Keywords: framework interpretation, creation, geology, Biblical inerrancy, Professor Arie Noordzij, Meredith G. Kline, week, two-register cosmology, waw consecutive
Editor’s note:This article was originally published in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, vol. 10 (2005): 19–67. It is posted here with kind permission of the journal.
Be sure to read both articles in this series:
Beginning with the development of modern geology in the nineteenth century along with its demands for an old earth,1,2 various novel explanations of Genesis 1:1–2:3 have arisen in the evangelical world attempting to harmonize the days of the creation week with an old earth. With these various explanations, a common element is a figurative interpretation of the days of the creation week, rather than the traditional literal understanding.3 One of these approaches, which has become increasingly popular over the last forty years, is the framework interpretation.4 For those who are committed to biblical inerrancy, this view has had a certain level of appeal for at least two reasons. First, framework advocates claim their view of creation is based on a consistent use of exegesis. As Meredith G. Kline has averred: “Purely exegetical considerations, therefore, compel the conclusion that the divine author has employed the imagery of an ordinary week to provide a figurative chronological framework for the account of his creative acts.”5 Second, the framework view does not restrict a Christian’s conscience about the age of the earth, a subject that the Bible supposedly does not address. With the argumentation used to support the framework view, the claim is made that the age of the earth is not a necessary component with their depiction of the framework. “In fact, one may hold to the framework interpretation and affirm a more recent date for creation, should one be so convinced. . . . Teachers of God’s word cannot say, ‘As a Bible-believing Christian, you must believe that the earth is young (or old).’”6 What are the “exegetical considerations” that make this view so compelling? Is it true that this interpretation has no implications for the age of the earth? More essentially, what is the framework interpretation? Over the course of two articles, my goal is to examine the framework interpretation and to evaluate its biblical consistency. This first article will present four major theses of the framework argument and will critique one of these theses. The second article will evaluate the remaining three theses.
Rather than interpreting the days of Genesis 1 as a sequential account of God’s creative activity in six days, the framework view affirms that the creation “week” itself is a figurative structure. This understanding of the creation account was initially set forth in 1924 by Professor Arie Noordzij of the University of Utrecht.7 While Noordzij’s framework view did not initially gather many adherents, it acquired more prominence through N. H. Ridderbos’s book, Is There a Conflict Between Genesis 1 and Natural Science?8 However, the current popularity of this interpretation is largely a result of the work of Reformed scholar Meredith G. Kline.9 His initial entry was an article in 1958, “Because It Had Not Rained.”10 Since Kline’s initial article, some other reputable Christian scholars have provided academic defenses of the framework interpretation.11
In essence, the framework view asserts that the creation “week” of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a literary framework intended to present God’s creative activity in a topical, non-sequential manner, rather than a literal, sequential one. The framework theory is supported by four theses. First, the figurative nature of the creation account demonstrates that it is topically arranged rather than chronologically. Second, ordinary providence governed the creation account. Third, the unending nature of the seventh day indicates that the six days of the creation week are not normal days. Fourth, a two-register cosmology provides a rationale that explains why the time indicators in Genesis 1:1–2:3 are non-sequential.
As was previously noted, an asserted strength of the framework interpretation is its exegetical basis. This claim provides the first argument supporting this interpretation: the creation “week” itself is a figurative frame comprised of six pictures of workdays, and the actual arrangement of the “days” of the creation “week,” in keeping with its figurative nature, reflects a symmetrically arranged topical account of creation. According to Kline, “Exegesis indicates that the scheme of the creation week itself is a poetic figure and that the several pictures of creation history are set within the six work-day frames not chronologically but topically.”12 To gain an accurate understanding of Kline’s assertion, a brief explanation about the “six work-day frames,” the topical arrangement of the creation account, and its poetic nature are apropos.
The overall literary structure used in the creation account is a scheme of “six work-day frames,” with each day of work in Genesis 1 serving as a picture frame. Each day of the creation “week” is introduced by a divine announcement, “God said,” וַיֹּאמֶר (Gen 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24). The use of וַיֹּאמֶר provides a frame for each day of the creation account.13 In addition, וַיֹּאמֶר is used twice on two different days: the third day (Gen 1:9-11) and the sixth (Gen 1:24-26). It is from the use of וַיֹּאמֶר that framework supporters derive that there are eight creative events.14 Within each frame, the author of Genesis either gives one snapshot of God’s creative work, such as is reflected by the fiat-fulfillment expressions (Gen 1:3, fiat: “Let there be light”; fulfillment: “and there was light”), on the first day, second, fourth and fifth, or he gives two snapshots on each of the remaining days, the third day and the sixth. When the six workday frames are viewed as a whole, the eight creation events are evenly divided into two parallel units of three days, with Day 1 corresponding to Day 4, Day 2 to 5, and 3 to 6. Thus, the first three days form a unit of four creative activities that are paralleled by the last three days with the same number of creative events, with the concluding day in each triad, Days 3 and 6, presenting two snapshots of creation. The first triad has been classified as “creation kingdoms” (the creation of empty and undeveloped mass and space) and the second as “creature kings” (things created to develop and fill what was created in the first triad).15 The intent of both triads is for literary and theological purposes, rather than chronological. As such, the literary parallels of the two triads are subordinate to the seventh day that is set up as a Sabbath rest of the “Creator King.”16 The following chart reflects this symmetrical design of the creation “week.”
|Creation kingdoms||Creature kings||The Creator King17|
|Day 1||Light||Day 4||Luminaries||Day 7||Sabbath|
|Day 5||Sea creatures
|Day 3||Dry land
|Day 6||Land animals
As this chart reflects, the six workday frames of creation appear to demonstrate a symmetrical arrangement of two triads and this implies that the days of creation may have been arranged in such a way to communicate something other than a sequential arrangement. In addition, the framework view suggests that the literal six days of the creation week are irrelevant because these days are supportive of the non-literal, continuous, seventh day and thus “provide a theology of the sabbath.”18 According to the framework interpretation, the structural arrangement of both triads indicates that the literary arrangement of the creation account was not to establish a chronological sequence, but to have a literary structure of creative activities that “culminates in the Sabbath.”19 From this “theology of the sabbath,” it follows that if the seventh day was a non-literal day, then each day that is part of the two parallel units of three days is also a non-literal day.20
As the preceding chart also reflects, the creation account was not written chronologically but topically. The author of Genesis has apparently placed a couple of obvious inconsistencies into the early chapters of Genesis to reflect a dischronologization of the creation “week.” These obvious inconsistencies inform the reader that the creation account is a topical account, rather than a sequential one. The initial inconsistency is with God’s creation of light. On the first day of creation, God created light, yet the source of light is not created until the fourth day.21 This suggests that Day 1 and Day 4 describe the same creative activity. On Day 1, the creation of light is briefly described; however, on Day 4, the creation of light is described in detail. According to the framework view, the creation of light on Day 4 serves as an example of temporal recapitulation.22 The additional inconsistency relates to the creation of plants. According to the creation account, vegetation was created on the third day, Genesis 1:11–12; however, Genesis 2:5 indicates that vegetation was created after man on the sixth day.23 Since these types of inconsistencies undermine God’s normal use of providence, a defense of a literal interpretation of the creation account calls into question God’s wisdom.24 Since Scripture uses dischronologization in other places, the framework’s recognition of dischronologization in the creation account provides an interpretative scheme that does not call into question God’s wisdom.25
The symmetrical structure and topical arrangement of the creation narrative suggest that it is not a normal historical narrative, but one that involves a highly artistic style,26 or a “semi-poetic style.”27 In keeping with its semi-poetic texture, framework defenders interpret the temporal markers, the days and the “evening and morning” expressions, as metaphors to describe heavenly time, and not earthly literal time. While some framework proponents refer to the time markers of the creation narrative as metaphors,28 others refer to them as anthropomorphic expressions.29 In either case, framework advocates agree that this type of rhetorical feature is supportive of a topical account of creation, rather than a chronological one. In addition, the symmetrical nature of the creation “week” is reflected by its arrangement into six units of days, “panels,”30 with each panel following a typical progression, such as “God saw,” “there was,” and God’s evaluation of the cited creative activity as “good.” Each panel is concluded with a chronological refrain: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day,” etc.31 The precise use of numbers, rather than showing a sequence of days, “attests to God’s logical and timely shaping of creation.”32 When the symmetrical structure of Genesis 1:1–2:3 and its topical arrangement are linked with the use of metaphors or anthropomorphisms for heavenly time, the “mature reader” can only conclude that the creation narrative is not normal historical narrative, but reflects a highly stylized use of narrative. Henri Blocher has commented on the clarity of this literary interpretation: “The structure of our hymn-narrative leaves nothing to chance; it is the fruit of mature meditations.”33 In sum, this brief explanation of this thesis of the framework view demonstrates that an inherent fabric of this interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is something of a hymnic use of narrative, a semi-poetic account,34 that, in its design of presenting a theology of the Sabbath, used the figurative framework of a week to topically arrange certain creation motifs.35
