Evolution’s Dirty Little Secret

A large number of well-trained scientists outside of evolutionary biology and paleontology have unfortunately gotten the idea that the fossil record is far more Darwinian than it is. This probably comes from the oversimplification inevitable in secondary sources: low-level textbooks, semi-popular articles, and so on. Also, there is probably some wishful thinking involved. In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predictable progressions. In general, these have not been found–yet the optimism has died hard, and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks […]  (David Raup 1981: 832, Professor of Geology University of Chicago, Chicago Field Museum, emphasis mine)

 

The primary reason that there is any question regarding the length of the creation days of Genesis is due to many people’s belief that evolution is a fact, and since it is a fact, then a literal reading of Genesis must not be valid.  Some have gone so far as to suggest that the ancient Israelites were simplistic and merely ignorant of true science, which is precisely what medical doctor William Keen did in his 1922 book entitled I Believe in God and Evolution.  Keen’s book may be somewhat dated, but the attitude he championed has not changed.  In fact, we could argue it has become even more entrenched today.

 

Fully convinced that evolution was an established fact, Keen argued, “A fundamental difficulty with the so called ‘Fundamentalists’ is that they fail to recognize the fact that the ‘Children of Israel’…were living in the intellectual childhood of the human race” (Keen 1922: 7).  He then goes on with his biased and incorrect version of ancient history by stating, “…their minds were cast in a poetic mold, their literature was permeated with imagery, metaphors and parables.  Bards, priests and prophets delivered it to them.  No scientists then existed”  (Keen 1922: 8).

 

Neither of Keen’s observations is based on historical fact.  Unfortunately, his belief in evolution has skewed his understanding of history, though his perspective is consistent with the evolutionary model.  Simply stated, the evolutionary model proposes that life forms continue to get more and more complex and so too does man’s sophistication and understanding of the world.  While mankind is more technologically advanced today than ever before, and hence we have more and usually better data to work with, ancient man was by no means primitive, nor was man at that time in the “intellectual childhood of the human race.”

 

The age before Abraham (approximately 2000 B.C.) saw amazing applications of scientific principles based on math, geometry, physics etc.  The ancient civilizations of the time (the Sumerians, Babylonians, Akkadians and Egyptians) were the ones who invented writing, an extremely complex concept not for the weak-minded.  These civilizations first developed elaborate mathematical tables.  It was even the Babylonians[1] who preempted the Greek philosopher Pythagoras with his famous discovery known as the Pythagorean Theorem by approximately 1300 years (O’Connor and Robertson 2000b).  These ancient peoples erected enormous pyramids and ziggurats, which to this day still defy some of our best engineering prowess — and they did so all without the aid of motorized machinery.  They plotted the course of the stars with incredible precision and devised extremely accurate calendars.  They wrote music and plays for entertainment, kept immaculate business records that have survived until today, and even had a postal system.  This supposedly primitive culture, to which Keen referred, codified extensive laws, which in many countries, law students are still required to study.

 

Keen is equally incorrect in claiming that there were no scientists.  Let’s consider some evidence that shows that ancient man was actually quite advanced and therefore was not mentally primitive as Keen as suggested.  If men were not mentally primitive, then they were able to faithfully and accurately pass down the creation account given to them by God.

What is Science?

 

The Collins English Dictionary defines science as “the systematic study of the nature and behavior of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms.”  This description certainly applies to what we narrowly define as science today.  But the word science comes from Latin and simply means knowledge.  This meaning is reflected in the Webster’s Dictionary 1828 definition, “In a general sense, knowledge, or certain knowledge; the comprehension or understanding of truth or facts by the mind.”  The Bible contains many astute observations about nature that demonstrate that the authors were very observant of the world around them and came to conclusions about their world.

 

In the book of Job, we find a statement that claims something that was not universally accepted in the ancient world.  Whereas the countries surrounding Israel believed that the world was either floating on water or founded upon the body of a dead or living god, the Bible describes the earth suspended in empty space:  “He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing. [al-bli-ma literally: on-without-what]” (Job 26:7).

 

Ecclesiastes 1 verses 6 and 7, thought to have been written by Solomon, make keen observations regarding the circulation of the atmosphere and the water cycle:

The wind goes toward the south,

And turns around to the north;

The wind whirls about continually,

And comes again on its circuit.

All the rivers run into the sea,

Yet the sea is not full;

To the place from which the rivers come,

There they return again. (Ecclesiastes1:6, 7)

 

We take these passages for granted since they communicate things that are fairly common knowledge today, but these passages demonstrate an extraordinary understanding of the world – all without the benefit of high-tech measuring instruments.  At the most, these are proofs that God inspired the words of the Bible; and at the least, they demonstrate good science on man’s behalf.  Consider another example:

 

The birds of the air,

And the fish of the sea

That pass through the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:8)

The fact that “the seas were circulating systems with interaction between wind and water”[2] was not known until the late 1800’s yet the Bible contained this truth almost 3000 years earlier than modern science.  In essence, William Keen and those in agreement today who claim that the Bible is just a collection of myths and therefore we need not take it literally but instead must interpret the Bible by way of modern science, have made a grave mistake.  The Bible is reliable and scientific.  Certainly, if indeed inspired by God, then it must be accurate.  However, if only inspired by men, then those men were first-rate scientists of their day.  Dr. Keen’s thesis is certainly not unique, however.  In fact, it seems that the number of individuals who claim, “I Believe in God and Evolution” only grows in spite of the authority and accuracy of the Bible.

 

Evolution Sunday

 

On February 12, 2006 hundreds of churches around the United States observed Evolution Sunday, a celebration of the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin, in order to support the teaching of evolution in public schools.  Evolution Sunday was the culmination of approximately two years of gathering signatures from over 10,000 clergy from many mainline churches who believe that evolution is an established fact.  “At St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta, the Rev. Patricia Templeton told the 85 worshipers […] ‘A faith that requires you to close your mind in order to believe is not much of a faith at all’” (New York Times, Feb 13th 2006).  A parishioner from that church commented in a similar fashion:

Observation, hypothesis and testing — that’s what science is, it’s not religion. Evolution is a fact. It’s not a theory. An example is antibiotics. If we don’t use antibiotics appropriately, bacteria become resistant.  That’s evolution, and evolution is a fact.  (ibid)

 

Unfortunately Rev. Patricia Templeton and her parishioners have misunderstood both the Bible and science.  She is wrong in believing that the teaching of the Bible somehow requires us to close our minds – the Bible actually gives us the correct paradigm with which to properly understand the world.  It tells us why people behave selfishly and sinfully, why there is disease and death, and why we see the scars of a global cataclysm known as the flood.  The real scientific evidence, as we will see, supports the Bible.

 

The parishioner that made the above statement is wrong as well since he lacks a basic understanding of the difference between macro and Natural Selection.  Natural Selection, speciation and adaptation, are embraced by essentially all Bible believers.  The person referred to merely an example of how organisms adapt to their surroundings – a fact which is recognized by all.  As noted, Darwin was correct in observing the change of the beaks of the finches.  That, however, was all that he actually observed.  The other aspects of his model are speculation and not based on “observation, hypothesis and testing,” the very requirements people claim the Bible leaves out.

 

Molecules-to-man evolution, that is to say the changing of one kind to another (reptile to bird, for instance), remains nothing more than a paradigm which has never been observed and cannot by any means be proven even after so many years of trying.  It is not an established fact.  Darwin himself even wrote in a letter[3] to Asa Gray, a Harvard professor of biology, “I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science.”

 

Darwin was not the only “Darwinist” to recognize this point.  L. H. Matthews wrote in the Introduction to Darwin’s (1971 edition) Origin of the Species:

 

The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on unproven theory.  Is it then a science or a faith?  Belief in the theory of evolution is thus exactly parallel to belief in special creation.  Both are concepts which the believers know to be true, but neither, up to the present, has been capable of proof. [4] (emphasis mine)

 

Matthews is by far not the only person to suggest such sentiments regarding the scarcity of evidence in support of the evolutionary model.  Famed evolutionist Stephen J. Gould of Harvard, stated “The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of the fossils” (1990: 13). David M. Raup, paleontologist at the University of Chicago and curator and Dean of Science at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, likewise stated:

The evidence we find in the geologic record is not nearly as compatible with Darwinian natural selection as we would like it to be. Darwin was completely aware of this. He was embarrassed by the fossil record because it didn’t look the way he predicted it would […]. Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. […] Ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as the result of more detailed information.  (Raup 1979: 22-29 emphasis mine)

 

The Clergy Letter Project

 

The Clergy Letter Project from which the idea of Evolution Sunday came about issued the following statement (An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science) that sadly claims that the keystone and foundational passages of Genesis are nothing more than stories with a spiritual message and are not real historical events.  The entire letter has been copied below:

 

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth. (“An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science”, Clergy Letter Project, 2004, emphasis mine)

 

What Kind of Truths Are the Biblical Promises?

 

Whether or not religious truth is different than scientific truth is irrelevant; if something is indeed true, then it does not matter what category it falls into.  The events as described in the Bible are either true or they are not; there can be no middle ground.

 

The very accounts that they are dismissing as being spiritual stories or allegories are, in fact, the very foundation of the Bible.  For example, if the flood did not actually occur as Genesis declares, then the promise given by God “I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth…” (Isaiah 54:9) through the prophet Isaiah is worthless.  If God based His promise on an event that did not really occur, then what assurance would outcast Israel have that some day God would no longer hide His face but restore them?

 

“For a mere moment I have forsaken you,

But with great mercies I will gather you.

With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;

But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”

Says the LORD, your Redeemer.

“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;

For as I have sworn

That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,

So have I sworn

That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.

For the mountains shall depart

And the hills be removed,

But My kindness shall not depart from you,

Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”

Says the LORD, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:7-10 emphasis mine)

God is comparing the judgment of the earth by the flood with the judgment on Israel.  Here He promises that just as the waters would no longer cover the earth, which is to say that the judgment would not happen again, so too was the promise that Israel’s judgment would pass.  If the story of the flood is just a timeless story to teach us about God, what do we do with the promise that He made to Israel?  If there was no real flood, was there also not a real judgment that fell on them?  Clearly from biblical and secular history we know that is not true; Israel definitely was judged as we will see in the statements of Daniel, Jeremiah and the Chronicler.  Later in chapter 11 we will look at some real-world evidence of that flood.

 

The First Six Days 5 ComboFurthermore, if we categorize the creation account, Adam and Eve, and Noah and the Flood as being merely figurative and non-literal stories that contain truths, all the while denying that they are in fact true in what they state about cosmology, history, and geology, then what do we do with the promise of redemption given to us concerning the current sinful condition of man?  Is Jesus the fulfillment of that promise?  Was there really ever a promise made?  And if there was a promise made, then to whom was it made if not to the real, historical Adam and real, historical Eve?  Gleason Archer stated well the importance of the Bible being true and accurate in all areas that it touches: “if the biblical record can be proved fallible in areas of fact that can be verified, then it is hardly to be trusted in areas where it cannot be tested.”  (Archer 1982: 23)

Darwin Didn’t Want God’s Help

 

We should not use man’s observation of nature to interpret the Bible.  Man sees things differently everyday and in a way that fits his best interests.  The data concerning the origin of the universe are out there, but how we interpret those data is the true test.  After having seen the historical and archeological confirmations of Scripture, we should therefore let Scripture be the starting point of our worldview.  We ought not let man’s interpretation of nature be used to interpret Scripture.

 

Accepting the various facets of the evolutionary model as fact is the only reason for arguing that the creation days mean billions of years.  Ironically, Darwinian evolution is diametrically opposed to God’s assisting in any way.  It is given as a plausible mechanism for how we are here without any first cause, not how God might have done the job!  There seems to have been no room for divine intervention in Darwin’s world.  Darwin expert Neal Gillespie noted “Darwin clearly rejected Christianity and virtually all conventional arguments in defense of the existence of God and human immortality” (Gillespie 1974: 141).

 

Furthermore, Sir Arthur Keith stated in the introduction to the sixth edition (1872) of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection

 

[…] we see that Darwin’s aim was to replace a belief in special creation by a belief in evolution and in this he did succeed, as every modern biologist will readily admit.  (Keith 1872: xvi-xvii)

 

Darwin himself, in Life and Letters of Charles Darwin published posthumously, describes the process by which he went from a belief in God to removing God from his world completely:

Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true.  (Darwin 1896: 274-286)

 

Evidently, to grant room for evolution in Genesis is contrary to what Darwin advocated.  If Darwin didn’t believe in Theistic Evolution, why should we?

Get the book, The First Six Days


[1] O’Connor and Robertson state concerning the Babylonians mathematical abilities, “Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the Babylonian’s calculating skills was their construction of tables to aid calculation. Two tablets found at Senkerah on the Euphrates in 1854 date from 2000 B.C.. They give squares of the numbers up to 59 and cubes of the numbers up to 32…”  (O’Connor and Robertson 2000a)

 

[2] Late 1800’s. Dr. Matthew Maury is considered one of the major founders of the science of oceanography. He was also a creationist who believed in the absolute authority and accuracy of the Bible. One day while he was sick in bed, he asked his son to read the Bible to him. One of the verses his son read was Psalms 8:8. That particular verse mentioned “paths” in the seas. Believing that the Bible must be correct about these “paths”, he set out to find them. As a result, Dr. Maury was the first to discover (in modern times) that the seas were circulating systems with interaction between wind and water.”  Scientific Foreknowledge in the Bible retrieved from creationists.org/foreknowledge.html October 22, 2006

[3] Quoted in N.C. Gillespie, Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation (1979) p. 2 (University of Chicago book). See nwcreation.net/evolutionism.html retrieved October 2, 2006

 

[4]  See Introduction pages: x, xi.

 

Creation Days According to the Church Fathers

 We assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read.  (Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis)

 

The Early Church Fathers

The early Church Fathers were men who believed in Jesus as their Savior and Lord and were the leaders of the church after the time of the original twelve apostles.  They defended and proclaimed the death and resurrection of Jesus and the Bible as a whole.  Their writings show us that they spent great amounts of time attempting to disprove false teachings that arose.  The issue of creation was certainly one of those.

