Genesis 1: YÔM ≠ eon

Genesis1

Day-age theory assessed

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Published: 18 June 2019 (GMT+10)

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

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.

Helpful Resources

The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
From
US $24.00
The Creation Answers Book
by Various
From
US $14.00
Days 1-7
by Russell Grigg
US $4.00
Soft cover
In Six Days
by John F Ashton
US $17.00
Soft cover

Readers’ comments

Richard G.
The motive of Christians who make yom an eon is probably to placate (albeit in a nice way) their colleagues etc who will not tolerate 7 literal days, and who condemn and mock us who stick to the literal 7 days, the most natural understanding of this matter. Christians are to "Bear His reproach." People, unable to answer their opponents simply repeatedly stress their own viewpoint. My impression is, those opposed to the gospel, and long agers have insufficiently attempted to answer all our contentions. And I am aware of Hugh Ross. Did he ever publicly retract that about a word in Hebrew? He did drop it. Dawkins and many atheists and evolutionists are sometimes clever so can waffle and do waffle, but waffling doesn't rebut our contentions. And most hearers are extremely shallow and grossly selfish so are easily duped. Patterson(See 'Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics' by Dr Gish) is noted for pounding the audience with much rapid high-sounding talk. Effective in hiding his errors but not successful in fooling truth seekers! Patterson only deceives those who won't follow Jesus' demands for holy living. What many ignore to their eternal peril is that anyone attacking or doubting the Bible has no authority to spout until they have shown the awesome authority of those who recorded God's words in the Bible. Without 100 % prophetic accuracy, and a record of transforming 85000 bad people into good people every day they are unqualified to oppose the World's "eternal' best seller, God's Word. You couldn't write the world's best seller. So follow Jesus who said, "I am the truth.", "He/she that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." And, "If you abide in My Word you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Riaan V.
It astonishes me that Christians can not accept that the almighty God created in six days, but needed eons of time. They would rather kneel before the anti-Christian view of millions than believe the Word of God. I love to see people's reaction when I tell them that the creation is 6000 years young, as the Bible teaches. Thanks for all the truth you are proving and ammunition to defend the truth. Keep on doing what you are doing. God will affirm your authority. From His Word.
King T.
Thank you for putting the arguments and refutations in such a great summarized table. Makes it easy to point people to it.

As I have told quite a few long-agers/evolutionary-creationists(!) they believe in the age of rocks instead of the Rock of Ages. This is so because it logically follows in the new testament that if the billions of years is true then Jesus (and hence God) is either mistaken or outright lying when He says "in the beginning He created them male and female".
Steve W.
I like most of what you said. What if the six days in Genesis 1 are not days of creation but six days of restoration of an old earth. Genesis 1:1 is creation but how long ago? God made Adam as a new prototype, the first modern man. God told Adam in Genesis 1:28 to replenish the earth or fill something up again. What about the bones we have of ancient people that lived well before Adam? Genesis 1:2 is a big ball of deep water. That sounds more like a flood than creation. In Genesis 1:9-10 God moves the waters to let the dry land appear. Again, more like a restoration than creation. I think people leave out the time God let Lucifer have dominion in the earth and reign over nations and cities in Isaiah 14:12-17. After iniquity is found in Lucifer (Ezekiel 28:15) he ruins the earth and it appears God did a first flood in 2 Peter 3:5-6 and Genesis 1:2. Everything perishes in this first flood. There is no mention of Noah and the ark. A restoration of an old earth shouldn't be hard to believe, when God is going to make a new heaven and earth in Revelation 21:1.
Philip Bell
Your initial question and related ones all fall within the scope of Gap Theories. We encourage you to read and study the several articles linked here: creation.com/topics/gap-theory
These demonstrate conclusively that there is no possibility of a previous creation (ruined, then reconstructed) either biblically or scientifically.
For instance, there were no 'ancient' people prior to Adam. This is a component of gap theories but numerous arguments in the aforementioned articles rule out the possibility. All humanity stems from Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). The claims of pre-Adamites are based on evolutionary assumptions and reasoning. We do not discount that fossils of human beings exist (given names like Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Homo erectus but these are fully human descendants of Adam and Eve.
You say that "A restoration of an old earth shouldn't be hard to believe..." but since there is not a syllable about this in Genesis (rather it is read into a gap between Genesis 1:1 & 2 or else Genesis 1:2 & 3), it holds no water. If you want a one-stop, short answer to your questions, read our chapter on this topic in Creation Answers Book: creation.com/images/pdfs/cabook/chapter3.pdf.
Michael H.
… We all know that physical ("scientific") reality did not exist before creation: Genesis 1:1 "in the beginning" (of time) "God created the heavens and the earth" (space). So it is by necessity of definition that the "outside" of the universe (which does not exist scientifically) is what we call spiritual (invisible) reality, and outside of the universe, "time" as we know it also does not exist - it is rather what the Bible calls eternity. That all being said, referencing item "A" above, where Peter is referring to God's patience, I'm more than a little confused. Since most young earth creationists insist on a 6,000 year-old earth, I have to wonder where exactly this idea comes from, if not from 2 Peter. The most conservative fundamentalists state that the "tendancy of scholars over the past many years is to push the dates [of Creation, the Flood, and Adam and Eve] farther and farther back into antiquity." (Liberty Baptist Church Bible Commentary).
Philip Bell
Advocates of an approx. 6,000 year-old creation do not use 2 Peter 3:8 as their justification. I encourage you to read more of what CMI has to say on the subject of the Earth's age listed here: ‘Young’ age of the Earth & Universe Q&A. See especially How does the Bible teach 6,000 years? which doesn't even mention the aforementioned passage. God's patience in that verse is discussed here.
Dan S.
As one who does not accept Darwinism or common descent, and one who strongly believes that an historical Adam and an historic fall are necessary to the complete picture of the Christian faith, I have to say that I wish the 24 hour day was less of an issue.