The second argument of the framework theory is that the creation account was controlled by ordinary providence. This tenet is based upon the exegesis of Genesis 2:5 by framework proponents and the analogy of Scripture. Since this argument is predicated on Kline’s 1958 article (“Because It Had Not Rained”), it has been referred to as the “because it had not rained” argument.36 According to this argument, Genesis 2:5 teaches that vegetation was not created until after God provided a water supply for the vegetation and a man to cultivate it: “Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.”37 God created, in v. 6, the water supply and, in v. 7, the man. While Genesis 2:5 may indicate that God created a water supply and man before vegetation, its underlying assumption, according to Kline, is that “divine providence was operating during the creation period through processes which any reader would recognize as normal in the natural world of his day.”38 As such, Genesis 2:5 “takes it for granted that providential operations were not of a supernatural kind, but that God ordered the sequence of creation acts so that the continuance and development of the earth and its creatures could proceed by natural means.”39
In addition to the “because it had not rained” argument, the analogy of Scripture dictates that the resultant interpretation of Genesis 2:5 be applied to Genesis 1:11–12, which has vegetation being created on Day 3 followed by man on the sixth day. The apparent problem for a recent creationist’s view of the third day is that, prior to vegetation being created on this day, the waters were gathered together and dry land appeared on the same day. But, if the land formed out of water immediately dried up, as vegetation would require, this of necessity would require an extraordinary evaporation process, in conflict with the modus operandi of Genesis 2:5. In the words of Kline, “But continents just emerged from under the seas do not become thirsty land as fast as that by the ordinary process of evaporation.”40 If, then, the sequential understanding of Genesis 1 is correct, this interpretation “directly contradicts the revelation of Genesis 2:5–6, which shows that the mode of divine providence between such supernatural acts of creation was the ordinary mode currently in effect today .... The analogy of Scripture, as applied in this context, forces the Bible-believing interpreter to abandon a literalist reading of the creation narrative.”41
The third tenet of the framework interpretation relates to the unending nature of the seventh day. If the seventh day is an unending day, it is not an earthly literal day, but rather is a metaphor, a nonliteral day, and reflective of heavenly time. And, if the seventh day is a metaphor, then those days that are subservient to the seventh day, the first six days of the creation account, are metaphorical.42 According to Irons and Kline, “this seventh day is not an earthly day of rest for man, but the heavenly rest of God Himself. Because it is synonymous with God’s heavenly enthronement, the seventh day argues for the upper register nature of the creation week, and as an eternal day, it argues for the nonliteral nature of the creation days.”43
Two items are employed to support the unending nature of the seventh day. To begin with, the description of the seventh day in Genesis 2:1–3 omits the “evening-morning” conclusion. This omission of the “evening-morning” formula “is deliberate. There can be no doubt about that in a text that has been composed with exact calculation.”44 Additionally, the unending nature of the seventh day “is confirmed by the treatment of the theme of God’s rest in Hebrews 4.”45 In concluding his discussion of the impact that this understanding of the seventh day has for taking the first six days of the creation account figuratively, Kline has forcefully stated: “The creation ‘week’ is to be understood figuratively, not literally—that is the conclusion demanded by the biblical evidence.”46
The fourth thesis focuses on another argument that Kline set forth in 1996 to further offset the literal interpretation of the creation account.47 This more recent support focuses on a two-register cosmology. This argument demonstrates that there are two distinguishable registers in the created cosmos, an upper and a lower register, and that this “two-register cosmology explains the significance of the nonliteral nature of the time indicators in Genesis 1 within the overall cosmological teaching of Scripture.”48 In this scheme, the upper register, an invisible dimension, is not co-eternal with God, but is the heavenly place that God initially created for his dwelling and for his angels. The lower register, a visible dimension, is earth, and “includes the whole visible cosmos from the planet Earth to the star-studded sky.”49 The relationship between the lower and upper register is such that the lower register replicates the archetypical upper register. In keeping with the lower register’s imaging the upper register, the days of the creation narrative evidently reflect the time associated with the upper register. As such, the objective reality behind the chronological material in the creation narrative, such as the days of the creation “week” with their attendant evening-morning refrain, is the time associated with the upper register.50 To see how this two-register cosmology is correlated with the creation account, two aspects associated with the framework view’s two-register cosmology need additional development.
The initial aspect pertains to the analogical relationship between the two registers. Because of this relationship, features of the lower register can be used as metaphors to picture features of the upper register. This is to say, realities associated with the earthly register, such as clouds and stars, are used metaphorically51 to represent realities of the heavenly register, such as the clouds picturing the Son of Man coming with the clouds and the stars of the sky representing angels.52 As this relates to the creation account, the argument of the framework view “is that the language of the days and the ‘evenings and mornings’ is not literal but an instance of lower-register terms being used metaphorically to describe the upper-register.”53 To demonstrate that there is a connection between this two-register cosmology and Genesis 1:1–2:3, framework supporters note a number of connections with this text. We will briefly summarize four of these links.
Genesis 1:1 describes the absolute beginning of all created reality.First, Genesis 1:1 describes the absolute beginning of all created reality:54 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The “heavens” of this verse refer to God’s creation of the upper register and the “earth” the lower register. This upper register does not refer to the visible sky above the earth but to the invisible heavens that are the created dwelling place for God and his angels. Likewise, the lower register refers to the earth and the visible heavens above it.55 Second, the two-register cosmology is continued in Genesis 1:2: “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Verse 2 specifically focuses on the lower register, the unformed and empty earth; however, the presence of the Spirit “moving over the surface of the waters” provides a connection with the upper register. The visible manifestation of the Spirit in later revelation is identified as the Glory-cloud that led Israel out of Egypt and the Shekinah glory that uniquely permeated the Tabernacle and Temple. In the words of Kline, “the ‘Spirit’ here refers to the heavenly epiphany which is known in its manifestation within the visible world as the Shekinah, the theophanic cloud of glory. Including as it does then the Spirit-Glory of the temple in heaven along with the earth below, Gen 1:2 carries forward the two-register cosmology contained in verse 1.”56
Third, the connection between the two registers is continued in Genesis 1:3–31 with the fiat-fulfillment expressions. Each of God’s eight creative fiats, “let there be,” is spoken in the upper register and each one’s fulfillment (“and it was so”) is accomplished in the lower register. Kline concludes this point: “The fiat of the Logos-Word above is executed by the Spirit in the earth below.”57 Fourth, the imprint of the two-register cosmology is also found in Genesis 2:1–3. While God’s royal rest58 is in the upper register, the Creator prescribes “the Sabbath ordinance for human observance on earth below.”59 The following chart reflects the connection between the two registers.60
|Verse 1||Verse 2||Days 1–6||Day 7|
|Upper Register:||heaven||Spirit||fiats||God's Sabbath|
|Lower Register:||earth||deep||fulfillments||Sabbath Ordinance|
As this chart exhibits, from the beginning to the end of the creation narrative, the two-register cosmology permeates the creation “week.” At each juncture, the lower register analogously replicates the upper register. The imprint of this two-register cosmology on Genesis 1:1– 2:3 asserts, according to Irons and Kline, “that the days and the evenings and mornings are to be explained as further examples of lower register language being used metaphorically in descriptions of the upper register. The temporal framework of the creation narrative belongs to the upper register, though it is linguistically clothed in the humble garb of lower-register, chronological terminology.”61
The final aspect is an outgrowth of the initial one, the analogical relationship between the two registers. The preceding data along with the figurative elements of Genesis 1:1–2:3 are drawn together to show that the seven days of the creation account are inextricably connected to upper register time. This connection is drawn from a few items. To begin with, any data within the creation narrative that is nonliteral provides evidence that the days belong to upper-register time. According to the framework theory, the fourth day is a clear example of temporal recapitulation of the first day, and this demonstrates that the first and fourth days are nonsequential. Though the creation narrative establishes that the creation days are solar days, these days occur within a literary framework of the creation “week.” The placement of solar days within a literary device “demands that the framework of the seven days itself belong to the upper register.”62
Additionally, the creation narrative begins with the creation of the upper register in Genesis 1:1. Since the creation narrative begins with upper-register time, “it clearly marks the whole creation week as a framework of days in the upper-register time frame.”63 Furthermore, the creation frame concludes with God’s rest in the upper register. The unending nature of the seventh day indicates that it is upper-register time. “If the seventh day were not an unending Sabbath-rest for God but a literal day, would the next day be another week of work and rest for him, to be followed by an indefinite repetition of this pattern?”64 Finally, if Genesis 1:1–2:3 starts and concludes with upper-register time, the intervening six days also operate on upper-register time. This “bracket” argument does not allow the intervening six days to operate according to earthly time, but according to heavenly time.65 As Kline has summarized: “The six evening-morning days then do not mark the passage of time in the lower register sphere. They are not identifiable in terms of solar days, but relate to the history of creation at the upper register of the cosmos. The creation ‘week’ is to be understood figuratively, not literally—this is the conclusion demanded by the biblical evidence.”66
In summation, we have presented four theses that support the framework theory. We must now turn our attention to evaluate this interpretation to determine if it is “demanded by the biblical evidence.” In the remainder of this article, we begin our critique of the framework by evaluating its first thesis.
