This Chapter Examines the most commonly presented Biblical young-earth arguments and presents Biblical reasons why they are invalid.
Chapter 3 Contents
- Why a Stunbling Block?
- Arguments for 24-hour days:
- One Last Argument (God’s Creation)
Chapter 3: The Present-Day Stumbling Block
“Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” – Matthew 18:7, N.A.S. Italics theirs.
Why a Stumbling Block?
The whole question concerning the age of the universe hangs on the length of the six creative “days” in the first chapter of Genesis. There the entire process of creation, from the heavens right down to man, is described as a sequence of six “days.” This chapter will investigate some Biblical information concerning the length of those “days.” More specifically, it will consider those arguments which are presented in support of the position that they must be six consecutive twenty-four-hour periods. Because nearly all scientists assure us that the events described within those six “days” covered a span of billions of years, we ought to examine the Biblical information very carefully.
Christians are often inclined to take the young-earth position simply because it appears to be the plainest reading of the Bible. In the first chapter, we learned why we should be more careful than this: Ancient writings, like Genesis, can be difficult to understand; the plainest reading may not necessarily be the correct one. God may actually have intended a meaning in Genesis which is different from the plain reading.
If the “days” in the first chapter of Genesis were longer than twenty-four hours in length, we might wonder why God chose a word (the Hebrew “yom” meaning “day”) which would tend to hide the truth from men of our present day. He certainly would have realized this would cause complications. Would God knowingly allow people to miss the truth? Clearly, before even the soundest of arguments for the old-earth interpretation can be taken seriously, this question needs to be answered.
Is it possible that God might have worded His truth in a way which would hide it from people? Is there any scriptural evidence for this? As it turns out, there is. Consider the reason Jesus spoke in parables. There is no need to speculate about this because Jesus Himself explained the reason to His disciples in Matthew:
“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
“In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'” – Matthew 13:11-15, Emphasis mine.
This is an example of God, in scripture, intentionally hiding the truth from His own chosen people. God’s reason, it appears, is to allow them to make their own choices. Those who do not want to see the truth do not have to see it.
Although God never lies, 1 it seems He does not always present His truth in the very plainest possible manner. God hides His messages in Biblical parables and buries His truths deeply in the earth’s crust. Although we may have to keep our eyes open and search diligently to discover the truth, we will never find a lie in either God’s Bible or His universe.
There is an important difference between hiding the truth and outright deception. God will never lie. Following God’s example, parents should not lie to their children; but it is often a good idea to hide things from them – especially potentially dangerous things. Other times, rewards are hidden which are intended to be found; an Easter egg hunt is an example of this. Parents who hide Easter eggs often hide them differently for children of different ages. Younger children are given a head start. This is necessary if the hunt is to be fair to everyone.
There are different spiritual abilities too. The Jews had an advantage over the Gentiles in recognizing the Messiah. They were the ones who had studied the scriptures which spelled out exactly what the Messiah must be like (Psalm 22). They had been warned of the exact time of His coming (Daniel 9:25, 26). Paul refers to the advantages given them as being, “much in every way” (Romans 3:2). Yet Jesus was a “stumbling block” for them (1 Corinthians 1:23). Jesus presented Himself to them in a form which they found too hard to accept. Was it because God deliberately hid the truth from them? Paul says that it was:
“What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written:
“‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.'” – Romans 11:7, 8.
Apparently this was deliberate. It looks like a case of God evening up people’s chances. 2 For another example look at 1 Corinthians 1:26, 27:
“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. …”
Here again we see God evening things up. He has chosen things which are foolish and weak to offset the advantages held by the wise and strong.
God hides things from the wise and intelligent and reveals them to little children (Luke 10:21). Fortunately, the wise and intelligent can find even hidden things if they are honestly looking for them. In Proverbs 25:2, Solomon tells us:
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”
God has concealed things for the wise (like Solomon’s “kings”) to search out; children are given the extra help they need. Anyone who seeks will find (Matthew 7:7, 8). God rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). A lack of intelligence will not hinder a sincere seeker. On the other hand, if a man is not seeking God, his intelligence will not help him. Somehow, whether we are wise or simple, God’s accessibility is always the same for us; but how is this possible? How can the weak and simple find God when the wise and strong are sometimes unable to?
