In the Space of Six Days 2

By John Hooper

THE DAYS OF CREATION

Having considered some of the principles underpinning our understanding of Genesis 1 and 2 we are now ready to think about the creation days themselves. It is not difficult to see that the very concept of “day” is itself a product of God’s creating activity, not created with the sun but three days earlier on day 1.  While the first three days are not strictly solardays, there is no reason to believe that they were any different in duration from days four, five and six. All were divided between light and darkness with an evening and a morning, good grounds already for regarding them as days as we know them.

The first use of the word day, in Genesis 1:5, in both English and Hebrew, has it describing the twelve hours of light on day 1. It is used in this sense again in verses 14, 16 and 18, all in relation to day 4. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself used the word in the same way: “Are there not twelve hours in a day?” (John 11:9). “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9:4).

But in Genesis 2:4 the word “day” appears to refer to a less precise period of time: “…in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” A little later it is used by God as He alerts Adam to the danger of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “… in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). But this need not worry us because in both cases what fits most comfortably with the context is a normal day of twelve or twenty-four hours. Even if we were to stretch the meaning in Genesis 2:4 to the whole of the creation week, it is inconceivable that it refers to a time period approaching thousands of years, let alone millions or billions.

All other occurrences of “day” between Genesis 1:5 and Genesis 2:4 – there are nine of them – share a number of characteristics that, taken together, point us to one conclusion.[1]

1.Historical

An evangelical is unlikely to declare openly that Genesis 1 is myth, that would be a step too far, but he might well call it poetry, or metaphor, or symbol, or literature. To call it history may be a step too far for him in the other direction. And yet the genre of the whole book of Genesis is undeniably history, even genealogy, as we learn from the repeating phrase, “These are the generations of…”  Those who have made an in-depth study of the language in these early chapters tell us that it displays nothing of the characteristics of Hebrew poetry but is written in such a way that the divine Author clearly intends us to understand it as history. Genesis 1 bears all the hallmarks of being God’s own revealed record, in plain language given through Moses, telling us exactly what He did to bring the worlds into being and how long He took to accomplish it.

This is borne out by the rest of Scripture, particularly the New Testament.  Some evangelicals would make us go all the way to the end of Genesis 11 before poetry and metaphor finally give way to history.  Thus not only the historicity of the creation account is denied but also of the fall of man and the first promise of the gospel in Genesis 3, the world-wide flood in Genesis 6-8, and the tower of Babel and dispersal of the nations in Genesis 11. The implications of such a view are truly appalling but it would take us beyond the scope of this article to consider them in depth. Needless to say, Christ and His apostles regarded all these events as real, historical happenings, and the people whose lives are recorded in them to be real men and women. We have no space here to elaborate but see, for example, Matthew 19:3-9; Luke 3:38; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 11:7-12; 1 Timothy 2:12-15, and Hebrews 11:4-7. It is no coincidence that as doubts and denials concerning the historical character of the opening chapters of Genesis have burgeoned, so fundamental Biblical doctrines and practices relating to marriage, work, the Sabbath, sin and the gospel, order in the home, church life and much more have been weakened or rejected. Our faith is not built on the shaky foundation of some man-made theory or hypothesis. Such notions are termed by Scripture “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16) or myths (Gk.: muthos). Our faith is built on the solid, historical, factual reality that is the plainly revealed truth of the Word of God. A house raised on any other foundation is destined to fall.

Another popular approach to escaping the historical character of Genesis 1 is taken by J V Fesko. In the introduction to his book Last Things First he takes the view that Genesis 1-11, incorporating of course the creation account, “does not deal with general world history but redemptive history, the historia salutis.”[2] Again, “Primarily, Genesis 1-3 is not about science, or the history of the world, but is the entry point to the person and work of Christ.”[3] Now superficially there is something attractive about this. It sounds very spiritual and Christ-honouring but we must not allow ourselves to be misled. The dichotomy Fesko has raised is a false one because the history of this world is the history of redemption. Yes, Genesis 1-11 is redemptive history, as is the whole of the Bible, and we do not deny that underlying the Biblical narrative there is a glorious theological message, one that we will return to later, but Genesis 1-11 is still history involving real events, real nations, and real people, beginning at Genesis 1:1.

2. Literal

It is not enough for us to say that Genesis 1 is history, or even that the days are real, historical days. We must go on to demonstrate that they are literal days. A literal interpretation is one that takes the words of a text “in their natural and customary meaning, and using the ordinary rules of grammar,”[4] something that neither the day-age nor the framework theories do.

