Union Chapel Baptist Church

Aug

9

A Question of Days

By Stephen Mitchell

It has become quite a common thing in Evangelical circles to reinterpret Genesis one to include deep time. This enables them to then introduce evolution into Genesis one since they have now injected Genesis with long ages.

For example, in commenting on the language of Genesis 1:11-12, Derek Kidner wrote, “If this language seems well suited to the hypothesis of creation by evolution (as the present writer thinks), …” (p. 48) A little later on, in general comments about the entire first chapter of Genesis, he wrote,

The view that the chapter is intended to reveal the general sequence of creation as it affected this earth, is based on the apparent character of the writing. But it is reinforced, one may think, by the remarkable degree of correspondence that can be found between this sequence and the one implied by current science. (p. 55)

While it would be difficult to sustain Kidner’s phrase “the general sequence of creation” due to the specificDay 4 way each day is described and its place in the sequence of days is delineated, one can understand his describing the sequence as “general.” This is because there is one glaring difference between the sequence given in Genesis and that “implied by current science.” This is the creation of the plants prior to the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. Modern science declares the stars existed prior to the earth. This would mean, of course, that they existed prior to the plants.

One common way to avoid the force of plants before the stars is to create an artificial symmetry between days. Gordon Wenham does this in his commentary on Genesis, diagramming the days in two different ways, thus allowing the sequential nature of the text to be taken non-literally. In his “Explanation” section on chapter one of Genesis, Wenham wrote,

It has been unfortunate that one device which our narrative uses to express the coherence and purposiveness of the creator’s work, namely, the distribution of the various creative acts to six days, has been seized on and interpreted over-literalistically, with the result that science and Scripture have been pitted against each other instead of being seen as complementary. Properly understood, Genesis justifies the scientific experience of unity and order in nature. The six-day schema is but one of several means employed in this chapter to stress the system and order that has been built into creation. Other devices include the use of repeating formulae, the tendency to group words and phrases into tens and sevens, literary techniques such as chiasm and inclusio, the arrangement of creative acts into matching groups, and so on. (p. 39)

As can be seen, the proposed symmetry and stylistic features allows Wenham to object to the meaning of the precise order given by the text. But the symmetry Wenham proposes is superficial. Here are his first of two diagrams of the days from page 7:

Day 1     Light                          Day 4     Luminaries

Day 2     Sky                            Day 5     Birds and Fish

Day 3     Land  (plants)            Day 6     Animals and Man  (plants for food)

Now, this looks significant, until one looks at the text. On Day 1, Light is created, but so are the Heavens and the Earth which was composed of a vast ball of water. On Day 2, the Sky is created in which birds fly, but birds also need land, which did not appear until Day 3, and fish need water, which is created on Day 1. So a true symmetry would have fish created on Day 4 and Birds created on the same day as animals and Man with the Sky created on the same day as the land appears. As the text stands, the symmetry only works broadly for Days 3 and 6, and only slightly for Days 1 and 4. Then there is the issue of the creation of water, which is necessary for all life, created on Day 1 and air, assumed to have been created on Day 2, also necessary for all life. So the supposed symmetry given by Wenham collapses under its own weight.

Here is the second symmetry of the Days given by Wenham:

Day 1     heaven

Day 2     heaven

Day 3                  earth

Day 4     heaven

Day 5                 earth

Day 6                 earth

However, this too is not quite accurate since Day 1 includes the Earth, Day 2 also includes the ball of water below the expanse which is the Earth.

Thus the proposed symmetries in the text which Wenham uses to allow himself the luxury of ignoring the obvious sequential nature of the text and, by this, to declare belief in a literal six days as “over-literalistic,” fails. The creation of plants prior to the creation of the stars remains a barrier to all schemes which man has created to destroy the obvious declaration of the text that God created the entire Universe and everything which it contains in six literal Days.

But this was noted over 1800 years ago. Theophilus, a pastor in the city of Antioch, writing about A.D. 180 to convince a friend, Autolycus, of the truth of Christianity, discussed the Days of creation. This is what he wrote about Day 4:

On the fourth day the luminaries were made; because God, who possesses foreknowledge, knew the follies of the vain philosophers, that they were going to say, that the things which grow on the earth are produced from the heavenly bodies, so as to exclude God. In order, therefore, that the truth might be obvious, the plants and seeds were produced prior to the heavenly bodies, for what is posterior cannot produce that which is prior. (Book 2, chapter 15)

One can see he anticipated Carl Sagan’s statement, that we are all “made of star-stuff,” by over 1800 years. As noted above, the creation of the stars and moon on Day 4 stands as a barrier to all schemes designed to ignore the truth that Moses wrote in Exodus 20, verse 11, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them.”

 

F. Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) Edited by D. J. Wiseman, Madison, WI: Inter-Varsity Press 1982.

Carl Sagan, The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective. Anchor Press, 1973.

Theophilus, Theophilus to Autolycus (Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, vol. 2) Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Revised by A. Cleveland Coxe. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2012

Wenham, Gordon John. Genesis 1-15, Volume 1 (Word Biblical Commentary). Edited by David Allen Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Waco, TX: Zondervan, 2014.

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