God’s methods of revelation accomplish this; He often reveals his truth in a manner which conceals it from the wise and strong. The mysteries of the kingdom are spoken in parables; the “stumbling block” keeps the Jews from having any obvious spiritual advantage over the Gentiles; and the foolishness of preaching prevents the wise from coming to Jesus if their spiritual condition warrants otherwise. With regard to fairness, concealment appears to be the rule rather than the exception. 3 Wise men are expected to see past it; little children are given help. This insures that access to God’s kingdom depends on whether a man is sincerely seeking and not on his intelligence, education or strength.
Genesis 1 presents a situation where hiding truth might be necessary to balance different people’s spiritual opportunities. If it had been written plainly, the large amount of accurate scientific detail in that one short chapter would be overwhelming proof that Genesis was not written with mere human knowledge but by God Himself. Genesis describes discoveries which were not made until this century. Having this on the very first page of the Bible simply could not be ignored. Scientists would not be able to close their eyes and ears; they would be logically forced to become Christians. 4 Unfortunately, this would not be an advantage to those who did not have access to modern scientific knowledge. People who were less educated, or who simply were not born in this century, would find themselves at a spiritual disadvantage.
Because God sometimes arranges things to reduce unfairness, He might have intentionally concealed the evidence in Genesis 1 from modern scientists by using archaic and cryptic language. Although there are other methods God might have used, this is certainly a possibility. Because scientific knowledge has increased, God might have used a “stumbling block” to insure that scientists do not gain an advantage over the rest of us. The apparent “foolishness” of the term “day” in the first chapter of Genesis could easily be because of this.
At this point, some readers might be wondering why Christians seem to be misled by God’s term “day” while scientists – even those who are atheists – are allowed to see the truth about the age of the universe. Although this might appear to be backwards, it really is not; remember, this camouflage has been applied to the Bible, not to the universe. What is really the issue in God’s eyes is not who knows how old the universe is and who doesn’t – but who has believed His word and has received His son Jesus as savior and who hasn’t. Here, where it really matters, the Christians (including those creationists who err concerning the earth’s age) have not been blinded by the wording of Genesis 1 while the atheists (including those scientists who know correctly the earth’s age) have been blinded. It is exactly this spiritual condition which the blinding is aimed at – not the specific dates and ages.
Now that we understand why God might have worded Genesis in a way which could confound even the wise, we will be more inclined to evaluate young-earth arguments with adequate caution. The following seven arguments have been given by young-earth creationists for why the Genesis “days” must be six consecutive twenty-four hour periods. 5
Arguments for 24-hour days:
- That the twenty-four-hour interpretation is the most literal reading of the text; God should have used alternate wording if He had intended the “age” interpretation.
- That Genesis 1:14 forces the twenty-four-hour interpretation by using “yom” (the Hebrew word for “day”) in a context which excludes the “age” possibility.
- That the use of the expression “evening and morning” forces the twenty-four-hour interpretation.
- That the use of a number appended to the word “day” forces the twenty-four-hour interpretation.
- That the twenty-four-hour interpretation is forced by the reference to Genesis 1 from Exodus 20:9-11, where our work week is explained.
- That the “age” interpretation must be wrong since it carries a consequence that death must have preceded sin and the fall.
- That the “age” interpretation is merely to accommodate the evolutionists.
These are typical of arguments given in support of the young-earth position; they are intended to be representative of the best arguments given. Their full text is provided in Appendix 2 so readers may examine these arguments in their original context.
Although this appears to be an impressive battery, each of these arguments contains at least one fatal flaw. This will be seen as they are examined one at a time. We must remember that these are all just theological theories designed by fallible men. Not one of them is actual scripture. Theories can never be proven true; but each of these will be proved false as it is examined in detail.
That the twenty-four-hour interpretation is the most literal reading of the text; God should have used alternate wording if He had intended the “age” interpretation.
This certainly seems true. Although the Hebrew word for day “yom” can also refer to an indefinate period of time, this is not obvious to an English reader today; but, as we have seen, this is what we might expect even if the “age” interpretation is the correct one. God sometimes hides truth from the wise and Genesis 1 is a natural target for this; there is a need to be fair to nonscientists. In any case, Genesis is an extermely ancient writing; it was not originally written in plain English and is likely to be difficult to understand.