 

The Church Fathers wrote against the Greek teaching that there was not a beginning, that the universe was infinite.  They also wrote against spontaneous generation, which taught that life merely sprang up all by itself without a creator – which has similarities to the ideas of Charles Darwin known today as abiogenesis.  We need to keep in mind, as stated earlier, that just because the Church Fathers have a particular interpretation of a passage, it does not automatically mean that we have to agree with them.  They were men who could make mistakes and their writings are not considered inspired like the Bible.  However, they are indicative of what the early church believed Scripture was teaching.  Because of the sheer number of their writings, we will only look at the most salient of writers; just the ante-Nicene Fathers (the writings of the Fathers from approximately the second until the fourth century A.D.) who wrote thousands of pages – enough to occupy a lifetime of study.

 

Twisting the Words of the Early Fathers

The Church Fathers, like the ancient Jewish writers, have been appealed to by those who believe in an old earth to establish that the Bible truly teaches that the heavens and earth are very old.  As we noted earlier, Dr. Ross has claimed that many of the Church Fathers believed in an old earth rather than in a young earth.

 

It is twisting the facts, however, to say that “many of the early Church Fathers […] interpret the creation days […] as long periods of time.” (Ross 1991: 141)  We have already demonstrated that Josephus, whom he includes in his list, thought just the opposite and dates the age of the world to about 5800 years.  In a similar fashion, the vast majority of early Church Fathers believed that Genesis 1-2 spoke of literal days, not long periods of time.

 

Ross’s poor scholarship has unfortunately led many to believe that the Church Fathers believed in day-ages when in fact they did not.  Dr. Joshua Zorn discusses how he used to believe in a young earth and was very zealous until he learned more about science and in particular, read that the ancient Jewish and Christian interpreters believed in long days of creation.

 

For me it was surprising to find out that very few of the early Jewish interpreters or Church Fathers held to the six consecutive twenty-four-hour day interpretation of Genesis 1. In Creation and Time, Ross has documented that Philo, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandra, Origin, Augustine, Basil, and others all held to other interpretations.  (Zorn 1997: 3)

 

Contrary to what Hugh Ross claims, practically none of the Church Fathers believed in long days of creation, which explains Zorn’s surprise.  Again, we note that the Church Fathers are not the standard by which we measure Scripture; they were fallible.  They do, however, provide a window into how ancient believers understood and interpreted Scripture.  If nearly every ancient interpreter understood the days of Genesis to be literal, then there exists no historical basis to believe in anything but six, literal days of creation.

 

Let’s survey what some of the Church Fathers thought about Genesis 1 and 2 and whether they indeed support the position that the universe and the earth are billions of years old.

Barnabas

The Epistle of Barnabas[i] was probably written between 70 A.D. and 135 A.D. possibly by an Alexandrian Jew, though authorship is not clear.  “The Epistle of Barnabas is, like I Clement, really anonymous…” (Lake 1912: 337-339).  While we are not so concerned with proving who indeed actually wrote it, we are interested in mining the interpretation of an ancient Christian regarding the creation.  From Chapter 15 on, covering the topic of the false and the true Sabbath, we read:

Further, also, it is written concerning the Sabbath in the Decalogue which [the Lord] spoke, face to face, to Moses on Mount Sinai, “And sanctify ye the Sabbath of the Lord with clean hands and a pure heart”… The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation [thus]: “And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.” Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, “He finished in six days.” This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. (emphasis mine)

 

Contrary to believing in an old earth and universe, this author believed that the total span of earth’s history would last 7000 years and then God would “make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world.”  How much more clarity in a creation time line could one ask for?  This author was by far not the only one to hold to the belief that the six, literal days of creation multiplied by 1000, was equal the total time in years which the earth would exist.  It would also be wrong to conclude that the author somehow thought that the days in Genesis were not actual days.  It is precisely because those days were real, literal days that the formula worked in his mind.  Because the days of creation were real and definite units of time, so too would be the duration of earth’s history – a grand total of 7000 years.

 

Irenaeus

Irenaeus, an early church father of the second century in the area of modern day France, in his work, Against Heresies reiterates the formula the author of the Epistle of Barnabas so plainly put forth.  Irenaeus says:

 

For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: “Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works.” (Genesis 2:2) This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; (2 Peter 3:8) and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year. (Irenaeus Against Heresies Book 5 Chapter 28 emphasis mine)

 

Irenaeus is discussing the end of the age, but plainly believed the days of creation to be literal.  “For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded.”  Irenaeus believed that the world would end after six thousand years precisely because the creation was finished after six days.  If we reverse the formula where one day equals one thousand years, then there is no other conclusion that may be drawn concerning how long he believed those first days of creation to be.  If God will rest after 6000 years, and if the formula is that 1000 years equals a day, then the days of creation must be nothing other than 24-hour days.  If the number of years until the end of the world is believed to be definite and concrete by Irenaeus, then he must have believed that the days of creation were literal as well.

 

Theophilus of Antioch

 

Theophilus of Antioch, born around 115 A.D. and died about 185 A.D., was a prolific writer of the early church.  Theophilus was an apologist especially concerned with refuting the false teachers of his day.  Theophilus, writing to “Autolycus an Idolater and Scorner of Christians”, states concerning the six days of creation that,

Of this six days’ work no man can give a worthy explanation and description of all its parts…on account of the exceeding greatness and riches of the wisdom of God which there is in the six days’ work above narrated. (Theophilus: Book 1, Chapter 1)

He later says, “But the power of God is shown in this, that, first of all, He creates out of nothing, according to His will, the things that are made” (Chapter 8).  He thus establishes that, contrary to Greek thought, there was nothing before God began His work of creation.  Interestingly, in light of the evolution plus God theories, Theophilus writes concerning the creation of the luminaries and how God created them later so as to confound the vain philosophers.

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

 

God Finished in Six Days

The current evolutionary (abiogenesis) model teaches that life spontaneously generated in the primordial soup of the earth.  A necessary condition for the generation of life was the presence of the sun to provide the light, warmth, and energy for that life to miraculously begin.  Theophilus, who obviously knew nothing of the paradigm of biological evolution, seems to have preempted the idea.  The thought of spontaneous generation did not begin with Darwin; it was a belief held by the ancient Greeks.  Theophilus was specifically attacking the belief that the sun was necessary for the generation of plant life.  It is also significant that those holding both evolutionary timescale and the Bible as being true (Progressive Creation and Theistic Evolution) have to reinterpret the text of Genesis 1 to make it fit their preconceptions.  Theophilus, however, wrote extensively to disprove such theories that contradicted the Scriptures as he understood them.  He then gives a summary statement of all that God had done, “God, having thus completed the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that are in them, on the sixth day, rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made” (Chapter XIX).  Later in chapter 23 he states again:

 

Man, therefore, God made on the sixth day, and made known this creation after the seventh day, when also He made Paradise, that he might be in a better and distinctly superior place. And that this is true, the fact itself proves. For how can one miss seeing that the pains which women suffer in childbed, and the oblivion of their labours which they afterwards enjoy, are sent in order that the word of God may be fulfilled, and that the race of men may increase and multiply? And do we not see also the judgment of the serpent, — how hatefully he crawls on his belly and eats the dust, — that we may have this, too, for a proof of the things which were said aforetime? (Book 2, Chapter 23)

 

According to his logic, the facts that we see the pains associated with childbirth and that snakes do indeed crawl on their bellies proves that God created just as Genesis declared.  Whether or not we agree with his logic is irrelevant.  What is important for our study is to see that another church father understood the events of Genesis 1 – 3 as very real and literal events.  They were historical events.  The days were literal days.  To further confirm those facts, Theophilus establishes that the fall of man and the deception of the woman were at the beginning.  This makes perfect sense if the days of creation were only six, real days, but not if creation lasted billions of years as Theistic Evolution and Progressive Creationism purport.  “This Eve, on account of her having been in the beginning deceived by the serpent […]” (Chapter 28 emphasis mine).

 

Theophilus’ Simple Arithmetic

Many old earth advocates suggest that belief in a young earth of about 6000 years is a fairly recent one.  Theophilus apparently wasn’t aware that he was supposed to believe in an old earth as we have already demonstrated.  But just to let us know what he really thought, he left us yet another clear proof that he thought that creation had taken place only several thousand years before his own time.  In book 3 chapter 23 he endeavored to demonstrate that the prophets of the Old Testament were more ancient than the Greek writers.  He states:

 

And that we may give a more accurate exhibition of eras and dates, we will, God helping us, now give an account not only of the dates after the deluge, but also of those before it, so as to reckon the whole number of all the years, as far as possible; tracing up to the very beginning of the creation of the world, which Moses the servant of God recorded through the Holy Spirit. For having first spoken of what concerned the creation and genesis of the world, and of the first man, and all that happened after in the order of events, he signified also the years that elapsed before the deluge.  (emphasis mine)

 

Theophilus immediately begins chapter 24 with a very literal totaling of the years of Adam and his descendants and arrives at a number fairly close to what young earth advocates propose:

 

Adam lived till he begat a son, 230 years. And his son Seth, 205 […] And his son Enoch, 165 […] And Lamech’s son was Noah, of whom we have spoken above, who begat Shem when 500 years old. During Noah’s life, in his 600th year, the flood came. The total number of years, therefore, till the flood, was 2242.  (emphasis mine)

 

Theophilus has done nothing extraordinary here.  He has merely added up the lifetimes from Adam until Noah and arrived at a number of years of 2242; that is Adam was created 2242 years before the flood (an event which he considered literal and real.).  He then continues:

 

And immediately after the flood, Shem, who was 100 years old, begat Arphaxad. […] And his son Eber, when 134. And from him the Hebrews name their race […] And his son Nahor, when 75. And his son Terah, when 70. And his son Abraham, our patriarch, begat Isaac when he was 100 years old. Until Abraham, therefore, there are 3278 years.  (emphasis mine)

 

Thus from the Creation (including Adam) to Abraham, according to Theophilus, there were 3278 years.  Therefore if we add up Theophilus’ calculations until the present we get: Adam to Abraham 3278 years (Abraham lived somewhere about 2000 B.C.) plus 2000 years approximately from Abraham until Christ and then another 2000 from Christ until the present to equal 7278 years from the beginning until now.  Where is the belief in long, indefinite ages in the distant past that Theophilus was supposed to believe in?  Theophilus reiterates his point (and I submit here, at the risk of being redundant, merely to stress that this writer is not being taken out of context, nor am I leaving out important elements of his treatise) because he fully desired to prove as clearly as possible that the world was only thousands of years old:

 

And from the foundation of the world the whole time is thus traced, so far as its main epochs are concerned. From the creation of the world to the deluge were 2242 years. And from the deluge to the time when Abraham our forefather begat a son, 1036 years. And from Isaac, Abraham’s son, to the time when the people dwelt with Moses in the desert, 660 years. And from the death of Moses and the rule of Joshua the son of Nun, to the death of the patriarch David, 498 years. And from the death of David and the reign of Solomon to the sojourning of the people in the land of Babylon, 518 years 6 months 10 days. And from the government of Cyrus to the death of the Emperor Aurelius Verus, 744 years. All the years from the creation of the world amount to a total of 5698 years, and the odd months and days.  (Book 3, Chapter 28, emphasis mine)

 

To Theophilus, The Earth Is Young

For fear that his reader might get lost in all of these numbers and hence forget the reason for their listing, he plainly states that he is writing to show as nonsense the positions of the writers that suggest that the world is extremely old:

 

For my purpose is not to furnish mere matter of much talk, but to throw light upon the number of years from the foundation of the world, and to condemn the empty labour and trifling of these authors, because there have neither been twenty thousand times ten thousand years [200,000,000] from the flood to the present time, as Plato said, affirming that there had been so many years; nor yet 15 times 10,375 years [155,625], as we have already mentioned Apollonius the Egyptian gave out; nor is the world uncreated, nor is there a spontaneous production of all things [abiogensis], as Pythagoras and the rest dreamed; but, being indeed created, it is also governed by the providence of God, who made all things; and the whole course of time and the years are made plain to those who wish to obey the truth. (Book 3, Chapter 26, emphasis mine)

 

For Theophilus, believing that the world is two hundred million years old is complete nonsense invented by those who are not seeking the truth.  He is humble enough to concede that his calculations might be off by a little bit.

 

For if even a chronological error has been committed by us, of, e.g., 50 or 100, or even 200 years, yet 121 not of thousands and tens of thousands, as Plato and Apollonius and other mendacious authors have hitherto written”(Chapter 29).

 

He is not dogmatic about his calculation being the only correct number.  However, he is suggesting that to speculate that the earth is over one hundred thousand years old as Plato suggests or is two hundred million years is complete nonsense.  Theophilus wrote to “condemn the empty labor and trifling of these authors.”  While his opinion doesn’t prove that Genesis teaches a young earth, it does prove that a young earth was considered orthodox and the only acceptable, Biblical perspective.  In light of all the other ancient commentators hereto examined, we are gaining a picture that to believe in an old earth of hundreds of thousands, or millions, let alone billions of years would have been considered extremely aberrant and outrageous.

 

Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria, who lived from 153 to 217 A.D., is considered one of the most influential of the early Church Fathers.  He was a prolific writer who so eloquently articulated many matters of faith in his generation.  He wrote briefly but succinctly concerning the time frame of the creation:

 

For the creation of the world was concluded in six days. For the motion of the sun from solstice to solstice is completed in six months – in the course of which, at one time the leaves fall, and at another plants bud and seeds come to maturity. And they say that the embryo is perfected exactly in the sixth month, that is, in one hundred and eighty days in addition to the two and a half, as Polybus the physician relates in his book On the Eighth Month, and Aristotle the philosopher in his book On Nature. Hence the Pythagoreans, as I think, reckon six the perfect number, from the creation of the world (The Stromata Book 6, Chapter 16)

 

We know that he believed in a literal six days by the examples that he gives (e.g. the motion of the sun, the time the leaves fall, the budding of plants, and the time of perfecting of an embryo at six months).  From the fact that his examples, which all have to do with a unit of six, are nonetheless real and finite units of time, we can conclude that his understanding of the first days of time were no different.

 

Hippolytus

Hippolytus was a bishop of Rome who lived from 170 to 236 A.D. and was a student of Irenaeus.  In his book, The Refutation of All Heresies (book 4, chapter 48), he says, “For in six days the world was made, and (the Creator) rested on the seventh.”  What does he mean by six days, though?  Could it be that he is referring to six ages – ages in which millions and billions of years might have elapsed?  How can we know precisely what he meant by six days?

