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It would appear that defining the word ‘day’ in Genesis ch. 1 has a profound bearing on stances taken. Young Earth Creationists take them to be literal 24-hour-earth-days, but Evolutionists say they must have been millions of years each. The question seems to be boiling down to seeking an explanation from Old Earth Creationists, but I don’t like pigeon-holes, nor do I want to cramp anyone’s style here, if they consider themselves to be Christian, but not an Old Earth Creationist either!

My second query is that if, indeed, the word ‘day’ as used in Genesis has diverse or non-literal meanings, would the elephant in this room be that no time-line is required for believing and understanding the six days of creation? The time factor would not be the point, but could remain unstated because how long it took God to create everything is neither here nor there, from a Christian faith point of view. The universe could have been in process of forming for an unspecified time, so that when planet Earth is first mentioned, its age is simply not known. Nor does its age matter.

Finally, I don’t want anybody to go into whether Christians can rightly claim to be Evolutionists or not; for once I’m prepared to take Stack’s definition of a Christian as the basis for answers – whoever self-identifies as a Christian is to be considered one, when asking or answering.

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  • The main alternative to the YEC reading is the framework view, in which case there is no historical timeline. It's an a-historical reading of Genesis 1.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 10 at 12:38
  • @curiousdannii That's an interesting Wiki page but seems to take it for granted that the debate is about how things fit into a logical sequence based on time, but I'm interested to know if the time factor is irrelevant so that no explanation is actually needed for any 'timeline'.
    – Anne
    Sep 10 at 12:43
  • 1
    For a Religious Studies course at university a couple of decades ago, I wrote a short essay outlining how the creation account could be considered as literal 24 hour days and only thousands of years ago, without conflicting with the observable 15 billion year old universe: Genesis 1: No Need For Metaphor. I also have a summary in table form: Creation Time Table. Sep 10 at 12:47
  • 2
    @Anne Yes, the dominant non-YEC view now is that it's not a representation of what happened in time. Basically a theological story or parable. Other views like gap theory etc are pretty marginal now.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 10 at 12:50
  • 1
    @RayButterworth I spent a useful forty minutes poring over your tables. Excellent stuff.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 10 at 16:58
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Your question suggests that “no time-line is required” in order to believe and understand the six days of creation, and that “the time factor would not be the point”. As a Christian who denounces evolution and who believes that God is the creator of time, space, matter and all life, allow me to quote from a booklet written by mathematician and Christian, John Blanchard.

“The analytical philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time.” Modern science tells us that the universe has at least five essential elements – time, intelligence, energy, space and matter – and all are to be found in the Bible’s opening sentence: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

In the beginning’ speaks of time, ‘God’ speaks of intelligence, ‘created’ speaks of energy, ‘the heavens’ speaks of space, and ‘the earth’ speaks of matter.

Oxford Don Keith Ward says, “To grasp an idea of God is to grasp an idea of the only reality that could form a completely adequate explanation of the existence of the universe.” (Source: Booklet entitled ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ E.P. 2006, pages 16 to 17)

Nowhere in the book of Genesis does it say anything about when “the beginning” started. Indeed, as God has existed without any starting point in time as we know it that is hardly surprising.

One problem is that people keep mixing up the theory for the origin of the universe with the theory of evolution. This is because vast aeons of time are required for both theories to 'work'. However, if the biblical 'days' of creation are not limited to 24-hour earth hours, and if each 'day' of creation can be taken as an unknown period of time, then the time-line from the start of our universe till the creation of Adam and Eve by God is no longer an issue.

The Bible tells us that God spoke the universe into being, creating out of what cannot be seen. Science knows that prior to the existence of time there was a singularity - which is science-speak for admitting that the laws of physics we work with couldn't apply as some physical things like temperature or density become infinite in value. As a Christian I believe that it was God who created energy (the atom), time, space, matter and light and how He did it and how long it took is not the point. Science also knows that universal light had to arise before any life could form, and that fits in with God creating light on day one. After God created light, then the biblical phrase of "there was evening then there was morning," begins to make scientific sense.

