Creation: Are the six days of creation literal twenty-four-hour days?
While the five Christian views of creation are possible, the question remains, which is probable? To answer that question, we have to deal with the very important issue of whether the six days of creation listed in Genesis 1 are in fact literal twenty-four-hour days.
Those Christians who argue for a metaphorical view of the six days of creation rightly point out that the word used for day in Hebrew (yom), often refers to an extended period of time that is more than a literal twenty four-hour day.1 Nonetheless, if we read the Scriptures, it seems apparent that the six days of creation in Genesis 1 are literal twenty-four-hour days for two reasons.
First, each day is numbered so that there is a succession of days. Further, each day is described as having a morning and evening, which is the common vernacular for a day.2 These details in Genesis 1 clearly indicate that the days are literal.
Second, in Exodus 20:8–11, God says:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
God says that he made creation in six days and on the seventh day he rested. Additionally, his work and rest are to be the precedent for us; his example explains why God’s people in the Old Testament had a seven-day week with a Sabbath day.
The Literary Framework view the days as 24 hour days of the weekly rhythm which Moses used to tell the creation story. They are not days of creation. Genesis 1-11 is a narrative of origins cast in the world view of ancient peoples rather than a record of actual historical events. The ancient intellectual categories of the inspired writers were employed in the process of God’s inspired description of creation.
We hold to historic creationism, which emphasizes that the first two chapters of Genesis, God’s inspired and inerrant Word, tell us that the God who created everything (angels, space-time, mass-energy, sun, moon, and stars, and all species of animals) prepared the land for human habitation in six literal twenty-four-hour days. At the end of those days, he shaped dust and breathed the breath of life into it, creating Adam. From Adam’s rib, God created the woman. They were created to be in relationship with each other and with God as living Creator and loving Lord.
Nonetheless, there have been ongoing debates by Jesus-loving, Bible believing scholars throughout the history of the church regarding whether the days of creation were literal twenty-four-hour days. So long as one’s position on this issue does not become the litmus test for Christian orthodoxy, ongoing spirited study and discussion can be helpful to God’s people; it can force them to build their unity around what they do agree on, such as the fact that the Trinitarian God of the Bible created the heavens and the earth and lovingly fashioned them as a gift to us and home for us in which to worship and enjoy him.3
Reflect back on the past twenty-four hours of your life and think of the ways in which God has been good to you.