Moon over death valley

Moon Over Death Valley
by Kenton Brett (CC-BY-SA-3.0 more>>)

Old Earth Creationists (OECs) confidently maintain the author of Genesis 1 was not referring to six literal 24-hour days in setting forth the six “days” of creation. Rather, they propose the author was using the word “day” (“yom” in the original Hebrew) in one of the following ways:  1) Literally — but referring to one of the other literal meanings of the Hebrew word “yom“, namely, a long, yet definite, period of time (see, e.g., the Day-Age View more>>); 2) Metaphorically (see, e.g., the Literary Framework View more>>); or, 3) Analogically (see, e.g., the Analogical Day View more>>).

Contrarily, Young Earth Creationists (YECs) adamantly maintain that in its normal usage the Hebrew word “yom” referred to a 24-hour day and that is what the author of Genesis 1 intended in writing the Genesis Creation Account.  YECs contend that because each creation day (“yom”) ends with the phrase, “… and was evening and was morning — Day X or nth Day”, there is no reasonable basis for interpreting the word “yom” as anything other than a literal 24-hour day.

This article explores the reasons OECs give for contending that the use of the phrase “… and was evening and was morning” in Genesis 1 does not require the view that God created the universe in six consecutive 24-hour days. 

Do the “… And Was Evening and Was
Morning” Phrases in Genesis 1 Compel a YEC View?

Each of the six creation days referenced in Genesis 1 concludes with the phrase: “… and was evening and was morning (wayehi ‘ereb wayehi boqer) — Day X [or “Nth Day” or “the Nth Day”]:

  • Gen. 1:5:   “and was evening and was morning — day one”
  • Gen. 1:8:   “and was evening and was morning — second day”
  • Gen. 1:13: “and was evening and was morning — third day”
  • Gen. 1:19: “and was evening and was morning — fourth day”
  • Gen. 1:23: “and was evening and was morning — fifth day”
  • Gen. 1:31: “and was evening and was morning — the sixth day”

[See, Jonathan SarfatiRefuting Compromise, pg. 76 (2004)]

The exact phrase “… and was evening and was morning” (“… wayehi ‘ereb wayehi boqer”) only occurs a total of six times in the Old Testament and all six times are in Genesis 1. YECs insist the repeated use of the “…and was evening and was morning” phrase underscores the fact that each of the six creation days described in Genesis 1 was a literal 24-hour day.

Six Reasons Why OECs Contend the Use of the
“… And Was Evening and was Morning” Phrases in Genesis 1
Does Not Compel a 24-Hour Day View

OECs offer the following five reasons why the repeated use of the “…and was evening and was morning” phrase in Genesis 1 does not compel the view that God’s created everything in six consecutive 24-hour periods:

  1. The “… And was Evening and Was Morning” Phrase was Not Used to Mark a 24-Hour Day skip to>>
  2. The “…And was Evening and Was Morning” Phrase Was Used to Mark the End of Each Creation Period, Regardless of Its Length skip to>>
  3. The Words “Ereb” (Evening) and “Boqer” (Morning) Have Broader Meanings than “Evening” and “Morning” skip to>>
  4. The “… And was Evening and Was Morning’” Phrase is an Idiomatic Expression Which Can Denote a Long Period of Time skip to>>
  5. The Unusual Syntax of the “… And was Evening and was Morning” Phrase Indicates an Unusual Usage skip to >>
  6. The Structure of the Evening and Morning Phrase is Well Adapted to Setting Forth a Sequential Pattern Rather than Delimited Units of Time skip to>>

Reason No. 1 — The “… And was Evening and Was Morning” Phrase Was Not Used to Mark a 24-Hour Day: Hugh Ross (a proponent of the Day-Age View more>>) asserts “[a]ncient Hebrew most often marked 24-hour days with ‘evening to evening’ and occasionally with ‘morning to morning’.” The “… and was evening, and was morning” phrase in Genesis 1 is unique thereby alerting “the reader that these days may have been periods other than 24-hour days.” [Hugh RossA Matter of Days, pg. 76 (2004)]

