The six days of Genesis are specifically marked with recognizable the boundaries of evening and morning as well as sequential ordinals (i.e. The first day, the second day…)
- Genesis 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light…” and there was evening and there was morning – the first day.
- Genesis 1:6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament between the waters…” and there was evening and there was morning – the second day
- Genesis 1:9 Then God said, “Let the dry ground appear…” and there was evening and there was morning – the third day
- Genesis 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the heavens…” and there was evening and there was morning – the fourth day
- Genesis 1:20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with living creatures…” and there was evening and there was morning – the fifth day
- Genesis 1:24 Then God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kind…” and there was evening and there was morning – the sixth day
It would be correct to say that a day can be used as referencing a period of time (i.e. “In my day…” or “In the days of the Romans…”), but this is not properly applied to the days of Genesis 1 because of the boundaries of evening and morning as well as the ordinals. John Walton, in his book The Lost World of Genesis One seems to think that the days can be interpreted more broadly to incorporate long time frames. But this is inconsistent with the majority of Hebrew scholars:
Walton admits that his view is not one which would be supported by many other scholars (p. 44) and, indeed, this is true. James Barr, who was Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at Oxford University, wrote:
“ … probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that
creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience
the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story.
Walton seems also to have changed his mind regarding the historicity if the Genesis account after getting a grant from BioLogos in 2013 to tour the country because in 2001, he wrote:
“We cannot be content to ask, ‘Can the word bear the meaning I would like it to have?’ We must instead try to determine what the author and audience would have understood from the usage in the context. With this latter issue before us, it is extremely difficult to conclude that anything other than a twenty-four hour day was intended. It is not the text that causes people to think otherwise, only the demands of trying to harmonize with modern science.” -John H. Walton, Genesis, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 81–82
It seems clear that in order to combine the elements that are required for the evolutionary origins story with the Bible, people are having to invent new ways to interpret scriptures. This process is called eisegesis, which is defined as “an interpretation, esp. of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text.” What is truly needed when looking at the scriptures for interpretation is exegesis, which is “critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, esp. of the Bible.”
More than anything else, Paul encourages the young believers in the 1st century churches to beware of false teachers who try to bring their false doctrines into the church. In I Corinthians 11:3, Paul warns the Corinthian church to beware of the temptations that the serpent used to deceive Eve. Looking back in Genesis, we see that the serpent began to put doubt into what God had said. What did the serpent say to Eve in the garden to tempt her? “Did God REALLY say…?” We see this same question come up in regards to the Bible today by those who would try to inject the evolutionary origins story into the Bible. To get it to fit, God’s Word has to be questioned or reinterpreted. “Did God REALLY say that he created in six days?” “Did God REALLY say birds and fish were created on the 5th day?” When people questioned the validity of God’s Word in the garden, it brought terrible pain for all of mankind. When people question God’s Word today, they are ignoring Paul’s warning to the Corinthians. Paul’s warning to the Corinthians is poignant even today.
Some have said that the days of Genesis refer to eras of creation, or that perhaps the days that are talked about in Genesis 1 are the same types of days that are talked about in the poetic Psalms 90, “For 1000 years in thy sight are like yesterday when it is past.” If it is the case that each day refers to eras of time rather than 24 hour days, then how did the plants (created on day 3) survive for millions of years without the sun (created on day 4) and billions of years without pollinating insects (created on day 5)? How did the carefully balanced ecosystems survive without their symbiotic partners which would have been created millions or billions of years later?
I have heard it said that since the sun was not created until day 4, how could the first three days have been 24 hour days? That is like saying that time could not exist without watches. The sun was not created to MAKE time, it was created for us to measure time as it says in Genesis 1:14-18 “Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set these bodies in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to measure time. And God saw that it was good.” It is clear that God created time including days (morning and evening) prior to the creation of the sun. The sun was created in part to be as a time-keeper for us here on Earth.