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Age of the Earth

October 28, 2011

Are the Days of Genesis to Be Interpreted Literally?

This question has stoked controversy among conservative Christians in recent times, but has proved to be of little interest to theistic evolutionists (those who accept evolution as God’s mechanism in creation) and those rejecting Genesis as God’s inerrant Word. The debate has been primarily between young- and old- earth creationists, who believe that God literally created the various kinds of living things (as opposed to the common descent of Darwinism). Both sides hold that humans have not descended from other species, and both reject the atheism and macroevolutionary theory of neo-Darwinism.

The two creationist camps, however, differ in interpreting the creation days of Genesis. If the days were consecutive 24-hour periods (As we today measure an hour as 3600 seconds and a day as 86400 seconds), and if the earth was created on the first day, then calculations based on biblical genealogies reveal that the earth was created only thousands of years ago. If the days were either of indeterminate length or nonconsecutive, then the Bible does not reveal when the earth was created. Interestingly, both sides agree that the genealogies reveal that Adam and Eve were specially created only thousands of years ago.

Young earth creationists (YCs) interpret the days as 24-hour, consecutive periods for reasons such as the following: (1) The days in Genesis 1 are consecutively numbered and compromised of an “evening and morning.” (2) Exodus 20:8-11 commands a literal week of six days of work and one day of rest based on God’s original creation/rest week. The two weeks would seem, then, to be of equal duration. (3) According to Romans 5:12, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,” but old-earth creationism would have animal death entering the world before the sin of Adam and Eve.

Old earth creationists (OCs) argue against 24-hour creation days for reasons such as these: (1) The Hebrew word for “day” (yom) is used in different ways in the creation account. For instance, Genesis 1:5 refers yom only to daytime (daylight), not night-time. Also, Genesis 2:4, literally translated, speaks of “the yom (the day) that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” (2) God’s rest on the seventh “day” has no evening and morning (Genesis 2:2-3), and Hebrews 4:3-11 portrays this same sabbath as continuing to the present time. (3) Adam could not have named all the birds and animals in 24 (literal) hours according to Genesis 2.

Both sides believe they have strong arguments favoring their interpretation and rebutting the other side. And historically, debate regarding biblical interpretation has led to a clearer understanding of God’s Word. But it is highly debatable whether this issue merits the rancor and division often attending it. Some Young Creationists accuse Old Creationists of compromising the Bible with evolutionary science. Some Old Creationists charge Young Creationists with undermining biblical credibility by generating a false conflict between science and the scriptures.

Happily, one thing is not debatable among those who believe the Bible: even if the correct interpretation of the creation days is not readily apparent in the present generation, the Bible can be trusted in every way. “Debates about biblical interpretations should not be interpreted as the failure of the Holy Scriptures.” -Ted Cabal

“The beauty of this kind of debate is that we come to a stronger and more solid faith and understanding of God’s Word. What we must be careful of is that we do not lose the focus of Jesus Christ, his birth, life, death, resurrection and commission to tell others the salvation that is free by God’s Grace through faith in Jesus alone. The Good News.

Jesus desires us to be united as He and the Father are united. If we do not love one another, we do not have God in us. Even if we speak, teach and proclaim the truth in scripture without love for our brothers and sisters in Christ we do not have Christ. Beware of sin within your own heart and/or others that will try to demonize or divide Christians because of the differences in interpretations of these secondary issues and doctrines within the Bible. There is a difference between biblical debates that “do” and “do not” claim the Holy Scripture (Bible) as a failure. This happens to be a debate whereas both sides believe in the complete authority of Scripture and are using the Scriptures to make their stance. There are many debatable areas of scripture that we will not know here on earth completely every detail and it should not make a difference in your faith one way or another on these non essential issues. We must remember that God has every right to with hold any mysteries and secrets that he desires us not to know. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.”

The primary doctrine that must unite us is that Jesus Christ is the one and only Anointed Savior and Messiah of humanity. Through Him alone was everything made and we were given intimacy with God and eternal life. Without Jesus there would be and will be nothing, as Jesus is in fact God.” – Ethan Holub

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” – Deuteronomy 29:29

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” – Job 11:7

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