The Days of Genesis One (2)

Daniel H. King, Sr.
The Trouble With Long Days
The modern theory of evolution is not taught in the Scriptures. Whether scriptural language is taken literally or figuratively, it does not leave room for evolutionary development of either the material universe or the biological diversity of earth. Its assumptions are not the agendas which are put forward in the Word of God, nor do they at all motivate the writers of Holy Scripture. This is why evolutionary postulates seem so utterly alien to what we discover when we read Genesis 1-2 on its own terms. Although long “days” may appear more congenial to evolutionary concepts than 24 hour days, in fact they really only substitute new problems for old ones, this time imminently biblical rather than scientific. The “Bible believing scientist” who wishes to strike a compromise with the theories of modern science, merely trades scientific problems for biblical problems, as the following paragraphs show:

1. The Bible teaches that the earth was created before the sun and stars (Gen. 1:1, 16). The theory of evolution (in its full scientific context) teaches that the sun and stars existed in some cases for billions of years before the earth.

2. We are left, for example, with plants existing for millions of years before there is a sun, moon, day or night (cf. 1:11), a veritable botanical — not to mention scientific — absurdity. The theory of evolution, and any other theory that postulates long periods of time between the days of Genesis, cannot reconcile these facts. Plant life could not have survived without these light sources.

3. Then, if insects and birds were created millions of years after plants, pollination would have been quite impossible and many plants would have died out. Once more, this presents a scientific conundrum for such a Bible student. So, the Bible will somehow have to be “adjusted” to make this fit.

4. The Bible teaches that birds were created before insects (1:20, 24). The theory of evolution demands that the insects precede the birds. Of course, many birds survive primarily upon the insects which they ingest, so once again a problem of survival is created by this thesis.

5. The Bible teaches that land plants preceded marine life (1:11, 20). The theory of evolution demands that marine life appeared before dry land plants.

6. The Bible teaches that whales were created before reptiles (or any other land animals), Gen. 1:21, 24. But the theory of evolution not only alleges that reptiles came before whales, but that whales are in fact land animals that have returned to the water.

7. The Bible teaches that birds were created before reptiles (1:20, 24). Evolution, on the other hand, insists that birds were the direct descendants of reptiles.

8. The Bible teaches that man was created before rain fell on the earth (2:5-7). The theory of evolution demands that rain fell on the earth for millions of years before man. (The terms for the plants of 2:5 are apparently used in reference to cultivated plants such as were grown in the garden of Eden, and not to the general vegetation of 1:11).

9. The Bible teaches that death and suffering are the result of sin, and that sin entered the world with Adam and Eve (2:17). But the theory of evolution asserts that the process of life-and-death struggle had been going on for millions of years before man appeared on the earth, and that man’s most immediate ancestors were part of that struggle.

10. The Bible teaches that man was made first, and then the woman was made from his side (2:18-22). This is the crowning blow to any attempt to reconcile the theory of evolution with the Bible. Evolution demands that the sexes evolved together.
11. Finally, if day six (when Adam was created) was thousands or even millions of years long, Adam’s age at death would have numbered in the thousands or millions of years, instead of merely hundreds, as Genesis 5 clearly teaches.

Given these facts, the clearest and simplest approach to Genesis 1 is to render the days of the chapter as comparable to our own days, to allow that those days reflect the temporal order of creation events, and to appreciate the internal harmony among the various biblical passages dealing with creation. There is no reason to suggest that the events of Genesis 2 contradict those of chapter 1. Genesis 1 deals with creation in general, showing man’s place in the larger pattern of God’s genesis of the cosmos. Genesis 2 treats the creation of the human family in more detail; it represents an enlarging of what was summarily discussed in chapter 1.

