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It seems that a popular argument for Old Earth Creationists (OECs) is that 2 Peter 3:8 shows the Genesis days could be longer periods of time and not literal 24 hour days:

2 Peter 3:8 ESV But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Super-duper bible scholars will add Psalm 90:4 to the mix:

Psalm 90:4 ESV For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

...therefore, billions of years, day-age theory, etc.

How do OECs use 2 Peter 3:8 to support a "day-age" theory especially when faced against these popular counter arguments?*

  1. The latter half of the verse says "...and a thousand years are as one day" somewhat negating the OEC's intent of the verse.

  2. The verse isn't meant to be (and shouldn't be) taken and applied to various previous passages at will. Otherwise it would be equally valid to say that Jonah spent three thousand years in the belly of a fish, that Methuselah was 353,685,000 years old when he died (or 11 months old if you apply the latter portion of the verse), and that the Mosaic Law commanded Jews to work 6000 years and then rest for 1000 years. Using 2 Peter 3:8 to say that Genesis 1-3 days were longer but the other days were not is exegetically dishonest.

  3. A complete exegesis of 2 Peter 3 shows that Peter was actually condemning those that would distort a historically accurate interpretation of Genesis:

    2 Peter 3:1-6 ESV This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.

  4. A complete exegesis of 2 Peter 3 is that Peter was not trying to establish the time translation rules for God but was trying to warn his church(es) that the Lord will return and that it will be a time no one is expecting because human concepts of time have no bearing over God:

    2 Peter 3:7-10 ESV But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

  5. A complete exegesis of Psalm 90:4 shows that David was simply pontificating on the hugeness and timelessness of God--not trying to apply new meaning to previous passages involving days.

    Psalm 90:1-6 ESV Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.


NOTE

  • I am not discussing the validity of OEC but merely how 2 Peter 3:8 is used to support day-age theory especially in light of the counter-arguments shown above.
  • Of course not every OEC supporter uses 2 Peter 3:8 to give credence to their views, but this question is for those that do.
  • An ideal answer would be one that reasonably shows why 2 Peter 3:8 is a credible argument for OEC (addressing the popular counter points made above) or an answer that exhaustively shows why 2 Peter 3:8 cannot be a reasonable support.
  • Please suggest edits to this question if it seems too opinion based or unanswerable! – LCIII Aug 4 '14 at 13:03
  • This comment might not be related to your question; What if the dinosaurs died wayyyy before the time of Moses? His papa and grandpapa wouldn't have tools nor the technology to uncover things or animals billions of years ago like we do now. I mean, it is a story passed down from generation to generation and Moses being the one who write it. The first sentence of the whole Bible is actually written by faith. Next, I searched about this as I read your question, OECs not only use those two verses, there is actually a pretty well-rounded argument nullifying that day ("Yom") is 24-hours. – Zoe Aug 4 '14 at 14:31
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    Some YECs use those verses, too, to say the days were 1000 years long, but no longer, so that creation took 6,000 years. I think it's a minority YEC view, but it is (or has been) held by some. – Flimzy Aug 4 '14 at 14:42
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    @LCIII: If you google for "2 Peter 3:8 creation" you get a ton of YEC groups debunking the supposed OEC view that 2 Peter 3:8 supports an old earth view. That's what I mean by it's used by YECs--It's used often as a straw man. – Flimzy Aug 4 '14 at 18:05
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    I have edited your question to no longer say "The proper exegesis..." which I think is the most provocative part of the question. If you disagree with the edit, feel free to roll-back my change. – Flimzy Aug 4 '14 at 18:07
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Since you pinged me on chat about this, I'll do my best to answer... But honestly, I think it's a very poor question. Therefore, I provide two answers: The one I think you're looking for, and what I believe is the proper answer.

  1. I think an OEC who uses this verse as a proof text is using it in the sense that to God time measurement is essentially meaningless. They clearly don't mean to interpret 1 Genesis day as a literal 1000 years, but rather they use the 2 Peter reference as evidence that it was "an indefinite, arbitrary period of time, which to God could just as well have been one day."

    In this sense, your first counter-point is invalid. What Peter is saying is not that 1 day = 1000 years, or 1000 years = 1 day; but rather he's simply making the larger point that "To God time is not a concern!"

    In that sense, if God says he spent 6 days creating the world, those 6 days are immaterial, and could be any amount of time, or non-time, or whatever.

    Time is immaterial to God

  2. However, this leads to my second answer, which I think is more of the real answer. And that is that any honest, studied OEC will not use these verses as proof texts for their view, simply because Peter is not making the specific statement that one day is a thousand years. Peter is not providing a formula for interpreting other scripture. Peter is saying time is immaterial to God. If one is going to apply this verse to Genesis 1, they might also be tempted to say that the Battle of Jericho lasted 6,000 years.

    So, an honest OEC would not use these verses the way you presume. When YECs "debunk" this verse as supporting the OEC view, they are debunking a straw man.

    An honest, well-studied OEC has a lot of reasons to think the days in Genesis are not literal, but, at best, 2 Peter 3:8 is a "passing curiosity," and not the core of their evidence.

Having said that, there is a subset of Young-Earth creationists who do interpret Peter as providing a formula--perhaps as an attempt to lend some additional time to the creation story, to better fit with the scientific understanding.

I'm not sure this view is widely held any longer, and I doubt it was never a majority view. I think by now YECs realize that adding 6,000 years (1 day = 1,000 years x 6 days = 6,000 years) doesn't even begin to "help solve" the discrepancy between the scientific explanation of an old earth, and the YEC view of a young earth. It is easy to find examples of (mostly YECers) refuting the concept that creation took 6,000 years.

  • Bravely tried +1. But why did you answer? It is obviously provocation and not a sincere quest for knowledge. – gideon marx Aug 4 '14 at 16:22
  • @gideonmarx This question was not a provocation and it was based on a sincere quest for knowledge. I've upvoted this answer. I'm most interested in hearing from someone that gives a credible reason why 2 Peter 3:8 applies to the day-age theory. – LCIII Aug 4 '14 at 17:16
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    @Flimzy You can throw all the rest of "most Christians" in the "not well studied" group too. – fredsbend Aug 4 '14 at 21:14
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    @fredsbend: heh, of course, that's very true. – Flimzy Aug 4 '14 at 21:16
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    Yeah a serious OEC like Hugh Ross probably wouldn't give this scripture to defend his position(although he uses it to try to prove a local flood). But I've heard several of his follows try to do just that, the ones I dealt with were not considering that time was meaningless to God, but that it was longer . Like a kind of cognitive dissonance. I see this allong the same lines as "If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" No apologeticist would use that but lay people do. – 2tim424 Aug 8 '14 at 18:28

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