Anyone who has done serious research on the framework theory must be impressed with a number of strengths exhibited by its advocates. One such strength is their desire for an exegetical defense of the framework view. As an example, Ross has touted the supposed exegetical basis of the framework view: “The Framework Hypothesis argues, on exegetical grounds, that the organizing principle of the creation account is topical rather than chronological. It denies, on exegetical grounds, that the seven-day week is intended as a chronological unfolding of the separate acts of creation limited in duration to one calendar week.”67 Other proponents, such as Kline and Waltke, are renowned for their exegetical contributions to Old Testament studies. While the subject of the framework’s exegetical substance will be evaluated in the remainder of this paper and the next one, the desire of framework advocates for an exegetical foundation is admirable. Additionally, their zealous commitment to defending what they are convinced is a biblical position is praiseworthy. As some of the quotations in the preceding section noted, framework advocates are inexorable in their defense of the framework interpretation. Furthermore, backers of the framework view have overtly affirmed a commitment to the historical and theological truth associated with God’s creation of Adam, Adam’s role as representative head of the human race, and the Fall.68
Finally, while framework adherents unambiguously argue for a figurative interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3, they clearly distinguish between a figurative understanding of the creation account and “a nonhistorical interpretation of the text. The framework interpretation does not teach that creation was a nonhistorical event.”69 Their defense of the historical substance of some portions of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is commendable. However, I am persuaded that this figurative approach distorts the basic historical fabric of Genesis 1:1–2:3 and promotes an interpretative model that, if fully developed, undermines the historicity of Adam’s federal headship over the created realm that God had entrusted to him. Furthermore, though professing a form of exegetical substance, the exegetical selectivity reflected by the framework position undermines its value as a consistent biblical cosmogony. In the remainder of this paper, I will evaluate the first major thesis of the framework: the figurative nature of the creation account. The second part of this series will critique the remaining three theses.
The first major tenet of the framework interpretation is that the creation “week” itself is a figure that presents six pictures, “days,” of divine creation that are topically arranged, as opposed to a sequential arrangement of six days in a literal week. Framework advocates support this position as an outgrowth of their exegetical analyses of select creation texts that have a poetic type texture and use metaphorical language, both of which indicate that the creation narrative is not a sequential account but a topical one. However, we must examine more precisely the exegetical nature of Genesis 1:1–2:3 to evaluate this thesis of the framework. Does it reflect some sort of poetic style? Also, how much of the language is metaphorical? More importantly, if it reflects something of a poetic style, does this mean that there is a dichotomy between a chronological account and an artistic arrangement? This is to say, if the creation account is a well-organized and symmetrical structure, as apparently reflected by the framework’s two parallel triads,70 does this annul the evidence within the account that demonstrates a sequential understanding?
While there may be some debate about the extent of the creation account’s artistic nature, it is an incontrovertible fact that it is not a poetic text.71 Two items demonstrate this fact.
A comparison with three poetic accounts presenting some details from the creation week, Job 38:8–11, Psalm 33:6–9, and Psalm 104:5–9, demonstrates a difference between poetry and stylized narrative. An unmistakable distinction is that these three poetic texts exhibit a consistent use of linear parallelism, as Psalm 33:9 illustrates:
|For He spoke, and it was done.|
|He commanded, and it stood fast.|
With this example, the second line, while using different words, communicates essentially the same concepts as the first line. This type of linear parallelism is not found in Genesis 1:1–2:3.72 “Genesis one,” according to Edward J. Young, “is written in exalted, semi-poetical language; nevertheless, it is not poetry. For one thing the characteristics of Hebrew poetry are lacking, and in particular there is an absence of parallelism.”73
In addition to the omission of linear parallelism, Genesis 1:1–2:3 is permeated with a grammatical device that sets it apart as an unambiguous narrative account: the waw consecutive.74 While the waw consecutive may appear in poetic literature, it is not a defining characteristic of Hebrew poetry.75 However, it is a significant component of Hebrew historical narrative in that it generally adds to past time narration an element of sequence.76 For example, in the book of Genesis the waw consecutive is used 2,107 times, with an average distribution of approximately 42 uses per chapter. In Genesis 2:4–25 the waw consecutive is used 21 times in 22 verses; and in 3:1–24 it is used 34 times. However, in a chapter that is poetic, Genesis 49:2–33, the waw consecutive appears only 15 times in 31 verses. But, in the chapter preceding Genesis 49, 48:1–18, the waw consecutive is used 36 times, and, in the chapter that follows it, 50:1–23, the waw consecutive appears 41 times.77
The use of waw consecutive to communicate sequential, past tense material is the expected style for a historical book like Genesis. If the author of Genesis wanted to preserve past-tense, sequential material, we expect his literary style to include a consistent use of the waw consecutive. What is significant for this point is that the waw consecutive appears 55 times in the thirty-four verses found in Genesis 1:1–2:3. Thus, the use of the waw consecutive in the prologue to the historical narrative of Genesis, Genesis 1:1–2:3, is consistent with the narrative material found in the remainder of Genesis. If Moses did not intend the creation account to be taken sequentially, then why did he so frequently use a grammatical form that is regularly used for sequence?78 My argument is not that waw consecutive always denotes sequence, for, within a narrative sequence, it may occasionally represent non-sequential action that is anterior to the main-line narrative and consequently be rendered as a pluperfect (past perfect),79 but that waw consecutive is generally used sequentially as a preterite in narrative literature.80 Such is the case in Genesis 1:1–2:3. After vv. 1–2, the main-line narrative of the creation account is carried along by the waw consecutive, just as the waw consecutive is consistently used in the book of Genesis.
However, if, as I have previously noted, the waw consecutive may also be translated as a pluperfect, does this not imply that a few of the 55 uses of the waw consecutive in Genesis 1:1–2:3 may involve temporal recapitulation, just as framework supporters contend occurred on the fourth day (Gen 1:14–19)?81 While waw consecutive in some contexts may allow for temporal recapitulation, its use as the main-line sequence of the fourth day does not allow for temporal recapitulation that looks back to Day 1,82 as is also true for the other days in the creation week where the main-line narrative is advanced by the use of waw consecutive.83 Not only are the creative activities of this day advanced by the sequential use of waw consecutive, but Moses also indicated that these creative activities took place on a sequentially numbered day, the “fourth day” (Gen 1:19), and that the details of the first day and the fourth argue against temporal recapitulation. To demonstrate that the fourth day is not an example of temporal recapitulation, our discussion must expand beyond the use of waw consecutive to include the seven enumerated days of Genesis 1:1–2:3 and a comparison of the particulars of the first and fourth days.
To show that Days 1 and 4 are two distinct days, four items associated with the sequentially numbered, literal days need to be addressed.
The first item that should be noted is that Hebrew word translated as “day” in Genesis 1:19 is the singular noun יוֹם. When the singular יוֹם is not part of a compound grammatical construction,84 it invariably refers to literal days or to the daytime portion of a normal day.85 The singular יוֹם is used 1,452 times in the Old Testament.86 In Genesis 1:1–2:3, the noun יוֹם is used 14 times, 13 times in the singular, with none in a compound grammatical relationship, and once in the plural.87 Of the 13 uses of “day,” 4 refer to “day” as opposed to “night” (1:5, 14, 16, 17).88 As such, each day involving divine creative activity is divided according to the natural phenomena of “daytime” and “nighttime.” It is this day and night cycle that constitutes each full day of the creation week,89 as Genesis 1:5 specifies: “God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day”90 (see also in 1:16, where the greater light governs the daytime and the lesser light the nighttime). The remaining 9 uses of יוֹם are distributed in such a way that 6 make up the enumerated days of the creation week, the “first day” through the “sixth day” (1:5, 8, 13, 19, 24, 31), and 3 uses are enumerated forms of the “seventh day” (2:2 [twice], 3). If the singular use of “day,” when it is not part of a compound grammatical construction, is always used throughout the Old Testament as a literal day, then this provides solid evidence that the “fourth day” was a literal day.
We should additionally note that singular noun יוֹם is qualified by the ordinal number “fourth,” רְבִיעִי (Gen 1:19). A number is used to qualify both the singular and plural forms of “day” more than 350 times in the Old Testament.91 As a singular noun, a number modifies יוֹם approximately 150 times.92 When a number qualifies יוֹם, it is used time after time in a literal sense.93 An example of this is found in Exodus 12:15: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.” Anything other than literal days would make a mockery of the penalty for this covenant violation.94 Another example of a number modifying יוֹם is Exodus 24:16: “The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.” Though this text is not used by framework defenders, it provides a good comparison with Genesis 1:2, since it also points to the alleged two-register cosmology.95 In addition, since Exodus 24:16 uses numbers with days,96 it provides a further point of comparison with Genesis 1:1–2:3. In Exodus 24:16, the “Glory-presence of God,” to use Irons and Kline’s expression,97 may represent the upper register, while the earthly cloud the lower register. In Genesis 1:2, “the Spirit of God” represents the upper register, while “the deep” over which the Spirit moves represents the lower register.98 In light of the framework’s two-register cosmology, the appearance of the LORD in this cloud is an example of an “earthly thing” that is “used as a metaphor for upper-register realities.”99 As such, lower register terms, such as “cloud” and “days,” are metaphors used “to describe the upper register. Just as the heavens where God dwells does not have literal clouds or a rainbow, so heavenly time is not literally measured by solar days or earthly evenings and mornings.”100 In addition, Exodus 24:16 provides an example of the use of the simple,101 singular יוֹם, with numbers. Commentators do not contest the literal significance of “six days” and “the seventh day.”102 However, this text is a problem for the framework position, because it combines their two-register cosmology with earthly literal days, and not heavenly days. Let us assume for argument’s sake that the days of Exodus 24:16 do refer to heavenly time, then are the “forty days and forty nights” in v. 18 also examples of heavenly time (“Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights”)?
