The days of Genesis 1

Discussion in 'Free-For-All Archives' started by Helen, Oct 15, 2004.

  1. Helen

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    This is from an email. The original author putting these things together in an essay was Ashby Camp. I do not have a link to his essay. I do not know if it is even on the net. But here is this exerpt I was mailed a few days ago which makes for interesting reading on this subject
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    The "day-age" theory, the notion that "day" in the Genesis account refers to geological ages, was first proposed in the 18th century and came to prominence in the 19th century through the writings of two geologists. This view has garnered little support from Hebrew scholars, largely because it suffers from a serious semantic problem. As explained by Collins:

    Generally speaking, the Hebrew word yom ("day") has several attested senses. In the singular it can designate (1) the period of daylight, (2) a period of 24 hours, and (3) a period of time of unspecified length. To be lexically responsible, we should try to indicate criteria by which a reader would discern one sense or another in a given context. Senses 1 and 2 are fairly easy to discern, in Hebrew as well as in English; that is to say, these are the senses that require the least supporting information from the context. Sense 3 exists in English, too; and we detect it in both languages based on qualifiers such as "day of the Lord," "day of Jerusalem," "day of wrath," "in that day," etc. Such qualifiers are not present here in Genesis 1:1-2:3, so it would be better to find an interpretation that does not rely on sense 3. . . . [W]e may also say that [the day-age] view asks too much harmonization with modern scientific theories for us to see its connection with what the ancient account was actually for.

    More than a century earlier, Dabney made the point this way:

    The narrative seems historical and not symbolical; and hence the strong initial presumption is, that all its parts are to be taken in their obvious sense. . . . It is freely admitted that the word day is often used in the Greek Scriptures as well as the Hebrew (as in our common speech) for an epoch, a season, a time. But yet, this use is confessedly derivative. The natural day is its 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 primary one, when no such demand exists in the context.

    This, coupled with the refrain "there was evening and there was morning" and the references to the days of creation in Ex. 20:11 and 31:17, makes it clear that the author was referring to the normal days with which his readers were familiar. In the words of Hummel:

    The meaning of the word day must be determined (like any other word with several meanings) by the context and usage of the author. A plain reading of the text, with its recurrent phrase of evening and morning, indicates a solar day of twenty-four hours. That would have been clear to Moses and his first readers. The context gives no connotation of an era or geological age. Creation is pictured in six familiar periods followed by a seventh for rest, corresponding to the days of the week as Israel knew them.

    Many eminent Hebraists of diverse theological perspectives concur. For example:

    Keil and Delitzsch write, "But if the days of creation are regulated by the recurring interchange of light and darkness, they must be regarded not as periods of time of incalculable duration, of years or thousands of years, but as simple earthly days."

    Dods writes, "They are [the Bible's] worst friends who distort its words that they may yield a meaning more in accordance with scientific truth. If, for example, the word 'day' in these chapters does not mean a period of twenty-four hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless."

    Driver writes:

    Here and elsewhere the expression 'creation of man' has been used designedly in order to leave open the possibility that the 'days' of Gen. i. denote periods. There is however little doubt that the writer really meant 'days' in a literal sense, and that Pearson was right when he inferred from the chapter that the world was represented as created '6000, or at farthest 7000,' years from the 17th cent. A.D.

    Gunkel writes, "The 'days' are of course days and nothing else."

    Skinner writes, "The interpretation of yom as aeon, a favourite resource of harmonists of science and revelation, is opposed to the plain sense of the passage, and has no warrant in Hebrew usage (not even in Ps. 90:4)."

    Leupold writes:

    In the interest of accuracy it should be noted that within the confines of this one verse [v. 5] the word 'day' is used in two different senses. "Day" (yom) over against "night" (layelah) must refer to the light part of the day, roughly, a twelve hour period. When the verse concludes with the statement that the first "day" (yom) is concluded, the term must mean a twenty-four hour period. . . .

    There ought to be no need of refuting the idea that yo‚m means period. Reputable dictionaries like Buhl, B D B or K. W. know nothing of this notion.

