Are the Genesis Creation Days 24 Hours or Long Periods of Time? – Program 4

By: Dr. Walter Kaiser Jr., Dr. Hugh Ross; ©2005
The book of Genesis clearly outlines six days of creation, after which God rested (the seventh day). But were those 24 hour days as we know them now?

Did Creation Happen in Six 24-Hour Days?


Today on The John Ankerberg Show, does the Bible teach that the Genesis creation days are six literal 24 hour days or six long periods of time? Inside the Christian Church this debate is raging. Some say that unless a Christian believes God created in six literal 24-hour days, they will not allow that person to be a member of their Church or assume a leadership position.

Outside of the Church, many non-Christians are certain that all Christians believe God created everything 6,000 years ago, including the universe, the Earth, plants and animals and Adam and Eve. They are shocked to find out that is not true today, nor has it been the case down through Church history.

Christians who read the first two chapters of Genesis and believe that Moses used the word day – yom – to mean a long period of time, are they distorting the biblical text, denying the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, and affirming some kind of evolution? What does the biblical text actually say?

My guests today are: Dr. Walter Kaiser, President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is thought by many to be one of the world’s most knowledgeable and esteemed evangelical authorities on the Old Testament and Hebrew language. My second guest is astrophysicist and astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross. He received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Toronto and did post-doctoral research at Caltech on quasars.

We invite you to join us.

Previously on the John Ankerberg Show

Ankerberg: I’d like you guys to define what the positions are.
Mr. Kent Hovind: My position is the very obvious literal scriptural position that everybody would get if they just read the Bible: God created everything in six days, 24 hour days, just like we know today. Any interpretation other than that requires a leader to tell you what it means and you end up with a cult.
Dr. Hugh Ross: Well, I believe that the plain, literal reading of the text is that it’s six long periods of time. There are ten creation accounts in the Bible. It’s not enough to take the Bible literally, we must take it consistently. When you try to make all ten creation accounts say the same thing, it’s quite obvious it is impossible to interpret as six 24-hour days. It must be six long periods of time. As I mentioned previously, we’re talking about a universe that’s expanding. The Bible clearly teaches that, and stars and planets are only possible if the universe has been expanding for billions of years. If it’s just thousands, all you would get is just hydrogen gas. If the Bible clearly taught that it was young I would believe that in spite of my astronomy.