While Sarna allows for a symbolic use of “forty days and forty nights,”103 this is improbable.104 Because Moses’ communion with the Lord and fasting without food or water for “forty days and forty nights,” as v. 18 states, is connected to the giving of the Law, the numerous repetitions of this passage, Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 9:9, 11, 18, 10:10, confirm its literal substance.105 If the examples of “six days” and “the seventh day” in v. 16 and “the forty days and forty nights” in v. 18 refer to heavenly time, this would violate the clear sense of the passage. The obvious reading of Exodus 24 suggests that God works according to normal earthly time, “six days,” “the seventh day,” and “forty days and forty nights.” When the theophanic cloud appears, “it is the heavenly realm,” according to Jordan, “inserting into the earthly. But this means that God marches in earthly time along with his people.”106
Whatever substance there may be with Irons and Kline’s two-register cosmology, Exodus 24:16 indicates that it requires only one kind of time, earthly literal time, rather than two temporal systems of heavenly and earthly time. The use of a literal “day” with a numeric qualifier, in Exodus 24:16, is consistent with the other 150 Old Testament uses of the same type of construction reflecting the same pattern of literal days. Consequently, this suggests that the use of “day,” יוֹם, in Genesis 1:19, with a numerical qualifier, is also a reference to an earthly literal day, rather than a heavenly day.
Not only is “day” qualified by the ordinal number “fourth,” but “fourth” is also part of a link in an uninterrupted sequence of seven days, “the first day” through “the seventh day.” Besides Genesis 1:1– 2:3, there are two other extended lists of sequentially arranged numbers that qualify the singular יוֹם, Numbers 7:12–83 and 29:17–35.107 The historical narrative in Numbers 7, like Genesis 1:1–2:3, reflects a stylized use of narrative, including rhetorical features such as inclusio and repetition.108 In this narrative, leaders from each tribe of Israel brought various gifts to the Lord on 12 consecutive and uninterrupted days. A sequentially arranged ordinal qualifies each use of the word “day.” Numbers 7:12 illustrates this point, “Now the one who presented his offering on the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah” (for the remainder of the days along with their numerical qualifiers, see vv. 18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 54, 60, 66, 72, 78). In this passage, the use of the singular יוֹם plus a numeric adjective can be nothing other than a sequentially enumerated, literal day.109 Therefore, the offering presented by “Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah” (v. 12), on the “first day,” is distinct from the offering presented by “Nethanel the son of Zuar, leader of Issachar” (v. 18), on the “second day”; and the offerings of both are sequentially linked on two consecutive, literal days. What is significant in Numbers 7:12–83 is that literal days (the singular יוֹם) involve a consecutive sequence, without any breaks, through the use of ordinals, from the “first day” through the “twelfth day.”110
In another historical narrative, Numbers 29:17–35, the successively arranged days are also literal days. In the 7th month of an Israelite year, the Feast of Tabernacles began on the 15th day of this month and continued for seven successive days until the 21st day, followed by a sacred assembly on the 22nd day. In this account, offerings were prescribed for each day of the feast. Beginning with the second day and continuing through the eighth, God prescribed the offerings for each day. For the offerings of each day, the prescription is begun with a waw conjunction attached to a prepositional phrase that uses the simple, singular noun “day,” יוֹם, followed by a sequential number. For example, the offering for the second day is begun with “then on the second day,” וּבַיּוֹם הַשֵּׁנִי, in v. 17. The third day is started with “then on the third day,” וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי, in v. 20, and this pattern of description continues for the remaining five days of the Feast of Tabernacles (vv. 23, 26, 29, 32, 35). Consequently, the offerings of the second day and third day form a unit of two uninterrupted, distinct days.
Based upon the two historical narratives where יוֹם is used with sequentially arranged numbers, each day is part of a sequence of successive, uninterrupted, literal days. The use of sequentially numbered, literal days in both passages supports a similar interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3. More specifically, the use of sequentially numbered days demonstrates that Day 4 must be a literal day and this day is the fourth day of the creation week, rather than any other day of that week.
To review this point about sequentially numbered, literal days, we have demonstrated that Genesis 1:19 summarizes the “fourth day” with the simple, singular “day,” which is qualified by the numeric adjective “fourth,” and that the “fourth day” is an earthly literal day, as opposed to a heavenly day. Additionally, the “fourth day” cannot, by nature of the sequential use of numbers, be identical with any of the other days of the creation account. The framework’s argument that the first and fourth days are an identical heavenly day, describing the creation of light from two perspectives, is in direct conflict with the biblical evidence we have observed. If the numerous other biblical texts showing that “day” is an earthly literal day have any substance, the “fourth day” must be a distinct, literal day.111 Nevertheless, framework proponents minimize the force of this argument by maintaining that first and fourth days describe the same event. Do the textual details for Days 1 and 4 justify negating the force of the sequentially numbered, literal days? To answer this question, we must compare the particulars of each day.
In comparing the first day and fourth day of the creation week, we have previously noted that framework advocates point out that there is an inconsistency for a chronological interpretation of these two days. Since God creates light on the first day and the source of light on the fourth day, the days must be identical.112 According to the framework position, this inconsistency indicates that the creation account should be interpreted topically rather than chronologically.113 According to Irons and Kline, the parallelism of the creation account “is also exhibited in the relation of Days 1 and 4, which not only deal with the same topics of light/darkness and day/night but also employ identical language of separation (Gen. 1:4, 14, 18).”114 In short, “the divine purposes in creating the light on Day 1 and the luminaries on Day 4 are identical.”115 To demonstrate that this is an invalid interpretation, the first day and fourth day will be compared in two ways.
First, the text of Genesis 1 does not specifically state that God’s purposes for creating light on Day 1 and the luminaries on Day 4 are identical. While the only overlap in the “light” created on Day 1 and the luminaries on Day 4 is that both involve visible light, God did not assign an explicit function for the light created on Day 1 as he did for the luminaries created on Day 4.116 In addition, Day 4 presupposes Day 1. On the first day, God himself by fiat created the “light,” “separated the light from the darkness,” “called the light day, and the darkness night” (Gen 1:3–5). On the fourth day, the day that the framework promoters argue is identical to the first day, God did not simply create light (“let there be light,” יְהִי אוֹר, v. 3), rather he created the luminaries—the sun, moon and stars—“to separate the day from the night” and “to give light on the earth” (Gen 1:14–15). In contrast to Day 1, God explicitly assigns multiple functions for the luminaries. Furthermore, God’s creative activity on the fourth day presupposes that “light” existed prior to the fourth day. The luminaries were created “to govern the day [יוֹם] and the night [ַלַּיְלָה],” and this suggests that the “day” and “night” also existed before Day 4. Since there is no genuine functional identity and the creation of light precedes the creation of the luminaries, Days 1 and 4 cannot be identical.117
Second, in Genesis 1:14–19, God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day and placed these luminaries in the “expanse [רְקִיע] of the heavens” in order “to separate the day from the night” and to serve as signs “to mark seasons and days and years” (NIV). However, the “expanse” was not created on the first day but on the second day. The word “expanse” (רְקִיע) does not appear in the text until the second day, where it is used three times in Genesis 1:6–8, and the fourth day, where it appears five times in Genesis 1:14–19. While Day 4 only overlaps with Day 1 in terms of day and night, and light and darkness, the luminaries of Day 4 fill the “expanse” created on Day 2. However, if Days 1 and 4 are equated, as the framework view asserts, then Day 1/4 must precede Day 2. How can the “expanse” created on Day 2 be filled with the luminaries that are created on Day 1/4?118 Therefore, the connection between Day 1 and Day 4 is not as precise as framework advocates would insist, and the connection between Days 2 and 4 is of such a nature that Day 2 must precede Day 4.119
The details of the creation narrative reflect a chronological movement from Day 1 to Day 4, rather than a merger of the two days as one.Third, the details of the creation narrative reflect a chronological movement from Day 1 to Day 4, rather than a merger of the two days as one. At the inception of creation, God created the heavens as empty space and the earth as an unformed and empty, watery sphere, surrounded by darkness, while being nurtured by the Spirit of God (Gen 1:1–2). With the initial creation of the heavens and the earth, God created darkness. By fiat, the next creative act of God was the creation of light: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (v. 3). While light is generally connected to luminaries, it may also exist independently from them, as is the case with the physical phenomena of lightning. According to some rabbinic interpreters, God created a primeval source of light that was independent of the sun.120 Since God is light, he certainly could have created a nonsolar source of light, prior to the sun’s creation.121 As Whitcomb has suggested, “God created a fixed and localized light source in the heaven in reference to which the rotating earth passed through the same kind of day/night cycles as it has since the creation of the sun.”122 Another example of this may be drawn from starlight. Once light has been emitted from a star, it passes through space independently of the star, whether or not it remains in existence.123 A final example may be drawn from Revelation 21:23: “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” The New Jerusalem will not be illuminated by the sun or moon.124 As Genesis began with light immediately emanating from God, so the book of Revelation ends in a similar manner.125 Though God has not revealed how the light of Day 1 operated, he is more than capable, as the self-existent, self-sufficient, self-contained Creator, of speaking light into existence prior to his creation of the sun. Therefore, there is no biblical justification for equating Days 1 and 4, as the framework does.
