Intro:

Many Christians disagree when it comes to the issue of how the Hebrew word yom (“day”) should be understood when reading Genesis 1. Sometimes the loudest voices in this disagreement come from the two well known groups: the young earth and the day/age folks. However, it should be noted that there are other less known views that Christians take on this issue, two in particular are referred to as the metaphoric and anthropomorphic days view. In this post I will briefly comment on the metaphoric, young earth, and anthropomorphic days view and then briefly discuss the rationale behind my own interpretation of yom.

Metaphoric View

According to Walter Brueggemann, Genesis was merely a “poetic narrative that likely was formed for liturgical purposes.”[1] In other words, the narrative in Genesis 1 was not intended to be taken literally but, rather, should be understood metaphorically with one overall theme in mind: “God and God’s creation are bound together in a distinctive and delicate way.”[2]  Brueggemann also notes that the text was meant to counter Babylonian creation views by which the Israelites were surrounded.  With these particular ideas informing his hermeneutic, Brueggemann concludes that both literalists and rationalists are missing the mark (especially as it pertains to the six “days”) because, ultimately, Israel was not interested in the mechanics, as it were, of creation but, rather, God’s lordly intent.[3]  Therefore, he denies both the literalist view of twenty-four hour “days” and the rationalist view of day-ages while adopting a metaphoric or literary-framework view[4] of Genesis.

Young Earth View

According to John MacArthur the creation account in Genesis 1 should be viewed as “literal truth”[5] – that is, the “days” of Genesis are twenty-four hour, solar days.  With regard to the day/age view, MacArthur writes, “nothing in the immediate context suggests that these early chapters of Genesis are to be interpreted figuratively.”[6]  He cautions against attempting to compromise the integrity of the creation account with current scientific theories and gives specific examples as to why the day/age view doesn’t work.  One example: since plant life was created in Age Three (given the day/age view) and certain flowering plants require bird and insect interaction in order to thrive, those plants would not have survived the two ages it took for birds and insects to finally exist.  He points out that the “days” are “demarcated by rhythmic phases of light and darkness… underscoring the fact that the days were the same and that they had clearly defined boundaries.”[7]  Also, every time in Scripture that “day” is modified by a number it always refers to a twenty-four, hour solar day.  Therefore, the “days” of Genesis must have been twenty-four hour days.

Anthropomorphic Days View

John Collins argues for what he considers to be the anthropomorphic days[8] of Genesis; that is “God’s days”[9] that are divided, not by twenty-four hours, but by God Himself for however long a period He so chose in keeping with His creative purposes. He gives a few reasons for his argument that include the anthropomorphism of God forming or breathing into the dust in order to make man (Genesis 2:7-8). If the creation account takes anthropomorphic liberties, so the argument goes, then why can’t the “days” also be anthropomorphisms as well?  Also, particular “days” appear to take longer than a normal solar day for everything to have taken place; like Day Six when Adam named all the animals, became lonely, fell into a deep sleep, and woman was later created out of his rib, or Day Seven that has no recorded “evening” or ending but, rather, appears to still be continuing (Hebrews 4:3).  These also indicate that the “days” cannot be twenty-four hour periods but anthropomorphisms.  The reason Collins does not appear to advocate for a day/age view is because, as he writes, “the linguistic case for [that] theory is weak.”[10]  However, it is hard not to view Collins’ argument as the day/age view just with different clothes on, so to speak.

