For more than 200 years, Christians have been trying to reinterpret the six days of Creation in Genesis 1 to make them align with millions of years. But every attempt has a fatal flaw.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).
“The sixth day.” What does that phrase mean to you? More than 200 years ago, Christians began to question whether this day truly was the sixth day, instead of the six millionth or six billionth day. They were responding to an idea, popularized in the late 1700s, that our planet and universe are much older than Scripture indicates. They wondered where millions of years might harmonize with the Bible. So they scrutinized Genesis 1 and reinterpreted the days of Creation Week in a variety of ways.
But they didn’t recognize that each of these attempts to insert long ages into Scripture had fatal flaws (even beyond the alarming fact that they tried to change the original intent of the language). Most notably, they place death, suffering, and disease long before Adam and Eve sinned.
Yet you will still hear varieties of these views. What are we to make of them? Is there any justification for changing the meaning of the Bible’s first chapter?
Many of these views deny the historical reality of the Bible’s earliest chapters. This is unacceptable because it contradicts the way biblical writers and the Lord Jesus Christ understood and taught them. Luke stated that Jesus was a descendant of Adam (Luke 3:38). If Adam were not a real person, this statement would be absurd. Paul also wrote about Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45). Peter wrote about Noah and the Flood (1 Peter 3:20). Jesus spoke about Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:37–38), and he said the first man and woman were created “from the beginning” (Matthew 19:4). If Adam and Eve were created after billions of years of history, then Jesus was not perfect, he was mistaken (or a fraud).
What about the positions that do not deny the historical reality of the events and people but add vast amounts of time to Creation Week? These positions fail as well.
The Fourth of the Ten Commandments
instructed Moses and the Israelites
to work for six days and rest for
one. God explained the rationale: “
in six days the Lord made heaven and
earth, the sea, and all that is in them,
and rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11). If Creation Week lasted
millions or billions of years, how
could it possibly serve as the model for
the work week described in the Ten
Hebrew scholar Dr. Steven Boyd has conducted a statistical analysis of 522 Old Testament passages. He found that poetic and narrative passages could be categorized with a better than 99% accuracy based on the verb usage alone. Dr. Boyd’s analysis showed conclusively that Genesis 1 is narrative history, not poetry. This means the only way to interpret it properly is as history, looking for its straightforward, historical meaning.
The immediate context of each appearance of day in Genesis 1 conclusively establishes their length. Each day is marked by “evening and morning.” A day lasting millions of years would have far more than one evening and morning. Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, when evening and morning are used together, they refer to a normal-length day.
Each day is also linked with a number (“first day,” “second day”). This construction occurs more than 300 times in the Old Testament, and with only a couple of potential exceptions, it always signifies a normal-length day. Furthermore, in the original Hebrew, Genesis 1:31 states that the final day of Creation Week was indeed the sixth day. If millions of years had passed, then Day Six could not have been the sixth day.
Why do Christians question the length of the days in Genesis but nowhere else? They do not question how long the days were when Joshua marched around Jericho or when Jonah was in the great fish. The truth is that they are trying to find a way to make millions of years mesh with Scripture.
Yet every attempt to harmonize the Bible with long ages will always fall short. The meaning of the days in Creation Week is perfectly clear. Each day was the same length as our modern days. The sixth day truly was the sixth day.
Decades before Darwin, Christians started developing attempts to harmonize Genesis with millions of years. They all have serious flaws.
The gap theory was invented to insert millions of years after the first verse of the Bible, proposing that God created a world full of creatures and then destroyed it with a flood prior to verse two (all before Adam’s sin). Following those verses, God recreated the world we now know in six days.
A modified version of the gap theory, confusingly called historical creation, teaches that God created the heavens and earth over an indefinite period, but he then prepared the land for mankind in six days.
Another idea, known as the day-age theory, suggests that each of the six days was a long period. To span the supposed 4.6 billion years of earth history, each “day” would need to be approximately 750 million years—and roughly three times that long to account for the supposed 13.8-billion-year age of the universe. If this view is taken seriously, we must wonder how plants (created on Day Three) survived without the sun (created on Day Four) for hundreds of millions of years.
Some have offered an alternative view that essentially blends the gap and day-age theories. The multiple gap view states that the six days were normal-length days separated by gaps of long ages.
In the past century, several other new positions have reduced Genesis 1 to little more than poetry. They imply that it is okay to ignore most of the details as long as one acknowledges that God created this world and made man in his image. For example, an idea known as the framework hypothesis argues that Genesis 1 is semi-poetic, overstressing an artificial parallelism of the creation days and groping for other elements that would make room for a nonliteral interpretation of the text.
Proponents of other positions, such as theistic evolution, ignore the text altogether. Essentially, they allegorize or spiritualize chapters 1–11 of Genesis and reject many details.