After the creation of light, God himself “separated the light from the darkness” (Gen 1:4). Since God himself explicitly separated the light from darkness, this act of separation is “not an act of providence, but a distinct creative act.”126 After separating light from darkness, God assigns the names “day,” יוֹם, to the light and “night,” ַלַּיְלָה, to the darkness. The divine act of naming suggests that the actual quality of the object named is indicated by the divinely assigned name. In this context, God’s assigning names that are consistent with the nature of the object being named is God’s consistent pattern throughout biblical history. What this suggests is that what characterizes the day is visible light and what characterizes the night is physical darkness. With the assignment of names on Day 1, there is no hint of any metaphorical sense to “day,” יוֹם, or “night,” ַלַּיְלָה; rather, this indicates the literal substance of day and night.127 These are the divine activities of the first day of creation.
The fourth day advances from the first. The waw consecutive at the head of v. 14 suggests sequence and not temporal recapitulation.128 On the fourth day, God’s creation of the sun, moon, and stars, along with the necessary transitional light, are direct acts of creation; however, once this creative activity of God is finished, the luminaries operate as they normally would in providence. God specifically states his purposes for the creation of the luminaries. The luminaries are created for the function of separating “the day from the night,” for “signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Gen 1:14), and as “lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth” (v. 15). More specifically, God created the sun “to govern the day” and the moon “to govern the night” (v. 16). God created the sun and the moon “to separate the light from the darkness” (v. 18).
Whatever else may be said about the creation of the luminaries “to separate the day from the night,” this function clearly assumes the existence of day and night before Day 4, as Cassuto has incisively noted: “This expression enables us to comprehend the existence of the first three days, when there was as yet no sun in the world. To separate one thing from another means to mark the distinction between two things already in existence.”129 Rather than viewing Day 4 with the framework proponents as a “replacement mechanism,”130 it is contextually clear that it should be understood as an advance from Day 1. As Pipa has correctly noted: “We are not to look at day 4 as a replacement act, but rather as an advance. It is significant that God declares the light good and not the separation of light and darkness. When we compare this with the absence of the declaration of goodness on day 2, because the work was incomplete and needed to be advanced, we see that God is signifying more to be done with respect to the separation of light and darkness.”131
In the final analysis, there is no inconsistency for a chronological interpretation of Days 1 and 4. As Young has stated, “the heavenly bodies are made on the fourth day and that the earth had received light from a source other than the sun is not a naïve conception, but is a plain and sober statement of the truth.”132 To affirm that light was created prior to the luminaries is as biblically reasonable as believing that God miraculously separated the Red Sea for the Israelites to march through on dry ground, that Christ was born of a virgin, or that he was raised from the dead.133
Our preceding examination of the creation account’s sequentially numbered, literal days and comparison of Days 1 and 4, not only demands that Days 1 and 4 were distinct, but also suggests that the creation week involved seven, earthly literal days that were sequentially arranged without any interruption. If the creation account is a historical narrative, as the preceding discussion indicates, how then are the creation account’s stylistic features to be explained? More specifically, how are these stylistic features harmonized with the narrative material of the creation account? Additionally, is a stylized use of narrative inconsistent with a chronological account? While framework supporters agree this passage is a narrative, rather than a strict poetic account, their description of this passage as containing a greater degree of stylistic features than normal narrative literature suggests that this elevated use of narrative is not bound to the same historical constraints as the remainder of Genesis.134 Their qualifications of this passage as “highly stylized”135 or as not “presenting a strict historical account”136 is stated in such ways to undermine any chronological significance. These “highly stylized” features include the two parallel units of three days, the repetitious progression in each of the days, and the metaphorical use of the temporal markers. Our discussion will proceed by examining these items followed by a presentation of the specific textual details that identify the narrative arrangement in Genesis 1:1–2:3.
At first blush, the parallel triads of days are not as symmetrical as they may seem. With their defense of this parallel arrangement, framework defenders are unified in their agreement that there are eight creative events in the creation account with the first four events distributed over the first three days and the last four over the last three days, with the concluding day in each triad presenting two creative activities. According to Irons and Kline, “there are a total of eight distinct creative works distributed over six days. The last day within each triad (i.e., Days 3 and 6) contains two creative acts.”137 However, a more precise look at the creation account suggests that this is an artificial interpretation. Three textual observations from the creation account reflect that the two parallel triads, as represented by framework advocates, are a contrived understanding.
First, on the first day of the creation account, framework backers argue that the creation of light was the only creative event. However, apparently because Genesis 1:1 is not governed by the divine creative proclamation, “God said” (וַיֹּאמֶר), they exclude two other creative acts: the heavens and the earth. While a few framework proponents argue that Genesis 1:1 is a summary statement and, therefore, not part of the creation account,138 Irons and Kline understand that Genesis 1:1 is the “absolute beginning” when “God created the heavens (upper register) and the earth (lower register).”139 However, if Genesis 1:1 is an expression of the absolute beginning of the heavens and the earth, does this not mean there are three creative events on the first day of creation? In addition to this, should not “careful exegesis”140 integrate other clearly defined creative activities besides those governed by “God said” (וַיֹּאמֶר)? At least, for those framework advocates who argue that Genesis 1:1 teaches the absolute beginning of the heavens and the earth, this reflects an exegetical discrepancy. Is not good exegesis that which factors in the entire text of the creation account?
Second, as noted earlier, the framework position says that Day 5 corresponds with Day 2. However, this parallel is also strained. On the second day, “God said” (וַיֹּאמֶר) that an “expanse” would be created to “separate the waters from the waters” (Gen 1:6). This divine announcement, while having two fiats, reflects one creative activity: “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” However, its supposed parallel day, the fifth day (Gen 1:20), has one divine announcement, “God said” (וַיֹּאמֶר), that reflects two creative activities: “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures” and “let the birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.”141 In respect to creative events, Day 5 is not genuinely parallel to Day 2.
In addition, assuming the reputed exegetical strength of the framework position, should we conclude that sea creatures made on Day 5 are to fill the “expanse” created on Day 2, especially when God calls them the “fish of the sea” in 1:26, 28? An exegetically based understanding of Genesis 1 supports the sea creatures of Day 5 filling the seas formed on Day 3, and not Day 2.142 Moreover, the birds that are to fly in the “expanse” formed on second day also live and reproduce on the dry land created on third day (Gen 1:22, 29–30).143 As such, the correspondence between the second day and the fifth is imprecise.
Third, the parallel between the third day and the sixth is also unconvincing. According to Futato, “the creating of dry land on Day 3a parallels the creating of land animals on Day 6a, and the creating of vegetation on Day 3b parallels the creating of mankind on Day 6b.”144 Genesis 1:24 reflects a link between the dry land created on the third day and the land animals: “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind.” The animals are produced from the dry land, “the earth.” The linkage between the dry land and terrestrial animals is an accurate assessment.
However, the second parallel is strained, as Futato admits: “It may seem that the parallelism breaks down at the end, because vegetation and mankind may not seem like much of a parallel.”145 To circumvent this “breakdown,” Futato maintains that “when one recalls the twofold focus on vegetation and humanity in Gen 2:4-25, the parallelism becomes evident.”146 Theologically, it is clear that Adam’s probation in Genesis 2 is related to the vegetation of the Garden of Eden, in particular the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Nevertheless, the connection between man and vegetation in Genesis 2 is not the same thing as the connection between land animals and dry land. In order to have a consistent parallel, it should follow that man was formed out of vegetation, as the animals were formed out of dry land. In reality, this example is a comparison of apples and oranges. Furthermore, if there is a consistent parallel between Days 3 and 6, why is there no parallel to the formation of the sea on third day (Gen 1:9)? On the sixth day, nothing is formed to fill the sea.147 The parallels between the third day and the sixth day are not as clear-cut as the framework proponents have suggested.148 Therefore, the two triads of days reflect a parallelism that is not textually based but one that framework advocates have superimposed on the text. Grudem’s observation about the framework’s contrived parallelism is applicable: “With all of these points of imprecise correspondence and overlapping between places and things created to fill them, the supposed literary ‘framework,’ while having an initial appearance of neatness, turns out to be less and less convincing upon closer reading of the text.”149 Precisely stated, the textual distinctions between the supposedly parallel days do not consistently support the framework’s symmetrical arrangement of two triads of days and, in contrast, is congruent with the traditional, literal interpretation of the creation week.