It is also entirely possible and reasonable to translate certain verbs in Genesis 2 in the pluperfect tense, as does the New International Version: “Now the Lord had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air” (Gen. 2:19). All apparent contradictions disappear when this is done. Chapter one represents a summary of all six days of God’s creating, whereas chapter two focuses in upon day six, and in particular the beginning of the human race.
Gaps and Blanks in
Genesis One and Two
Several views have been put forward in an effort to escape the obvious assertion made in the early chapters of Genesis that the world is of recent origin. Given the fact that this position is completely out of favor in the scientific community because evolution is currently the most popular of the theories of origins, several alternative views have been set before the reading public with the hope that both religion and science may happily coexist. None of these views has gained much currency among Christians or scientists. But for those who seem set upon the notion of “having it both ways,” so to speak, these are options which have become quite popular. The following are the main alternatives to the traditional way of viewing the Genesis account of creation:
1. The Long Chaos or “Gap” Theory. The modern gap theory appeared at the end of the 18th century. At that time, J.C. Rosenmuller and others were trying to make a synthesis between the creation story and the new geological hypothesis concerning the age of the earth.
According to this view, there is a gap in time between the inaugural event reported in Genesis 1:1 and the creative forming of those elements which were fashioned in 1:2, which may consist of millions or even billions of years. During this period the original creation stood in total chaos. This hypothesis is sometimes described as the “Gap Theory.” Those who entertain this position say that the evidence of great age which is apparent from the geological record comes from this chaotic period. C.I. Schofield popularized this notion in his 1909 reference Bible. He also cited Isaiah 45:18 as proof that such a time existed in the history of the earth. In fact, there is nothing either in Genesis 1:1-2 or Isaiah 45:18 which remotely suggests such an extended period of chaos.

Is there support for this idea in the distinction between the words for “create” (bara) and “make” (asah) which some writers say marks a very important difference in the writer’s revelation of the events of creation? One promoter of this theory has written, “The passage of Exodus (20:11) is a reference to the subjects of the creation week of Genesis — that which God made (asah), not that which God created (bara — Gen. 1:1)” (“Flat Earth Bible Study Techniques,” by John N. Clayton in Does God Exist?, Vol. 3, No. 10 [Oct. 1976] 5-6). According to this idea “create” is used to describe only the calling of things out of nothingness (creatio ex nihilo), which only happened once at the origin of the universe, whereas the term “made” is used of the shaping and forming process relative to things which already exist.

In fact, in a sense the two words are used interchangeably in the Old Testament, and are so used throughout the creation narrative in the first two chapters of Genesis. Nowhere is this more striking than in 1:26, 27 “And God said, Let us make man in our image . . . So God created man in his own image . . . ” In Psalm 148:1-5, the writer spoke of the creation of  the angels. Yet when Nehemiah spoke of the creation of the angels, he employed the word asah to describe it. The word is thus employed because the basic definition of bara is to “shape, create” (BDB 135); the root from which it derives (br’) means “to build” or “to bring forth, give birth to” (TDOT, Vol. II, 245). In the Bible this word is always used of God’s work of creating and shaping of things. It does not, however, necessitate “creation out of nothing,” even though it is used so in Genesis 1:1 (compare Heb. 11:3). In Exodus 20:11, Moses uses “made” to describe the entirety of the creative activity during the creation week, even the original creation ex nihilo. It is clear from this that asah may at times mean “create” as well as “make” (cf. also Pss. 33:6; 96:5; 100:3; Isa. 66:22; Jer. 32:17; etc.). In Psalm 104:30 the word “create” is used to describe the regular and continual bringing of new life into the world (creatio continua), while in Ezekiel 28:13, 15 “the day that you were created” seems to mean the day of the birth of the prince of Tyre, so it appears to take on the same meaning as “make” in some instances. This leads us to believe gap theorists are making much more of the verbs of “creating” and “making” than is actually found there!

