Genesis 1: YÔM ≠ eon


Day-age theory assessed


Some people argue the Hebrew word yôm in Genesis 1 means a very long period of time, usually because they are seeking to accommodate billions of years (with or without evolution) within the biblical timeline for creation. We have comprehensively critiqued the claims being made in a variety of past articles. For a broad overview of the six days of Genesis 1, refer to Chapter 2 of the Creation Answers Book. The following is a list of individual arguments that are often put forward to defend yôm as an eon, together with corresponding verse references, brief counter-comments and links to our articles.

People who hold to the day-age theory say yôm in Genesis 1 is an eon because …

Argument Counter-argument
  1. … with the Lord one day is as a thousand years … (2 Peter 3:8)
  1. “and a thousand years as one day”. Read the rest of the verse and the argument cancels itself out.
  2. “ … a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). No one argues that a watch in the night (which was three hours) is a thousand years. Rather, both verses are conveying that God is not limited by man’s time.
  3. Multiplying each day by a thousand years will not help to get to billions of years. Applying this to Creation week only adds a maximum of 7,000 years.
  4. It is poor hermeneutics to use a New Testament Greek word to define an Old Testament Hebrew word (especially when the word is first introduced, as it is in Genesis 1).
  5. This is not speaking about creation (which would have to be read into the verse; eisegesis), but rather God’s patience (as verse 9 shows; exegesis).
  1. … you cannot have days 1–3 without the sun (Genesis 1:1–18)
  1. While the sun and moon were made to rule the day and night respectively, the separation of light (day) and darkness (night) was already established (Genesis 1:5); God created light without the Sun. Also, in the future restored creation, we read:

    “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23).

    “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).

  1. … for life to exist, there had to be a sun first
  1. Not so, for life to exist there needed to be light. A belief in long ages leads to a different order of creation events, implying that the order of creation in Genesis 1 is wrong. There are numerous contradictions with a day being longer than 24 hours. Before the sun’s creation (day 4), there was already a rotating globe (implied by “evening and morning”, Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) plus a source of light (created on day 1, Genesis 1:3)
  1. yôm in Genesis 2:4 can mean a (long) time period
  1. The meaning of any word, this one included, depends on its context and the context of Genesis 1 disallows long ‘days’ (see point E. below).
  2. Actually the Hebrew construction beyôm in this verse, ‘in the day’ in English, is Hebrew idiom for ‘when’, not a long period of time. Thus:

    “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that [when] the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4) [emphasis mine].

  1. yôm can mean a long time period
  1. For flowers to continue to exist after day 3, they would have to be pollinated for seed production. But how would that have happened if bees and other pollinators were created a couple of ‘long periods’ after the flowers? Yet it is no problem for flowers to survive for a couple of days without being visited by their pollinators. Likewise, plants and flowers can survive a night without the sun, but not ‘long periods’ of time.
  2. Ordinal numbers (second, third, fourth, etc.) accompanying days two to six indicate 24-hour periods (actually, the cardinal number is used in Genesis 1:5: literally “one day”, although usually translated “first day”). Nobody questions the meaning of yôm in similarly structured passages in the rest of the Bible (e.g. Numbers 7).
  3. Evening and/or morning accompanying the days means they each had a start and a finish. The word “evening” occurs 49 times and the word “morning” 187 times, always in the literal sense.1 “Evening” plus “morning” without “day”, 38 times outside Genesis 1—always conveys a normal-length day. “Evening” plus “morning” with “day”, 23 times outside Genesis 1—always conveys normal-length days.2
  4. Yes, it can mean a long period, but it does not carry this meaning in Genesis 1:1–2:3. Day (Earth’s rotation), month (Moon’s orbit around Earth) and year (Earth’s orbit around the Sun) are precise time intervals defined by motions of the celestial bodies; not so the pattern of a week, which only comes from the Bible. This is not just the inspired Word of God, but the inscribed Word of God (see Exodus 31:18).
  5. Yes, it can, but not in Genesis 1 without ignoring the context. Nobody would suggest we should work 6,000 years (or six long periods of time) before we get a day of rest:

    “ … for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations … Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest … It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:13, 15, 17; emphases added. See also Exodus 20:8–10).

  1. … we are still in the seventh day because of Hebrews 4:1–11
  1. It might be nice to have an eternal weekend, but that is not what this passage (or Exodus 20:8–10) is teaching. God began to rest from His creating work on the seventh day and is still doing so. This does not mean the seventh day is continuing. Rather, to enter God’s continuing rest in this passage means to enter His Kingdom (i.e. salvation). This spiritual rest has been available from the beginning, and until Jesus comes back will continue to be so.
  2. This idea is being read into these verse (eisegesis). Rather, day 7 was ordained by God to be blessed and holy (Genesis 2:3). Yet today’s world doesn’t look anything like that—consider mankind’s sin and inhumanity, the prevailing sickness, disease, misery, suffering, and death. If we were still in the seventh day, what sort of god would He be? Instead, it is a world that God has cursed, as a result of the Fall. Nevertheless, despite the corruption of sin, God re-affirmed this creation ordinance (to set aside the seventh day as blessed and holy) in giving the 10 Commandments to Moses (Exodus 20:11).
  3. Actually, in one sense, God is still at work now, ”for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13; also John 5:17, 36). Excluding miracles, God has ceased—rested from—creating.
  1. … we are still in the seventh day, because it does not have evening/morning (Genesis 2:2–3)
  1. If Genesis went on to describe what happened on the 8th day, then the seventh day would have had “evening and morning”. Verbs in Genesis 2:1–2 are about the finished creation. Therefore, creation is not continuing, but rather it is complete: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:1–3; emphases mine). The only difference between the verbs in these verses is that they change from the passive to the active. God has ceased creating, with the exception of miracles and new believers becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).3

    As indicated already, the point is that there was no eighth day in the narrative. Further, if day 7 hasn’t ended, as some suggest (since the text doesn’t state that it is terminated by “morning”), then it did not begin either (because there’s no mention of “evening” either)—See here.

  1. … Genesis 1–11 is poetry or allegory and should not be taken at face value
  1. So, does this permit us to make the words mean whatever we want them to mean? The Hebrew is very clear that Genesis 1–11 is not allegory, but should be taken literally as historical narrative.4 Many scholars will testify that the text means what it says (e.g. Prof James Barr, Dr Stephen Schrader, and Dr Ting Wang).

Science should not be placed above Scripture. Origins science should be interpreted in the light of God’s Word. God created in six days and rested on the seventh, as the Bible repeatedly states.

“But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honour of being more learned than you are. For you are to deal with Scripture in such a way that you bear in mind that God Himself says what is written. But since God is speaking it is not fitting for you to want only to turn His Word in the direction you wish to go.”5

Published: 18 June 2019

References and notes

  1. This information is taken from: Ashton, J. (Ed.), In Six Days, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2001, chapter 49, pp. 363–370: Werner Gitt, information science. See the section, “Day” with a numeral; also at creation.com/gitt6days. Return to text.
  2. Sarfati, J., The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1–11, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, Georgia, USA, p. 118, 2015. Return to text.
  3. Sarfati, J., The Genesis Account, p. 282. Return to text.
  4. Taylor, C.V., Syntax and semantics in Genesis 1, Journal of Creation 11(2):181–188, August 1997; creation.com/syntax-in-genesis-1. Return to text.
  5. Plass, E.M., What Luther says: a practical home anthology for the active Christian, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, p. 93, 1959. Return to text.

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