DID GOD CREATE THE WORLD IN SIX 24 HOUR DAYS?
Bishop Brian J. Kennedy, O.S.B.
HOLY TRINITY CELTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH
1703 MACOMBER ST., TOLEDO, OHIO 43606
I have been asked if the six days of creation are to be understood literally as six 24 hour days.
I understand the common explanation given by the modern church, following the lead of the God-less educators and scientist, is the word “day” is not to be understood as a 24 hour day. According to this understanding the word for day can mean any length of time except a 24 hour day. If they accept the word to mean a 24 hour day they have to say Moses was right and inspired of God. If they accept the word to mean any length of time other than a 24 hour day they can disparage the Scriptures and appear very ‘enlightened”. Accepting the Genesis account as six 24 hour days challenges the idea that there was a succession of vast geological ages before man appeared.
It is interesting to ponder that no professor of Old Testament Hebrew at any world-class university holds the view Moses in Genesis 1-11 intended to convey any idea other than creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience.
Before we jump to the conclusion these linguistic experts are believers we must point out they are not saying they believe the account; they are just dealing honestly with what it actually says, with the realities of the language.
The word for "day" in Genesis 1 is the Hebrew word “yom”. It can mean either a day (in the ordinary 24 hour sense) or the daylight portion (say about 12 hours) of an ordinary 24-hour day (i.e., day as distinct from night).
Some people say that the word day in Genesis may have been used symbolically. An important point that many fail to consider is that a word can never be used symbolically the first time it is used. A word can be used symbolically only when it first has a literal meaning. In the New Testament we are told that Jesus is the "door." We know what this means, because we know the word door means an entrance. Because we understand its literal meaning, it is able to be applied in a symbolic sense to Jesus Christ. The word door could not be used in this way unless it first had the literal meaning we understand it to have. Thus, the word day cannot be used symbolically the first time it is used in the book of Genesis.
Moses has gone to great lengths to properly define the word “yom” the first time it appears. In Genesis 1:4, we read that God separated the "light from the darkness." Then in Genesis 1:5 we read, God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. In other words, the term “yom” was being very carefully defined. The first time the word day is used, it is defined as the light to distinguish it from the darkness called night. Genesis 1:5 then finishes off with, "And the evening and the morning were the first day." This is the same phrase used for each of the other five days, and shows that there was a clearly established cycle of days and nights (i.e., periods of light and periods of darkness). The periods of light on each of the six days were when God did His work, and the periods of darkness was when God did no creative work.
It is clear from Genesis 1 that the Sun was not created until the fourth day. Genesis 1:3 tells us that God created light on the first day, and the phrase "evening and morning" shows there were alternating periods of light and darkness. We are not told exactly from where this light came. The word for light in Genesis 1:3 means that the substance of light was created. Then, in Genesis 1:14-19, we are told of the creation on the fourth day of the sun which was to be the source of light from that time onwards.
The sun was created to rule the day that already existed. The day stayed the same. It merely had a new light source. The first three days of creation (before the sun) were the same type of days as the three days with the sun.
God deliberately left the creation of the sun until the fourth day because He knew that, down through the ages, cultures would try to worship the sun as the source of life. God is showing us He made the earth and light to start with, that He can sustain it with its day and night cycle, and that the sun was created on the fourth day as a tool of His to be the bearer of light from that time.
The major reason modern man is disinclined to accept the days of Genesis as ordinary days, is they believe scientists have proved the earth to be billions of years old. But this is not true. There is no absolute age-dating method to determine exactly how old is the earth. There is a lot of evidence consistent with a belief in a young age for the earth, perhaps only thousands of years.
The Jewish calendar, dating ‘from creation’, holds the world is 5,774 years old.
Exodus 20 contains the Ten Commandments. It should be remembered that these commandments were written with the finger of God" (Exodus 31:18). In verse nine of Chapter 20 God tells us that we are to work six days and rest for one. The justification for this is given in verse 11, "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested the seven day. Therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it." This is a direct reference to God's creation week in Genesis 1. To be consistent (and we must be), whatever is used as the meaning of the word day in Genesis 1 must also be used here. By accepting the days as ordinary days, we understand that God is telling us that He worked for six ordinary days and rested for one ordinary day to set a pattern for man - the pattern of our 7-day week.