How Can the Genesis Creation Days 1 – 3 be
Literal 24-Hour Days if the Sun Wasn’t Created Until Day 4?
Earth days are 24 hours long because that is how long it takes the earth to rotate on its axis one time as it orbits around the sun. During each 24-hour cycle, the side of the earth facing the sun experiences daylight and the side facing away from the sun experiences nightfall.
Old Earth Creationists (OECs) contend the author of Genesis could not have intended Creation Days 1-3 to refer to literal 24-hour days because no 24-hour day/night (evening/morning) cycle could have existed on Earth before the sun was created on Day 4 (see, Gen. 1:1-20). Indeed, many OECS maintain the fact that Genesis 1 reports the sun wasn’t created until Day 4 is a clear indication the author of Genesis was not using the Hebrew word “yom” (translated into English as “day”) to refer to a literal 24-hour period. In their view, the author was using “yom“: 1) metaphorically (see, the Literary Framework View); 2) analogically (see, the Analogical Day View); or, 3) literally — but, in one of the other literal ways the Hebrew word “yom” can be used which includes a long, yet definite, period of time (see, the Day-Age View).
This One Minute Brief examines how YECs respond to the contention that because the sun wasn’t created until Day 4, the author of Genesis 1 could not have been referring to 24-hour days.
ONE MINUTE BRIEF
Issue: Earth days are 24 hours long because that is how long it takes the earth to rotate one time on its axis as it revolves around the sun. During each 24-hour period, the side of the earth facing the sun experiences daylight and the opposite side experiences nightfall. Since Genesis 1 doesn’t reference the sun until Day 4, does that mean no 24-hour days could have existed before Creation Day 4 ; if so, is that an indication the author of Genesis 1 was not referring to literal 24-hour days in recording the “days” of creation?
Young Earth Creationist (YEC) View: No. When the Hebrew word “yom” is used in the Old Testament, it is almost exclusively used (about 2,300 times) to refer to a 24-hour period and a plain reading of Genesis 1 demonstrates that is how the word “yom” was meant to be used in the Genesis creation account. The fact that the sun wasn’t created until Day 4 is no problem for the YEC 24-hour day view (more>>) because the omnipotent God described in the Bible (more>>)could have supernaturally provided a light source other than the sun to provide 24-hour day/night cycles until He created the sun on Day 4. Indeed, God may have specifically chosen to create the sun on Day 4 to intentionally demonstrate His supremacy over the sun, moon and stars which were historical objects of pagan worship.
Old Earth Creationist (OEC) View: Yes. The fact that Genesis 1 says the sun wasn’t created until Day 4 is a strong indication the author did not intend to use the Hebrew word “yom” (translated into English as “day”) in Genesis 1 to refer to literal 24-hour periods of time since no 24-hour day/night periods could have existed without the sun on Creation Days 1 – 3. Moreover, although the omnipotent God of the Bible (more>>) certainly could have supernaturally provided a non-solar light source to provide 24-hour evening/morning periods of time on Days 1 – 3, nothing in the text indicates that is what He chose to do. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude the author of Genesis 1 was not referring to literal 24-hour days in recording the creation account but was using the word “yom“: 1)Literally — but, referring to one of the other literal meanings of the Hebrew word “yom“, one of which is 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>>).
[For further explanation and reference links, see Summary Discussion below.]
Earth days are 24 hours long because that is how long it takes the earth to rotate on its axis one time as the earth revolves around the sunonce a year. As demonstrated in the following YouTube video, during each 24-hour period, the side of the earth facing the sunexperiences daylight and the side facing away from the sun experiences nightfall.
Brad Freese / YouTube (more)
OECs contend the YEC interpretation that Days 1-3 in Genesis 1 refer to literal 24-hour days cannot be correct because even YECs believe the sun wasn’t created until Day 4 and no 24-hour day/night (evening/morning) cycles could have occurred before the sun was created.
