(Week 1 of SBTS 28960)
A. Creation Week: Instantaneous vs. Six Days (the affect of the Greek definition of time on theology).
1. Prior to the 18th century the dominant understanding of the Hebrews and the (lay) church was that the Creation Week of Genesis One was 6, 24-hour days long:
a. The straightforward reading (the reading of a child and the dominant reading among the Hebrews and lay church to the 18th century A.D.) was that creation involved six sequential days of time: Day One (Gen. 1:1-5); 2nd Day (Gen. 1:6-8); 3rd Day (Gen. 1:9-13); 4th Day (Gen. 1:14-19); 5th Day (Gen. 1:20-23); 6th Day (Gen. 1:24-31; 2:14-25).
b. The Hebrew word yôm, translated ‘day’, has a semantic range from a 24-hour day-night cycle (the most common meaning), to daylight (e.g. Gen. 1:5a), to holy feast-days (probably the meaning in Gen. 1:14), to the entire creation week (Gen. 2:4), to indefinite periods of time (e.g. day of judgment, e.g. Matt. 10:15; day of trouble, e.g. Psa. 20:1; day of the Lord, e.g. Isa. 2:12).
A) Since all indefinite periods of time greater than a 24-hour day are either when yôm is an object of a preposition (e.g. beyôm, as in Gen. 2:4, literally meaning ‘in [the] day’, is an idiom meaning ‘when’) or when yôm is in construct relationship (‘day of the Lord’, ‘day of judgment’, etc.), and neither of these situations are present in Genesis One, yôm does not refer to a longer period of time in Genesis One than a 24-hour day.
B) Since several indicators of a 24-hour day meaning of yôm are associated with each day of creation in Genesis One (e.g. ordinal numbers; ‘evening and morning’, which when they occur with yôm elsewhere, yôm always seems to refer to a 24-hour period), the creation days are 24-hour days.
C) Since each creation day seems to be defined as daylight (during which God created) followed by ‘evening and morning’ (probably a merism for night), each creation day is a day/night cycle.
D) Exodus 20:11 (part of the Decalogue inscribed onto stone by God Himself) seems to equate the length of the 6-day creation week of God with the 6-day work week of man.
è The Creation Week was 6, 24-hour day/night cycles long.
c. Objections to a 6, 24-hour day Creation Week:
A) The most ‘natural’ mode of an infinitely powerful God independent of time would be to create the whole creation instantaneously, so creation over 6, 24-hour days would be demeaning to God’s true majesty. On the other hand, there would also be no reason for God to ‘rest’, but He did (Gen. 2:2). The fact that ‘the Sabbath was made for man’ (Mark 2:27) and the days of creation and rest are a pattern for man’s work week and Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), God did condescend to create over 6, 24-hour days… and rest on the seventh day.
B) “A thousand years are as… a watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4); “one day with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (II Pe. 3:8). Nothing in these passages suggests that they are redefinitions of the length of any day in real time; rather, they are speaking of God’s timelessness, His independence of time. So, out of the more than 2400 uses of yôm in Scripture, why apply this redefinition only to the days of Genesis One?
C) “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4). When the Hebrew word yôm is the object of the preposition b (beyôm: literally, ‘in the day’) it is Hebrew idiom meaning ‘when’. None of the Days of Creation in Genesis One are objects of a preposition.
D) God ‘created all things simultaneously together’ (Sirach 18:1; as translated by Augustine, Lit. Int. Genesis 4.33.52). Not only is Sirach non-canonical (thus without authority over Scripture), but other versions render it differently (KJV and Third Millennium: ‘created all things in general’; Douay-Rheims: ‘created all things together’; RSV and Good News: ‘created the whole universe’; NewAmerican: ‘judge of all things without exception’), so Augustine’s interpretation is not even a necessary one.
