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Days in the Genesis Creation Narrative

Generally, those who have held with more conservative and traditional views of Scripture consider anything but a “literal day” approach to interpreting the Genesis Creation Narrative as an attempt to compromise with science, and even heretical.  However, there are times in studying Scripture that one hits upon a new way a key word can be interpreted or something in the context that reveals flaws in traditional understandings.   When Jesus walked the earth, he was rejected by religious leaders for teaching things that went against their understanding of what is now the Old Testament.  From that alone, it would seem that Christians should be open to new ways of understanding the Bible.
The most often heard as the main argument for believing in literal days is that saying that the days corresponded to geographical ages is an attempt to limit God’s power.  By the same logic, it could be said that His Power is limited in that it took an entire human day for him to accomplish a specific task.  An Omnipotent God could have created all of the universe in 7 nanoseconds had He wished to do so.  The question then is NOT one of just how powerful God is, but rather what the Genesis Creation Narrative actually implies.
Here is an outline which pretty well sums up the arguments for believing in a literal 24 hour day.  Specific reasons are given for the theory and perceived weaknesses in the Day Age Theory are presented.   Responses to both will be made as this article continues.

 Under point B, subsection 2, the author acknowledges that  “The extended, non-literal meanings of the term yôm are always found in connection with prepositions, prepositional phrases with a verb, compound constructions, formulas, technical expressions, genitive combinations, construct phrases, and the like. In other words, extended, non-literal meanings of this Hebrew term have special linguistic and contextual connections which indicate clearly that a non-literal meaning is intended.  If such special linguistic connections are absent, the term yôm does not have an extended, non-literal meaning; it has its normal meaning of a literal day of 24-hours.”

A close and careful reading of the creation narrative, however, DOES indicate the presence of “special linguistic and contextual connections.”  The creation of the earth, in and of itself, would certainly appear to be a special context.  There are three specific examples that are worth calling ones attention to.

Genesis 1:14-18 states “And God said ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.  And let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’  And it was so.  And God made the two great lights – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-and the stars.  And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness.  And God saw that it was good.” (English Standard Version)  This was “day” four.  Not until then did God clearly establish the various time periods, including the 24 hour day, that are used by all humans.
Next to be considered is verse 22, which states “And God blessed them, saying ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’  The verse only indicates that God gave a command which was then carried out by the creatures so commanded.  There is no suggestion that God supernaturally intervened to facilitate the completion of the process in 24 hours, which would have to be the case if one believes in literal days.

And finally, look closely for the phrase that the narrative uses to indicate the close of days one to six….”And there was evening and there was morning”  Day seven is never indicated as having an ending, neither in the creation narrative nor anywhere else in the Bible.  It would appear from this that all of human history, from the creation of Adam onward is day seven and will end with the end times detailed in Revelation.  According to traditional reading of Genesis 2:2, all that is said of the seventh day is that God rested.  Given that an omnipotent God would not need literal rest, the word could also be translated as ceased, which would imply that he completed his task of creator and moved directly to the task of creating his covenant with mankind. 

So there is the case for a view of the creation days as something other as literal 24 hour periods based upon a different angle in looking at the narrative.  There may yet still be some objections or questions raised by those who are firm in believing in literal 24 hour days, but such is the nature of Bible study.  Should what appear as flaws in the literal day theory be satisfactorily explained, I would reconsider my position as well.  One should always be open to new understandings.