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’ve got a great one for you today. Our guests are Dr. Walter Kaiser and Dr. Hugh Ross. Our topic is the biblical account of creation. We’re all interested in that. What information has God given us in the Scriptures about how and when He created? It’s a fascinating discussion. And you’ve already heard the credentials of my guests, which are impressive.
Hugh, I’d like to start with you. Give us a definition to start with, of what is the Day-Age View that you believe is a literal view that comes right out of the text of Scripture? Define it.
Ross: That God created in six days, but these six days are six consecutive long periods of time. It’s not God using evolutionary mechanisms or natural process. He’s performing divine miraculous interventions step-by-step, through millions of interventions, millions of miracles, to prepare planet Earth for human beings with affluence in technology. I believe He wanted us to have civilization and technology, so that we could rapidly fulfill the Great Commission and, through the Lord’s help, see a quick conquest of evil, and move on to the second creation, the better creation that will follow this.
Ankerberg: All right, Walter, one of the things that has opened the door, at least in my thinking. I can remember when I was one of your students, just a few, couple hours ago [laughter] when your compatriot, Dr. Gleason Archer, he was teaching me Hebrews and you were taking me through the Prophets and Ecclesiastes. I remember walking into Dr. Gleason Archer’s office one day and at that time I was holding to a literal twenty-four-hour day view. And he was writing for Billy Graham’s magazine, Decision magazine. And I said, “What are you doing?”
And he said, “Well, look at what I’m doing.” He says, “I’m writing about the sixth day and what happened.”
And I said, “Well, what did happen?”
And he loaded up on me. Okay? And that was the first time I started thinking that these days that are mentioned in Genesis 1 and 2 can’t be just twenty-four hours. You have written a lot on this. It’s terrific. I’ve heard you lecture on this. I need you to tell our people about the stuff that the text says happened on that sixth day. Wax eloquent on that for us, would you?
Kaiser: Well, John, you know that I was very young when you were there, and that’s only a few years ago, depending on how many days you count. But I really think that that sixth day of creation is a magnificent day. Some have put the days one, two and three and have matched four, five and six parallel to them because we move through the various orders of creation in which God is bringing one sort of act together. Animals, and of course, the most magnificent thing, the point of the whole creation, is man and woman.
And God creates the man and the man is given a task. God has been naming all of the things He has made so far. Now he hands it over to one made in His image. The image of God is what makes mortals, men and women, distinctive from all the other creatures of God. And they have the gift of speech; they have the gift of the ability to love; they have the ability to know. All of these things are spoken of as you go through the rest of Scripture when it talks about of the image of God. It’s a very, very beautiful subject.
But Adam, then, is given the opportunity to name the animals. And you think of the enormity of this task. How much time must this take? If you only gave two minutes to every animal, he would need something like, on a real long, long time here, twenty-five days just to go through that. If he had only used a couple of seconds, even that would have used up his day.
And it’s enough time for him to get lonely. He says, “There’s nothing to do around here.” And God says, “Then why don’t you go to sleep?” And He takes a nap and then God ribs him and builds a woman. He uses the verb “to build” very, very distinctly. And then he wakes Adam up and brings this lovely creature. And this man who has seen everything pass by – “Yeah, ‘tiger,’ ‘zebra,’ ‘lion,’ ‘elephant,’” you know – but none of them his type.
But when he sees this babe, oh, man, he lights up like a Christmas tree. And he says, “Now, at last!” There’s a Hebrew expression there, happa‘am – “after all of this time!” It’s used in Scripture of a long period of time in all of its usages there. But he is so excited. This boy is happy. And he says, “Now you’re talking! This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” which means “family propinquity.” He says, “She’s my kind.” And he is delighted with what God has done.