Further, there is no evidence whatever for the gap theory in Genesis’ words for “was” (hayetah) or “without form and void” (tohu wabohu) in 1:2a. The verb hayah is commonly used to describe states of being (“to be, to exist”). Many gap theorists take it to mean “became” in this passage, i.e., “the earth became formless and void.” Now, hayah may have the connotation “to become” at times, but it is the context which determines this, and nothing in this particular context points the reader toward that meaning. That is the reason translators do not render it so. They would be inclined to translate it that way if there were some indication in the biblical text that there was an original creation which somehow became disordered and chaotic. As Bernard Ramm has written, “The effort to make was mean became is just as abortive. The Hebrews did not have a word for became but the word to be did service for to be and become. The form of the verb was in Genesis 1:2 is the Qal, perfect, third person singular, feminine. A Hebrew concordance will give all the occurrences of that form of the verb. A check in the concordance with reference to the usage of this form of the verb in Genesis reveals that in almost every case the meaning of the verb is simply was. Granted in a case or two was means became, but if in the preponderance of instances the word is translated was, any effort to make one instance mean became, especially if that instance is highly debatable, is very insecure exegesis” (The Christian View of Science and Scripture 139).

The words which describe the chaos before God brought order to the material universe (tohu wabohu), under certain circumstances could be taken to mean something that is brought to ruin, but once again, the context dictates that it rather describes something which is empty and unshapen because it had not yet been configured for use. Jeremiah uses the phrase metaphorically to describe Judah after a devastating invasion from her northern enemy: “I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light” (Jer. 4:23). In Jeremiah, however, the context clearly shows that the land of Judah was to become “waste and void” because of the impending disaster. But Genesis 1:2 does not suggest any such circumstance. It does not say that the world was disorganized, but that it was unorganized. Keil and Delitzsch explain that although the etymology of the two words has been lost, the meaning here is “waste and empty” or “barren.” They do not imply a “laying waste” or a “desolating” (Biblical Commentary on the O.T., Vol. 1, 48). They rather describe the coming earth and tell us it was a desolate, formless, lifeless mass. Surely if the author had intended us to believe there was a world which came to nought before the one which he describes as coming into being during his creative week, he would have given us more than words which may so easily be taken to mean something else entirely! If such a world existed, why did he not just come out and say it? Why did its discovery await the era when evolutionary science caused the biblical account to fall into disrepute in the minds of so many?

The truth is, this “gap” must be read between the lines of Scripture, for it is most assuredly missing from Scripture itself. Good biblical scholarship has always been against this speculative theory, as the following words written by Oswald T. Allis show: “The first objection to this gap theory is that it throws the account of Creation almost completely out of balance. To regard the words of Genesis 1:1 as a brief statement (or heading) which is amplified in the rest of the chapter, makes the entire chapter deal with the original creation. But when verse one is regarded as stating or announcing — it does not describe in any way — an original creation which was reduced to desolation (v. 2) and restored in six days (vv. 3-31), the character of the chapter is radically changed. It becomes almost wholly an account not of the creation, but of the re-creating or repairing of that original creation. This is the most obvious objection to this interpretation. It seems highly improbable that an original creation, which according to this theory brought into existence a world of wondrous beauty, would be dismissed with a single sentence and so many verses be devoted to what would be in a sense merely a restoration of it” (God Spake by Moses 153).

2. Creation-Ruination-Recreation Theory. This view also assumes the gap and long chaos of the previous theory but adds to this the supposition that there may have been many worlds before our own and that these are what produced the geologic column and its supposed evidence for an exceedingly ancient world. Those who hold to this position believe that God may have created and then destroyed each of them (Gen. 6-8) in its own turn.

According to one popular form of this view, it is the creation of the world intended for the angels that is reported in Genesis 1:1. Some time after this angelic world had been created, the evil angels, led by Satan himself, fell into sin. As a punishment for this sin the world was destroyed and the evil angels cast into hell. It is this condition of the earth which is reported in Genesis 1:2: “and the earth was without form and void.” Proponents of this theory believe it would account for the passage of considerable time and explain many of the fossils found in the geologic column. These, they believe, are evidence of animals annihilated when the angelic world was destroyed.

