Could the events of Day Six have fit within 24 hours?
In an effort to show the days of the creation week should not be interpreted as 24-hour days, several old-earth creationists have argued that the events of Day Six could not have fit within a single day. Skeptics and critics have used the same argument in their attempts to find contradictions in Scripture. The late old-earth creationist, Dr. Gleason Archer, summarized the problem this way:
We are told that God created Adam first, gave him the responsibility of tending the Garden of Eden for some time until He observed him to be lonely. He then granted him the fellowship of all the beasts and animals of earth, with opportunity to bestow names upon them all. Some undetermined period after that, God observed that Adam was still lonely and finally fashioned a human wife for him by means of a rib removed from him during a “deep sleep.” Then at last he brought Eve before Adam and presented her to him as his new life partner. Who can imagine that all of these transactions could possibly have taken place in 120 minutes of the sixth day (or even within twenty-four hours, for that matter)? And yet Gen. 1:27 states that both Adam and Eve were created at the very end of the final day of creation. Obviously the “days” of chapter 1 are intended to represent stages of unspecified length, not literal twenty-four-hour days.1 (emphasis added)
The well-respected Christian apologist, Dr. Norman Geisler, built upon this argument by stating that God’s statement, “
I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18, NIV), implies a period of time between the proclamation and the actual performance. He also wrote that “Adam indicated he had anticipated Eve for some time” before she was created.2
This alleged contradiction gives us a perfect opportunity to look closely at the text instead of relying on someone’s retelling of the passage. With all due respect to Dr. Archer and Dr. Geisler, their claims do not line up with Scripture. When we read Genesis 1–2 and compare it to the quote from Dr. Archer, we notice something very interesting. I have highlighted various sections of the quote above, because the italics represent ideas not found in the text. Instead, they were inserted into the text by Dr. Archer. Notice that each of these additions inserts timing elements into the passage. He used terms such as “for some time,” “all the beasts and animals of earth,” “still lonely,” “finally,” “120 minutes,” and “at the very end of the final day of creation.”
Let’s look at what the Bible actually teaches on each of these subjects.
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:15–23)
The Bible does not tell us that Adam tended the garden “for some time,” nor does it imply that he tended the garden at all prior to naming the animals. The Bible simply tells us that tending the garden was a reason God put Adam in the garden. It does not give us any indication whether or not he had already started working. Scripture never states that all of these events happened within “120 minutes,” and Genesis 1:27 does not tell us that “Adam and Eve were created at the very end of the final day of creation.” Rather, it states, “
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this objection is related to the naming of the animals. How could Adam possibly have named all of the animals in one day? I previously dealt with this issue in another work. Concerning the naming of animals, I wrote:
First, the text does not state that Adam had “fellowship” with and named “all the beasts and animals of the earth.” This is a common misunderstanding on the part of the old-earthers, due to a failure to observe the text carefully. According to verse 20, Adam only named the cattle, beasts of the field, and birds of the air. He was not responsible for naming the sea creatures, the beasts of the earth or creeping things (insects, etc.). This would considerably reduce the number of animals that he had to name. It has been demonstrated that Adam could have easily named each of these creatures in less than four hours, while taking a five-minute break every hour!3
Adam’s response to the creation of Eve does not imply that he had waited for her for a considerable amount of time.
Dr. Geisler’s comments are not demanded by Scripture either. The fact that God said He would make a helper for Adam does not imply that much time passed from the proclamation of the words to the actual creation of Eve. God could have put Adam into a deep sleep immediately after Adam named the animals. Also, Adam’s response to the creation of Eve does not imply that he had waited for her for a considerable amount of time. This claim is based on Genesis 2:23, which in some translations have Adam proclaim, “
This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (ESV). The Hebrew word, rendered as “at last” in the ESV and “now” in most translations, is פַּעַם (pa‘am), and it refers to “an event which happens in a time sequence, with reference to other points in time.”4 So either translation is fine, but neither one proves Geisler’s point. Adam had already named the animals and fallen into a deep sleep, so there is no reason to believe that his use of the word “pa’am” would imply a long period of time. Imagine working an eight-hour shift, and when five o’clock comes around, you proclaim, “At last, I can go home.” No one would think that you’ve been at work for more than a day.
So let’s look at a plausible timeline of events for the sixth day using the information from Genesis 1–2. Remember, Genesis 2 focuses on events of Day Six, while Genesis 1 gives us a brief overview of that day. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Adam actually did tend the garden for some time and that God only worked during the 12-hour daylight portion of the day.
|6:00–7:00||God creates land animals.|
|7:00–8:00||God creates Adam from dust.|
|8:00–9:00||God creates the garden and puts Adam in it.|
|9:00–11:00||Adam tends the garden.|
|11:00–3:00||Adam names the animals.|
|3:00–5:00||Adam sleeps, and God creates Eve from Adam’s rib.|
|5:00–6:00||Adam and Eve meet, and God tells them what they should and shouldn’t eat.|
Of course, there is no reason why it would take God an hour to create the land animals and another hour for the creation of Adam. The omnipotent God could have performed each of these actions instantaneously.
The Bible does not give too many details to fit into 24-hours on the sixth day. In fact, all of the activities described for each of the days of the Creation Week could easily have been accomplished within 12 hours of the respective days. It is only when one adds timing elements to the text that the sixth day seems to describe too many events.
There is no contradiction on this issue, but it does highlight the problem of trying to add fallible man’s opinions to the text. Some seemingly well-intentioned Christians have attempted to harmonize God’s Word with the ever-changing opinions of man, yet this practice ends up adding more problems than it allegedly solves. God has given us His inspired and inerrant Word, and we can be confident that it does not contradict itself.