Reason No. 2 — The “… And was Evening and Was Morning” Phrase Was Used to Mark the End of Each Creation Period, Regardless of its Length: As pointed out by many scholars, since the evening to morning portion of a day is the part of a 24-hour day during which a worker would normally rest from his labor, the “and was evening and was morning phrase” was used by the author to mark the end of each creation work period regardless of its length. [See, Krista BontragerThe Bigger Picture on Creation, pgs. 42-45 (2008)] As noted by C. John Collins, the evening followed by the morning is not the first day, but the end of the first day. What happens between the evening and morning is nighttime when a worker in ancient Israel would have rested. Accordingly, Collins posits that Genesis 1 paints a picture of God as a worker going through a six day work week followed by a 7th Day Sabbath rest. The point of these work “days” is not their length, but the fact that they are God’s workdays which form a pattern for human beings “in our rhythm of work and rest.” [C. John Collins, Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (2006)]

Similarly, Paul Copan notes that throughout Genesis 1 “evening” is mentioned before “morning” which he contends is an “unusual rendering” thereby suggesting a symbolic usage pointing toward the way Israel would celebrate it’s holy days and, in fact, both the Sabbath and Passover begin the evening before. [See, Paul Copan, “The Days of Genesis: An Old-Earth View” (2005)]

Reason No. 3 — The Hebrew Words Ereb and “Boqer Have Broader Meanings than “Evening” and “Morning” do in English:As posited by Hugh Ross and supported by Gleason Archer (a professor of Semitic languages, one of fifty scholars selected for the NASB translation and a participant in the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy), the Hebrew words “ereb and “boqer,” which are repeatedly used in the Genesis creation account, each have several literal meanings in biblical Hebrew.

The Hebrew word “ereb“, translated into English as “evening”, can “also mean ‘sunset,’ ‘night,’ ‘in the evening,’ ‘at evening,’ ‘at the turn of evening,” or ‘between two evenings.’” [Hugh RossA Matter of Days, pg. 73 (2004) citing to Brown, Driver & Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, pgs. 787-788 (1997); Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, pgs. 652 (1979) and Harris, Archer & Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament2:694(1980)]

The Hebrew word “boqer,” translated into English as “morning”, “also means ‘the dawn,’ ‘end of darkness,’ ‘the coming of dawn,’ ‘beginning of day,’ ‘all day,’ ‘in the morning,’ ‘bright joy after night of distress’ (for example, ‘dawn of prosperity’), ‘morrow,’ or ‘next day,’ with possible metaphoric uses as well.” [Hugh RossA Matter of Days, pg. 73 (2004) citing to Brown, Driver & Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, pgs. 133-134(1997); Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, pgs. 137 (1979) and Harris, Archer & Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament1:125(1980)]

YEC Rebuttal — When the Words Ereb and Boqer are Either Combined with the Word “Yom or Occur Together, the Text Always Refers to a 24-Hour Period: As argued by Mark Van Bebber and Paul Taylor, the word “boqer is used 205 times in the Old Testament and “none of these uses are obviously metaphoric.” They also contend the reference to “boqer in the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon and the Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon make no reference to “boquer” being used as a metaphor and the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament only states that boqer “may” denote “early’ or “promptly’ but such cannot be proved. [Mark Van Bebber & Paul Taylor, Creation and Time: A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross, pg. 68 (1996)]

Referring to the following verses, YEC Jonathan Sarfati argues that whenever the words “evening” (ereb) and “morning” (boqer) are “combined” with the word “yom,” “they clearly mean that particular literal part of a 24-hour day….”:

    • Numbers 9:15: “On the day (yom) the tabernacle … was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening (ereb) till morning (boqer) the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire.”
    • Deuteronomy 16:4: “none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening (ereb) of the first day (yom) shall remain overnight until morning (ereb).”
    • Daniel 8:26‑27: “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future. I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days.” [Jonathan SarfatiRefuting Compromise, pg. 81 (2004)]

Jonathan SarfatiMark Van Bebber and Paul Taylor further assert that on 38 additional occasions in which that the words “evening” (‘ereb) and “morning” (boqer) occur together without the word “yom”, the text refers to an evening and morning in a 24-hour period. [See, Jonathan SarfatiRefuting Compromise, pg. 81 (2004); Mark Van Bebber & Paul Taylor, Creation and Time: A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross, pg. 68 (1996)]