While the framework’s two triads of days do not convincingly treat the exegetical details of the narrative in Genesis 1:1–2:3, this does not mean that the creation narrative is not a stylized use of narrative. The author of Genesis used repetitive elements, such as “God said” (vv. 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29), “let there be” or an equivalent jussive (vv. 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26), “and there was” or “and it was so” (vv. 3, 7, 9, 11, 15, 24, 30) “and there was evening and there was morning” (vv. 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31),150 to reflect a stylized use of Hebrew narrative. Framework supporters and their opponents, including recent creationists, have some level of agreement that the text has a number of repetitive elements that demonstrate a stylized narrative. For example, framework advocate, Meredith Kline, describes the style of narrative in this text as “semi-poetic.”151 Likewise, an opponent of the framework position, Edward J. Young,152 describes this text as having been “written in a semi-poetic language.”153 Opponents of the framework view who clearly affirm that Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a recent creation, such as J. Ligon Duncan and David W. Hall, also recognize that this passage is written in a stylized fashion.154 Likewise, Joseph A. Pipa acknowledges that this is “exalted prose.”155 Seventh-day Adventist scholar, Gerhard F. Hasel, has described Genesis 1:1–2:3 as “a historical prose-record, written in rhythmic style.”156 Consequently, both framework advocates and their opponents, including young earth creationists, can describe the literary style of this text as some form of stylized narrative, though each view the same material in two distinct ways.
Where framework proponents and their opponents diverge is how they interpret this stylized use of narrative. Kline qualifies his description of the creation account’s literary style with this: “The semipoetic style, however, should lead the exegete to anticipate the figurative strand in this genuinely historical record of the origins of the universe.”157 While calling the account a “genuinely historical record,” Kline uses a “semi-poetic style” to find more “figurative” elements in this account than what are normally found in narrative material.
In contrast, Young understands the stylized narrative differently: “Genesis one is written in exalted, semi-poetic language; nevertheless, it is not poetry.”158 Young’s use of “semi-poetic language” may reflect the general use of repetitive elements,159 but he clearly states that this text is “not poetry.” Duncan and Hall, while recognizing that the creation account has a stylized nature, resolutely claim that it “is written with many other markers typical of literal historical accounts. Moreover, it is consistently taken as historical throughout Scripture.”160 Pipa qualifies his use of “exalted prose” by his insistence that Genesis 1 is written in the same historical style as the remainder of the book of Genesis.161 And Hasel’s “rhythmic style” was clearly qualified as “a historical prose-record.”162 From a hermeneutical perspective, the framework’s “semi-poetic style,” or whatever similar descriptive category one of its proponents uses, wishfully provides framework interpreters a license to interpret key aspects of the text figuratively. From an opposite hermeneutical standpoint, an opponent of the framework view, Young, and young earth creationists interpret the text literally, just as they do the remainder of the historical material in the book of Genesis, while they recognize that this passage, by the use of repetitive textual details, is stylized.
More expressly, the framework’s tendency to find more elements that are “figurative” in the creation account provides their justification for jettisoning a literal interpretation of the temporal markers in favor of a figurative understanding. The framework view argues that if one takes a literal interpretation of the creation account, meaning there is no sun for the first three days of creation, then each “day,” along with its subordinate parts of “evening” and “morning,” cannot be literal.163 Against this, we have previously shown that the days of Genesis 1 were not initially defined as solar days. Rather, on the first day of creation, God himself, after creating light and darkness, “separated the light from the darkness” (Gen 1:4). In v. 5, God defined a day: “God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” In short, each day of the creation week is defined as “the period of light-separated-from-darkness.”164
In reality, this type of argument used by framework supporters misrepresents the traditional literal interpretation of the creation week. What God did on the first three days of creation with the day and night cycle is only a problem if God is confined to normal providence; however, if God worked miraculously in the creation week, then there is no problem for a literal interpretation of the days of the creation account. As Grossmann has noted: “That God created light before the light-bearing or reflecting bodies is clear from the text. That certain people have problems believing this demonstrates not that there is something wrong with the text or with its compatibility with the laws of physics.”165
An additional, more recent argument, the “bracket” argument, sets forth that if the creation “week” began (“in the beginning”) and ended (the seventh day) with heavenly non-literal time, then the days in between, as part of the temporal sequence, must also be heavenly non-literal time.166 If the creation “week” is a metaphor, then its subsidiary parts comprised of six days, evenings and mornings must also be metaphorical.167 On the other hand, if “in the beginning”168 and the seventh day169 refer to earthly literal time, this argument is emasculated. The simple, singular noun “day,” יוֹם, as well as “evening,” עֶרֶב, and “morning,” בֹקֶר, are never used metaphorically in Scripture. Since we have already looked at the Hebrew noun for “day,”we will briefly consider the expressions “evening” and “morning.”
The singular “day,” in Genesis 1 is qualified further with the words “evening” and “morning.” The clauses in which these two nouns are found, “and there was evening and there was morning,” stand in juxtaposition with each enumerated day of the creation week (1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). Whether “evening” and “morning” are used together in a context with “day” (19 times beyond the 6 uses in Genesis 1) or they are used without “day” (38 times), they are used consistently in reference to literal days.170
“Evening” and “morning” have at times been taken as a reference to the entire 24-hour day.171 With this understanding, “evening” is used to represent the entire nighttime portion of a literal day, and “morning” to stand for the entire daytime segment of a day.172 Another and more preferable literal interpretation of “evening” and “morning” takes “evening” and “morning” in Genesis 1 as references to the beginning and conclusion of the nighttime period that concludes each of the creation days, after God had ceased from that day’s creative activity.173 This understanding is consistent with other Old Testament uses of “evening” and “morning.” The noun עֶרֶב, “evening,” is related to a rarely used verb ערֹב, to “turn into evening.”174 In its Qal stem, this verb is used in Judges 19:9 to indicate “the arrival of evening, as indicated by its description as the ending of the day.”175 While it would be imprecise to define “evening” for the first three creation days as “sunset” since the sun is not actually created until the fourth day,176 “evening” and “morning” basically refer to the same type of physical phenomenon. This is to say, evening is a transitional period of light between the twilight of day and the darkness of night.177 The noun בֹקֶר, “morning,”178 may refer to all the hours of daylight or from midnight until noon.179 It may also indicate “the arrival of daylight.”180 This last use is the most consistent with the overall context of Genesis 1. The terms “evening” and “morning” “respectively signify the end of the period of light, when divine creativity was suspended, and the renewal of light, when the creative process was resumed.”181
“Evening” and “morning” are used in similar ways in other passages of the Pentateuch. One example is found in Exodus 27:21. Moses instructed Aaron and his sons to keep the lamps in the Tabernacle burning all night until they were extinguished in the morning: “In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the LORD; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel.” The night cycle of evening to morning is also reflected in the description of the Passover ritual in Deuteronomy 16:4: “For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning.”182 These uses suggest that a literal use of “evening” and “morning” refer to the nighttime. As such, the alternation of “evening” and “morning” in Genesis 1 represents the nighttime portion that concludes a literal day and prepares for the next day.183 With this interpretation, each day of the creation week has an “evening-morning” conclusion. The use of waw consecutive with each clause containing evening (“and there was evening”) and morning (“and there was morning”) indicates that at the conclusion of a creation day, the next sequence was evening and this was followed by the next significant sequence, morning.
From the perspective of a literal interpretation, how are the repetitive elements of the creation account to be explained? As Moses sought to represent in written form the events from the creation account, the literary shape of his material was controlled by two necessary elements: the actual events that took place during the creation week and his divinely-given interpretation of the material. In the case of the creation account, God obviously gave direct revelation concerning the details of Genesis 1:1–2:3 to someone as early as Adam but no later than Moses, and Moses accurately preserved this in written form. That which actually happened during the creation week placed certain limitations on Moses’ use of this material, and his theological message controlled how he selected and arranged this material. As he shaped his material, repetition was a key element; however, he did not use repetitious elements either in a rigid manner or to undermine the historical substance of the creation account.184 The repetitious elements of the text relate to a general pattern that provides an outline for each day of divine creative activity. The focal point in this arrangement is the motifs of fiat and fulfillment.
However, both motifs are part of a structural pattern that includes a few other elements associated with each day of creative activity. For each day, God’s creative activity and its cessation are summarized by a fivefold structure: divine speech (“God said”), fiat (“let there be,” or an equivalent, such as “let the waters teem,” v. 20),185 fulfillment (“there was,” “it was so,” “God created,” etc.), evaluation (“God saw that it was good”),186 and twofold conclusion (“there was evening and there was morning,” the first day, etc.).187 With this structural arrangement, excluding the first day where vv. 1–2 provides God’s creative backdrop that initiates his first two creative activities that begin Day 1,188 each day of creative activity is begun with a waw consecutive, “God said” (וַיֹּאמֶר), and is concluded with two waw consecutives, “and there was evening [וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב] and there was morning [וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר” followed by a sequentially numbered day.