But one of the problems which this theory confronts is the geologic column itself. There are in fact no such “blanks” as would be expected to appear in the fossil record on a worldwide basis prior to a subsequent creation. Science is against the view.
Another rather formidable problem exists as well. First, no passage of Scripture clearly teaches the idea, and the Bible is definitely against it, especially the Genesis account. A simple and straightforward examination of the early verses of Genesis chapter one shows that verses 1-5, which are said to contain the period of chaos and ruination, are inextricably connected with their context and offer no mention of either. Furthermore, there is no pause or other indicator of this supposed additional era of earth history; instead, the words which connect the sentences indicate a progression which is continuous, excluding any break in thought for a gap of millions or billions of years. Second, the theory contradicts Exodus 20:11, which says, “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day          . . . ” and connects the creative week with the ordinary work week of the Hebrew people. Moses summarizes the creation within a single calendar week and leaves no room at all for a long period of chaos or recreation. The remainder of the Bible is also completely silent about it. So, Scripture is also against the view.

3. The Day-Age Theory. This is one of the more popular of the “alternative theories” of understanding the Genesis account. According to this theory, each creation day is supposedly answerable to a Geologic Age represented in the various layers of the crust of the earth. A major obstacle to the acceptance of this position is the fact that the modern scientific theorist’s reconstruction of the development of life upon the earth cannot be made to correspond with Genesis 1 and its picture of the creation of living organisms. This view also is tormented by the problems associated with all “long day” systems (cf. the section above titled, “Problems With Long Days”). The writer’s use of the terms “evening” and “morning” in Genesis also contradicts any approach which does not take seriously this rather obvious and simple terminology, which in all other cases would be taken at face value and not subjected to further interpretation. As Dr. Davis Young, a committed Day-Age theorist has acknowledged, the literal-day interpretation of Genesis is not only a “legitimate” approach to the text (44), but is “the obvious view” (Creation and the Flood 48). It is certainly fitting to challenge the promoters of the Day-Age theory to produce even a single instance as a parallel in Scripture where the word “day” (yom) means an age comprised of millions or billions of years. This is what they avow the word means in Genesis one, so it is appropriate to ask for proof.

An interesting footnote to this view is set forward in Dr. Young’s book Creation and the Flood. Young’s main biblical basis for viewing the creation days as ages is his contention that the seventh day is still going on, since according to his view God is still resting from his work of creation. Shane Scott uses this same argument, “To prove that the days are ages, consider the seventh day. All the other days of creation ended with, ‘and there was evening and there was morning, the ___ day.’ I understand that phrase to mean that each of those days had a distinct conclusion. However, there is no such statement for the seventh day, which must mean that it has not ended. In other words, on the seventh day God ceased creating new life forms, and that day has continued until now because He still ‘rests’ from creating new life” (Sentry Magazine, Vol. 21, No. 1 [March 31, 1995]. Shane Scott, Young, and others who hold to this view ignore the tense of the verb “rested” in the phrase “and He rested on the seventh day . . . ” (Gen. 2:2, 3). The writer does not tell us that God “is resting” as they assert, but that “He rested.” Moreover, in Exodus 31:17 the Bible goes on to explain that God “rested, and was refreshed.” And, even though God’s rest from the original creation may be said to be continuing, that would not prove that the seventh day of Genesis 2:2, 3 was continuing, much less that it continues to the present. After all, Jesus said, “My father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). And that was on a Sabbath! The Lord viewed the Sabbath of the creation week as over. God only rested from his original creation, for the Bible gives ample evidence of his continued work of creating (cf. Pss. 51:10; 104:2; Isa. 43:15; 65:17, 18). In addition, Hebrews 4:9 does not provide any consolation for this mistaken view, since verse 11 makes it evident that the author has in mind the heavenly rest, i.e., heaven itself, and not the original Sabbath or any subsequent one. The author is not really discussing Sabbath days at all, but the ultimate Sabbath rest in heaven.