It is not necessarily a compromise with Darwin to think that the "day" in Genesis is not necessarily 24 hours. As Young Earth creationist Russell Humphreys has pointed out, time is a flexible concept due to certain elements of physical reality. If time is affected by gravity, what would time even mean during the first three "days" of creation when the physical universe is just being molded into existence and whatever gravity might mean in that time might have massive effects on what we call "time"? I tend to think the absence of the sun and moon become fairly relevant for that reason alone, which is not to say I find anything about materialist explanations compelling or needing to be compromised with. It is just a question of what a word means in context, that context being a universe that is incomplete and still being formed.

My reason for pushing back (gently I hope) is simply that the length of the day seems to not be a hill worth dying on. No essential doctrines rest on it and it prevents young earth creationists from being able to have reasonable alliances with other opponents of materialism, such as Intelligent Design proponents.

On the essentials unity, on the non-essentials liberty and in all things charity. While the historicity of the fall seems to be an essential, the length of the Genesis day does not.
Philip Bell
If Creation week was significantly longer than 6 days (thousands or millions of years), Christ and the NT writers were quite wrong to place the creation of human beings near "the foundation of the world", "the beginning of Creation" as taught in such passages as Mark 10:6, Matthew 19:4-5, Luke 1:70, 11:50, Acts 3:21 and Romans 1:20; see Jesus on the age of the earth.
Frank S.
I know that God-All Powerful made everything and could have made everything in 6 revolutions of the earth or even one, or less. I also know that God made us with the capability to acquire knowledge and to think. Also, God allows us to see things differently as part of his perfect plan. Consequently, I see yom differently than you do and when our time here on this prison planet for Satan is done we will end up in perfect agreement. His purpose will be accomplished. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Amen
Philip Bell
Seeing things differently is your prerogative in one sense. However, as Christians we must seriously engage with the evidence of Scripture itself, as outlined in this article and in my response to Dan S. CMI speakers frequently encounter Christians who, like yourself (and some of those reading these comments) will read/hear the Scriptural arguments and still choose to believe that the days are not literal, solar days. Yet they will offer no substantive reasons for maintaining this position. Reasons for this vary but, even if not applicable to you, the influence of 'millions of years' in geology is what drives many Christians to set aside the Scriptural evidence for a literal Creation week.
In private correspondence, my colleague Gary Bates (CEO of our CMI-US office) made the following observation (though not in relation to your comment) about something he discusses in one of his talks. I believe this is worth sharing here:
"The millions of years comes from the rock layers; there's death in the rock layers. So if one wants to add millions of years, one is inadvertently putting death before the Fall. Additionally, if the majority of these layers and fossils were laid down by Noah's Flood (which lasted one year), then there is no time for evolution; no time for slow mutation rates to turn apes into humans, etc. This is why the days in Genesis and the age of the Earth are such an important issue."

In other words, in spite of the strong biblical and theological arguments for six literal Creation days, many Christians attempt to squeeze the 'deep time' elsewhere, e.g. Gap Theory (see my response to Steve W.). Yet, this has devastating consequences for our understanding of the foundational teaching of the very Gospel of Jesus Christ. In spite of the sounds Scriptural arguments for literal days that Lucien Tuinstra has helpfully summarised in this article, to open the door to 'millions of years of death and suffering' in the rocks (i.e. long before Adam) is tantamount to saying that the Bible is wrong, that the NT writers and Jesus Himself were wrong. Note that the latter holds true regardless of which 'Christian compromise' one prefers: Day Age Theory, Punctuated 24-hour Theory, Progressive Creationism, Gap Theory, allegorical days, 'revelatory days', etc. The length of the days of Creation (and the meaning of the Hebrew word 'Yom') is not a side issue!
Grahame G.
Many of these arguments against a biblical creationist position are blasphemous. Plants can't exist without the sun? There can't be light without the sun?

What God do these people believe in??

And we often find that progressive creationists and theistic creationists aren't Christians. Some are and eventually come to realise they are wrong on origins.

Thank you for keeping up the good work, for speaking truth, for your labour of love.

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