OEC Reply — In Only a Few of the 38 Examples do the Words “Evening” and Morning” Even Appear in the Same Sentence or Verse: As Sarfati admits, the only time the phrase “And was evening, and was morning” is used anywhere in the Bible is in Genesis 1. [Jonathan SarfatiRefuting Compromise, pg. 81 (2004)] And, “[i]n only a few of the 38 examples do the words “evening” and “morning” even appear in the same sentence or verse.” Further, the phrase “evening and morning” (which is not even the exact phrase used in Genesis 1) appears only one time. In Psalm 55:17, David said, “Evening and morning, and at noon, will I pray.” [Hugh RossA Matter of Days, pg. 74 (2004)]

OEC Reply — The Words “Boqer” and “Ereb‘” Appear Together in Several Verses that Do Not Refer to a 24-Hour Period:Robert C. Newman and Perry Phillips (proponents of the more>>) point to several verses in which the words “morning (boqer)” and “evening (ereb)” appear and clearly do not refer to a 24-hour period: 1) Psalm 90:6 compares the short life cycle of men to grass that “though in the morning (boqer) it springs up new, by evening (ereb) it is dry and withered”; 2) Psalm 30:5 says: “Sing to the Lord …. For [God’s] anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night (ereb), but rejoicing comes in the morning (boqer).” [Robert C. Newman & Perry PhillipsGenesis One and the Origin of Earth, 2nd Ed., pgs 58 (2007)]

In the context of Genesis 1, Phillips proposes that “ereb (evening) “represents the waning of one ‘day’s’ creative activity” and “boqer (morning) “represents the beginning the next ‘days’ creative activity. [Perry Phillips, “Are the Days of Genesis Longer that 24 Hours? The Bible Says, ‘Yes’”, pg. 3 (1991)]

Reason No. 4 — The “And was Evening and Was Morning” Phrase is an Idiomatic Expression Which Can Denote a Long Period of Time: Hugh Ross (a proponent of the Day-Age View more>>) refers to an article written by Otto J. Helweg in which Helweg asserts the phrase “wayehi ‘ereb wayehi boquer” (translated “and was evening and was morning”) is an idiomatic expression in Semitic languages which can denote a long period of time. Helweg provides Daniel 8:26 as an example. Daniel 8:26 states: “The vision of the evenings and mornings that have been given to you is true…. Helweg notes that in the Hebrew manuscripts, the phrase is not in the plural and is literally translated in the singular as follows: “And the vision of the evening (ereb) and morning (boquer) that has been given you is true.” Helweg maintains that since it is clear the time frame described in Daniel as an “evening and morning” was longer than a 24-hour period, the similar phraseology in Genesis may also refer to something other than a 24-hour period. [Otto J Helweg, “How Long and Evening and a Morning,” Facts and Faith, vol. 9, No. 5, pgs. 8-9 (1995)]

YEC Rebuttal — Each of the Evenings and Mornings Referenced in Daniel 8:26 were 24-hour Days: The term “evenings and mornings” in Daniel 8:26 is correctly translated in the plural because it was modified by a numerical adjective (i.e., the 2,300 referenced in Daniel 8:1-14). [Jonathan SarfatiRefuting Compromise, pg. 81 (2004)]

Helweg’s Reply: Otto Helwig notes that even though visions like the one in Daniel require non-literal interpretations, YECs argue that because the “evening and morning” phrase in Daniel refers to a specific number of evenings and mornings (i.e., 2,300) that fact somehow means the evening and morning phrase in Genesis must be a 24-hour period. Helwig says the logic of the argument escapes him since any long period of time is necessarily made up of a number of twenty-four-hour days. [See, Otto J. Helweg, “Responses to: How Long an Evening and a Morning”]

