Science and Creation

Articles on creation, science and 6 literal days in Genesis 1-2

Seven Reasons for a Six Day Creation by Robert L. Reymond


From, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Chapter 11, pp. 392-394.

Much has been written about the length of the days of creation, whether they were ordinary days of around twenty-fours hours duration, long ages, some combination of days and ages, or simply a nonhistorical literary framework or mnemonic device intended to serve as the means whereby information about the divine activity in creation might be presented in an aesthetically pleasing and helpful fashion. I can discern no reason, either from Scripture or from the human sciences, for departing from the view that the days of Genesis were ordinary twenty-four-hour days. [1] The following points favor this view:

1. The word “day” (yôm), in the singular, dual and plural, occurs some 2,225 times in the Old Testament with the overwhelming preponderance of these occurrences designating the ordinary daily cycle. Normally, the preponderate meaning of a term should be maintained unless contextual considerations force one to another view. As Robert Lewis Dabney states with respect to the meaning of yôm, in Genesis 1: “The narrative [of Genesis 1] seems historical, and not symbolical; and hence the strong initial presumption is, that all its parts are to be taken in their obvious sense.… The natural day is [yôms] literal and primary meaning. Now, it is apprehended that in construing any document, while we are ready to adopt, at the demand of the context, the derived or tropical meaning, we revert to the ordinary one, when no such demand exists in the context.” [2] No such contextual demand exists in Genesis 1.

2. The recurring phrase, “and the evening and the morning [taken together] constituted day one, etc.” (1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31), suggests as much. The qualifying words, “evening and morning,” attached here to each of these recurring statements occur together outside of Genesis in 30 verses (e.g., Exod. 18:13; 27:21). In each instance these words are employed to describe an ordinary day.

3. In the 476 other cases in the Old Testament where yôm, stands in conjunction with a cardinal or an ordinal number, e.g., Exodus 12:15; 24:16; Leviticus 12:3, it never means anything other than a normal, literal day.

4. With the creation of the sun “to rule the day” and the moon “to rule the night” occurring on the fourth day (Gen. 1:16–18), days four through six would almost certainly have been ordinary days. This would suggest that the seventh would also have been an ordinary day. [3] All this would suggest in turn, if we may assume that the earth was turning on its axis at that time, that days one through three would have been ordinary days as well.

5. If we follow the analogia Scripturae principle of hermeneutics enunciated in the Westminster Confession of Faith to the effect that “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly” (I/ix), then the “ordinary day” view has most to commend it since Moses grounds the commandment regarding seventh-day Sabbath observance in the fact of the divine Exemplar’s activity: “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exod. 20:11; see also 31:15–17).

6. In the 858 occurrences of the plural “days” (yāmîm) in the Old Testament (see Exod. 20:11), their referents are always ordinary days. Ages are never expressed by the word yāmîm.

7. Finally, had Moses intended to express the idea of seven “ages” in Genesis 1 he could have employed the term ôlām, which means “age” or “period of indeterminate duration.”

[1] It is often said, as does Hugh Ross in The Fingerprint of God, 2d ed. (Orange, Calif.: Promise, 1991), that “many of the early church fathers and other biblical scholars interpreted the creation days of Genesis 1 as long periods of time. The list includes … Augustine, and later Aquinas to name a few” (141). Andrew Dickson White is much closer to the truth when he states that “down to a period almost within living memory [in 1896], it was held, virtually ‘always, everywhere, and by all,’ that the universe, as we now see it, was created literally and directly … in an instant or in six days” (A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology [New York: D. Appleton, 1896], 60). In fact Augustine said repeatedly that God created the universe ex nihilo and that the “days” of Genesis, as Ernan McMullin summarizes his view in Evolution and Creation (Notre Dame: University Press, 1985), were “stages in the angelic knowledge of creation,” the “days” themselves occurring in “an indivisible instant, so that all the kinds of things mentioned in Genesis were really made simultaneously” (11–12). Augustine was even willing to say that “from Adam to the flood there were 2,262 years according to the calculation data in our versions of the Scriptures” (The City of God, book 15, chapter 8)—not a chronology in keeping with an evolutionary view of the origin of the universe. As for Aquinas, nowhere does he explicitly declare for the days as being ages; in fact he states, “The words one day are used when day is first instituted, to denote that one day is made up of twenty-four hours” (Summa theologica, Question 74, Article 3).

[2] Robert Lewis Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (1878; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1972), 254–55.

[3] An oft-repeated argument for the days of Genesis 1 to be construed as long periods of time is that, since the biblical account does not employ for the seventh day the concluding phrase “and the evening and the morning were the seventh day,” the seventh-day Sabbath is still continuing. I would suggest that because the divine activity on the Sabbath day differed in character from that on the first six days (rest over against work), a different concluding formula was appended to indicate not only the end of the seventh day but also the end of the creation week: “and by the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made” (author’s translation). These words suggest an end of the seventh day as surely as do the words “and the evening and the morning were the first day.”

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