Even so, the actual text must tell the truth; furthermore, we ought to be able to see it if we are honestly looking for it. Because scriptural authority must not be compromised, only the literal interpretations will be accepted here. Spiritual, symbolic or figurative interpretations will be rejected. While it is true that the twenty-four-hour sense of the word “yom” is far more common than the “age” sense, the “age” meaning is still a literal rendering of “yom.” It is not spiritual, symbolic or figurative. This was seen in the previous chapter from the parallel between the ancient Hebrew “yom” and the modern English “day.” Also, “day” was used this way in Genesis 2:17. The twenty-four-hour and “age” interpretations are both literal. Although the twenty-four-hour meaning for “yom” is more common or more plain reading, it is not really more literal than the “age” meaning.
Argument #1, for the twenty-four-hour interpretation, does not hold up under strict inspection. The decision on the length of the Genesis “days” should be made on some other basis.
That Genesis 1:14 forces the twenty-four-hour interpretation by using “yom” in a context which excludes the “age” possibility.
This argument says that since the word “days” 6 in verse 14 is used in a context which can only mean a sequence of twenty-four-hour periods, other usages of the word “day” in the same passage must follow suit and also refer to twenty-four-hour periods. 7
The use of the same word in a closely related passage is a good general rule of interpretation; but this rule must not be applied carelessly. Because the word “day” is used many times in this passage, all of the usages should be considered to get the whole picture – not just one from verse 14.
In the first two chapters, 8 where the “days” in question are found, the word “day” occurs fifteen times and the word “days” once. The single occurrence of the word “days” carries the twenty-four-hour meaning. Of the remaining fifteen usages, nine refer to the days of creation themselves. No assumptions can be made about them because that would be “begging the question.” 9 Of the remaining six, the context forces the twelve-hour daylight meaning (as opposed to night) four times and a greater-than-twenty-four-hour meaning twice. 10
Because “day” is used so many different ways, this rule gives different results depending upon how it is applied. There are three different possible meanings for “day” used in the surrounding context. Obviously, this rule is not infallible. 11 After all, it is not scripture itself, just a fallible human theory about scripture. Again, the decision about the length of the creative days must be made on some other basis.
That the use of the Hebrew expression “evening and morning” forces the twenty-four-hour interpretation.
This argument is presented as if it were a general rule of interpreting scripture; but no reason is provided as to why it should be considered a valid one – especially considering the antiquity of the text. Like the word “day” the Hebrew words for “evening” and “morning” (“arab” and “boqer”) both have multiple definitions. It can be seen from Psalm 90:14 that “Morning” carries a meaning which is not tied to a twenty-four-hour day:
“O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” – K.J.V. Emphasis mine.
Here, the Hebrew word “boqer” (emphasized word) was translated as “early” rather than “in the morning” because it was obvious from context that “in the early part of a person’s lifetime” rather than “in the morning of a particular twenty-four-hour period” was what the Psalmist had intended; otherwise, whether the blessing came in the morning or the evening would have very little to do with how much time would remain for rejoicing during that person’s lifetime. 12
But what about when “evening and morning” appear together as argument #3 requires? Psalm 90:14 does not exactly apply because “evening” and “morning” are not both used there. “Evening” and “morning” occur together many places in the Bible. In the first chapter of Genesis, this happens six times. Other usages are: Exodus 18:13, 14 & 27:21; Leviticus 24:3; Numbers 9:21; 1 Samuel 17:16; 13 1 Chron. 16:40; 2 Chron. 2:4 & 31:3; Ezra 3:3; Job 4:20; Psalm 55:17 and Daniel 8:26. As can be seen from examining context of these verses, the expression usually carries the idea of “continuously.” For example, instruction may be given to do something “evening and morning.” Not only is the thing to be done in the evening and in the morning, but it is also understood that it is to be done day after day. The Living Bible renders the expression “Day and night” in Exodus 27:21. Other acceptable paraphrasings might be “day after day” or even “around the clock” in some cases.
