The Creation Days in Genesis: Arguments For and Against
by Dr. George Benthien
Arguments for the Calendar Day Interpretation:
Some of the major arguments for this interpretation are the following:
- This interpretation is the most natural. Probably most people interpret the days this way when they first read this passage. It is the view taken by most (but not all) Christian scholars throughout the history of the church.
- The use of “evening and morning” and ordinal numbers with the days points to a normal 24-hour day interpretation. This was discussed previously in the section describing the language of Genesis 1.
- This view gives strong support both to the historicity of the account and to the miraculous nature of creation.
- This view doesn’t have to deal with the problem of death occurring before God’s curse.
- This interpretation meshes well with other passages of scripture and provides a natural framework for the Sabbath observance.
Arguments against the Calendar Day Interpretation:
Some of the major arguments against this interpretation are the following:
- The major argument against this viewpoint is that its time scale disagrees with the time scale believed in by most scientists. For example, the fossil record, radiometric dating, the time for light to reach us from distant galaxies, the background radiation temperature, and the expansion rate of the universe seem to point to a very old creation. The proponents of the calendar day interpretation caution us that it is dangerous to tie our interpretations of scripture to the current view of science, as this view is likely to change in the future. However, most scientists believe that a significant change in these estimates would call into question a large part of Physics. Another argument against this interpretation is that it seems like Adam has an awful lot to do on day six (maintaining the Garden, studying the animals, naming the animals, relating to Eve).
- In addition, a young age for the earth means that there must have been a very rapid expansion in the number of species following the flood. In fact opponents estimate that the rate of creation of new species would have to have been much greater than is claimed by Darwinists.
- Some see the fact that the sun and moon were not mentioned until day four to be a problem. The proponents of the calendar-day interpretation claim that God himself provided light and darkness during the first three days. He did this to highlight the fact that God is the one who determines the length of days, not the sun and the moon which were worshiped by many ancient cultures. However, it is not obvious to many that the first three days, at least, were ordinary days.
Of all the interpretations, the proponents of the calendar day view seem to be the least tolerant of other viewpoints. However, the following quotation by a pair of young-earth creationists is very encouraging 3
As we shall argue later, recent creationism is an attempt to reinterpret the data, not to deny their existence or importance. As it is now interpreted, the data are mostly against us. Well and good. We take this seriously. Eventually, failure to deal with that data in a recent creationist scientific theory would be sufficient reason to give up the project. We think, however, that progress is being made. The potential rewards outweigh the liabilities. Theistic naturalists and old-earth creationists are free to develop their ideas. Recent creationists will do the same. In the end, we are confident that the world, and the creator, will reveal the truth of the matter. In the meantime, dogmatic pronouncements from any camp are counterproductive. Recent creationists should humbly agree that their view is, at the moment, implausible on purely scientific grounds. They can make common cause with those who reject naturalism, like old-earth creationists, to establish their most basic beliefs. When the dust has cleared from that intellectual revolution, they can see how the landscape looks. It would not be surprising if many things once “known” for sure would be less certain. This of course might include the age of the cosmos. Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds
Arguments for the day-age interpretation:
This viewpoint maintains the historical and chronological nature of the passage while allowing for the longer time periods accepted by most scientists. It is also largely consistent with the order in the fossil record. This interpretation takes the Hebrew word “yom” for day to mean a finite but indefinite period of time. Since this is one of the allowable meanings of “yom”, this interpretation can also be considered a “literal” interpretation. While the days are assumed roughly consecutive, this viewpoint does allow for some overlap. They believe that God created many new species prior to the creation of Adam, balancing those becoming extinct. Since God rested after the creation of man, this would account for the fact that, since the appearance of man, there doesn’t seem to have been any new animal species come into existence while a large number of species have become extinct.
Regardless of how one feels about this interpretation, it should be acknowledged that it has been instrumental in removing some of the barriers that have prevented many scientists from taking the Bible seriously. The same can be said for Theistic Evolution.
Arguments against the day-age interpretation:
One of the biggest points of contention with this viewpoint centers on the question of when death entered the world. If the fossils were from periods prior to the time of Adam, then there was death before Adam and Eve’s rebellion and the resulting curse.
Romans 5:12 Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.
1 Cor 15:21–23 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
The question is whether these verses refer to all death or only to the death of humans? Could there have been animal death before the fall? When considering whether all death is the result of Adam’s and Eve’s sin we should not overlook the fact that Adam and Eve were not the first creatures to sin against God. Satan or Lucifer (meaning morning star) and his followers were apparently the first (see Isaiah 14:12–15)
Jude 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.
Another objection voiced against this interpretation is that the desire to conform to present day science tends to de-emphasize the miraculous nature of the creation events.
Arguments for the framework interpretation:
The week was used by a number of early near-east civilizations as a framework to describe important events. There does seem to be a parallelism between days one through three and days four through six. Days one and four are both concerned with daylight and night, light and darkness. Days two and five are both concerned with the skies and the seas along with their inhabitants. Days three and six deal with the dry land and with the vegetation, animals and people that live there. Days one through three are days of forming and days four through six are days of filling.
Sun, moon, and stars
Separation of waters above
and waters below
Birds of the air and
creatures of the sea
Land and vegetation
Land animals and man
Day 7 God rested
In this interpretation there is no time duration or order associated with the various creation events. The order is determined primarily by literary considerations. Thus, this interpretation is not in conflict with science in regards to the age of the earth or the time ordering of events. In the second chapter of Genesis it appears that man is created before the plants and animals. This is used by some to argue that the ordering of events in Genesis 1 is not chronological. The framework interpretation is held by many theistic evolutionists.
Arguments against the framework interpretation:
Opponents of this interpretation feel that treating the creation week as a metaphor weakens the historical nature of the narrative. Other portions of scripture do treat the creation events as being historical. Proponents of this viewpoint maintain that their non-literal interpretation does not negate the historical nature of the events being described. It is also argued that this interpretation is too complicated to be understood by the original readers and that it has only appeared recently in the history of the church. There were, however, some such as Augustine who had a non-literal interpretation of the creation days.
Arguments for the analogical days interpretation:
This interpretation shares much in common with the day-age interpretation. In both of these interpretations the sequence of event is maintained, but a day could represent an extended period of time to a viewer on the earth. The analogical days viewpoint differs in that it looks at the events from God’s perspective rather than from an earth dweller’s perspective. This interpretation strongly implies that we should pattern our work week after God’s work week.
Arguments against the analogical days interpretation:
Many scholars feel that the distinctions made in this interpretation are too subtle to be appreciated by the original audience. In addition there does not seem to be any other portion of scripture where this viewpoint is taken.
This series is courtesy of Dr. George Benthienand can also be found at his website.
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