Search This Blog

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cavalcade of Comment on the Days

Below a list of quotes on the length of the 'days' in Genesis 1.

Its from a creation forum on 'Christian forums.'

People often claim that Genesis does not argue in favor of a literal, historical view of the days of creation. I will quote below some of the theologians and experts who disagree based from my own research. Feel free to reuse these quotes when the question pops up again.

Martin Luther: (as cited in Plass, E.M., What Martin Luther Says, a Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian)
The Days of Creation were ordinary days in length. We must understand that these days were actual days (veros dies), contrary to the opinion of the Holy Fathers. Whenever we observe that the opinions of the Fathers disagree with Scripture, we reverently bear with them and acknowledge them to be our elders. Nevertheless, we do not depart from the authority of Scripture for their sake.

Elsewhere Luther wrote:
When Moses writes that God created Heaven and Earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are. For you are to deal with Scripture in such a way that you bear in mind that God Himself says what is written. But since God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His Word in the direction you wish to go.

John Calvin: (McNeil, J.T. (ed.), Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion 1, p. 160-161, 182)
albeit the duration of the world, now declining to its ultimate end, has not yet attained six thousand years … God’s work was completed not in a moment but in six days.

Charles Spurgeon: (The Sword and the Trowel, p. 197)
We are invited, brethren, most earnestly to go away from the old-fashioned belief of our forefathers because of the supposed discoveries of science. What is science? The method by which man tries to conceal his ignorance. It should not be so, but so it is. You are not to be dogmatical in theology, my brethren, it is wicked; but for scientific men it is the correct thing. You are never to assert anything very strongly; but scientists may boldly assert what they cannot prove, and may demand a faith far more credulous than any we possess. Forsooth, you and I are to take our Bibles and shape and mould our belief according to the ever-shifting teachings of so-called scientific men. What folly is this! Why, the march of science, falsely so called, through the world may be traced by exploded fallacies and abandoned theories. Former explorers once adored are now ridiculed; the continual wreckings of false hypotheses is a matter of universal notoriety. You may tell where the learned have encamped by the debris left behind of suppositions and theories as plentiful as broken bottles.

Gleason Archer, not creationist: (A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 196)
From a superficial reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four-hour days

James Barr, neo-orthodox non-creationist: (personal communications)
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 Gen. 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) 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 (c) Noah’s Flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.

Marcus Dods, liberal theologian: (Expositor’s Bible, p. 4)
if, for example, the word “day” in these chapters does not mean a period of twenty-four hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless.

Andrew Steinmann: (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 45(4) )
Having an evening and a morning amounts to having one full day. Hence the following equation is what Gen 1:5 expresses: Evening + morning = one day.

Therefore, by using a most unusual grammatical construction, Genesis 1
is defining what a day is. This is especially needed in this verse, since “day”
is used in two senses in this one verse. Its first occurrence means the time
during a daily cycle that is illuminated by daylight (as opposed to “night”).
. . .

It would appear as if the text is very carefully crafted so that an alert
reader cannot read it as “the first day.” Instead, by omission of the article it must be read as “one day,” thereby defining a day as something akin to a
twenty-four hour solar period with light and darkness and transitions between day and night, even though there is no sun until the fourth day. This would then explain the lack of articles on the second through fifth days. Another evening and morning constituted “a” (not “the”) second day. Another evening and morning made a third day, and so forth. On the sixth day, the article finally appears. But even here the grammar is strange, since there is no article on µwy, as would be expected. This would indicate that the sixth day was a regular solar day, but that it was also the culminating day of creation. Likewise, the seventh day is referred to as y[ybvh µwy (Gen 2:3), with lack of an article on µwy. This, also, the author is implying, was a regular solar day. Yet it was a special day, because God had finished his work of creation.

Lewis Berkhof: (Systematic Theology, p. 154)
In its primary meaning the word yom denotes a natural day; and it is a good rule in exegesis not to depart from the primary meaning of a word, unless this is required by the context.

Robert Dabney: (Systematic Theology, p. 255)
The sacred writer seems to shut us up to the literal interpretation by describing the days as comprised of its natural parts, morning and evening.