 

Fortunately, Hippolytus continues in a very direct and exact manner.  He would not have his ancient audience, or us for that matter, be in the dark regarding what he firmly believed the Scriptures to be teaching:

 

But that we may not leave our subject at this point undemonstrated, we are obliged to discuss the matter of the times, of which a man should not speak hastily, because they are a light to him. For as the times are noted from the foundation of the world, and reckoned from Adam, they set clearly before us the matter with which our inquiry deals. For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year. And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day “on which God rested from all His works.” (The Extant Works and Fragments of Hippolytus, Part 1.3.4)

 

Here he unambiguously declares the earth to be young.  According to his calculations, Jesus came in the flesh 5500 years after the foundation of the world.  He then states that the entirety of human history would last only six thousand years, a theme that we have seen several times earlier in our study of the other ancient commentators.[ii]  There exists no doubt in the mind of Hippolytus that God created all that there is a mere 5500 years before Jesus and that the entire span of history would last no longer than six thousand years.

 

Origen and Methodius

 

At this point we need to consider Origen and Methodius, both of whom were on Hugh Ross’s list of Church Fathers who supposedly believed in non-literal days of creation and hence an old earth.  We need to consider them in tandem since they are better understood together rather than separately regarding creation.  Origen lived in Alexandria from 185 to 254 A.D.  He was a follower of Jesus Christ, who, unfortunately, began interpreting the Scriptures in a manner that was considered heretical by the Christian community of his day and for centuries after.

 

Origen’s Disturbing Doctrines

Of all the Church Fathers that we have examined so far, Origen is the only one that truly did reject the literal interpretation of the text of Genesis in favor of an allegorical approach in order to resolve some of the seeming difficulties of the text.  While Origen’s love for God is not in question, his method of interpretation is.  For in caring more about the hidden meaning of the text than the literal and plain meaning, mixed with the NeoPlatonistic thinking of Alexandria, Origen wrote some most disturbing things concerning doctrines which are essential to orthodox Christianity, and if one merely follows the plain meaning of Scripture, cannot be missed.  Though Origen was perhaps the first to systematize a doctrine of the Trinity, his conclusions are not derived from the plain reading of Scripture, but from mixing Greek philosophy, allegory and Scripture together.  Below is an excerpt from Origen on the Trinity:

 

The God and Father, who holds the universe together, is superior to every being that exists, for he imparts to each one from his own existence that which each one is; the Son, being less than the Father, is superior to rational creatures alone (for he is second to the Father); the Holy Spirit is still less, and dwells within the saints alone. So that in this way the power of the Father is greater than that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and that of the Son is more than that of the Holy Spirit, and in turn the power of the Holy Spirit exceeds that of every other holy being. (Moore 2006)

 

Origen obviously holds to a completely unorthodox position of the relation of the three persons of the Trinity to such an extent that it sounds much like the modern day cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses who hold that Jesus is the first of all of God’s creations but is not equal to God.  Obviously someone holding to such a position is unstable in their interpretation of the Bible and should not be looked to for guidance on interpreting the creation account of Genesis.  We might be tempted to give Origen the benefit of the doubt concerning his heretical view of the Trinity.  However, it is not only this issue but many others that call into question his teachings.

 

Another example which is nowhere to be found in the pages of Scripture, but purely from his own imagination is the creation of souls.  This teaching held that not only were there many beings created prior to the act of creation which originally fell away from their creator, but that the soul of Christ was among that number.

 

Where do we see this idea even remotely intimated in Scripture?  Obviously, the answer is absolutely nowhere!  Isn’t the plain teaching of Scripture easy for all to see?  Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) and the Jews obviously understood what He was saying since they wanted to stone Him!  In Revelation 1:17 Jesus said that He is the first and the last – a term that is used only for God and stands in direct contradiction to Origen’s teaching.

 

Methodius Opposed to Origen’s Teaching

We now turn our attention to Methodius who was born shortly after Origen and became bishop over Olympus and Patara in Lycia and then later died as a martyr around 312  A.D. in Greece.  He was chiefly known as an ardent opponent of the teachings of Origen and devoted numerous pages to refuting his heretical teachings.  In a fragment of his writings[iii], he says concerning Origen, whom he then quotes:

 

Origen, after having fabled many things concerning the eternity of the universe, adds this also:

 

Nor yet from Adam, as some say, did man, previously not existing, first take his existence and come into the world. Nor again did the world begin to be made six days before the creation of Adam. But if any one should prefer to differ in these points, let him first say, whether a period of time be not easily reckoned from the creation of the world, according to the Book of Moses, to those who so receive it, the voice of prophecy here proclaiming: “Thou art God from everlasting, and world without end […] For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday: seeing that is past as a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:2, Psalm 90:4) For when a thousand years are reckoned as one day in the sight of God, and from the creation of the world to His rest is six days, so also to our time, six days are defined, as those say who are clever arithmeticians. Therefore, they say that an age of six thousand years extends from Adam to our time. For they say that the judgment will come on the seventh day, that is in the seventh thousand years. Therefore, all the days from our time to that which was in the beginning, in which God created the heaven and the earth, are computed to be thirteen days; before which God, because he had as yet created nothing according to their folly, is stripped of His name of Father and Almighty. But if there are thirteen days in the sight of God from the creation of the world, how can Wisdom say, in the Book of the Son of Sirach: “Who can number the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of eternity?” (Ecclus. 1:2)

 

This is what Origen says seriously, and mark how he trifles.  (Methodius Extracts from the Work on Things Created, emphasis mine)

 

The last line of the above quote contains the final remarks of Methodius.  Notice that where Origen denied the literal creation in six days, Methodius just dismisses his words as “trifles”.  Thus, we can truly admit that there was at least one who thought that the creation of the heavens and earth exceeded six literal days.  However, the idea is considered to be foolish and is rejected out of hand and Origen is the only known exception to the rule.  It must also be kept in mind that Origen’s denial of such teachings of the creation was a result of his allegorical and NeoPlatonistic method of interpreting the Scriptures – the same method that led him to teach that the Holy Spirit is inferior in essence to the Son and the Son is inferior in essence to the Father.  He thought, in fact, both the Son and the Holy Spirit were created beings.  This same method also led him to teach the preexistence of souls and the soul of Christ – a doctrine that resounds with the teachings of the Mormon cult started by Joseph Smith.

 

Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries

In 312 A.D. Constantine the Great conquered the city of Rome, the center of the oppressive government which for nearly three centuries had afflicted Christians with all manners of torture and martyrdom.

 

A vision had assured him that he should conquer in the sign of the Christ, and his warriors carried Christ’s monogram on their shields, though the majority of them were pagans… Of his gratitude to the God of the Christians the victor immediately gave convincing proof; the Christian worship was henceforth tolerated throughout the empire (Edict of Milan, early in 313). (Catholic Encyclopedia 2006 emphasis mine)

 

Constantine’s victory marked the beginning of a new age for the church where almost overnight the belief in Jesus as Lord went from being threatened with a miserable death to being accepted as the official state religion.

 

Victorinus

Victorinus, a church father who flourished around 270 A.D. and was martyred around 303 A.D., wrote many works, most having been lost, unfortunately.  Nevertheless, one that was preserved titled “On The Creation Of The World” contains some candid reflections upon what he understood those six days to mean.

To me, as I meditate and consider in my mind concerning the creation of this world in which we are kept enclosed, even such is the rapidity of that creation; as is contained in the book of Moses, which he wrote about its creation, and which is called Genesis. God produced that entire mass for the adornment of His majesty in six days; on the seventh to which He consecrated it […] In the beginning God made the light, and divided it in the exact measure of twelve hours by day and by night, for this reason […] (Victorinus, emphasis mine)

Note that Victorinus specifically states that God created in a matter of six days and rested on the seventh.  He then further defines for us what he means by a day by saying that God divided the day and the night into twelve-hour segments and hence a twenty-four hour day.  Could we ask for a more specific explanation from an ancient source as to what they understood a day to be?

 

Basil the Great

Victorinus is hardly alone in his understanding of the creation days consisting of 24 hours.  Basil “The Great” (ca. 330 to 379 A.D.) corroborates Victorinus’ teaching one hundred years later with his statement:

 

’And there was evening and morning, one day.’ Why did he say ‘one’ and not ‘first’?  He said ‘one’ because he was defining

the measure of day and night […] since twenty-four hours fill up the interval of one day (The Six Days Work 1:1-2, emphasis mine)

 

Lactantius

Lactantius (260 to 330 AD), who suffered under the last of the persecutions of Rome, in his latter years had the unique fortune of being the tutor of Constantine’s son Crispus.  Working in such close proximity to the emperor, he was given the opportunity to become “the instrument of Providence in bearing the testimony of Jesus, ‘even before kings.’” (Fathers Volume 7 Introduction Lactantius) Lactantius thus becomes an important voice concerning our question of how the Church Fathers interpreted Genesis.  His perspective is especially noteworthy since he had tasted the bitterness of suffering for Christ and then later witnessed introduction of Christianity as the official state religion, which ultimately led to his working in the home of the emperor himself.  We can surmise, therefore, that he would have desired to be bold in his declaration of Christ and to teach the Scriptures as faithfully as possible.

 

In his work The Divine Institutes, which he entitled, “Of the First and Last Times of the World,” he states that God made the heavens and earth in six days.  He also straightforwardly states:

 

Plato and many others of the philosophers, since they were ignorant of the origin of all things, and of that primal period at which the world was made, said that many thousands of ages had passed since this beautiful arrangement of the world was completed; foolishly saythat they possess comprised in their memorials four hundred and seventy thousand years; in which matter […] they believed that they were at liberty to speak falsely. But we, whom the Holy Scriptures instruct to the knowledge of the truth, know the beginning and the end of the world […] Therefore let the philosophers, who enumerate thousands of ages from the beginning of the world, know that the six thousandth year is not yet completed, and that when this number is completed the consummation must take place, and the condition of human affairs be remodeled for the better, the proof of which must first be related, that the matter itself may be plain. God completed the world and this admirable work of nature in the space of six days, as is contained in the secrets of Holy Scripture, and consecrated the seventh day, on which He had rested from His works.  (The Divine Institutes, Chapter 16, emphasis mine)

 

Lactantius states this as clearly and plainly as one could possibly expect.  He unambiguously declares that it is the philosophers who are both ignorant and foolish in declaring that the origin of all things took place over hundreds of thousands of years earlier.  Lactantius even denounces an exact amount of 475,000 years and if it was considered foolish to think that the world was so old in his day, why should we be persuaded that the earth is 4.56 billion years old and the universe is about 14 billion years old?  We have seen again and again that the ancient interpreters believed that Scripture taught a young earth.

 

Augustine

Augustine

Of all the Church Fathers (besides Origen), the person we would expect to hold to a view of an old earth and a creation week that took place over vast ages, would be Augustine.  He lived from 354 to 430 A.D. and was the bishop of Hippo in North Africa.  He is considered to be the foremost theologian of the Catholic Church and is also held in high esteem by many Protestants.  A typical method of interpretation for him was allegorical and typological.  He often sought a deeper and spiritual truth underlying a given text.  Thus, to discover that he did not believe that the creation week happened over long periods of time, as Dr. Ross has stated, is surprising.  Ironically, Augustine held to a view that God created everything in an instant rather than in six literal days.  However, as to when this occurred, he, like so many Church Fathers before him, believed the creation to have occurred less than six thousand years before his own time.

 

Creation Was Less than Six Thousand Years Ago

In his monumental work, City of God book 12, chapter 10, Augustine lucidly comments on certain people that just don’t have their facts straight concerning the age of the earth:

 

They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed. (City of God book 12, chapter 10 emphasis mine)

 

He then reiterates this in chapter 12.

 

As to those who are always asking why man was not created during these countless ages of the infinitely extended past, and came into being so lately that, according to Scripture, less than 6000 years have elapsed since He began to be, I would reply to them regarding the creation of man, just as I replied regarding the origin of the world to those who will not believe that it is not eternal, but had a beginning, which even Plato himself most plainly declares […] If it offends them that the time that has elapsed since the creation of man is so short, and his years so few according to our authorities […] (City of God book 12, chapter 12 emphasis mine)

 

Even Augustine, the one person in addition to Origen that we might have expected to see an earth of billions of years or hundreds of thousands at the very least, held to a young earth.  One, therefore, cannot argue that he was advocating any type of day-age theory.  Nor did he envision any gap between the verses 1, 2 or 3.  However, we may not conclude that he believed in a literal six-day creation either.

 

Augustine’s “Literal” Interpretation

Augustine’s denial of six actual days is trumpeted by Davis Young, of the geology department of Calvin College Grand Rapids, MI, who notes that Augustine’s “literal” interpretation of Genesis does not resemble the modern literal six days creation week or young earth positions.

He [Augustine] later came to reject that [allegorical] method and in this more mature work, written in his late fifties just before The City of God, he is concerned ‘to discuss Sacred Scriptures according to the plain meaning of the historical facts, not according to future events which they foreshadow’. Given his strong commitment to literal interpretation, it is fascinating to recognize that the outcome bears absolutely no resemblance to modern literal interpretations. For example, he concludes that in Genesis I the terms “light,” “day,” and “morning” bear a spiritual, rather than physical, meaning. Yet for Augustine, spiritual light is just as literal as physical light, and the creation of spiritual light is just as much a historical event or fact as the creation of physical light. What is literal for one person may not be literal for others. (Young 1988 emphasis mine)

According to Young, Augustine stresses that his new work is literal and not metaphorical or allegorical.  He then goes on to state that since Augustine was such a great theologian we ought to listen to his testimony.  Young writes,

From his general approach to this text, it would appear that Augustine, the great theologian, a man saturated in Holy Scripture, actually encourages the church not to cling dogmatically to specific renderings of the text but to rethink its interpretations in the light of genuine extra-biblical knowledge. Perhaps we should pay him serious attention. Augustine is obviously interested in the science of his own day and interacts with it. He takes extra-biblical knowledge seriously. (Young 1988 emphasis mine)

Notice that Young urges us to follow Augustine’s example to shift our interpretation of Genesis “in the light of genuine extra-biblical knowledge.”  It would seem that Young is suggesting that we are to allow modern humanistic thought to act as a standard by which we interpret Scripture.  Consider that he says, “Augustine shows respect for scientific activity, and does not want to put Scripture in a situation of conflict with it”  (Young 1988).  Certainly Young is correct that none of us ought to disregard scientific activity nor pit the Bible against science.  However, when the scientific activity of which he speaks, contradicts the historical-grammatical reading of the Bible, then there will be conflict.

