Does the Bible support the Day-Age Theory? Did God take six literal 24-hour days to create the world, or six ages?
The Day-Age Theory is one of the ways in which old-earth creationists account for the sequence recorded in Genesis 1. A literal reading of Genesis 1 says that God created the world, the sun, the plants, the animals, and Adam and Eve in six 24-hour days. There are many who believe that the evidence found in nature, including geology, fossils, and cosmology, point to a longer creation process. One common way to attempt to reconcile Genesis 1 with this interpretation of the evidence is to interpret the "days" as "ages."
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The word for day in Hebrew is yom. It is not without precedence to interpret yom as age. Hebrew is a poetic and symbolic language; and yom is interpreted into English using several different words, such as age, all, once, period, whole. Yom can be used for several different time periods, but usually with a sense of completion. It's also used as eternity and perpetually, which still bring to mind a specifically defined time period.
Still, it should be noted that in the 2247 times it occurs, yom means a regular, 24-hour, day 1800 times.
The debate, then, isn't so much if yom in Genesis 1 means a 24-hour day or an age. From an etymological standpoint, it could mean either, with the advantage to 24 hours. Defining the word is based on the viewpoint of creation held by the individual. If you're a literal six-day, young earth creationist, you're going to say that yom means 24 hours. If you're an old earth creationist, you're going to say it means an unspecified period of time. Ultimately, the argument has nothing to do with the word.
The question, then, is, "Could God have created everything in six literal days?" The question has three different facets.
Is a literal 24-hour yom consistent with the text?
Does the sequence in Genesis 1 make logical sense? If you allow for the presence of God's sovereign power in the form of miracles, it does. For instance, light, day, and night are created in day 1 (1:3-5) but the sun doesn't make an appearance until day 4 (1:14-19). In fact, verses 11-13 say that plants pre-date the sun, which sounds ridiculous until you read Revelation 21:23 and realize God is fully capable of providing nurturing light through His presence alone.
There is evidence in the text that specifically points to yom representing a 24-hour day. In verses 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31 the term day is preceded by "and there was evening and there was morning." Evening is the Hebrew 'ereb and never means anything other than evening. Morning is boqer, and means daybreak. Boqer is interpreted "soon" once, but it never means the advent or beginning of something. For 208 of the 209 times it's used in the Old Testament, it means the period of time when the sun is coming up. And with 132 appearances, 'ereb never means the end of anything; it just means night.
Is a literal 24-hour yom consistent with an objective interpretation of the scientific data?
This is a more difficult question, not because science disproves a six-day creation, but because even now our understanding of the world is so limited. It's only recently that scientists began to realize how incredibly fast the Big Bang occurred — which may prove consistent with the earth being formed on day 1. But even secular physicists can't agree on the correct interpretation of the data. Christian scientists, too, are at odds. Some look at the fossil and geological record and see millions of years. Others see the work of the Flood. There isn't the data to derive how God created the cosmos yet. If there were, there wouldn't be so much arguing.
Is a literal 24-hour yom consistent with Scripture as a whole?
Does the definition of yom in Genesis 1 have bearing on the theological beliefs expressed in the rest of the Bible? In other words, does it matter?
It does. A literal 24-hour yom is the only scenario that is consistent with the commentary on the fall of man. Romans 5:12 says that Adam and Eve's sin heralded death; there was no death before their sin. There is no way to wiggle around this without rejecting the literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Plants and animals could not have existed for multiple ages before Adam and Eve without dying.
One of the primary verses used to support the Day-Age Theory is 2 Peter 3:8 which reads, in part, "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The passage has nothing to do with creation, however, and is not meant to define how God experiences time, since He is timeless. Instead, it is meant to encourage us while we wait for Jesus' return.
In the end, the Day-Age Theory is an attempt to interpret Genesis 1 with an old-earth creation worldview. It is unnecessary for the mechanics of creation, indefensible with science, and inconsistent with the Bible's teaching on original sin. There are many strong, faithful believers who hold to the Day-Age Theory, but it is not supported by a literal interpretation of the Scriptures.
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