    Cassuto writes, "The intention here . . . is to explain that the two divisions of time known to us as Day and Night are precisely the same as those that God established at the time of creation, the light being the Day, and the darkness the Night."

    Simpson writes, "There can be no question but that by Day the author meant just what we mean – the time required for one revolution of the earth on its axis."

    Von Rad writes, "The seven days are unquestionably to be understood as actual days and as a unique, unrepeatable lapse of time in this world."

    Davidson writes:

    The flexibility in the usage of the word day is well illustrated in verse 5. In its first occurrence it means day time as distinct from the darkness of night; in the closing refrain it means the whole twenty-four hour cycle embracing both evening and morning. Attempts to make it still more flexible, to mean aeons or stages in the known evolution of the world, and thus reconcile Genesis 1 with modern scientific theory are misguided.


    Barr writes:

    By completely ignoring the literary form of the passage, its emphasis upon the seven-day scheme, and all questions involving the intentions of the writers [the Scofield Bible's interpretation of Gen. 1:1] is as effective a denial of the truth of Genesis as any atheistic writer could produce. The same is true of interpretations which suppose that the seven 'days' of creation are not actual days but long ages, ages of revelation, or the like.

    Wenham writes, "There can be little doubt that here [v. 5] 'day' has its basic sense of a 24-hour period."

    Ross writes, "In this chapter, however, ['day'] must carry its normal meaning. . . . It seems inescapable that Genesis presents the creation in six days."

    Stek writes:

    Surely there is no sign or hint within the narrative [of Genesis 1] itself that the author thought his 'days' to be irregular designations – first a series of undefined periods, then a series of solar days – or that the 'days' he bounded with 'evening and morning' could possibly be understood as long aeons of time. His language is plain and simple, and he speaks in plain and simple terms of one of the most common elements in humanity's experience of the world.

    Hamilton writes:

    It is highly debatable whether the interpretation of Genesis’ days as metaphorical for geological ages can be sustained. For one thing, it allows the concerns of establishing concord with science (ever changing in its conclusions) to override an understanding of a Hebrew word [yom] based on its contextual usage. Furthermore, one would have to take extreme liberty with the phrase, "there was evening, and there was morning – the x day."

    Hasel writes:

    The author of Genesis 1 could not have produced more comprehensive and all-inclusive ways to express the idea of a literal "day" than the ones that were chosen. There is a complete lack of indicators from prepositions, qualifying expressions, construct phrases, semantic-syntactical connections, and so on, on the basis of which the designation "day" in the creation week could be taken to be anything different than a regular 24-hour day. The combinations of the factors of articular usage, singular gender, semantic-syntactical constructions, time boundaries, and so on, corroborated by the divine promulgations in such Pentateuchal passages as Exodus 20:8-11 and Exodus 31:12-17, suggest uniquely and consistently that the creation "day" is meant to be literal, sequential, and chronological in nature.

    Sailhamer writes, "That week, as far as we can gather from the text itself, was a normal week of six twenty-four hour days and a seventh day in which God rested."

    And, finally, Walton writes:

    We cannot be content to ask, "Can the word [yom] bear the meaning I would like it to have?" We must instead try to determine what the author and audience would have understood from the usage in the context. With this latter issue before us, it is extremely difficult to conclude that anything other than a twenty-four-hour day was intended. It is not the text that causes people to think otherwise, only the demands of trying to harmonize with modern science.

    In addition, the premier Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon lists Gen. 1:5 as the first entry under the definition "day of twenty-four hours." And Saeboe, in the acclaimed Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, includes yom in Gen. 1:5 as referring to a "full day" of twenty-four hours.
     
  2. Paul of Eugene

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    I think you are exactly right in saying that the "yom" of the Genesis 1 passage refers to literal 24 hour days.

    As a supporter of old earth evolution (OEE?) I interpret the first chapter in a non-literal fashion. But there is no question that the literal is of day and even a literal week.