 

Spontaneous Generation a Fact for Augustine

It would seem that Young is so eager to demonstrate that we should emulate Augustine by not holding to the belief that God created the heavens and earth in six (real, literal) days that he advocates believing man’s shifting thoughts over the Bible.  Consider how his next statement and following example encourage believing in (faulty and secular) science rather than merely trusting the Bible, even when it disagrees with man’s findings.

 

For example, it is clear that he [Augustine] accepts spontaneous generation of organisms and the four elements of Greek thought. He expends considerable effort in relating Genesis I to the four elements and to the Greek theory of natural places: “One must surely not think that in this passage of Holy Scripture there has been an omission of any one of the four elements that are generally supposed to make up the world just because there seems to be no mention of air in the account of sky, water, and earth.”  (Young 1988)

 

Are we therefore to allow mainstream thought about the origins of the universe, which, as we have seen, is built on a paradigm that all matter and all life arose by chance, merely because Augustine held a belief that was sympathetic to the science of his day?  Exactly what point Young wished to make regarding Augustine’s belief in spontaneous generation is unclear.  There exist two possibilities as I see it: either Young believes that that confirms the teaching of evolution and its teaching of abiogenesis or that just as Augustine permitted current thought to influence his interpretation of Scripture, so too should we.  In either case, our response is a resounding “no” since neither could be further from what our response should be.

 

If Young meant to demonstrate that Augustine was in fact, rather progressive for his day to believe in spontaneous generation, then it only serves to prove why Scripture alone should be our standard.  Wikipedia.com rightly describes the history of Spontaneous Generation:

Classical notions of abiogenesis, now more precisely known as spontaneous generation, held that complex, living organisms are generated by decaying organic substances, e.g. that mice spontaneously appear in stored grain or maggots spontaneously appear in meat.

Yet it was not until 1862 that Louis Pasteur performed a series of careful experiments which conclusively proved that a truly sterile medium would remain sterile.

Three years earlier, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (published in 1859), had presented an argument that modern organisms had evolved, over immense periods of time, from simpler ancestral forms, that species changed over time. Darwin himself declined to speculate on some implications of his theory – that at some point there may have existed an un-organism with no prior ancestor and that such an organism may have come into existence, formed from non-living molecules.

Pasteur had demonstrated that Spontaneous Generation was wrong, and he also seemed to have demonstrated that any concept involving the generation of living matter from non-living matter was also wrong.  (Wikipedia.com: Abiogenesis emphasis mine)

Spontaneous generation is a theory that has been scientifically proven to be false and worthless.  Thus to assert that it was in any way good that Augustine paid heed to the scientific activity of his day rather than merely believe the, albeit unpopular, teaching of the Bible, is not only fallacious but inexcusable.  It is unfortunate that Augustine held to such a position that has now without a doubt been proven bogus and incorrect.  Augustine’s endorsement of “the four elements” does not need to even be mentioned.

 

I would argue that rather than trying to absorb Augustine’s views, we hold fast to the easy teaching of Scripture and where Augustine or anyone for that matter agrees with it, then we embrace their views and when they differ we part ways.  Augustine was wrong about interpreting Scripture in light of what Young described as “genuine extra-biblical knowledge”.  Spontaneous generation and only four elements were the prevailing thought back then.  Using them to interpret the Bible led to false conclusions in his day and interpreting the Bible through the lens of evolutionary thought today will lead to faulty conclusions about God and the world in our day.

 

Augustine certainly made important contributions to the Church and those should not be discounted.  However, the real and lasting contributions were those that were firmly based on Scripture and not on the changing science of men.  Thus, we ought to learn from Augustine as Young suggested; we should learn from his mistake of trying to appeal to current scientific thought where it disagrees with the Bible.  Sooner or later man’s science will change but the Bible remains.

 

The Fathers Believed in a Young Earth

Having looked at the classic ancient interpreters of the Bible, both Jewish and Christian, we can now ask ourselves what the ancient perspective was.  Did they actually believe in an old earth as some purport or did they hold to a literal point of view?  As we have seen, in every instance (except for Origen and partly Augustine), both Jewish and Christian perspectives held that the heavens and the earth were created in six, literal days and many of the commentators defined what a day is by stating that it meant 24 hours.  Not one of them (except Origen) even remotely intimated that those six days of creation should be understood as long ages or that day meant anything other than a period of 24 hours.  Time and again, they believed that God made all that is in a span of six, 24-hour days and they all thought that it occurred less than 6000 years before their own lives.  Even Augustine wrote that the creation had occurred less than 6000 years before his own day.  The real exception to the overwhelming and prevailing belief that God created in a span of six days less than 6000 years earlier was Origen and as we saw, so many of his teachings were considered heretical that his opinion on the creation of the world bears little weight.  This view of a literal, six-day creation would remain as the only acceptable belief until the enlightenment and the advent of the geology of Charles Lyell and Darwin’s  evolutionary hypothesis.

Thomas Aquinas of the 13th century, considered to be one of the foremost theologians of the Catholic Church, stated: “’God called the light day’ (since the word ‘day’ is also used to denote a space of twenty-four hours). Other instances of a similar use occur, as pointed out by Rabbi Moses.”  (Thomas  Aquinas, The Summa Theologica)

Martin Luther, the great protestant reformer of the 16th century, believed in a young earth as well.

We know from Moses that the world was not in existence before 6,000 years ago […] He [Moses] calls ‘a spade a spade,’

Luther

_i.e., he employs the terms ‘day’ and ‘evening’ without allegory, just as we customarily do […] we assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit.  (Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis)

This view is shared by John Calvin, who also lived in the 16th century, that the earth is less than 6000 years old, which implies that the days of creation were literal six days of 24-hours.  In speaking of those that reject some of his teachings, he strongly declares:

A rebellious spirit will display itself no less insolently when it hears that there are three persons in the divine essence, than when it hears that God when he created man foresaw every thing that was to happen to him. Nor will they abstain from their jeers when told that little more than five thousand years have elapsed since the creation of the world. (John Calvin)

Thus what shall we conclude?  Is it safe to venture that the early church believed that God created the universe in six, literal days roughly six thousand years prior to their time?  There exists no historical reason to believe in any other conclusion.  We have also seen that there exists no philological, semantic or syntactical reason in the Bible.  The Bible never suggests that the Genesis days should be considered longer.  The only reason that exists to believe that those days were long periods of time is because one has accepted as established fact and truth the evolutionary model, and hence, feels the need to fit those billions of years into the Bible.  The amazing irony, however, is that evolution was devised to try to explain how we got here without the aid of a creator.

 


[i] All of the early Church Fathers are cited from The Early Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volumes 1 – 9 (1867), Edinburgh, using the electronic version of The Word Bible Software unless otherwise stated.

[ii] The belief of the ancient commentators that the entirety of human history would last 6000 years is not specifically stated in the Bible.  Nevertheless, the belief clearly shows that they believed the earth to be young and not millions or billions of years old.

 [iii] This was actually recorded by another ancient writer, Photius.

 

Creation Days According to Ancient Jewish Commentators

Accordingly Moses says, That in just six days the world, and all that is therein, was made.  (Josephus Antiquities Book 1, Chapter 1)

 

What the ancient Bible commentators understood those six days to mean when they opened up to Genesis 1 and 2?  Did they see extremely long indefinite periods of time?  Or did they see regular, twenty-four-hour days?  Would they come to the same conclusion that we have reached?  Or would they be inclined to look for a deeper, hidden meaning in the text?  Even if it can be demonstrated that all or nearly all of the ancient interpreters thought that the Bible and Genesis 1 in particular should be interpreted as six literal days, that does not prove that that is in fact the reality of the Bible.  However, if the overwhelming majority understood the creation account to be referring to a week of six literal days, then it would greatly support our previous conclusion and that the normal method of interpretation or hermeneutic of Scripture was to take it at face value.

 

We will see that when we examine the ancient Jewish and Christian commentators on what they believed concerning the beginning of the world, they almost always talk about the end of it as well.  They claim that the age of the earth is less than six thousand years old.  This becomes an important control for us in that by claiming that the earth was created less than six thousand years previous to their day, they are stating their belief in a young earth, and hence, the six, literal 24-hour days of creation.

 

The Use of Ancient Interpreters

The point of view of ancient interpreters and commentators is very relevant to us because we know that they were in no way influenced by the teachings of Darwinian evolution, which requires billions of years to occur.  The ancient perspective has already been exploited by those seeking to establish that Scripture actually teaches that the earth and the universe are incredibly old.  Perhaps the most prominent of the Progressive Creation perspective is Dr. Hugh Ross.  While we do not wish to question his sincerity nor his belief in the God of the Bible, his interpretation of these ancient commentators is in need of serious review.  Ross states in his book The Fingerprint of God:

Many of the early Church Fathers and other biblical scholars interpret the creation days of Genesis 1 as long periods of time. The list includes the Jewish historian Josephus (1st century); Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, apologist and martyr (2nd century); Origen, who rebutted heathen attacks on Christian doctrine (3rd century); Basil (4th century); Augustine (5th century); and, later, Aquinas (13th century), to name a few. The significance of this list lies not only in the prominence of these individuals as biblical scholars, defenders of the faith, and pillars of the early church (except Josephus), but also in that their scriptural views cannot be said to have been shaped to accommodate secular opinion. Astronomical, paleontological, and geological evidences for the antiquity of the universe, of the earth, and of life did not come forth until the nineteenth century.  (Ross 1991: 141)

Ross’s list of ancient biblical scholars is at first impressive.  But when we begin to study his sources in depth, we find that, at the very least, Ross has not been diligent in his investigation.  Reality is simply not as he states it.  The claim that many of these ancient interpreters believed the creation days to be longer than 24 hours is later parroted by an advocate of Progressive Creation who states:

Dr. Hugh Ross documents in detail what first century Jewish scholars and the early Christian Church Fathers said regarding their interpretation of creation chronology (see Chapter 2, pages 16-24). Many early Church Fathers expressed no opinion on the subject of creation days, since it is a peripheral issue in Christianity. However, Jewish scholars who discussed creation chronology include Philo and Josephus, while Christian fathers include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus (through writings of Ambrose), Clement, Origen, Lactantius, Victorinus, Methodius, Augustine, Eusebius, Basil, and Ambrose. Among this group, all but one believed that the creation days were longer than 24 hours. The evidence presented in Creation and Time is both overwhelming and well documented (all references are given). (Deem 2006a)

Again, we are not questioning whether Dr. Ross and others of the Progressive Creation position are sincere and hold the God of the Bible in high esteem.  It is their scholarship that is in question.  The truth is that many, if not almost all, of the early Church Fathers (ante-Nicene) definitively thought that the universe was made in six, literal days.  Additionally, most ancient Jewish commentators shared the same point of view – namely, that the heavens and earth were created in six, literal days.  Let’s examine the evidence to see what those interpreters thought about the time frame of creation.  Did they hold to a literal, straightforward, six-day creation as we claim that the Bible teaches?  Or did they believe that allegorizing the text was the proper method of interpretation?

Targumim

A very important source to consider when addressing the issue of how ancient interpreters understood the Bible are the Targumim.  Targumim (Targum is singular) are the Aramaic translations of the Old Testament Scriptures.  They were for the most part written both in and outside of Israel a few centuries after the time of Jesus.  They were written either for those Jews who had lost Hebrew as their mother tongue because of living outside of Israel for so long or for those living in Israel after the time of the Second Jewish Revolt (135 AD) when Hebrew truly started to die out.[i]  Those Jews were no longer comfortable reading the Scriptures solely in Hebrew, but needed the help of a translation as they read along in the original Hebrew.  However, the Targumim were much more than merely word for word translations.  They were running commentaries on the Scriptures filled with typical Jewish interpretations.  The Hebrew text of the Bible was always considered sacred by the Jews, and therefore, it was to be approached with great care.  The text was never to be touched.  Because the Targumim were in Aramaic and not Hebrew, there was no risk that the commentaries might be mistaken for the actual words of the Bible itself.

 

Targum Onkelos

Targum Onkelos, translates Genesis 1:1 very literally: “In the first times the Lord created the heavens and the earth.  And the earth was waste and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the abyss.”  In fact, the entire chapter of Targum Onkelos of Genesis 1 shows no indication whatsoever that the translator/commentator was persuaded that the six days of Genesis were to be taken in any way but literally.  Conversely, the translator actually places a comment in chapter 3 regarding the curse put on the serpent and the promised savior.

 

And I will put enmity between thee and between the woman, and between thy son and her son.  He will remember thee, what thou didst to him (at) from the beginning, and thou shalt be observant unto him at the end. (Emphasis mine)

 

Notice that here the targumist defines when the time of this occurred – “from the beginning.”  Although this doesn’t prove that the six days in Genesis were truly literal, it does demonstrate that an ancient interpreter understood them as being literal since the time of the fall happened in the beginning, not some millions or billions of years after the initial act of creation.

 

Targumim Jonathan

Targum Jonathan[ii] in translating Genesis 2:3 (which is really the end of chapter 1 and is an unfortunate and mistaken chapter break) adds a reason which goes beyond the original text by adding the words “the days of the week.”

 

And the creatures of the heavens and earth, and all the hosts of them, were completed. And the Lord had finished by the Seventh Day the work which He had wrought, […] And the Lord blessed the Seventh Day more than all the days of the week, and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His works which the Lord had created and had willed to make. (Emphasis mine)

 

The words “the days of the week” demonstrate that the Targumist also understood the first through sixth days in Genesis 1 to be “the days of the week” and the seventh to be the final day of that week.  What did he have in mind when he added that comment that is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures?  Did his belief that the seventh was blessed more than all the other days of the week actually mean that the last age or era of time was better than the rest?  Or did he think that days of the week meant Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc. (or as it would be in Hebrew First Day, Second Day, Third Day etc.)?  If we consider what God declared to Moses via the Targumim as we did in the Hebrew Bible, then the conclusion of six, literal days becomes very difficult to circumvent.

 

For in six days the Lord created the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and whatever is therein, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord hath blessed the day of Shabbatha and sanctified it. (Targum Jonathan, Exodus 20:11)

This is again reiterated in the same Targum in Exodus 31:15 and 17:

 

Six days ye shall do work; but the seventh day is Sabbath, the holy Sabbath before the Lord […] For in six days the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth; and in the seventh day He rested and refreshed.  (Emphasis mine)

 

The Targum of Onkelos confirms again that the commonly accepted time frame for the creation of the heavens and the earth was but a mere six, literal days.  There is no intimation that those days somehow really meant long, indefinite ages of perhaps billions of years.

