After giving a lecture at a recent seminar, a pastor approached me and said, "I really want to support ICR and I totally agree with you concerning the evils of evolution, but why do you have to insist on six literal days (approximately 24 hours each) for Genesis 1? Can't you allow other interpretations in this area?"
In fact, many Christians do allow for the days to be long periods of time. We at ICR, however, insist that "in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: Wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:1 1). God created in six (literal) days and rested on the seventh (literal) day. Why do we take such an adamant stand on this issue? Does it really matter?
WHY DO PEOPLE WANT THE DAYS TO BE LONG PERIODS?
After years of experience speaking to many thousands of people, visiting hundreds of churches as well as Christian colleges and schools, I am convinced that the main reason many Christians don't accept the days of Genesis as literal days is because they believe that scientists have proven that the earth is billions of years in age. ICR scientists, however, have shown clearly that the methods used to "prove" that the earth is billions of years old have many problems. It has been shown that many of the assumptions behind these methods are very doubtful, at best. Dates varying by millions of years can often be obtained for the same deposit.
The sad aspect of this is that Christians are taking the words of fallible men who use fallible methods, who were not there in the past and therefore don't know everything about the past, as a basis for interpreting Scripture. In other words, fallible, sinful man is made the authority—not God, who knows everything and has always been there.
I'll never forget the pastor who came up to me at a meeting after he had seen the startling evidence from Mount St. Helens, which helps us see that the formation of multiple layers of sedimentary rock does not have to take millions of years! The pastor stated, "Wow! I don't have to believe in millions of years. I don't have to make the days long periods! Wow! That material from Mount St. Helens is fantastic.
Why didn't the Lord let us see this years ago? Then I would not have had to compromise."
My reply to this statement was, "But Sir, you had God's Word. Wasn't that enough?"
Before we consider two of the many major reasons why it is important to take the days of Genesis as literal days, let us summarize some of the reasons why it is obvious from Scripture that this is so:
REASONS FOR TAKING THE CREATION DAYS AS LITERAL
1. The Hebrew word for "day" in Genesis 1, yom, is defined as an ordinary solar day the first time it is used (v. 5). Furthermore, when used with a modifying number (as it is 358 times elsewhere in the Old Testament), it always means an ordinary day. Why would Genesis 1 be the exception?
2. Yom is used with the defining phrase "evening and morning" 38 times in the Old Testament outside Genesis 1. Each time, it means an ordinary day. Why would Genesis 1 be the exception? When this phrase is coupled with a modifying number, there is no better way of specifying an ordinary day.
3. Exodus 20:11 tells us why God took so long (six days) to create everything. Being an all-powerful God, He could have created everything instantly. Instead, He worked for six days and rested for one as a pattern for us to follow. This is where we get our seven-day week. God did not create everything in six million years and rest for another million years and tell us to do the same! This makes no logical sense.
4. The word yom cannot mean a definite, long period of time. In the right context, such as Genesis 2:4, (where there are NO qualifying words or phrases), it can mean an indefinite period of time. But if each day of creation was an indefinite period of time, then six overlapping and/or consecutive indefinite periods of time make no sense.
5. II Peter 3:8 states that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." However, this is NOT defining the word day, because the definition already exists. That is why it can be COMPARED to a thousand years. If this meant that we would have to put a thousand years for the days in Genesis 1, then we would have to do the same elsewhere in Scripture. For instance, how long was Jesus Christ in the grave? Three days or three thousand years? Conversely, whenever we read a thousand years, we would have to replace it with the word "day" to be consistent. This would distort many passages in the Bible.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
1. We should never allow the fallible theories of sinful men to dictate what the words in the Bible mean. It is vital that we take God at His Word. If it is obvious from the words and their context what the meaning is, then it is imperative that we accept this and not try to interpret on the basis of so-called "science." If the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of the Living God, then it is either true from cover to cover or else we cannot accept any of it. If we question the days, when it is so obvious from the language what they mean, then why not question the resurrection? Sadly, this has been the logical outcome for many who have questioned Genesis.
2. We have discussed in other articles that the Bible teaches that physical death and bloodshed (of animals and man) entered the world only after Adam sinned (Romans 5:12; I Corinthians 15:21, 22; etc.). If one attempts to equate the days in Genesis with millions of years or the geological ages, then death must have existed before Adam sinned. This is because the idea of millions of years comes from the belief that the layers of fossils (dead things) took millions of years to be laid down before man evolved. If death existed before Adam sinned, then the whole basis of the Gospel has been destroyed. Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin. God introduced death and bloodshed (of both animals and man) only after Adam sinned, as the basis of redemption.
THE MEANING OF GENESIS? IT’S OBVIOUS!
James Barr, the well-respected Hebrew scholar at the University of Oxford, England, in a personal letter dated 23 April 1984 to David C.C. Watson, stated:
" . . . so far as I know there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that:
(a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience;
(b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the Biblical story; and
(c) Noah's flood was understood to be world-wide and to have extinguished all human and land animal life except for those in the ark.
Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the "days" of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any professor, as far as I know."