Incredibly the day-age theory claims to be a literal interpretation.[5] How? By saying that the days are “literal … long days or epochs,”[6] each lasting millions of years. It even claims to have Biblical evidence for this![7] But try to read millions of years into Genesis 1 and the passage becomes sheer nonsense.  The perspicuity of the Bible, not to mention the wisdom of God, vanishes in its very first chapter.

It is true that the Hebrew word yom used in Genesis 1 is sometimes applied elsewhere in Scripture to a much less definite but longer period of time.  A look in Strong’s concordance will confirm that in the Book of Genesis itself the word is occasionally translated “time” (4:3; 38:12), “age” (18:11; 21:7), or “season” (40:4). But in Biblical exegesis etymology and usage are not the only factors that determine the meaning of a word.  Another vital consideration is context and hopefully by the end of this article we will be able to dispense with any lingering doubts we might have as to the context and meaning of yom in Genesis 1.

The framework theory is at least honest in making no claim to be literal.  It prides itself in being nonliteral, and shockingly so: “Just as we cannot take the Bible literally when it tells us that God has hands and eyes, so we cannot take the Bible literally when it tells us that God created the cosmos in six days and rested on the seventh.”[8] And yet these same writers are careful to say, “We exercise great caution so that we do not equate a nonliteral interpretation with a nonhistorical interpretation of the text. The framework interpretation does not teach that creation was a nonhistorical event.”[9] So creation is historical, but not literal! What other historical events were not literal, I wonder!

The framework theory treats Genesis 1 as metaphor written in a poetic code that conceals the truth. All we need do to discover the truth is decipher the code. Unfortunately it would seem that the code remained unbroken until the twentieth century, meaning that for hundreds of years the truth was obscured and the people of God left in ignorance. “To embrace the framework interpretation, you have to believe that everybody in the history of interpretation got it wrong – badly wrong – until [Meredith] Kline.”[10] Thus it is a theory that “seriously undermines our confidence in the clarity of Scripture. One of the beauties of the Christian faith is that God, in His grace, reveals Himself in a way that even children and non-literary specialists can understand His mind, at least substantively.”[11]

For the protection of our souls we need to distance ourselves from any scholarship that claims to bring to light previously lost or hidden truth. Most likely it will bring more darkness than light. The framework theory insists that the days of Genesis 1 are not days as we know them. They are Divine days, heavenly days, creation days, not measured in hours at all, or even days, but eons of time – “heavenly time.”[12] And yet there is not a shred of evidence in the passage, nor anywhere else in Scripture, to indicate that that is how those days are to be understood. Nor is there any evidence that anyone else has ever understood them in that way.

The purpose of metaphor is to reveal or explain the unfamiliar by way of the familiar. Hence, the church of Jesus Christ is likened to a flock of sheep, or a house, or a garden to teach us the varied aspects of its life and character. Some of the parables of Christ are extended metaphors. So how does the framework hypothesis put this to work with regard to Genesis 1? The argument goes something like this: the unfamiliar thing being explained is God’s creative activity in bringing the universe into existence, and in seeking to explain it Moses is inspired by the Spirit of God to use the days of the human working week, something very familiar to his readers. Moses is simply taking the week as Israel knew it and using it as a literary framework around which to describe the creation of the universe. Hence the week is metaphorical and not literal.

Not only does the language of Genesis 1 not bear out this theory (see v. 14), the fourth commandment emphatically rejects it: “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work … For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:9-11). “God’s activity is not described in terms of man’s. Rather man’s work-week is shaped by God’s activity.”[13] Thus the framework theory turns Scripture on its head.

“[T]he obvious way to read the text of Genesis 1 is the obvious way.”[14] That is what Moses, our Lord Jesus Christ and the writers of the New Testament Scriptures teach us to do by the example they have set. “Day” must carry its natural and customary meaning. The earth in Genesis 1 is a literal earth, along with literal light and literal seas, literal night and literal trees, all created by the literal Word of our literal God. Why, then, should the six days plus one not be literal too? They only become non-literal when the interpreter tries to overlay the passage with a sub-text of Darwinian evolution.

3. Chronological

Being historical and literal, the days are also chronological. Scholars point out that the Hebrew grammar used in Genesis 1 indicates a sequential narrative, evident in the English translation as the recurring “and” that begins each of the days and works of creation.