And again: (Lectures on Systematic Theology, p. 254-255)
The narrative seems historical, and not symbolical; and hence the strong initial presumption is, that all its parts are to be taken in their obvious sense. . . .The natural day is [the] literal and primary meaning. Now, it is apprehended that in construing any document, while we are ready to adopt, at the demand of the context, the derived or tropical meaning, we revert to the ordinary one, when no such demand exists in the context.

Gerhard Hasel: (Origins, 21(1) )
This triple interlocking connection of singular usage, joined by a numeral, and the temporal definition of 'evening and morning,' keeps the creation 'day' the same throughout the creation account. It also reveals
that time is conceived as linear and events occur within it successively. To depart from the numerical, consecutive linkage and the 'evening and morning' boundaries in ushc direct language would mean to take extreme liberty with the plain and direct meaning of the Hebrew language.

Edward J. Young: (Studies in Genesis One, p. 100)
If Moses had intended to teach a non-chronological view of the days, it is indeed strange that he went out of his way, as it were, to emphasize chronology and sequence. . . .It is questionable whether serious
exegesis of Genesis One would it itself lead anyone to adopt a non-chronological view of the days for the simple reason that everything in the text militates against it.

And elsewhere (p. 58)
Man is to 'remember' the Sabbath day, for God has instituted it.... The human week derives validity and significance from the creative week. The fourth commandment constitutes a decisive argument against any non-chronological scheme of the six days of Genesis One.

Derek Kidner: (Genesis, p. 54-55)
The march of the days is too majestic a process to carry no implication of ordered sequence; it also seems over-subtle to adopt a view of the passage which discounts one of the primary impressions it makes on the ordinary reader.

Wayne Grudem: (Systematic Theology, p. 303)
The implication of chronological sequence in the narrative is almost inescapable.

Gary North: (The Dominion Covenant, p. 13)
How any serious scholar can read such a story into the plain words of Genesis 1 is baffling. Why should we tamper with the plain teaching of the Bible in this fashion? Are we naive enough to believe that if Christians. . . [compromise with evolution], modern evolutionists . . . are going to think Christianity might just be plausible after all? Are we trying to buy a little academic respectability by means of this sort of exegesis? Modern science holds that the earth is a relatively late development, possibly only five billion years old, in a universe at least ten billion years old. What good do we think we will accomplish by ignoring the words of Genesis 1 . . .? If we are inevitably going to be looked at as fools for holding to biblical revelation, which is unquestionably the case (I Cor. 1:19-21), then why not at least be consistent, straightforward, more offensive fools—fools thoroughly committed to this foolish revelational faith, fools untarnished by the pseudo-wisdom of the world? Would anyone have bothered to invent . . . [compromises] had he not been confronted with some version of evolution, which he then decided to conform to, at least partially, in order not to appear unrespectable?[ref] Let us side with biblical language and cease our pathetic, unrealizable quest for academic respectability within the world of secular humanistic scholarship.

Victor Hamilton, liberal: (Genesis, Vol. 1, p. 54)
Whoever wrote Gen. 1 believed he was talking about literal days.

Robert Reymond: (A New Systematic Theology For the Christian Faith, p. 392)
I can discern no reason, either from Scripture or from the human sciences, for departing from the view that the days of Genesis were ordinary twenty-four-hour days.

Elsewhere (p. 396):
. . .there is no reason to believe that the universe and the earth in particular are billions of years old either . . .the geological upheaval at the time of the Flood (see Gen. 7:11; 2 Pet. 3:6) could also account for much of the geologist's "evidence" for an ancient earth which is exhibited in his "geological column" (which actually exists as such only in geology textbooks and nowhere in the actual earth record itself). Moreover, the various scientific methods (e.g. carbon-14 dating, potassium-argon dating, thermoluminescent dating) employed for fossil and pottery dating are suspect, being imprecise and contradictory in their findings. . . .But the tendency of Scripture . . . .seems to be toward a relative young earth and a relative short history of man to date.

H. Gunkel, liberal: (Cited in Hasel, Origins, 21(1) )
The 'days' of Genesis are of course days and nothing else.

G von Rad, liberal: (Genesis 1-11, p. 65)
The seven days are unquestionably to be understood as actual days and as unique, unrepeatable lapses of time in the world.