While this structural scheme highlights key activities for each day, the waw consecutive advances the events of each day sequence by sequence, and, after a concluding appositional phrase for each day containing a sequentially numbered day, it advances to the next day by introducing it with another waw consecutive, “God said” (וַיֹּאמֶר). With a literal interpretation of the creation narrative, the fivefold structural scheme is integrated with the use of waw consecutive. As we have previously noted, the main-line narrative in Genesis 1:1–2:3 is advanced by waw consecutive. Of the 55 uses of waw consecutive in this text, the majority of these move forward the sequences in the creation account. I have identified 46 waw consecutives as sequential, 8 as epexegetical, and 1 as consequential.
The use of waw consecutive is readily observable in a Hebrew text. Unfortunately, the same is not true with an English text. The chart [below] shows how each waw consecutive fits into one of three categories, classifying each of the 55 waw consecutives into a more precise subcategory.189 With this chart, I have adapted NASB’s translation and have focused on illustratively showing some basic information about the waw consecutive, rather than providing a functional translation. In identifying the 55 uses of waw consecutive, I have supplied an italicized “then” with the 46 constructions containing a sequentially arranged waw consecutive (abbreviated in the chart as Sequential WC), an em dash (“—”) for the 8 epexegetical uses (abbreviated Epexegetical WC) and an italicized “thus” for the only example of a consequential use (abbreviated Consequential WC).
|Day||Verse||Sequential WC||Epexegetical WC||Consequential WC|
|1||1:3||then God said|
then there was light
|4||then God saw|
then God separated
|5||then God called
then there was evening
then there was morning,
the first day
|2||6||then God said|
|7||then God made|
then [God] separated the waters
then it was so
|5||then God called
then there was evening
then there was morning,
the second day
|3||9||then God said|
then it was so
|10||then God called|
then God saw
|11||then God said|
then it was so
then God saw
|—the earth brought forth|
|13||then there was evening
then there was morning,
the third day
|4||14||then God said|
|15||then it was so|
|18||then God saw|
|19||then there was evening
then there was morning,
the fourth day
|5||20||then God said|
|21||then God created|
then God saw
|22||then God blessed|
|23||then there was evening
then there was morning,
the fifth day
|6||24||then God said|
then it was so
|27||then God created|
|28||then God blessed|| |
|29||then God said|
|30||then it was so|
|31||then God saw
then there was evening
then there was morning,
the sixth day
|7||2:1||thus the heavens & the earth were completed|
|3||then God blessed|
Some observations about the various uses of waw consecutive are necessary. First, the main-line narrative does not begin until v. 3. This indicates that vv. 1–2 is an informing background for the development of the narrative line in Genesis 1:3–2:3. What this further suggests for an exegetical treatment of the text is that the historical narrative in the remainder of the account explains how an unformed and empty earth, as well as the heavens in v. 1, was purposefully and progressively formed and filled.190 Second, since the seventh day does not advance the sequence of creative activities, the waw consecutive that begins 2:1 summarizes and draws a consequence from Genesis 1. Third, we should not be surprised that there is only one sequential use of waw consecutive on the seventh day. After the text’s announcement that God ceased from his creative work, the sequence that follows is the pronouncement of God’s blessing on the seventh day. Fourth, the main-line narrative of the creation account is advanced by the 46 sequential uses of waw consecutive. Whatever else the many uses of this type of waw consecutive may reflect, we are dealing with historical narrative that is sequentially advanced. Thus, waw consecutive advances the main-line narrative of this account. Fifth, while the 8 epexegetical uses of waw consecutive may seemingly create a problem for my interpretation of the creation account, they are readily harmonized with the sequential material. Since most of the difficulty with the waw consecutive revolves around the epexegetical category, we need to consider the various epexegetical uses of waw consecutive.
As we have earlier noted, waw consecutive is primarily used sequentially as a preterite in narrative literature.191 However, there are less common uses of waw consecutive.192 One of these is the epexegetical use of waw consecutive. This kind of waw consecutive does not follow a preceding waw consecutive in either temporal or logical sequence; rather it provides an explanation of the preceding waw consecutive. With the epexegetical use of waw consecutive, “the major fact or situation is stated first, and then the particulars or details, component or concomitant situations are filled in.”193
Since a few of the waw consecutives that I have labeled as epexegetical are used by framework advocates to argue for a temporal recapitulation, we need to briefly examine each of these uses. The first epexegetical use of waw consecutive is found on Day 3 in v. 12: “The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind.” What should be noted is that the preceding verse contains 2 waw consecutives used sequentially: “then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them’; then it was so.” Initially we see in v. 11 the divine speech (“then God said”). This is followed by a fiat (“Let the earth sprout vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”) and the fulfillment of that fiat (“then it was so”). Verse 12 gives the particulars of the waw consecutive “then it was so,” and in so doing reiterates, with slight variation, what was indicated in the fiat of v. 11. This would seem to emphasize the immediate fulfillment of the fiat. As Currid has stated, “The construction of the account is such that a command is given and then immediately accomplished. A clear sense of the spontaneous and instantaneous cloaks the account. No delay or lingering is sanctioned by the text. In reality, to deny the immediacy of creation’s completion is to reduce or diminish the power of God that is so greatly invested in the account.”194The next two epexegetical uses of waw consecutive appear on Day 4 in vv. 16–17. These two epexegetical uses of waw consecutive are clearly epexegetical and are even used by framework proponents, such as Irons and Kline,195 to undermine a sequential understanding of any waw consecutive in Genesis 1:1–2:3. Using these two epexegetical waw consecutives in Genesis 1 to bolster the framework position, Irons and Kline argue that the activities of Day 4, represented by the seven uses of waw consecutive in vv. 14–19, are an example of dischronologization.196 This implies that first use of waw consecutive on Day 4, “then God said” (v. 14), is an example of temporal recapitulation, a pluperfect, that describes the same events as Day 1, but from a different perspective, as we have previously observed. This would also be true for the second use of waw consecutive on Day 4, “then it was so” (v. 15).197 In answer to the framework, however else v. 14, as well as v. 15, may be understood, the waw consecutive that begins this verse, “then God said” (וַיֹּאמֶר), cannot be an example of temporal recapitulation of Day 1. If there is any consistency to the main-line narrative sequence, as reflected by waw consecutive, and especially with the number of consistent uses of וַיֹּאמֶר (“then God said”), a pluperfect understanding of וַיֹּאמֶר, “God had said” (in recapitulation of the first day), in v. 14 has absolutely no warrant in the main-line narrative sequence of this account. Verses 14–15 are part of the general structure that we have already noted: divine speech (“then God said,” v. 14), fiat (“Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,” vv. 14–15), and fulfillment (“then it was so,” v. 15). Therefore, the waw consecutive in v. 14 is not an example of temporal recapitulation but is a normal, sequential use of waw consecutive.
In reality, the two epexegetical uses of waw consecutive in vv. 16– 17 appear after two sequential waw consecutives in vv. 14–15 and make the most exegetical sense when taken as having a supportive role for the preceding sequential waw consecutives in vv. 14–15. In reference to the first waw consecutive used at the beginning of v. 16 (“—God made the two great lights”), Irons and Kline insist that this waw consecutive cannot be used chronologically: “The waw-consecutive occurs in the very next verse: ‘And God made the two great lights’ (v. 16). If the waw-consecutive always denotes sequence, this statement would have to refer to an event chronologically subsequent to verses 14–15.”198 On the one hand, I can agree with Irons and Kline’s point that waw consecutive is not always used sequentially and that there are several examples in the creation narrative that are clearly nonsequential. As reflected by the preceding chart, not all the waw consecutives in the creation account are used sequentially. I calculated that 46 of the 55 waw consecutives (83.64%) are used sequentially, 8 (14.54%), epexegetically, and 1 (1.82%) consequentially.
On the other hand, I totally disagree with Irons and Kline’s conclusion: “Therefore, students of the Bible cannot appeal to the presence of the waw-consecutive in Genesis 1 as evidence for a strictly sequential reading.”199 Their conclusion is overstated. Why cannot students of the Bible appeal to the waw consecutive to defend a sequential reading? The 46 sequential uses of waw consecutive in Genesis 1:1–2:3 indicate that the main line of the narrative is advanced by this sequential construction. While there are 9 exceptions (16.36%) to the general sequential pattern of waw consecutive, these exceptions do not negate the general function of this grammatical construction. In fact, the general sequential use of the waw consecutive in 46 examples undoubtedly suggests a chronological reading of the text.