Reason No. 5 — The Unusual Syntax of the “… And was Evening and was Morning” Phrase Indicates an Unusual Usage: Hugh Ross points out the word arrangement of the phrase “and was evening and was morning — day X [or “Nth day” or “the Nth day”]” is a departure from ordinary expression because if “day X” or “the Nth day” was intended to be the noun complement for a 24-hour evening and morning, then the linking verb should appear one time and in a plural form (i.e., there should be one “were”, not two was’). In other words, the phrase should say, “and the evening and the morning were day X or the Nth day” [NOTE: this is the translation used in the KJV]. Instead, the original Hebrew uses two singular was’. Ross proposes that although this syntactic ambiguity is not definitive proof that “yom does not mean a 24-hour period, it at least suggests the word “yom is being used in an unusual manner. [See, Hugh RossCreation and Time, pg. 48 (1994)]

YEC Rebuttal — Ross is Wrong About the SyntaxJonathan Sarfati provides the following literal translation of the references to “yom” (i.e., day) which follow the “and was evening and was morning” phrases in Genesis 1:

    • Gen. 1:5:   “and was evening and was morning — day one”
    • Gen. 1:8:   “and was evening and was morning — second day” (with no article, i.e., no “a” or “the”)
    • Gen. 1:13: “and was evening and was morning — third day” (with no article, i.e., no “a” or “the”)
    • Gen. 1:19: “and was evening and was morning — fourth day” (with no article i.e. no “a” or “the”)
    • Gen. 1:23: “and was evening and was morning — fifth day” (with no article i.e. no “a” or “the”)
    • Gen. 1:31: “and was evening and was morning — the sixth day” (with the article “the”)

[See, Jonathan SarfatiRefuting Compromise, pg. 76 (2004)] After setting forth this literal translation, Sarfati then cites Ross as using the phrase ‘And was evening and was morning day X” which is only used in Day One. Sarfati concludes that because Ross was “simply wrong about the syntax,” Ross’ argument, which is based on syntax, collapses.

Reply No. 1: Hugh Ross doesn’t necessarily disagree with Sarfati’s translation and, in fact, points out this was the translation provided by Basil in the fourth century. [See, Hugh RossA Matter of Days, pgs. 74-75 (2004)] Ross also refers to the NIV’s translation of Genesis 1 which uses the phrase, “and there was evening, and there was morning — the Nth day”. [See, Hugh RossCreation and Time, pg. 48 (1994)]

Reply No 2: Ross’ argument on this point does not depend on how the number associated with “yom” in the text is phrased (i.e., Nth day, the Nth day or Day X). Rather, Ross simply argues that if “yom is the noun complement for the “evening and morning” phrase, then it should be expressed by the use of one “were”, not two was’ (i.e., it should be expressed “and were morning and evening”, not “and was morning and was evening.”) [See, Hugh RossCreation and Time, pg. 48 (1994)]

YEC Rebuttal — It Was Jewish Practice to Close a Day at Sundown (Evening) Which Would be Followed by Morning: In Jewish practice, when reference is made to the relationship between a given day and the next, sunrise is counted as the beginning of the second day. For example, in Exodus 12:18, the 14th evening is the conclusion of the 14th day. Therefore, in Genesis 1, the “evening” closes the daylight time which is followed by “morning” which closes the darkness and thereby begins a new day. [Kenneth Gentry, “In the Space of Six Days” (2000)]

YEC Rebuttal — The Reason an Unusual Syntax of the Evening and Morning Phrase was Used was to Define what a Day Was: Jonathan Sarfati refers to the opinion of Dr. Andrew Steinman, an associate professor of Theology and Hebrew at Concordia University. Steinman concedes that Genesis 1 uses “a most unusual grammatical construction”; nevertheless, Steinman proposes the unusual construction was used for the purpose of defining what a day is (i.e., an evening and a morning equals one day) and further denotes the special nature of Day 6 (the culmination of creation) and Day 7 (God had finished his work of creation). [See, Andrew Steinman, “As an Ordinal Number and the Meaning of Genesis 1:5,” JETS 45, pgs. 583-584 (Dec., 2002)]

OEC Reply: Although Ross agrees Steinman’s assertions may be interesting, Ross argues nothing in Genesis 1:5 (which states, “God called the light ‘day’ and He called the darkness ‘night’. And was evening, and was morning — day one”) defines the duration of a “yom.” Ross further maintains that any assertion “day one” (yom echad) is unique to Genesis 1:5 is a distortion because the expression “yom echad is found in Zechariah 14:7 and, in that context, the phrase refers to the “day of the Lord” which scholars agree refers to a period longer than 24 hours. [Hugh RossA Matter of Days, pg. 75 (2004)]