Because no 24-hour day/night cycle could have occurred before the sun was created, many OECs maintain this is a clear indication that in using the word “yom” in Genesis (translated as “day” in English), the author was not referring to a 24-hour period; rather, the author was using “yom“: 1) metaphorically; 2) analogically; or, 3) literally — but, the author intended to refer to one of the other literal meanings of the Hebrew word “yom.” As explained by Hugh Ross (astrophysicist and proponent of the Day-Age View more>>) and supported by Gleason Archer (biblical language expert), the Hebrew word “yom” (translated into English as “day”) can literally “indicate any of four time periods: a) some portion of the daylight (hours); b) sunrise to sunset (12 hours); c) sunset to sunset (24 hours), d) a segment of time without any reference to solar days (from weeks to a year to several years to an age or epoch).” “‘Yom’ cannot, however, be interpreted as indefinite (such as anytime or someday) or as infinite time.” [Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days, pg. 73 (2004) citing to Brown, Driver & Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, pgs. 398-401(1997), H.W.F. Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, pgs. 341-342 (1979) and Harris, Archer & Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 1:370-371(1980)] See also, William Wilson’s examination of the word “yom” in which he states “yom” is “frequently put for time in general, or for a long time, a whole period under consideration …. Day [yom] is also put for a particular season or time when any extraordinary event happens.” [Hugh Ross, Creation and Time, pg. 46 (1994) citing to William Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies, pg. 109 (1978)]
YEC Rebuttal No. 1 – Although the Semantic Range of the Word “Yom” Includes a Long Period of Time, that is Not How the Word was Normally Used in the Old Testament: Many YECs, such as Jonathan Sarfati, concede the “semantic range” of the word “yom” includes a long period of time. However, because the Old Testament overwhelmingly uses the word “yom” 2,300 times to refer to a 24-hour period, Sarfati adamantly maintains that, in its normal sense, “yom” refers to a 24-hour period and that is what a plain reading of the text demonstrates the author of Genesis intended to convey. [Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise, pg. 68 (2004) citing to James Stambaugh, “The Days of Creation: A Semantic Approach,” CEN Tech. J. 5(1):70-78 (1991); see also, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. “In the Space of Six Days” (2000)]
YEC Rebuttal No. 2 — God Could Have Provided a Light Source Other than the Sun on Days 1-3: YECs, such as J. Ligon Duncan and David W. Hall, point out the fact that God does not depend on the sun for light is demonstrated in Revelation 21:23 which states the New Jerusalem will have “no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Since God does not depend on the sun for light, God may have employed a non-solar source of light before creating the sunon Day 4. YEC Joseph Pipa further contends that Genesis 1 reveals a progression in which light was separated from darkness on Day 1 (Gen. 1:1-5) and on Day 4, the sun, moon and stars were created to mark the seasons, days and years on Earth (Gen. 1:14-19).
OEC Reply No. 1 — The Text Does Not Say God Provided A Light Source Other than the Sun on Days 1-3: Many OECs concede that although the omnipotent God of the Bible (more>>) could have provided a non-solar light source on Days 1-3, there is nothing in the Genesis creation account to suggest God chose to do it that way. Consequently, they maintain YECs are merely speculating when they hypothesize God used a light source other than the sun to provide day/night 24-hour periods on Days 1-3.
OEC Reply No. 2 — An Appeal to a Non-Solar Source of Light on Days 1-3 Abandons the “Plain Meaning” Interpretation of Genesis which YECs Say they are Committed To: As contended by Lee Irons (a proponent of the Literary Framework View more>>), although YECs claim to hold to a “plain meaning” interpretation of the word “day”, in order to explain how 24-hour days could have existed before the sun was created on Day 4, YECs abandon a plain reading of the text and appeal to the existence of an unknown and undisclosed light source.
OEC Reply No. 3 – Genesis 2:5 Indicates God Used Ordinary Providence to Sustain His Creation: Genesis 2:5 says that certain kinds of vegetation were absent from the Earth because “the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth?’” Those who propose the Literary Framework View contend that instead of demonstrating God chose to use supernatural sources (e.g., a non-solar light source on Days 1 – 3) to sustain His creation, this statement demonstrates God chose to invoke Ordinary Providence, i.e., natural sources (e.g., the sun) to preserve and sustain the things He created.
OEC Reply No. 4 — The Suggestion that God Created Earth on Day 1 but Didn’t Create the Stars (Including the Sun) Until Day 4 Conflicts with Scientific Evidence and Job 38:4-7: If God created the earth on Day 1 before He created the sun, moon and stars on Day 4, that would mean Earth existed as a solitary sphere in a spatial void on Days 1-3. In turn, that would mean the universe (which contains the sun, moon and stars created on Day 4) would be younger than the earth. However, not only does this conflict with scientific evidence, it also contradicts Job 38:4-7 which says the stars were singing (and, therefore, were already in existence) when God laid Earth’s foundation.