How, then, are the two epexegetical uses of the waw consecutive on Day 4 to be understood? In a similar way to v. 12, vv. 16–18 give detail to the fulfillment (“then it was so”) by providing more specific data and suggesting the immediacy of the fulfillment of the fiat. In keeping with the fiat of vv. 14–15, the epexegetical uses of waw consecutive at the beginning of v. 16 (“God said”) and the beginning of v. 17 (“God placed them”) specify the content of vv. 14–15. Verse 16 identifies the “lights” of v. 14 as the sun, moon, and stars, and vv. 17–18 specifies that these luminaries are placed in “the expanse of the heaven” and reiterates their threefold function stated in vv. 14–15.200 Rather than interpreting vv. 14–19 as a temporal recapitulation of Day 1, the general structural pattern of this creation day and the uses of waw consecutive reflect that it is a progression after Day 3, including two epexegetical uses of waw consecutive in vv. 16–17 that provide greater detail to the fiat and fulfillment sequence of vv. 14–15.
Two epexegetical uses are found on Day 6. The first one is in v. 25: “God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind.” Like the epexegetical uses in vv. 12, 16, and 17, v. 25 explains the fulfillment motif (“then it was so”) of v. 24. With this explanation, v. 25 reiterates the fiat of v. 24 (“Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”). While the “earth” of v. 24 is the secondary source used in creating animal life, v. 25 places an emphasis on God as the ultimate source. The second epexegetical use of waw consecutive is found in v. 28: “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” This divine speech gives detail to the sequential waw consecutive that appears at the head of v. 28: “God blessed them.” The divine command for mankind to reproduce and to rule over the earthly kingdom explains the divine blessing on mankind.
Three final epexegetical uses of waw consecutive are found on Day 7 in 2:2, 3. In v. 2, the two epexegetical uses of waw consecutive are parallel (“By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done” and “He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done”) and thus the second clause reiterates the preceding clause with waw consecutive. The parallel nature of the two clauses with waw consecutive emphasizes “the fact that God had indeed ceased from his creative labours on the seventh day.”201 Both of these epexegetical waw consecutives expand on the consequential waw consecutive in v. 1: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.” The final epexegetical use in v. 3 (“He sanctified it”) explains the preceding sequential waw consecutive: “Then God blessed the seventh day.”
Our examination of the 55 uses of waw consecutive has demonstrated that the main-line narrative of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is advanced by the 46 sequential uses of waw consecutive. With the cessation of God’s creative work at the conclusion of the sixth day, the lone use of a consequential waw consecutive is appropriately used as an introduction to Day 7 in 2:1. Each of the 5 epexegetical waw consecutives found on Days 3, 4, and 6 explain the divine fiat and fulfillment for each respective day. The final 3 waw consecutives used epexegetically on Day 7 explain either God’s cessation from creative work or his blessing on this day of rest. This analysis of the waw consecutive has an impact on interpreting Day 4 as an example of temporal recapitulation for Day 1. If there is any consistency to the uses of the waw consecutive in Genesis 1:1–2:3, the sequential waw consecutive that begins the fourth day in 1:14, “God said,” cannot be construed as some form of pluperfect waw consecutive, temporal recapitulation—a retrospective identification of Day 4 with Day 1. Furthermore, the epexegetical waw consecutive in 1:16 (“God made”) does not support Day 4 being construed as an example of temporal recapitulation with Day 1; rather, like the other epexegetical waw consecutives in the creation account, it explains the activities associated with the fiat and fulfillment of that specific day.
This discussion of Genesis 1:1–2:3 also demonstrates that there is no necessary dichotomy between stylized narrative and chronological history. Not only does the framework’s interpretation of stylized narrative provide a license to find elements that are more figurative in the creation account, but it also implies that there is a dichotomy between stylized narrative and sequential history. In effect, literary form and literal meaning are mutually exclusive. In the case of the creation account, the literary form, “hymn-narrative” in Blocher’s words, excludes the literal, chronological substance of Genesis 1:1– 2:3.202
However, against Blocher’s type of hermeneutic, Scripture has other examples that combine literary form and literal meaning. We have previously noted one example of a stylized use of narrative in Numbers 7 that clearly included a chronological arrangement. Another example is Exodus 7–12 where the ten plagues are sequentially numbered and placed “into three groups of three leading to the climax of the tenth.”203 If the framework’s hermeneutical dualism prevails, how long will it be before Adam’s federal headship and the fall are also abandoned because of literary form? What about other historical events in Genesis 1–11, such as the universal flood in Noah’s day?204 As Douglas Kelly has noted: “It is naive to suppose that such a far-reaching hermeneutical dualism could be stopped at the end of the second chapter of Genesis, and would not be employed in other texts that run contrary to naturalistic assumptions.”205
In concluding this discussion of Genesis 1:1–2:3 as stylized narrative, we have seen that the fivefold structure used with each day of the creation week is not in conflict with this text as an example of genuine historical narrative. While framework proponents have viewed the creation account’s stylized features as a license to find more figurative elements in this text than is normal for historical material— which most noticeably surfaces with their figurative interpretation of the temporal markers—recent creationists have argued that genuine historical narrative may be used with stylistic features that do not undermine its integrity as historical literature.206 In keeping with its historic substance, the use of the simple, singular noun “day,” יוֹם, coupled with the fact a number of the uses of “day” are qualified by a sequentially linked numeric qualifier and juxtaposed with an “evening-morning” conclusion, strongly suggests that the days of Genesis 1 are literal days that are sequentially linked, allowing for no interruption between them, to form the first literal week in the temporal history of “the heavens and the earth,” just as the history of orthodox theology clearly affirms.207 Of the numerous uses of the simple, singular noun “day,” as well as the many uses of “evening” and “morning,” there are no exceptions in Scripture to a literal interpretation,208 unless, of course, either Genesis 1 is inconsistent with the analogy of Scripture, as the framework interpretation implies, or the framework’s questionable interpretation of Genesis 2:5 somehow trumps the contrary Scriptural evidence.209
Therefore, my argument is that when the singular “day” is qualified by a sequential use of numbers, such as “first” through the “seventh,” and it is tethered to a clear context that has its main-line sequence advanced by the waw consecutive, this provides solid evidence that the context of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a sequential, literal narrative rather than a figurative framework. In short, the use of waw consecutive in Genesis 1:1–2:3 is an unambiguous example of sequential narrative literature supporting a literal creation week,210 in contrast to a figurative framework of a week that topically recounts select creation motifs.
This article is the first of two that are intended to provide a critique of the framework interpretation of the creation account. This article has summarized the framework position by developing four major propositions of the framework position followed by an evaluation of its first major proposition. In summarizing the framework view, this paper has presented these four theses along with supporting arguments: the figurative nature of the creation account, the creation account controlled by ordinary providence, the unending nature of the seventh day, and the two-register cosmology.
In evaluating the first thesis of the framework, I have demonstrated that a figurative interpretation arguing for a topical arrangement of the “days” of the creation “week” is incongruous with the exegetical details of Genesis 1:1–2:3 and undermines the literary nature of the creation account as a genuine historical narrative serving as a prologue for remainder of the Genesis narrative. In supporting our counter thesis, I have used three arguments. First, the fifty-five uses of waw consecutive in Genesis 1:1–2:3 identify this passage as an unequivocal narrative account.
Second, the use of sequentially numbered days in Scripture is regularly used to reference literal and distinct days. The Scriptural use of numeric qualifiers with the singular “day,” יוֹם, unequivocally testifies to the literal nature of each day in the creation narrative. In addition, the uses of “day” with numeric qualifiers that are sequentially arranged appear in two other Old Testament contexts. In both contexts, the days are sequentially arranged, allowing for no interruption between the numbered days. Not only do these contexts support a literal understanding of “day,” but they also demonstrate that each day is set apart from the other days in the numbered sequence. This also suggests that the days of Genesis 1:1–2:3 are sequentially arranged literal days and that each day of the creation week is distinct from the other days of the creation week. As such, Days 1 and 4 cannot be equated, and, furthermore, Day 4 of necessity must follow Day 1, with Days 2 and 3 separating both days. To buttress this distinction between Days 1 and 4, the textual differences between Days 1 and 4 indicated that the two days were distinct and that Day 4 presupposed Day 1.
Third, the stylized nature of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is congruent with a chronological understanding of a literal creation week. The stylized narrative of the creation account uses a literal week with six days of divine creative activity followed by the seventh day reflecting God’s delight in his work of creation along with his divine blessing on this literal day that concluded the first week in temporal history. As the author of Genesis shaped his historical material, two items controlled his shaping of the material: the actual events of the creation week and his God-given understanding of these events. With the arrangement of the material, the author used repetition, such as a fivefold structure that summarized each day of creative activity. Furthermore, with this structural scheme highlighting key activities for each day, the waw consecutive was used to sequentially advance the events of each day, and, after a closing appositional phrase with a sequentially enumerated day, it advanced to the next day by commencing it with another waw consecutive, “God said.” Therefore, when sequentially numbered, literal days are integrated with numerous sequential uses of waw consecutive that serve as the main-line sequence in a historical narrative, this provides reasonable evidence that Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a literal week.
These three arguments reasonably show that the first thesis of the framework interpretation is, at best, tenuous. However, the objective of this series will not be complete until we evaluate the final three theses in the subsequent article.
is Professor of Old Testament at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, MI.