At first glance, the sense of “continuously” does not seem to fit into the context of Genesis 1 no matter which interpretation is assigned to the six days; but it is possible that this phrase is telling us that each of God’s creative acts merely commenced on the particular day named and then continued during subsequent days. If this were the case, either interpretation (“age” or twenty-four-hour) would fit equally well.
None of the usages of evening and morning appear to limit an event to just twenty-four hours. Job 4:20 speaks figuratively of men’s “houses” of clay which are destroyed between “morning and evening.” This process seems slow to men but not to God. Daniel 8:26 relates a vision of Daniel’s which covered future dynasties of man up until the end time.
“And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.” – Daniel 8:26, K.J.V. Italics theirs.
Here the expression “evening and morning” appears to mean something like “from beginning to end” – the entire rule of man. The translators of both the N.I.V. and N.A.S. Bibles rendered the phrase as “evenings and mornings” – apparently to make the greater-than-twenty-four-hour meaning more clear to modern readers. (“Evening” and “morning” are both singular in the Hebrew.) Daniel seems to confirm the greater-than-twenty-four-hour meaning, but the confirmation is weak; Genesis and Daniel represent very different times and cultures. 14
In any case, the presence of the expression “evening and morning” does not by itself establish that the “days” of creation were twenty-four hours in length. It would seem there is still no clear way to decide how to interpret the word “day.” As before, the decision should be made on some other basis.
That the use of a number appended to the word “day” forces the twenty-four-hour interpretation.
Like argument #3, this argument is also presented as if it were a general rule of interpretation. The problem with this is there is no reason why God should only be permitted to number twenty-four-hour periods of time. It will be shown from scripture that the use of a number appended to the word “day” can sometimes refer to a greater-than-twenty-four-hour period.
Consider the “last” day. Although “last” is not strictly a number, it is certainly grammatically analogous to “first” and hence must be given consideration here. Isaiah 30:8 reads:
“… That it may serve in the time to come As a witness forever.” – N.A.S.
The phrase “in the time to come” has been translated from two Hebrew words meaning “for the day” and “latter” 15 – or in other words, “for the last day.” This translator (N.A.S.) rendered “day” as “time” because it is obvious from context that an indefinite period is what was intended. This should not be a surprise to anyone. The N.I.V. translated “yom” singular as “days” plural here. The effect is the same.
For another example, the number “one” appended to the word “day” can also refer to a daylight period of indefinite length. Zechariah 14:7 says:
“But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night; but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.” – K.J.V. Emphasis mine, italics theirs.
This is a description of the new Jerusalem in which there will be no night (Revelation 22:5). Notice that in this verse, the one single “day” (daylight period) is understood to last for a long indefinite period of time. Here the phrase “one day” and back in Genesis 1:5 the phrase “the first day” are both translated from the exact same Hebrew phrase “yom echad.”
God is certainly as free to number indefinite periods of time as He is to number twenty-four-hour ones. Days two through seven deserve parallel treatment for this reason.
Argument #4 is inconclusive. The rule of “a number appended to the word ‘day'” can be used against the twenty-four-hour interpretation as well as for it; parallel applications of the rule speak of long “days.” It appears that the numbers appended to the “days” in Genesis prove nothing at all about the length or meaning of those days. Again, the decision must be made on some other basis.
That the twenty-four-hour interpretation is forced by the reference to Genesis 1 from Exodus 20:9-11, where our work week is explained.
In Exodus 20:9-11, God gives the reason for our six days of work to one day of rest schedule:
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, … For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.”
Because our days are twenty-four-hour days and because they are modeled after God’s, it would seem to follow that God’s days must have been twenty-four-hour ones also; but there is more information which must also be taken into account. Leviticus 25:3, 4 says:
“For six years sow your fields, … But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, …”
Although it doesn’t specifically so state, it is clear that this was also modeled after God’s work week. It cannot also follow that God’s “days” were 365-day years. Likewise it does not really follow from our work week that God’s “days” were twenty-four hours long.
What argument #5 is doing wrong is confusing the object with its shadow. Many things in the Bible are merely shadows of greater heavenly truths. Paul referred to this in Colossians 2:16, 17:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
This is also seen in Hebrews 8:5:
“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.”