YEC Rebuttal No. 3 — God May Have Chosen to Create the Sun, Moon and Stars on Day 4 to Demonstrate His Supremacy to Pagans Who Worshiped Heavenly Bodies: As suggested by YECs J. Ligon Duncan and David W. Hall, God may have chosen to wait to create the sun, moon and stars on Day 4 to specifically demonstrate His supremacy over astral objects which were historical objects of pagan worship.
OEC Reply — The Focal Point of God’s Creation was Man, Not the Sun: The explanation that God may have chosen to wait to create the sun on Day 4 to demonstrate His supremacy over astral objects makes the sun the focal point of God’s creation; but, the clear focal point of the Genesis creation account was God’s creation of man who God made in His image (Gen. 1:26-27), not the sun.
Without question, the YEC vs. OEC debate has been, and will continue to be, a passionately contested issue within the Christian community. People on both sides of the issue steadfastly believe they have solid scriptural and scientific grounds for their beliefs. In the midst of this important debate, it is important to keep in mind that while Christians disagree over when God’s creative works took place, how long God took to complete creation and how the Genesis creation account is properly interpreted, there is no disagreement that God created the universe and that, as the Creator, He alone is worthy to receive honor and praise by the men He created.
“For thus says the Lord — Who created the heavens, God Himself,
Who formed the earth and made it, Who established it and did not create
it to be a worthless waste; He formed it to be inhabited —
I am the Lord, and there is no one else”;”
— Isaiah 45:18
“You are worthy, our LORD and God, to receive glory
and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will
they were created and have their being”
— Revelation 4:11
For further discussion on issues related to this article, see the following:
- “Young Earth or Old Earth? — An Impartial Overview of the Creation Debate – Introduction & Summary” (here)
- “Young Earth Creation View aka 24-Hour Day View” (here) [A detailed summary of the YEC view with rebuttal points of OECs]
- “Does the Big Bang Eliminate the Need of a Creator or Is it Evidence of a Transcendent Creator?” (here)
- “Evidence from a Beginning — God’s Existence is the Best Explanation for the Universe Coming into Existence” (here)
KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE and WHY YOU BELIEVE IT!
DO YOU BELIEVE GOD CREATED THE UNIVERSE? DO YOU BELIEVE IN A YOUNG EARTH OR AN OLD EARTH? WHY DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE? Browse through the articles on the FactsandFaith.com website and consider some of the REASONSChristian philosophers and theologians give for contending that belief in the biblical Creator is a very rational belief; if not the most rational belief possible, and why YECs and OECs hold different views regarding when God created and how long God created.
Visit Facts & Faith on Facebook and “Like” and “Share” this ONE MINUTE BRIEF with others so they may consider the reasons Christians have for believing in the God of the Bible.
Have a good and prosperous day. Let your light shine before men so they notice your moral excellence as well as your good and noble deeds and, thereby, recognize and glorify your Father in heaven!
(See, Matt. 5:16, Amplified Bible)
© 2014 by Andrina G. Hanson
Published: February 27, 2014
QUICK LINKS TO SOURCES REFERENCED OR RELIED ON IN THIS ARTICLE
- Ligon DuncanIII (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)
Old Earth Views
Krista Kay Bontrager, The Bigger Picture on Creation: A Bible Study Guide for Individuals and Small Groups (Reasons to Believe, 2008) www.reasons.org
Alan Haywood, Creation and Evolution: Rethinking the Evidence from Science and the Bible (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004)
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 Ross, A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy(NavPress Publishing Group; 1st edition, 2004) www.reasons.org
Don Stoner, A New Look at an Old Earth; Resolving the Conflict Between the Bible and Science (Harvest House, 1997)
- J. Young, Studies in Genesis One(P & R Publishing, 1999)
Young Earth Views
John D. Morris, The Young Earth: The Real History of the Earth – Past, Present, and Future (Master Books, 2007) www.icr.org
Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of “Progressive Creationism” (Billions of Years) As Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross (Creation Book Publishers, 2011) www.creation.com
Mark A. Van Bebber and Paul S. Taylor, Creation and time: A report on the progressive creationist book by Hugh Ross (Eden Communications, 1996)
John C. Whitcomb, The Early Earth-An Introduction to Biblical Creationism, 3rd Ed. (BMH Books, 2011) www.answersingenesis.org
IMAGE CREDITS & LICENSING
Slideshow Photo: This photograph of an old mechanical model of the earth, sun, moon and an inner planet was taken by Joe Mabel in the library of Van Vleck Observatory at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, USA. The image was downloaded from www.wikimedia.org which states the image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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