    A parallel would be the treatment of the serpent as temptor. Literally, the temptor of Genesis is simply a snake. Behind the literal words I see, instead, the fallen angel we call Satan.
     
  3. Helen

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    In other words, you are saying that it means what it says but you refuse to accept it that way and are forcing another meaning upon it.

    Interesting way of dealing with God's Word!
     
  4. donnA

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    I am sure that since God created time, and the 24 hour day that He knew what He was talking about when He said He created in 6 days.
    It appears that up until the 18th century people literally believed God instead of saying they did when they really did not.
     
  5. just-want-peace

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    Thank you! I was wondering if I was just too dense to grasp his intent.

    I'm sure that beyond the boundries of this board there are many who still do, although you would never know it by reading the evolutionists pratterings.
     
  6. UTEOTW

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    And not long before that, they literally believed the Bible and thought that the earth does not move and believed the sun travels in a "circuit" about the earth instead.

    John Calvin in his Commentary on Genesis.

    Martin Luther

    This just sounds so much like what you hear today about evolution. Were Calvin and Luther wrong in their interpretation of Scripture?
     
  7. Helen

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    This just sounds so much like what you hear today about evolution. Were Calvin and Luther wrong in their interpretation of Scripture?

    Yes. But then both hated the Jews, too....
     
  8. PastorGreg

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    I am not a scientist, UTEOTW, but are you aware that there is a significant movement today among scientists (some Christian, some not) to consider the possibility of geocentricity? To my layman's understanding (as far as science), it seems to make sense, both biblically and scientifically.
     
  9. Travelsong

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    So what you're saying is that even the greatest of theologians is fallible in his interpretation of Scripture. Amen.
     
  10. UTEOTW

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    Any evidence? The circling of the sun by the earth is fairly well established. Usually when I have heard of someone trying to marry the two modernly they do it by misapplying Einstein by saying that you can model everything with earth as a fixed reference point. This seems, to my meager understanding of relativity, to go against general relativity and it descriptions of what causes gravity.
     
  11. UTEOTW

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    And what has that to do with the point?

    Before they had Galileo and Copernicus and Kepler to tell them otherwise, people insisted that the Bible says quite literally that the earth does not move. (Even today you have some that will still insist on geocentrism and you have no trouble dismissing them. I have seen you do it.) The interpretation of scripture changed from a literal to a non-literal version based on things learned from science.

    It is the parallel of the language and reasoning that I was going after. In hindsight, we can all see quite easily how wrong geocentrism was. But at the time they were just sure of it. Their interpretation told them so!
     
  12. Charles Meadows

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    Helen,

    No one who knows much about Hebrew writing would suggest that each "yom" is symbolic of a long time period. It clearly means a day.

    The argument against a literal 6 days is not based on stretching the 6 days out symbolically, rather on seeing the creation account as a theological epic of sorts - designed to glorify YHWH and assert His creatorship, not designed to give a literal time-wise account of the play by play of creation.
     
  13. Helen

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    God disagrees with you, Charles.

    Then the LORD said to Moses, "....The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generaions to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forver, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested."

    When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.


    from Exodus 31
     
  14. Charles Meadows

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    Well Helen disagrees with me anyway.

    ;)

    Attacking the old earth position using the "yom" angle is using a straw man of sorts since most old earthers do not suggest day/epoch symbolism.
     
  15. PastorGreg

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    Any evidence? The circling of the sun by the earth is fairly well established. Usually when I have heard of someone trying to marry the two modernly they do it by misapplying Einstein by saying that you can model everything with earth as a fixed reference point. This seems, to my meager understanding of relativity, to go against general relativity and it descriptions of what causes gravity. </font>[/QUOTE]Try geocentricity.com - Again, I'm not a scientist and am not arguing for it, just thought it was worth some consideration. It does seem that this would be the position if we truly take Scripture as literally as possible.
     