This means that the simple answer to your question is that there’s no need to ‘explain’ the time-line if the term ‘days’ has various meanings in Genesis, and the rest of the Bible (see footnote). There’s only a need to explain its order of events if the days are literal 24-hour-earth-days. Finally, a word on the balance that is needed between Christianity and science:

“The challenge for Christianity is to take science seriously. Science, of course, doesn’t answer every question… It grieves me when I see people – who I’m sure are sincerely wishing to serve the God of truth – refusing to see the truth in science. That is a sad and ultimately unhelpful situation. People of faith need to be grateful for science and welcome truth.” (Interview with Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne fellow of the Royal Society, former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, as published in ‘War Cry’ issue 14 January 2012, pp 8 to 11)

Footnote: The Hebrew word ‘yom’ which translates into English as ‘day’ has many different meanings: NASB Translation: afternoon* (1), age (8), age* (1), all (1), always* (14), amount* (2), battle (1), birthday* (1), Chronicles* (38), completely* (1), continually* (14), course* (1), daily (22), daily the days (1), day (1115), day of the days (1), day that the period (1), day's (6), day's every day (1), daylight* (1), days (635), days on the day (1), days to day (1), days you shall daily (1), days ago (1), days' (11), each (1), each day (4), entire (2), eternity (1), evening* (1), ever in your life* (1), every day (2), fate (1), first (5), forever* (11), forevermore* (1), full (5), full year (1), future* (1), holiday* (3), later* (2), length (1), life (12), life* (1), lifetime (2), lifetime* (1), live (1), long (2), long as i live (1), long* (11), midday* (1), now (5), older* (1), once (2), period (3), perpetually* (2), present (1), recently (1), reigns (1), ripe* (1), short-lived* (1), so long* (1), some time (1), survived* (2), time (45), time* (1), times* (2), today (172), today* (1), usual (1), very old* (1), when (10), when the days (1), whenever (1), while (3), whole (2), year (10), yearly (5), years (13), yesterday* (1). http://biblehub.com/hebrew/3117.htm

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Here are some notes that, are mostly, derived from this book, here. You can also find it online for free here. See especially page 72 from the book. The primary author, Robert C. Newman, is Professor of New Testament at the Biblical Theological Seminary of Hatfield, Pennsylvania as well as being Director of its Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute. Dr Newman's undergraduate degree was in physics and his doctorate was in theoretical astrophysics from Cornell University.

Genesis 1:1 - The Big Bang?

Genesis 1:2 - The earth is without for, void in the sense of being an amorphous tenuous nebula. The phrase "darkness of the face of deep" would easily fit in with view of how, after some contra traction, the nebula cloud becomes opaque and dark within.

Genesis 1:3 - This is describing how further contraction causes the cloud to glow.

Genesis 1:4 - Planetary material is thrust outside of the glowing cloud. The planet condenses from planetesimals; the sun and rotation give a day and night sequence.

Job 38:8-9 describes how waters burst forth from the wealth of earth's womb. Firmament appears in the midst of waters. This is a description of how earth is heated within by pressure and radioactivity, driving out water and gases to form the atmosphere and ocean. The presence of an atmosphere allows both surface and atmospheric water. Continental material develops from sub-oceanic by means of volcanism and erosion.

Genesis 1:11-12 describes how earth brings from vegetation. This a description of how organic life begins. Clay crystals serve as catalyst for organic molecules to develop. Later this would be the basis for land based plants in Paleozoic era - e.g. lycopodiums, equisetums, ferns and other vascular plants.

Genesis 1:14-18 describes how lights in the sky appear (Hebrew verb wayya as had made) to mark off days, seasons, to dominate the day (sun) and night (moon). Photosynethesis by vegetation replaces CO2 by oxygen, lowering the temperature and clearing the atmosphere so astronomical objects can be visible to terrestrial observers.

Genesis 1:14-18 could be interpreted as mentioning lights appearing in the sky to mark off days, seasons, etc. That's because the Hebrew verb wayya can be translated as had made. This is possible because the Hebrew language has no special word for the pluperfect tense but uses the perfect tense or the converse imperfect to express the English past or the English pluperfect. See S.R. Driver "A Treatise on the Use of the Tense in Hebrew, (Oxford: 1892), p.86.

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  • A 'planetesimal' is a small celestial body which occurs when a planet forms. You are saying the sun is a 'planetesimal'. Whose theory is this that you are quoting and is the person (group) as specified in the question neither Evolutionist nor YEC ? ?
    – Nigel J
    Sep 10 at 20:01
  • It was a typo. I fixed it. Thanks! Newman's idea is that "Planetary material thrust outside glowing cloud...Planet condenses from planetesimals; sun, rotation give day/night sequence." christianscientific.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/…
    – Jess
    Sep 10 at 21:05

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