Reason No. 6 — The Structure of the Evening and Morning Phrase is Well Adapted to Setting Forth a Sequential Pattern Rather than Delimited Units of Time: Each of the six Creation Days ends with the phrase: “And was evening and was morning (wayehi ‘ereb wayehi boquer) followed by “– Day X” or “– Nth Day” or “the Nth Day”. As explained by Gleason Archer (one of the Hebrew scholars selected to translate the ASV version of the Old Testament), in Hebrew prose (as opposed to poetry), the word “the” would normally be used if the noun (in this case “day”) was intended to be definite. Only in poetic style could the “the” be omitted. In this case, if the author of Genesis intended to say “the first day” (as would be expected in prose style), the author would have said, “hayyom harison“, i.e., “the first day” instead of “day one.” Likewise, instead of saying, “yom seni“, i.e., “second day”, he would have said “hayyom hasseni (i.e., the second day). The same is true for days 3 through 5.

Archer concludes that since each “yom that follows the evening and morning phrase lacks a definite article (i.e., “the”), the text is well adapted to setting forth a sequential pattern (e.g., six time periods in a sequence) instead of strictly delimited units of time such as six consecutive 24-hour periods.  [See, Gleason ArcherEncyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pgs. 60-61 (1982)]

Conclusion

YECs adamantly maintain that in its normal usage the Hebrew word “yom” (translated “day”) refers to a literal 24-hour day and that is what the author of Genesis 1 was referring to in setting forth the six days of creation.  In the YEC View, the use of the “… and was evening and was morning “– Day X” [or “Nth Day” or “the Nth Day”] at the end of each creation day makes it absolutely clear the author was intending to refer to six literal 24-hour days.

In response, OECs point to the broader meanings of the Hebrew words ereb and boqer as compared to their English translations “evening” and “morning” as well as to some peculiar grammatical and syntactical characteristics of the “… and was evening and was morning”phrase to contend that the use of the phrase in Genesis 1 in no way compels a 24-hour day interpretation of the creation days.

© 2014 by Andrina G. Hanson

Published:  March 14, 2014

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QUICK LINKS TO SOURCES REFERENCED OR RELIED ON IN THIS ARTICLE

Gleason ArcherNew International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan, Reprint Edition (August 5, 2001)

Krista Kay Bontrager, The Bigger Picture on Creation: A Bible Study Guide for Individuals and Small Groups (Reasons to Believe, 2008)

C. John Collins, Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (P & R Publishing, 2005)

J. Ligon Duncan III (author), David W. Hall (author), Hugh Ross (author), Gleason L. Archer (author), Lee Irons (author), Meredith G. Kline (author), David G. Hagopian (editor), The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation (Crux Press, 2000)

J.P. MorelandJohn Mark Reynolds, John J. Davis, Howard J. Van Till, Paul Nelson and Robert C. Newman, Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Zondervan, 1999)

Robert C. Newman and Perry G. Phillips, Genesis One and the Origin of Earth, 2nd Ed. (2007) free download available at: www.newmanlib.ibri.org/NewmanPhillips_Gen1OrigEar/GN1OE-pics-071109-small.pdf

Hugh RossA Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy(NavPress Publishing Group; 1st edition, 2004)

Hugh RossCreation and Time: A Biblical and Scientific Perspective on the Creation-Date Controversy(Navpress Publishing Group, March 1994)

Jonathan SarfatiRefuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of “Progressive Creationism” (Billions of Years) As Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross (Creation Book Publishers, 2011)

Mark A. Van Bebber and Paul S. Taylor, Creation and time: A report on the progressive creationist book by Hugh Ross (Eden Communications, 1996)

IMAGE CREDITS & LICENSING

This photo taken by Kenton Brett was downloaded from www.wikimedia.org which states the image is licensed under the  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC-BY-SA-3.0) license.  The photograph shows the moon setting over salt flats in Death Valley, California at sunrise.

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