Both our work week and the work “week” of our fields are shadows of God’s work “week.” His week was not modeled after ours but ours after His. It is never very safe to make absolute conclusions about the nature of an object by merely looking at its shadow. God’s work week has cast shadows of two different lengths – six days and six years. Nothing can be determined from this about the length of God’s week. The only common denominator seems to be the 6:1 work to rest ratio.
Notice also what Hebrews says:
“For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: ‘And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.’ And again in the passage above he says, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ It still remains that some will enter that rest, … There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God [did] from his.” – Hebrews 4:4-10, Emphasis and brackets mine. (The bracketed word is not present in the original Greek of the New Testament.) 16
Here it sounds very much as if God’s Sabbath rest is still in progress and is the same rest 17 that we are to enter into. 18 It would seem that at least God’s seventh day is longer than twenty-four hours. If God’s day of rest is still in progress, then there appears to be a reason why the description for the seventh day in Genesis 2:2, 3 does not end with the expected concluding expression, “evening and morning – the seventh day”; the seventh day itself would not yet have seen its conclusion. If the seven days were all twenty-four hours long, this omission would be difficult to understand.
Because argument #5 is based on a mere shadow, it is therefore a very weak argument. It certainly would not stand against any physical evidence to the contrary. In fact, as we have seen, there is even some scriptural indication that God’s Sabbath day is still in progress. The final decision about the length of the creative days must not be based on this argument either.
That the “age” interpretation must be wrong since it carries a consequence that death must have preceded sin and the fall.
The “age” interpretation does disagree with some traditional beliefs concerning the fall. According to the fossil evidence, the dinosaurs became extinct more than sixty million years before man was created. This means they must have died before Adam’s fall. Furthermore, there is scientific evidence that many creatures, from before the time of men, ate other animals. 19 The evidence says there was animal death before Adam.
Although this disagrees with a popular scriptural theory, it is not in disagreement with scripture itself. Scripture gives no reason why animals couldn’t have died before Adam’s sin. Adam was told that he would die as a result of his own sin. Paul points out that men who lived between Adam and Moses also died as a result of Adam’s sin; but nowhere does the Bible say that animals die as a consequence of human sin. 20 (Of course those particular animals which were sacrificed as a sin offering are excepted.)
In support of Argument #6, young-earth creationists often cite Romans 5:12:
“… just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-.” – Emphasis mine
This tells us that human death entered through Adam’s sin but says nothing specifically about animal or plant death. This verse does not say all death entered the world through sin any more than Genesis says Eve gave birth to animals as well as men:
“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” – Genesis 3:20, Emphasis mine.
Clearly “all the living” refers only to humans. Insisting on the very plainest reading often violates simple common sense. Because Paul specifically said death came to “all men,” it is unreasonable to insist that he intended more than that.
Presumably, anyone who believes that animals did not die before Adam sinned must believe that up until that time carnivores ate plants in the same manner that, “a lion shall eat straw like the ox,” 21 during the millennium (Isaiah 11:7). Even so, there must have been some form of death before Adam’s fall. At the very least some parts of plants must have “died” to feed those animals. It is therefore plain that at least some form of plant death was in the world before Adam sinned. 22 It follows that when Paul said that death entered through sin, he could not possibly have meant all death.
In fact, there was even a man who lived and died after Adam yet was not under the curse of sin and death at all; Jesus was that exception. Consider what it was about Him that made Him acceptable as a sacrifice for our sins when no other human would do. The answer is, of course, that He was not guilty of sin; neither was He under its curse (Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5). Only a man who had no sin, original or personal, would be properly qualified.
Now, if “all men” inherited Adam’s original fallen nature, how is it that Jesus escaped this curse? Even those men who lived between Adam and Moses – those who had broken no specific law themselves – were under the curse of sin and owed the same price which Adam had to pay! None of them transgressed; yet they all died. Why was Jesus’ death a sacrifice and not merely payment due?
One possibility stems from the fact that Jesus had no human father even though He did have a human mother. According to this theory, we somehow inherit original sin through our father’s bloodline. 23 Another possibility is that God miraculously intervened and thus severed the connection to Adam’s sin. Were it not for some such explanation, Jesus would have inherited Adam’s original sin and could not have been “without sin” as the Bible establishes that He was. This seems to be why Adam’s sin nature, and its inevitable consequence, was not passed on to Jesus as it was to everyone else; one way or another, Jesus was not entirely connected to Adam’s lineage.