My View

Brueggeman’s arguments, while interesting, do not comport with how the other biblical authors treated the creation account including Jesus (Matthew 19:4-5).  Therefore, I don’t think it contextually wise to treat the creation account as purely metaphoric.  Collins’ argument for the “day” as anthropomorphism is also intriguing but, as far as I’m aware, I don’t see categories of time (that is, “days”) or categories in general as being anthropomorphized in Scripture.  God is certainly anthropomorphized (Genesis 2:7-8; 6:6; Psalm 89:13) but categories are not.  So, while I suppose it’s possible, I don’t think his view is likely.  Ultimately, I do subscribe to the day/age view of creation; so while Collins was off the mark with his conclusion, I did agree with his arguments insomuch as they support the day/age view.  While I do freely admit that my particular view is untidy, as it were, I don’t see MacArthur’s view (that is, the view that the “days” are twenty-four hour, solar days) as completely free of liabilities.  I think the fact that yom allows for an interpretation of an indefinite period of time coupled with the evidence of an old earth from general revelation are both adequate reasons to hold my position.  MacArthur’s exegetical argument for twenty-four hour “days” (that is, “days” modified by a number are always twenty-four hour periods) is absolutely true.  The problem is, even though numerically modified “days” are twenty-four hour periods elsewhere in Scripture, that does not necessitate that the “days” in Genesis 1 are twenty-four hour periods.  It only shows that it is likely (which I admit is a weak argument for my view in and of itself).

But the reason I point that out is because of the compelling evidence of an old earth in general revelation.  I’m familiar with the arguments put forth by young-earth creationists but where they have no good answer is with light from stars that are millions of light years away.  Red shift cannot be so easily dismissed and arguing that God made the earth with an appearance of age basically just means that God has created light from certain stars that never existed in the first place (which I can’t help but think is awfully deceptive).  MacArthur argued against equating general revelation with special revelation[11] and I would agree with his assessment (although I think he misunderstands Hugh Ross’ position on general revelation).  However, general revelation does play a part in our ultimate understanding of passages of Scripture.  For example, I would assume MacArthur is not a heliocentrist yet biblical passages, like Ecclesiastes 1:5 for example, seem to suggest that the sun revolves around the earth (if you read it in a straightforward way).  Obviously Christians have had to change their view of passages like Ecclesiastes 1:5 in light of what has been discovered from general revelation (that is the earth revolves around the sun) and, therefore, I don’t think general revelation should be denigrated simply because it does not comport with one particular understanding of creation.  Rather, I think general revelation should be considered just as seriously as special revelation (that is we should study it with all sincerity and intellectual honesty) even though MacArthur is right that special revelation is of much more value because of the nature of God’s direct communication.

[1] Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1982), 22.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 26.

[4] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 89.

[5] John MacArthur, The Battle for the Beginning: The Bible on Creation and the Fall of Adam (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), xxvi.

[6] Ibid, 33.

[7] Ibid, 39.

[8] C. John Collins. “How Old is the Earth? Anthropomorphic Days in Genesis 1:1-2:3.” Presbyterion 20, no. 2 (Fall 1994): 109.

[9] Ibid, 117.

[10] Ibid, 110.

[11] John MacArthur, The Battle for the Beginning: The Bible on Creation and the Fall of Adam (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), 29.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I suggest John Walton’s, “The Lost World of Genesis One” or “Genesis 1 is Ancient Cosmology.” It’s time we read scriptures as they were meant to be read (hint: not as a filter to modern science). Walton explains temple cosmology and functional creation, the way the biblical writers probably thought about these things. Maybe we should adopt their (the biblical writers’) thinking…

  2. The problem with the day/age view though is the Bible says that death entered the world through Adam and Eve’s sin.

    So millions of years of animal bones and fossils that represent a lot of death, directly contradict that.
    If you can explain this, I would say this view is reasonable

  3. Very interesting but I still stand by my opinion that it’s the Mayan Galactic day which is 25,625 yrs. Much older earth and also creation

  4. It is very important to understand that this is a major battle ground in our world today. If it wasn’t important the evil one would not have invested so much of his resources in it but it has been his mode from the very beginning, to make God out to be a liar with the question “did God really say that?”
    The number one reason today’s youth leave the Church is because secular science as presented in the schools refutes the Scriptures at every turn with half-truths and outright lies; some from ignorance and many more because even though the facts point to God they would rather believe the lie. Face it, no one wants to follow what they believe is a lie so the lies must be exposed by the light of Truth so we start with our premise that All Scripture is Truth. The secular world starts with the premise that there is no God and all things are from random processes. (which require billions and billions of years…. or more)

    The earth only looks old because You’re looking at the world through the evolutionist goggles you were given when you first began to learn of such things. If you step back and re-evaluate what you observe through the eyes of the Scriptures/Genesis you see something quite different.