I could marshal more, but this seems sufficient. :)

Also, you could check out:

The "Days" of Genesis 1, by Hasel

by William H. Shea


Stephen James Bloor said...

Interesting viewpoint.

The question I would ask you is how did this information get transmitted to humanity? That God created the world this way?

Warwick said...

By God I would imagine Stephen. At least He says so and I have found Him to be amazingly reliable.

Got a better story?

neil moore said...

Stephen, other Biblical Creationists may have different views but I am of the opinion that God gave this information to Moses on Sinai. There is so much information given in the creation account which occurred prior to the creation of man on day six. This indicates that God had to relay this information to man. But when? Many say it was relayed to Adam and passed down orally to later generations until put in written form by Moses.

As I say, I believe it was given at Sinai by God to Moses.

Neil Moore

Ktisophilos said...

Moses could have been like Luke, researching previous written accounts before writing his own history, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Dave Lankshear said...

It's interesting that Calvin's quote portrays that he was arguing against a more 'instantaneous' creation. It seems some of the early fathers were arguing for instantaneous creation, and Calvin was concerned by this. My temptation to go for the instantaneous thing is it just makes more sense that an infinitely powerful Lord of the universe could make it in an instant!

But the sad thing is that this is all a distraction from the literary forms. We have so many indications of symbolism in the passage, from the repetition of different names (like God) in multiples of 7, through to 7 days, through to the 'events' on those days copying the 7 stages of the Enuma Elish... it SCREAMS symbolism! This leaves us free to accept modern science, free to read the passage without arbitrary concern to strict 'days', and free to reflect on the incredible theological bombshell that Moses lobbed into the ancient world.

Or you can debate 6 literal days and see it as a construction blueprint if you want... but ... that just leaves me shrugging my shoulders asking, "so what?"
You get to arguing over 24 hour days miss the deep theological truths of the passage.

My reply to John's Enuma Elish link.

Dave Lankshear said...

Reading it as history was not the universal understanding. Sorry, try again.

It might have been a majority understanding, but... Catholicism was a pretty big majority for a long time. I need a better argument than "most people believed it that way so I'm right".

Also, while Gen. 10:19 might refer to events before the EE was written, the question is when was Genesis itself written? Hmm? Forgot that bit did we?

neil moore said...

Dave, please advise what symbolism is contained in Exodus 20:11?

BTW, are you just a parrot for John Dickson?

Neil Moore

John said...

Dave wrote: "But the sad thing is that this is all a distraction from the literary forms. We have so many indications of symbolism in the passage, from the repetition of different names (like God) in multiples of 7, through to 7 days, through to the 'events' on those days copying the 7 stages of the Enuma Elish... it SCREAMS symbolism! This leaves us free to accept modern science, free to read the passage without arbitrary concern to strict 'days', and free to reflect on the incredible theological bombshell that Moses lobbed into the ancient world."

In the philosophy class I'm presently teaching if you submitted an argument like that I'd have no hesitation to fail you. I've instructed my class diligently to be aware of surreptitious circular reasoning. Even the best of us do it, and some, no matter how much it's pointed out, continue to sneak it in as though they've demonstrated their point.

This is how your argument (and John Dickson's!) runs:

a. If a piece of writing contains lots of repetition, particularly numbers, then it must be symbolic.

b. Hey, you stupid gospel-avoiding Creationists, Genesis has lots of repetition and numbers.

c. Hey you bilious hillybillies, Genesis 1 is symbolic. The force of my logic makes this unavoidable.

Dave, we are under no epistemic obligation to take your first premise as acceptable. We are free to reject it. This is quite acceptable in logic exercises. What you have to do is demonstrate the truth of your first premise. If you are able to do this, then, and only then, are we obliged to agree with you, notwithstanding any formal errors in your reasoning that may crop up. As it stands, your argument begs your initial premises by presenting it in a syllogism as already being true. Having it recycled in the syllogism’s conclusion doesn’t prove the truth (i.e. that it’s sound) of your first premise but merely shows us that your syllogism is formally valid. Any 9th grade pupil can construct a formally valid syllogism.