In contrast, it is a feature of the framework theory that the days of Genesis 1 are non-chronological.  For example, the account of creation day 4 is said to be a recapitulation of day 1. Why? Because the theory requires the sun to be the original light source created on day 1. But throughout Genesis 1 and into Genesis 2 the Spirit of God has inspired language that deliberately and uniquely communicates to readers the idea of an unbroken chain of events: “And God said … And God saw … And God called … And God said … And God made … And God saw”. Nowhere else in Scripture do we find such an unmistakeable concentration of this particular feature of Hebrew grammar, no fewer than 55 times over the course of 31 verses. Surely this is no coincidence but is to teach us that the order of God’s creating work was exactly as recorded, the sun being created on day 4 along with the moon and the stars also.

4. Numbered

As if to underline the sequential character of the creation days each one is identified by a number: “the first day … the second day … the third day …” and so on until “the seventh day”. This usage elsewhere in Scripture, as for example throughout Numbers 7, always indicates twenty-four hour, solar days.[15]

Interestingly, in Genesis 1:5 the Hebrew is slightly different. Rather than “the first day” it has “one day” or “day one.” This has the effect of giving added emphasis, as if to define “precisely what constituted a ‘day’ and to reinforce that this first day was exactly the kind of day we all experience at this time.”[16]

The ordered series of days in Genesis 1 may not, indeed cannot, be reduced to a mere literary device. Adherents to the framework view want us to believe that “the order of narration alone is not sufficient in itself to determine the historical sequence; other considerations, such as theological concerns and general revelation, must be factored in as well.”[17] Yet again we are being asked to cede some of Scripture’s authority to external sources.

5. Progressive

Promoters of the framework hypothesis detect a parallelism, an element of symmetry between days 1-3 and days 4-6. God first creates the habitats and then the creatures perfectly designed to live in those habitats.  However, the arrangement is flawed. For example, the seas are created on the third day but the sea-life to fill them on the fifth day, not the sixth.  Also both the dry land and vegetation are created on the same day. Any parallelism is less than perfect and is certainly not there to teach us that the chapter is poetry. It simply shows us that there is a distinctive order and method in God’s creating work.  Nothing in it is arbitrary but all is according to the deliberate purpose and design of the Creator and was performed with flawless precision. The order of the creation week fails to conform to human reason and scientific expectation because it is a Divine order.  God is at work.  On each day the work of creation is prefaced with the words, “And God said…”.  God is in total control of His work. This is, of course, in complete contrast to the theory of evolution in which there is no plan, no order, and no control, as everything is left to chance or necessity.

There is a marked progression from day one to day seven. Genesis 1 begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth and advances step by step, day by day, to the creation of man as the highpoint of God’s work. This is followed by God’s day of rest. The simplicity of the numbering system itself, such that a child who can count to seven is able to understand it, gives no hint of the recapitulation that the framework theory demands. That has to be read into the text in order to be found there. “We are not to look at day 4 as a replacement act, but rather as an advance.”[18]

Significantly there are two days, the third and the sixth, on which the announcement “And God said…” is recorded twice.  This demands a closer look.  On the third day the dry land was created, along with the seas (v.  9, 10), but the vegetation to grow on the dry land was created in response to a second “And God said…” (v.  11, 12). It did not come about by some natural process as the day-age theory requires. Similarly on the sixth day we read “And God said…” at which point all the living creatures and “beasts of the earth” were created. But also created on the sixth day was man. Was he included in the same creative act as the living creatures and the beasts? No, there is a separate, distinct word from God, a second “And God said…” (v. 26, 28), and that is significant. Man is not numbered with, much less does he derive from, the beasts of the earth but he is a distinct, unique creation.  This is confirmed in Genesis 2 where further detail is given: “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (v. 7). Thus creation followed a calculated sequence of Divine words over six days.

6. Complete

This is evident from the “evening and morning” motif, a phrase that “describes the period of darkness that completes a regular day.”[19] The Jews think of a day as lasting from evening to evening, while we tend to think of it as from midnight to midnight, but in the context of Genesis 1 each twenty-four hour day begins at dawn with the end of darkness and the coming of light. The very first day begins in verse 3 with God commanding the light into existence. That day is then divided into a time of light, called Day, and a time of darkness, called Night, during which God does not create. On each successive day “evening” marks the end of the period of light and heralds the beginning of night, the close of which, called “morning,” marks the end of that day. Thus each of God’s periods of creating activity comes to its close at evening, heralding a night during which no creating work is done (cf. John 9:4; 11:9). The end of God’s night-time inactivity is morning, at which point a new day dawns and His creating work begins anew.[20] Each day is thus clearly circumscribed and God completes each day’s work of creation before nightfall. Such an arrangement points inescapably to “normal” creation days and cannot possibly be reconciled with long time periods.