Now what about animals? Is there any possible way that they could have inherited Adam’s sin nature? Of course not! They are not connected to Adam’s bloodline in any way whatsoever. Therefore, they cannot be included with us in our fallen state. This is probably why they could be used for the Old Testament sacrifices; they were innocent.
Apparently, present-day animals are not under the curse of Adam’s sin; yet they still die physically. It follows that animal death is not a result of Adam’s sin. Animals would be dying even if Adam had not sinned. Ancient animals, which preceded Adam’s fall, would also have died. This difference between Adam and the animals – that he might not have died while they would have in any case – was probably a result of Adam having been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) while the animals were not.
So argument #6, like arguments #1 through #5, also fails to throw the case in favor of the twenty-four-hour interpretation. Although the old-earth creationist’s position carries the consequence that animal death must have preceded Adam’s sin, this argument does not eliminate the old-earth position as a possibility. There really is no Biblical reason why animals could not have died before Adam’s fall. Once again, the decision must be made on some other basis.
That the “age interpretation” is merely to accommodate the evolutionists.
This author is an old-earth creationist, not an evolutionist. He has no desire to accommodate any error – not even that of his fellow creationists. Argument #7 is not applicable in this case; and in any case, decisions should always be founded on the actual evidence – not on the biases or motives (real or imagined) of the various individuals who happen to hold the different positions.
This argument also encounters a difficulty with history. The realization that the earth is old came many years before Darwin’s theory. 24 Therefore, it could not possibly have been an attempt to accommodate evolution in any way whatsoever.
One Last Argument
Each of the arguments for the twenty-four-hour-day position has been examined and found to be inconclusive at best. Some of them even suggest the “days” were longer than twenty-four hours. There seems to be no scriptural proof that the “days” of Genesis were consecutive twenty-four-hour periods. If there is any such proof, this author has not seen it; but there is proof that those days were not consecutive twenty-four hour periods.
The Bible is truth; but God has written other truth as well. The universe is also God’s work. The very same God who created the Bible also created the physical universe. God does not lie – ever. The Bible is quite clear about that. 25 He did not lie during the thousands of years when He was “writing” the Bible. He did not lie as He “wrote” the universe either.
In case there is any doubt, we are told in the Bible that we see truth when we study God’s universe:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” – Psalm 19:1, 2.
The Bible even tells us we can learn spiritual truth from God’s creation:
“God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…” – Romans 1:20.
The Bible is God’s word and should be taken to mean exactly what it says – literally! How should the universe be read? It has the same author. There is certainly no reason to assume that it should be taken differently than the Bible; God’s universe deserves the same literal reading.
It is difficult to interpret the heavens and the earth correctly. Throughout history men have made many mistakes trying. This does not mean the universe itself cannot be trusted as a source of truth. As is well known, men have made just as many mistakes trying to interpret the Bible; yet the Bible itself can certainly be trusted! In either case, the true reading will not always be the “plainest;” but there will be no lies included in the actual “text.”
The hard evidence for a very old earth is real. This will become clear in the following chapters as some of the most misunderstood aspects of God’s other “book” – the universe – are explored.
There will be stumbling blocks. Jesus said in Matthew 18:7 this was inevitable. However, our responsibility as Christians is to make sure that we do not put them there; there will be “Woe” to those who do! The “days” of Genesis 1 appear to present such stumbling blocks. It is most important that we are not responsible for magnifying these obstacles when we talk to non-Christians. We must not make our preaching more foolish than it absolutely needs to be. There is already enough hindrance in the world to keep scientists from finding their way to Christ without our making it worse!
