of-page links that include literal interpretation in Genesis 1 (19 k + 12k)
Word Study of "yom" by Greg Neyman (16 k)
The Days of Creation: Hours or Eons? by Dick Fischer (32 k) PSCF
• IF the six days of Genesis are intended to describe the what-and-when chronology of creation (but this "if" is challenged by the framework view) and if the days are long periods of time (but this "if" is challenged by the solar day view) — THEN we can ask two questions:  Do any day-age views of the Genesis creation chronology match the nature chronology we have constructed from our scientific studies of nature?  This is one of the many questions about scientific concordism.

proposes (in an old-earth theory) nonconsecutive 24-hour solar days;  each "evening and morning" is a 24-hour yom which begins a long creation period that still continues, so the creation periods overlap.  This view was proposed by Robert Newman & Herbert Eckelmann in the first edition (1977) of Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth;  in the second edition (2007, with Perry Phillips as a third co-author) a diagram (scroll down to page 70) clarifies the timings, and the view is further explained by Newman in pages 70-72 & 60-62;  other parts of Chapters 4-5 (pages 53-74) examine the meaning of yom and the chronology of creation.

proposes that, in the six days of Genesis 1, God proclaimed what he would create, but did not say when he would create.
Days of Proclamation by Glenn Morton, claims "Genesis 1 is the pre-planning of the universe."  (8 k)
Days of Revelation or Creation? by Charles Taylor, is a young-earth criticism of this view  (5 k)
a response to Morton by Ross Olson — and here are my suggestions, as editor of this page, if you want to find the part that is most relevant for interpreting Genesis:  skip the first part ("Does Genesis..." and "A Response...");  but in the "Critique..." (which begins, "Glenn Morton is a Christian. ...") read the first 6 paragraphs (3 k);  then you can skip the remainder ("In all of this,...") which is a typical defense of young-earth science.

GAP THEORY (Ruin-and-Reconstruction)
proposes (in an old-earth theory) that after the initial creation, billions of years passed during a long time-gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, ending with a catastrophe that left the earth "formless and empty";  then, during six days (in Genesis 1:3-2:1) the earth was re-created in its current form.
AllAboutCreation has a summary of Gap Theory (2 k) and a young-earth criticism (5 k);  also, a series of pro-gap pages by David Reagan, an 8-step explanation by eHow, and Wikipedia (6 k).
Formless and Void: Gap Theory Creationism by Tom McIver, published in the journal of NCSE, is a comprehensive paper (66 k) about gap theory, including "what it is" and why it's proposed, and its fascinating history.
The Bible, Genesis and Geology is a large website (with lots to explore!) by Gaines Johnson, explaining and defending his version of Gap Theory.
• Gap Theory was much more popular a century ago (when it was featured in the Scofield Reference Bible) than it is now;  AllAboutCreation says (about science) "most Bible scholars today interpret the geological record either in a manner consistent with the reigning Lyellian/Darwinian paradigm or as a result of the catastrophic processes which occurred during Noah’s Flood" and (about theology) "most Bible scholars today do not see any justification for the Gap Theory in the biblical text."  Now, gap theory is criticized by advocates of both an old earth and young earth, including old-earthers Rich Deem (5 k) and Hugh Ross (14 k), and young-earthers at CreationWiki (4 k) plus Monty White (6 k), Henry Morris (#1 & #2) (10 k & 10 k), Bert Thompson (23 k), Ham & Sarfati & Wieland (#1 & #2) (11 k & 21 k), Ken Ham (31 k), and Jack Sofield (45 k).

Biblical Concordism — Theological, Historical, and Scientific
      Does the Bible teach science?  If a person answers "yes" and also thinks "the science is correct," they are claiming a concordance between the Bible and science, and their view is called concordism.
      When we think about concordism we can ask two questions — What claims are made in the biblical text? Are these claims true because they correspond to reality? — in three areas, for theology, human history, and science.  Thus, we can think about theological concordism (what claims about theology are in the text? do these theological claims match spiritual reality?), historical concordism (what claims about human history are in the text? do these historical claims match historical reality?), and scientific concordism (what claims about science are in the text? do these scientific claims match physical reality?).
      Proponents of an accommodationism view think the "science" in scripture is just the familiar Ancient Near-Eastern Cosmology of ancient cultures, so they do not accept scientific concordism.  They think the scriptural descriptions of nature were accommodated to match the ancient views of nature in the culture of the original writers and readers of Genesis.  God accomodated the original readers by using (instead of changing) their incorrect views of nature and its history, in order to more effectively communicate with them so He could more effectively challenge their incorrect theology and change it to correct theology.

      If there is some independence between the three areas (theology, history, science), conclusions for them can differ.  For example, a proponent of accommodationist Ancient Near-Eastern Cosmology can say "yes" to theological concordism (because theological claims are made, and they seem to match reality) but "no" to scientific concordism (because no scientific claims are made), and for historical concordism can say "no" for Genesis 1-11 but "yes" for Genesis 12 onward through the New Testament.  A rigid young-earth creationist says "yes" for all three concordisms, and claims they are linked together so either all succeed or all fail.
      But an atheist can say "no, these concordisms are interdependent, not independent," and there is a failed concordism because "yes, Genesis 1 does make young-earth science claims" but "no, these scientific claims don't match the physical reality we observe in nature."  Then this perceived failure is used by atheists as part of their efforts to challenge the overall credibility of the Bible, and thus to challenge its theological concordism.

How can we wisely use the Two Books of God?
      When we're thinking about the two books, in scripture and nature, here is an important principle:  We cannot compare the Bible with science, we can only compare a Bible-based theology (a fallible human interpretation of scripture) with a nature-based science (another fallible human interpretation) while trying to search for truth.
      General questions about relationships between theology and science (are they in conflict? independent? mutually supportive?) are examined in THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD — SCRIPTURE & NATURE.
      Specific questions asking "is there science in Genesis?" are in ACCOMMODATION (with ANCIENT NEAR-EASTERN COSMOLOGY) or CONCORDISM.

In this page you'll find links to resource-pages expressing a wide range of views, which don't necessarily represent the views of the American Scientific Affiliation.  Therefore, linking to a page does not imply an endorsement by ASA.  We encourage you to use your own critical thinking to evaluate everything you read. 

This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
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This page, written by Craig Rusbult (editor of ASA Science Ed Website), is
and was revised March 19, 2010

all links were checked-and-fixed on July 3, 2006


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