4. The Literal Day-Long Gap Theory. This alternative way of looking at Genesis 1 is actually a combination of two theories, the Day-Age and the Gap Theory, although it does not present itself as either. Really, it is just another way of espousing what has been called by some “progressive creation” or “religious evolution.”

The best-known advocate of this view is Dr. Bernard Ramm. He makes his case for it in his influential book The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954); it is also advanced by the several writers of Evolution and Christian Thought Today (1959). The idea in the progressive creation approach is to suppose that, while life was developing over the vast span of geologic time the way evolutionists have imagined it, God intervened at various occasions to create something new, which the evolutionary process could not have accomplished unaided. “Saltatory evolution,” “macro evolution,” “quantum evolution,” and “punctuated equilibrium” are all terms and ideas used by Drs. Richard B. Goldschmidt and Stephen J. Gould to describe their own particular brand of evolutionary theory. Their writings have given impetus to religious evolutionists (or should I say rather, “progressive creationists”) among the so-called evangelicals; the theories seem to give support to their claims. The following is a characterization of these writers and their position, given in the words of Dr. Henry M. Morris in his excellent book Scientific Creationism (220-221): “Details vary considerably in the exposition of the progressive creation concept by various writers, with greater or lesser numbers of creative acts interspersed in the evolutionary process according to the taste of the writer. All, however, accept the basic framework of the evolutionary geologic ages and visualize progressive creation as taking place more than five billion years instead of six days. It is difficult to see any Biblical or theological advantage which the progressive creation idea has over a straightforward system of theistic evolution.” Bert Thompson is just as emphatic on this point, “Is progressive creationism theistic evolution? Both call in God to start creation. Both accept evolution (in varying amounts). Both accept the validity of the geologic age system. Both postulate an old Earth. Where is the difference, except that progressive creationism allows God ‘a little more to do in the system’? Both systems put God (theos) and evolution together. By any other standard that’s theistic evolution” (Creation Compromises 193).

According to the form of this view to which we recently have been introduced in the churches of Christ, each of the days of creation were 24-hour periods, but they were separated by millions or billions of years between them. What this view attempts to do is to avoid one of the very obvious and troublesome problems of the Day-Age theory, namely the fact that it places the interpreter into the unenviable position of forcing the word “day” (yom) into a strait-jacket which it never wore when it was used in classical biblical Hebrew. The word never described long eons of time in any instance in the Old Testament, and the cases where it is claimed to have meant this (in Genesis 1) are bounded by very conspicuous contextual limitations (“evening and morning,” “day one,” “day two,” etc.).

So some promoters of the view think they avoid this difficulty by saying that the days of Genesis 1 are literal 24-hour periods which are separated by long ages of time. It is clear that they make the identical assumption that all Day-Age theorists do, however, namely, that the creation week must somehow be expanded to incorporate all of earth’s history from its primeval beginning up to and including man’s arrival. Hence, the “days” of Genesis 1 must correspond more or less to the geological “ages” as set forth in modern science text books. This theory ignores the evidence offered by scientists for a relatively young earth, some of which is provided later in this presentation, and the difficulties created by the assumption that the creative week was more than six 24 hour periods immediately following one another. See the section titled, “The Trouble With Long Days” above. Each of these difficulties is precisely the same, whether the days are longer than the 24 hour periods they claim to be, or the week is longer than the 144 hours it claims to be. And make no mistake about it, the creative week is just as critical to the biblical chronology as are the days (cf. Exod. 20:11; 31:17).

5. The Pictorial Day Theory. The thrust of this approach to the first two chapters of Genesis is that the “six days” are merely devices to picture what went on at the beginning. It is not at all literal, nor was it ever meant to be. The writer’s presentation is topical and logical, but not chronological in any fashion. Here the “days” are merely taken as literary devices and not serious descriptions of what happened or in what time-frame they occurred. All it seems to say according to its proponents, is, “God did it.”