 

For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the day of Shabbatha, and sanctified it. (Targum Onkelos, Exodus 20:11 emphasis mine)

Six days shalt thou do work, and the seventh day is Sabbath, the Holy Sabbath before the Lord […] for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth; and in the seventh day rested and was refreshed.  (Targum Onkelos Exodus 31: 15, 17 emphasis mine)

 

These passages are some of the clearest passages in the Bible regarding the time God took to create everything and yet there isn’t even a minor hint that those time frames mean anything other than what we can take at face value.  Although the Targumim are not listed among the ancient Jewish writers cited by Dr. Ross and others, they are certainly an important source, and one of the primary sources when wanting to know about common Jewish thought just before and after the time of Christ.

Josephus

Josephus

An indispensable voice of Jewish history and thought in first century Israel is that of Josephus, who appears on the list of supposed ancient supporters of an old earth.  Josephus is considered the most important source historians have regarding the events of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  Josephus single-handedly wrote the history of the debacle of the Jewish state at the hands of their Roman enemies.  Born in 37 A.D., Josephus was raised a Jew in Israel and fought alongside his Jewish countrymen before being taken a hostage by the Romans, who granted him the opportunity to write not only the story of the Wars of the Jews, but also later a work entitled The Antiquities of the Jews.  Josephus’ mother tongue was Hebrew.  His expertise in Hebrew and the fact that he was also well acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures were essential in writing Antiquities of the Jews.  While not everything that Josephus wrote is considered to always be accurate or without bias, recent discoveries in the past 100 years have proven that Josephus’s account of Jewish history was extremely accurate.[iii]

 

From The Creation

Josephus opens his monumental work Antiquities of the Jews with a rather significant chapter title: “Containing The Interval Of Three Thousand Eight Hundred And Thirty-Three Years.  From the Creation to the Death of Isaac.”  Just from the chapter title one already begins to see that Josephus understood the time from the creation until the death of Isaac as a relatively short period – 3833 years.  Adding that to the time from Isaac (approximately 1950 B.C.) to the time of Josephus (about 80 AD) we get a number of 5863 years – hardly millions of years.  There is absolutely no suggestion from him that “the creation” happened indefinite ages ago; rather it was but a relatively short time ago.  It is interesting that Josephus’ date corresponds very closely with that of young earth creationists’ calculations based on the genealogies of the Bible.  The point is that Josephus in no way thought that the days of creation were long periods of millions or billions of years.  He then begins with the same words as found directly in the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” He goes on:

 

God commanded that there should be light: and when that was made, he considered the whole mass, and separated the light and the darkness; and the name he gave to one was Night, and the other he called Day: and he named the beginning of light, and the time of rest, The Evening and The Morning, and this was indeed the first day. But Moses said it was one day Accordingly Moses says, That in just six days the world, and all that is therein, was made. And that the seventh day was a rest, and a release from the labor of such operations; whence it is that we celebrate a rest from our labors on that day, and call it the Sabbath, which word denotes rest in the Hebrew tongue.  (Josephus Antiquities Book 1, Chapter 1, emphasis mine)

 

Notice that Josephus is careful to note that there was evening and there was morning, which he says was the first day, but then he adds “But Moses said it was one day”. By doing this, he not only demonstrates his understanding of Hebrew, but also points out that the Hebrew shows that all of these events happened in one day.  He also states his opinion since it is not directly in the text of Genesis 1, though, it is more than likely that he was merely parroting the commonly accepted belief.

 

In Just Six Days

Josephus in no way thought that the days of creation were long periods of time in which the slow process of evolution happened!  He says that “in just six days the world and all that is therein” was made.  He then discusses that the origin of the Jews resting on the seventh day came from God resting on the seventh day.  Keep in mind that Josephus has to explain the history of his people to Romans who would probably have known next to nothing about the religion of one of the people in their vast empire.  The most that they might have known was that his people foolishly rebelled against them and consequently paid the price for their rebellion.  So Josephus has to explain the small details in order for them to truly appreciate the splendor of the Jewish sacred book.

 

Here too, we find that one of the most prominent ancient commentators thought nothing but of a literal, six-day creation.  The thought of a day of the creation week equaling millions or billions of years or even some super long duration just never crossed his mind.  Conversely, he clearly states that in just six days God made all that is.

 

Rabbinic interpretation

We next turn to rabbinic interpretation in hopes of discovering what they thought about the six days of creation.  Did they too interpret the days of Genesis 1 to be literal days of 24-hours like those that we have already seen or, as it has been suggested, did they allegorize those as days of incredibly long duration?  We should note that Rabbinic interpretation of the Scriptures is such that it generally seeks to find a deeper meaning to the text.  They quite often would take what would seem to us to be two rather dissimilar passages and, through a few keys words, tie them together in such a way as to teach a deeper truth.

 

For example, let’s look at tractate Sabbath 17, Chapter 7 which, as the title suggests, deals with the Sabbath and the regulations necessary to properly keep it.  The Rabbis are discussing what to do if someone who is traveling misses the Sabbath due to not knowing which day it is.

R. Huna said: One who has been traveling in a desert and does not know what day is Sabbath, must count six days from the day (on which he realizes) that he has missed the Sabbath, and observe the seventh. Hyya b. Rabh said: He must observe that very day and then continue his counting from that day. And what is the point of their differing? The former holds that one must act in accordance with the creation (which commenced six days before the Sabbath), while the latter holds that one must be guided by Adam’s creation (on the eve of Sabbath). (Emphasis mine)

The Rabbis immediately turn to the week of creation as a real week whereby they might demonstrate how one must count the days before the Sabbath.  They then look back at the creation week from the point of view that Adam was made on the eve of the Sabbath, which was the literal sixth day of time.  Thus, the days of a workweek plus the Sabbath are equal to the days of the creation week.

 

The Talmud Comments on the Mishna

The Talmud comments on the discussion in the Mishna[iv] concerning one who might ask “what was before creation?” and tries to draw out further applications and to answer any questions unresolved.

 

Lest one assume that a man can ask, What was before the creation? therefore it is written: “Since the day that God created man from the earth“; but lest one assume, a man must not ask even what was done in the six days of creation?  (Book 3 Tract Hagigah 4 chapter 2)

 

Notice that they make reference to the six days of creation and very matter-of-factly state “what was done in the six days of creation.”  The implication is that those days were real days, not long drawn out indefinite ages.

Rashi

Rashi

From another portion of the Talmud we read:

 

Four thousand two hundred and thirty-one years after the creation of the world, if any one offers thee for one single denarius a field worth a thousand denarii, do not buy it. (Avodah Zarah, fol. 9, col. 2.)

 

According to this passage the creation of the world happened 4231 years previous to the statement.  The famed medieval Jewish commentator Rashi (below) was noted to have given an explanation on the passage that helps us understand what ancient Jews believed concerning the time that elapsed from creation until their time.

 

Rashi gives this as the reason of the prohibition: For then the restoration of the Jews to their own land will take place, so that the denarius paid for a field in a foreign land would be money thrown awayFour thousand two hundred and ninety-one years after the creation of the world the wars of the dragons and the wars of Gog and Magog will cease, and the rest of the time will be the days of the Messiah; and the Holy One – blessed be He! – will not renew His world till after seven thousand years…Rabbi Jonathan said, “May the bones of those who compute the latter days (when the Messiah shall appear) be blown; for some say, ‘Because the time (of Messiah) has come and Himself has not, therefore He will never come!’ But wait thou for Him, as it is said (Hab. ii. 3), ‘Though He tarry, wait for Him.’” (Sanhedrin, fol. 97, col. 2, emphasis mine)

 

Rashi evidently separated human history, from the time of creation until the end, into seven thousand years.  Notice that Rashi understood these years as real periods of time that began in the beginning with the creation of the world.  This fact is further established by Rabbi Jonathan by noting it is not good to compute the time of the Messiah, which, according to some Jews, had already come.  For a Christian, this is a very significant statement, but to pursue it would derail us from our current discussion that key, ancient Rabbis understood the earth to be young – less than six thousand years.

 

Other Rabbis

A few other examples only serve to confirm what we have seen so far – namely, that ancient Rabbis considered the creation week to be nothing less than real days and not day-ages as is often suggested.  The Rabba commentaries (Harris, Translator 1901) on the Bible yield several important perspectives on the literalness of the six-day creation.  The first chapter of Genesis Rabba asserts “Even the new heavens and earth, spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah (65:17), were created in the six days of creation.”  Another discussion from the Talmud regarding the importance of the Hebrew month Tishri states it this way, “Rabbi Eleazer said […] On the first of Tishri Adam was created; from his existence we count our years, that is the sixth day of the creation” (Talmud Part 5, Holy Days, emphasis mine).  Exodus Rabba 23 associates the formation of Adam with the event of creation itself,

 

The song of praise that Israel offered on the Red Sea was pleasing to God as an outburst of real gratitude.  There had indeed been no such praise offered to God since creation. Adam, formed out of dust and put above all creation, omitted to praise the Creator for the dignity conferred on him.  (Exodus Rabba 23)

 

Leviticus Rabba 14 succinctly places man along with the creation, “Man is the last in creation and the first in responsibility.”  If God started making the universe some 15 billion years earlier, it would be hard to link man with creation due to the enormous time gap between them.  Midrash Esther 1 offers a similar scenario,

 

As early as the time of creation it was decreed that the following should have precedence, each in his own sphere. Adam was first of man, Cain of murderers, and Abel of the murdered.  Noah the first to escape from peril.  (Harris, Translator 1901)

 

And finally, another rabbinic source, Tanchum Bereshith unequivocally states that God created in six days,

 

As one who finishes the building of his house proclaims that day a holiday, and consecrates the building, so God, having finished creation in the six days, proclaimed the seventh day a holy day and sanctified it.  (Electronic Text, The Word Bible Software)

 

Where is the slightest hint in any of the aforementioned sources that they believed in an old earth and universe?  Where does one get the impression that the ancient Rabbis truly believed that God didn’t actually create in six, literal days but in six day-ages each lasting some billions of years?  Those day-ages are conspicuously missing.  They only show up if one’s theory depends on such interpretations.  Even Philo, the very allegorical Jewish philosopher of first century Alexandria, Egypt, thought that the days of creation as recorded in Genesis were referring to six literal days.

 

Philo

If there were someone that we should expect to back up the old-earth theory, it would be Philo.  Philo was an Alexandrian Jew who was born approximately 20 years before Jesus.  Philo knew the Hebrew Scriptures very well and was very fond of them.  However, he also was open to the ideas of Greek philosophy and tried to marry the two to accommodate both worldviews.  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states concerning Philo:

Philo of Alexandria

He addressed himself to two tasks, difficult to weld into a flawless unity. On the one hand, he wrote for educated men in Greek-Roman society, attempting to explain, often to justify, his racial religion before them […] On the other hand, he had to confront his orthodox coreligionists, with their separatist traditions and their contempt for paganism in all its works. He tried to persuade them that, after all, Greek thought was not inimical to their cherished doctrines, but, on the contrary, involved similar, almost identical, principles.  (ISBE: Philo, point 3)

 

The ISBE continues by saying that Philo represented a position which tried to blend the philosophy of Hellenism with the “historical and dogmatic deductions of the Jewish Scriptures” (ISBE: Philo point 3), which resulted in rather strange interpretations.  Furthermore the ISBE states:

 

He taught that the Scriptures contain two meanings: a “lower” meaning, obvious in the literal statements of the text; and a “higher,” or hidden meaning, perceptible to the “initiate” alone. In this way he found it possible to reconcile Greek intellectualism with Jewish belief. Greek thought exhibits the “hidden” meaning; it turns out to be the elucidation of the “allegory” which runs through the Old Testament like a vein of gold. (ISBE: Philo, point 3)

 

Thus, even if we were to find an allegorical meaning associated with the creation of the world in his writings, we would understand that the allegorical side was Philo’s attempt to reconcile the historical text of the Bible with the philosophy of Greek thought.  Therefore such an allegory would not be indicative of the true meaning of the biblical text.  What we actually see Philo say regarding the creation, both from a literal and allegorical point of view, is astonishing.

 

Philo’s Paraphrase

Philo begins his treatise with the creation of the world as given by Moses.  That is to say, Philo is loosely paraphrasing the Genesis account in his own words.  This is extremely important to note since here we have a writer that is very much in favor of interpreting Scripture from an allegorical approach and yet he lets us know what he thought Moses was truly communicating before moving on to his allegorical method.

 

And he says that the world was made in six days, not because the Creator stood in need of a length of time (for it is natural that God should do everything at once, not merely by uttering a command, but by even thinking of it); but because the things created required arrangement; and number is akin to arrangement; and, of all numbers, six is, by the laws of nature, the most productive… (Philo, On The Creation – Part 1 III. 13)

 

Philo is actually saying here that the world was made in six days which was actually much more time than God required.  He says that God took his time “because the things created required arrangement.”  According to Philo, God slowed himself down not for His own sake since merely by thinking He could have made all, but so that there would be order.  The old-earth position is right in suggesting that God could have taken billions of years to create the world.  But they miss the mark when affirming that God actually did.  According to Scripture and all of the testimony we have seen up until now, God did go at an incredibly slow pace – that is if you are God!  The passing of a mere thought versus creating at a tremendously slow speed of six (24-hour) days are radically different.  Rather than confirming the old-earth position as Dr. Ross has suggested, Philo defends the belief that the biblical creation occurred in just a six-day week.

 

Philo’s Allegorical Treatise

After providing his paraphrase of Genesis 1, Philo next begins his allegorical treatise to pull out the deeper truths and thereby make the Bible more palatable to his Greco-Roman audience:

 

“And the heaven and the earth and all their world was completed.”  [Genesis 2:1] Having previously related the creation of the mind and of sense, Moses now proceeds to describe the perfection which was brought about by them both. And he says that neither the indivisible mind nor the particular sensations received perfection, but only ideas, one the idea of the mind, the other of sensation. And, speaking symbolically, he calls the mind heaven, since the natures which can only be comprehended by the intellect are in heaven. And sensation he calls earth, because it is sensation which has obtained a corporeal and some what earthy constitution. (Philo, Allegorical Interpretation, I – Part 1)

 

It is obvious that Philo is now speaking in a very allegorical fashion.  However, if we read carefully the above paragraph, we see that in his allegorizing of Genesis 1 he is rejecting altogether that Moses is referring to any type of numerical value of the creation regardless of how long that might have taken.  He is advocating, allegorically speaking, neither a literal six day creation nor a six day-age theory.  The amount of time required is absolutely inconsequential to him.  Notice below in his statement that time is not the issue.