However, when we come to the seventh day we find there is no mention in the Biblical account of an evening and morning heralding a new day. This has led some to conclude that the seventh day of God’s rest did not end, is in fact still continuing, and is eternal. According to this idea man’s seventh-day twenty-four hour Sabbath is clearly not a copyof God’s day of rest from creation but merely a symbol of it. And if that is true of the seventh day, could it not also be true of the other six? This is the huge leap of logic we are asked to make: “If so, then there is no reason at all to deny that our particular six 24-hour days of labour are symbolic of, not equivalent to, God’s six long days of creative labour.”[21] Surely this is the logic of desperation.

The lack of morning and evening suggests that rather than heralding a new day, the night of the seventh simply takes us back to the first day and the weekly cycle beginning anew. It should also be noted that all the verbs in Genesis 2:1-3 are in the past tense: God “rested on the seventh day … blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.” This indicates a defined and completed rest. The force of the text is that the seventh day was a day on which God rested from His creation work, blessing it and hallowing it expressly as the pattern for His image-bearer to follow (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11; 31:12-17). And that pattern, of course, also included six days of work: “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work … For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth … and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:9-11). Prof. Douglas Kelly raises a valid question when he asks, “But if the absence of this conclusory formula means the divine pattern of Sabbath rest for mankind continued for thousands of years, how could humans have fulfilled God’s command to work six days each week (Exodus 20:9)?”[22] The answer, of course, is that fulfilment would be impossible.

7. Confirmed

The Spirit of God has not left us with only Genesis 1 but has provided us with ample evidence in later Scripture writings, such as Exodus 20 and Psalm 104, that the events and time-line of Genesis 1 are to be understood exactly as recorded. There is perfect unity throughout the Word of God.

SIX DAYS

When the framers of the confessions stated that God created the universe “in the space of six days,” they were simply repeating the plain language of Scripture.  Exodus 20:11 begins, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” Likewise Exodus 31:17, “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”  Some seize on this and sow seeds of doubt: “Nowhere does the Bible fix the length of these days.”[23] But taking together the seven arguments we have presented here, the context of the Hebrew word yom in Genesis 1 builds the strongest of cases for it being a day just like the one we know. Indeed, it is so limited by its context that it cannot mean anything else. Even the nineteenth-century liberal Marcus Dods recognised this: “if, for example, the word ‘day’ in these chapters does not mean a period of twenty-four hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless.”[24] Nearer our own time are the comments of the late Prof. James Barr, who wrote in 1984 that so far as he knew, “there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their read­ers …  [that] creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience…”[25] Barr himself did not believe this but he was honest enough to acknowledge that it is the true meaning of the text and there is no reason to de-literalise it.

It is as though the Holy Spirit has gone out of His way, if I may express it like that, to make the meaning of those early chapters of Genesis as clear and irrefutable as possible; and yet, as Satan softly whispers “Hath God said?” evangelical and Reformed preachers and teachers are foregoing the obvious and adopting the absurd so as to accommodate the claims and time scales of evolutionary science. The high price they are paying is the confidence of the Lord’s people in the Word of God and its inspiration, infallibility, authority, completeness, sufficiency, and perspicuity. These are just some of the important issues at stake. The question before every believer is clear: “whatsaith the Scripture?” for Scripture alone will protect us from the powerful but devilish influences of secular reasoning and atheistic science. It has been well said that “For too long, evangelicalism has honoured secular rationalism and natural theology too much.  It is time to return to ‘thus saith the Lord.’”[26]

GENESIS 1 AND THE ‘WHY’ OF CREATION

Finally, there is one issue mentioned earlier that I want to return to. Promoters of the framework hypothesis are strongly of the view that all other interpretations “fail to grasp the overriding theological message of the text.”[27] We may not allow them to get away with that. There is no contradiction whatsoever between twenty-four hour day creation and an “overriding theological message.” We need have no difficulty in agreeing that “Creation was established from the beginning with a built-in eschatological direction and hope.”[28]  Another writer approaching Genesis from the same perspective remarks: “Genesis 1-3 should not be interpreted in isolation, but in the light of the New Testament, in the light of Christ.” “While it is true that Genesis teaches the origins of man, this fact cannot be separated from redemptive history.”[29] Amen! There can be no disputing what these men say. “The first world was designed with a view to the second world, the heavenly creation, where all things will be united in Christ Jesus our Lord … Thus, created by God’s hand and providentially controlled by his hand, the world moves from the beginning of Genesis 1, to the end of all things, the final consummation in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[30]