So, the question really becomes this: Are then any passages in Scripture where there is repetition and lots of numbers/names which are clearly not symbolic?

Before anyone answers I think we should let you sweat on it.

But then again, SADs like Dave don’t respond too well to counter-factuals. They’d prefer to dig their heels in a maintain a united front to prop up evolution, long ages, literary theory…..

Dave Lankshear said...

Warwick, John, KT, Gwen, and Neil — ALL of you — can you try getting off the bottom rung of the argument pyramid for once? That would be great.

Warwick — grow up.

John — you're using your presuppositions to justify your conclusions, which is basically a sloppy way of disguising blowing a raspberry and saying "I'm right and you're wrong so neeer nerr nerr ner nyer nyer!"

But here's the thing — you haven't proved that you're right. You're bible bashing me on the assumption that you're right. You have referred me to creationist authors that if anything CONFIRM Genesis debunking and re-writing a COMMON source myth throughout the ancient world. By the time Genesis was finally written and codified the Enuma Elish was common knowledge for at least 200 years. I don't know why this is all so threatening to you that you have to resort to such childish argument tactics, but hermeneutic principles should never rule out the culture into which a piece was written, and you've not only done that but imposed scientific questions of 3000 years later onto the text!

...Ha! Just read your most recent reply. How funny, I just wrote the above about your argument and then you try to argue that my position is circular. The problem is you have ignored the basic thrust of my argument which is hermeneutics (culture it's being written into + inter-textual reference) AND symbolism in the passage indicate that it's a symbolic rewrite of the surrounding culture. So to attack the 'symbolism only' position is both to miss my position and to boringly rehearse the only fall-back position you've come up with to address the EE from the very beginning. John, try to come up with something new... it's like a mantra. (Say after John 100 times... "Symbolism alone does not mean a-historical!")
Problem is, it's not my argument and you just look foolish.

For someone teaching philosophy, you certainly don't seem to understand your own craft or the thrust of my argument. I'll help you by directing to your first point of call for an 'introduction' to things you obviously choose to forget (although one would have though this would be bread-and-butter to you... but no. All your replies so far indicate otherwise).

The hermeneutics wiki states...

"Essentially, hermeneutics involves cultivating the ability to understand things from somebody else's point of view, and to appreciate the cultural and social forces that may have influenced their outlook. Hermeneutics is the process of applying this understanding to interpreting the meaning of written texts and symbolic artifacts (such as art or sculpture or architecture), which may be either historic or contemporary."

So John, at which point does a correct hermeneutic approach a 3000 year old document and thrust upon it today's questions instead? Isn't that essentially backwards? Aren't we obliged to study the culture that surrounded the original readers at the time? I mean, sure we can disagree with that culture! But then I thought that was the whole point... Genesis radically disagrees with and spanks the creation myths of the time... and rewrites them, but in doing so is still writing a myth, parable, creative narrative, or whatever you want to call it. The bible has many parables, and I'm not expressing some disbelief of Genesis because I choose to recognise the literary form! Deal with it!

Gwen — grow I at least have the decency to explain who I am, use my real name and post my actual qualifications online, not hide behind a blank profile so that I can belong to blog just to express my sheer hatred of everything Sydney Anglican. So Gwen — go ahead — attack my Diploma, it says more about you than me. The fact that you don't share your full name or anything about yourself also screams volumes. Again, Grow up.

Neil — grow up.

Dave Lankshear said...

PS: I don't know why blogger just spat all that code into the text near my note to Gwen.

Dave Lankshear said...

Look, I'm done arguing with people that only play the man and not the ball, and the most 'educated' of you seems to straw-man my argument and intentionally misses the point the whole time. I have no doubt John understood what I was arguing — but just intentionally bypassed the full force of my argument because he simply has no come back.

I've got business stuff to attend to, scripture teaching to prepare for tomorrow, Sydney Anglican stuff to do, and a peak oil policy draft to review for a politician. Put it this way, I'm too busy to argue with people behaving like children. If I get bored some time in the future I might check in to see if you've all learnt how to argue above the gutter in the 'argument pyramid' but for now, you have my pity. I hope you can all one day stop 'champing at the bit' to express your hatred of Sydney Anglicans and learn to appreciate that we actually defend the bible as God's word, and only have 2 main chapters that we essentially differ over.