Chapter 3 Footnotes:
- Numbers 23:19, Hebrews 6:17, 18, Titus 1:2 [Return]
- See also 2 Corinthians 3:14, 15. [Return]
- When God lays down moral law, on the other hand, He is very explicit. [Return]
- If the New Testament were not also accepted, they would at least be forced to become Jews. [Return]
- Some additional arguments which merely allow for this possibility will be dealt with in the next chapter. [Return]
- “Days” is “yamim” in Hebrew which is simply the plural of “yom.” [Return]
- Actually, the only occurrence of “day” (singular) in verse 14 refers to the 12 daylight hours as opposed to night. Only the plural occurrence “days” refers to 24-hour periods. [Return]
- Counting was deliberately suspended at the end of the second chapter. This is because the serpent used the word “day” when he misrepresented God in the third chapter. It is quite possible that he used it differently than God did originally. The serpent’s usage would have only contaminated the statistics. [Return]
- “Begging the Question,” means assuming in advance a conclusion to a particular problem, then using that assumption as data to help determine the solution. This is a form of circular reasoning. [Return]
- Genesis 2:4 uses “yom” (singular) in a context which is usually taken to refer back to several of the creative days. Genesis 2:17, as we have seen, is the “day” in which Adam died. [Return]
- This rule also fails for Matthew 8:22. There Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” The same word “dead” (nekros in the original New Testament Greek) is used twice in this verse and must mean spiritually dead the first time and physically dead the second time. Otherwise we either have corpses burying the dead or living people being buried. [Return]
- This is a literal usage. For comparison, see the figurative usage of evening and morning at Psalm 90:5-6. [Return]
- Here the word for morning is shakam. [Return]
- Daniel 8:26 was written in Hebrew and is therefore at least partially parallel to Genesis. It has not been overlooked that other chapters in Daniel (chapters three through seven and also most of chapter two) were originally written in Aramaic. See the note in The New Scofield Reference Edition Bible, for Daniel 2:4. [Return]
- See Isaiah 30:8 The Interlinear Bible, Jay P. Green Sr., C. 1976, 1979, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 556. [Return]
- The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Rev. Alfred Marshall D.Litt., C. 1958, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 861. It is my belief that, “as God is doing from his,” would be a more correct paraphrasing of this verse. [Return]
- The phrase “that rest,” is translated from a pronoun in the Greek text which clearly refers back to God’s rest. [Return]
- The idea that God’s seventh-day rest is still in progress fits with the rest of scripture where this is mentioned. Jesus said, “My father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” (John 5:17). This was to justify His act of having healed an invalid man on the Sabbath. Notice here that Jesus’ argument would make sense however one interprets the duration of God’s Sabbath; in either case it is understood that God is working during His Sabbath. [Return]
- For example, the fossilized skeletal remains exist of a large fish from the Cretaceous period (long before man appeared) which had swallowed whole a smaller fish of a different species. See, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences, Ed. David G. Smith, C. 1981, Crown Publishers Inc. / Cambridge University Press, N.Y., p. 369. [Return]
- It is possible to interpret Romans 8:19-22 to disagree with this statement; but it is clear that God’s angels are an exception here as they are not under the “bondage of corruption.” Because we must allow for at least this exception, we are unjustified in insisting that animals are included here; they could easily be another exception. [Return]
- As Christians we should have no trouble accepting the reality of this prophecy. God does work miracles. We are assured that one day the lion will eat straw like the ox even though we do not see it happening today. Also, the garden of Eden was a very special place – different in many ways from the rest of the world. While Adam was in the garden, he did not have to cope with thorns and thistles which probably were already created and waiting for him just outside the circle of God’s protection (Genesis 3:18). [Return]
- Of course there is no blood involved in the case of plants – see Hebrews 9:22 – but see the next argument concerning Jesus. Also, if animals were able to digest plants, this means that at least some laws governing decomposition (decay) were in effect at that time. This means the second law of thermodynamics must have worked then just as it does now; life itself depends on this law. [Return]
- If this inheritance were physical, the laws of genetics predict that only males would inherit Adam’s sin. Because we believe otherwise, we must conclude that this would be strictly a spiritual inheritance. [Return]
- The old-earth position was originally proposed by James Hutton during the late 1700’s. Darwin’s theory came during the late 1800’s. Interestingly, Hutton believed God had created the world and would eventually destroy it. Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, Stephen J. Gould, C. 1983, W.W. Norton & Co., N.Y., pp. 84, 85. [Return]
- Numbers 23:19, Hebrews 6:17, 18, Titus 1:2 [Return]