    Their clocks are broken; radiometric/carbon dating is accurate to 6,000 years because that is the farthest back that we have anything for which to create the correction table needed for the variance in C14 levels through those years; this is also the approximate half-life of C14. Beyond that 60,000 years is the maximum practical limit before it gets lost in the noise and 100K years is max theoretical but not reachable by any means today.

    The fossil record is a farce, not existing anywhere in the stages presented in schools and they regularly ignore the anomalies in each layer such as mammals with dinos and modern life forms (such as many plants) that show in a so called “ancient” layer and then disappear from the record all together even though they exist now. These are known as living fossils.

    Tree ring dating has been shown to be misleading in that trees can and do produce multiple rings in a year depending on the weather conditions through that year, four rings in a year is not unheard of. And now we know, even our bench mark of consistency is no more, the speed of light is not a constant.

    Recent world events that we’ve watched and recorded show that “millions of years” pass in moments. At Mt St Helens we saw 400 ft of stratified layers laid down in days over the course of 3 eruptions and then a canyon cut through it in a matter of hours when the natural dam of Spirit Lake broke and released its contents.

    Surtsey Island didn’t exist prior to 1963, the eruptions continued through 1967 by 1970 the island had a growing ecosystem of plants, birds, mammals; the shoreline was lined with smooth weathered rock; there were even fossils found on the slopes of the volcano.

    The words of Scripture speak of not just rain but the fountains of the deep burst forth. You can pull up on youtube images of these “fountains of the deep” bursting forth during any number of earthquakes over the last 50 years; some of the most spectacular being from the 1964 Japan earthquake although what we see today in the realm of catastrophic events all pale in comparison to what happened on a global level.

    The “layering” that we’ve been taught represented millions of years of slow process we now know happen very fast through multiple means. There is velocity sorting from volcanic eruptions, mass sorting in underwater avalanches known as turbidites, and sorting during liquefaction events (earthquakes where ground water is prevalent which we know was the case in antediluvian earth)

    Here’s an interesting question to ask yourself when looking at geologic features; “what was this world like before all of this rock was rock?”.

    In the world of genetics, the genome project has had several “eye opening” announcements this last year. In April it was announced that half of all European men are related to one “bronze age king” who must have had “incredible control over mating”. Of course we know this person by name as Japheth and we have the list of nations in Europe from him. You do have a lot of control when you happen to be one of three mating men and you have antediluvian life span.

    Here’s a quote from one of the secular geneticist. (you can find the actual paper online by searching on the citation I give at the end of it)
    Researchers have calculated that “mitochondrial Eve”–the woman whose mtDNA was ancestral to that in all living people–lived 100,000 to 200,000 years ago in Africa. Using the new clock, she would be a mere 6000 years old. No one thinks that’s the case, but at what point should models switch from one mtDNA time zone to the other? Gibbons, Ann (1998). “Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock” Science 279: 28-29

    In the world of archeology, the sudden realization of “fresh tissue” in dinosaur fossils left the secular world scrambling for answers. Their answer by the way was that iron in the blood preserved the tissue…. because everyone knows blood is an awesome preservative…. not

    While the creationist world view doesn’t have everything “figured out” the issues to overcome are nowhere near that of the secularist view; their theories have many more hurdles to overcome yet they present their theories as facts and hide the flaws from the general public; they also make quite sure that each discipline stays apart from the other because they so readily conflict with one another.
    The Creation scientist embraces all of the disciplines because they know they must all mesh together and will in fact mesh with Scripture if the theories are solid because we know and embrace both the Scriptures and creation through which God has revealed Himself.

    I highly recommend that you plug yourself in at “creation.com” as a great place to start to reset your vision through the Scriptures. Our brothers there in Australia have an amazing staff of world renown scientist who love the Lord and are totally sold out in insuring that our brothers and sisters are equipped to answer and refute the lies of the evil one.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Michael

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