The Framework Interpretation of the Days of Creation
By Lee Irons, Ph.D.
The slander of jaded secularists to the contrary, most Bible-believing Christians are aware that not everything in the Bible is to be taken literally. When the Bible says “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chron. 16:9, all Scripture quotations from the ESV), no one imagines that God literally has eyes, much less that they “run” throughout the earth. This is an anthropomorphism—that is, a description of God in human terms. Because humans were made in the image of God, we can gain some insight into God’s invisible, incorporeal, and spiritual nature by ascending from the earthly replica to the heavenly reality on which the earthly replica was modeled.
The Framework. While it is widely recognized that the Bible contains figurative and nonliteral language, it has been less widely recognized that the days of creation described in the first chapter of the Bible may also be plausibly viewed as a figure of speech. Many evangelicals are convinced that the days of creation are literal, twenty-four-hour days, but there are indications in the text that suggest that we are in the presence of another metaphor. Along with several other scholars, I hold to a nonliteral interpretation of the days of Genesis called “the framework interpretation.” It is called that because the days of creation are viewed as a literary framework. The framework interpretation is the view that Moses presents God as a worker who goes about His creative work in six days and
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rests on the seventh day, and that this picture functions as a literary framework in which the creative acts of God are narrated in a nonsequential or topical order. The days of creation are presented as ordinary solar days, complete with mornings and evenings, but taken as a whole, the picture of God working for six days and resting on the seventh is anthropomorphic. The narrative of God’s creative activity within the six days corresponds to events that occurred in space and time, but the seven-day week is a literary device for organizing that historical narrative, and so that aspect of the narrative (the framework of the seven days) is not to be taken literally. Though the days are a literary framework, the events of creation narrated within the framework are real historical events. The days are like picture frames. The snapshots within each frame are historical, but the frames provide a literary structure for narrating the creation history in a topical (i.e., nonsequential) order.
Moses himself appears to have consciously shaped his account using the creation days as a literary device to provide his account with an intricate structure that has theological significance. There are a number of contextual clues in the inspired text that encourage us to view the creation days as a literary framework…
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