Days of Revelation or Creation?
18 August 2001
Besides the ‘day-age’ and ‘gap’ theories, there’s a theory held by some, that the six days of Genesis 1 were ‘days’ in which God revealed creation to the human race.
All three beliefs assume that something like evolution took place over billions of years. The ‘day-age’ theory sees a parallelism with Genesis 1, but ignores the time-frame (see Q&A: Genesis—Progressive Creationism). The ‘gap’ theory accepts the time-frame but inserts either evolution or a reconstruction of the earth before or after Genesis 1:1 (see Q&A: Genesis—Gap theory). The ‘revelation’ theory accepts the time-frame but applies it to God’s telling the story to Moses, and so allows evolution to occur independently of the narrative in Genesis.
I mention the other two views to bring to our notice that (a) all three views have developed since evolutionary gradualism became popular, and (b) the ‘revelation’ view is closer to the ‘gap’ theory than it is to the ‘day-age’ theory. It’s also the most recent in development.
Like the ‘gap’ theory, it accepts standard Hebrew scholarship in insisting that Hebrew yom in this context can only mean an ordinary day—see Q&A: Genesis—Days of Creation If long periods had been intended, a different word would have been used (and each day would not have had ‘an evening and a morning’) — see What did God intend us to understand from the words He used?
The best-known exponent of the ‘revelation’ theory is Air-Commodore (and Assyriologist) P.J. Wiseman, as set out in his book Creation Revealed in Six Days.1 Bernard Ramm, however, said he believes in three theories: ‘pictorial-day’, moderate concordism, and progressive creationism, and express all this as ‘pictorial-revelatory’.2 It’s similar to Wiseman’s theory, but he appears to hold to progressive creationism so as to retain creative acts at points along an otherwise evolutionary past (see Some questions for theistic evolutionists (and ‘progressive creationists’)).
Ramm also traces the pictorial aspect to J.H. Kurtz, some time before 1857.3 Kurtz called it a vision theory, though Wiseman objects to this label.4 Thus there are differences among the ‘revelators’, but the general idea is to shift the six days from the creation time-slot to that of telling the story.
Is there any Scriptural basis for believing that God was only revealing, not creating, on those six days? A natural reading surely excludes such a conclusion.
However, we must look at Wiseman’s claim that Hebrew ‘asah (‘make’) here means ‘show’ (though Ramm denies this5). Wiseman tries to apply this reading to the Hebrew in Genesis 2:2–3 and Exodus 20:1. He translates Hebrew mela’khto (‘his work’) in Genesis 2:2–3 as ‘his business’, suggesting it could apply to the telling of the story of creation, not to creation itself.6 This translation is very strained. Furthermore, nothing in Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon supports the interpretation of ‘asah as ‘show’.7
What seems to have happened is that Wiseman was unaware of idioms in King James English (which might be called Early Modern English). He claims correctly that ‘asah is rendered ‘show’ in certain places. But we have to notice that (a) it is translated ‘make’ 653 times as against 43 for ‘shew’, and (b) all the ‘shew’ examples are archaic English uses with abstract nouns, translated into other languages as ‘do’ or ‘make’.
|KJV word with ‘shew’||Number of occurrences|
|goodness, might, signs||2 each|
|faithfulness, love, salvation, terror, token, wonders||1 each|
The least abstract of these are: signs, token, wonders. But all of these are translated elsewhere as ‘do signs’, etc.
The point is that ‘asah does not mean ‘reveal’, though it can mean ‘produce’. When used with a concrete noun like ‘heavens’ or ‘earth’ or ‘man’ it most definitely can only convey making, not telling or any verb of speaking.8
Thus the whole linguistic foundation of Wiseman’s theory is untenable. No reputable scholar can be found to support it . Perhaps Wiseman was affected by the tendency to regard Genesis 1 as poetic. If this was so, let it be noted that the Hebrew scholar C.D. Ginsberg stated:
‘there is in this chapter none of the peculiarities of Hebrew poetry.’9
S.R. Driver wrote:
‘The narrative contains no indication of its being the revelation of a vision … it purports to describe not appearances but facts.’10
For a more detailed analysis, see Should Genesis Be Taken Literally?
Perhaps it is appropriate to end with a statement from Wiseman himself:
‘Although the writer of these pages has no doubt that the greater and more convincing revelation of God to man was made through Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord, he has noticed that philosophers as well as thoughtful students in our universities are apt to go back, not only to Christ, but right back to the first page of the Bible in order to secure a sure foundation for their thinking and faith.’11
Wiseman apparently overlooked the need to honour the text of Scripture as highly in Genesis 1 as he did in the miraculous parts of the New Testament revelation of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. And Wiseman’s denial of the historicity of Genesis actually undermines the basis of Jesus’ death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:21–22).Return to text.
- P.J. Wiseman, Creation Revealed in Six Days, Marshall, Morgan & Scott, London, 1948, p. 144. Return to text.
- B. Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture, Paternoster Press, London, 1955, pp. 149–152. Return to text.
- J.H. Kurtz, Bible and Astronomy, 3rd German edition, 1857. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, pp. 27-28. Return to text.
- Ref. 2, p. 153, citing F.F. Bruce’s review of Wiseman in The Evangelical Quarterly, 20:302, October, 1948. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 123. Return to text.
- See Gesenius, Hebrew and English Lexicon, ‘asah. Return to text.
- ‘Heavens’ in creation narrative refers to sky, space or even universe, not God’s dwelling-place (which isn’t abstract anyway!). Return to text.
- C.D. Ginsberg, a Christian Jew, lived from 1831 to 1914. He is quoted in Wiseman, Ref. 1, p. 28. Return to text.
- SR Driver, Genesis, Vol. 1, 1893, p. 23. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 9. Return to text.