 

“And on the sixth day God finished his work which he had made.” It would be a sign of great simplicity to think that the world was created in six days, or indeed at all in time. […] Therefore it would be correctly said that the world was not created in time, but that time had its existence in consequence of the world. For it is the motion of the heaven that has displayed the nature of time. (Philo, Allegorical Interpretation, II – Part 2 emphasis mine)

 

For Philo, six days is not what one is to understand from the Genesis account but rather, the number six and all of its amazing mathematical properties is what is to be appreciated.  His concept of time is that it is in itself a created thing.  On that point most scientists would agree, evolutionists and creationists alike, that time was created along with space and that space and time cannot be separated.[v]  Because Philo does not see time beginning until the creation of the sun, what can we conclude regarding how long the first four days were?  Obviously, if they came into being outside of time, as he suggests, then it is impossible to discuss their duration since that would be an oxymoron by definition.  Consequently, the assertion that Philo in any way held to the belief in a universe that was billions of years old, as the Progressive Creation position suggests, is simply unfounded.  Conversely, we see from Philo’s paraphrase of Genesis 1 (in which he stated that according to Moses the world was created in six, literal days) what he thinks the deeper meaning of six days actually is:

 

When, therefore, Moses says, “God completed his works on the sixth day,” we must understand that he is speaking not of a number of days, but that he takes six as a perfect number. Since it is the first number which is equal in its parts, in the half, and the third and sixth parts, and since it is produced by the multiplication of two unequal factors, two and three. (Philo Allegorical Interpretation, II  – Part 3 emphasis mine)

 

Philo and the Number Six

Philo is not arguing about how long a day was.  He was not saying that they were long indefinite ages in which God did His handiwork.  In no way is his statement grounds for proving that he, as an ancient interpreter, believed that those days were indefinite and therefore allowed for enough time for evolution to occur.  Rather he was saying that it wasn’t six days, but really just about the number six which he continues to describe as a “perfect number.”  For Philo, the argument isn’t about the days, but about the incredible features of the number of six.  Philo has not even considered how long the days were, but thought that a deeper truth to be mined from the Scriptures was the profoundness of the mathematical qualities of six as a number.

 

We may not be able to pin Philo down on exactly how long he thought the creation took.  If we simply accept at face value what he said in the beginning of his treatise, then we could just conclude that according to Moses, God took six literal days though looking at his allegory, we see a different picture.  However, it can hardly be denied that his consideration of the six days has nothing to do with time but everything to do with the number six as a mathematical entity worthy of contemplation.  Thus, we leave Philo fairly convinced that on the literal plain, he believed that Genesis 1 did indeed refer to the creation of heaven and earth in six, literal, 24-hour days and from an allegorical point of view believed the six to be included because it was a perfect number.


 [i] For a detailed explanation of the language of Israel in the first century, see Hamp (2005) Discovering the Language of Jesus Calvary Publishing, Santa Ana.

[ii] Also known as Pseudo Jonathan.

[iii] Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the sect known as the Essenes, which Josephus describes in detail in Wars of the Jews book 2, chapter 8, there was no record of it ever existing.  Josephus’ account has since been corroborated by much of the material finds at the Qumran compound near the Dead Sea as well as by the Scrolls themselves.

[iv] The Mishna deals with the Mosaic Law and applies it to every conceivable area of life.

[v] This is signified by the term “space-time continuum.” Dr. Sholar notes: “The space-time continuum however, was a mathematical assumption of Einstein leading to relativity…which has predicted outcomes of certain experiments with some degree of accuracy.  However, there are many today who believe that time and space are not so intertwined that they must be cojoined as a continuum the way Einstein postulated.  There are other theories that consider space and time quite distinctly separate, yet predict the same results as does relativity.  Since most scientists are not expert in relativity, it is easier for them to accept the establishment’s entrenchment of a theory into textbooks and academia, than swim upstream against the more popular theory, with an alternative that gives similar answers, though void philosophical problems like paradoxes.  The almost certain fact that space and time were each created anew does not depend upon whether or not they are connected as Einstein postulates, or are completely disparate and separate entities.”  (Dr. Stan Sholar, personal communication, September 21, 2006)

 

The Question of Creation Days

The keystone of whether the earth is relatively young or extremely old rests heavily on the understanding of the Hebrew word יום yom, which is translated into English as day.  The Progressive Creation theory which espouses the belief of an old earth (approximately 4.56 billion years old), while trying to remain faithful to Scripture, contends that the days in Genesis 1 (1:1-2:3) are to be understood as long, indefinite periods of time.

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. (Exodus 20:11)

Chapter from The First Six Days

The First Six Days Module

The First Six Days: Confronting the God-Plus-Evolution Myth

The young earth view, however, claims that God created the heavens and the earth and all therein in six, literal 24 hour days roughly 6000 years ago.  Who is to say who is right?  How can we determine what a day really means?  Does day only and always refer to a period of 24‑hours or does it also refer to an indefinite period of time in which millions and billions of years could have passed allowing for the Progressive Creation and theistic-evolution theories?

Meanings of Day in the Old Testament

As with most misunderstandings in the Bible, the key to unlocking the puzzle lies in the context of the word.  The word day is used in several different ways in the Bible.  Occasionally, we see days referring to a time in the past.  Judges 18:1, for example, states that “In those days…” בימים ההם bayamim hahem. This exact phrase appears 31 times in the Old Testament.  It is a very common expression and is really no different than how we in English say “back in my day” or “back in those days” referring to a period of years in our lives but stating it in days.  Hence, in this context, days are understood to be referring to time in the past that probably lasted several years though definitely not thousands or millions – something that is obvious because it talks about human history of which the Bible gives definite times.

Sometimes the biblical writers used the word day to refer to a specific time that has theological or eschatological significance such as “the day of the LORD” yom YHWH יום הוה.  This expression, found 13 times in the Old Testament, mostly in the book of Isaiah, refers to a time in the future when God will judge the world and usher in a new age.  This expression seems to speak more of an event of unknown duration rather than a specific amount of time, though a period of 24 hours cannot be ruled out.

At other times, days in the plural can refer to the span of someone’s life.  In Genesis 5:4 we read concerning the days of Adam, “So all the days that Adam (yamei-adam ימי־אדם) lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.”  Here day is used in reference to Adam’s lifetime, which is described as days, but then the text very clearly goes on to clarify what is meant by days – that is the years of his life or the summation of the days of his life.  This is wonderfully illustrated by the Hebrew Title of the book of I and II Chronicles למלכי ישׂראל דברי הימים divre ha-yamim lemalche Israel, literally transliterated as affairs or matters of the days of the kings of Israel.

24-Hour Days

The final meaning refers to days of 24‑hours. The most basic way of defining a day was from evening to evening, which is indicated in the text by evening and morning. The ancient Israelites, contrary to us, started their new days at sunset.  Thus, Friday night at sunset would already be considered the Sabbath and the day would end Saturday evening at around the same time.

Another way to indicate a regular day of 24‑hours is by hayom hazeh היום הזה which is translated as “the very same day.”  In Genesis 7:13 we read: “On the very same day Noah […] entered the ark”.  Likewise, Genesis 17:23 states: “So Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him.”  In both of these passages, the word day makes reference to the same day – that is the 24-hour period they were currently in.  It is clear that the word here does not refer to an indefinite period of time but rather to a 24-hour period.

Days with a Cardinal Number

When a cardinal number (one, two, three, four, etc.) appears in front of the word day, it refers only and always to one (or many) period(s) of 24 hours.  There are numerous verses which elucidate this point.  Genesis 33:13 states:

‘But Jacob said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds which are nursing are with me. And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die.’

What Jacob is saying to his brother Esau is that there is a limit to how far little children and cattle can go in one day. The reference is clearly to one 24-hour period of time.  Numbers 11:20 clarifies the usage even more.  The children of Israel complained against the LORD because they did not have meat like they had in Egypt, the very place where God rescued them from.  Rather than simply trust God for their needs or even ask for meat, they complained bitterly against God.  In frustration with his stubborn children, He declares that they will have more meat than they know what to do with:

“You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the LORD Who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?’” (Numbers 11:20)

Here the meaning of day or days is clear.  There will be not just one, or two, or five, or ten, or twenty days, but a whole month’s worth of meat.  The meaning of the word day is augmented by the contrast with the word “month” chodesh חודשׁ, which only refers to the time of about thirty days or one cycle of the moon and never anything else.

Further proof that yom day refers to a 24-hour day when preceded by cardinal numbers is found throughout the Old Testament. God, in explaining the judgment coming upon the world, says in Genesis 7:4, “For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.”  God gave Noah another seven days – not long, indefinite periods of time, but seven 24-hour days, until the floodwaters would come.  Verse 10 records that indeed after seven literal days, the waters of the flood came: “And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth.”  Verse 11 surpasses the previous two in precision by telling us exactly when this occurred.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

This description is not just about some indefinite period of time.  It was on the 17th of the second month, a very real time that the flood came.  And then the record (verse 24) tells us specifically how long the waters were on the earth.  “And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.”  One hundred and fifty days in the text is not some long, undetermined era.  Some people would contend that the days of the flood are irrelevant since Noah was simply a mythical or an allegorical figure.  However, if one accepts the words of Jesus and the New Testament, then one must also accept that Noah was a real person who lived through the worldwide flood.  (See Matthew 24:37, 38, Luke 17:26, 27, 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 2:5, Hebrews 11:7).  Thus, because Jesus and the disciples accepted Noah as real, we must understand the days described in Genesis as being real, 24-hour days.

The list of verses in the Old Testament confirming that every time a number comes before day it is referring to a 24‑hour day is extensive.  A few more examples clearly illustrate the principle.  “Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks” (Genesis 30:36).  “Forty days were required for him [Joseph], for such are the days required for those who are embalmed; and the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days” (Genesis 50:3).  “And seven days passed after the LORD had struck the river” (Exodus 7:25).  “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses.  For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15).  “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none” (Exodus 16:26).  “So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, ‘Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land?’” (2 Samuel 24:13).  Although there are too many verses to list them all here, throughout the entire Old Testament, in every case where a number precedes day, it deals with the literal usage of day rather than an indefinite period of time.

Days with Ordinal Numbers

A cardinal number before day is not the only way to express literal days.  We see again and again that ordinal numbers (first, second, third, fourth, etc.) are also used in a literal sense when used with day.  Ezekiel records that on a particular (literal) day of a particular month of a particular year God again spoke to him: “Again, in the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me” (Ezekiel 24:1, emphasis mine).  Likewise, Ezra records the exact day when the temple was finished: “Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius” (Ezra 6:15, emphasis mine).

We find in the book of Numbers a usage of ordinal numbers that is parallel to Genesis 1.  In Genesis 1 we saw the chronology of creation described as one day and then the second day, the third day etc.  In Numbers 29, God lists the various sacrifices and on which day they are to be performed for the feast of Tabernacles.  Notice that the days listed have the same ordinal numbers [1] as used in Genesis.

On the second day (יום השׁני yom hasheni) present twelve young bulls, […]  On the third day (יום השׁלישׁי yom hashlishi) present eleven bulls, […]  On the fourth day (יום הרביעי yom harevi’i) present […]  On the fifth day (יום החמישׁי yom hachamishi) present […]On the sixth day (יום השׁשׁי yom hashishi) present […]  On the seventh day (יום השׁביעי yom hashvi’i) present seven bulls (Numbers 29:17, 20, 23, 26, 29, 32, emphases mine).

The days above were most certainly real and literal days in which specific things had to happen; they were not long drawn out periods of time.  The text employs the use of ordinal numbers as does Genesis 1 but here we do not conclude that those days were indefinite periods of time; they were simply days.  Thus even with ordinal numbers a day is just a literal, 24-hour day.

Days in Hosea 6:2

Certain Bible expositors have suggested that Hosea 6:2 uses days as ages of time (probably about 1000 years each) in relation to the nation of Israel and their national revival: “After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.”  While this is a provocative interpretation that cannot be disproved, the context does not demand such an interpretation and hence neither can it be positively proven.  It could be that even here it is referring to two plus one literal days.

This survey of the usage of days in the Old Testament brings us back to the question of just how we are to understand the days of creation.  We have seen that there are times when the word day is used for periods of time other than a literal 24-hour (though millions or billions of years are never implied).  However, whenever a number is placed in front of the word day, the meaning becomes limited to that of a 24‑hour period, that is, a regular day just as we use the word today to describe a day. Therefore, looking at Genesis 1, are we to interpret those days as literal, 24-hour days or long, indefinite periods of time in which evolution may have occurred?

The First Day

The glory of the Bible is that, unlike the writings of other ancient nations which demonstrated a belief that water was the primal material before the existence of any gods, it claims that God was in the beginning and that He created all that is.  Both the Gap theory and a relatively new theory, which posits that the six-day-creation-clock didn’t really start ticking until God uttered the words “Let there be light” in verse three, suggest that the first day didn’t start in verse one but in either verse two or verse three, respectively.  Let us simply analyze, biblically and linguistically, the full range of the key Hebrew words in Genesis 1:1–2 and see what they mean and if they support the idea that a time gap exists in those verses.  (English words for which the Hebrew equivalent is given are italicized.)

In the beginning God created (ברא bara) the heavens and the earth (את השׁמים ואת הארץ et hashayim ve’et ha’aretz).  The earth was without form, and void

(ובהו תהו tohu vavohu); and darkness was on the face of the deep (תהום tehom). And the Spirit of God was hovering (מרחפת merachefet) over the face of the waters

(המים על־פני al pnei hamayim).

Bara and Asa<

The first key word isברא created (bara) which is used a total of 53 times in the Old Testament.  The basic and majority times used form of the word, which is used in Genesis 1, has the general meaning of create, shape or form.  It has been suggested that the word bara used here in Genesis is a different type of action than the word עשׂה (asa – do, make, fashion or produce) used in Exodus 20:11 where God says that he made the heavens and earth in six days.

