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.
According to Walter Brueggemann, Genesis was merely a “poetic narrative that likely was formed for liturgical purposes.” 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.” 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. 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 of Genesis.
Young Earth View
According to John MacArthur the creation account in Genesis 1 should be viewed as “literal truth” – 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.” 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.” 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 of Genesis; that is “God’s days” 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.” However, it is hard not to view Collins’ argument as the day/age view just with different clothes on, so to speak.
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 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.
 Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1982), 22.
 Ibid, 26.
 Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 89.
 John MacArthur, The Battle for the Beginning: The Bible on Creation and the Fall of Adam (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), xxvi.
 Ibid, 33.
 Ibid, 39.
 C. John Collins. “How Old is the Earth? Anthropomorphic Days in Genesis 1:1-2:3.” Presbyterion 20, no. 2 (Fall 1994): 109.
 Ibid, 117.
 Ibid, 110.
 John MacArthur, The Battle for the Beginning: The Bible on Creation and the Fall of Adam (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), 29.