One of the questions surrounding the account of Creation has to do with the length of the days of creation. Some people say the days were 24 hour days. Others say the days were long periods of time. Does it matter which you believe? What does the Bible say? Let’s answer these two questions by looking at the text of Genesis 1 to see what the text says and then we will examine whether or not it matters.
Before we get into the text, I need to give a short, simple lesson on Hebrew verbs. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. Verbs in Biblical Hebrew do not have past tense, present tense, or future tense. Instead, verbs are perfect or imperfect. Perfect means the action is complete. Imperfect means the action is incomplete.
Biblical Hebrew also has something called converted verbs. If a perfect verb is prefixed with the Hebrew letter waw, the verb is converted to imperfect. If an imperfect verb is prefixed with the letter waw, the verb is converted to perfect. Whenever a series of imperfect verbs is converted to perfect, that indicates the action occurred in the past in sequential order. The importance of this detail in relation to the length of the days of creation is the fact that Biblical Hebrew has a way to indicate that a series of actions occurred in sequential order.
Now let’s take a look at the first 8 verses of Genesis 1. The words in red are converted verbs. As you read these verses, keep in mind that since this is a series of converted verbs, the action in the first 8 verses occurred in sequential order. Also, think about where evening and morning fit into the sequence, and think about what that tells us about the length of the days of creation.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”;
and there was light.
God saw that the light was good;
and God separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.
And there was evening
and there was morning, one day.
Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters,
and let it separate the waters from the waters.”
God made the expanse,
and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse;
and it was so.
God called the expanse heaven.
And there was evening
and there was morning, a second day.
Basically, the text says there was a series of events that was followed by evening. Evening was followed by morning. Morning was followed by another series of events which was followed by evening, and then morning came again. This pattern continues throughout Genesis 1 for all six days of creation.
As we go about our lives in the 21st century, what do we call a series of events, followed by evening, followed by morning, followed by a series of events, followed by evening, etc? We call them 24 hour days. So too, the Bible is very clearly communicating that the days of creation were 24 hour days.
Now let’s talk about why it matters. The reason this debate exists is because secular science teaches that the earth is billions of years old, but if you add up the numbers in the Bible, you come to the conclusion that the earth is about 6,100 years old. That is a big discrepancy. On the other hand, if the days of creation were long periods of time, then you can add many centuries or millennia to the Biblical record and bring the Bible closer to the idea that the earth is billions of years old.
Here is the problem. The Bible contains a strong prohibition against conforming to the world.
Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world,
If God clearly stated in the Bible that the days of creation were 24 hour days, if God intended to communicate to us that the earth is about 6,100 years old, and if the motive for interpreting the days of creation as long periods of time is to make the Bible conform to the world’s ideas on the age of the earth, then interpreting the days of creation as long periods of time is clearly wrong.
Here’s a final thought. The Bible tells us not to conform to the world. That is not easy to do because the secular world treats the Bible and Christianity as foolishness. Furthermore, the world treats creationism as foolishness. If we are not to conform to the world and if God made it clear that the days of creation were 24 hour days, then perhaps the length of the days of creation is one of those topics where true followers of God need to take a stand against the world.
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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”