Bara and asa are for the most part synonymous with one important distinction between them: bara is used only of God’s actions and never of man’s.  There are countless examples of where man can asa (do or make); however, only God can bara.  There is by implication creation ex nihilo, but the major thrust of the word bara lies in its use by God only and on the initiation of something new.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) notes concerning asa and its distinction from bara:

The word [asa] occurs with great frequency in the Genesis account of creation, which is the first great act of God in history. The significant interchange between the words bara’ “create” and ‘asa is of great interest. The word bara’ carries the thought of the initiation of the object involved. It always connotes what only God can do and frequently emphasizes the absolute newness of the object created. The word ‘asa is much broader in scope, connoting primarily the fashioning of the object with little concern for special nuances.

The use of bara’ in the opening statement of the account of creation seems to carry the implication that the physical phenomena came into existence at that time and had no previous existence in the form in which they were created by divine fiat. The use of ‘asa may simply connote the act of fashioning the objects involved in the whole creative process. (TWOT: 1708 asa)

As the TWOT notes, the use of asa is a broader term than bara, but we see from the context in which the words are used that they can be used interchangeably to a large extent.  Perhaps the best example is Isaiah 45:18 where God is disparaging those who put their trust in idols rather than in Him, the true God and Creator of all.  Notice that the three words that are used, create, form and make all describe the same event – the creation of the heavens and earth.

For thus says the LORD,

Who created (bore בורא) the heavens,

Who is God,

Who formed (yotzer יוצר) the earth and made (oseh עושׂה) it,

Who has established it,

Who did not create (braha בראה) it in vain,

Who formed (yatzarah יצרה) it to be inhabited:

“I am the LORD, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:18)

This verse is incredibly specific, especially in regards to the creation of the earth.  First of all, God declares that He is the one who created (bore בורא) the heavens – which could also be translated as Creator of the heavens.  Next He says that He is the former (yotzer יוצר) and the maker (asah עושׂה) of the  earth, a seeming confirmation of the supposed distinction of bara and asa.  However, God continues by saying that He created it, where the word it, is the third person singular feminine possessive suffix.  Put simply, it means that the word it is attached to the word created.  The word it must refer to earth because the earth is a singular feminine noun and heavens is a dual masculine noun.  Clearly and unmistakably God declares that He created, formed, and made the earth.  Thus, to suggest that Exodus 20:11 (“For in six days the LORD made [asa] the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them…”) is not parallel in thought to Genesis 1 is to ignore the evidence in favor of one’s own theory.

The Heavens and Earth

Thus far verse one has told us the when of creation – in the beginning, and then the how – God created something completely new (bara), which only God can do.  Now we are up to the what, which is of course: the heavens and the earth.  The question before us is understanding what precisely that means since immediately in verse two we are told that the earth was formless and void (תהו ובהו tohu vavohu); the earth must have not been fully complete.  Thus, just what did He create?  What are we to understand by the heavens and the earth?  Did He create them complete or could that term be understood as the material that He would later form, as if He first created the clay and then worked it into a suitable form?

The answer to this enigma lies in the fact that there is no single word for universe in Hebrew, which is confirmed by the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “The Hebrews had no proper word for ‘world’ in its wide sense of ‘universe.’ The nearest approach to such a meaning is in the phrase ‘the heavens and the earth.’”[2] Thus, stating that God created the heavens and the earth is equivalent in our day to saying that He created the universe; it encompasses all that is. [3] Bible commentators Keil and Delitzsch note the significance of the first creative act found in the Bible:

[…] there is nothing belonging to the composition of the universe, either in material or form, which had an existence out of God prior to this divine act in the beginning (Keil & Delitzsch Genesis 1:2).

That is to say, God essentially created the building blocks before beginning construction.  The term the heavens and the earth here might be thought of as the raw material, the elements that God created out of nothing that He would form and fashion later to His liking.  Consider that before God created anything, there was only God.  There was no universe, no vacuum of space, nothing whatsoever.  There was only God.  Thus as part of His creative act, He had to create a dimension that was apart from Him – in which He could further manipulate and form the basic elements according to His will.  Keil & Delitzsch again comment:

This is also shown in the connection between our verse and the one which follows: “and the earth was without form and void,” not before, but when, or after God created it. From this it is evident that the void and formless state of the earth was not uncreated, or without beginning. At the same time it is obvious from the creative acts which follow (vv. 3-18), that the heaven and earth, as God created them in the beginning, were not the well-ordered universe, but the world in its elementary form; (Keil & Delitzsch 1866: Genesis 1:1)

Tohu Vavohu

“The earth was without form, and void (תהו ובהו tohu vavohu)” (Genesis 1:2a)

Verse two tells us that the matter God created was still in no particular shape or form.  There was no planet earth as we know it today, but the raw material that God had created, (according to Genesis 1:2b) was still in no special shape.  It was still unformed and unorganized.  These words do not in any way suggest that there had been an earlier creation, as proposed by the Gap Theory.  They do not suggest that the earth was a wasteland waiting to be recreated.  The word tohu in Genesis 1:2, according to the TWOT, refers not to the result of a supposed catastrophe (for which there is no clear biblical evidence) but to the formlessness of the earth before God’s creative hand began the majestic acts described in the following verses. As Jeremiah 4:23 indicates, the earth always has the potential of returning to tohu wabohu if God decides to judge it. (TWOT Tohu)

Furthermore, the text says that the earth “was without form, and void” and not “became without form, and void” as the Gap Theorists argue. [4] The Hebrew והארץ היתה vehaaretz hayta is what is known grammatically as a copulative clause. [5] The Hebrew letter vav (or waw) attached to the noun (the earth) acts as a type of parenthetical [6] statement that is to suggest a reading: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Now the earth was without form, and void.)”  Thus the earth was desolate and void (tohu vavohu) at the very beginning of God’s creation and did not become as a result of God recreating it.

Tehom, the Deep

The rest of verse 2 seems to indicate that the creation of the heavens and the earth was water.  That is to say, that all of the matter of the universe was comprised of water and that water was formless.…and darkness was on the face of the deep (תהוםtehom). And the Spirit of God was hovering (מרחפת merachefet) over the face of the waters (על־פני המים al panei hamayim). (Genesis 1:2b)

The apostle Peter comments on the creation of the world from water, “…that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water” (2 Peter 3:5)

It is also interesting to note that several ancient creation myths (cosmologies) had water as the original and eternal substance from which gods subsequently emerged. [7] The Bible, of course, demonstrates the superiority of God over His creation since He is the one who made the waters, and not the one emerging from the waters.  These ancient myths, I believe, are a distorted memory of the true creation account in which water was the first substance God created.

Tehom accurately describes well the water that was there in the beginning.  It is best translated as deep, depths, or abyss.  According to A. S. Yahuda, a word similar to tehom appears in the ancient language of Akkadian, which has a very similar meaning, thus helping us to better understand its use in the Bible:

[…] [tamtu] is conceived in its primordial condition as […] the primeval water as a sea, an ocean, before the earth was created by the heaping up of mud on the shore of this tamtu. (Yahuda 1933: 128)

Physicist Dr. Russel Humphreys, in his book, Starlight and Time, describes his theory based on the observations of this verse, how water might have then been transformed into the other known elements, “…this verse suggested to me that the original material God created, the deep, was pure water, which He then transformed into other materials” [8] (Humphreys 2004: 72).

Merachefet, God’s Energizing of His Creation

And the Spirit of God was hovering (מרחפת merachefet) over the face of the waters (על־פני המים al panei hamayim). (Genesis 1:2b)

The last word to analyze, מרחפת (merachefet), found also in Deuteronomy 32:11 [9] denotes the fluttering, hovering, or brooding motion of a bird over its nest.

As an eagle stirs up its nest,

Hovers (מרחפת merachefet) over its young,

Spreading out its wings, taking them up,

Carrying them on its wings, (Deuteronomy 32:11)

The purpose of the act of brooding by a bird over its nest is to provide warmth and nurturing to its young.  The movement is that of the bird gently shaking and moving its body in fairly small motions.  It also contains the idea of the bird covering its young with its wings, enveloping them in order to bring them to maturity. [10]

It seems that at this point God began to energize the raw material that He made in verse 1.  The oscillation on the face (or surface) of the deep, which is really what the hovering could be compared to, created the movement of the inert elements.  It is interesting that all matter and energy at their core are simply wavelengths; “matter acts as both a particle and as a wave” (Koehler 1996).

We saw above that the Hebrew letter vav attached to the front of the word hayta (was) created a type of parenthetical statement.   The fact that מרחפת (merachefet) is a transitive participle substantiates that verse 2 is not a new thought or even the first act of God but a clarification of what came before it in verse 1.

God Speaks

The sequence of events is that the first thing that God did was to create the heavens (space) and the earth (material) – that is, He created a place or dimension outside of Himself and then the matter to work with, which we are told was without form and empty.  Then God, hovering over the face of the deep, decreed light to exist.  These are the first recorded words of God, but in fact, the third creative act.

This view can be strongly defended from the Hebrew grammar.  The typical sequence of a narrative is to start with a verb in the simple past tense [11] (Genesis 1:1 begins with bara – created in the simple past tense) thereby signifying something new or dramatic to the story.   Verse 2 we saw is a parenthetical statement explaining what is meant exactly by the creation of the “earth”.  The action picks up again in verse 3 with the use of a sequential past tense [12].  The use of a different kind of Hebrew verb marks quite clearly that the writer understood the actions of verse 3 to be a continuation of the previous two verses.  Hebrew expert Dr. Buth notes that this is the normal storytelling construction in biblical Hebrew.

The sequential past tense is used to present the next event in the story or the next event in a sentence.  If the writer wants to mark a break in the flow of the story for any reason, then they do not use the sequential past tense.  For a past event they would need to put something other than the verb at the beginning of the sentence and then use a simple past tense (Buth 2005: 52).

Not only is verse 3 a continuation of verse 1, but the entire creation account of Genesis 1 uses the sequential past tense.  Consequently, according to the grammar, there is no break between verse 1 and the rest of the chapter. Thus, there is no reason to try to place millions of years between any of the first three verses since they are all part of that first day.  Light was created on the first day, along with the very building blocks necessary for even the light to shine, which was energized by the movement of the Holy Spirit over the face of the deep.  There exists, therefore, no reason to believe that the length of the first day was any different than that of any other, nor was there a previous world that fell only to be recreated, nor was there even a geologic creation some billions of years earlier.  The first three verses of Genesis 1, the first day, all occurred within 24 hours just like the rest of the days as we shall see.

The Days in Genesis 1

The days in Genesis 1 should certainly be understood as literal, 24-hour days due to the usage of the limitation of the evening and the morning [13] found throughout Genesis 1 (the fact that the sun was not created until the fourth day is irrelevant since the rotation of the earth is what constitutes a day – the light source is immaterial).  Even though the evidence seems to point to literal, 24-hour days in Genesis one, the old-earth camp is still persuaded that these days are long periods of time rather than normal (24-hour) days.  They suggest that the usage of ordinal numbers (first, second, third, fourth etc.) rather than cardinals as noted previously, denotes different eras of time and thus the first era (day) is followed by the second era (day) etc. where each day equals an unknown but extremely long period of time in which the slow processes of evolution, with God’s help, had enough time according to Darwin’s model of slow change.

There are some fatal flaws to this theory, however, from a biblical perspective.  First of all, the first day of Genesis in the Hebrew is not actually defined as the first day, but rather as day one or yom echad יום אחד. The word echad is the cardinal number one and should not be understood as first ראשׁון rishon, but as in the series one, two, three, four, etc. We have seen previously that any time day occurs with a cardinal number, it always refers to a literal, 24-hour day.  So we can conclude that the first day of creation was 24 hours.

God Defines the Days for Us

The absolute solution to this puzzle of the length of the days in Genesis is given by God Himself.  After taking the children of Israel out of Egypt, God led them to a place called Mount Sinai where He gave them the law.  In Exodus chapter 20 verses 9 and 10, God states,

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.”

There is no doubt whatsoever that God is talking about a regular workweek.  The people were to work six (literal) days and then they were to take a day off, something very different from the custom of the peoples around them, who generally didn’t take any days off.

In verse 11 of chapter 20 God gives the reason and history behind the seven-day week:

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Here God unequivocally declares that He created everything in only six days.  As with the other times that a cardinal number appears before the word day (yom יום), here too it is used as a literal, 24-hour day.  So God makes perfectly clear how long he took to make the universe (just in case anyone should be confused).  If these days are not taken as literal days then neither can the Sabbath be taken as literal.  However, the fact that the Sabbath is a literal day starting at sunset Friday evening and lasting until the following Saturday evening goes back in Hebrew tradition as far back as Mount Sinai and is a very cherished day.  Since we know that the Sabbath has always been considered a literal span of 24 hours, we can safely conclude that the six days of creation are to be taken literally as well.

It would seem that God wanted to reiterate [14] the message for those that still didn’t get it.  In Exodus 31:15, 17 He says,

“Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death […] It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.”

There is no way to circumvent this declaration: the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, observed for 24-hours every week, is a sign between the Jewish people and God.  Transgressing the covenant was punishable by death.  The Israelites knew exactly how long it was – for not knowing would cost them their life.  The Sabbath was/is 24 hours and therefore, so are all of the other days of the week, which is how long it took God to create the heavens and the earth. This is a far cry from an indefinite period of time.

The Days in Genesis 2

The claim is often made that the creation accounts of Genesis 1 (really 1:1 – 2:3) and Genesis 2 (really 2:4 – 2:25) are contradictory.  Thus, it is suggested that even if chapter 1 had been written with a literal intent, chapter 2, and its contradictions to chapter 1 renders a literal reading impossible.  The principal difference in the two chapters is that chapter 1 deals with creation from a panoramic view while chapter 2 is concerned specifically with the how of the creation of man and the what of man’s role in God’s creation.  The key passages that we need to consider are 2:4, 2:5-7, and 2:19.  Once we understand these correctly, the entire chapter neatly fits with chapter 1.

Genesis 2:4

It has been suggested that Genesis 2:4 supports the theory that the days of the Genesis creation account long vast ages.  The verse reads:

This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens

Progressive Creation advocate Hugh Ross states concerning this verse,

This verse, a summary statement for the creation account, in the literal Hebrew reads, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day of their making….”  Here, the word day refers to all six-creation days (and the creation events prior to the first creative day).  Obviously, then, it refers to a period longer than 24 hours.  Hebrew lexicons verify that the word for generation (toledah) refers to the time it takes a baby to become a parent or to a time period arbitrarily longer.  In Genesis 2:4 the plural form, generations, is used, indicating that multiple generations have passed. (Ross 1991: 52)

Ross here asserts things about Hebrew, which are not accurate.  The problem with getting the literal reading of a passage with the aid of lexicons is that the idioms as defined by the context are often overlooked.  Consider for example the English word bow – this could mean many different things depending on its context.  One meaning is a weapon, another is the front of a ship, still another is the decoration on a gift, and the fourth is to bend at the waist.  Not only are the definitions radically different, but it can also be used as a noun and as a verb.  Without context we don’t know what it means nor can we even pronounce it correctly!