    A view such as this cannot be taken seriously by those who say they “believe” what the Bible says about other things. If this straightforward narrative which is given at the beginning of Scripture may be turned into mere symbolism, purely on the ground that it is considered “pre scientific,” or even on the ground that it is considered to be inaccurate because it does not correlate with contemporary scientific theory, then any other narrative found anywhere else in the Bible may be considered symbolic and treated in the same fashion on this or some other pretext. Moreover, if narratives are subject to such prejudging on these kinds of a priori considerations, then ipso facto, any and every other type of literature in Scripture will fall under a similar spell. Before you know it, no part of the Bible will be taken literally. Such a situation would lead to interpretive chaos. In fact, all who approach the Bible without preconceived opinions about such matters will have to admit the proposition that “every passage is to be taken literally except those which cannot by virtue of the context.” In this instance there is nothing in the context which suggests that the days should be looked upon as long ages or as pictorial representations of anything else besides ordinary days of the week.

6. Theistic Evolution. Theistic evolution is a form of reaction against mechanistic or atheistic evolution. This view suggests that God’s methods of “creation” might really have been what modern scientists designate “evolution.” As John Clayton has written, “ . . . we can find that evolution and the Bible show amazing agreement on almost all issues and that one is not mutually exclusive of the other” (The Source 130). Religious evolution makes an earnest effort to get God involved in the process of the evolution of the cosmos and of the living world. There are two types of such evolutionists. First, there are those who consider it a continuous process with God always present and working out the program constructively through natural laws. Then there are those who believe in what has been called “God at the beginning only.” In this approach the processes are left to themselves after an original creation. This view in all of its manifestations, of course, assumes from the outset that evolution actually did happen, and that scientists have proven it so conclusively that some vestige of the biblical tradition must be salvaged from the catastrophic effects of this torrent of new and damaging information.

In reality, neither of these assumptions is correct. Evolutionary theory is flawed at every turn, but is relentlessly held to in spite of the fact that it cannot be observed or proven in the laboratory. It contradicts the second law of thermodynamics, a physical principle which states that there is a continual tendency toward greater randomness, positing that in the biological sphere there is a tendency toward a higher degree of organization. The mathematical improbability of the thousands of “miracles” the theory demands is an inexplicable mystery for evolutionists. Evolution can give no answer to the question of how matter came to exist in the first place. It cannot account for the gap between inorganic matter and living organisms. It cannot explain the Cambrian explosion of life in the fossil record. It cannot explain the mysterious appearance of single cells, invertebrates, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, rodents, sea mammals, insects, flight in winged creatures, primates, or plants. The typical absence of transitional or intermediate forms in the fossil record is a constant source of frustration to evolutionary scientists. Theistic evolutionists see themselves as filling the “gaps” of the theory of evolution by putting God into the gaps. At the same time they see themselves as saving religion from the attacks of atheistic evolutionists by attempting to make religion conform to evolutionary theory. In reality, religion does not need saving from this fragile hypothesis.

The idea of an extremely ancient earth is deemed essential to evolutionary science. Given sufficient time, it is surmised, virtually anything might happen. A primordial pool might give rise to life. An amoeba might evolve into man. Time is the key. According to Dr. George Wald of Harvard, “However improbable we regard this event, or any of the steps which it involves, given enough time it will almost certainly happen at least once. . . . Time is in fact the hero of the plot. . . . Given so much time, the ‘impossible’ becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: time itself performs the miracles” (The Physics and Chemistry of Life 12).

So the contention for a very old earth is the one absolutely necessary ingredient to evolutionary science. Interestingly, it is the one factor which theistic evolutionists are most eager to grant. At the same time, the evidence which is proposed for a recent creation is usually ignored, and sometimes assailed. The evidence is much more favorable toward the idea of a young earth and a recent creation than most modern scientists will allow and even than some theistic evolutionists will admit. Theistic evolution is, in point of fact, in all of its various manifestations, a compromise with and surrender to that part of the scientific community which arrogantly proclaims that “evolution is a fact and modern science has proven it.”
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Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 11 p18  June 1, 2000