So, that sixth day is packed. It’s just jam packed with all of the creative work of God. But God is still ordering the whole process and commanding it and sharing with this man who is made in His image the naming process.
You only name things that are your own. When God names the land, God names the sea, God names the light – the greater light and lesser light – that’s because He is the Father of it. We name our children because we’re the fathers. We call the kids down the street something but that doesn’t stick. It’s only their parents that have the right to name them. And God names everything and there’s a theology, then, of God’s owning it because He created it and He is there also providentially to help them. I could go on with some more, but it’s an exciting day.
Ankerberg: Hugh?
Ross: Walter, even before he names all the animals Adam is put to work by God to tend the Garden.
Kaiser: Oh, yes. Yes.
Ross: And this is a magnificent Garden. So the task of tending it and working it is not a trivial task.
Kaiser: Yeah.
Ross: You know, he literally had three careers. Here he is a gardener and then he’s working with the animals, he’s in animal husbandry…
Kaiser: Yes.
Ross: And he goes through this operation. Now he has a third career.
Kaiser: He was outside the Garden and God put him in the Garden to work it, so….
Ross: Exactly! So there was time outside the Garden, and then he was put in the Garden, worked the plants. The whole point is, you just can’t jam all that stuff into a few seconds at the end of a twenty-four-hour period. And keep in mind, God created a lot of animals before He created Adam. So that was all going on in the sixth day as well.
Ankerberg: All right, so drive that point in. Conclusion?
Kaiser: Well, the conclusion is that God is the Master Workman here. And God is doing an enormous amount of activities. And what we have is in capsule form. What looks like, “Oh, He could have done that in a flash,” but actually, He deliberately uses the words there “to work, to tend the Garden;” the naming process; the getting lonely process. I mean, you don’t just get lonely after, and say, “Okay, these three minutes. I’m lonely.”
Ross: Right.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break in a moment. Before we do, for all the people that have missed the first couple of programs, summarize why we believe that yom, the literal interpretation of the Bible leads to long periods of time, and not a literal twenty-four-hour day. Kind of summarize the points we’ve already gone through.
Kaiser: Context! Context! Context! It is the Scripture’s right to first determine that meaning. We have three of these yoms that are before, on the fourth day, God creates twenty-four-hour ones. We have “evening” then “morning”, which don’t complete the whole cycle. And we begin with the evening, for pity’s sake. I would have thought we’d started with the morning. But we begin with the evening, go to the morning, and we still haven’t finished up the afternoon and come around. And also because Moses, the same one, gives us one Psalm, Psalm 90, and he says, “I’ll give you an analogy. If a day, a yom, with the Lord is like a thousand years.” And that’s not to say it equals a millennium, but he is saying, “Do you understand, in the enormity of the magnificence of God? How big is our idea of God?” Does He have to come down to our little use of words? No. Let Him define His words first.
Ross: So it’s three different literal definitions for yom.
Kaiser: Yeah. Exactly.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break and when we come back, we’re going to hit another very emotional topic, a doctrinal topic: “Was there any death in the world before Adam sinned?” Because obviously, if we have long periods of time, and the scientists come in and say, “You know, we’ve got a lot of geological strata out there that shows there were a lot of animals in existence a long time ago, and that happened before Adam, did those animals die before Adam?” Obviously, yes. What about Romans 5? When did sin come in? What happened? It seems like death came because of sin. So do we have a problem?
And folks, we’re going to hear the answers when we come right back.


Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Walter Kaiser, who is an expert on the languages of the Bible, and Dr. Hugh Ross, who is an astrophysicist and an astronomer.
And now we come, Gentlemen, to a very important question: “Was there any death in the world before Adam sinned? Or did Adam’s sin bring death not only to man, but to the plant and animal world as well?”
If, we’ve been arguing, that Moses opened the door by the use of yom and the way that he did in the context of Genesis 1 and 2, there could be a longer period of time. And if we try to reconcile that with what we find from the science today, that we have these strata where we find all the fossil record, the fossil record predates Adam. Animals and plants died. We have huge bio-deposits that come about as a result of that. Okay?
So, in our questions about theodicy, about “Is God a good God?”, all of this enters in right here. What’s going on? It takes in the Fall, what happened there; and it also takes in Romans 5:12, “Just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; in this way death came to all men.” Here is how the critics of the Day-Age View frame it. Okay:
“Probably,” they say, “the most serious problem with [the Progressive Creation, or Day-Age View] is the origin of death and suffering.” They say, “A straightforward interpretation of Genesis shows that death of humans and vertebrate animals… is the result >of Adam’s fall. But if long ages are true, then the fossil record must predate Adam by millions of years…. [Day-Age advocates]… try to reinterpret the Scriptures….”
We’ve got to see, Walter, are you reinterpreting the Scriptures that talk about death in order to deny that the Fall was responsible? “Adam’s death,” they say, “is relegated to merely spiritual; animal death is apparently still ‘very good,’ and animal suffering is no big deal because plants suffer death, too.”
So this is an emotional argument as well. So start us off. Let’s go to the main verse here, one of the main verses, Romans 5:12: “Just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” What is Paul teaching in the New Testament that goes back to the Genesis account?
Kaiser: John, I thought you were going to say, “And so death came to all creation.” You didn’t say that. You said, “death came to all men” – which is “generic” there; I take it it must be the ladies, too. But that’s understood. I have never heard anyone say that a trilobite is a sinner. I’ve never heard anyone say that a zebra was a sinner.
Look, death entered the world because man sinned, and so death passed upon all men. If we’re going to be radically biblical, and if that’s what we’re up to, then we’ve got to go back to the text. And the text says, “So death passed upon all mortals.” It didn’t pass to all of the created order. There may be an argument for that, but it’s not in this verse.
And the paramount one, of course, is 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam ALL die, even so in Christ” – now, most people won’t put the emphasis on for the next one but it is: “even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive, BUT” [verse 23] each in his squad, each in his own platoon. “Christ the first-fruits, then those that are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end.” So look how many are raised, the same amount – well, at least potentially – those that got in trouble. But it’s still mortals.
So, John, I think you’ve got special pleading in your question there. I don’t see how you can get the rest of creation involved from those verses.
Now, we’re arguing about Romans 5 and we’re arguing about 1 Corinthians 15. And we’re arguing about, “Who really takes the Bible seriously? Who take it literally? Now, I’d like to claim that award.”
Ankerberg: Hugh?
Ross: Well, it’s important. These are the only two passages in the Bible that really talk about what kind of death was brought into effect through Adam’s sin. This is the total. And notice how careful Paul is to qualify what kind of death we’re talking about. I think it’s important to remind people that Paul defines four different kinds of death in the book of Romans, therefore he is careful to explain in each context what kind of death he’s addressing.
Ankerberg: What are the four kinds of death?
Ross: Well, I mean, you’ve got death to the Law; you’ve got death to sin; you’ve got physical death of humanity; and spiritual death. And the other point to that question you read is, “This is when spiritual death was visited upon humanity: when they sinned.” But this text, Romans 5, as you read on, makes it clear that the consequence of that spiritual death was physical death. So it’s a physical and spiritual death of humanity that was brought into effect from Adam’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden. And the fact that Paul is so careful of the qualifiers means that he intended to omit the plants and animals from this discussion.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Walter, if the critics are right – this is not spiritual death that Paul is talking about in Romans 5 – then the snake and Satan were right, and God was wrong when He said to Adam…. Tell me the story.
Kaiser: “The day you eat of it, you shall die.” But Adam lives for 930 years. So you’re going to have a critic come back and say, “Ah-ha! See that! He didn’t die.” You meant physical death, didn’t you? And the point was, he died spiritually, which involved, of course, ultimately physical death. But if you’re going to argue from the get-go that it was physical death, then like Ananias and Sapphira in the Book of Acts, they should have boom! dropped dead right there. But they go on and they live to 930 years.
Ankerberg: Yeah. I think this is so important. What is the “curse,” then, in Genesis 3:17-19? Let me read it for you and then you can comment: “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken, for you are dust and to dust you shall return.’”
Adam sinned, died spiritually, God places the curse on him, and now he’s going to physically die as well. Talk about what’s going on here.
Kaiser: There’s spiritual death and then there is what comes as a curse upon all of the work that he is going to do. It’s “by the sweat of his brow,” if you don’t mind a little bit of German: “the sweat of his Frau” that they’re going to be able to sustain life and it’s going to come the hard way. Why? Because they’ve wandered away from God, and now, therefore, He has put this as a new work habit into their lives. And eventually it results in their physical death.
Ankerberg: Hugh?
Ross: Yeah. I think Adam knew what death was all about when God told him in the Garden of Eden, “The day that you eat of that fruit you will die.” Keep in mind that God created Adam outside of Eden and placed him in Eden. So Adam saw the thorns and thistles. He saw the death that was going on there. So when God talked to him about it, he knew the context. God didn’t have to explain it.
Ankerberg: Is there a theological problem with animals and plants dying before sin enters the world?
Ross: Well, plants and animals, unlike us human beings, are not eternal. They’re made from the dust; they’ll return to the dust. That’s the end of their existence. And so we need to recognize, we alone are in the image of God. And death takes on a whole new context for us compared to the animals. The animals don’t face judgment. And what really makes death such a terrifying experience for humanity is that we all know judgment’s coming. The atheists know that and they live their lives accordingly. And we have to be careful not to anthropomorphize the suffering we go through in anticipation of future death upon the animal kingdom. Their experience of death, their experience of pain and suffering, is different from ours, because they don’t have that sense of anticipation.
Kaiser: And not all pain is bad. Philip Yancey and others say it’s really good, when you put your hand over a flame, that there’s pain there that tells you to draw back. Otherwise it would be the same thing as in a leprosarium, where they lose the feeling in their digits and some of their members, so that that would not be very helpful at all. It is God’s right to really define the use and how these things are brought together. There’s enough we don’t know about in the whole mystery of the creation of God to make a whole other new world.
Ankerberg: Alright, next week: When did God institute the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which a lot of folks call “the Law of Decay”? Did it come in before Adam, or when Adam sinned? I hope that you’ll join us.

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