Warwick said...

Dave what do I have to grow up for? I have met many grown-ups and they are a thorughly boring and nasty lot.

Do you think that by repeatedly saying 'we' hate the SAD it will become fact?

You say is is only 2 chapters over which we differ. That is not so because these 2 chapters are the foundation for the rest of the Bible and ultimately the Gospel makes no sense unless these matters are all historical truth. If all of this is not real then there was no need for Jesus to come, or die. And further if these two chapters are not historical fact then neither Jesus or the apostles were aware of this. You are straying into another Gospel and rebellion.

For a few examples:

Six-day 24 hr creation? If not literal what did God mean by saying He created in six, rested the 7th so that we would work six, rest the 7th? It this commandment, and the other nine, some poem, some spiritual message alone, devoid of historical reality Dave?

The flood with which God judged the world was it local or world-wide, as the text repeats? If not world-wide, what textural support, here and elsewhere, can you give to support your belief?

Jesus says man was made at the beginning of this creation. If it's 6000 years old that's 2,190,000 days. Man appearing on day 6 is 1/365,000th from the beginning. However if your view is true man appeared after billions of years from the beginning, so Jesus must be wrong!

And you say we disagree on only 2 chapters. Are you so unknowing and gullible Dave? Or are you just uncritically repeating what your masters have told you?

Ktisophilos said...

"It might have been a majority understanding but ..."

The onus is on those who present an interpretation unheard of throughout church history, and which is instead a reaction to godless outside influences (i.e. uniformitarian geology and evolutionary biology that Lankshear uncritically and gullibly swallows). Normally, theological novelty is called heresy.

But Lankshear and Dickson and the Moorites would have us believe that the Church was in the dark for most of its history. And evidently the NT writers were ignorant, because they treated Genesis as history. Yet Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would reveal truth to His Apostles, and that the gates of hades would never prevail against the Church.

John said...


As a professional health worker and teacher of philosophy, may I suggest you seek help.

Or alternatively...if this were 30 years ago...I would have asked you the name of your dealer because he obviously could have supplied me with the really gooooooooood stuff!

neil moore said...

Disappointing that Dave will not engage on the relevance of Exodus 20:11.

I am growing tired of his rants and personal attacks in response to intelligent propositions.

Since he has come back on here he has lowered the standard.

I notice Sam hasn't entered the discussion. Maybe you have some discretion Sam wherever you are.

Neil Moore

Warwick said...

Neil IMHO the reason dave will not comment upon such Scriptures such as Exodus 20:8-11 is because he cannot contardict the obvious truth of what is disclosed there.

sam drucker said...

Neil & others, I apologise for my absence. I've been quite busy but have tried to look in when I can.

Dave Lankshear has no value. I thought we ignored him about twelve months ago.

No matter what additional personal attacks he throws at me now I am going to ignore him. There is just no value there.


neil moore said...

I am going to follow your lead Sam because he doesn't connect with the points being made.

His parroting of John Dickson's borrowed literary theory takes him away from the Reformers' posit of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. He therefore is not Reformed.

Genesis 1, Exodus 20:11 and Exodus 31:14-18 each speak to the creation event, the latter two supplying known direct utterances of God. I guess I am "telling you how to suck eggs" Sam because I recall you saying something like this last year.

Anyway the latter verses give full weight to the straight-forward reading of Genesis 1 and nullify John Dickson, his predecessors and now Dave Lankshear's literary theory (paradigm?) argument.

Whew! Can you comprehend the weight they give to the number 7? It's like as if they are giving it some magical power as to overrule God's very own words. Talk about idolatry! I had a chat to John about it. He may say something but it seems to be eisegesis at its best. Nowhere in Scripture does God give the number 7 the power these guys are giving it. God uses it for measure in many instances but nowhere does He say that it has some mystical power as to reinterpret what He is saying.

Anyway, I too will drop off from dailogue with Dave Lankshear, except to give him short-shift should he comment on my upcoming blogs or comments.

Neil Moore