Dr. Ross has failed to recognize the idiom behind the words in the day (that the LORD God) made.  The Hebrew expression עשׂות ביום (b’yom asot) actually carries the force of when.  The letter ב (beth) in Hebrew often designates a temporal aspect.  Joüon &. Muraoka note in A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew “With the infinitive ב is used in the temporal sense”.  This explains why the letter beth in בהבראם (b’hibaram) is translated when they were created, a fact also supported by both the Brown Driver Briggs Lexicon, and Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar [15] .  B’yom is part of a three-word construct chain and it is used in relation to the infinitive asot (making) which again carries the force of when. What is important not to overlook here, however, is that when yom is used in conjunction with the preposition beth it may be understood as a less precise expression than the 24-hour day. [16] When yom is used with a number, it always refers to a literal, 24-hour day.

Ross also misunderstands the full range of meaning of the word תולדות (toledoth), which often means generations, but is in many places better translated as account or history. [17] Thus, owning a Hebrew lexicon is not enough to fully capture the nuances of the language.

Genesis 2:5 – 2:7

before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground;

but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

A casual reading of 2:5 to 2:7 in English would seem to indicate that man was created before plants and shrubs.  The question that we must consider is exactly which plants and shrubs.  Is this referring to all of the vegetation on the entire planet or is it more defined?  The vegetation referred to is designated by the word field, which appears twice in the text.  שׂיח השׂדה (siach hasadeh) plant of the field and עשׂב השׂדה (esev hasadeh) herb of the field are the technical terms that we must not overlook.  Both of them are in the construct state, which simply means that two nouns are considered one unit.  It is very similar in English where bicycle tire is not referring to bicycle and tire, but a type of tire, that is, the tire of a bicycle.  So too, we could just as well translate these as field plant and field herb – two specific items.  Reputed Bible Commentators Keil & Delitzsch note,

The creation of the plants is not alluded to here at all, but simply the planting of the garden in Eden. The growing of the shrubs and sprouting of the herbs is different from the creation or first production of the vegetable kingdom, and relates to the growing and sprouting of the plants and germs which were called into existence by the creation, the natural development of the plants as it had steadily proceeded ever since the creation. This was dependent upon rain and human culture; their creation was not. Moreover, the shrub and herb of the field do not embrace the whole of the vegetable productions of the earth. It is not a fact that the field is used in the second section in the same sense as the earth in the first. שׂדה [sadeh] is not ‘the widespread plain of the earth, the broad expanse of land,’ but a field of arable land, soil fit for cultivation, which forms only a part of the “earth” or “ground.” Keil & Delitzsch 1866: Genesis 2:5-2:7)

Genesis 2:19

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.

Here too there is considered to be a contradiction to the first chapter since it would seem that God first formed Adam and then the animals.  The word formed is the Hebrew word ויצר (vayitzer) and is in the past tense.  This form, however, can potentially express a simple past tense and the past of the past, known grammatically as the past perfect [18].  The past perfect is used to express any action that happened prior to another, both occurring in the past.  For example, Johnny had eaten three hamburgers before he ordered dessert.  The past perfect, had eaten was finished before the action of ordering.

Thus the word vayitzer can signify either the simple past or past perfect.  What that means practically is that formed could just as well have been translated as had formed. [19] The Hebrew supports either which would then yield a plausible translation, “Out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam…”  The use of the past perfect here, grammatically speaking, clears up the order of creation events perfectly: God first created the animals (on day five), then created man (on day six) and then brought the animals that He had created to man to see what he would call them (on day six).

A Final Objection

In Peter’s second letter, he writes to fellow believers who were suffering all kinds of trials and persecutions on account of their belief in Jesus.  His words are to comfort them and remind them that God’s perspective is different from ours.  He writes, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).  This verse has been used to supposedly prove that time and numbers in the Bible do not have concrete value and therefore the days in Genesis 1 could have lasted one thousand years or perhaps even one million.  But is Peter really saying that one day is equal to one thousand years?  Looking at the verse again carefully we note that there are two important keys to a correct understanding.

With The Lord

The first key is “with the Lord”.  Peter here is describing God’s perspective to time and not man’s.  This cannot be overlooked.  Peter is not saying that one thousand years is equal to one day.  He is saying that in God’s economy, time is radically different and that when we think that the Lord is “slack” we should think again. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  Peter wants to make clear that God’s timetable is different from ours.

A Little Word with Big Meaning

The other important key is the little word as (hos) ὡς.  Although small, it plays an important function in that it tells us that two things are similar but not exact in nature.  It is no different than when we make such statements as “Johnny is like his father” or “In Johnny’s eyes, his father is as Hercules.”  Both statements are merely stating that one is like or similar to another but not the same as the other.  So too, Peter is saying that in the eyes of God, a day is similar to one thousand years and vice versa, one thousand years is like a day.  This verse simply confirms that God is not bound by time.  Peter gives us another example of the use of this little word in his first epistle where he says, “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass” (1 Peter 1:24).  Certainly, he is not saying we are actually grass growing on the field.  He merely says that we are in many ways similar to grass.  Just as grass has a short life, so too are our lives short when compared with the eternal God and so too will our glory fade away faster than we think.  Thus, to God a day and a thousand years are the same.

Psalm 90:4

This truth was first stated in the Old Testament, which Peter more than likely drew from:  “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4).  Here too, the writer is simply stating things from God’s point of view – that is, time has no bearing on God.  He is not bound by time and hence whether it is a day or one thousand years, it is the same to Him.  We are not to conclude, however, that time is irrelevant for us.  Again and again, we see that people in the Bible lived real lives for a specific amount of time.  The Bible treats the lifespan of the lives of Adam (930 years), Noah (950 years), Abraham (175 years), Sarah (127 years), Jacob (147 years) and Moses (120 years) as all real and definite (See Genesis 5:5, 9:29, 25:7, 23:1, 47:28, and Deuteronomy 34:7, respectively).  Notice that Adam and Noah lived close to one thousand years. Their lifetime was like a single day in the eyes of the Lord, but nevertheless, they lived a specific number of years.  Jacob, in giving an overview of his years, in no way intimated that they passed by as if they were just a day:

“And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.’” (Genesis 47:9)

Summary of the Days in Genesis 1 and 2

In summary, we have seen that sometimes the word day (yom יום) carries a meaning of more than just a 24-hour period.  However, every time the word is used in conjunction with a cardinal or ordinal number, the meaning is always and without exception limited to the period of a regular and literal day – that is, a period of 24 hours.  God Himself reiterates that He created the heavens and the earth in six days, which is why He instructs man to work six days and then to take the seventh off.  We know from history that the Hebrews have always taken the six-day workweek literally and have considered the seventh day to be a day of rest.  Because God tells us twice in Exodus (20:11 and 31:17) that those were literal days, our only plausible conclusion regarding the six (plus one) days in Genesis is that they are to be taken as literal, 24-hour days.  We need not and cannot conclude that they were six indefinite periods of time, at least not if we are to take everything else in the Bible seriously.

The only reason to conclude that the six days of creation were long periods of time is if we seek to harmonize the Bible with the model of (geological, chemical and biological) evolution.  However, if we simply seek to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, then the interpretation of Genesis 1 is clear: God created the heavens and the earth in six literal, 24-hour days and rested on the seventh.  We therefore conclude from biblical evidence that God made the heavens and the earth in six, literal days.  There is no room for a biblical interpretation which includes an evolutionary process of billions of years during creation; God emphatically declares to have done it in six, literal days.

Order the book The First Six Days: Confronting the God-Plus-Evolution Myth


[1] The selected verses in Genesis 1 and in Numbers 29 are identical with the exception of the definite article ה (he – the). Genesis 1: יום שׁני (yom sheni).  Numbers 29: יום השׁני (yom hasheni).

[2] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia “World”

[3] This is not to overlook the speculation that there may be parallel universes.  However, by definition the word universe should encompass all that exists in the dimension of time and space.

[4] For further discussion see: Weston W. Fields, (1976) Unformed and Unfilled p. 58.

[5] For a further discussion on the copulative clause see: Kautzsch and Cowley, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, p. 484, section 154a, footnote 1.

[6] Joüon, P., & T. Muraoka, (2003; 2005: electronic version, Logos Software) note the use of the copulative clause (also known as the vav explicativum):

On the other hand, a nominal or verbal clause with Waw forms a sort of parenthesis and precedes the main clause as in Gn 13.2 ואברהם כָּבֵד מאד now Abraham was very rich … ; 24.16 now the young girl was very beautiful…; Jon 3.3 now Nineveh was an enormous city; Gn 48.10 וְעֵינֵי ישׂראל כָּֽבְדוּ מִ ֫זֹּקֶן now the eyes of Israel were heavy because of old age; Josh 4.10 “whilst the priests … stood (עֹמְדִים) in the middle of the Jordan … the people hurriedly crossed over (וַיְמַהֲרוּ וַיַּעֲבֹ֫רוּ).” This same type of clause is also found used in an independent fashion: 1Kg 1.1 (at the very beginning of a narrative) now King David was old, advanced in age; Gn 37.3 now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons.

[7] “In almost all primitive creation stories in Egypt, the eternal substance that existed in the beginning and whose origin is not explained is water, the primeval ocean, Nun.”  (Redford 1992: 398)

[8] See Humphreys 2000: Appendix C, section 15 for a detailed, mathematical explanation of the physics involved.

He also notes that he based “a theory about the origin of the planetary magnetic fields on the possibility that the earth and other bodies in the solar system were originally created as pure water” (Humphreys 2004: 73).  He remarks that his theory has been extremely successful in predicting measurements of the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune.

[9] The word is in the Pa’al form in Jeremiah 23:9.

[10] Keil and Delitzsch confirm this “The creative Spirit of God, the principle of all life (Psalm 33:6; Psalm 104:30), which worked upon the formless, lifeless mass, separating, quickening, and preparing the living forms, which were called into being by the creative words that followed. רחף in the Piel is applied to the hovering and brooding of a bird over its young, to warm them, and develop their vital powers (Deuteronomy 32:11). In such a way as this the Spirit of God moved upon the deep, which had received at its creation the germs of all life, to fill them with vital energy by His breath of life.” (K&D 1866 Genesis 1:2)

[11] Dr. Randall Buth notes “in telling stories, the past tense is used with a special word order to grammatically signal events as a break in the flow of the story.  It marks a discontinuity.  That is, something is put in front of the verb […]  This is done when the author wants to break the time flow of the story, or when the author wants to mark a boundary of unity […]”  (Buth 2005:52).   There could be no better way to indicate that Genesis 1:1 is an absolutely new and dramatic event than by using the simple past tense (also commonly referred to as the perfect or qatal tense).

[12] This is commonly known in Hebrew grammar as the vayyiqtol tense.

[13] Numbers chapter 28 verses 3 and 4 show that a literal day was comprised of morning and evening.  “This is the offering made by fire which you shall offer to the LORD:[…] day by day (ליום), as a regular burnt offering. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, the other lamb you shall offer in the evening […]” (Numbers 28:3- 4, emphasis mine).

[14] Interestingly Deuteronomy 19:15 says that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”  Perhaps God has repeated Himself to assure us of the certainty of the statement.

[15] “Followed by an inf. c., בְּ forms a periphrasis for the gerund, though in English it is commonly to be rendered by a verb and conj., viz.: 1. as a temporal conj., as בְּהבראם in their being created = when they were created” BDB.  “This use of the infinitive construct is especially frequent in connection with be or ke to express time-determinations (in English resolved into a temporal clause.” Gesenius’ (1910)

[16] Thanks to Dr. Bill Gallagher for helping me word that correctly (personal communication October 20, 2006)

[17] According to BDB, the word toledoth means: 1) descendants, results, proceedings, generations, genealogies; 1a) account of men and their descendants; 1a1) genealogical list of one’s descendants; 1a2) one’s contemporaries; 1a3) course of history (of creation etc); 1b) begetting or account of heaven (metaphorically)

[18] There has been considerable discussion concerning this particular form of the wayyiqtol as past perfect (pluperfect).  Some have skillfully argued that this form of the verb cannot be translated with the pluperfect (see Buth: 1994).  Others, such as C. John Collins make a strong case in favor of the wayyiqtol as a pluperfect.  In his article, The Wayyiqtol As ‘Pluperfect’: When And Why (1995), he examines the possibility that the wayyiqtol verb form, without a previous perfect, may denote a pluperfect tense. He concludes that there is an unmarked pluperfect usage of the wayyiqtol verb form which is present in particular in Genesis 2:19.  The position regarding the use of the wayyiqtol, pluperfect tense in Genesis 2:19, is held by many Bible commentators including the renowned Hebrew scholars Keil and Delitsch as well as John Gill.  The possible use of the pluperfect is also given as an alternative translation in the ESV, NRS (parallel to verse 7).  The NIV, on the other hand, translates vayitzer as “had formed”.

[19] Dr. Joseph Pipa argued in a 1998 article “In Genesis 2:19, it communicates the idea of logically anterior circumstances. Waltke and O’Connor list pluperfect as a sub variety of epexegetical use. After interacting with Driver, they say, “Moreover, wayyqtl in the received text, the object of our grammatical investigation, must be understood to represent the pluperfect.” They offer two examples of this usage from the Pentateuch (Num.1:47-49; Exod.4:11-12,18). Moses, in fact, uses the waw consecutive for logically anterior acts or as a pluperfect throughout Pentateuchal narrative. For example, in Exodus 11:1 Moses inserts a waw consecutive as a pluperfect into a sequential narrative in order to introduce a revelation previously given to Moses: “Now the Lord said to Moses, ‘One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt…'” This section begins with the waw consecutive, but Moses introduces it in the middle of his last interview with Pharaoh (Exodus 10:24-11:8). As such 11:1-3 serves as a backdrop, a flashback so-to-speak, for his message to Pharaoh. The NIV translates Exodus 11:1 in the same way as it does Gen.2:19, “Now the Lord had said to Moses,…” For the sake of emphasis, Moses would use the waw consecutive as a pluperfect and then resume the chronological sequence of his narrative.”