E) Since we can still enter God’s rest (Hebrews 3-4) and there is no ‘evening and morning’ associated with the seventh day (Gen. 2:2-3), the seventh day is a very long one (6000 years at least). The lack of ‘evening and morning’ on the seventh day probably means that God’s action on the seventh day (just as was true of His actions on the previous 6 days) occurred during the daylight period of the 24-hour, day/night cycle of the seventh day (i.e. not at night). Gen. 2:2 indicates that this was a double action, the ending and resting from His creating. Hebrews 4:3 indicates that God finished His work once ‘at the foundation of the world’. Furthermore, ‘God’s rest’ of Hebrews 3-4 is not a rest for God, it is a rest for humans. This is a rest we can enjoy from our own work by letting God do the work we’re inappropriately trying to do. There is no reason to believe that the rest of Hebrews 3-4 indicates that the seventh day of creation was thousands of years long.
F) There is no sun until Day 4 of the Creation Week. A lack of a time marker or even the lack of a particular light generator (given that God Himself could have been a light source before this point, just as He is in Psalm 104:2 and will be in Rev. 21:23) is not necessarily relevant to the length of the Creation Week. In fact, there is no good reason to believe there was a change in the length of the creation days with the creation of the sun, especially considering the comparison of creation days and human work days in Exodus 20:11.
G) It is not clear when the 1st day actually begins. Does it begin with the creation of the ‘heavens and the earth’ in Gen. 1:1 or the creation of light in Gen. 1:3? Whether the creation of the ‘earth’ was included in the creation activities of the first day is not relevant to the question of the length of the Creation Week.
H) There is a possibility of gaps before, after, and/or between the days of creation. A gap before and/or after the days of the Creation Week would be irrelevant to the length of the Creation Week. Gaps between the creation days is not only not hinted at in the text, but the lack of gaps between the days of a human work week would seem to argue against gaps between the days of God’s Creation Week which was set up as a pattern (Ex. 20:11).
I) There is a possibility that the days overlap in time. However,
1) Overlap is not hinted at in the text.
2) The lack of overlap in the days of a human work week would seem to argue against overlap in the days of God’s Creation Week which was set up as a pattern (Ex. 20:11).
3) The command/execution/evaluation/evening-morning structure of each creation days suggests that each one corresponds to a complete time unit.
4) ‘and it was so’ suggests completion within the specified time period.
5) The ordinal numbers (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.), suggests sequence without overlap.
J) There is symmetry (Days 1&4, 2&5, 3&6), numerology (3, 7, 10), alliteration, and rhyming (e.g. tohu wa bohu) in Genesis 1. Beauty is expected of any text authored by God, so these elements do not change the fact that the genre which best fits Genesis One is historical narrative and none of this additional meaning or beauty changes the time sequence in the primary meaning of the text (i.e. a Creation Week of 6, 24-hour days).
K) The antiquity of the mountains better testify of His unchanging eternality if they are much older. Such extra-biblical human reasoning should never be used to change the primary meaning of a biblical text. Furthermore, several biblical passages would be difficult to explain if the Creation Week was very long:
1) Is. 40:21-22 indicates that humans have known the truth from the beginning of the earth (Morris, 1993:113; Freeman, 1998:150-151, 159, 183-4).
2) Jesus referred to the origin of marriage as having occurred ‘in the beginning’ (Mark 10:6; Matt. 19:8) (Morris, 1993:148; Freeman, 1998:151-3, 159, 183-4; Wise, 2002; Mortenson, 2003).
3) Jesus referred to Abel, the first prophet, as living ‘at the foundation of the world’ (Luke 11:50-51). (Mortenson, 2003).
L) There are too many events on Day 6 of the Creation Week to fit into a 24-hour day (e.g. God molded Adam in Gen. 2:7; Adam naming the animals in Gen. 2:20, God erected Eve in Gen. 2:22; the emotional buildup to Adam’s hapa‘am reaction to Eve in Gen. 2:23). However,
1) God’s actions, even in the physical world, do not have to take any time.
2) In an unfallen condition, human intelligence may have been capable of naming things very rapidly.
3) God may have designed the human brain capable of intuitively (i.e. immediately) recognizing the animal kinds He created.