  16. UTEOTW

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    Greg

    I do not think that it is really necessary to get into a discussion of relativity here. In essence what the folks are doing is chossing the earth as a frame of reference and describing everything else in terms of that. The problem is that you can do that for ANY location. You could call the moon or the sun or Jupiter or Alpha Centari your frame of reference and describe the whole universe in terms of that. There is nothing special about the earth in that regard. And, as I said before, it ignores grander view of general relativity. The motion of the earth is best described as following the curvature of space-time generated by the mass of the sun. The earth does not generate enough such curvature to accurately describe the sun as being caught in the warping of the earth. It just does not make sense.

    Oops...I guess I did go into a discussion of relativity. ;)

    But there is wisdom to be had in your last sentence. "It does seem that this would be the position if we truly take Scripture as literally as possible." That case can be made. But most Christian do not take those verses as literal. Why? Well, the answer that gets danced around on these such discussion is that they do so because they accept the science that says that the earth moves around the sun and so they re-interpret in that light. They no longer say of this as Calvin did "Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?" But they do turn around and say the same thing about astronomers or geologists or biologists or paleotologists who let the evidence lead them where it may and conclude and old universe and common descent.

    Sometimes we do use external knwoledge to help us know how scripture should be taken. And that is OK.
     
  17. Gup20

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    In other words, he chooses to view it as a fairy tale and believe evolution - an idea with absolutely no scriptural support whatsoever - in it's place.

    Othwise, he would be showing us how plant life on earth "evolved" before the sun in our solar system formed. He would be giving us a "non-literal exegesis" instead of dismissing Genesis entirely and interjecting evolution in it's place.
     
  18. UTEOTW

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    "In other words, he chooses to view it as a fairy tale and believe evolution..."

    Viewing a part of the Bible as non-literal is not the same as saying it is a fairy tale. Fairy tales are not true. The creation account is true it is just not literal.

    "an idea with absolutely no scriptural support whatsoever - in it's place."

    Look above at what PastorGreg said. To be consistent, you should see that, taken literally, the Bible also supports geocentrism. Or take Luther's word for it. Or take Calvin's word for it. But you do not take that literally. And not because of any scriptural support you can give for taking a different position. Solely because of your acceptance of the scientific evidence.

    "Othwise, he would be showing us how plant life on earth "evolved" before the sun in our solar system formed."

    Why would he do such a thing? THis makes no sense. If the account is not literal, there is no reason to inject such a literal statement as suggesting that plant life was here before the sun was.
     
  19. Paul of Eugene

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    Why does anybody ever accept the Bible as being God's word? Because of external evidence from the Bible testifying on behalf of the Bible. Without that, it would reduce to mere circular reasoning, along the lines of "this post is inerrant, therefore, you can believe everything it says.".

    Fulfilled prophecies attested to through scripture, credible historical narratives, the testimony of God's spirit within, all these from outside the Bible help us to turn to the Bible. There comes a point where we decide, on faith, to accept the Bible as our guide in matters of religion and as our message from God, but our step of faith is not without reasons!

    But having realized that our faith in the Bible must, logically, have source from outside the Bible, in the same way direction for interpreting the Bible can also come from outside the Bible, including the evidence for rotation of the earth, age of the earth, and evolution.

    The evidence to evaluate the Bible does not include only the evidence provided by fulfilled prophecies. It also includes the evidence from ancient starlight and genetic relationships between species.

    Therefore it is disingenuous to claim as some have that we need only see what the Bible says and disregard the scientific evidence. Because the Bible itself is accepted based, in part, on the evidence.
     
  20. BobRyan

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    Except you can not rationalize from the "great hope of atheists" to the Bible.

    You can not start with assumption that atheism's "evolutionism" - their view of origins is "correct" and then work your way from there to "FOR IN SIX DAYS the Lord MADE the HEAVENs and the EARTH the SEA and ALL that is in them".

    You will never find atheism's evolutionism - atheisms version of "origins" using such language as the way to describe that SAME truth about the ORIGIN of life - of EACH major category of life - on this planet.

    Obviously

    In Christ,

    Bob
     

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