This brings us back to Colossians 1:16 and the apostle’s assertion concerning our Lord Jesus Christ that “all things were created by him, and for him”.  It is easy to overlook those final three words but they are so important because in them we find creation’s “eschatological direction and hope”. From the very beginning – no, from before the beginning – all is with an eye to Christ. Let’s never forget that. “In the beginning,” the Bible begins, but the beginning of what? Yes, the beginning of time and space, the beginning of this world, the human race and its history, but above all else creation marks the beginning of the fulfilment of God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. “[B]efore the world began” God made a promise of eternal life (Titus 1:2). “[B]efore the foundation of the world” He chose a people in Christ (Ephesians 1:4). Christ the Lamb was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) and even slain “from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Grace itself is given us in Christ Jesus “before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

Of the accomplishment of all this, creation was the beginning. Creation was the necessary beginning, the first step toward the gathering together in one of all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). It is all for His sake. Here we have the grand “eschatological direction and hope” that was in the mind and purpose of our Creator God as He spoke the universe into being. It was only the beginning and it took just six days! Think about that. Does it not put the creation of this vast cosmos into perspective? Six days to begin, and then the work and history of redemption; the incarnation and cross-work of our Lord Jesus Christ; His resurrection and ascension to glory; the spreading of the gospel and gathering out from this world of an elect people for Himself; the final judgment and ushering in of a new creation. Six days marked the beginning of all this, and having begun His work God is now completing it for the sake of His great glory. It is a work that so far has taken around 6000 years. Are these years and its work a mere appendage to millions or billions of years of evolution?  God forbid! The Word of God testifies otherwise, and the history that is Genesis 1 and 2 is where it begins.


[1] For what follows I have found Dr. Joseph Pipa’s chapter in the book Did God Create in 6 Days? very helpful.
[2] J V Fesko, Last Things First, p. 27.
[3] Ibid, p. 30.
[4] Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. 1, 3rd ed., p. 1222.
[5] Hugh Ross and Gleason L Archer, The Genesis Debate, p. 125.
[6] Hugh Ross and Gleason L Archer, The Genesis Debate, p. 143.
[7] Hugh Ross and Gleason L Archer, The Genesis Debate, pp. 143-151.
[8] Lee Irons and Meredith G Kline, The Genesis Debate, p. 246.
[9] Lee Irons and Meredith G Kline, The Genesis Debate, p. 219.
[10] J Ligon Duncan and David W Hall, The Genesis Debate, p. 266.  The same can be said of the novel ideas of John H. Walton in his book The Lost World of Genesis One, published in 2009, in which he claims that the early chapters of Genesis are not about material creation at all but function.
[11] J Ligon Duncan and David W Hall, The Genesis Debate, p. 265.
[12] Lee Irons and Meredith G Kline, The Genesis Debate, p. 238.
[13] Noel Weeks, The Sufficiency of Scripture, p. 112.
[14] Noel Weeks, The Sufficiency of Scripture, p. 115 (emphasis original).
[15] The only possible exception (proving the rule) is Hosea 6:2. See Kelly, Creation and Change, p. 150, n. 1
[16] Andrew S. Kulikovsky, Creation, Fall, Restoration, p. 129.
[17] Lee Irons and Meredith G Kline, The Genesis Debate, p. 220-221.
[18] Joseph A Pipa, Did God Create in 6 Days?, p. 173-174.
[19] Joseph A Pipa, Did God Create in 6 Days?, p. 182. See also Exodus 27:21, Leviticus 24:3 and Numbers 9:21 where it indicates night-time.
[20] Andrew S. Kulikovsky, Creation, Fall, Restoration, p. 128.
[21] R Laird Harris, Did God Create in 6 Days?, p. 110.
[22] Douglas Kelly, Creation and Change, p. 154.
[23] Allan Harman, Learning About the Old Testament, p. 22.
[24] Quoted by Nigel M de S Cameron in Evolution and the Authority of the Bible, p. 76.
[25] James Barr was Oriel professor of the interpretation of the Holy Scripture at Oxford University.  He wrote this in private correspondence with David C. C. Watson, dated April 23, 1984. Barr wrote from a neo-orthodox perspective but he understood Hebrew and what the text of Genesis 1 so clearly meant. It was only the perceived need to harmonize the text with the claims of science that led people to think differently — it had nothing to do with the text itself.
[26] Ligon Duncan and David Hall, The Genesis Debate, p. 114.
[27] Lee Irons and Meredith G Kline, The Genesis Debate, p. 251.
[28] Lee Irons and Meredith G Kline, The Genesis Debate, p. 251.
[29] J V Fesko, Last Things First, p. 31, 33.
[30] Homer Hoeksema, In the Beginning God, p. 77.

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