4) The created kinds seem to be at the level of family rather than species (so they probably do not number much more than one hundred).
5) In an unfallen condition, human emotion might reach the high intensity of using hapa‘am without requiring the great amount of time required to do so after the Fall.
So there is nothing among the events of Day 6 – even when they all considered – which could not be accomplished in a 24-hour day.
M) Genesis One could be symbolic. However,
1) the genre of Genesis One is historical narrative (prose containing sequence, waw consecutive, definitions),
a) not poetry (lacks juxtaposition of parallel couplets and the metrical balance of Hebrew poetry; contrasts with interspersed poetry and poetic passages about the creation)
b) not allegory (lacks story-teller, interpreter and interpretation; mentions God rather than something allegorical of God)
2) why is the word ‘day’ the only symbolic word in Genesis One? If it is not the only word which is symbolic, why are not all the words symbolic (e.g. what does ‘God’ then symbolize)? If only some words are symbolic, how does one determine which are and which are not?
è The Creation Week was 6, 24-hour days long (and could not have been either an instant in time or a period of time on the order of 1000 years or long).
2. In ancient Greek thought (e.g. Plato, Aristotle), time was not a mutable substance (as physicists generally believe it to be today), it was merely change. Augustine brought this concept of time with him into his interpretation of Genesis:
a. Because God is changeless, [the Greek concept of time would deduce that] He is also timeless, eternal, everlasting. With this inference, anyway, the Greek concept of time gives us reasonable results.
b. If God is timeless [the Greek concept of time would deduce that] God does not act at different points in time, nor does He know things in a time sequence. Thus God performed all His actions once in eternity ‘past’, God knows all things at once, and God sees all history simultaneously (thus the understanding of: “For whom He did foreknow, he also did predestinate… Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom he called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them he also glorified”: Rom. 8:29-30).
c. A literal reading of Genesis 1:1-2:4 would suggest that God created in a time sequence over 6 days of time. Since this cannot be, Augustine initially thought the creation account could not be understood literally (On Genesis Against the Manichees). Later Augustine struggled to identify a literal reading of Genesis which made sense – first unsuccessfully (A Literal Interpretation of Genesis: An Unfinished Manuscript) and finally successfully (A Literal Interpretation of Genesis). Augustine’s ‘literal understanding’:
A) The entire creation was created instantaneously (confirmed by Sir. 18:1 and Gen. 2:4) by God in eternity past.
B) In the instant of creation there was a logical (not time) sequence of thought in the mind of God and a (time sequence) response of creation and angels (the first created of the creation):
1) God spoke the perfect concept of something into being (and the glory of God’s word would be so impressive to the perception of the angels that it would be to them as spiritual daylight… rather like Jesus blinding Paul with a light brighter than the midday sun), then
2) The creation responded to God’s creative word by coming into being (illuminating to the angels, but dim as ‘evening’ in comparison to God’s creative word); and finally
3) Moved by these experiences, the angels couldn’t help but respond in praise to God. Yet, as creations of God, even in their unfallen condition the angelic response will be as the light of morning compared to God’s word.;
4) In this way there was a sequence of divine creative proclamation (‘daytime’), the creation of physical beings (‘evening’), and angelic praise to God (‘morning’) – all making ‘_th Day’;
5) and this cycle was repeated six times until God ended His creation.
C) Although this understanding of creation seems to have influenced, if not defined, the position on creation by church intellectuals for over three quarters of a millennium (from Augustine to at least the time of Aquinas).
3. Augustine’s interpretation of the Genesis text is outside the natural reading of the text and seems to be precluded by the text. Augustine improperly reinterpreted the Genesis text based upon ideas derived from an extra-biblical source. Interestingly, the current (relativistic) concept of time is that it is a mutable substance of the universe. If this current view is correct, time is a created substance which God must have created with the universe itself. Being external to time (as its creator) God would then be unchanging, eternal and everlasting, and would have the ability to interrupt and do things in creation time. Augustine’s argument would then not only be incorrect, but unnecessary.